Tag Archives: surgeries

“Diary of a Fat Girl” Part 4


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It’s been a while since my last post.  Life gets in the way.  Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not.  I have had some difficulty getting things typed due to some RA issues in my fingers.  My jewelry making takes it’s toll on my hands, but it’s not something I am willing to give up.  Hmmm, I wonder if it would be a good idea to invest in one of those speech to type programs?  Oh well….on to part 4 of my story.

There were many other instances in high school, but I would have to write a whole book to tell it all.   After high school, I ran the gamut of experiences in life.  I worked at a restaurant.  I went to cosmetology school.  I worked as a cosmetologist at Eckerd Drugs.  I met and married my first husband.  Throughout it all….my size fluctuated.  My weight reached it’s highest after I married.  By then, I had a good job at C&S Bank in the factoring division.

I had started feeling the “call of nature”.  I wanted a baby.  My monthly periods were sporadic at best.  I had gone to see my gynecologist and got some bad news.  “Unless you lose a significant amount of weight, I doubt very seriously if you will be able to conceive.  If you miraculously do manage to become pregnant, your chances of carrying the baby safely, will be greatly reduced.”  Those words out of the doctor’s mouth, were like being doused with a bucket of cold water.  So, at this point in the story, I am sure you are asking yourselves “Why doesn’t she just go on a diet?”.    It’s not that easy….at least for some of us.

Have I told you yet that my life had been a series of failed diet after failed diet? I tried every diet imaginable…pills (which when my school chums found out I had them….hounded me relentlessly to get their hands on them), shakes, fasts, pre-packaged foods….you name it.  To say that I was an expert on fad diets, is an understatement.  I knew I had to do something if I were to ever have a chance at having a child.  So, I decided to go see a Bariatric specialist.  He explained to me that a new surgery was available for obese people.  The surgery, VBG or Vertical Banded Gastroplasty, was an option that he presented to me. One of the criteria was that you had to be 100 pounds or more overweight.  I qualified in spades.  As well as the 100 pounds overweight criteria, I also had to go through a mental evaluation.  Without going into a long discourse on that, I have included this link concerning the mental evaluation process of VBG candidates.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3096263/

So, I had my surgery in 1984.  I went through hell after that surgery.  It was a very difficult healing process.  The incision ran from my sternum, all the way to my belly button.  You have to understand that in order to get to your stomach, they cut through muscle.  Just the act of sitting up from a lying position, was a major obstacle.  I had to have assistance.  Any kind of straining caused a lot of pain.  Eating was a whole new experience.  For the first month, all I could eat was soft foods…scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, jello, baby food.  The reason for that was that the staples inside, had to heal up.  Putting something solid into my stomach could rip them loose.  Once I healed well enough, I was allowed solid food….which I had to chew extremely thoroughly.  The problem with that was, if the food were not chewed to a pulp, it would become lodged in the banded area…causing extreme pain and discomfort until it was either passed on down into the stomach, or thrown up.   Throwing up is literally a harrowing experience now.  The food has to go back up past the band, then up the esophagus.  In doing so, it is with much force and the resulting broken blood vessels in my eyes and face, are inevitable.  This happened to me many times and still does on occasion.

Here is a link to a computer animation of VBG.  It will give you a better idea of what is involved in the process.  http://youtu.be/K4XApq-l6as

I would look in the mirror at my shrinking body.  I knew that my eyes were showing me the correct image, but I could not help seeing the “other” me in the mirror from time to time.  One disadvantage of losing weight so fast, is that your skin does not have time to shrink back properly.  So, you end up with loose, saggy skin in different areas on your body.  Mine was mostly the upper arms and legs.  This became very difficult to look at in the mirror.  So, I dressed appropriately.  I made sure that these parts of my body were not visible to others.  But I still enjoyed the compliments and praise that I received when I  went back to work.  I enjoyed the looks of men when I went out.  I enjoyed buying smaller clothing.  Mind you….I was still not a size 5…not even a size 12.  But I was smaller.  My periods returned to a regular cycle.   I experienced difficulties from the procedure from time to time…but Life was different…better.  But it was soon to be the best.

I lost almost 100 pounds and conceived my son in 1985.  To say that I was ecstatic, is an understatement.  It was a bittersweet day when I found out.  That morning, I had gone in for a blood test.  I knew in my heart that I was pregnant, although the EPT tests came up negative.  Later in the afternoon, I got a call from my husband that his dad had had a heart attack and had been transported to the hospital.  When we got there, his father had passed on.  Needless to say, it was a heart breaking day.  That evening, the doctor called to give me the good news that I was indeed pregnant.  It was hard to know how to feel.  But deep inside, my heart was full of joy.  I was pregnant and would soon have a child.

 

This is my scar from my surgery…30 years later.

