A few days ago a friend of mine came out. No, she isn’t gay, she decided to reply to the many many people who have been asking how she’s losing weight so rapidly. It turns out that she had a gastric bypass in July, and since then she has lost over 6 stone. I have been looking on enviously when she has posted her progress on Facebook – she looks fantastic, and I have to admit that I have wished on more than one occasion that I was doing even half as well. I have been offered gastric bypass surgery by my doctor; in fact the first time I went to the doctor to discuss my weight issues that was his first response. I just don’t feel that it’s right for me. My Mum has had a lot of surgeries over the past four or five years, including having parts of her bowel removed, which have had a big effect on her life, both from the anaesthetic and the surgery itself. Between witnessing that, and my first (and hopefully last) anaesthetic experience a few years ago, I really wouldn’t want to have surgery unless it was absolutely necessary. After a lot of contemplation my friend did decide that it was necessary for her, and she has kindly agreed for me to share her experience here. In her own words, this is her story, as shared on Facebook:
“Hope I don’t do ‘over sharing’ here but I’ve always been one to wear my heart on my sleeve and thought this could make for an interesting story. I like anecdotes as you may have seen from some previous blogs I’ve done. This one won’t have any testicles, evil elves or plastic cheese in it though… probably!
A lot of people have been asking me how I’ve been losing the weight recently. Not surprised really to be honest, I’d be doing the same. I had a look through my friend list and found that actually, the majority of people know anyway. So, here it is, the reason it’s been falling off is because…dah dah dahhhhh! I had a gastric bypass. Shock horror!!
I suppose the reason I didn’t mention it sooner is because I have the ‘Daily Mail’ mentality drummed into me and thought that some people may be a bit funny about it.. I’ve had these phrases floating around in my head of what people might say: ‘Well why didn’t she just eat less, move around more? Simples.’ And also, ‘Can’t believe my taxes have paid for an operation like that – all it needed was self-control!’. Am I paranoid or what?!
Yes, yes, if I was a naturally thin person, I’m pretty sure I would be saying the exact same things..
So I thought I’d get those recurring questions out of the way first: I actually paid for the operation entirely myself because a) I didn’t want to be a burden on the tax payer for something that I’d ultimately done to myself and also, b) the waiting list for bariatric surgery of this kind on the NHS is about 3 years long and I was told that because I didn’t have any other health issues apart from being porky they might not even do it at all. Fair enough.. But let me tell you – it ain’t cheap. I don’t begrudge anyone who has it done on the NHS for a second though because I know exactly how they feel. I realise how lucky and fortunate I am to have had the funds to have been able to do it privately. I was also worried that a 3 year wait would be pretty detrimental to my health if I didn’t lose weight, I was fairly sure I was on the cusp of diabetes, my back was hurting which ever way I laid in bed and my knees were just about to give up.
I’ve always been a big lass cos I did love my food but I wasn’t always sooo very big. I had some mystery womb problems in 2011 which made me put on approx 3 st in a year. There was not a lot I could do about it and despite a giant uphill struggle to get into the worst doctors surgery in the universe where you can’t get an appointment unless you’re already dead, the receptionists are trained by Beelzebub himself and finally ending up in casualty one horrible day where they ran a myriad of fairly invasive tests, they never got to the bottom of it which is about as helpful as a chocolate teapot. I struggled on..
I was probably the biggest I’ve ever been on my wedding day which is very ironic because most brides are at their most slender and wonderful on the day. I didn’t really feel my best at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love plus-size brides and think they should be celebrated from here to kingdom come (which they are on offbeat bride – yey!) but I just didn’t feel comfortable the way I was at the time. My mystery problems finally stopped on honeymoon.. Great timing. Doh!
Christmas 2012 I popped off to Flares where I saw my friend Ami. Well, I saw about half of her. I hadn’t seen her since the summer and I knew she was having a gastric bypass that June but was totally not expecting what I saw.
