Paying for dinner

My partner and I went out for dinner and to see Deadpool* at the cinema tonight. After a decent meal, hosted by the restaurant owner or manager and a team of rushed young women, we were perfectly timed to get to our film.

From a seat basically under the bar I got up, and reaching into my bag for my wallet, sought to pay our bill. The manager was at the till and as I approached I was cut off, by a middle aged white man in a blue t-shirt brandishing his credit card. I couldn’t see more than his blue-clad back as it blurred before my eyes in its haste to deposit the credit card on the counter.

I was stunned. Am I actually invisible? Was there a secret ingredient in the pizza that rendered me translucent, nothing but a breeze to be brushed by unseen? Standing at 5ft 8in, of generous size and dressed (also) in blue, I was plainly fucking visible and arriving first to pay a bill.

Pissed off indulgently on my own behalf, I stood by and fumed. Those who know me would recognise the utter disgust I was feeling in the flare of my nostrils and furious flashing of eyes, raising of brows.

The priority transaction took long enough that I had recognised not only my own previous experience of being “invisible”, but that of so so many others. This shit happens all. The. Time.

What could I have done? Persisted “excuse me, I was here first”, which would cause discomfort for all parties and share the bad interaction, or (the “ladylike” option) internalise the rage and carry the affront myself.

As so many others do, I kept my mouth shut. I tolerated it and let it slide. The credit card man would not have even considered my existence, and the venue manager only saw me when he had departed. I was only marginally colder with her than normal. Payback. Sick burn.

Next time this is you, if you feel safe enough and have the fortitude, stand up for yourself when someone is rude. Don’t bear the injury by yourself, spread it round so others feel it and can stop being The Worst in public.

I’ll try too.

*Yes, Deadpool was good, go see it

Fly like a woman

Assigned seat 6E on an A320 plane, I know it’s not likely I’ll have a seat empty beside me. I’m hopeful to be seated next to good people.

I’m first to arrive in my row, tentatively sitting in the middle seat and not fastening my seatbelt because at best, no one will be seated by the window, and I can move there. Or, I’ll have to move to let my neighbour in to their seat.

Smaller than I once was, there is as much room as possible around me. My short legs mean there is room to walk by in front of me to get to the window seat. I can now easily buckle the belt, where 16 months ago it would have cut into my flesh. My thighs are no longer so big, they raise the arm rests. I fit perfectly well.

Dump. A large bag lands in the seat to my left, by the aisle. A tall-ish, balding and grey-clad older man is stuffing another bag into the overhead locker. He then reclaims his bag from my left and moving toward me, motions that he is to sit in the window seat to my right. There isn’t really anywhere for me to go, so I awkwardly squirm backward in my seat in a show of making space for him to pass.

His bag installed beneath the seat ahead of him, the grey man extracts an iPad and circles the entire arm rest between us with his left arm. He isn’t a big man, but he presses against the right side of my body, unwelcome. The warmth of him uninvited, reaching through my cardigan to spread along my skin. I feel anxious and uncomfortable, “please don’t touch me” repeating in my head. I try and recede to the left.

With more respect, a greeting, a man wearing blue arrives. He is shorter than the first and completely bald. He sits and I adjust myself to the extreme centre, elbows tucked tightly against my sides and held painfully in place by the arm rests. The blue man sits comfortably, and though resting his arm along the inside of our shared arm rest, he doesn’t touch me. I can no longer lean left to escape the grey man, the heat of him encroaches.

The grey man’s arm is rubbing in an unpleasant pulse against me as he scrolls text on his iPad. It turns my insides, my panic rising as the plane is filled with more, more people.

I feel a tapping on the backs of my feet, left bare by my sandals. The man behind me has somehow stretched his feet so far forward that he is using the foot rest below my seat. Annoyed, I move my feet back against his to clarify that the space is occupied. The tapping continues. The rubbing against my arm from the grey man continues.

I realise I am surrounded by men in every direction. I can’t see any women. I send a distressed tweet, and women in my network respond with compassion and understanding. They all understand. They have been here.

Elbow him back, put earphones in, a hacking cough? Coping strategies emerge. Press the call button and be moved by the flight attendants. Breathe.

I am too afraid to shove back for space, confrontation in the subtlest form is terrifying, I am threatened already. I will not ask for more space. It doesn’t occur to the grey man that he is touching me.

My face feels tight and I realise my muscles are tense. I close my eyes and try to mindfully focus on my breathing. The darkness heightens my sense of awareness, and the hideous warmth of the grey man becomes my focus, punctuated by the tapping against my feet by the man behind me.

