Monday, August 14, 2006

I'm Ba-a-a-a-ck

Was out of town for a few days, on a speaking tour! I went to speak in three cities at gatherings for morbidly obese folks who are considering the GB. This was my first “official” time as a public speaker and I was very nervous.

I didn’t speak at medical facilities or surgeon’s offices. I don’t regularly align myself with doctors because I’d be speaking to the converted. My peeps are the “should I’s” of the world – not those who are already scheduling their surgery date.

Well, I do not think I could have been made to feel more welcome by any crowd, anywhere. And I loved the questions! I’ll tell you something – people are so intelligent and do NOT sit still for letting doctors just fill their heads with propaganda. They want to know everything and they want details. And you know how I feel about THAT.

So I hit ‘em with details. Every ugly detail there is.

I thought it might be helpful if I used a few of the questions they asked me right here, for my readers who might have been wondering the same thing, so here goes:

Did you have to spend any money at all? Was there anything out of pocket?

I paid for the one psychologist visit that I was made to go through so the insurance company could have professional analysis of my intentions and understanding of the procedure.

Aside from this, nothing. Not a dime. My health insurance paid for every single thing. Three pre-surgical visits to the surgeon’s office, the procedure itself and hospital stay, and five follow-up visits to the surgeon’s office, wherein I did things like: sit with his nutritionist (Bad. I learned from this to not expect the surgeon to have the finest nutritionist on his payroll and to seek outside nutritionist information and advice.), get my stitches removed (owtch!), get weighed in and have the surgeon check out how I was feeling/doing. All of this was covered by health insurance.

How much pain do you go through during recovery? And then at home?

The pain is so minimal in the hospital after the surgery. I mean, they’re giving you pain killers often and you’re hooked up to an IV drip that they regularly refresh with pain killers in it. Also, if you are feeling achy at all, you ring the nurse, she gives you a little shot and you feel ALL better immediately. That was my experience, anyway. The one thing you may experience in the hospital – if you are anything like me – is utter boredom. So bring a lot of books, crossword puzzles, and a Gameboy. They suggest that you walk as much as possible through the hallways of the place and I did that non-stop which my doctor suggested is the reason I was let out of there in 3 days. The walking thing is key because A)you need to work the anesthetics out of your body and walking helps this along, B)walking helps eliminate the risk of blood clots gathering in your legs during recovery.

At home I was equally pain-free. While this is a huge surgery, obviously, it doesn’t have the painful recovery of many other surgeries. The tiny spot where your lower intestine and your stomach meet has just been attached and so it's swollen and needs to heal very well but that does not cause you pain. Unless, of course, you try to stuff yourself with food instead of liquids in your first few weeks at home, which some try to do. I met a man, just a few days ago, who tried to eat STEAK in his second week at home. Can you imagine what he must have felt? He told me he’d wished he was dead during that episode. All the chewing in the world (“chewing” is about to become the most important function in your world, btw) cannot make a healing stomach capable of taking down a steak.

The hospital did send me home with a handful of Percocet but I never took one.

The biggest difficulty I had was sleeping on my back for MONTHS. Well, maybe it wasn’t months. Just felt like it. It was probably 7 weeks. And you won’t be in agony if you try to sleep on your belly in the beginning days at home – you will just be uncomfortable.

I heard you have a large breathing tube and you might still have it in you when you wake up! Will I be awake when they remove the breathing tube?

Ohmigod the breathing tube. I was so panicked about this issue while I was researching! I was frantically asking around about this for months beforehand. I learned that there was a very tiny percentage of people who had the tube removed while they were awake. I also learned it has become even more rare now. I was unable to find one person who had it removed while they were awake. My breathing tube was removed while I was still asleep and of course I don’t have any memory of it.

I will continue to add more Q&As from my speaking engagements as we go...

The GB Girl

Monday, August 07, 2006

I am considering surgery and I actually do think my surgeon’s office is being pretty straight up with me about after effects and complications. Just one thing, though. I heard from a co-worker who had it that your energy levels are kind of non-existent and I do very strenuous work so this would be a problem. The doctor said that my co-worker probably just didn’t take all the vitamins needed and that’s the problem and that I will have nothing to worry about in that department. True?

