Even though I grew physically larger with every birthday, I avoided weight-loss surgery as something that wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be cut open, replumbed, and put back together again. It scared me, and at 54, I wondered about the ability to take any necessary medications and having them adjusted because of my surgery as I aged. My reaction, ‘Nope, wasn’t going to that.’
Then, in early 2002, I started reading about the Lap-Band® Program and how it was minimally invasive, required no replumbing, was adjustable and reversible. In March of 2004, I had a blood pressure crisis in my primary-care-physician’s office that scared me into thinking about surgery.
I went to an informational seminar, sat there with my arms across my body trying to discount every word said, but I couldn’t. Lap-Band was the least invasive of the weight-loss surgeries, and the data showed the results were significant. I made an appointment to see the bariatric surgeon, and he tried to talk me into a Gastric Bypass on the premise that at 424 lbs, I had to be doing a lot wrong. Bypass, he said, would put an immediate stop to all of that. Nope, my head and heart were set on Lap-Band, and I was ready to do the work. If the surgery was going to do it for me over 12-18 months, I ran the risk of getting too complacent and regaining too much. By forcing myself to learn to use my new tool, I would be a weight-loss expert in no time. And that is exactly what happened.
I have been fighting the fat war since I was four years old. I finally won the war, leaving only the occasional small skirmish to deal with. My friends tell me these little battles are what a “normal” person deals with.
In 2004, I was 424 pounds, had arthritis in my right knee, and had trouble walking across a parking lot. I rented a scooter to be able to take my grandkids to Disneyland. I let my husband go into the market, while I waited in the truck. People looked fearfully at me when I was getting on a plane, hoping I wasn’t sitting next to them. I had no life. In March 2004, I had a hypertension crisis that got my attention. To this point, my arthritis, asthma, reflux, and sleep apnea had not yet been enough to make me take notice. Going to work each day was a chore. I didn’t have a lap for my grandkids to sit on.
On May 28, 2004, at 55 years old, I had the life-changing, and life-saving, Lap-Band Surgery. Within 28 months, I lost 250 pounds. Now, more than 15 years after surgery, I am maintaining my weight loss and loving it. I am off all my medications and move freely and vigorously through my new life. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel worldwide. I have been to French Polynesia and snorkeled with sharks and rays, bicycled down a volcano in Hawaii, caught a marlin off the coast of Baja Mexico, (I released it) made several diving trips in the Caribbean, and did hike a glacier in Alaska.
I have found a second mini-career in coaching other bariatric surgery patients not only to their goals, but to their continued success. This is something that I value dearly. At 71 years young, I still view life as a gift that was given back to me by my Lap-Band, my bariatric-surgery team, and my willingness to continue learning and growing every day.
The first and foremost change I needed to make, and NO SURGERY was going to do it for me, was a mindset and perspective change. I chose before surgery to “follow the rules of the band” and not make up my own. I left the diet mentality behind me once I was eating full solid foods after surgery. No longer would I diet, lose 100 pounds and then go off the diet and gain it all back plus more. I would create NEW HABITS to serve this new life I had chosen. I would make moving my body on purpose a part of my new lifestyle and by the time I was 60 I became a bit of a gym rat. I learned that I could create delicious recipes, foods that I loved using ingredients that met my nutritional needs.
All of this took a lot of time and patience. Back in 2004 and 2005, there was not much in the way of books or recipes to choose from. So, I started creating my own and found that I could be just as satisfied at the table with a 300 calorie meal as with a 1500 calorie meal. I put the fork down between bites and learned to chew that bite until it was liquid in my mouth, swallow and then pick up the fork for the next bite. I learned to savour and enjoy my food, tasting it instead of shoveling as much as I could down as fast as I could. I learned to stop hiding in loose, baggy clothing and began shopping for clothing that fit me well to allow myself to walk tall and truly FEEL my new confidence instead of hiding. I had to learn to be honest with myself and journal what I ate and drank to have the true understanding of what worked best for my body.
I also realized that I had to stay connected with a community of folks just like me- I needed the support of a strong community, and constant education.
Making these changes gave me back a full life. These changes actually gave me back, life because without surgery, and without making these changes I am sure I wouldn’t have seen 60 years old.
I wanted the least invasive surgery and was ready and willing to do the work. And once the results were coming in, I was ready and willing to continue the work. Here I am–almost 16 years later–living a life I never dreamed possible 17 years ago. I am active, I travel, I have a second career helping people live their best lives, and I have enjoyed watching my grandkids grow into young adults. I look forward to tomorrow, I am a happy, positive person fulfilling what I do believe is a calling that I couldn’t recognize while trapped in my obese body. The best part, my tool is still there helping me. I LOVE MY LIFE.
The Lap-Band System is indicated for weight reduction for patients with obesity, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 40 kg/m2 or a BMI of at least 30 kg/m2 with one or more obesity-related comorbid conditions. It is indicated for use only in adult patients who have failed more conservative weight reduction alternatives, such as supervised diet, exercise and behavior modification programs. Patients who elect to have this surgery must make the commitment to accept significant changes in their eating habits for the rest of their lives.
The Lap-Band System is not recommended for non-adult patients, patients with conditions that may make them poor surgical candidates or increase the risk of poor results, who are unwilling or unable to comply with the required dietary restrictions, or who currently are or may be pregnant.
The Lap-Band System is a long-term implant. Explant and replacement surgery may be required. Patients who become pregnant or severely ill, or who require more extensive nutrition may require deflation of their bands. Anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin, should be used with caution and may contribute to an increased risk of band erosion.
Placement of the Lap-Band System is major surgery and, as with any surgery, death can occur. Possible complications include the risks associated with the medications and methods used during surgery, the risks associated with any surgical procedure, and the patient’s ability to tolerate a foreign object implanted in the body. Most common related adverse events include: Band slippage, pouch dilation, stoma obstruction, gastroesophageal reflux, esophageal dilation, cholelithiasis, incisional infection, abdominal pain, gastroenteritis, or nausea and vomiting may occur. Reoperation may be required. Rapid weight loss may result in complications that may require additional surgery. Deflation of the band may alleviate excessively rapid weight loss or esophageal dilation.
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