So I started this post yesterday. It is a very personal, emotional and raw post. Something I normally do not do but I felt it needed to be done. This post has been the hardest post I have ever written. A lot of it is a free-flowing stream of consciousness about the topic so please keep that in mind. Now, let us explore the last year of my life.
Yesterday was a special day. No, it was not my birthday or my anniversary. I did not get a promotion. Yet, yesterday is a very special day. Yesterday marked the 1 year anniversary of when I first walked into the Bariatric Center at Upstate University Hospital Community Campus. I think it is finally time to tell this story
WARNING THIS POST GET PERSONAL AND DETAILED!!!!!
When I walked into that first appointment I was both excited and really really nervous. I had been on the fence for a few years about having weight loss surgery. I always saw it as a copout. I thought that I could always just do it myself. I would lose a few pounds and get really excited but then I would gain and I would give up and just gain more.
I have always struggled with my size and my weight. I have always been a big guy. In 2010, I found myself over 300 pounds for the first time. In 2011 I began working with a personal trainer, with a goal to down to 250 by my wedding in 2012. I did not achieve that goal and was pretty down on myself about. Looking back on it now, I most likely began to self-sabotage when I realized I was not going to achieve that goal. The wedding came and went and about 2 months after I lost my job. Facing unemployment put me into a deep downward spiral of depression. I dealt with my depression the only way I knew how and I turned to food. I was home with nothing to do and I literally would eat anything that was not nailed down. I would be a box of Cheerios Monday night and sit and eat it dry out of the box all day Tuesday finishing the box in one day. My depression made me suicidal and the only comfort and joy I had was eating. I became addicted to food and I blew up to well over 400 pounds.
I ignored my problems. I ignored the warning signs. I ignored the concerns expressed to me by my parents, my friends, my doctors, even my own wife. I ignored the pain in my legs, the snoring, the complaints from my wife about being kept up by my snoring. I ignored all the times she would wake me because I stopped breathing. I ignored how it was getting harder to buy clothing. I ignored how it was harder and more uncomfortable for me to sit in the seats at the War Memorial or NBT Stadium. I ignored the fact that I would go to the Civic Center days before seeing a show so I can ask to see if I would fit in the seat. At this point, you are probably thinking I am insane to be ignoring all the issues. The thing was, I created this idea that I was healthy because I did not have diabetes, my blood pressure was normal as was my cholesterol levels. All of my lab work at the doctors was normal so the way I saw it the only issue I had was my weight. Not a big deal, or so I thought.
Early to mid-2016, the wife and I began having some intimacy issues. My energy and stamina was just not there anymore and my size was making sex very difficult. One night ended in a fight, tears, and a deep conversation. It was from this conversation that I committed to my wife as well as myself that I was going to make some serious changes and get healthy.
I began to research the Bariatric Centers in the Syracuse area. I wanted to talk to someone and get some real information and not just hearsay knowledge. When I stumbled onto the Upstate University website I saw a sign up for a free information session. So I signed up and on September 19th, 2016 I went to their Community Campus and sat in a room for an information session. I was the youngest in the room, and honestly, that did not bother me. However, I still felt odd and out of place. Not because I did not think I belong or anything like that but because everyone asked questions that include rattling off a laundry list of current illness and pains they had. I did not have anything wrong with me except for being fat and morbidly obese. The more I sat there, the more I listened to these people rattle off their problems, the more I realized that they were only 10-15 years older than me, the more I began to realize that I was a ticking time bomb that could go off in any moment. I sat there, I gathered the information. I got the paperwork and I came home and talked it over with family and Allison and I realized this was something I had to do. This was an opportunity to press reset. So we sent the paperwork to get a new patient appointment and we waited. This was a hard time because the center only takes a certain number of new patients and I did not know if on paper I would be a good candidate.
Finally, I received a letter in the mail, I was to have a new patient appointment on November 10, 2016. This news was met with an emotional whirlwind. I was excited, I was scared of the unknown but at the same time, I was nervous. I was nervous about being rejected after a physical exam, I was nervous about the insurance not covering it and being saddled with an insurmountable amount of medical bill debt. The time came and Allison and I went to the appointment. It was going to be an all-day event. I was to meet with the surgeon, meet with the nutritionist, have blood work done as well as an EKG. I met with a nurse and the man who was going to do my surgery, Dr. Taewan Kim. Dr. Kim had done my information seminar as well. My first impressions of him were that he was a doctor, he was not a very personable person but he was knowledgeable and friendly and I was comfortable. I had a physical only a few weeks prior to this appointment so I had copies of the lab results as well as a letter from my primary provider stated this surgery was medically necessary for my survival. Dr. Kim looked at lab numbers in a bit of shock and awe because of how good they were. At this first appointment, I also stepped on a scale. I weighed in at 436 pounds. This was the heaviest I could remember weighing and it scared the ever-loving shit out of me. Dr. Kim informed me I needed to lose 5% of my body weight which was 21 pounds. I needed to hit a target of 415 pounds before they would schedule surgery. This terrified me because I had never been able to lose significant amounts of weight.
