Journey to a Healthier Me
By Pam Tremble
On November 13, 2007 I had Rouex-n-Y gastric bypass surgery. This is the story of my journey to health.
With a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which created insulin resistance and a hormonal imbalance, my body simply would not allow me to lose the weight I tried so hard to lose. After years of failed dieting, exercise that made little difference and the advice of my ill-informed doctor to “just try harder,” I was at the end of my rope.
I consulted with a bariatric surgeon and realized I needed medical intervention and that there was a real option for me to get healthy. I made the agonizing decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery. The approval process took about 15 months which gave me plenty of time to be 110% sure it was the right option for me.
After a quick recovery from surgery the real work began. Imagine suddenly having the stomach of a newborn infant and needing to learn how to drink, chew and swallow food as if you were a baby. Calling it a lesson in humility and experimentation is an understatement. The Rouex-n-Y (RNY) Gastric Bypass Surgery is a complex rearrangement of my digestive system. My stomach was remade into a pouch that can hold about 6-8 ounces of food – compared to a normal stomach that can hold up to 16 cups of food. A portion of my small intestine was bypassed so I no longer absorb all the calories I eat. Of course, this also means that I no longer absorb all the vitamins and minerals contained in food, so I am on a strict regimen of vitamins and supplements. The restriction of a smaller stomach and the malabsorption of a bypassed intestine along with following a strict diet and exercise program is what cause the weight loss after RNY.
Within 6 weeks after surgery I was off all medications for high blood pressure, asthma and allergies. I was finally able to sleep through the night, my chronic back pain vanished and the symptoms of my PCOS were slowing going away too.
Three months after my surgery I hesitantly signed up for the 20-week Crim Fitness Foundation Training Program which included completing the 10-mile Crim race in Flint and the 13.1 mile Brooksie Way Half-Marathon race held in October. I signed up with a huge doubt hanging over my head. “How can a morbidly obese person ever hope to finish a half marathon?” But even with the doubts, I just put one foot in front of the other and transformed myself into Walker Girl. I was walking an average of 40 miles every month and slowly the hesitation about my ability to walk a half marathon grew into a confidence that the finish line was squarely within my realm of reality. And yes, I crossed the finish line at Meadow Brook Hall along with members of my training group. We celebrated after the race with steaks at Applebee’s in Rochester.
I’ve recently joined the Powerhouse Gym in Waterford and am starting a new phase of my workouts with weight training and yoga. Walker Girl will be back again in the spring when the snow melts.
To me this journey has always been about more than just losing weight. Being skinny was never the goal. Being healthy and having the opportunity to live a longer, happier life has been my main focus.
I have set many other “life goals” that have nothing to do with the number on a scale or how many miles I can walk or what size jeans I can fit into. Shortly after my surgery I attended a 10-week class for weight loss surgery patients where we each developed a Comprehensive Holistic Wellness Plan. I set goals that focused not only on my physical health, but also my emotional, spiritual, financial, intellectual and vocational health and the health of my relationships and overall character. Having a written plan for all areas of my life has helped me stay focused on what is really important to me and what I want to achieve.
A great benefit of having weight loss surgery that I didn’t anticipate is the friendships I have developed along the way. I attend three different support group meetings each month where members of the weight loss surgery community gather to help each other through the struggles and celebrate the triumphs of the journey. In one of the groups the members asked me to be their new leader, so now I’m able to help new surgery patients find their way and encourage the old timers to stay on track. The bonds of friendship are strong in the community and I’m a better person for having these people in my life.
One of the tools that has helped me stay on track and remain accountable is writing. I started this online blog about my weight loss journey on the day I decided to have surgery. Over the last 4.5 years I’ve written about the good days and the bad days, the struggles and the victories, the detailed nutritional research I dig up, advice and guidance for those coming behind me, healthy recipes, my exercise challenges, my life goals and the triumphs I’ve experienced along the way.
So here I am a year after my surgery, and I’ve lost 110 pounds so far. I still have a little ways to go before I hit my goal weight, but when I look at all the other goals I have achieved I know that I am already a success. If you are interested in learning about weight loss surgery, I would be happy to answer any questions or help in any way I can. If you have had surgery and would like to drop me a note, I’d love to hear your story too.