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Friday, May 11, 2007

Pre-op anxiety

I met with a pre-op today who is experiencing some last-minute anxiety over having surgery. A lot of what she confided in me today reminds me of my night-before-surgery meltdown in the Travelodge next to Kaiser SSF.

She's overwhelmed by her fears, and almost all of them are normal. She said she's overcome by what I call "last supper syndrome," which is the compulsion to make every meal your last as if you'll never eat again. I assured her that everyone goes through that. I spent six months before surgery saying goodbye to food that I thought I would never eat again. It took four times to truly bid farewell to the chocolate mousse cake at Fabio's, but I managed. The funny thing is, as I told this woman today, that many of the things I thought I couldn't live without are things that don't even tempt me now. My taste for them no longer exists.

She also fears failure. After all, she's failed at every diet she's tried before. Granted, this isn't a diet, but when you're a pre-op, surgery seems like a golden egg -- too good to be true. We all going into surgery worrying that we'll be the one person the surgery doesn't work for. But once we have surgery, we realize we have the power to make it a success. The patient fails the surgery; the surgery does not fail the patient.

I think the scariest thing of all when heading into surgery is the knowledge that your entire life is about to change but the inability to know exactly in what way. We can interview post-op after post-op, but everyone's mileage varies. We never know how we will react to surgery until we go under the knives ourselves.

Anybody out there care to share their fears in regard to weight loss -- surgical or otherwise?


Amber said...

I am only 26 days out and I can tell you that everything you wrote about is still very fresh to me. I did have the "Last Supper Syndrome" and gained 10 lbs before my surgery from it. I'm KICKING myself for it now...but anyway... My worst fear didn't hit me until AFTER the surgery which I thought was odd and had never heard of that happening to anyone. Of course, now I know it does. For the first 10 days after surgery I was convinced that I was going to die and that I just given myself a death sentence. I would either die in the first 30 days or that I wouldn't live to see 40 (I'm 28 now). Suddenly, the fact that I had actually changed my body hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt paniced. I didn't sleep for days and was a mess. I had the worst anxiety and wanted it undone. NO ONE prepared me for these feelings!! I was blindsided by it all. Finally, at about 2 weeks post op the anxiety started lifting and I felt better. Now at almost 4 weeks out I feel pretty good, and feel like I made the right choice. In the back of my mind though I know those fears are still there. I just have to remember I did this for my health... for a LONGER life, not a shorter one and I will fight for that!!
Sorry I wrote a book here, but your post subject is still so fresh to me.
Love, Amber

Tonya said...

I'm glad to hear you're feeling better, Amber. Those are some very scary feelings to have. I have heard many post-ops echo your frustration at being blindsided by the emotional effects of surgery.

I know one woman who spent her first four weeks as a post-op crying every time she saw a food commercial on TV, kicking herself for having surgery. She felt like she had had sentenced herself to a life without pleasure or joy. Like you, she wanted it undone but knew that wasn't an option.

This makes me think some changes should be made to pre-operative education programs so that bariatric patients aren't blind-sided by negative emotions and fear. At least then, post-ops who experience those feelings won't feel as if they are alone.

Thank you for sharing.

Dagny said...

I went on the "Farewell to Food Tour" before my surgery. My earliest blog entries are about what I was eating. There are even photos!

Tonya said...

"Farewell to Food Tour," I like that. I'll have to check out those postings you mentioned. They sound interesting.