I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you that she had had some really serious health issues almost to the point of having one of her legs amputated and she’d always struggled with just walking stupidly short distances. She walked in and I honestly must have had my gob hanging open for about 4 seconds. I could tell it was her because she had the same face, but other than that everything had changed. She had shed 10 stone in 7 months. That’s a whole other person’s worth of space! But what she said to me is the thing that struck me: ‘You just wouldn’t believe it – nothing is a problem anymore: fixed seating, chairs with arms, clothes, you name it, it’s all turned totally on its head, I’m no longer diabetic, no longer have depression and I’ve come off every one of my pills’
That certainly set the cogs turning.. I’d seen it with my own eyes now.
I booked an appointment with my new doctors surgery in January this year. I was absolutely petrified (to put it politely) sitting in the waiting room. The doctor couldnt have been sweeter to me. I was thinking that I’d have to beg, cry and have some sort of panic attack to get him to refer me for surgery as I would’ve had to do at the previous doctor’s gaff but as soon as I’d told him of my struggles it was a case of ‘no problem, I’ll have a look into it and call you this afternoon.’
To cut a long story short, I had a few meetings with the consultant that was going to be doing my surgery at The Spire hospital in Elland – a very straight talking Spanish man (who, I was assured, hadn’t killed anyone yet) with this surgery. He told me I had to get fit for the operation by doing a sh*t load of swimming which I duly did, I also had to have a gastroscopy which is the most evil thing anyone can ever do to another person. It is to check the stomach for any ulcers prior to the op which involves sticking a camera right down the back of the throat into the stomach and the duodenum (which is part of the pipe bit that food goes through from the stomach to the rest of your intestines) WHILE TOTALLY AWAKE. Normally, when someone has this done, they are sedated but because I hadn’t had a sleep apnoea test at that point he wanted me fully conscious. He is evil. I was expecting the camera to be pretty small considering where it was going but no, it was actually the size of your regular hose pipe. There were about 5 people surrounding me while I had this done.. I will tell you what happened but don’t read if you’re squeamish – I suffered so I’m gonna make you suffer by reading it ha!
One person was holding my head, one person was gripping both my hands and another my feet. I was gipping really badly while the camera went down and never stopped the whole time because the camera is filling your whole throat and gullet and you can actually feel it in your stomach, it is not a nice feeling. Burning and squirming about like a worm. Despite the fact that I hadn’t eaten for the previous 8 hours as instructed, there is still acid, bile and other junk in your stomach so it was all coming up and I’m gasping for air and coughing and gipping and can’t move an inch cos everyone is holding me down, then there is some other bugger vaccuming up the sick right next to my face – I can’t convey to you the panic that comes over you in situations like that. The only way I can describe it is either being hung from the inside or being trapped underwater in some murky canal. When it was finally over (about 4 minutes) I couldn’t speak for crying. It was a truly barbaric experience but it was worse when I saw my face in the mirror. Because I’d been heaving so much, my entire face was riddled with broken capillaries and my eyes were totally bloodshot. I also had the headache from Hell. When Dr Evil came to see me a few minutes after, he said that he wasn’t sure I was ready for the surgery because he thought I had depression because I was crying. Never have I wanted to punch someone in the face so much.
Didn’t feel right for about a week, I tried to cover up the busted capillaries with make up and powder cos it looked like I had really bad acne. I dieted and swam my ass off for the next few weeks. Leading up to the surgery I had to go on a really strict diet in order to shrink my liver because the liver is a bloody big thing and is situated right over the top of your stomach. The surgery is keyhole (laproscopic) so it’s kind of like a very delicate video game that is performed just from looking at screens in theatre with some special cutlery that goes through your skin. This means that your liver must be proper flaccid and easily moved to the side so they can see what they’re doing with your stomach. Doing this diet, I can see why sustained dieting has never worked for me before, granted, I was only eating a piddling little amount every day but I actually wanted to kill someone. For real.
I finally had my surgery on July 1st.
People had spoken about the ‘long walk down the corridor’ to the theatre in the bariatric support group I’d been to just before the op and I was crapping myself about doing it. The anaesthetist had had a meeting with me the week before to answer any burning questions I might have about the surgery, but me being me had got nervous, gone all inappropriate and may have actually flirted with him. Yes. I flirted with him. I think in the end, he was more scared of me then I was about the op ha!
