Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bariatric Surgery Support Group

I went to my second support group meeting today. I'm so glad I went! A couple observations on the makeup of the group:

- most of the people there are significantly older than me (55+, I'd say). There was one girl there who is 20 - she had lap-band surgery two years ago.

- most of the people there had gastric bypass, roux-en-y surgery. Two had lap band, two or three had gastric sleeve, as I plan to have.

- more women than men.

All are so nice. Two of the women strike me as a little kooky. Interestingly, both of them were also the ones who seemed overly stressed about the amount of food they are only able to eat. One spoke of being molested frequently in the past, of not trusting men, etc. These topics were not par for the course for the meeting.

Lap band surgery is not nearly as effective as gastric bypass or gastric sleeve. The two people there: the 20-year-old girl and the 50-something man, have not lost very much weight. She has lost 37 pounds in two years, he has lost about that in the 10 months since his surgery. They both have quite a bit more weight to lose, but not so much that you would think they need gastric bypass surgery. She expressed some disappointment in her weight loss, but acknowledged it has not been a priority for her. I pointed out that at least she wasn't gaining weight. I was about as overweight as she is at her age, and if I had been able to curb the weight gain, life would be very different for me now, perhaps.

There were three people there, two women and a man, who were eleven days post-op for gastric bypass surgery. That was primarily why I was so glad I went! They all looked wonderful. Good color, healthy, happy. All said they experienced no pain from the surgery, only discomfort. All said they stopped using pain meds in the hospital. I was very pleased to see how well they looked so soon after the operation. It has been one of my biggest concerns with the operation. Post-surgery, my life will continue at its normal fast pace. My kids' dad will take them for a couple weeks following surgery, and I will take a couple weeks off work. But I want, and need, to be back on my game as soon as possible. Seeing these three made me feel good.

One of the recent surgery patients was one of the women who was stressed about how much she could only eat. She is eleven days post-op and she wanted to be eating more variety, eating regular foods. She said that she did eat a small portion of regular Thanksgiving dinner. It was a little disconcerting: it illustrated how the food addiction does not disappear with surgery. However, most people report that immediately after surgery, the hunger disappears, for the most part. I am wondering if the two women who seemed a little more...hmm...what is the word I'm looking for? A little less mentally stable (although they weren't *unstable* by any means) were also the ones who seemed to struggle with the loss of food more.

One man has lost 132 pounds since his bypass surgery in February. He was really quite inspirational. He talked about the emotional difficulties following surgery. He said for the first couple months after surgery, he was pleased with his weight loss but could only described his emotional state as feeling deprived. He said it was hard, but he focused his energy on all the many benefits of the surgery and weight loss. He said, again, at Thanksgiving - such a food-based holiday, it was a little hard. But he has so much more going on for himself than a year ago, it was only a feeling of minor loss. He is really cool. His wife was there (not obese) and they talked about changing priorities: he used as an example milestones he set for himself post-op. He said it was very hard at first to think of non-food celebrations to look forward to when he met his milestones. :) I liked them both immensely. He works out regularly now: twice a week with the physical therapist, more at home.

For my part, I shared that I am planning the gastric sleeve operation in January. I quit smoking about a month and a half ago, and have struggled with weight gain since. I am nervous, but excited about the surgery. I loved seeing people look so healthy immediately after the surgery, and I loved hearing their success stories. I am stressed about missing time from work, since I have exhausted all my paid leave. They are such a nice, supportive group, it really boosted my spirits.

I've got another post or two in mind, I've got some errands to run but will be back later!

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