Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest Blogger - Jen Handau

I've never met Jen Handau.  I didn't know what she looked like until I saw the pictures she sent me with her guest blog post the other day (I'm having issues figuring out how to extract them from the document she sent me to post them here).  

I don't know much more about her than what she's told me and I doubt, in all reality, that I'll ever meet Jen Handau.

None of that matters.  In my heart - Jen Handau is like a sister to me.  A peer.  A fellow soldier.  A friend of friends.  Jen, you see, is on the "other side" of her obesity journey too.  She's had gastric bypass surgery and I "met" Jen in the context of her surgery.  Jen e-mailed me around the time of her surgery a year ago and we typed back and fourth about the surgery and about life before and after and about hopes and fears of life after surgery.

I think we GBers are like alcoholics or any other addiction group or any other group that has been through a shared trauma.  We tend to immediately "take" to each other.  I will hug and share the most intimate details of my life with a total stranger when and if I find out they have struggled with their obesity their entire life and/or that they have had gastric bypass surgery or are considering the procedure.  I don't know why.  It doesn't make sense.  Yet, it is what it is.

Anywho - Jen is a simpatico soul.  And a damned good person.  I am proud to call Jen my friend and I am proud of the progress she's made and the journey she is taking and how I'm happy that she sent me that first e-mail a year ago and for letting me prattle on at her (I tried to find it and could not but I do know that in my response back to her I literally told her what type of shoes to buy to wear after surgery on her walks (no joke)) and I'm glad she reads this here blog and shares her experience with me as I share with her.

Thanks for writing for me and being a friend, Jen.  I appreciate it!

Sean has asked me to write some thoughts on my first year post bypass and my experience thus far. I first got into contact with him through Danbury Hospita
l’s website when I was researching the surgery. He was very reassuring (funny, sarcastic – all those things I needed) when I needed help.

I am a 42 year old wife and mother who decided on the surgery because I was tired all the time, unable to keep up with my four kids, and generally feeling bad about myself. 

The hypertension, knee pain, and “stress incontinence” also had an effect. All my kids were out of diapers, I was NOT willing to go back in! Clothes choices were abysmal, and boots were out of the question (for all of you who do not know, if you have fat ankles and calves, trying to get into boots is be like trying to fit a sausage in a straw). So I made the leap.

Since then, I have learned quite a few things and had a few A-HA moments, so I will share them (I talk a lot, so I’ll try to be brief):

1.   All protein shakes are not created equal. I cannot even begin to describe how much I hate them. I TRIED to like them. The taste just. . . lingers.  If you find youself in my shoes, MaryLou suggested “DS milk with Carnation Instant Breakfast – No sugar version”. Same amount of protein. Tastes like chocolate milk, no vile aftertaste. Magic.

2.  Small things mean a lot as you are losing weight. I remember the first time I was able to lean forward and flip the button to open the gas cap without having to open the door so I could lean the OTHER way over my belly. My smile was a mile wide. I remember when I went to the doctor’s and ONE GOWN covered me. All of me. No moon! Awesome.

3.  My issues with food are less, but have not gone away. I sti
ll deal with them daily, and want to eat when I am stressed (PS, if you remember, I have four kids – 19,18, 12, and 10 – so stress is PRETTY common), and I re-negotiate my relationship with food daily. It is no longer my best friend, but I would like to rub up next to Forbidden Chocolate now and then. Now, I choose banana and sugar free chocolate sauce with Cool Whip and nuts (protein, baby!).

4.  My relationship with my hubby has never been better now that I take the time to take care of myself and actually feel GOOD about myself.  We do not “go out to dinner” for every date. We play pool. See a movie. We’ve become less-food centric. More. . active. . and on that note:

5.  My body parts and the way my body has reacted to surgery: Gravity has taken over. Sunlight is not my friend. My heretofore endless cleavage has ended. The wonder bra isn’t quite as wonderful as I wish. Let’s just say the girls need help. We’re addressing that now and NOT through surgery. Creative mechanical engineering.

6.  The part that has been the hardest for me at times had been being SO excited about my change, accomplishments, and milestones and sometimes having less than positive reactions. My friends who were the ‘skinny ones’ in our group have sometimes asked me NOT to discuss how well I am doing as it depresses people who do it “the hard way”. By no means to do think I chose the easy way. I chose the way that was going to work for me. And I am SO excited about what I have accomplished.  I will talk the ear off of people who are truly interested in my experience, but have learned to ignore some of the . . less PC comments I get. It took a while. I’m Italian. I have cement.

7.  And for the final note: I don’t think Sean has addressed the problem I hear the most among my friends who have had GB. Gas. Yes, farts. They have a new life of their own. And the aroma is. . unique. Regardless of what you eat. So get used to it. Hang in crowds and look accusingly at the people next to you.

I would have the surgery again in a second. It has given me QUALITY time with my family and a new sense of self I haven’t had in years. The hypertension and all the other lovely side effects of being heavy are GONE. All of them. I will live a long and happy life with my family and put forth a good, healthy role model for my daughters.  

EDITOR'S NOTE - I HAVE talked about farts, Jen.  I guess we have different farting experiences.  Must be a lady thing (smile)! 


John Deary said...

I am closing in on 12 months post-GB.

The interesting thing I noticed talking to other people is that they all want to know when I am going to stop losing weight. They all say that I will look too thin. I think the real issue here is that at 192 lbs, I am now either lighter than them or closing in on thier weight and they feel threatened.

Amazing considering 12 months ago I was 368 lbs.

Best wishes on your continued loss.


Sean C. Amore said...

Congrats, John. I'm SOOOO jealous that you are under the 200 mark. And especially having lost that much weight in just one year. Very impressive.

I think, from my experience, it is that people are used to you being so much heavier so you look and seem extra skinny to them accordingly. I was in the mid-300s when people started questioning how much more weight I wanted to lose.

I tell them 30 pounds now and some people look at me like I'm a freak.

Keep up the great work and may you live long and skinny, my friend.

Shib said...

I thought I was the only one getting comments from family members along the lines of: you need to stop losing now, you look weak. Weak??? I was twuice the weight I should have been and even now I am 25-40 lbs away from being in the normal weight range again.

Also, the "easy way out." I have a whole post about it on my blog because somebody said that to me.

There is no easier or harder way. What's hard is making a decision and sticking to it the rest of your life. Whether it be diet after diet or gastric bypass and the lfie long changes that come with it.

Sean C. Amore said...

I think we ALL have a diatribe about the "easy way out" at the ready . . . how could we NOT? I've blogged about it a lot over the last year and a half. We know the truth . . . and we don't look or act weak because we are getting skinny through surgery.