I want to offer a special thanks to Debbie Sturdevant.
Here is her story:
I have been enjoying your newsletters and have also used both of your books to
help with the many situations that come up through this life altering process.
I read them before my surgery, kept them by my side during those first few weeks
of post-op uncertainty, and continue to refer to them.
As far back as my memory goes, I
have been fat. Actually, I was over ten pounds at birth and my mother
continually told anyone that would listen. I am the stereotypical person that
gained and lost a thousand pounds over the years and tried any diet that came
along. Each time I would lose motivation, or something would happen and the
weight would come back, plus more. Eventually, I found myself weighing 365
pounds and wearing just about the biggest size you could get - 5X top and size
34 pants. Intellectually, I knew about nutrition, exercise, emotional eating and
what needed to be done. Actually making it happen was a different matter
entirely. While I seemed to have control in other areas of my life I had no
control over my food addiction.
Many unusual circumstances have
happened to me over the years that I could easily blame my weight on. I could
write a book and no one would believe it. In the end, I know it is in my brain,
and I, to this day, am unable to change it. In 2002 I fell and did serious
damage to my spine and hip. I ended up having spinal fusion surgery on four
levels of my lower spine. Again more strange circumstances made my recovery
extremely painful and very slow. I was in a clamshell brace for eight months and
gained fifty pounds that got me to my all time highest weight.
There was physical therapy for
more than a year and constant pain continues for me daily. I was headed for a
wheelchair and knew it was only a matter of time before I would be entirely
bed-bound. The surgeon told my husband that if I didn’t lose weight I would die.
I started doing an in-pool exercise program at the YMCA. It actually seemed to
help me more than anything I had tried to that point. I also credit Cranio-Sacral
Therapy for keeping me out of a wheelchair.
I had been thinking about
gastric bypass surgery for years, but was too scared to do anything about it.
The failure of the spinal fusion surgery was the final straw and I started
studying to find out more about the surgery. I knew it would be a life changing
event and what if I failed at this, too? I honestly like food too much and
didn’t know if I could really give it up to save my life. The program at the
Bariatric Center in Syracuse, NY accepted me and they have a fairly strict
protocol pre-surgery. That is a good thing, and I would tell anyone to not rush
into this. Do the training before surgery. It is so important.
Two years ago I finally went for
my bypass surgery. It went fine and they took out my gallbladder at the same
time. I knew it had been full of stones for at least the last ten years. My
primary doctor had told me that one of these days it needed to come out, but
they wouldn’t touch me at my weight.
I came home a day and a half
later. I did everything I was told, get up and walk, etc. My second day home I
had excruciating pain and ended up calling my doctor at 4:30 in the morning when
I couldn’t stand it anymore. He said I had to make the hour drive back to the
hospital. After spending twelve hours in the emergency room in horrible pain I
was admitted. They did all kinds of tests and discovered that the clips used to
seal off the gallbladder surgery had somehow slipped and residual bile was
pouring into the abdominal cavity. The short story is I spent another five days
in the hospital. The gastric bypass surgery was perfect, but the gallbladder
surgery really got messed up.
The weight started coming off
and I continued to follow the program faithfully. It was truly easy at first. I
recognize that I am still an emotional eater and was trying to deal with that,
My fourth month out the
unthinkable happened. My mother-in-law died and ten days later my only son died
just after his 28th birthday. While that is truly another story, it
is important that I somehow found the strength to continue to take care of
myself in my unbelievable grief. There was no choice, it was too late to go back
and I could literally no longer use food as my emotional crutch. The first week
I could not make myself eat, but somehow got liquids into me and protein. The
grief of losing him continues to be crushing and I do the best that I can. Today
I am physically healthy, still in pain, as the surgery did not help my back, and
have lost 200 pounds. I wear a size 10 for the first time in my life. I believe
I skipped over those little sizes completely as an adolescent.
The new me becomes real when I
am folding laundry and wonder whose little jeans I am folding. I have to remind
myself that, “Oh yeah, they are mine.” I actually fit into those.
I continue to go to the pool, but have graduated from the
water walking class for arthritics to the deep water jogging aerobic class that
is high intensity. I have even taught that class several times when the
instructor was unavailable. Who would have ever in their wildest dreams believe
that I, the person that hates exercise, could teach an aerobics class?
My husband of 37 years has stuck
with me throughout everything. It didn’t matter to him if I was fat or thin. He
accepted me through all the ups and downs. My only regret is that I waited until
I was fifty-two years old to get my new life. I wish I had been smart enough to
have the surgery twenty years ago. In all honesty, now that the honeymoon phase
is over and hunger has come back, I do struggle every day. The difference is
this wonderful tool gives me that extra edge to not give up or give in. I have
maintained at my size 10 for a whole year now. Having this surgery saved my life
and I try to appreciate it every day.