Half way through her first year, and 100 pounds down, Tracy shares her weight loss surgery story.
“There’s fat around your heart. That means your heart has to work harder to carry the load.” My father, a chief deputy coroner for more than 20 years, told me this repeatedly in a loving effort to save my life. Along with the messages from my physicians and the resolve to fully enjoy the second part of my life, I made the decision to have weight loss surgery in April, 2014.
I was chubby as a child, heavy as a young adult, and super obese later in life when my highest weight reached 335. Although my mother never kept cookies, chips or snacks in the house, my family didn’t make health or exercise a priority. In my family, when we were happy we ate. When we were sad, we ate. If someone died, we ate. And I was never active. Running and jumping aren’t enjoyable and can be painful, when you’re overweight or obese. Post-partum depression, career challenges, relocation, and family issues led to a tremendous amount of stress in my life. I dealt with it by eating. More stress? More eating. It became a vicious cycle. I tried to lose weight with the Atkins diet, and it worked a few times, but every time I lost 50 pounds I gained it back. It became more difficult to eat healthy because my husband, at the time, did not appreciate that kind of eating lifestyle.
About two years ago, my uncle read an article about weight loss surgery at Palmdale Regional Medical Center and told me about the sleeve gastrectomy. A recent back injury, worsening knee pain, my father’s preaching, and years of depression led me to begin the weight loss surgery process. However, I stopped about half way through the pre-surgery program because of family issues, stress and divorce. But one day I woke up and felt an overwhelming feeling that it was time to go back, that this would be my year. I knew that in order to fully enjoy the second part of my life I would need to fix myself from the inside out. I started seeing a counselor to resolve personal issues, and started back with the pre-surgery program. Once I made the decision to move forward I started to feel better about myself and was able to make other personal changes as well because I finally felt that I was taking control of my life.
When I told my father, brothers, and son that I decided to have weight loss surgery, they were concerned but supported me. I chose not to tell many others about the surgery and told only about six people at work. I wanted this to be my personal journey, free of judgment and worries.
My insurance referred me to Dr. John Yadegar at Palmdale Regional Medical Center, about three hours away from me. This is ironic because that is the same hospital my uncle read about two years ago! Since I didn’t have any medical issues and felt surgery was a choice, I was nervous to meet Dr. Yadegar. But I immediately felt his kindness and saw how organized and efficient he and his team were. Although I was apprehensive about being so far away from home, the pre-op process was seamless.
When I finally reached the hospital on surgery day, I remember shedding a few tears as I approached the operating table. But they were not tears of sadness or fear, they were tears of relief that I was finally taking charge of my life. I don’t think I could have had a better hospital experience. My nurses Joy and Christina were awesome! The team kept me informed and treated me like a queen. They got me walking right away. Some staff even had weight loss surgery and shared their experiences.
An unexpected gift has been the relationship with my hospital mate, Claudia. We walked the halls together after surgery, shared our stories and still stay in touch to support one another. We even schedule our follow-up visits with Dr. Yadegar on the same day so we can see each other! She really is the only one who knows deep inside how I feel because we started our journeys together.
When I decided to have surgery, I knew I would take responsibility for my new life course. I prepared for my homecoming before I left for the hospital. I had plenty of yogurt, Jell-O, popsicles, protein and water bottles on-hand. Yes, I had some early challenges with my stomach gurgling and things not going down easily, but I was determined and did not give up! I also walked up and down the street 3-4 times each day to get my exercise going. I returned to work two weeks after my surgery.
After a few months I was excited I could eat a larger variety of foods but my intake was still small. That made social events challenging. People were also starting to ask about my sudden weight loss. Fortunately, I had my online support group, Thinner Times Forum. These people understood my challenges and offered suggestions and support.
I thank God that my family and friends have been supportive. Those who are witnessing my weight loss are very proud of me. They see my food selections have changed and my activity has increased, but I don’t push my choices on them. They consistently tell me how good I look and how they believe I will continue to do well.
I don’t think I would have been fully prepared for weight loss surgery if I hadn’t gone through my own ‘refining’ process. I needed to clean house from the inside out and rid myself of the inner voices that limited me throughout my life. For the first time in fifteen years I am off all anti-depressant medications and I am depression-free! Weight loss surgery is a lifestyle change and I am so happy I was mentally ready for it. It’s a big personal decision but it’s so worth it!
I’m proud I no longer tell my son, Junior, that I’m too tired to take him places. When we go out his mom looks good. I can take him on excursions and don’t just watch from the sidelines. We have many more outdoor adventures now and I am able to carry most of the load.
Although I’m already half way through my first year, I feel like it was just yesterday that I had surgery. I finally have the exact equation down to meet my protein goals and I’m on track with my daily calorie intake. I’m living a somewhat regular life. I keep telling myself this is how skinny people eat. I order a regular meal, eat my protein and veggies first, but still have some left for lunch the next day. I finally feel in control. My goal is not about hitting a number on the scale anymore but rather about my journey and what I will still accomplish. I will definitely lose another 50 pounds but I no longer fear the weight or the number because what I have accomplished gives me the strength to continue on my trek.”