I’m writing a few posts about my health issues. I explain this all over and over again to friends and acquaintances, and with some big recent developments I want to start sharing the info online.
Primarily, it’s to inform people I’m lucky enough to have care about me, I’m not trying to reach a wider audience but obviously this stuff ain’t a secret. If you haven’t read it yet, please start with part 1: The problem with my head. There’s also a second piece: Fix my tummy, fix my head.
If you wish to talk to me about what I write, please do so via twitter: @antheaw, or on Facebook if we’re friends there.
On the 5th of November my mother drove to Auckland to come along to a seminar with me about “weight loss surgery”.
I use the quote marks as I find the term somewhat misleading, the surgery doesn’t guarantee weight loss, and it’s not like other surgeries where you have an operation, recover and are largely done, fixed.
Nope, it’s part of a whole big life-changing piece of work. That work includes the inescapable focus on diet and exercise that go hand in hand toward healthy weight loss.
So why have the surgery if it’s not a fix? Because it helps. It helps by restricting the capacity of the stomach to tolerate food, and the particular surgery I am having for some people seems to “switch off” their hunger and desire for food, making it easier to make healthier choices in nourishing themselves. I’m not a doctor, I’m not going to explain it, that part has been done before. I just want it to be clear that:
This operation will not make me thin.
Changing my life around diet and exercise will. Dealing with some (still very scary) issues I have mentally, will.
I know, right? Raw deal. I really wished it was so simple as having an operation and having the issue magically solved, and being fine and well and brilliant and being able to fit into “normal” sized clothes.
I knew all this before going along to a stuffy clinic on a Wednesday evening, for that first face to face experience of the clinic after basically memorising (and professionally criticising!) the practice’s website.
What was probably supposed to be a somewhat welcoming and encouraging presentation made my eyes roll at cliché “tips” about incidental exercise and how many calories lurk in the humble gingernut.
Fortunately, two things were fact: I’d already talked myself into the idea. And secondly, the presentation ended with a short talk from a post-op patient who shared some of his experiences and the reality of the process, and how quickly through hard work his life had completely changed.
Thank the stars for some reality, honesty and genuine passion.
Further honesty was found in the handout book we received, the price. For the roux en y gastric bypass with silastic ring as performed by this practice, we were looking at $20,300 plus pre-op consultations. It’s a big number but if there’s anything you spend a big number on it’s your health, I just choose to write it here as I get asked often “how much”.
Three weeks later, on the 26th of November I had my first consultation with the surgeon, the key outtake of which was “how’s January 12th?”. I think I managed to blink in response.
This was my first appointment, and surely there were more hoops to leap through than this? “I see no reason to wait” said the qualified professional in the room. “Well I guess you’re giving me a new tummy for my birthday then” I said (my birthday is on the 15th, it’s going to be awful).
Suddenly this idea was a real thing that was happening to me, in six weeks. Six WEEKS! The YouTube Americans had all gone on about months of preamble, and here I had six weeks.
In terms of other pre-op preparation, I met with the practice nutritionist, who was lovely and personable and understood my head pain and that it’s not so easy to exercise when doing so feels like suicide. She also shared that they have had other patients with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension who have improved after surgery (yay!!!).
I was put on a strict diet right away, based on the Optifast very low calorie diet – meal replacement shakes, soups or bars and two serves of certain veges per day. Basically nothing else, no fruit, no carbs, no additional protein. I started on the 12th of December (one month before surgery), and I lost 4kg (8.82lbs) in the first week. The first days were hell.
I also met with the psychologist who was basically checking I was sound of mind to proceed, and watching for how the process might affect me mentally. I think she did really well and on reflection, I think I’ll book in to see her again and start digging at some mental Stuff.
Lastly, I returned to the practice before Christmas to read and sign the consent form. That was a rather expensive ten minutes.
After tying up a little work stuff in Auckland, I scurried off home to Coromandel for my Christmas “break”. I had Optifast shakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate some normal food but wasn’t ridiculous about it. Not as ridiculous as usual. I ate hāngi on Christmas day and had dessert and enjoyed it. My sister’s visiting Irish friend ate my share of the potatoes (and then some).
Some days I had a small meal like what everyone else was having instead of my shakes. I’ve definitely not been strict on the diet but I’m down over 8kg (17.6lbs) pre surgery which for Christmas time feels reasonable.
I didn’t do very much during my time at home in Papa Aroha, I listened to a lot of podcast episodes about bariatric surgery, interviews with patients and the like. It has really helped me to prepare, the whole idea is much more normalised to me now and some of the stories are really thought provoking.
It’s quite scary to see how much I relate to many stories too, where people are behaving ridiculously and treating themselves terribly and I have a bell of familiarity ringing in my mind.
I’m back in Auckland now, and I know that I will be the first patient for my surgeon this year. I must be admitted to hospital on Monday morning at 5:30am. The surgery is currently scheduled for 8:30am and should take a few hours.
What I really wanted to say in this post is thank you! If you’ve bothered to read this much you really deserve my thanks for a start, you cared enough to keep reading or you’re watching with a horrified fascination – but no doubt you learned something.
Thank you to the friends and family who comment when I post these “little” pieces of writing to Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for sending me “I’ve been thinking of you, how are you going?” text messages. Thank you for telling me you like my writing! For messaging me telling me you think I am positive or strong or beautiful or confident or any of the other lovely things you’ve said.
Thank you for telling me you know someone who did really well after similar surgery. Thank you for offering to help or to listen because you’ve been through it yourself. Thank you for offering to fetch me stuff! Thanks for messaging from the other side of the world letting me know you’re pleased to have caught up with what’s going on. For sending me cards and best wishes and being there to respond when I have things to Say.
Please don’t stop!
See you on the other side x
Part four: Post op.