Monday, September 28, 2009

A Choice for Life

September 27 is a fairly uneventful day in history. In 1540, Saint Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits; in 1903, the wreck of the Old 97 occurred; in 1938, the Ocean Liner Queen Elizabeth was launched; in 1954, The Tonight Show debuted; in 1964, the Warren Commission released it's report on the assassination of JFK; in 1997, communications were lost with the Mars Pathfinder.

Famous people who celebrate their birthday on September 27 include Avril Lavigne, Wilford Brimley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun Cassidy and Meat Loaf.

Grams celebrates September 27 as her re-birthday, known in the weight loss surgery world as my "surgiversary." On September 27, 2006 I had RNY gastric bypass surgery by Dr. Nilesh Patel at Innova Hospital in San Antonio. I am 3 years post-op, 115 pounds lighter and immeasurably healthier.

There were a number of things that led me to the decision to re-route my guts as a way to lose weight. I had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I had been taking medication to control my blood pressure for more than 15 years. I was faced with looking for a job at 52 years old and 300 pounds. But most of all I was tired of failing. I had tried every diet known to mankind. Just to name a few of them I had been on 1,000 calories a day, diet pills, Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, liquid protein, low carb, high fiber, and so on and so forth. Now it wasn't that these diets didn't work, because they did. I lost weight on every single one of them. But I could never keep it off for more than a few weeks. Mentally, I was a failure and I couldn't take it any more. I had completely given up dieting and was gaining weight at an alarming rate. I could not let myself fail again.

After my father-in-law's funeral, I had the opportunity to visit with a friend who had already had RNY Gastric Bypass surgery. He looked great and seemed healthy for the first time since I had known him. I owe T.J. a debt of gratitude because he opened up to me and answered all my questions. He helped me overcome my fear.

Contrary to what anyone may think, weight loss surgery is not the "easy way out." There's nothing easy about it. It's a difficult decision that forces dietary and lifestyle changes. While it does "re-plumb" your digestive system, it doesn't "re-wire" your brain. Just because you shouldn't eat large amounts of sugary and fatty food doesn't mean you don't want to. It just means that when you do it's going to make you sick. That's right, WLS patients who don't learn to eat right are in for a lifetime of "dumping syndrome" which includes such fun things as sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, shakiness, fainting and heart palpitations. Does that sound easy to you?

And trust me, there is a definite learning curve. About 8 weeks after surgery, I ate a meat pizza dish, which is an Atkins Diet recipe, and proceeded to vomit uncontrollably. I vomited so hard that I ruptured blood vessels in my face and got two black eyes. And, once, I absentmindedly ate a big piece of homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and spent the next 2 hours laying on my neighbor's couch when I should have been playing bunco. There have been other occasions where I don't even know what made me sick. Something that's good today, might make me sick tomorrow. You just have to learn to know the signals that your body gives off.

Today, I weigh 184 pounds. My post-op low weight was 175. I regained about 15 pounds, which is totally normal. I have now lost 6 of those pounds and hope to get down to 150 pounds. I have not had any diabetes medications since surgery. The dosage of my blood pressure medication has been cut in half. I can walk more than 2 miles without any problem.

The reason I have been successful at this new lifestyle is the support I have received. My family has been amazing in their support. My husband, daughter and son have supported me unconditionally. They've been there for me through thick and thin. Pardon the pun.

For about 18 months I attended a monthly support group offered by my surgeon's office. My friends have been encouraging and supportive as well. Not one person has been disparaging about my decision to make this change. Even extended family has encouraged and supported me.

Shortly after surgery, my surgeon told me about an online support group at These women (and a few men) have made a huge difference in my life. Most of them are also post-ops. We have answered each other's questions, commiserated with each other, shared our stories, told of our failures and celebrated our victories. I turned to them for support when my husband was sick and my mother was dying. They are a great group of people from all walks of life who all share one thing in common. We were all morbidly obese, had weight loss surgery and found a new life. This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet many of them in person for the first time at an Obesity Help conference in Dallas. It was an exciting, educational, fun and renewing experience. This photo shows just a few of the OH Group who were in Dallas this weekend.

This picture will give you some idea of what I looked like pre-op. This is Grams and Grandad at a party celebrating our son's graduation from Texas A & M University. I weighed approximately 300 pounds.

This is a photo of Grams with her surgery twin, Terry, celebrating 3 years of post-op life. We had surgery on the same day in 2006; Terry in Alabama and me in Texas. We found each other at on the Texas Message Board shortly after that.

These are my roommates from the 2009 Dallas OH Conference. From left to right: Grams, Dee, Sarah and Melanie. All post ops ranging from 10 days to 3 years. Dee and Melanie have only had surgery within the last few week.

Weight loss surgery isn't for everyone. It's hard work and you can never change your mind about the lifestyle changes. When you choose it, it's a choice for life, in every sense of the phrase. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Grams made it ... to a healthier and happier life.


  1. You look great! i can't imagine how hard of a decision this must have been for you, but I commend you for being so brave to have the surgery and share your story! There truly is nothing more important than living a healthy and long life and I am so glad that you will be doing just that.


  2. And on October 18, you hike Enchanted Rock.