Today, I am featuring my first guest post ever. This alone is very exciting, but the topic is a very serious one. A friend of mine, Ally, underwent lap band surgery to help her lose weight. Most overweight people have thought about this, and I know a couple of people who have undergone the procedure. Some have seen success, others not.
To be completely frank, I have thought about it. But every time I do, I always come to the same conclusion. No. It’s major surgery and I would prefer to focus on exercise, good food and a healthy appreciation for me as I am. My father always discouraged me from even thinking about surgery for appearances purposes. Surgery is serious and shouldn’t be something you consider lightly. I would complain about my nose, and he would retort “your nose is fine, you don’t know what a big/disfigured nose really looks like”. However, more commonly I would make jokes about liposuction which were instantly shot down and the jokes were no longer considered jokes but a serious matter to discuss. One day, we did seriously discuss lap band surgery and thankfully I made the decision to not proceed. My instinct always advised me against it and thankfully I listened. On reflection, I am confident that these discussions, and teachings, taught me to be naturally confident. It is probably one of the most important lessons a parent can teach a child.
With that said, I would never judge someone else decision for this type of surgery. I have been in incredibly dark places fuelled by an inability to fit in and I have looked at some pretty radical practices to help me achieve what I thought I wanted to achieve. Some people need to take drastic measures. The point is, whatever is going to help you achieve what you want. For me, I wholeheartedly believe in the beauty of diversity. And now, I understand I am part of that diversity. It’s something to embrace as opposed to reject.
I am still on my journey, I always will be. As will Ally, and most of you too. This snippet is only one part of Ally’s journey. I am so incredibly proud of her for writing the below. I know first hand that releasing very intimate beliefs and experiences about yourself can attract a lot of criticism, and it takes courage and determination to do what Ally has done.
I do need to advise some readers may consider this content as sensitive. I, nor is Ally, endorsing or ill advising people to undergo lap band surgery. If you are considering it, please go speak to you doctors and your loved ones.
Here we go….
“This is my story of a journey with lapband – and while it it wasn’t a successful one, this isn’t a angry bitter (guest) post just my story of how it didn’t work for me. Im 6 years down the track from having a lapband and subsequently revision and removal. My friend, Pip of @aquaintrellelife asked me if I would write about my experiences of the blog – and I was happy to put my story out there.
Ok, deep breath: lets start here….
For those unfamiliar with lapband – or gastric banding – let me Wikipedia that for you.
“A laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, commonly called a lap-band, A band, or LAGB, is an inflatable silicone device placed around the top portion of the stomach to treat obesity, intended to slow consumption of food and thus the amount of food consumed.
The inflatable band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to create a smaller stomach pouch. This slows and limits the amount of food that can be consumed at one time, thus giving the opportunity for the sense of satiety to be met with the release of peptide YY (PYY). It does not decrease gastric emptying time. The individual achieves sustained weight loss by choosing healthy food options, limiting food intake and volume, reducing appetite, and progress of food from the top portion of the stomach to the lower portion digestion.
According to the American Society for Metabolic Bariatric Surgery, bariatric surgery is not an easy option for obesity sufferers. It is a drastic step, and carries the usual pain and risks of any major gastrointestinal surgical operation.”
In my opinion, lapband can be a great solution for the right people who have an issue with quantity. I once read a comment on a lapband forum where a lady remarked ‘my stomach was banded – but no one banded my brain’ – and I will forever remember that comment as a lot of eating issues are psychological and hormonal. I believe it is rarely just physiology.
I have always been a bigger girl, since puberty. I remember my brother and sister teasing me calling me ‘fat gut’ for having a protruding lower abdominal portion – and they were both slim. Up to, and during this point I had competitively danced, played tennis and lead a pretty active childhood. My body started to balloon in a way that was very different to that of my brother and sister. My mum was kind enough to help me try and do something about my changing body shape and took me to a great nutritionist. I can’t remember exactly what I weighed, but I know it was in the 60kg mark and I had no idea what I should be – but I was bigger than I should have been.
Five year before surgery: Ally always struggled to lose weight but managed to when she exercised obsessively and calorie counted.
