On Wednesday, July 17, I had weight loss surgery. Specifically, I had a sleeve gastrectomy procedure. I wanted to have a full gastric bypass, which is the scary one that rewires all your guts, but it’s also the surgery that has the highest success rate of sending diabetes into remission. My surgeon strongly cautioned me against it, however. Apparently with the full bypass, there are all kinds of medications (that I’m likely going to need as an older guy) that the body won’t be able to absorb. So I had the gastric sleeve. Before I continue, let me take you through a brief timeline:
11/15/1998: 500+ pounds. I have to guess because back then I wasn’t weighing myself (I still don’t really, but I now track my weight with every visit to the doctor). I was a size 60 waist. At the start of 2016, I was a size 54, so I had to have been at 500. How far over 500, I have no idea.
1/20/2016: 470 pounds. At this point, I’d been living with diabetes for two and a half years, and I couldn’t allow myself to continue doing nothing about my terrible health.
2/26/2018: 416 pounds. I’d stopped eating dairy entirely, and was able to lose weight just by breathing. I also lost all of my joint pain, and the rosacea in my face cleared up. Just from no dairy. My primary doctor took me off one of my diabetes meds, and I felt fantastic.
9/15/2018: 442 pounds. Life got hard, dairy came back, and so did the rosacea, joint pain, a ton of weight, and my doctor put me back on the diabetes med he’d taken me off of. I was having my second flare up of Charcot (see below), and decided it was time to consider weight loss surgery.
6/17/2019: 417 pounds. This is the day I got my surgery date for the gastric sleeve.
7/17/2019: 398 pounds. This was the day of my surgery. The last time I’d been under 400 pounds was probably my late teens, early twenties. I’m still processing this.
Why have the surgery? Why not just control your food intake and exercise more? I’m positive I’ll get around to writing about that in more detail, but for the moment, let me just answer those questions with, “No fucking shit.” I tried and failed more times than I can count. Failed hard. And after all that failure, this is what I was living with:
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): I currently regulate my blood pressure with Lisinopril. Fortunately, it’s a low dosage, but I’ve been taking it for 15 years. Taking BP meds in my mid-thirties should’ve been a red flag, but it wasn’t because cheeseburgers = yum.
Conditional Edema: This used to be much worse, and it improved a bit when I stopped working in an office 40+ hours a week. Basically, this is swelling in my ankles that gets worse when I sit in a chair all day and my gigantic gut sits on my upper legs like a sack of flour, which cuts off the circulation and the ankles get swollen and red. Red from the blood gathering down there. Sexy as fuck. So I take a low dosage of Indapamide every day to help me piss out excess water. Pregnant women get this, which makes me feel great about myself.
Diabetes: Who didn’t see this coming? Other than me, that is. I literally almost cried in the doctor’s office when she told me, and I did cry when I got in my truck. My love of food and apathy toward exercise had finally landed me a disease. There’s so much more to be said about the whole diabetes thing than I have time and space for here. I’m sure I’ll revisit the subject frequently.
Peripheral Neuropathy: Numbness in my feet and just in my feet. And for years, maybe a decade, before I was diagnosed with diabetes. It’s not that big a deal at first. You can’t feel every little thing that touches your foot. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you step on something sharp and don’t feel it. And then the cut gets infected and by the time you notice it, it’s enormous and then you go to Urgent Care and that guy takes you – literally walks you across the parking lot – to a foot doctor and that guy says “We’ll do our best to save the toe.” If that sounds super specific, it’s only because it is.
Charcot: Yeah, I’d never even heard of this either. I’ve had it twice now. It flares up, hangs out, and then goes away, kind of like a skin disease. Basically the bones / ligaments in the feet start to break apart and then fuse back together. Both of my feet are permanently deformed by this.
Rosacea: Not necessarily a comorbidity of obesity. In fact from what I’ve read, no one is entirely sure what causes it, but it does occur frequently in overweight people, so here it is on my list. Sometimes this looks like the rosy cheeks you see in old pictures of Santa. Sometimes it looks like that combined with acne.
Sleep Apnea: Also not necessarily a comorbidity of obesity, but blah blah blah, same as previous. I stop breathing randomly while asleep. Apnea is the leading cause of sudden death in one’s sleep. So I wear a mask to help me breathe, like Darth Fucking Vader. It’s a huge blow to the fragile male ego I’ve been burdened with.
Bad Knees: I’m sure there’s a medical term for this but honestly, who cares? My knees have been shit since I was a kid. The cartilage is thrashed in both of them and you can hear my kneecaps grind when I bend down. I was told I’d have to have knee surgery before I was thirty, but the doctors weren’t counting on a life of sedentary laziness, so here I am at 50 and I still don’t require the surgery. I showed them!
There’s also all the fat I carry around. That sounds painfully obvious, but if you’re not gigantically fat, you just can’t know what I’m talking about. You know how when you’re at a park and there’s a gathering of friends and you sit down cross-legged and hang out? Yeah, I can’t do that. My gut physically pushes me backward and my lower back muscles aren’t strong enough to maintain a sitting position, so I just wind up on my back. Also, I’m not very flexible from decades of sedentary living so I’m not even sure I could cross my legs anymore.
So, I had surgery three days ago, and now I’m relearning how to eat, starting with liquids and slowly working my way back to adult food over the next several months. I’m really hoping the diabetes goes into remission, and it’d be great if all the other illnesses / conditions followed suit. I’d love to be off most, if not all, medications, and losing the weight will be nice too. Maybe more than any other thing, I’d like to stop hating my body (and I do hate it…a lot). All of that is on me, not the surgery. The surgery is a tool. As ever, I remain a work in progress.
There’s more to say about all of this, but this is where I wanted to start; with a big, ugly list of true statements. More to come.