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Gastric Bypass Surgery, yes or no? Jenny's story

Throughout my life I have struggled with weight issues.

As a child I was podgy, through my teens and early twenties I was slightly overweight but coping well. I was swimming, playing squash and generally in good shape but then due to relationship issues I gradually started putting on weight, went to overweight, to obese and then to extremely obese.

Along with putting on the weight came many psychological issues, low self-esteem, low self-image, stress, anxiety, depression and other health issues. 

I developed hypothyroidism, then hyperthyroidism, Grave’s Disease and Thyroid Eye which caused sensitivity to light and watering eyes. Because of the thyroid problem I had radioactive iodine therapy. I then developed Pretibial Myxoedema which caused fatigue, headaches, increased appetite and weight gain, dryness of the skin, shortness of breath and increased sweating. Later on, high blood pressure and was very close to developing diabetes which was just a matter of time.

I tried every possible diet: Scarsdale diet, Colon Hydrotherapy diet, Blood Type diet and so on and so on, every diet that came onto the market I tried only to find that although I did lose weight while dieting, the moment I stopped dieting I immediately put the weight back on and even more. It was a constant battle.
Being obese was not easy.

At a certain point in my life I gave up and tried to convince myself that “that’s it, I am fat and everybody must accept me as is”, but that didn’t work either because I did not feel good and I could not accept this myself. .

Looking back I now understand that the weight increase was due to emotional eating, that should have been dealt with and not overlooked.

Today I know that dieting alone would never have worked for me without dealing with the emotional eating. 
While dieting I definitely should have seen a psychologist to help deal with the symptoms causing the emotional eating and gone to a dietician regularly. Doing it on my own did not work for me.  

Being obese is not just the health issues and the psychological issues; it is also the social issues. I became a recluse, did not go out socially. I preferred doing things on my own or just staying at home.
Before going out to a restaurant I checked what chairs they had, if they had arms, would I fit into them?When flying I had to request a seat belt extension. If something dropped on the floor and rolled under the bed or table it was a problem getting it as once I was down it was a struggle getting up again. I could not always get clothes I wanted and was forced to buy the clothes that were available in big sizes. After going to the toilet cleaning myself was difficult, I could only take showers because I could not fit into a bath.
And the list can go on and on. 

At the age of 55 years, a height of 160 cm I weighed 144 kg. 
I was unhappy, depressed and had health issues which I then blamed for my obesity, definitely the easy way out.
A few years ago my uncle, who is a surgeon was visiting from Australia and it was the first time that somebody was honest enough to say to me “you are obese”. He also discussed bariatric surgery with me. I then knew I had to do something about it or I would not have a life and that is when I decided to look into the options available to me.
I discussed it with my cousin and my GP and he too thought I should consider bariatric surgery and referred me to a specialist surgeon, Dr. Anton Botha. At the first meeting Anton discussed all the options with me, explained the whole process of the operation, explained the changes I would have to do with my life style and gave me a CD with literature to read at home.

I left Anton’s office feeling that should I pursue the surgery I would be in good hands and not be alone. 
At home I read further literature about bariatric surgery and realised that having the gastric bypass is definitely not going to be “a quick fix” and that without deciding to make life style changes there is no point going through with the surgery.
It took me a couple of months to digest it all and make the commitment to myself that I DO want to make life changes, that I need to set aside time for me and that I AM ready to pursue further.

I went back to Dr Botha and started the process. 
I did a few medical procedures: blood tests, gastroscopy, abdomen ultrasound and a colonoscopy. 
I went to see a psychologist, Dr Nicky Powell and a dietician, Justine Aginsky, both who are part of Anton’s team and once all agreed and cleared me for the surgery we set the date.

I started the pre surgery diet and then a week before went onto a liquid only diet. I thought this would be extremely difficult but it went quickly and was easier than I thought.
I am sure this was due to me really being motivated and looking forward to my life changing journey.

I had my gastric bypass surgery on 23rd July 2013.

I wasn't nervous until the morning of the surgery. 
When I got to the hospital ward and was waiting for the surgery I realized the magnitude of what I was doing. 
This is the end of all my bad habits, the end of eating all the junk foods I loved and enjoyed the end of being a couch potato and the end of not taking care of myself. 
Is this what I want, am I doing the right thing, can I really commit?
The answer to the above was a definite YES and suddenly I was at ease knowing that from now on things can only get better.
It was now time for the surgery. I saw Anton before the surgery and speaking to him also convinced me that I was doing the right thing.
I wasn’t nervous about the surgery as I know I have a high threshold for pain and also it was going to be laparoscopic surgery and I would only have five small incisions on my stomach. 

