Originally published Jan. 13, 2007, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.
It’s been almost two years since I had gastric-bypass surgery. And it’s been about six months since I’ve written a column for print. So much has happened in that time. It’s almost too much to detail. But when I think about it, I realize that’s the point.
I had weight-loss surgery so I could live life instead of observe it. And now that I’ve gotten more comfortable in my new body, living it has taken center stage. I’m hardly ever home anymore. When I am, I’m trying to catch my breath from whatever I’ve been doing.
Here’s a brief rundown of what I’ve been doing:
Being a big kid
My husband and I took a trip with his family in December to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” I hadn’t been to Disneyland since Grad Night in high school. Back then, I was 210 pounds — far from my heaviest weight of 335 — but the difference was still amazing.
I was able to enter the park by walking straight through the turnstiles — no need to shuffle sideways to get my hips through the tight space. My rear end fit comfortably in all rides, and I had no trouble lowering the safety bars on my lap.
My husband and I worked our way through all of the rides in Disneyland in a single day. We ran back and forth across the park and stood in line, all without any problem. The only time we took a breather was for meals. And even then, it was just to munch on a protein bar or some beef jerky — no time for a sit-down meal.
We had a blast at California Adventure, riding grown-up rides such as Soaring over California, Mulholland Madness, Tower of Terror, Grizzly River Run and others. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I felt half my age the entire time.
The bonus was my ability to bond with my niece and nephew like never before. Jennavieve, who is 4, doesn’t remember the plus-size Auntie Tonya very well, but she’s never known me as one to play much. When she was an infant and toddler, I was the cuddly one; my husband was the human jungle gym.
At Disneyland, I was able to take her on rides and chase her around. Her brother, Gavin, who turns 2 in March, seemed to get the biggest kick out of me being silly with him. It’s nice to no longer be a bystander in their lives.
Enjoying fresh air
My husband and I spent most of the summer hiking in Mount Diablo State Park. The scenery was incredible at Mount Diablo, and I loved being able to hike for a few hours without needing to stop to catch my breath or rest my joints.
The only break we took was when we realized we had hiked through lunchtime. We sat on some rocks on the edge of the mountain to enjoy a relaxing meal of protein bars and trail mix.
Even my husband commented on the experience, adding that such activities would never have been an option before my surgery.
Knights Ferry is another favorite hiking spot of ours. We take advantage of the park picnic grounds and barbecue lunch in the shade before heading out to explore the golden hills. The trails can be a little dicey. I often choose to descend hills on my hind end, rather than risk tumbling head over hiney.
Meeting inspiring people
I attended various conferences over the summer that addressed issues of morbid obesity and surgical weight loss. I met my bariatric-world hero, Susan Maria Leach, at a surgical conference in San Francisco. She’s the author of “Before and After” and the owner of Before and After Nutrition. Look for a column profiling her in the coming weeks. I saw Carnie Wilson — looking fit and happy — at the same conference. I spoke with surgeons and others whom I never would have had the courage to meet before I had lost weight.
At patient-focused conferences in Tulare and Fairfield, I met other inspiring post-ops and experts in the field. I learned about advances in bariatrics and new developments in the study of side effects. I made some incredible friends and contacts, many of whom have graciously agreed to be sources for upcoming columns and offer different perspectives on the challenges and successes of post-op life.
As you can see, 2006 was a busy year for me. This one shows no signs of being any different, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.