Weighty Matters

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Canary in the Coal Mine

on June 25, 2012

I’m a little older than some of my friends.  I hit a few medical milestones ahead of them.  Lovely experiences, like having a colonoscopy when I turned 50.  One of my friends  commented to me about liking the fact that I went first so she could learn about when it was her turn.  I joked that I felt like a canary in the coal mine — going into these experiences first to sniff out potential problems and warn my friends what to expect when it was their time.

As you might have guessed by the way that I write about the surgery and everything connected to it, my recovery, my eating disorder, my history, etc., here on the blog, I’m pretty comfortable talking about this stuff.  Honestly, doing the blog has helped with that comfort level.  I don’t mind being open and if a conversation goes overly long or heads into an area that I feel is a little too intrusive, I’m also comfortable saying so and changing the subject.

Since the operation, I’ve had a few people, including friends ask me for personal reasons about the surgery and life since.  They are also obese and are thinking of having surgery themselves, or someone they care about is obese.  I’m glad that they feel comfortable asking me about my experience.

Taking this action can be a big, scary, thing.   I was afraid for years and strongly resisted.   When I had my epiphany a year ago and decided that I needed to now pursue the surgery to rescue my life, I wish I’d had a few people I knew that I could talk with and ask questions of to help me in those early days.   Instead I dove into research the best way that I knew — the Internet.  There was a lot of confusing information but I soon lucked out and hit ObesityHelp.com and its forums.  Those forums were populated by people who had either had surgery or were in the process.  I soon learned that there wasn’t a single question I could think of that someone couldn’t answer — either from the benefit of their own experience of because they knew a great resource for the information.

I wish I’d had a few personal canaries to talk with about weight loss surgery, but at least I had the forum folks.  By sharing their stories, they taught me about a lot of things I needed to know before, during and after.   I’m still learning.  It reminds me a lot of OA where I sat in rooms as a complete, confused newby and gratefully listened.

Pink Pelican is a regular commentor at this blog.  She had weight loss surgery about six months before me.  I learn a lot from the things she says in her comments.  She might be pink and a pelican, but for me she’s become a bit of a canary, too.  I appreciate her knowledge a great deal.

I’m sort of in a reflective mood thinking about all of this tonight. I know without a doubt that being a canary for others is a good thing — for me and, hopefully, for them.   I’d just like to say if there are some of you out there who have questions, go ahead and ask.  If you aren’t comfortable doing so in the comments, send me an email:  mary @ mary-stella.com.

Everyone, please keep singing with me.


7 responses to “Canary in the Coal Mine

  1. Hope says:

    It sounds like you have a pink canary! :p

  2. Mary Stella says:

    Adding on to some of the excellent points made by Pink Pelican, I urge anyone contemplating any type of wls to research the surgeon like their lives depend on him/her – -because they do! Down here in SoFL, a company dedicated to reconstructive surgeries heavily promotes that they do lap band surgery. I see their commercial almost every break on television. I can only imagine how much they spend a day in advertising — and that makes me think that lap band surgeries are a cash crop for this outfit. I have no evidence, but there’s just something about them that makes me leery. This was reinforced when I went in for my surgery and heard some horror stories about the corrective procedures some of that company’s patients needed to have done.

    When I made the decision to have wls, I knew that I wanted a surgeon who had specialized in bariatric surgery for several years. It didn’t have to be the only type of surgery he/she performed, but I wanted long term experience. I asked my primary care physician for a referral and she gave me the name of a doctor. I then researched him as thoroughly as I could before I went to the first free seminar and later consult. I also compiled an extensive list of questions. I liked him and his entire staff from the beginning. More importantly, I liked his solid credentials. He and his entire surgical team are certified in bariatric surgery excellence. The hospital I chose was also a certified center for bariatric excellence and had a special bariatric wing. So, everyone taking care of me was also certified.

    For me, this all confirmed that I’d made a good choice. I was much more comfortable going in because of this knowledge.

  3. pinkpelican says:

    so glad I can be of help, Mary. Cheep-cheep! Grin.

    Liz, I considered the lap band before deciding to go with the sleeve procedure (same thing that Mary had). It is still an accepted medical option, but my surgeon warned me that they are seeing, as time goes on, more and more problems with slippage (ie, the band that goes around the stomach slips out of place). The surgery has to be revised or the band has to be completely removed.

    Like Mary, I’m not sure it’s worth going through the surgery for 20 to 60 pound weight loss, particularly with a surgery that might need revision. If I were looking at that as an option, I would do a lot of research on why they are opening up the surgical lap band option to folks with lower weight loss needs. I would also do a lot of research on the the facilities offering this option to make sure they are completely legitimate & provide all of the support (before, during & after) that a patient needs. (Once clinic in California, I think, was recently busted for being a lap band “mill” that had minimal follow up, poor procedures, and consequently had several patients with serious complications or who died.)

    that being said … losing ANY weight the non-surgical way is incredibly hard, as is keeping it off once it’s lost. Part of the benefit (for me, anyway) of the surgery was a “sure thing” aspect of weight loss that freed me from the mental stress of weight loss and allowed me to focus on the deeper emotional issues. (The non-surgical methods don’t ease the hunger/appetite issues, and maintaining the lower calorie intake is a constant internal battle between trying to stay on track & battling the physical hunger that exacerbated the cravings. For me, that occupied so much of my mental energy that I just couldn’t get to a place of working on the underlying problems.)

    So even a 20 to 60 pound weight loss can be a challenge (said from the perspective of having dropped about 165 pounds so far with another 40 to 60 to go) and a struggle. So it’s possible that the lap band could be very helpful for the right person who has exhausted all other options.

    Probably not the way I would go, but each person is different …

  4. Liz Flaherty says:

    I’ve followed with interest and admiration. And I have a question. If it’s one that you don’t feel deserves an answer, just do the hand wave thing and move on. 🙂 I heard on TV the other day (I don’t remember the context; I’m not a watcher) that “belly band” surgery’s going to be available to people as little as 20 lb. overweight. I was kind of shocked at this, but apparently the danger and invasiveness has decreased enough to make this about on par with–I don’t know, something lesser. How do you feel about this?

    • Mary Stella says:

      Hi Liz,

      I saw the story also but didn’t hear the 20 pounds part. I saw people in it who were not morbidly obese but who still had 40-60 pounds to lose. To me, that’s not a lot of weight but I look at it as someone who needed to lose two and a half times that amount. My
      perspective is a lot different.

      My greatest concern is that anyone contemplating that or any weight loss procedure really needs to have all of the education and counseling to truly know the risks and irreversible changes this brings to your life. The health rewards are great, but require great commitment.

      Personally, I would not have taken this step for 20-40 pounds. 60? Possibly.

      • Liz Flaherty says:

        Thank you both for those answers. I wouldn’t do it, either, I don’t think; however, as someone who needed to lose 60 and who can’t get the last 20 off, I certainly do wish I could twitch my nose or something! Hmmm….I’m probably not alone in that. 🙂

        • Mary Stella says:

          I hear you! Congratulations on your progress so far. Hang in there on the last 20! I’m sure that as you do what you need to in order to keep the 40 from coming back you’ll see those remaining pounds also go.

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