Coming out of the fat closet

I intended to blog about writing. But there’s another part of my life that needs nurturing, too.

About two years ago, I got lap-band surgery. I had reached the point where I was at the maximum dose of my medications to control diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol and the conditions were worsening. My office is on the second floor of a walk-up and I had to stop in the middle to catch my breath. We live in a hilly condo complex and more than once when I huffed up the hill, people would stop to ask if I was OK. I was almost ready to see make the call when cleaning up in the bathroom became challenging. But the alarm went off when I woke up in a wet bed and realized that all that body bulk was too much for my bladder.

I was fortunate in that my insurance paid for almost everything. I had to go on a six-month pre-op diet that consisted of two protein shakes and a small meal daily, plus lots of vitamins. Just about the time I was supposed to get my surgery date, I came down with pneumonia and spent eight days in the hospital. That set me back briefly, but a few months later, I got my date.

The surgery took about an hour and I spent the next night in the hospital. The surgeon installed a silicone band around the top part of my stomach, forming a pouch. When this pouch fills with food, you stop eating. There’s a small opening between the pouch and the rest of your stomach, and occasionally food gets stuck there. Most often, when I eat too much too fast, the food stays stuck and has to make a return trip. Yes, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds. As you lose weight, the opening grows larger, so the surgeon injects saline into the band to tighten it. I have a titanium and silicone port just under the skin. You can feel it, but it’s not big enough to set off alarms at the airport.

I started this process at just under 280 pounds, and that’s a lot on a 5-foot-2 woman. I’ve lost almost 80 pounds. It’s been slower than I’d like, and it’s been harder than I expected. There are certain foods that I can’t eat anymore because they won’t stay down, but that’s OK. Diet soda is out because the bubbles hurt like hell in my tiny stomach. Bread, chips, tough meat, mushrooms, even popcorn get stuck more often than not. I can still drink coffee and have the occasional red wine, so balances out. I will say that it’s a strange feeling to NOT want to consume everything in sight. I’m no longer a bottomless pit of hunger. A restaurant dinner will last me for three meals.

So why am I writing about this? I’m putting myself out there. By nature I hide emotions, so this will force me to confront it. I’m reconnecting with a support system of other weight-loss surgery patients and this time I’m becoming part of the conversation.

I don’t want to wake up in a wet bed again.

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