In 2015, I graduated from Rutgers with a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies. This was after going to school on and off for seventeen years while working full-time and living my life. I’d always had “finish school” as the big project that I was driving towards, even when I was taking time off. Once I did it, I was like “WHAT NOW?!” In the past four years (how did that happen), I’ve feverishly researched going to grad school, moving far away (again), working on my career, trying to have kids, etc, etc, etc. I’ve also worked on my health on and off. Basically, when you spend 17 years working all day and going to school all night, you develop some sedentary habits which are so difficult to break. In short, ma dudes, I’m a couch pa-tater.
Ya gurl has gained a LOT OF WEIGHT (50 pounds in 7 years) since she moved back from LA. In fact, after my brother died, I gained about 20 more pounds even though I swore that I was going to CHANGE ALL THE THINGS and GET INTO EXCELLENT SHAPE after he died. So far, it’s been a nonstarter. Grief’ll do that to ya. So that’s like 10 pounds per year which isn’t exactly insane but it’s also not not insane.
One thing about me is that I’m a Fitbit lover and a David Sedaris groupie. The second he published this essay, I dialed up my interwebs and purchased one immediately. Since then, I’ve not gotten to his level (#bless) but I HAVE bought (or have been gifted) six of them for myself. I’ve gifted at least the same to my wife. I’ve bought one for my Father-in-Law and my Mother. I’ve forced my used ones on loved ones. I have interchangeable rubber bracelets popping out of all my junk drawers. I’m not a brand ambassador but something about tracking my steps for the day and uploading it to an app makes me feel productive. I like setting a daily goal and meeting or exceeding it. I’m a to do list person. I like checking off successes. A combination of therapy, Fitbit, and Trintellix has gotten me through this past year.
You’d think that becoming a Fitbit aficionado would translate to a loss of 70 pounds in 7 years but then, you’d be a fool. Alas, even though I’m feverishly tracking my steps daily, I’m not doing any type of exercise that’s sweating off the pounds. Mostly what I’m doing is listlessly dancing every morning in front of my television to sitcoms. I realized that this “exercise routine” will never get me on the Olympic team but it DOES get my heart pumping, stretches me out better than any morning stretching routine ever has, helps my back, and gives me a slight endorphin rush. This morning’s dancing elevated my anxiety a bit because I’m on the last three episodes of Maude and I hate it when a sitcom ends (even though it truly ended 40 years ago and I have it on DVD and can watch it whenever the funk I want). I’m sentimental like that.
So all of this blather above is to say that I’ve made the decision to do Bariatric surgery. Here’s the thing; I haven’t come to this decision lightly. The first time my doctor suggested I do it was about two years ago. I felt reactive and a little “Fuck you” about it. I asked him if he was suggesting this to me because he didn’t have faith in me to do it on my own. He said “Coleen, I don’t have faith in ANYONE to lose weight. It’s just too hard to do.” He also said that some of the creeping health issues that have been popping up would be solved. (FYI, I have always had great health but in the past few years I’ve been diagnosed with Severe Sleep Apnea, cholesterol that’s on the high side of normal, and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver.) I mean, all of these are because of my weight, being sedentary, and my food choices. Also, I’m going to be 40 in September. Basically, my body idles at “good health” but I’ve been working HARD to overcome that and I’m succeeding.
The second time a doctor suggested Bariatric Surgery to me, it was a Perinatal Doctor that I’d been referred to as a part of an IVF checklist. This was also about two years ago. There too, I felt like “Fuck you.” My fertility doc sent me to her for essentially being “fat and old” (my words not hers but you dig). I said “So, in order to get pregnant, you want me to FIRST do a major abdominal surgery?” She was like “Sure.” I walked out of her office muttering about feminism, size-ism, age-ism, etc, etc, etc.
So two years passed and I saw two nutritionists and none of their advice stuck. I Fitbit-danced to 10+ sitcoms. I gained 20 pounds. I lost my brother due to “natural causes” aka “obesity” and an “enlarged heart”. (I had an EKG which showed that I do NOT have an enlarged heart. Obesity, however, yes.)
Last fall, I had a thought, “What if instead of being all fuck you, I was like this is exactly what I want and I’m so excited to do it?” I decided to research Bariatric Surgery with a completely open (and unenlarged) heart. I researched benefits, risks, people who’ve had it done, surgeons, recovery times, long-term effects, what is and isn’t covered by insurance, etc, etc, etc. Once I was done researching it, I talked it over with my wife who was VERY skeptical (aka afraid for me). I found myself working to convince her and kind of realized that I really DID want to do it. I took even more time and tried to then talk myself OUT of it. I finally settled on booking a consultation with a surgeon in NJ who came highly recommended from a bunch of sources. I made the appointment and went to it. She and I had a great discussion going through all the various types of Bariatric Surgeries and the one she ended up recommending was exactly what I’d already been leaning towards through my research; Gastric Sleeve.
Essentially, they take your healthy (albeit stretched out) stomach and staple a section of it off; removing the rest. This leaves a wee pouch. The purpose of this is threefold: 1) You literally cannot fit a lot of food in there, 2) there’s less surface area of your stomach so nutrients are more easily absorbed, and 3) your body produces less of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. There are basically three different types of Bariatric surgery: the lap band (which is where they literally put a rubber band around your stomach to the same effect), the gastric sleeve (above), and the gastric bypass (which is a whole crazy thing where they sort of attach your pipes directly to your intestines bypassing the stomach entirely – leaving your stomach just listlessly floating in your body). The most research they have (20 years) is about the bypass. It’s the A+ gold standard of bariatric surgery (more on that later). They are really not recommending the lap band anymore because it’s not really effective AND you have to do a minimum of two surgeries: 1) to put it in and 2) to remove it when it inevitably malfunctions (and then you gain ALL of the weight back). The gastric sleeve is the most popular bariatric surgery people are doing now although there is only about 10 years of research on it. Essentially, the reason she recommended gastric sleeve is that if you do the gastric sleeve and have an issue, you can go to a bypass but if you opt for the bypass out of the gate, there’s nowhere really to go. The surgeon said I’d have to fight her if I wanted to do the lap band. I liked the cut of her gib.
So the reality is that insurance WILL cover this surgery but I have to do the following things before they (and the surgeon) will allow it:
- Surgical consult – DONE
- Six monthly “supervised” visits at the surgeon’s office (and if I miss a month, I have to start all over again)
- First visit in March 2019 – DONE
- Second visit in April 2019 – DONE
- Third visit in May 2019 – DONE
- Fourth visit in June 2019 – DONE
- Fifth visit in July 2019 – Scheduled
- Sixth visit in August 2019 – Scheduled
- A visit with their on-staff dietician – Scheduled for July 2019
- Bloodwork – Working on it
- A note from my therapist – Working on it
- A note of medical necessity from my GP – DONE
- An endoscopy – Working on scheduling it after some rigamarole from insurance
- Losing a bit of weight – Not going well
I know I’m forgetting some things but point being, I’m WERKING on it. I’m hoping that I can get it done by the end of August; which would have been my brother’s 29th birthday. If not, maybe I’ll get it done in September which will be my 40th birthday. For my 30th, I moved to LA. For my 40th, I’m going to get a section of a major bodily organ removed.
Anyway, I really gotta GTFO right this second. I wanted to write this out so I can focus on it because my focus has been all over the place lately. I hope this helps someone to read and if it doesn’t, well, it helped me to write.