[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF member Mary Gobbo, is the first in a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your “What I Know Now” idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I got my life back.
It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
For years, I struggled with my weight. I stand just under 5 foot 4 inches tall, and a year ago, I weighed 315 pounds. My health was in shambles. My kidneys were failing. I had an ocular hemorrhage. My blood pressure and blood sugars were out of control. According to one of my physicians, I was rapidly heading to the point of no return.
My children, all five boys, were very worried that I would not be around for them. I was worried too. I obviously wasn’t worried enough to do something serious about it, though. Oh, I tried Weight Watchers, the Rotation Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet. With each one, I’d lose a little, only to get discouraged when I hit the inevitable plateau, at which point I’d gain back what I lost, plus several more pounds for good measure.
My primary care physician asked me repeatedly to consider weight loss surgery. I always refused, believing I could do it on my own. But when my kidneys began failing from diabetes, I knew it was time. I wanted a normal life. I deserved a normal life. (We won’t discuss at this point what caused my weight gain. A team of psychologists is not needed. Suffice it to say that I had issues. I knew what they were, but I didn’t know how to really deal with them effectively. I just knew I wanted to live.)
After talking with the doctor about the four basic bariatric surgeries, I chose a procedure called the “duodenal switch” which minimized the risk of vomiting, “dumping” (a rapid rush of food into the small intestine, which causes nausea, faintness, sweating, etc) and, most of all, gaining the weight back. I could write a whole other essay about the different surgeries, and maybe that will be my next post!
When I set the date for the surgery, I was nervous, but one final incident gave me the motivation I needed.
The week before I was scheduled to have my procedure, I went on a choir trip to New York City with my youngest son. When I arrived at the bus, there was only one seat left. The man sitting next to me did not speak to me during the five-hours before our first stop. I was more than a little uncomfortable. After our stop for dinner, I learned that he had told his son and a number of his friends that he didn’t want to sit next to “that FAT woman.” Devastated, I secured a seat in the very back of the other bus for the rest of the trip.
One week later, Dr. Marek Lutrzykowski performed the awe-inspiring, but intensive procedure. I spent a few days in intensive care. Recovery was challenging. I hurt! But I got through it. Once home, I made sure to walk several times a day and eventually hit the treadmill for 30 minutes a day. The weight started falling off.
Five months later, I am down over 100 pounds. I have 85 pounds to go to get to my ideal weight. Physically I’m so much stronger. But the emotional change is even more profound. With perspective, I can look back and admit how much my weight had taken over my life before the surgery. The truth: I had no self esteem. I didn’t want to be around other people. I hated myself.
Before my surgery, I came up with every excuse to avoid going out. Where would I park? How far did I need to walk? How many stairs would I need to climb? I recall a basketball game I attended at our local university. We were seated in the last row. On the way up, I had to stop several times to let other people pass. My heart was pounding and I could barely breathe when I got to the top. Once the game started, I had to go to the bathroom, but I held it in, knowing once I went down I would never make it back up the stairs.
This past weekend I attended a basketball game where we were seated, again, high in the stands. I made it up with my breath intact. The next night, I attended a Sting concert. My husband Steve, a very outgoing individual, had been very unhappy with how introverted I’d become. He loves getting out and about. Now I do too. We are going to Hilton Head for the holidays, and I intend on renting a bike to go all around the island and down the beach. I would never, ever have considered doing any of these things before May 18, 2011, the day I had my life changing surgery. It is now a pleasure putting on clothes. I take care of my hair now, and actually wear (a minimal amount of) makeup. I do my nails. I care again.
I saw a very good friend today. I recounted to her that I just saw the man from the bus at a recent choir concert. My husband sat beside him, not knowing he was the one. I did not acknowledge him. Later, my husband asked me why I didn’t point him out so he could have said something to him. I replied, “That’s why. You can’t fix stupid.” The truth is, I’ve forgiven him. Actually, I would love to say to him some day, “do you recall when you said those horrible things about me? Well, THANK YOU! It was because of you that I moved forward with my surgery, and now I have my life back.”
I want to help the many ladies out there who find themselves in the same boat I was in. I know I have many “sisters” who could benefit, and I hope to guide them through the troubled waters that are our lives. Waters that can be calmed. They were for me.
Thank you for listening.
FOF Mary Gobbo, 56, is originally from Long Island, New York. She currently resides in Lansing, Michigan, and works part time for the State of Michigan as a secretary and part-time from home as a medical transcriptionist. She is now considering going back to school to complete her college degree. She is also at work on a novel about a woman who “comes of age” at 45.