Monday, February 7, 2011

When things go wrong

I undertook my adjustable gastric band journey with a great deal of hope and commitment. For a while there, I was a perfect bandster. I did everything right and got to my goal weight in one year. But while I was strutting along with that big, shiny halo on my head, I tripped and fell, and things started to go wrong.

In June 2009, when I was 21 months post-op, my band slipped, probably because of my untreated hiatal hernia. My original surgeon had lost his medical license and no local doctors would touch me. I found a new surgeon 150 miles away and had all the fill taken out of my band. All my symptoms disappeared, but I had to wait 6 weeks to start fills again, and shed many tears. When I started getting fills, they were increasingly difficult and finally impossible without the help of my surgeon, the hospital radiology department, and $3000 of my insurance company's money.

At the start of the holiday shopping season in 2009, I learned that I would need surgery to fix my flipped port. I couldn't take time off for surgery until January. The day after Thanksgiving, my mother died. I shed more tears, and more tears. In January 2010, my mother-in-law began losing her battle with cancer and I had to postpone my port surgery. Then my surgeon postponed it. Then my mother-in-law died. Finally I had the repair surgery in April 2009. It was much harder and more painful than my original band surgery, probably because of all the scar tissue in there. In May I began getting fills again. In July I started feeling restriction again. Although I had regained almost 25 pounds, once my band started working again, I started losing weight again. Now I'm 2 pounds away from my lowest weight, and my story has a happy ending. For now.

And what did I learn from my experience? I learned (again) that I'm not perfect, my band's not perfect, and that I have to set aside fear and panic in order to concentrate on solving a big problem or a series of small ones. I learned that I must pay attention to and honor my body every day. I learned that exercising every day will keep me sane if not perfectly thin. I learned that I truly am in this for the long haul, that the Magic Kingdom was just one stop along the way to my story's end. And the absolutely most important, most crucial lesson I learned was to ask others for help. Not just doctors but friends, family, fellow churchgoers, coworkers, and acquaintances (not necessarily all at once, though).

At work the other day, I had an encounter with one of my favorite elderly customers, a 92-yr-old woman with limited communication skills (I think because of a stroke). She is beautiful to me, with an angelic smile, and I want to just scoop her up and put her in my pocket (I have two big pockets in my bra fitter apron, and she might just fit). After we talked (with her daughter's translation assistance) and my customer walked away, I turned to my coworker and friend, Alicia. I was so overcome with grief at losing my own mother that I burst into tears. Alicia gave me a hug and comforted me, and I survived that bout of sadness and loss. There was a time in my life when I would have just dashed into the ladies' room to suffer alone. Now I have lost my mother but I have gained a friend, Alicia, who understands how hurt and lost I feel and wants me to feel better.

Similarly, I have lost a lot of other things since I was banded. I lost weight and inches, and some really dumb ideas about myself, and a closet full of jumbo sized clothes. I lost a job (that's another story) and I lost my mother. When my band slipped, I lost some of my enthusiasm and confidence in myself as a bandster. I lost my conviction that I already know everything I need to know (really,I should have given that idea up the first time it came to me, when I was 13 years old). But at the same time I have gained some knowledge, some wisdom, and some wonderful friends. Close by, I have Alicia. Far away, I have Lisa, and Nina, and Willa, and Christina. I still have my husband and far too many pets. I'm still alive. And I'm still on the bandwagon. Sometimes I have to get off and push the dang thing for a while, and sometimes I can just relax and watch the scenery go by.


Melissa said...

jean I am at the doctors office now due to a flipped port. Would like to know more about your surgery to have this fixed. My email address is
Thanks Melissa Agee

b2gadmin said...

Hi, Jean. My name is Susan, I own a lap band support site called Band2gether. I am 54 and was banded 5 years ago. I've lost 140 pounds.

While I'm always busy helping other bandsters, I find it a great comfort to go out "by myself" and seek quiet support by reading and learning more about health and of course the band. I stumbled upon your blog tonight and really enjoyed the read. Thank you for giving us such an intimate look at your life as a woman and a bandster. All the best, Susan