 

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More in part 5 of Diary of a Fat Girl.

 

 

 

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Living With Disabilities


Me and Brandon
We Don't Look Sick

When you are young, you tend to believe that you are indestructible.   Everything is laid out before you…the world is your oyster.  For many, it can turn out that way.  For many others, it certainly does not.

When I was 37…I had a job, a husband, a home, a child, a life.  When I was 38, I lost a lot of that.  In 1996, I started having trouble walking.  My feet hurt me almost constantly.  I went to see my doctor, thinking it was my feet complaining about my weight.  He examined me, asked me a bunch of questions, then sent me home with some anti inflammatory medicine.   A few weeks later, it had gotten worse.  It progressed upwards to my knees.  By that time, I was having trouble getting up in the morning and going to work.  I was in extreme pain every day.  I went back to my doctor and he proceeded to send me to a rheumatologist.   I was asked a series of questions, had a series of blood tests done and was poked and prodded.  The next day, the specialist called me to come back in to his office.  He sat me down and proceeded to tell me I had rheumatoid arthritis, aka RA.  I did not totally understand the ramifications of what he had told me.  I knew it was some sort of joint problem, but I had no idea at all of the directions the disease could take and what it would mean to my life.

In three months, the disease had me bed-ridden.  I had to stop working and go out on long-term disability.  I could hardly walk unassisted.  I required either a wheel chair or canes/walkers.  I was in intense, miserable physical pain every day.  My joints swelled in every part of my body.  My knees got so much fluid on them, they looked like basket balls and had to be drained every so often.  I lost the ability to cook, clean and keep my home.  I lost the ability to have fun with my hobbies.  I lost the ability to play with my son.  I lost the ability to have hope.

Trip after trip to the specialist, medicine after medicine tried…nothing was really working.  Most of the drugs I was put on made me sick and lifeless.  Pain medicine was a necessity.  I feel into a deep depression.  At one point in my treatment…I went into his office and told him point-blank that if he did not help me, if he did not stop the pain…I was going to get a gun and blow my brains out.  Believe me, a deep dark part of me meant that too.  He put me on antidepressants for my depression and morphine patches for the pain.  He continued to switch up my medicines, searching for something that might slow down the progression of this awful disease.

In 2004, my knees were gone.  I was in a wheelchair most of the time.  My poor son was my caregiver most of the time.  He had to help me up and down off the couch and in and out of the car.  He watched me struggle through the pain on a daily basis and had to witness me cry my eyes out from the pain.  I hated that most of all.

It ended up that I had bone on bone in my knees, the cartilage was gone.  I was sent to an orthopedic surgeon by my rheumatologist, who told me I needed a total knee replacement in both knees.   I underwent my first knee replacement in February of 2004 and my second in September of 2004.  It took a lot of rehabilitation and patience on my part, but I was finally able to walk again.  I began to do some of the things I had been unable to do once again.  I had been given a reprieve!

Years later, my hip began to show signs of giving up.  When it was x-rayed by my doctor, I had lost almost all cartilage in it.  So, in 2010 I had my right hip replaced.  I have to say, it was by far, the worst of my surgeries and the longest recuperation time as well.  I experienced very intense pain after the surgery and thought I would never make it…but I did.  In 2011, I am now getting around pretty well again.

One thing that people always say to me is “Wow, you don’t look sick”.  Or “Well, you are getting around pretty good now.  Why don’t you go back to work?”  I have tried.  The nature of RA is that the disease is unpredictable.  You can have a flare up at any time.  They can replace your joints (thank God) and they can load you down with meds that make you feel like crap.  But bottom line is, right now…it’s incurable.  Sure, I am luckier than a lot of people…at least I don’t have cancer.  But the point is, it’s still my disease to deal with.  It still affects my life.  Now, my son is affected even more than he was when he was taking care of me.  He now has his own illness to deal with.

In 2010, I also found out that my son has MS.  In retrospect, he was showing symptoms years before the major attack that put him in the hospital.  He went to the emergency room barely able to walk, due to the fact that he could not feel his legs or feet.  They admitted him after a grueling 24 hour emergency room ordeal.  After blood work, MRI’s and spinal taps…they were finally able to tell us that he indeed has MS.  I can not tell you how devastated I was to find out that my son was afflicted with such an awful autoimmune disease…even worse than my own.  I had heard that autoimmune diseases could run in families…so I prayed he would never get RA.  I had no idea that not only would he develop one, but it would be far worse.

My son is 24 years old.  I blogged about him here under the story “Were You Born That Way”.  He is a wonderful, intelligent, sweet and caring young man.  It seems he just can’t catch a break.  I will be talking to him later on and getting his thoughts and feelings on being diagnosed with this disease.  I will then write another blog entirely about him.  Please check back for more on Brandon and MS.