Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two Years Later...

In June of 2007, I met a woman who changed my life.

This is not a coming out story. I'm saving that one for October 11th. This is a story about my lifelong struggle with weight. Chubby kid, chubby young adult, and severely obese after I turned 35. This is not a story about failure, or lack of willpower, or laziness.

Lazy people don't get college diplomas while raising strong-willed toddlers on their own. Lazy people don't work full time. Lazy people don't go back to university at the age of 35 to get a degree because they never had the chance when they were younger.

So many equate weight with laziness, failure, lack. And for many it's metabolism, genetics, and emotional dependence. People that are more than 100 pounds overweight have a lot of difficulty losing the weight, for a number of reasons. Metabolism works against them. Excercise is sweaty and uncomfortable, and you can't do enough to make a difference. Some people are able to overcome the odds and lose the weight through diet and exercise alone.

This is what I looked like when I was 40.

I am not one of those people. Diets didn't work, even if I adhered to them faithfully. Going to the gym turned me into a sweaty, breathless mess after 10 minutes. I felt horrible about myself, and I was slowly losing control of my June of 2007 it was just a few little warning signs. Slightly elevated cholesterol. High blood pressure. Knees that ached when I climbed the stairs...depression and unhappiness.
Every year I go to witch camp, and in 2007, I roomed with a wonderful woman. Actually, I've been cabin mates with her ever since. She was very open about the surgery she had, and how it changed her life.

I was skeptical. Was I going to be able to eat normal foods again? Would I regain the weight? Wasn't it dangerous? Didn't it cost a lot of money?

The answers: Yes, there are things you might not be able to tolerate after the surgery, but everyone is different. And there are things that I am supposed to stay away from....although I am not altogether faithful in that regard. Severely limited alcohol intake (supposed to be none, but sometimes I have one, and one only). No advil, tylenol or ASA. Multivitamins for life. While some people regain some weight, the procedure I had was designed to keep the weight off, as long as I maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. No, it wasn't dangerous, in so far as any surgery is a risk. And my Ontario health insurance covered the cost.

I made the decision, and not a moment too soon. I needed to get my doctor on board, and I needed proof, for OHIP, that delaying treatment would cost me my life, or permanent tissue damage. Easy, right? After all, I have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But my numbers were too low - borderline, and so she sent me for x-rays of my knees and hips.

When I was thirteen I did a handstand and ended up with a bone chip in my right knee, which at 42 was still there and causing enough problems that I was approved surgery. See, things do happen for a reason! I applied in late June, and found out in the second week of August that the cost of the procedure would be covered. I scheduled my surgery in Michigan for late September (only three doctors performed the surgery in the US at that point, and none in Canada - and in Ontario there is a minimum five-year wait to have any kind of weight loss surgery outside of the lap band)...

And then my back started to hurt. My doctor suspected a herniated disc. I worked in an ESL preschool at the time, and we always had the month of August off. I returned to work for one day at the end of August, but I was in such incredible pain that I had to take sick leave until after the surgery. It was the worst pain of my life, and it was with me constantly from August until October, when I left for Vegas.

Yes, Vegas. The doctor who was to perform my surgery in Michigan decided not to continue with the surgeries, so I flew to Vegas with the whole family for my surgery. My ex, my then 4 year old, my 18 year old and her boyfriend.

The plane trip was excruciating. I couldn't take any pain meds for two weeks prior to surgery. But I made it, and had my surgery two days after I arrived in Las Vegas.

                                                      This was taken on surgery day.

I really didn't like Vegas. But I can't say enough about the CLOS clinc, Dr Rutledge and his staff. They were all amazing and very supportive. I went into surgery fully informed about my decision, the possible side effects and complications, and I fully expected to lose a little weight the first week...mostly water. The surgery was laproscopic, and I was in hospital for 24 hours, but I was required to stay in Las Vegas for a week following the procedure. The kids had fun. I was in pain - not from the surgery, but because of my stupid back. So I didn't do much.

The first two weeks, I ate crackers, watermelon, yogurt, V-8, and chicken broth. Before I left Vegas I'd lost ten pounds.

The third and forth week I could eat soft foods. Tuna, cottage cheese, cream cheese on my crackers, more broth and V-8 (I was supposed to drink Gatorade but I hate the stuff). Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, applesauce.

After week 4, I could start to reintroduce regular foods into my diet. But there are things I couldn't eat, and will never eat in large quantities again. Pasta, pizza, any kind of breaded chicken, things made with white flour are not a part of my diet. I can eat about two tablespoons of rice. I can eat a slice of whole wheat bread. I can't tolerate much meat, or anything that's excessively dry. I eat about half the food that I used to. Or less. I'm never hungry. And I feel full - I have to stop eating now - before the surgery, I was never full.

Here's a photo chronology:

                                    Christmas 2007. Two and a half months. 30 pounds lost.

June 2008. 95 pounds lost.

                                                    Christmas 2008. 110 pounds lost.

October 4, 2009. 130 pounds lost.

I feel completely different than I did two years ago. I walk, exercise and work with weights, and I love it. My chronic pain is gone. I've gone from a size 26-26 to a size 12-13. And I look good - I didn't do it to look better, but it's a nice side effect :)

The not-so-nice side effect that I've developed is iron-deficiency anemia. Those of you who have been following for a while know that I was diagnosed last March and needed a blood tranfusion. I've kept it under better control since, but until I get my periods under control, it will always be an issue... I'm working on that.

It's not a choice everyone would or should make. But it took weight loss, the increase in confidence and a need to confront the reasons why I was eating in the first place to get me where I am today. Out, confident, proud, happy, active.

Thank you Wilma.

Thank you Dr. Rutledge.

You both saved my life. Literally.

For more info about the type of surgery I had, go here.


Laura Lee said...

This is amazing. You are amazing.

Anonymous said...

My cousin had that same surgery and she couldn't be happier with the results. She's had 2 kids since then but still maintains her weight.

Good for you! Work it girl!

Anonymous said...

that is awesome!! Good for you!!

CJ said...

If you could see me, you would see my standing ovation! Congrats to you!!!

FemmeFairyGodmother said...

Congratulations, Camlin. I admire such hard work and dedication. ;)

Margo said...

Amazing. Just simply amazing.

And I find myself waiting for Oct. 11th.

shane rocket said...


Camlin said...

Thanks everyone.

It really is amazing. It's only been that last few months that I've "grown" into my new body - when I look in the mirror, I recognize who I am and I like what I see.

It bears repeating - I like what I see. For the first time in my life.

Stace said...

Congratulations! Pain free and looking good. Way to go! I hope, someday, to be where you are. Thanks for the inspiration.

Earth Muffin said...

What a great story! You do look fantastic and it's wonderful how the surgery has improved the quality of your life. Congratulations!

small town dyke said...

Repleva is the best iron pill in the world and not at all hard on the tummy!

kimber p said...

You look amazing :) very, very impressed with your story...

jilliebean said...

My Toni had weight loss surgery 15 months ago and has lost 80 pounds. I know that it's not always easy, but I'm proud of you for doing it!

Toni's now wanting to do skin removal! She's braver than me!

Camlin said...

Nope. No skin removal for me. I can live with the wrinkly stuff - because it's not visible. My arms are very well toned, so they're not an issue. I have a really low tolerance for pain, and I've heard that it's a very painful procedure.

~Just me again~ said...

Wow, look at you! It definately pays off(((BIG HUGSS)))