The theatre manager came to get me and it was time to go. I kissed my hubby goodbye and told him to get Jezza on the telly for me for when I returned. I tried to chat with the man on the walk down the corridor to try and stop myself wetting my pants and more than likely cracked some inappropriate jokes about death but he eventually told me to get my big fat ass on that trolley. Not sure what happened next but I felt great, like being totally pissed up on Bacardi but without the headache.
I woke up to someone saying it was half past 11. That meant that I was in surgery for 4 hours.
The next thing I remember is OH MY ACTUAL GOD WHATTHEHELLHASHAPPENEDIWANTTODIE. KILL ME NOW…..
I was attached to 11 different machines monitoring, beeping, weeing for me and there were needles and cannulas and.. you name it, it was sticking out of me.. I couldn’t breathe properly because when you breathe your diaphragm raises upwards and it was pressing on my surgery area. I told my husband to tell my mum and dad not to come cos to be honest – it looked really awful.
That night was probably the worst night I’ve ever had in the history of ever. I felt guilty that I’d done this to myself and then tried not to think about anything at all cos thinking hurt. I think I wanted to cry but had to stop myself because that hurt too. At one point the machine next to me stopped beeping and flat lined. I thought ‘Right, concentrate – is your heart still beating? I think so.. Sh*t, I don’t know. Wait, yes it is.’ I tried to press for the nurse but try as I might, I couldn’t press that damn button hard enough. She came in about half an hour later (I was still alive) and stuck the ECG sticker back on my boob that had fallen off.
They did try sit me up in a chair the next day which I thought was going fine til my hubby said ‘ermm.. I’m just going to get the nurse’ I looked down to find the entire right side of my gown was covered in blood. Apparently, the pressure of standing up had opened one of my wounds and they put me back horizontal. He says my face was the colour of the hospital wall – a lovely bluey grey.
I came back home (to mum and dad’s) the next day. I had told them not to tell anyone because I was feeling pretty bad about the whole thing and just thought it’d be easier and less hassle to keep it to ourselves. I think mum struggled with this a bit but in the end it turned out OK because she hadn’t been able to tell the story over and over again and wind herself up about it more than necessary.
I couldn’t breathe or walk for 3 weeks. Nor could I go to the loo on my own. It wasn’t a fun time really but I stayed positive despite the fact that it was totally a bazillion times worse than I was expecting. A handful of my closest friends knew what was going on, in fact, we had a ‘last supper’ a few weeks before the op which was a heap of fun. They are still known as my disciples.
I was actually really touched by their visits and flowers and thoughtful presents in the weeks following the surgery. They know they are my best buddies cos I let them see me looking totally muntering and bruised and battered to death.
I just want to make it clear that this was never a vanity thing. I don’t actually give a toss what I look like, it’s just an added bonus that I am starting to look like the person I was meant to be. I’ve said all along this process that is is purely for health reasons and now I’m married Its not just me I’ve got to think about..
I must admit, I did regret the surgery in the days following because OMG it hurt like a total b*tch. I was on puree and yoghurt for 4 weeks (2 teaspoons each meal) and mush for 6 weeks and now I can pretty much eat normal food. The only difference is, if I eat too fast I’m sick, if I eat too much, I’m sick, If I eat food that’s too fatty, I’m sick or on the loo, if I eat food that’s too sugary, I can get what’s called ‘sugar dumping’ (not what it sounds!) where, because some of my intestines have been bypassed, sugar ain’t absorbed as much so I go sweaty, faint and sick! Lots of sick going on but that’s not happening so much these days. I will be on vitamin pills for the rest of my life but they’re not so bad. I can’t eat much per meal and now know when to stop so hence, the weight is falling away and Jessica Rabbit is emerging. I’m feeling good, looking better and actually, I’m pretty grateful for modern medicine, science and technology which have been pivotal in making operations like this happen and changing people’s lives for the better.
That’s my story, now you have it. Thank you for all the lovely comments you’ve left on my photos, I really do appreciate them and I’m glad I now feel ready to share my experience of everything with you. x”