I didn’t have “colorectal surgeon” in my cell phone contacts until after I lost 130lbs. Prior to that, my only experience with a proctologist was watching Katie Couric’s colonoscopy on the Today Show.
I had other issues though, at nearly 275lbs. Mostly that I was exhausted and depressed, and self-loathing. I tend to be harder on myself than I am on others; you might be fat because of bad genes or a really stressful time in your life or a medication that causes you to gain weight but I was fat because I was lazy and had no self-control.
The most difficult part of the decision to have weight-loss surgery was flying the surrender flag. Choosing to have bariatric surgery meant that I had failed every diet-and-exercise-lifestyle-change-program on the planet. I was not ever going to call Jenny (again). I was not ever going to attend another We*ight Wa*tchers meeting (again). I was throwing in the towel instead, and throwing in my lot with a surgeon whose specialty is rearranging the intestines of the morbidly obese.
I had a Biliopancreatic Diversion with a Duodenal Switch on November 4th 2008, election day. (I woke up from anesthesia and asked, “Who won?” and when my mom said “Obama,” I replied, “Really?” and fell back asleep. She claims we had the same conversation eight times. I don’t remember.) I had my stomach cut and a portion of my small intestine moved and connected near my pylorus and duodenum; I no longer absorb much fat or protein in my meals.
My lowest weight, less than a year after surgery, was 129lbs; I’m now between 135lbs and 140lbs. I wear a size six.
When I was morbidly obese I used to think that thinness would cure all my problems. I knew in my rational brain that it was a fallacy, but it seemed like my problems always came back to my weight: I avoided intimacy with my husband because I felt my body was disgusting; I avoided making friends because I didn’t feel worthy of friendship; I rarely played with my kids because I had no energy to do so; I spent too much money buying clothes I hated because I couldn’t shop at normal stores and instead went to Lane Bryant; showering several times a day caused a high water bill; our energy bill was even higher because I was hot and kept the air conditioning going most months of the year.
The surgery and subsequent weight loss did solve some of those issues: I am intimate with my husband, in more ways; I have a lot of friends; I have the energy to play with my kids; I can buy things off the clearance rack at O*ld Na*vy; I usually shower only once a day day.
(Our energy bill stayed high because I was freezing cold all winter.)
However, more intimacy with my husband does not mean my marriage improved; I would not have friends who are fat-phobic in the first place; having the energy to play with my kids is not the same as having the desire to play with them; I still wear the same type of clothes I wore before (shorts or jeans and a solid-colored tshirt or long-sleeved shirt); and there are new problems.
That caught me off-guard. There are new problems.
I could not imagine a size six would have problems. Apparently I was sizist; what possible problem could one have when one fit into an airline seat properly and only needed to shower once a day? What else was there to worry about?
But as I typed the words “colorectal surgeon” into a search engine for the first time, I had to admit, even thin people have problems.
Since that first time, I’ve seen the proctologist three times; recently while on vacation with my kids and dog in Florida I had to have anal surgery. My insurance only covered 80% of the procedure, leaving me with a hefty out-of-pocket bill – and having to purchase a plane ticket to Florida for my husband so he could drive us home. I had taken our four kids (and the dog) by myself on vacation; I thought I’d recover quickly and still be able to drive us all home on my own. I was wrong — the surgery was intensely painful — and I couldn’t drive for days. It’s been nearly two weeks and my butt still hurts. This is a problem.
The issues for which I needed a colorectal surgeon are because of my surgery; specifically how my gut reacts to its new arrangement and how I treat my tender, rearranged intestines by what I eat.
There are other issues, too, daily issues: I do not have much good bacteria in my intestines, and bacteria are very useful to a colon. Just ask the gastrointestinal doctor; another new one on my speed-dial since Obama was elected. Even though I eat yogurt daily, and take a probiotic, sharing a bathroom with me isn’t fun. If you do a search for “Duodenal switch” and “bathroom issues” you will get a million sites. Maybe even my blog.
The leftover skin – the skin I swore I wouldn’t mind, because who cares, it’s just extra skin! I’m not going to worry about that when I’m skinny! – migrated to my mid-section and most days that I don’t wear mom-jeans I look pregnant. I have been asked by well-meaning strangers when I’m due – this means that not only do I look pregnant, I look pregnant enough that total strangers think it’s socially acceptable to ask me about it.
The first time someone asked, I was deeply offended and proffered a very snarky reply; the most recent time, I simply said I had a stomach condition that causes severe bloating. Combine extra skin in the mid-section with a body that lacks the hips to hold up pants; combine the occasion bout of bloating with not standing ramrod-straight all the time and you get me, looking like I’ve just finished my first trimester.
I was wrong when I thought being thin would solve all my problems; it solved some, exacerbated others, and created new ones. There are benefits to physical smallness: I love buying clothes off the rack; I love my underwear drawer full of size mediums and my cute bras. I feel great: I can run around like never before and jump on the trampoline with my kids, and my treadmill is no longer a towel holder. My self confidence has increased dramatically.
But in return, I’m married to my Biliopancreatic Diversion with a Duodenal switch; it’s with me every second of every day, and unlike the days of diets and exercise this has changed my entire body forever, I can’t ever throw in the towel on my own body.