My husband has been on me about writing a new blog post since my last one in April. I haven’t been too busy; I only had a baby, was the soul care-giver for all three children (while my husband worked two jobs) starting 4 days postpartum, being diagnosed with postpartum depression after struggling for months, and having to return to work full-time even though I want to spend every waking moment staring into Corbin’s gorgeous blue eyes. But here I am finally and I hope I don’t disappoint with my first post back. You be the judge?
I figured it was time to go back to the beginning and share how I got to where I am today. As far as I’m concerned I became a new person on January 11th, 2017. That’s my re-birthday. A day I will be forever grateful for. The previous April, 2016, I had decided that, to save my quality of life, I would take the steps to undergo gastric bypass surgery. The last year of my 20s was coming to an end and I was miserable. After struggling with my weight for most of the teenage years and all my adult life I knew that I had no other choice but to take the weight loss bull by the horns and throw caution to the wind. What exactly did I have to lose, besides all that excess weight and unhappiness?
Now, if you aren’t familiar with gastric bypass let me fill you in. They make 6-8 incisions in your abdomen and divide your stomach into upper/lower pouches. Then your small intestine is rearranged to connect to both; allowing your food to “bypass” certain parts of your stomach and intestine. This causes less food absorption and the ability to only take in small amounts of food in one sitting resulting in rapid weight loss. Also resulting in a lack of vitamin absorption, no longer being able to eat and drink at the same time, and a horrible reaction to sugar (or anything your body can no longer handle) called dumping syndrome. I’ll let you research that on your own, enjoy.
My journey started with the obligatory 3 hour informational seminar meant to scare the first round of people seeking the “easy way out” away. By the end of that night it seemed that a third of the attendees had talked themselves out of such an invasive and life changing procedure. “You mean you have to follow rules for life?” A DUH… That weeding out process continued and people dropped like flies. They needed to be sure that we understood what we were agreeing to. That we knew everything that was involved in the commitment that we were making. Many people had underestimated it. This program was not designed to be the easy way out.
While the surgeon of the month spoke about all the worst case scenarios a power point of surgical pictures flashed in the background. Yes he briefly touched on the benefits of moving forward with one of the three procedures available to us, but I couldn’t help but notice how they seemed to focus on the small percentage of negative side affects over anything else. Some of which included a for-life vitamin regime (pish I already take vitamins, what’s the harm in adding a few 10-12 more?), hair loss (you just might be one of the lucky ones that gets to skip this one, but it’s highly unlikely), protein deficiency (with a tiny tummy comes the inability to finish even the smallest of protein packed meals) , and excess loose skin (I would just have to cross that bridge when I got there, right?). I had made a promise to myself that I was going to do everything I could to live a long happy life and this first step was going to afford me that. So I took the leap and didn’t look back.
Next stop was the initial insurance approval and finding out just what kind of hoops I needed to jump through to make this dream a reality. That very first night I forked over my insurance card and other necessary information. I filled out a packet and spewed my health history onto the paperwork as quickly as I could, I was more than eager to get this ball rolling. The nice woman assured me that I would hear back within the next day or two. She said that this part of the insurance process was one of the quickest things to get through. I left feeling pretty good, like I was finally taking charge of something that would lead me to a happier future. Why had I waited so dang long to do this? What was I so scared of anyway? The answers to those questions would come as my journey continued.
A WEEK and THREE whole days later I finally got a call from the weight management program scheduler at the Riverplex. I was starting to think that my insurance had already shut it all down and they weren’t even going to waste their time letting me know. Wrong! The good news was, as long as I had a documented need for the surgery, insurance would cover my surgeon visits, hospital stay, and procedure almost 100%. I was so excited and ready to commit to it all that same day.
Then came the not so good news…. I needed to be on a supervised diet for the next six-ish months (my life seemed like endless healthy eating with no real progress to speak of so why drag that out any longer?), attend multiple dietitian classes and meetings regarding pre/post op (who the heck has time for all that when they are working full time, trying to work out, and not obsess about the huge life change they are working their way toward?), and find one main support person that would be there for me during the entire process (including but not limited to a final surgeons visit, dietitian class, take me to and from the hospital for surgery, and also continue to support me in the very hard first few months after my surgery). I knew that the last one would be the hardest for me. I had a few people in my corner, but they expected me to find someone that I could rope into being my biggest support during the possibly hardest time in my life? Let me get right on that…..
I worked my tail off for the next six months. I followed my surgeon’s and dietitian’s recommendations to a T. I went to every possible meeting that I could attend, even switching my day off at work to accommodate a morning scheduled group. I went to late night and weekend ones too. I raised my hand and asked questions. I wrote down everything that I could. Let’s face it, I was that annoyingly obnoxious person that kept everyone hostage with my never-ending questions when I could have easily reached out to the exercise specialist/dietitian/surgeon on my own time. I had absolutely no care for who I ticked off because I was making this weight loss journey my first priority. I was finally stepping up and doing something for myself. Call me selfish, I definitely was, but I knew that I was not going to take this opportunity for granted.
The time passed in the blink of an eye. All my ducks started to fall into a row and I was hopeful. I had somehow talked my mother down off the ledge of doom that she pictured I was about to throw myself off of if I went through with this gastric bypass. She agreed to be my main support person and attend my final visits when that time came. She began to understand what all this actually meant to me and that this was not a decision that I would be making lightly. I had exhausted myself with the amount of questions and notes that I had asked and taken. The hours of research and second guessing everything had to be worth it, right? I wanted it so bad! Then it was October and my surgeon’s office was calling to let me know that they would be submitting everything necessary to get my surgery approved for scheduling.
