Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The decision...

I didn’t think it would happen this way.

In fact I never make huge, life-changing decisions like this. It honestly takes me a solid 6 weeks to pick out a new cell phone. I sit, I think, I research, I compare, and I think some more. For hours at a time. But this day, the decision was over in a moment…like someone just flicked a switch in my head and BAM...it was done.

I had just started working at a new job. It was my dream job. What I wanted to do as long as I can remember. I was stumbling my way into becoming a labor and delivery nurse. And I was so scared that I almost threw up every day on my way into work for a solid 6 months. No exaggeration.

Most of it was my fear of harming someone’s newborn. (A feeling that never goes away, but that’s good I think, because the fear keeps you sharp) But as a fat girl starting a new job, you also fear fitting in with your new co-workers. My new ones were fantastic. But by this time in my life, I had perfected my smokescreen for being the fat girl.

I was funny.

“YES! Pay no attention to the fat ass behind the curtain. Look at how fantastically funny and helpful I am.” My display was so flawless it was like watching Martha Stewart fold a bed sheet.

I was at work. The day was extremely ordinary. So ordinary, in fact most of the conversation leading up to one of the most important decisions of my life is kind of a blur. I remember I was sitting with one of my new friends at work. We were all chatting…and she mentioned a surgery she had in the past. I looked at my other work friend sitting at the nurse’s station. It was one of those moments when you look at someone; curious…hoping they’ll fill you in and they look back and realize “oh right, you’re new. You don’t know the back story.” She leaned into me and whispered, “Yeah, she had a gastric bypass awhile ago”

My jaw dropped. I wanted to say in a loud shocked voice, “NO WAY!” but instead, I just whispered back a hushed “wow…”

I remember thinking to myself, “but she’s so…normal.”

Working as a medical nurse for 5 years, my only real knowledge about weight loss surgery came from the patients I cared for that came in with some really horrible complications. The one I will never forget was the woman who was one-year post op and was only ever able to eat eggs and cheese. Anything else made her vomit. Literally, just plain eggs…and cheese. (This is my personal version of hell on earth) She made me swear to never ever get this surgery and told me she regretted it everyday. I was mortified.

Then I meet this woman, who is my age. Beautiful. Married. Two gorgeous kids. I had been hanging, working, and eating with her for 6 months and I had NO IDEA she had ever had a gastric bypass. She was normal. She lived a normal life. She didn’t eat mush…or just eggs and cheese.

It was at that moment I knew. At that moment, I saw the potential for my life to change. And I got really, really excited.

I realized my experience with weight loss surgery was grossly one sided. I had honestly never heard about or seen a successful story before. So I secretly researched weight loss surgery on the Internet for months. I learned about the lap band, the gastric bypass, surgeons, complications, before and after pictures, insurance coverage, and how it changed people’s lives…for the better.

I wanted to know it all and see it all. Inside and out. And by the end, I realized I wasn’t crazy for wanting to do it.

By the fall I started the whole process. I made an appt with a new PCP. Had him refer me to the weight loss surgery service at BIDMC. I then proceeded to go through their grueling application process. It was an 8-page application INCLUDING an essay at the end. Honestly, I think it was easier to get into college than into this program.

Once I was accepted, I immediately started a whirlwind of appointments. I met with a medical doctor, a nurse specialist, a dietitian, and a social worker. They determined I was “a good candidate for surgery” and was allowed to meet the surgeon. That day, I finally set a date for surgery…about 4 months from when I started. The process made me feel like I was on a really weird reality show and I was always waiting to be voted off “the weight loss island.” But…VOILA! Today, I am 3 weeks post op, 30 lbs lighter, and ahead of the curve in the whole recovery process.

My life has “gastrically changed” and here I am, no map, no GPS…just an utterly fantastic fat girl trying to figure out her way down “the road to skinny”...with only friends, family, and humor as her guide.

Come along for the ride. It’s going to be fun.


  1. This is terrific. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. This is a great blog. I can tell you really enjoy writing and so your style will make people want to read your blog -- you'll help a lot of people. Monique

  3. Thank you for posting your story.

    This surgery is extremely important therapy for those who have the medical problem of morbid obesity. There are many physicians out there who don't understand this. I have had several patients who have had the procedure and have had wonderfully succesful results, although in one the surgery was not effective. In each case convincing them to proceed took a very long time, in part because there other doctors were discouraging or dismissive of the procedure. In one case, my patient worked in a research lab, and after making the decision to have the surgery had to deal with his MD colleagues trying to convince him not to have the surgery.

    As a specialist in endocrinology with a focus on obesity and type II diabetes, I am surprised that many of my colleagues think that individuals with 100 pounds or more of extra weight are obese voluntarilty and that a little will power is all they need to achieve major weight loss. I think bariatric surgery needs to be a more common recommendation as it is the one effective treatment in morbid obesity.

  4. I'm your newest biggest fan. Thanks for sharing. This is just awesome. I'd say more, but I'm still taking it all in. Just amazing. (I blog at www.aspiringmama.com. the google ID takes you to an old account.)

  5. I am one test away (Sleep Apnea) and then I can set the date with my doctors. Glad you had the courage to move on. I know that I have waited 4 years now to feel comfortable with the gastric bypass operation. I'm going to hotlink your blog so I can follow your progress.


  6. I have forgotten how amazing of a friend you are! Go Kristen!♠

  7. Good for you, Kristen!

    I've gone up and down the weight rollercoaster for several years. Right now I'm working with a dietitcian who comes to our company for consultations; so far I've lost 12-17 pounds.

    Dr. Maratos-Flier: you should hear the very "descriptive" stories my PCP gives me about the procedure. My history is that I was once 171 pounds as a senior in high school and over the years I've ranged from about 275 to 375. My thyroid and blood tests come back fine; my blood pressure is a little on the high side but I want to see what I can do first without the GBP before beginning that journey. If your results save one are any indication of success, I would certainly investigate it. It would likely result in changing my PCP and facility, but if it results in getting a better life, why not?

  8. Hi Kristen. I'm trying to learn about the different weight loss surgery options- I was just wondering why you chose the gastric bypass as opposed to a gastric sleeve or lap band?