I took this photo before I went in for my first meeting with my bariatric surgeon, Dr. Davis, last Friday. I was waiting outside in front of the elevator bank since the office staff had not returned from lunch so I decided I wanted to take a “before” photo. My hands were shaking because I was slightly nervous, and this is how the photo turned out.
When I saw how fuzzy it was, I immediately considered it a success. I look at myself and I do not see this person at all in this way. It’s a distorted, fuzzy image of me. When I see photos of myself I am in disbelief. Who is that chubby person? When I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful, shapely person. I do not see fat arms, two chins and hips wide enough to double as an inflated flotation device.
I can’t pinpoint when the transition happened. I used to look in the mirror and see fat everywhere. Fat, fat, fat. Big girl. I didn’t want short hair because it would make my face look fat. I would never, ever tuck in a shirt, because people might see my fat butt or stomach. Fat calves. Fat arms. FAT.
My hair is now the shortest it’s ever been and I love it. I I love my sassy hair and sassy glasses and sassy attitude. I don’t care that the jeans I’m wearing right now are size 20. I wear sleeveless shirts and I don’t care what my arms look like. When I look in the mirror, I see beauty. I see a woman who is comfortable in her stretch-marked skin.
The decision to have bariatric surgery has been a difficult one. I have fought having the surgery for a year. So when I sat down with Dr. Davis, I did so because I finally decided to do whatever it takes to improve my health. In three months or so, I will have the surgery, and then the real battle will begin.
I understand now why bariatric patients go to support groups. I cannot believe how unbelievably cruel people can be. Everyone has an opinion, and though most have been supportive, there have been a few who have ignored my boundary and let me know how much they are appalled by my decision. Those negative, judgmental people want me to know I don’t have enough faith, that I am just lazy, and my weight loss doesn’t count because I won’t have to work for it. Other people have let their feelings be known in less direct ways, but the sentiment is still there.
Not one of those people has walked in my shoes or lived my life. They don’t know my medical history. They don’t realize that when you are taking medications that make it impossible to lose weight, losing weight is, indeed, impossible. Instead of encouraging me, or lifting me up, they’ve chosen to throw stones and discourage me in sometimes hurtful ways.
Negative comments tell me quite a bit about how much research or knowledge those people have about obesity and the hope this surgery gives. If they had done any research at all, they would know many bariatric patients have tried everything to escape their prisons of fat and surgery is the end of the line. Bariatric patients are choosing a life-altering, path-changing procedure and it is by far more difficult to admit they cannot achieve their weight loss by themselves than to repeat the cycle of diet insanity. After 25 diets that don’t work, why not try something else?
I’m a breast cancer survivor. Last summer I had second degree radiation burns in a very tender area. I went to work every day. I got treatment every day for 33 days. I was exhausted and in pain every day. I walked one of the toughest paths I’d ever had to traverse. I didn’t take the easy way out then, and I’m not choosing an easy path now. Life after surgery will be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. And I will face it.
My body is broken, but my spirit isn’t. I’ve asked Dr. Davis to help me put my body back together and getting it working optimally again. The next three months of anticipation of the surgery will hopefully fly quickly as I prepare physically and mentally for the aftermath of surgery – which will be a battle every day for the rest of my life.
I’m grateful for the people who lift me up every day – in person, via email, text, Facebook, Twitter. I need your support so much as I go on this journey. You know who you are, and I love you all.