The wait seemed like forever. On November 20th, 2016 I got the call that I had been holding my breath to receive. We had the green light and it was time to get everything down on paper. It still didn’t seem real, but with all the possibilities that laid before me I could feel my life changing for the better. Since the month was almost over and my surgeon was going on a month long vacation for the holidays in December, lucky bastard, we turned the calendar to the upcoming year. My surgeon was returning on January 9th and the soonest that they could offer me was January 11th. I almost screamed yes into the phone, but I kept my composure. I, Savanah (the 300+lb girl with the great personality) who had been in such a bad place for so long, could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had an actual surgery date. I had read other’s stories and rejoiced with them when all their hard work paid off; this time it was my turn! 30 had been the year that I took back my life and it was skies the limit from that point forward.
The next month flew by. I went to what seemed like endless pre-op testing, doctor’s appointments, and told anyone that would listen just how my life was about to change. Never had I felt so positive about where my life was heading. Finally it was time for my last surgeon’s visit and dietitian class. My mom drove over and we had breakfast at my favorite diner. We talked and shared stories, she asked questions and grilled me as much as she could. If she was going to trip me up, this would be the time to do it. She told me later that she was so impressed and proud of my decision based on the knowledge that I had shown. That she was no longer scared of the outcome but knew in her heart just how much this meant to me and what I was willing to do to get it.
All of the sudden my kitchen was full of only post op diet foods. My hospital bag was packed and by the door. My cat sitter was all lined up for the two-three days I would be recovering in the hospital. And I was barely able to contain my excitement at my going away potluck thrown by my loving co-workers. I was itching to start my new life. I got the call the day before and found out that I needed to check in at 0500 sharp on the 11th. Though my surgery would technically be scheduled it would be a first come first serve type thing, unless there were any emergency surgeries and then they would plug me in where they could.
I WAS SO READY!!! I slept maybe a couple hours and was ready to go long before Cortney was at my house. It was really hard not to pace back and forth outside waiting for her 0430 arrival, but the fact that it was lightly snowing kept me on the couch twiddling my thumbs as the minutes ticked away. It seemed like time had stopped and the clock on my phone was so slow to change.
I honestly don’t remember much from the check in process that morning. I was worried because my mother couldn’t be there, but my dad and stepmom decided to come down at the zero hour. I do remember that they weren’t there yet and my name was being called to go back to the pre-op area and get things started. They showed up in the nick of time to see me cry as they started wheeling me down to the OR.
I was out for what seemed like seconds, but in reality was about 3 1/2 hours. I woke up in the first post op recovery area. Very woozy and in some pain. But there I was, officially on the “Loser’s Bench”! I was soon whisked away to what would be my room for the next couple days. My family didn’t stay long, I was useless for conversation anyway, after I got to my room and everything was confirmed okay. I slept a lot the rest of that first day, but quickly got into a routine for pain medicine and hall walking. I was determined to get out of there as soon as I was able. They let me out in morning of my third day there. Everything was set up so that I could go directly from the hospital to my house and start my solo recovery process. This is where the fun would actually begin.
It’s so true what they say about weight loss surgery patients wishing they could turn back time and reverse what they had done because of the initial rapid hormone change we go through with weight loss. Man, those first couple months were so damn hard! I have never been so unsure of such a permanent thing that I’ve done to myself. I cried a lot, slept too much, hid in my apartment when I should have been out starting my new life. What had I done? I could see my body changing right in front of my eyes. I was not as prepared as I thought I was, but I’m not sure there was any way that I could have been.
I dropped a little over 50lbs in the first couple months. Then the weight loss, though still present and consistent, began to slow. After that first year I was down about 140lbs and truly was a different person. My body had reached a spot where it was maintaining with the help of regular workouts and a good diet. I was living the life! That first year had brought so many changes, not just my appearance and health, but I also gained a husband and two stepdaughters. We had moved to a new city and started a life that I didn’t think I would ever have, a life that I thought the old me didn’t deserve. Though many people say that having weight loss surgery is the easy way out and is for those that can’t accomplish the hard work their own. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not all bodies are designed to achieve those goals without the help of tools and that is exactly what gastric bypass is, a tool.
I cruised at my maintenance weight, fluctuating 5-7lbs, until I got pregnant in July of 2018. Dropping the pounds not only gave me a new life, but also allowed me to become a mother and honestly that’s a title that I never thought I wanted. My mind changed too, opening so many doors, and that was probably the hardest part. Getting used to being able to do the things that I never planned for, the things that I didn’t know I wanted.
Looking back now I don’t think I would change a single thing about my journey so far. I can even appreciate the fact that I wasn’t allowed to rush into any decisions without putting in the work beforehand. I don’t think that my accomplishments would mean the same to me if I hadn’t put my whole heart and soul into it. I know I’ve always been strong, but sometimes you don’t know how strong you are until it’s time to step up and take care of yourself like no one else can. Making the hard decisions and having only yourself to blame for the outcome, whether good or bad. No one will ever make the sacrifices for me that I have for myself and for that I would give some and loose a lot all over again!