Following the meeting with Dr. Kim, I went to meet with the Nutritionist. I do not remember the name of the person I met with that morning because I only met with her once. She explained to me what I would have to do as far as my diet goes in order to lose the weight I needed to lose and also what life would be like after surgery. It was all very daunting. She handed me a medicine cup, like you would have on a bottle of cough syrup and said “This is the amount of food you will be able to eat”, 2 ounces. This freaked me out. We left the appointment and I was obsessed with the idea of just 2 ounces of food and I freaked out. I began eating everything and anything because I wanted to enjoy it all before I couldn’t any longer.
I returned in December to the center and found out I gained 3 pounds from November and now weighed in at 439. I knew I was going to have to work harder. The next few months were a real struggle. I thought I was doing everything right. I lost the 3 pounds I had gained when I returned to the center in January. However my appointments in February and March I did not lose any weight, I did not gain weight either but more importantly I did not lose which is was I needed to do so needless to say I was discouraged, unhappy and was beating myself up.
In March I had a bit of a breakthrough and I knew I needed some assistance. So I reached out to the Bariatric Center for the names of a few people who can help me psychologically. I needed to turn the corner mentally. They gave me a number and I eventually hooked up with Dr. Tim Hayes in Syracuse. With the help of Dr. Hayes, I was able to reevaluate my relationship with food, overcome my food addiction as well as learn how to cope with my anxiety.
At my appointment in April, I saw weight loss for the first time. In May there was even more loss. Mentally I had finally turned that corner that was allowing me to lose weight and focus on the end result. In July, I hit the target set for me and surgery was then scheduled for August. I was excited but new fears were beginning to creep in.
We started talking about scheduling surgery in June, and that is when the fears began to sink in. I had never had surgery, I was still over 400 pounds, I started thinking about my own mortality. I began to freak out that my body would give out under the stress. As my August 2nd appointment creeped closer my anxiety got greater and greater. Everyday was riddled with a deep pit in my stomach and fear of the own known. It was not get easier, it was getting worse. I began to doubt my decision, I began to consider backing out. I wanted to give up. I did not like how I felt and I just wanted to go back to feeling like myself.
Finally the day of surgery arrived. Allison and I made our way to the hospital at like 5am. When we parked, she literally had to drag me into the hospital to check in. I was so scared. I said my goodbyes and ‘I love you’ to Allison and family and off I went to surgery.
The days in the hospital are still hazey a bit. I remember a lot of walking around the floor. I remember not sleeping well or at all because I was unable to get comfortable. And, I remember that the food just sucked. I also remember that the pain was not there. I did not experience much discomfort if any.
The next few weeks were a struggle. I wanted to eat, I wanted to enjoy the things I had enjoyed before surgery. I began to push the enevlope of what I ate. That resulted in a lot of vomitting. It was also a HUGE learning experience. I was learning what foods my body could or could not handle. I quickly picked up what worked and what did not. Now with in one or two bites of a food I am able to tell if I should be eating it or not. The vomitting is less and the wieght loss is great.
When weight loss surgery patients talk about how much weight they have lost, they are not talking about the weight loss since surgery. They are talking about from the first appointment they ever had with their surgeon. That is when the journey begins, that is when the work starts and that is when the first weight starts to come off.
As of November 10, 2017 my current wieght is 339 pounds. That means since I started this journey on November 10, 2016 I have lost 97 pounds. More importantly than that number, I have dropped 2 sizes in jeans, I am able to buy a 3XL shirt off the rack in a store and not have to order online from a special Big and Tall store. My energy levels are way up and most importantly my depression and anxiety is virtually non-existant. My entire life has turned around and I have absolutely no regrets. I do not miss the foods I can no longer eat. I enjoy the foods I can eat even more because I can really taste flavors.
This journey is far from over. This is only the beginning. But it has been a stressful year. I am sharing this with you because if you are thinking about weight loss surgery, you are not alone and I want to be your biggest cheerleader.