Cut to many years later, 101 kilos – and sometime around 2004 when I was 22 I had spent my life in a gym and weight watchers meetings and got myself down to 73 kilos. The thing was, while I could lose it, I couldn’t keep it off. I wasn’t drinking, going out and spent a fair amount of my time on the inside of the gym. If I wasn’t in the gym, I was thinking about how many points food items were…and how to maximise eating in the points I had so I wasn’t hungry. Weight Watchers was a great education on what foods were low and high calorie, but it was all-consuming for me.
Around the time in 2007, I met a man through work who had gone through loosing at least half, if not more of his body weight – his photos we were documented on his Facebook page so I asked him about his experience. I was looking into lapband and very curious to find anyone who’d had a personal experience. There was a lot in the media about the band being the magic bullet – and I really wanted to dig and research for myself. My friend had told me about his experience with having lapband, he’d shrunk incredibly – and to this day has kept it off.
He’d told me the good and the bad – and had told me of troubles two of his female friends has encountered. His story was balanced and certainly mirrored that of the research I had done. I knew I would have very small portion sizes – and trouble eating some food… and peoples experiences seem to wildly vary. It was generally unanimous that bread and pasta would be out – foods that didn’t bother me too much as I shouldn’t eat wheat.
I went to my doctor – and honestly, pretty determined to get a referral. I wanted to go to the same surgeon that my friend had been to as he’d had a really positive experience. He was one of the original Melbourne surgeons and was one of the most experienced. He had a plethora of patients commenting in forums, and I had confident that this should be the person doing my surgery. My GP was satisfied that I had done the diet/exercise thing – and sent me with my referral. It took me a while to get an appointment with the surgeon – and I went to his office and waited my 4 hours to be seen. When I was seen, the surgeon went through my history – my issues with weight – could tell I was educated and had done a lot of research on the lapband so he booked me a surgery date.
The surgery was on the 8th of August 2008 – at a private hospital in Melbourne West. I had my boyfriend at the time and my mother (a nurse) there. When I awoke from surgery, I started howling like a injured animal – I was being painfully sick and needed to alert the recovery nurse as soon as possible. I had terrible pain and I knew I was going to be sick. I could feel a lot of pulling – ripping – at my stomach. I was terrified. I was giving a medication to stop the sickness, and woke up a few hours later. The surgeon came to see me – and as I was groggily still waking up – he asked me why I didn’t tell them that had a small trachea, and that they’d almost had to abort after an hour of trying to get tubes down my throat. He was mad at me – but I couldn’t reply as I was still half asleep. As a side note, my boyfriend had told me at the time that he hadn’t heard anything – but confessed some years later that he heard the ‘animal-like’ yelling and knew something was extremely wrong. How right he was.
In the recovery phase you go through the ‘liquids’ where you can only have liquid to let healing happen – then into the mushies – where food gets a little more dense but still passes through without too much drama. All of this went as expected, while you’re still learning what you can and cannot do. I started to see my surgeons ‘minions’ and not him, and as they started to fill the band and I was having more and more issues with eating – which does happen – its a learning curve. I started to notice that I couldn’t eat what others (banded) ate – and my food would strangely come back up. I knew something was wrong.
At a friends wedding post surgery: At this stage, she had only lost a couple of kilos and wasn’t able to eat anything at the wedding.
I went to my surgeons office a number of times, seeing his staff – to be told to eat less, eat slower. My family knew I was doing as much as I could of what they told me – even to the point where my Mum was suggesting just to put EVERYTHING through the blender. I knew this wasn’t about living like I was 90. I was loosing weight, but it was fairly minimal. I was throwing up most of my food. I remember thinking that going to see the surgeon was like screaming underwater – you can scream all you like – but no one can hear you.
I was flaunting the rules out of desperation – having foods I knew I shouldn’t be eating (like smoothies) because of their calorie content, but honestly, I was so hungry…. and malnourished due to the lack of diversity. As a strong willed character, I rarely need ‘support’ people to come to medical type things with me, but I started taking my boyfriend of family members because I would get so frustrated telling them that there was something wrong, to only be told the ‘smaller, slower’ stuff again.
