A year ago today, I had my operation. Today shouldn’t really be a huge milestone, after all it was elective surgery, something I chose to do to myself. Dates and diaries then meant I missed out on Christmas last year, out annual trip on the 24th, my family on the 26th, alllllllll the food on the 25th.
When we arrived at the hospital we sat for hours in the “pre-op” ward, waiting for a bed…I had to have a bed on intensive care afterwards, because of the severity of the surgery and the risks involved. That became available at about 11am, and was “booked” for me. Theatre became free at around 1pm, and I was taken down at 1:30. My husband was working that night so after saying goodbye at the theatre doors, he went to grab a couple of hours sleep in the car, with both of us thinking he would be able to see me on the ward before he left for his night shift.
However, I didn’t actually get up to ICU until around 9pm, and he had had to leave at 6 to get to work on time. One of the surgeons rang him at around 6:30 to say that the operation was finished, and that I was ok. He then rang ICU at about 10 and was able to speak to me himself.
I vividly remember going into the theatre and how cold it felt, holding the mask over my face myself, then the next memory being of intense pain and noise in the recovery area. Yes, I was in a lot of pain, and the staff were fantastic.
You read all kinds of things when you are researching a procedure you either want, or need, to have. You look into statistics, risks, before and after photos, videos of the surgery being done (if you’re a bit odd, like me!)
What I discovered on my three years from initial referral to operation, were many things. Firstly, that I’d lose weight. Seems obvious really, but actually after nearly 40 years of NOT losing weight, that’s rather a strange thing to get your head around – that this WILL work.
Secondly. I’ll have scars. 5 or 6, depending on how the surgeon chooses to do the operation. I have 5 but to be honest a year on only one is still visible. The biggest one, on the left just below my ribs. About 1.5 inches long. The others are virtually invisible now. Am I bothered? No, not really.
Thirdly, people will treat you differently. Either through concern, or jealousy, or derision. Concern I’m fine with, I’ve answered just about every question I could have had I think. Absolutely no issue with that. Jealousy, I sort of understand but I think THOSE people want to think they are, in some way, better than me because they haven’t needed to “resort” to “taking the easy way out”. Or maybe they want to do this, but are scared to. And then the ones who openly tell me I HAVE done it the easy way…they don’t seem keen to swap places with me though!
Number 4. I’ll never eat a normal meal again. That’s a strange one. You read about folk who say they eat a “small” dinner and you think, oh, ok, that’s fine. What you don’t realise is that actually, you’ll never eat a normal meal again. No, not 12 months out. Or 2 years. No, not even 5 years. NEVER. I’m lucky – my husband, and my friends, are amazing, and they happily share with me – my 18 year old is thrilled to eat his meal and finish mine off too if I am out with him! Protein first – always. So meat/fish/eggs/beans. Nuts work too. Basically, I can manage an amount that’s about the size of the palm of my hand, and that’s it. Oh, and I never get hungry. So if you’re around me you’ll often hear my phone alarm going off, to tell me to eat something.
5. % weight loss. After 2 years (so 12 months from now), the operation will have caused you to lose around 70% of your excess weight. Excess as determined by the BMI criteria and getting you into the “normal” weight range. By their calculations I had around 11 stones to lose to get to that stage. Today, 12 months on, I’ve lost 86.2% of my excess weight.
Eighty six point two percent of my excess weight in one year.
6. Loose skin. I knew I’d have loose skin but nothing quite made me realise just how MUCH there would be, in the strangest of places…no, I’m not going to reveal all here. However, it’s not good, and sometimes you do think you looked “better” with the skin full, rather than looking like ET on a bad day…
7. Pain and healing. This is major surgery. It totally replumbs you inside and cuts off around 90/95% of your stomach. You have a LOT of internal stitches and staples and an awful lot of “joins” in your intestines. I didn’t really believe them when they said it takes 2 years to fully heal internally from this, but actually it is only in the last couple of weeks that I can finally say that I am no longer in any pain. The pain hasn’t been bad, just niggly , and all of it in the same place – where, as the surgeon so politely put it, they had put the staple gun in and it was a big one! In the beginning the pain was quite bad, but over the days, then weeks, it did ease off and improve.
8. Tablets and injections. Every day, for life. Around 22-25 tablets a day, and injections every 8 weeks. Yes you could not bother taking them, but then all the side effects of the malnourishment will kick in, you run the very big risk of an ulcer in your tiny tummy, and becoming very, very sick. Bear in mind that if you self-fund this surgery, your GP is under no obligtion to give you the stuff you need afterwards on an NHS prescription, and often won’t. These tablets are NOT cheap nor are they available OTC in this country.
But what is very difficult to understand is the was you change yourself, inside…I don’t really have time very often to sit and think, to look back at myself and how I used to feel. I’ve forgotten how hard it was to move sometimes, to climb the stairs, to walk anywhere. My breathing was awful, the intense pain in my knees and feet and back. Even getting in and out of the car was a massive struggle. What do I miss the most? Wearing my wedding rings, I hate that I’ve had to take them off a few months ago.
This surgery is one of the best things I have EVER done, and yes, I would do it again. I’d take longer off work if I did – 10 days was absolutely not enough. I think that’s the only thing I would change.
Bring on the next 12 months!!!