I Got a Gastric Sleeve and Took Back My Life
This is my story. You may relate to some aspects, or you may not. Either way, I’m putting it out there. I don’t profess to be health professional or know the scientific facts to explain myself, it is what it is – my story.
I have been dieting or ‘starting again on Monday’ for my entire adult life. I’ve lost weight before and found it again PLUS its entire bloody extended family on top as an added bonus. Yoyo dieting?? Hell, I wrote that book!
I’ve never felt like an overweight person – in my mind I thought it was just not who I was meant to be. I could never walk proud or love the body I was in, because it just wasn’t right, it wasn’t me.
There are some people who can just knuckle down and eat healthily and exercise – I applaud them, I really do. There is also, of course, many more people who have never battled with their weight who will jam down your throat that ‘You just aren’t trying hard enough’. Back that guilt train up buddy, I’m putting enough shit down my throat already, hence my problem!
The Start of the My Journey
I love food. I would eat my emotions. I would eat if I was happy, or sad, or stressed, or excited – I ate ALL of them. I would eat until I was physically sore and if I were to have another bite, I’m sure I would have been sick. It was this action that would make me hate myself even more, and what did I do if I was feeling all the feelings, yep I’d eat.
In 2017 I reached my highest ever weight at 116.5kg. I was extremely depressed and ashamed. My knees would hurt just walking on a flat level ground, my hips (and knees) would scream in pain walking up steps, even just 2 or 3 steps. My back had started aching, and my skin was getting – well it was getting really nasty. More lumps, bumps, pimples and rashes than I care to mention.
I honestly can’t remember what made me even consider the radical choice I was about to make, but I can confidently say, it’s the choice that may have saved my life, or at least given me the opportunity to live the life I have always imagined.
In January 2018 I underwent weight loss surgery and had a procedure done called the ‘Gastric Sleeve’ or a ‘Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy’. What this entails is the surgeon removing around ¾ of your stomach and leaving what is referred to as the sleeve, which is approximately the size of a medium banana.
All experiences are different and vary according to the individual and the surgical team. I started this adventure (I WILL not say ‘journey’ I think that is the WANKIEST overused word, and If I drop it anywhere in this piece, feel free to fly kick me, seriously! Besides, adventure is more exciting, much better don’t you think?) anyway, I started this adventure by doing some serious time online researching, watching youtube clips of the procedure, yes I am that sick person who does that!
Funding the Surgery & Deciding on a Doc
When I was sure this was the direction I was going to run in, there was no ifs, buts, or maybes. This knee-jerk reactor knee jerked big time and shit was about to happen. I had a couple of options to decide on initially. I could join a private health fund to finance the procedure and wait the 12 months before I was eligible, or I could self-fund through my superannuation fund, which is the choice I made for my circumstances.
There are also a few places that will fund surgery like this so there are always options.
Off to my local GP to start the ball rolling and get a referral for the surgeon of choice to get this procedure done. I had looked up a few surgeons and decided on the one I went with. I understood he was a little more expensive than others locally, but came with great reviews, and coincidentally was the same one my GP suggested, which was a relief.
There was a wait of course until I could get in for our first meeting. Before the surgery was even booked, I was also required to meet with the dietician who was in the clinic’s team as well as a psychiatrist, just to be sure I knew what I was doing and that I was mentally in the right place for such a big step.
A pre-op diet was required to be followed to reduce the fat on the liver. I was asked to do a minimum of 2 weeks, but I chose to do 4 weeks, as I knew my liver would be shocking.
I was so nervous, so many doubts, was I doing the right thing? Would everything be ok? Would it actually work for me?
Upon waking in recovery, there were 5 small incisions where the surgeon worked through and from where the resected stomach was pulled out through. I’m going to be honest. I felt like shit. It wasn’t so much pain, but nausea like you never want to experience.
I spent two nights in recovery and wasn’t able to really keep any fluids down much at all, but thought this really was to be expected, I’d just had the majority of a major organ removed right? I could suck on ice shavings, that’s about it. My days were spent walking the corridors to try and get rid of the gas pain in my shoulder from the operation, and dry reaching over the toilet bowl as the nausea really was a bitch. I was receiving regular pain, and anti-nausea meds all the while I was there. I really in my naive and stubborn way, just wanting to get home and get started for real, I didn’t even consider what was essentially happening to me. After two days at home, I still couldn’t keep down 30 ml of fluids. I had to be readmitted to hospital to be kept on fluids for another 3 days as I was dehydrated.