At the one year point, I demanded to see the original surgeon. He immediately agree’d that something was wrong, and that I should have a gastroscopy. The gastroscopy had turned up nothing. Everything looked at it should be. He then did refer me onto a researcher – I will spare you the details – but through some not-so-nice means – they determined that I had a prolapse. It would usually be found on X-rays and gastroscopy – but it wasn’t until they added density to barium that they found the problem. Any ‘dense’ foods would sit and flop over the top of the band… until my body got cranky and forcefully ejected it out.
I was booked into surgery immediately, and the band was replaced. Due to already having one – and what i’ve though of as ‘damage’ a bigger one had to be put in. I started the liquids/mushies again. I should have mentioned earlier, that the band goes it was barely any, or no restricting fluid. It gradually gets filled to a ‘restrictive’ point. As my new band started to be filled – I could feel everything was different. I could eat ‘solid’ foods, but it slow, small quantities. I wanted to put the past behind me and give this thing and really good shot.
One night I was out to dinner, and i’d ordered the salad. I usually had problem with salad leaves but do love a salad and wanted to keep trying. I ordered a glass of wine, and as I took a sip – I felt a strange ‘burn’. I didn’t know what was wrong, but that something was different. I tried to eat a little of my salad and not a thing was going down. Another sip of wine, more burning. I went home, hungry and worried. I couldn’t get down water. Each time I laid down, I would start to retch. After no sleep and night of retching – I went to Williamstown hospital where I knew staff had been trained to deal with lapband related issues. They found my stomach lining had swelled and that closed everything up. I was weak and tired in just a few hours.
The same as above happened many more times over the next year as I bounced up and down in fluid in my band – they were trying to find something they call the ‘sweet spot’ but my band wasn’t having it. With restriction came swelling. At one of the incidents when I turned up to the ER – the triage nurse who asked what I was there for asked me flatly – within moments of meeting me – why I was still fat when i’d had the surgery. No one had blatantly said it to my face, but many people were wandering why – after surgery – was I failing? I started to deal with a lot of emotion around why I had failed at this, too, after so many diets.
I got tired of spending my weekends in the ER, waiting hours to see my surgeon or his staff – to go around in the same vicious circle. One of his staff suggested just retaining ‘minor’ restriction as going any higher in fluid caused issues. I was well over it, at about the 2 year mark – and just wanted to forget about it, the failure, the 8 or so newly acquired scars that hadn’t helped me. I asked about getting it taken out, but they said if they could leave it dormant, it was probably just better than going under a general anaesthetic again.
I left it for 2 or so more years, only occasionally having issues – but when I decided to step my training up – doing a running bootcamp 3 times a week I started to be struck by a sharp pain in my abdomen. I was making excuses to my trainer – about having stomach problems. These sharp pains were stopping me in my tracks while running and working out, and started to occur just when I was walking in normal life. I tried to explaining to him the history of the problems – but he was a young, fit guy who’d been bombarded with excuses probably far too many times – and just looked at my like I was just a fat-girl who was too lazy to train hard.
In a side note, in this time I had gone to get a second opinion, and I was going to get back on track with trying again… before all of the pain had started. It was with another surgeon – he wanted me to go get a number of tests and life, a house purchase and work took precedence.
At a friends wedding, a sat opposite a fantastic couple – and during the reception we chatted. The husband had similar issues – and had his band removed. His surgeon had concluded that the band wasn’t the solution everyone had hoped for. He was thoroughly impressed by his surgeons work (his removal ended up being a day surgery) and suggested I get a consult. I found the surgeon to be equally wonderful – went through my history and issues, and concluded that he could take mine out.
I had mine out February 13, 2014. Its been a fairly horrible experience, but in my mind it had a chance of success. My weight is high (im too embarrassed to even say what it is) and I need to do something about it. I continue to cycle to work, play tennis, walk the dog and plan on getting back to my gym routine. Im cautiously considering reductil or some other ‘speed’ like weight loss wonder drug in the vain hope something, one day, will help.
Living Life: Ally in Central Park NYC
In the meantime though, I am working on trying to accept myself as I am – and appreciate that i’ve put my body through a lot. I hope my story helps educate anyone considering the surgery.. Good luck.”