WHY I DECIDED TO HAVE THE SURGERY
On the day I met my husband, I weighed 216 pounds. That was 1996 and I was 19-years-old. I thought I was fat. Of course, I was fat, but I wasn't yet morbidly obese. My weight fluctuated greatly during those years (never marry an Italian man if you want to stay thin!), but on my wedding day two years later, I weighed 220 pounds. I'm about 5'6.5". My dress was a size 18. I had tried everything in the world to get into a smaller size and I just wasn't able to lose weight. At the time, I thought I just wasn't trying hard enough and I was very optimistic that someday I'd be able to lose weight.
Of course, the very second the words "I do" escaped my mouth, I began to gain weight. Fast. Within a year, my guess is that I was up to 250 pounds. When I graduated college in 2000, two years later, I looked like this:
Within three years, I was close to 300 pounds.
[Sorry about the quality of the photos. Getting my picture taken wasn't exactly my favorite thing back then so the pickings are slim.]
So yeah. I got fat. It happened fast. A lot was going on with Dave and me. It felt like it was taking us YEARS to get our life going. We were broke and unhappy. I played a lot of video games and had almost no friends. Instead of turning into a fairytale, my life seemed to have stalled. I was adjusting to being an adult and taking care of myself for the first time ever and frankly, I wasn't doing a very good job. I just wasn't happy in my life and instead of doing anything about it, I ate.
Also, there was that pesky issue of not being able to get pregnant. We started trying almost as soon as I graduated from college and nothing was happening. I had stopped ovulating somewhere along the way. Every doctor I talked to said the same thing: lose weight if you want to conceive. I finally met a nice doctor in Sacramento who offered to give me Clomid to help me ovulate, but I decided against taking it. I figured I would keep trying to lose weight with the (totally ridiculous) idea that if I wanted children badly enough, I should be able to lose weight. Every month that I didn't ovulate, I ate to fill up the gaping hole left by my disappointment.
It wasn't until we'd been trying for more than two years that we decided to try more drastic measures. Dave was initially very scared and against my pursuing the surgery but fertility treatments weren't covered by insurance (did I mention we were broke?!) and gastric bypass surgery was. At 309 pounds, my highest weight ever, the choice wasn't so hard. I had considered the surgery an option for me ever since the very first time I'd heard about it (See Carnie Wilson). Even if losing weight didn't get me pregnant, at least I'd be healthier and thinner when I finally broke down and tried the fertility drugs.
THE PRE-OP PROCESS
I immediately found a surgeon. In Sacramento, there's an excellent surgery clinic that specializes exclusively in gastric bypass surgery (called SALSA). I worked with their office to get through the pre-operative requirements. They sent me to a bariatric MD who examined me, monitored my weight for several months, and eventually wrote a letter to my insurance company to get me pre-approved.
In order to qualify for surgery, you have to have more than one co-morbidity. First you have to meet the BMI requirement, which with a BMI of over 47 was no problem for me. I also had infertility, in the form of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), constant back and joint pain, and high cholesterol. Because my weight was so high and my health was otherwise fairly decent, I was an excellent candidate for surgery.
The surgery practice I chose did not require pre-operative weight loss. I was encouraged to start exercising, which I did in the form of riding my bike to work. I was also required to undergo several sessions with the psychologist of my choice, who then also had to send a letter to the insurance company supporting my surgical candidacy. I had to undergo many blood tests, an echo cardiogram (to check my heart valves since I'd previously taken phen fen before it went off the market), an EKG and an ultrasound of my gallbladder, which ended up revealing that I had gall stones and would need to have my gallbladder removed at the time of my surgery.
Even though I didn't get to meet the infamous Dr. Waldrep until the day of my surgery, I immediately knew I was in good hands. He was extremely experienced. He performed three surgeries a day. He'd done over 300 gastric bypass surgeries already and most importantly, he'd never lost a patient.
GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY AND MORBIDITY
I think it's complete and total BS when people say they didn't understand the risks of surgery before going under the knife. I practically had to sign my life away before they'd even put me on the surgical calendar. I specifically remember the assistant surgeon sitting me down and explaining to me in clear, plain, painfully understandable English that there was at least a 1 in 300 chance that I would die from the surgery. As in D-E-A-D, DEAD. The chance that I would suffer painful, life-long, horrible complications was even higher.
I still thought it was worth the risk. I also knew it would not kill me. I don't know how I knew this, but literally every fiber of my being knew that I would not only be fine, but that it would the best thing I ever did for my health. I was lucky and my hunch turned out to be correct. I also knew that statistically, if anyone was going to die from the surgery, it would be a 600 pound invalid, not a 26-year old infertile. I felt that my odds were worth the risk.
[more to come on this topic again soon so stay tuned]