A Milestone on a Lifelong Journey
It's no secret that I am a big guy.
There are many words often used to describe folks like me, from the innocuous "big" to the more scary-sounding medical term of "obese." There's always the word "fat" - a three-letter word that bothers some more than it does others. I've never liked it. For whatever reason, that one always used to make me feel the worst.
I've had to battle my weight all my life, but rather than calling it a battle, I'm going to call it a war, because it's not been just one battle. It's been a series of battles, a series of ups-and-downs. Some battles I've won, some I've lost, but today I'm celebrating a victory.
I started this war back in 2007, when I was at my highest weight of 392 lbs. I tried all kinds of diets and exercise to no avail, so I went in for the lap band weight loss surgery. Over the next few years I'd lost 110 lbs and was down to 280 lbs. I felt great, but as they say, "life happened" and I hit a plateau. I couldn't lose any more weight, so my body decided to "find it again."
Fast forward to 2016, and I had gotten back up to 348 lbs. I was grateful to not be back where I started, but I wasn't happy with where I was.
In the above picture, taken June 3 2016, I was wearing size 50 x 28 jeans and a 3X shirt. Previously I had been down to a 46 waist and 2 X shirts at my lowest some years back. I'd grown out of having to shop at the Big & Tall stores, only to be back there again shopping for clothes. I'd go shopping with friends to various clothing stores only to be waiting outside or at the front while they shopped, because I knew nothing in there would fit me. I was bummed, and knew I wasn't going in the right direction.
It was earlier in 2016 when, I think, my body started giving me signals that something was actually wrong. I started having trouble staying asleep; I'd be woken up in the middle of the night having intense coughing fits. I'd never coughed up blood, thankfully, but I'm sure the blood wasn't far off. I'd have to pop a few Tums, which would buy me a few hours of sleep, only to be woken up again with coughs a few hours later.
I'd sleep for 2 hours at a time. Tums, sleep, cough...Tums, sleep cough... That went on for a few months, until I'd had enough. I was miserable, I wasn't sleeping enough, and I knew it was time to get this looked at. Who loves going to the doctor? I sure don't, unless the doctor can help fix something that's just not right.
I'd heard that other folks with the lap band were experiencing similar coughing fits to what I was going through, so I consulted with a bariatric surgeon down here and told him about my experiences. Thus, the next battle in the war was about to begin. I told him about the lap band, and how despite my previous efforts I'm still at war with my weight. I swore to do whatever I had to, in order to ensure victory. This was the, no pun intended, "wake up call" that I needed. (I had to go for the pun since it was waking me up at night..)
The doctor ordered some tests, one of which was an upper Endoscopy. I made a video about it which you can view by clicking here. After getting those results back, it seemed something had happened to my Lap Band and it had to be removed. The doctor used the word "unsalvageable." When a doctor uses a word like that, it's code for "Bro, you've got a serious problem we need to fix."
He was right.
My lap band had slipped, and given me something called a hiatal hernia. Part of my stomach had slipped out of my chest cavity, which was one of the main causes for the bad acid reflux keeping me up at night. The solution: Take the band out. While removing the band would be a solution, it would potentially leave me with a new problem.
I didn't want to be stuck without something to help me control my weight, because of where I was I didn't want to get back up to 392 or worse; higher. I didn't want to crest 400 lbs, or wind up on an episode of "My 600-lb. Life." For those unaware, that show follows a morbidly-obese individual over a year of their life while they take control over their weight and start down the path to a better life. It was this show that gave me the motivation and confidence to push through with the surgery to fix my unsalvageable band, and proceed with a different option for weight loss: The Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG), aka "The Sleeve."
On June 27th, 2016 I went in for the surgery and started the process. The weight came off quickly at first, but as I'm writing this I've officially lost 100 lbs since the surgery in June, and am at my lowest weight I've been in many years - I'm 248 lbs today, January 16th 2017. (If we start from the original start weight of 392 in 2007, I've lost a total of 144 lbs) I'm wearing jeans I purchased from Eddie Bauer; I've been only wearing jeans from the Big & Tall shop, so needless to say when these jeans fit me I was overjoyed. I'm just at the cusp of being able to shop at normal clothing stores. This is a moment I've been waiting for, and it's finally here.
I don't plan on stopping here, I've still got a ways to go. After my most recent trip to my doctor for my every-6-week checkups, he said I've got about 30-40 lbs left to lose. I have a feeling I'll be sitting at about 220 lbs or so, and wearing a pair of jeans with a 36-inch waist. When I get to that point, it'll be time for a new journey, because I'll need some additional surgeries to complete my transformation.
I'm feeling great; I have energy, and more confidence in my appearance than I can ever remember having. I'm still overweight, but I am far more healthy and in a much better state than I've ever been. I am looking forward to the road ahead. I'm sure there will be more battles to fight, but right now I'm winning the war.