I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for a little over three months. Why has it taken me so long? Granted, I had an incredibly busy end of the semester, we did some traveling, and we’re in the midst of wedding preparations. Truth be told, I didn’t want to deal with the judgment that I was sure would come with this post.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On March 12, 2018, I made a lifelong commitment to my family and my health by undergoing a sleeve gastrectomy – in other words, weight loss surgery. I’d been thinking about it for a few years, but wanted to try to lose the weight on my own first. And I was successful for a time. But then my world started spinning out of control. My father had a stroke and we moved him to San Antonio. I was fired from a job that I loved and was unsuccessful in my search for a new position. In addition, I was expected to complete my tenure for the next seven months as though nothing had happened. Needless to say, diet and exercise took a back seat to keeping my head above water. I gained back almost all the weight I had lost.
Two specific events occurred during the summer of 2017 that pushed me to explore weight loss surgery. My husband, Maury, and I are diehard Red Sox fans, having been raised in the Boston area. We traveled to Houston to see the Red Sox beat – I mean play against – the Astros, and I could not fit in the seat. I had to request a folding chair in the ADA section. I had the same experience at Fenway later that summer, however this time, I stood or sat on the stairs for the entire game.
And then there was our 30thanniversary party. More specifically, the photos that were taken of me. I was dismayed, disgusted, and scared when I saw the photos. It was time to do something.
My PCP referred me to BMI (Bariatric Medical Institute) and I went for a consultation. I could not have felt more supported and cared for by people I had just met. Then it was time to find out what insurance would cover. NOTHING – until I had been on the insurance for at least three years. With a year and a half to go before I met that criteria, I decided I couldn’t wait that long.
Being a cash patient carried with it the advantage of moving things along quickly. In February, I determined I was ready. From that point forward, it was a matter of weeks until I was scheduled for surgery and meeting all the pre-op requirements, including appointments with the dietician, psychologist, and surgeon.
For two weeks prior to the surgery, I had to adhere to a strict pre-op diet designed to shrink my liver and reduce the fat around my liver and stomach to make the surgery easier and reduce the possibility of complications. Two protein shakes and one small meal consisting of protein and vegetable each day.
The last three days pre-op, we were in Cincinnati to do menu and cake tastings for our daughter’s wedding. Armed with permission from the dietician to try tiny tastes and stay on the pre-op diet the rest of the time, I was proud of my ability to stick to the regimen. I’ve got this!
When we got home from Cincinnati, I was running a potentially surgery-postponing fever. A consultation with Dr. D later, and I was at the hospital.
I told very few people that I was about to undergo weight loss surgery, not because I didn’t want anyone to know; rather, I preferred to tell people in my own way and in my own time. I told my kids, a (very) few close friends, a few colleagues, and our soon to be son-in-law and his parents. While we waited for me to be taken to surgery, we called my mother-in-law and a few other family members.
I’ve heard of people having “buyer’s remorse” following bariatric surgery, and I have to admit that I did as well… for about 10 minutes. The first five weeks were hard. One week of thin liquids (water, sugar-free jello and popsicles, broth), two weeks of full liquids (adding protein shakes and thicker soups), and two weeks of soft proteins. We celebrated Passover during the final days of week 3, and I seriously questioned the sanity of scheduling my surgery as I did. Nevertheless, I stayed the course.
As I started telling people, I have found almost everyone to be excited for me and wonderfully supportive. The judgment I expected never materialized. Quite the opposite, actually. “What a life-affirming decision” was the reaction I received from some of my rabbi friends. Rabbi Barry Block even shared a sermon he had delivered prior to my even meeting him, which eloquently expressed all the reasons and feelings that went into my decision to pursue this path.
I’m grateful to my loving and supportive husband, Maury, and to my two biggest cheerleaders, my adult children, Ken and Missy, who have begged me to lose weight for years.
Next week will be three months since my surgery. So far I’ve lost 60 lbs., along with much of the pain in my legs and knees that have troubled me for several years. I will (hopefully) find out next week how many inches I’ve lost. I feel better than I have in years and I’m no longer disgusted to look in the mirror. Sure, I have a long way to go, but I’ve got this!
Photo on the left is from August 2017; photo on the right is from this week.
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