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Friday, July 18, 2008

Tales From the Dark Side, Part II

In following up to yesterday’s post, I want to address my answer to the question, “Given the chance, would you have RNY again?”

WLS blogger Melting Mama, has a nine-minute YouTube video that explains why she wouldn’t. If you haven’t already, please watch the video (at the top of yesterday’s entry) before reading this. It’s not that MM wouldn’t have WLS, it’s just that given the choice, she would have picked an alternate procedure.

MM’s WLS journey is similar to mine in that we both went under the knife when we were in our 20s, both were over 300 pounds at the time, both had RNY and both now suffer from anemia and hypoglycemia as a direct result of that surgical procedure.

Yet now, more than three years later – four for her – we have very different views on what path we’d take if we could go back in time.

Why?

Because of one very key difference: MM was a very healthy 20-something who just happened to tip the scales at more than 300 pounds. I, on the other hand, was slowly dying in a 27-year-old fortress of fat. That’s the difference that makes our post-op experiences worlds apart.

Here’s my laundry list of pre-op concerns:
  1. Chronic joint and back pain (I popped Darvocet and ibuprofen like candy);
  2. High blood pressure (filled my first prescription for the condition at 21);
  3. Debilitating migraines;
  4. Infertility;
  5. Chronic swelling;
  6. Difficulty breathing;
  7. Lack of mobility;

At 27, I felt like I was 80. I worked so hard to pretend the above conditions weren’t a problem and that I was “healthy” despite my weight, that I was exhausted by the end of the day. I had been morbidly obese since childhood, and my body was ready to collapse under its own weight.

After a long talk with a compassionate, yet direct, medical provider, I realized that I was on the cusp; my obesity was just beginning to catch up with me. I could continue down the path I was on and face increasingly severe co-morbidities or I could do something drastic to lose weight in an attempt to drastically reverse my course.

I chose the latter, and I haven’t had a single regret since.

Even when writhing in pain from a life-threatening bowel obstruction, I said with confidence that I would do it all over again because one day of life in a normal-size body is sweeter to me than any number in my pre-operative form.

But let’s get two things clear:
  1. I DO NOT feel that way, because I’m “thin.” Go back and read my early posts – from before I had surgery – and you will see that I was terrified of being thin. It was a foreign concept to me at the time, something I could not wrap my brain around.
  2. Surgery wasn't a cure-all for me. I still suffer from some of my pre-operative health concerns; they are just easier to manage at this size.
At the end of the day, my life is truly better now than it was in 2004 when I started my journey.

In my opinion, MM is not a whiner. Every word she says is true. We just have a different perspective on our situations. MM is right on the money when she calls WLS a trade-off. You give up obesity in exchange for other concerns or issues. In her case, the juice isn't worth the squeeze. In mine, it is.

She may not have had a bowel obstruction, but her hypoglycemia and nutritional deficiencies are much more severe than mine; I don’t suffer seizures nor do I need round-the-clock glucose monitoring. I also think that I’ve gotten more diligent after-care than she has – even when that bowel obstruction went misdiagnosed for six freaking months.

And I will say one thing very plainly: Reactive hypoglycemia is a nightmare.

MM says it best with the succinct comment, “Yeah, I look good. But what does that matter if I’m dead?”

If I ever came close to regretting bariatric surgery, it was when I became hypoglycemic. It’s difficult to articulate what it’s like other than to say it feels like your body is your enemy. Between that and the anemia presenting themselves at the same time, I felt like I was at the brink of insanity. The emotional and physical toll of hypoglycemic episodes were debilitating for me until brought them under control with the help of a caring, knowledgeable doctor a few months ago.

This last year has really been tough. I won’t lie. But in my situation, morbid obesity was still tougher.

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