Finally, the cloud did part and nausea lifted. I was finally able to self-manage my fluid intake. Small steps but the right steps.
Recovery from Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Recovery from surgery from that point, although frustrating and seemingly taking forever, was quite easy to manage.
To give my new stomach (his name is Gary ‘Gut’) a chance to heal, for the first two weeks I could only have fluids. That doesn’t sound too hard, but it was a challenge. The next phase was puree food. Think the consistency of an applesauce. It had to be able to pour off your spoon. There was no restriction on food though, you could have a roast meal, as long as it was blended and turned to mush. With swelling of the stomach post-op, I could really only get 2-3 teaspoons of food down in one sitting, before I’d had enough. Fluids were still a major part of my daily diet. By week five, I had progressed onto the soft food stage. This to me was bliss as the pre-digested looking food was making me gag – literally! Anything that could be cut/ pulled apart with the side of a fork was fair game. It would be another two more weeks until I was cleared to go back on a full, no restriction diet.
My new tool was working. I was dropping weight quickly, and so I should have been. Even now, almost six months out from surgery, I am only able to eat maybe ¾ cup of food in one sitting. It has been a massive learning curve. I must focus on stopping eating when I feel satisfied, not when I’m full. I have absent-mindedly taken that one extra mouthful a couple of times, and bloody hell, I’ve paid for it. The pain and discomfort is a reality check like no other.
There is always the constant fear of stretching my new stomach and going back to my old ways, but at the same time, this is one reason why I chose such a drastic step to take to lose weight. I can’t stuff this up – I only have one stomach and its been compromised already with this surgery. I don’t want a whole new series of serious health problems thank you very much.
It is NOT the Easy Way Out
Now, there are some people that think weight loss surgery is just ‘taking the easy way out’. Let me assure you, it’s not. It is far from it, and quite frankly if you come sprouting that filth, I’ll take you down.
You not only have to take multi-vitamins and supplements for the rest of your life which are roughly the size of a football but also you have to ensure you are hitting your daily targets for nutrients, which when you are only consuming very little, is a juggling act. I find no joy in food anymore. I don’t get excited about a meal as I can only eat such a small amount, it’s hardly even worth it. It’s trial and error with foods as to what Gary will accept and what he will scream in pain over or throw back up in protest. Some foods can cause a phenomenon known as ‘dumping’, where you will experience, pain, chills, shaking and be locked in the toilet with food coming up or down at a great rate of knots for about half an hour before you can resume a normal life. Water physically still hurts to drink on its own. It sounds strange, but when you swallow it and it hits your stomach, it feels like you’ve swallowed a boulder.
Sugar-free cordial has been my saviour, although I’ve always actually hated cordial, now it’s a daily must have. You can only ever really take a small mouthful at a time, there is no glugging down a glassful if you’re hot and thirsty. This will improve over time though, though chugging is out of the picture. Sugar-free cordial has been my saviour, although I’ve always actually hated cordial, now it’s a daily must have. I am having protein supplements to boost my dietary intake, and although the marketing will tell you they taste great – they lie. It all tastes like arse to be honest, but you got to do what you got to do. I’m also a lucky one who is battling with a daily reflux problem and taking medication for that. It started at six weeks and although is improving now, is still ongoing and awful. Everything that goes in your mouth is pre-planned and calculated to ensure you stay healthy whether you actually feel like eating or not.
My Life Now
I have absolutely no regrets about having this surgery though. The challenges, the ‘oh shit what have I done’ moments, the ‘why Gary, why do you insist on hurting me so’ moments, they have all been worth it.
In six months I have gone from a morbidly obese 45-year-old who poured myself into a size 20 which strained at the seams refusing to go to the next size, tipping the scales at 116.5kg to a happy and a hell of a lot healthier person who now sits at 80.5kg and just getting into a size 12! According to my surgeon, I can expect to lose up to another 10kg before my body will plateau out and maintain. To be in that weight range, to me is almost unfathomable and just bloody exciting!
I am happier, healthier, and more confident than I have been in 30 years, and I have this surgery to thank for that.
I am no longer living to eat, I am eating to live.
PS.. I actually do have a regret. It’s that I didn’t do this earlier xx