I open my eyes and realise there are two hours to go before the flight arrives in Auckland. The back of my seat tightens against my arse as the man behind me presses into it. We are still on the tarmac. The plane hasn’t yet moved.

The grey man twists, retrieves a business document relating to a former client of mine. He’s making notes, the twist has lodged his elbow against my rib and each new line is a fresh dig. I have nowhere to go, the only movement is the increase of my irritation, discomfort and despair.

My Twitter support network, if only they were with me to shout a resounding “fuck off!”. It’s suggested I spill a drink, but I feel all I could do is spill tears. The plane moves, and too soon it’s time to shut off my understanding friends with airplane mode.

The plane is in the air, and while there is the odd reprieve from the grey man’s excavation of my ribs, the gentleman in front of me has reclined his seat. I have an unwanted, intimate view of his scalp. I’ve had to move my feet forward, as the man behind me has extended his own to reach my ankles. I remember, wryly, I was the most flexible girl in class.

This is awful, and no one around me has a clue. They won’t have a clue. This experience will join the others in my past which condense to anxiety, fear, distrust. To avoidance of situations in close quarters with others.

This is one small part of what it means to me to be a woman.

Post-op

I’m writing a few posts about my health issues.

It’ll make the most sense if you read from part 1: The problem with my head. Each post has the next link below it, this is part 4.

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.


It’s my birthday! And I don’t feel nearly as awful as I’d suspected! I’m getting a tonne of messages asking how I am which is lovely, if a little hard to keep up with.

As Monday the 12th of January (operation day) was the first day operating this year for North Harbour Hospital where I had my surgery, they weren’t open when we arrived. There was one other patient waiting outside, it was very strange, and still dark at 5:45am.

When we were shown in, I was taken to my room first and given a gown to change into. I promptly put it on backwards. I had compression stockings put on (I have to keep them on for a week!) and some precursory medication given. Beta blockers, blood thinners, stuff to reduce stomach acid. People came and went and mum made herself comfortable in the recliner in the room, wrapped in a blanket.

I met the anaesthetist and while she was very nice and smiley, she was also very brisk. I’d been worried that paracetamol does nothing for me, and that I usually take tramadol and neurofen to help my migraines (though I have only had this once in about 4 months), but this was dismissed as “different pain responds to medication differently” and she was off.

Just after 8am it was time to go, and I was wheeled in my bed through the hospital to theatre. Mum’s tears as I was rolled away were probably the hardest part at this point so I had my brave face on.

The nurse and orderly handed me over, my identity and operation being performed were double checked and I was taken into the operating theatre. It wasn’t quite Shortland Street! Very bright and there was a large white board with “Whittle” on it had a long list of writing, labels for mysterious instruments.

I moved to the operating table and positioned myself in the middle. Monitor sensors were put all over me including my forehead, and the anaesthetist inserted the IV lure and injected me with something that started making me woozy. The gas came next and I was out.

As with the last time I woke from general anaesthetic I don’t remember much. I remember being wheeled back into my room and “them” saying to mum “here she is”, and then I drifted in and out of sleep. It was after midday so I’d been away for about 4 hours.

I was up out of the bed by about 2pm, sipping 30mL of water every hour. Pain was definitely present but the nurses had that under control pretty swiftly. I moved to the recliner chair and around 6pm my dad and sister came to visit. 

I have five “entry points”, about an inch long each tightly sutured, they should all heal well. One aches more than the others.

The night after the op was ok, every few hours I would wake up, page the nurse and have my wires unhooked so I could bathroom and do a few laps of the hallways. They get you “mobilising” early and often, as during surgery your body is inflated with gas and that gas needs to come out, so walking about helps get it moving. I had maybe 4-5 hours sleep and the hospital kicked back into day mode from about 6am. 

I started my 60mL of water per hour and had to down my regular medication crushed in water – it was like taking shots from a toilet bowl and I have to do that every day for the next month. Worst.

Mum arrived again around 11am hoping to take me home, I showered and had my wound dressings changed. We had to wait for a particular bodily function before I could progress, and I was pacing around my room like a pregnant woman willing the baby to move along. 

I was home by about 4pm the day after surgery, responsible for sticking to the fluids and monitoring the pain relief schedule.

The night was pretty bad, I got nauseous and diarrhoea had me up in the night, some dry retching. I phoned the nurse day 2 post op (yesterday) and she said it was all fine, all normal, just residual effects of the general anaesthetic.

During day 2 I managed to get all my fluid in, an optifast shake, some berrocca, water, and I had about a cupful of extra protein milk too and it all went well. I managed a small walk, a visit from a dear friend and to pat Local Cat. My insides seem to have stopped warring and making awful noises for now, and I almost managed to sleep the whole night last night!

