Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Have a Friend . . .

Now that I am more than a year beyond surgery, I have noticed a new trend in the way people discuss my surgery with me. What was once "WOW! How much have you LOST?!" and "I can't believe how wonderful you look." and "How do you feel?" has turned, in some corners, to "So how much more do you have to lose?" and "You still feeling okay?" and "Are you letting up at all on your diet?"

Now - I can understand this trend. I have had friends who have decided to dry themselves up after years of over boozing and we only asked them about it for the first year or so. I've had friends who have lost loved ones and I only ask about them for the first few months and I've had people who have suffered from depression and other emotional set backs and I only ask every "now and again" to show my concern without making it a constant source of conversation.

That being said I do NOT become negative about it. I don't expect my friends are back off (on?) the wagon. I don't assume my friends have forgotten their lost loved ones and I don't just take for granted that depression is once again weighing my loved ones down. I hope for the best. I stay positive. I pray that they are well and at peace with their various demons.

The reality is that I don't care, frankly, about "your one friend" who had gastric bypass surgery and did "really, really well for a 'while' and then gained all their weight back and THEN some." I am not scared off by your co-worker who hates their life post surgery and is back to overeating again. And, while my sympathies go out to the .5% of all families, friends and loved ones that have to endure losing someone due to COMPLICATIONS around gastric bypass surgery and I'll accept that the surgery is "dangerous" or "not worth the risks". A clarification . . . LESS than 1 person in every 200 will die from surgery complications (NOT the surgery, COMPLICTIONS that they brought to the table with them (weak heart, poor circulation, weak lungs, high blood pressure, clotting, etc. etc. etc.)). You find me a morbidity rate for ANY other condition or procedure that involves/circumvents/fights/accepts the co-morbidities that we all fought to get us on the operating table and I'll start to listen to your gloom and doom.

In the weeks before my gastric bypass surgery, when I was more ready for the surgery than I had ever been and when I felt more sure of my decision than almost any other decision I had ever made - I had a family member tell me about a co-worker who had gastric bypass and only THREE MONTHS LATER weighed more than they did before the surgery. Last night my father told me about a friend of my uncle's who did really well for a year and then gained "all of his weight back and then some." I had a co-worker tell me just this morning about their concern that for me personally that I might some day just decide to start eating again.

These annoyances plagued me last evening so I did some googling. I won't bother to site my sources (it is the world wide web, let's assume it is crap anyway) but I found a low of 8% and a high of 32% of gastric bypass patients regain a "significant" portion of their weight. Only between 5% and 15% regain all of it and a lowly 2% to 9% will actually weigh more after surgery than they did before.

I can see all you skinny people shaking your heads and seeing "yeah, TOLD you so" as they worry about the success rate of this surgery. Let me share THIS with you. Of the three major national diet plans, the long term stats are that as many as 80% will regain all their weight and 64%, average, will weigh more after the program than they did before. So, how bad is gastric bypass now when you could just try the "Atkins" method or the WeightWatchers regime? Yeah, that is what I thought . . . nay sayers!

Let me also share this - the increased popularity (for lack of a better word) of gastric bypass surgery has flooded the statistical tables with people who, frankly, should not have had the surgery to begin with. I've always said and maintain that to mentally screen patients for surgery should not only be required but should be STRENGTHENED. I don't want people who are not really ready for the surgery mucking up the public perception on what an amazing procedure this is and all the hope and promise that it offers to those of us who are ready for the changes the surgery requires.

I get e-mails from people every day because of this blog. MOST of them seem like great people who did the surgery for the right reasons and who have a great life ahead of them but every now and again I get a person who's story sort of scares me. I ROOT for them but I am concerned for them. They might have relapsed on old habits. They might be struggling with new variables in their life that make watching their calories and excercise difficult. They might be openly and honestly falling apart.

Will they be part of the percentages? Perhaps. Will I be part of the percentages? Maybe. Am I scared of that? Do I need you sharing your half-baked stories of woe to motivate me? Nope. Save 'em.

Here is what we should all care about (those who have had the surgery and those that love us). We, statistically, will regain, on average, about 10% of what we lost from the surgery. I plan to lose 283 pounds. That means I will regain 30 pounds. I am at peace with that. I can taste the 200 pound mark and if I get back to 230 - such is life. I weighed 230 pounds as a freshman in high school - probably as an eighth grader (I got weighed once a year). That is 300 pounds less than the heaviest I have ever been and is a weight I could grow old and grey at without worry for my heart or my health.

Now - will my 30 pounds coming back on my frame scare people? Sure. Will people assume it is a lot more weight to regain than it really is? Yep. Will it look like I'm heavy again? Maybe. Will people whisper that I didn't have what it took? Yep. Will some of those people be my own family? Yep. One of them has never believed in me and never will. Oh well. I'm at peace with that too. I haven't gone through all of this to impress him or win his favor. I did this for me.

So this is a long rant but there IS a point . . . don't listen to the critics, journey takers, and don't share your critical stories, spectators. It reminds me of one of Joy's favorite poems by Shel Silverstein that I'll post in a few minutes.

We're all going to be FINE - no matter what weight we end out at - as long as we believe in ourselves, have the love and support of those around us and keep fighting.

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