I woke up in the recovery room with extreme pain, worse then I imagined. All I wanted to do was to sit up, I could not lie down at all and I felt like I was going to explode. I then realised I was not in extreme pain but in extreme discomfort, this was because of the gas that is used to inflate the abdomen for the surgery. 
When I got back to the ward I insisted on sitting up in bed, contrary to what the nurses wanted. Once I was sitting upright the discomfort became easier and I started feeling much better. I them managed to lie down again and sleep.
I was on a drip, had a catheter, plastic wrappings around my legs attached to a small machine pumping air to assist with circulation.  
The next morning I was feeling much better with hardly any pain at all. I was given some ice chips to suck, the catheter was removed I got out of bed and started walking around slowly.
Later in the day I started having very small sips of water. The following day I was drinking apple juice diluted with water and some sugar free jelly. 
I was in the hospital for 3 nights. 

Before the surgery everybody kept on saying how brave I am. I didn’t understand why until after the surgery

For the first two weeks after surgery I was on a liquid diet, clear soups, sugar free jelly and water. 
The first week was okay as I didn’t really feel like eating anything anyway, but by the second week it was getting quite difficult. 
From the third week I started taking nutritional supplements; B12, iron, calcium, vitamin D and a general multivitamin. I also started with liquidised foods consisting of chicken, peeled vegetables and fruits basically eating baby food. This continued for about six weeks. After the first few weeks it became unbearable and at times I had to force myself to eat but I got through it.
From then on I started slowly with soft solid foods, trying each food type separately and in small amounts to make sure I could tolerate them. As the weeks went by more food types were introduced into my diet.

I learned I have to eat slowly and chew EXTREMELY well.  If not food will get caught going through to the new food pouch and cause vomiting.
I learned to avoid Sugar and fatty foods as they cause nausea and "dumping" syndrome. 
I learned that drinking while eating is not good as it makes you feel really bad and can be very painful.
I learned to listen to my body as to what I can or cannot eat or tolerate.
I learned that it is not just what you eat that is important it is also how much you eat and how you eat it.

It is just over a year since my surgery and I have lost 50 kg.

This last year has been an amazing journey, an amazing life changing event, although very difficult at times and with many ups and downs BUT it has definitely been worth it.
I feel great physically and mentally and am enjoying my life changing journey. 
I still have a way to go but I am doing it happily.

My support team, Anton, Nicky and Justine, has played a huge roll in my success. 

Anton, my surgeon, was always available, encouraging, sympathetic, supportive and understanding.
This made a huge difference at times of difficulties. 
Even today, a year after my surgery I feel I can approach him if needed.

Nicky, my psychologist has been absolutely amazing. I still go for weekly sessions as I feel it is the most important contribution to being successful. 
She has helped me change bad habits to good habits, helped “rewarding” myself with many enjoyable things other than food, helped me feel better about myself and helped me enjoy life.

Justine, my dietician, has been supportive throughout, sensitive to my likes and dislikes of foods and always encouraging even at times when I haven’t lost weight between sessions. I see Justine every two weeks as I know that even though I can’t eat normal portion sizes I know that forever I will have to watch what I eat because I can still gain weight. . 

I remember the first time I met Anton he said that I would get to the stage where food will become fuel for my body and not for pleasure. 
I remember thinking “I doubt it would happen to me”, but it did. 
Today I eat when I am hungry and not just to fill a void. 
My portion size has changed. I don’t have the need to fill up the plate with food, in fact most of the time I serve myself on a side plate which is more than adequate.
My taste buds have changed but on the odd occasion I do have cravings for foods I used to enjoy so I try it or have a small bit which satisfies the craving and gets it out of my system. This helps me not feeling deprived.
I do NOT feel I am on diet all the time. I just try to eat healthy things and stick as much as possible to what I learned from my support team. 

The positives of the weight loss are many.

I am a much happier person today and enjoy life.
My health has improved, my thyroid is now balanced, my blood pressure has stabilized and my sugar levels are good. All the aches and pains have also gone.
I flew recently and did not have to ask for an extension belt.
I can go to restaurants and not worry about fitting into the chair.
I can walk into regular stores and buy the clothes I like.
I can move around easily and can sit on the floor and get up again easily.

I was never an exercise person.
Today I walk 2 – 3 times a week for an hour a time and go to gym twice a week with a personal trainer. 
A year ago I didn’t believe I could or would. 
I enjoy walking which I use as “my” time. 
I cannot say I enjoy the gym but I persist because it is important for toning my muscles.
I often find myself taking the stairs instead of the elevator, I don’t look for the closest parking bay to where I need to go, and the next step is starting to swim.
All because I am in better shape to do it.

Gastric Bypass Surgery, yes or no? - A definite yes.

This is the best thing I have ever done for myself. 
It definitely hasn’t been easy but worth every difficulty along the way. 

I still have a way to go and will continue happily on this amazing journey.