Kilgore, TX

Hey there, Eugene. A man! I love seeing a man letter. Actually, wait, that’s not fair. I DO get a lot of mail from men but am frightfully underutilizing my male audience. And I am not entirely sure why. Could be that many of the letters ask me things about the size difference in my breasts before and after my surgery and that’s just suspect, no?

Now, Eugene, regarding your completely appropriate and very important letter:

It took me a long time to have the energy I’d had before the surgery. It takes most people about 6 months before they actually feel like they’re “back.” (This is obviously a nightmare for the mothers out there who have young children because they just can’t be out of the game for a minute).

Here’s the thing, Eugene, you’re not dropping off to sleep or anything like that. You can work and function as normal. You just always have the blahs in a big way. A little lethargic, maybe a little sad, though I can’t swear that had anything to do with the surgery.

Then, after 6 months you start to climb out of it and your energy levels rise. This is because your body is back in business – your endorphins are pumping again, metabolically your levels are unified again.

There are exceptions to this, as there are with anything. There are people who are working out, running marathons, jumping outta planes, within 8 weeks. I am just not one of those people. I don’t know how strenuous your work is or how much time you are being permitted to take off after the surgery, but do plan on a drop off in your energy levels for at least 4 months while you are considering whether or not to do this. Good luck, Eugene!!!

GB Girl

And hey, anyone out there reading this…if you have something you want to say to Eugene about this,
send your comments in and I will post them!

Friday, August 04, 2006

I’m a new reader of your blog and I must tell you I really appreciate the honesty you bring. I am 23 years old, 5’1’’ and 225 lbs. I was diagnosed with Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome about 3 years ago and have gained and retained a total of 85lbs since late 2003. I feel like I’m living inside someone else’s body and I can’t get out. I have tried everything I can think of – I work out every day, I’m eating no more than 1000 calories a day (of barely any carbs or sugars of any kind) and nothing is working. I even tried going to a hypnotherapist for weight loss. I think about gastric bypass every day – especially when I look in the mirror. Then I second-guess it and think about how young I am and how there must be something else. How did you make your decision? What would be your advice to me? Thanks for writing me, and thanks for what you’re doing…
Alison N.
Long Island

Hi Alison! Another LI Girl! How I love LI Girls! I love being one, too.

I actually have a good friend who has (er, HAD) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. She had GB at the advice of her physician. She weighed about 230 at the time of her surgery 5 years ago. As expected, she lost a ton of weight. She’s about 112 pounds now but best of all…the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is gone gone GONE. And with it, all the dreadful side effects of which you are obviously intimately familiar.

I do not know, and nor does she, that anyone can say that will happen for every person who has GB and also has POS, but it did happen here. One of the best reasons to get GB, of course, is to permanently clear up conditions associated with obesity.

And I, too, tried so many different things to lose weight, Alison. My mother had my glands checked thoroughly 7 times when I was a kid. Doctors put me on Synthroid when I was just 12. My mother started me on diets from A to Z. As an adult, I did every liquid diet invented, and they did work. And of course, I lost 80 pounds, enjoyed it for a bit and quickly ballooned back up (and then some). I did the whole Ephedrine/workout regime thing, sometimes with a trainer, sometimes not. That worked. I lost the same 80 pounds…sometimes more. Enjoyed that a bit and quickly ballooned back up (and then some). I also ate no more than 1000 calories a day and counted every single one. Kept lists, read self-help books, kept a food diary, attended self-awareness classes, joined and immediately quit OA (ugh!) and Weight Watchers (oh puhleeez…with the bumper sticker speak…spare me), ate Shaklee crap (only because my mother was bigtime into it), lived on boiled chicken and broccoli every single day for 14 months, started smoking for 12 years to stave off hunger of any kind (smart!) and stopped just short of committing suicide. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

I had one thing to help me with the decision to have the procedure that you may not have the benefit of– I had family members who‘d already had it. I suppose it’s easier to decide when you can see the effect GBS has on people in your gene pool.

