When I started this journey to get my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy -- the kind of sleeve gastrectomy (stomach removal) that I received. They cut my stomach up and... More – partial sleeve gastrectomy, I was in for a fight. I had to jump through so many hoops to be approved for the surgery. This entailed dieting, nutritionists, multiple blood tests before dieting, blood tests after dieting, blood tests before surgery, the scare of COVID, five classes to educate me about the process — but STILL I was not prepared.
My first day in the hospital was so rough on me. I was left in a room by myself after surgery for about 10 hours. My mom was waiting in the waiting room the entire time. She didn’t know what was going on. I was in and out of consciousness because the drugs were so strong and I do not come out of anesthesia well. They finally wheeled me into my room and hooked me up to all of the machines. I couldn’t move. The incisions are made throughout the abdomen, but the worst one was the stitch that they made through the muscle. If you cough, twist, move, bend, ANYTHING, it rips/pulls your muscle.
That first night I noticed my arm starting to swell. The IV burst through and was emptying into my skin. That took about five days to go away. I couldn’t eat because — really — what could I eat? They encouraged me with popsicles but everything tasted awful. I slept off and on through the night but it was more like every other hour I was awake.
The next morning they brought me a protein shake that made me throw up. I continued drinking water as much as I could because, at this point, I wanted out of there. This day was the same. They kept me overnight again because I was not doing well. My mental state was awful, I was so hateful that I did this to myself. I don’t know why. I was going through absolute freaking torture.
On day two, in the hospital, they finally agreed to release me. I learned how to give myself Lovenox injections. I was prescribed stool softeners because I had not gone to the bathroom (it usually takes me a few days after anesthesia – my guts just don’t want to wake up). My mom helped me get in the car. Again, every movement pulls at the stitches in my abdominal muscles. I felt every single bump on the road despite her best efforts to avoid them, but eventually my mom got me home.
I came in and immediately went to bed. It took all my might to get to my bed. I had to stop every couple footsteps and cry. At this point I can’t take it anymore. I get to my bed and don’t know how to get in because, unlike the hospital bed, there are no railings to hold onto. So I kind of flopped in. I screamed and wailed – literally – like I was dying. I felt like I ripped everything open. I felt like my guts were spilling out. It was horrific (and I’m beginning to cry at the thought of that pain again.)
Eventually, though, I began a routine of getting into bed by standing parallel with the bed and lifting one leg into bed as close to the middle as I could get. Then, I would slowly bend and sit. Then, I would lift my other leg into bed. I couldn’t really eat for about two weeks. Everything I tried to eat made me throw up. I quickly learned that I now had an allergy to whey protein and an intolerance to dairy.
About three days after coming home, I noticed that I was swelling up really badly in my face and one ear. This always happened when I gave myself Lovenox injections (twice a day). I called my surgeon and told them, but they told me basically too bad, tough it out. About four days after coming home, my mouth started feeling swollen and my lips. I needed to go to the emergency room. My husband wouldn’t drive me. So I had to drive myself. My mom met me there at (I think) 2 a.m. We get in, I can barely move because I am in so much pain. I was trying to get to the check in desk and they asked if I wanted a wheelchair. My pride said no, but my dignity was long gone at this point. I cried. What a relief.
They wheeled me into the emergency room and started testing me like crazy. They gave me something for pain (I think it was morphine — whatever it was it worked) and they gave me something like an antihistamine to stop the obvious allergic reaction happening in my face. After I left, with a prescription for two Epi pens and a few pain meds, I got home and was finally able to rest. My surgeon’s office called me and asked me to continue the injections for at least a few more days. I did. It was awful. I was scared that any moment could be the moment I stop breathing and needed the Epi. Mind you, I was supposed to be taking these injections twice a day for two months.
Now that I got the allergy stuff figured out, I can begin healing. So, I did. I could eat a little better every day. I wasn’t throwing up so much. It wasn’t even like real throw up. I likened it to baby spit up. It looked and smelled like what I just ate, but was frothy like spit up. It was so strange. But, when you think about it, I had a baby stomach.
At six months post op (today), I have realized that all of these hoops, struggles, classes, and learning experiences have been worth it. I have lost 22% of my original body weight. My body feels like she’s functioning now. My heart feels strong. I have gone from 14 medications (before surgery) to 6.5 and I’m working on getting rid of that half! I have lost 84lbs — that’s 14lbs a month since surgery. Even my hormones are coming back to life. Honestly, before surgery, it seemed like my body was in a slow crawl to death. My hormones were shutting down, I was beginning to not have periods anymore, my heart was hurting all the time, I was always sick to my stomach, my abdomen always-always hurt, and I was going to the bathroom so much because I couldn’t even digest things anymore. It was honestly like my body was shutting down like a computer — stopping all processes.
Since surgery I have noticed some wild things. My periods are coming back crazier than ever. They last about 11-12 days but they come regularly. They’re more painful. My OBGYN said that’s because of the estrogen breaking down in my fat cells. Eventually my body will level out, but he’s not sure how long that could take.
I have lost weight all over: my thighs, my knees, my calves, my feet, my neck, my arms, my wrists, my butt, my crotch, and my freaking perineum. (Fun fact: no one told me that was something that happens, but it DOES IN FACT HAPPEN.)
I can fit in places I normally wouldn’t have been able to. Like, my daughter played in one of those automated rides at the mall and I could actually bend in and get halfway in to do the change for it. I could go in between the rides without getting stuck. I’m closer to the bathroom mirror, I’m closer to the sink, I’m closer to my computer — like I didn’t realize that my gut was that much in the way.
I can even sit on the toilet without feeling like I gotta balance myself on it. Also, I can buy regular tampons again. I used to buy “security tampons” because they were easier to hold onto because I couldn’t quite reach myself.
This has been the wildest ride and I am so happy that I got on it. I hated it in the beginning. Every ounce of my being wanted to say “f— it” and walk away, but that nagging inside voice kept telling me to do it. So, I did. And she was right.
If you could use it, do it.
If you are ever faced with this choice and need weight loss surgery as a tool to help you live, I want you to know that it’s worth it. You deserve to be happy and healthy. You deserve to fit into places. You deserve to walk into a store and buy clothes. You deserve to go to the bathroom without struggling to breathe while you wipe. You deserve more.
This surgery is the hardest thing you will ever do. At first, I kept saying I’d rather go through a hundred cesarean sections again than have this surgery. I still think that. I remember the pain and struggles, but now I realize it was all worth it. Like a cesarean, you get a beautiful gift at the end of the surgery — your life.
I don’t know how many years I have added onto my life, but I am so happy that I can play with my daughter and be here with her. I would do anything to have more time with my daughter.
If you are someone who could benefit from this surgery, do it. Do not hesitate. Do not wait. Do it. Losing weight is hard. I struggled for 20+ years with being fat and feeling ugly. I got into therapy, I got into the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute for the weight loss surgery, and I have been running ever since. If I can do it, so can you. Do it. You can handle this. You are stronger than you think.