August 5, 2015

The Symposium

How did I get here?  It sounds like a symposium should be in a gradual slanted college hall with a panel of experts arranged on stage.  Actually it was a room of rectangular tables and cushy conference chairs filled with people who were as unsure as I was.  Some with knee problems & hip problems. Many much older and much heavier using walkers to balance.  All of us with struggles with food and many beaten down by this struggle we call not-so-affectionately, obesity.

Hard facts: I qualify for bariatric surgery because I have a BMI over 35 and I have sleep apnea and diabetes. Many insurance companies will not pay for the surgery unless you have 2 other health issues in addition to a BMI above 35.  For example, high blood pressure, arthritis and other diagnoses would also be approved as conditions for becoming a bariatric candidate.  All that to say, my Darth Vader mask and inability to control my sugar have made it possible for me to have this surgery.  Blessings do come in unexpected ways.

Dr. Troy Lamar began his presentation with a short video of testimonials of 3 people who have had success with Gastric Bypass and how it changed their lives.  His presentation continued with many facts and details about what to expect with either the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) or Gastric Sleeve.  He does not perform Lap Bands, as the long term effects are not as effective for many reasons.

The fascinating and eye-opening fact that I did not know was how ghrelin, an appetite hormone, functions in our bodies.  “The normal response is that ghrelin levels are higher when you are hungry and they go down after a meal, but people who are diabetic or obese have the opposite response,” she said. “They tend to have lower fasting ghrelin levels and then after a meal ghrelin levels don’t go down like they should.” Ghrelin Article.  So basically, gastric bypass changes how this hormone functions.  This, in turn changes appetite and how your gut functions.  Over 200 gut hormones are altered post RYGB so the acid in the lower part of the stomach can no longer reach the top part.  Dr. Lamar referenced this article, Dr. Adams New England Journal of Medicine, on quality of life post-RYGB.  Another hopeful outcome post laparoscopic surgery is, many patients are back to work within the week.  I assumed the recovery time would be much longer.

How do I feel?  What are my feelings about possibly having this surgery?  I abhor before and after photos, especially the ones where the person is frowning at the heavy weight and smiling profusely in the ‘after’ photo. Sure, losing weight will help me fit in smaller sized clothing, but it won’t change my history with food, my feelings about often being the heaviest female in the room, or who…I…am.  I need to say this, my love for myself is not contingent on the number I am on the scale.  This has taken me MANY years to come to terms with how much I weigh.  I realized that navel gazing (literally and figuratively) is just that, navel gazing.  When you are constantly commiserating and wishing you could be something else, you’re rarely content.  I decided long ago to become others-centered rather than self-centered because that’s where the real ‘Joy’ is.  Another phrase that has always irked me is ‘letting myself go’.  “She let herself go,” you know you’ve heard it, or said it, or thought it.  Guess what, letting self go isn’t always a bad thing. The world might be a lot better if we let go of self.

That said, living longer and healthier is my ultimate goal in proceeding with RYGB.  I feel fine now, but I was able to look into a window of the future of what I might be in 20 years if I don’t have the surgery.

I’m on this path.  Symposium finished.  Next step, six months meeting with a nutritionist, following that a psychological evaluation and shortly after, RYGB surgery.

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