Last Friday I graduated from the St. Vincent Sisters of Charity Bariatric Center. It is a ceremony they hold once a year (although they skipped last year) for people who have reached their goal and are more than a year post-op. It was a great excuse to get dressed up and have a night out with my husband - and it was AMAZING to be with all of these other successful people who have so much in common with me. Walking across the stage, with my before/ after pictures and successes being shown on power point, my hand being shook and handed a rose and certificate. It was a wonderful recognition from people who help the obese become healthy, and from my fellow patients. Speaking of fellow graduates...
The 62 of us who graduated lost over 7,200 pounds combined, which equals over 25,000,000 (yup, that's MILLION) calories burnt and not consumed.
22 of us used to be diabetic, and only 4 still are.
We used to take a combined 374 pills daily. We now take 170.
One woman at my table has lost 240 pounds in the past 16 months! Holey cow. She was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and has just finished radiation after her radical hysterectomy. She is very hopeful that the chemo will put her into remission, and shared that the oncologists said they wouldn't have been as hopeful if she hadn't lost the weight - because she wouldn't have been able to tolerate the treatments. I know that the surgery has extended my life and quality of life by getting rid of my diabetes and other risk factors. But in her case, literally months after her loss, she found that she could get lifesaving treatment that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Seeing my Personal Care Coordinator, Diane Harris, was wonderful as always. My surgeon has left the practice, and I have struggled with whether to follow him. Seeing Diane reminded me that she and the other support staff are a large part of the team effort that have helped me this far, and I will likely stay at St. Vincent. Here's me hugging her to death!
My husband was there to support me, as he has been through the whole thing. We even got a chance to dance a bit. One of the physician assistant's stiletto heels took the skin off one of my toes, but I didn't let it stop me from enjoying the evening. Here's me and my rock.
and for a reality check, here's me with my family before surgery, 103 pounds heavier
So, parts of the graduation were frustrating and puzzling for me. First - it was a dinner. A dinner, for bariatric patients who try to avoid food-based social gatherings. Well, at least the food would be bariatric friendly, right? Sort of. The first things we were served were typical catering fare - a salad and a bread basket (although the bread was flat and crisp bread, which some bariatric patients can eat a little of - not many, but some). Salad tends to be tricky for WLS patients - lettuce is notorious for getting caught in our stomas, because it's difficult to chew it into small enough pieces. We also are told rule #1 is Always eat your protein first - so being given bread and vegetables before our entrée was against THE RULES. OK, well, there were probably another 75 people there who weren't patients, so they could enjoy it. Would it have killed them to put some cheese on the salad, though? The entrees were were either salmon with squash or for vegetarians like us (many WLS become vegetarian post-op because meat and fish prove too hard to digest) we had a portabello mushroom with melted cheese, roasted tomato, and beans. That was pretty yummy, although it was still lower in protein than I would normally eat for a meal.
I made it through the dinner without anything getting stuck, which is always an anxious concern of mine. Although, being in a room of fellow patients, I knew if it happened nobody would look at me funny if I had to make a hasty exit to the restroom. Then they came around with coffee and tea - another no-no for WLS patients, we can't drink with our food, or for an hour after we eat. But, again, there were non-WLS people there, and they haven't trained themselves to not drink, so that was understandable. Here's the thing though - I saw several patients at my table drinking tea and coffee! What? You're here for following the rules and being successful so you break the rules??? But then they brought out dessert! Dessert. Really? And not some bariatric friendly ricotta-stuffed strawberries - oh, no. Cheesecake. OK, that was just cruel. In a funny twist, they place one in front of me, but not my husband. The ovarian cancer survivor and I both gave him our pieces, and frankly I avoided looking to see if any of the other patients were indulging. I didn't want it to seem like I was going to judge others for their decision, so I just talked to my hubby while he enjoyed it and ignored the rest. The fact is we are all tempted to take a taste of something now and then - even if we might dump. I try to be strong not only because of dumping, but because if I have some grain or sugar I'm likely to crave it for days. Honestly, it would have bothered me less to see WLS patients tasting the cheesecake than drinking after eating - that washes the whole meal out of our pouches and then it isn't digested well and makes us hungry again. Still can't believe some of them did that.
We danced, talked, had our pictures taken and waited for the raffle drawing of an Ipad Mini and Fitbit Flex (ooooh, I wanted the flex!). What a night!
I also got great news earlier that day. My mammogram came back clear. I had gotten scanned two weeks prior and been told to expect a call - between my breasts having changed so drastically since my only other scan (8 years ago) and the fact that the new digital scans pick up things that weren't visible on the old films... I've been spending the last two weeks worrying. I was greatly reassured by other WLS patients that they often get calls to come back because of the way their breast tissue has atrophied looks strange on the scans, which helped keep me from panicking. Part of the reason it took so long was because my previous films were taken out of town. At least now they will have them locally for the future. WLS people - be prepared for mammogram scares! That was something I never read about in all of my pre-op prep.
RANT WARNING..... (this is nothing new info wise, just me venting)
I am still working hard to make good food choices, and staying active. Maintaining my weight loss is VERY important to me. I continue to dislike eating out/ away from home, and have started to get more push-back from my mom on that. When I told her I was surprised the graduation was a dinner she said "Well, maybe it will help you get over eating out..." Uh, right. Part of the reason I don't like to eat out is that eating out vegetarian can be a little bit of a challenge, but eating out bariatric-friendly vegetarian can be VERY HARD. And even when appropriate food is available, the way it is prepared greatly varies how it will be tolerated. Even in the best of circumstances, there are times when eating (even at home, my regular diet) results in severe GI distress. My mom, who originally said that she wouldn't mind if we wanted to stop having traditional Thanksgiving meals together and just get together afterwards, now lays guilt trips on me for not eating at her place. Sigh. No Mom, it's not that I don't want to be with you. It's that I would rather eat at home. I don't go eat at my friend's homes either. And the rare times I eat out - it's usually with you. When I'm at home I have the most control not only over the food, but the fact that I can run to my OWN bathroom if I need to, and lay down on my OWN bed if my stomach hurts later. This doesn't happen very often anymore, but about once a week I have at least some indigestion. That's often enough. It happened Saturday night even though I ate at home, and I had to miss 1/3 of a play while I was in the bathroom. It's worth it everyday when I am healthy and happy, but eating is NOT a fun social activity for me any more, it is a deliberate, planned, and strategized necessity. No, I don't mind you eating in front of me. What I mind is you continuing to invited me to eat out/ over at your place and then not understanding when I decline and say we will meet you after the meal.
Did I mention I get frustrated? :) This journey has been and continues to be a rewarding challenge, some days it's easier to focus on the rewards, so days it's hard to see past the challenges. Seeing all my fellow WLS patients and their successes was very inspiring and made me think about how far I've come. It's not easy, but it's worth it. I have a free album credit on Snapfish - I think I'm going to use it to make an album of my journey from pre-surgery to graduation!