My mother and younger sister had already had the surgery and I monitored them very closely for 4 years afterwards. I did see the difficulties they had with loose skin and elimination issues and nutritional maintenance, and that did frighten me. A LOT. But then, I also saw other things...

I saw how chipper they sounded when they’d both been morose for years and years before.

I saw how happy they were for each new day.
I saw them shrink into skinny minis and wear short skirts.
I saw my mother start to use her dreaded exercise machines and enjoy them.
I saw her take pleasure out of little things like ordering a new pair of pants off QVC.
I saw my sister look at herself in mirrors and windows as we walked around a mall.
I saw my mother throw away her Synthroid medication.
I saw my sister cancel her chiropractor appointments forever.
I saw her fall in love and get married.
I saw her run up 3 flights of stairs and continue getting her degree after dropping it for years.

I saw hope, Alison, where I’d never seen it before. And good health. And ENERGY. And I wanted me some a that. And I think you do, too. And I think you deserve it.

And I know what you mean about thinking there must be another way, and you’re right. There are many wonderful and effective ways to lose weight. But for some, losing it and keeping it off are wholly different, regardless of how diligent they are afterwards. You and I can both attest to that. I needed to do it with lasting finality. So I wouldn’t keep aggravating my heart, which had already seen me through ups and downs that could kill a horse. I was able to lose weight on my own but not able to keep it off me, and it was obvious to all the doctors I'd seen over the years that I wouldn't ever be able to keep it off me. So I had GBS.

This is just my story. You have your own. If mine sounds all too familiar maybe you should consider the procedure more seriously. And please please please promise to let me know how you are doing, Alison. I would love to help you make this decision and can offer you fresh perspective when you feel you've run out. And whatever you decide, we’re all rooting for you!

GB Girl

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What is DUMPING, exactly???
Sara T.

Sara, the one thing Dumping is not, is pretty.

And while it is horribly named, and the name is not precisely in line with the nature of the thing itself, it does fit. I mean, in the most juvenile sense, it is you taking a dump. But look on the bright side – it’s also a fanTASTIC automatic safety precaution to stop you from total overindulgence. I say “fantastic” because it is spot-on reliable, baby.

Dumping is a side effect of the surgery that occurs when you take in refined sugar. Oddly, for some, it can also happen when you take in anything that truly disrupts your intestines (and this is different for everyone. Oh, hello there, Salad. I see you lurking over there. You will not win.) The word “Dumping,” by the way, means, “sugar being dumped out of your intestine.” They did not mean it in the Archie Bunker-esque sense when they named this side effect, but still, again…it fits.

Here’s a little textbook copy on Dumping:

“Dumping occurs when the patient eats refined sugar following gastric bypass. This causes symptoms of rapid heart beat, nausea, tremor and faint feeling, usually followed by diarrhea.“

Now, here’s how it really goes for most people (me included):

Eat sugar. A decent amount of it.
Wait ten minutes until you feel a strong rumbling in your stomach.
Run to the bathroom like your life depends on it.
Dump. A lot.

I personally have not experienced Dumping in the afore-mentioned textbook sense, by which I mean that I have never had the rapid sweating, passing out on the floor, writhing, moaning, fainting thing. But it’s not to say I haven’t heard of that happening. For me, it’s just that I have avoided large amounts of sugar since day one out of fear of Dumping. Fear works for me. Every time.

But let’s talk about my friend Beth. In her second week out of the hospital, Beth decided that she’d “been good” and wanted to “spoil herself” and boy, did she. Beth had to have a Dove Bar and she felt she’d earned it. So she did. And from her husband’s retelling of events, it seems that Beth passed out cold on the kitchen floor after yelling, crying and gripping her stomach inconsolably for ten minutes. She also eliminated all over herself. Her husband rushed her to the hospital but she was perfectly restored to normal before he even got her in the Emergency Room doors.

Now that is Dumping for the newbie who is willing to risk it all for a Dove Bar. It’s a cautionary tale, Sara. And, really, is a Dove Bar ever really worth it, in the end? I’ve actually never had one of those, and I suppose it’s a personal choice people have to make for themself, eh?

GB Girl
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