I forgot what day it was when I woke this morning, but my phone was particularly busy with birthday messages so I was soon reminded. I’m up and about, feeling pretty good just not as nimble as usual.

I have a lot of fluids to drink! I’ll be on this liquid diet until two weeks post op, then puree and soft foods before slowly reintroducing (very well chewed) solid foods. I haven’t had any discomfort from taking in liquid to my new tummy yet so let’s hope the good-ness continues to last!

Yes, my head has been a bit sore too – the past two days but nothing really beyond the usual.

Will I do anything special for my birthday? Nope, but I plan to celebrate in 6 months time when I’ll be healed and hopefully doing much better!

Let’s do this thing.

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.

Fix my tummy, fix my head.

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 read part 1: The problem with 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.


For as long as I can remember I’ve had a problem with my weight. Stemming from adolescent insecurity about a changing body and sprouting out through the rest of my life, it’s become something I live with.

Suddenly, it’s become something that concerns my health and my ability to live a full and normal life – but not for the reasons people normally associate with weight loss such as diabetes etc etc.

(Seriously, if you haven’t read part 1 yet, you really should just nip over and do that here: The problem with my head, then come back. Everything will make more sense.)

It’s funny, weight is such a hard thing to speak frankly about. We’re cultured to be ashamed of any size but the currently acceptable “normal” as if it’s some great secret that isn’t plainly visible when you so much as look at a person.

Since learning more about body positivity in recent years* I’ve become so much more comfortable in myself and in relating to others too, which includes being able to speak more freely and unashamedly about what it means to be overweight, how it affects me and others, and the fact that it’s not all bad! I no longer assume that all fat people are unhappy, are lazy, are disgusting – what horrible associations.

This makes it a hell of a lot easier to say, you know what, I’m not a completely hideous fat person. I’m a fat person, and I have many awesome qualities about me and some of those do include parts of my body.

Being ok with being fat from an aesthetic perspective is why I’ve been so offended in the past when drastic measures to “fix” myself and lose weight have been suggested. Sure, I have worked at a number of ways to lose weight in order to be more fit and better able to enjoy things in life, people of all sizes face those challenges.

Gastric bypass surgery was suggested some time ago, and I was skeptical but did some reading. I learned that it’s fairly drastic surgery that basically re-routes your digestive system and eliminates part of your stomach, it’s virtually irreversible and patients will rely on vitamin supplements and only tiny meals for life. What a horrible notion! I was so offended that I was encouraged to so drastically change my otherwise healthy body for the mere vanity of losing weight and “looking better”. With healthy test measures, there was just no reason for it.

And so I continued my life long pattern of losing some weight, feeling good, regaining it with interest and not feeling so good. I eventually came to the realisation that I didn’t want to put effort into losing weight any more as every time I tried and worked at it, I ended up larger and worse off than when I had started.

I have tried a lot of things. I’ve tried Weight Watchers (twice), I’ve forced myself to rise at 5:30am every weekday and get my butt to the gym for months while I watched what I put in my mouth very carefully. I stopped caring what a scale told me and tried to focus on how I felt.

When problems with my head were so mysterious I wondered if foods had an impact and systematically cut out caffeine, refined sugar, processed foods, meat, dairy, all animal products, gluten… I resolved to “lifestyle changes”! That were “forever”! And sure, some things made me lighter, but always, always I gained weight again, and always more than I had lost.

When my neurologist told me that I needed to lose weight to try and resolve the hypertension in my head, I didn’t hate him. He advised me to see a nutritionist but instead I thought long and hard and quietly. I thought about having gastric bypass surgery for the sake of having a life again.

I reached out to a new acquaintance who had recently posted her story of weight loss surgery bravely online, and asked her some questions. I pondered and searched online and read a lot before speaking to my family and some very close friends.

Now that I was living a half-life, crippled by migraines, and now that I had hope of help with that, the surgery wasn’t such a ridiculous idea. I spoke to my GP who wondered why he hadn’t suggested it himself. I spoke to my neurologist who lauded it the “best idea”. After reassuring me that I was unlikely to suffer any ill effect to my eyes from my condition (YES!), the opthamologist told me that bariatric surgery was an excellent long term option, and that these days they know much more about it and that patients do very well.

Lots of highly qualified people reassuring me that in my case, this (still scary) step is a good one, really helped.

After breaking the news to my parents, I was lucky enough to have their full support. My mum came to Auckland to join me at the information seminar held by the private surgeons’ office about the different types of surgery and their effects. I had decided to go ahead and have surgery on my tummy to (hopefully) fix my head.

Progress towards surgery next time, thanks for reading x

Further reading:

Part 3: Let’s do this thing