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One Year Out…One Patient’s Perspective

One Year Out…One Patient’s Perspective

365 days ago I did something that changed my life forever. I haven’t talked much about it to anyone because it is my story to tell and I wasn’t ready to talk to most people. After years of wanting/needing to lose weight I decided to undergo a bariatric surgery procedure known as a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. With this procedure I would have more than of 85% of my stomach removed with the hopes of improving my overall health while losing weight. I had wanted to do this for at least 12 years, and I decided it was time to take control of my life.

I had been told before that it would “be the easy way out.”, but I can tell you first hand that this has been anything but easy. Of all the things I have done in my life, nothing has pushed me physically, emotionally, and spiritually like this. I can’t even sit here and type without becoming emotional. To say that I am a better person one year later is a certainty.

At my heaviest I weighed 477 pounds. You read that correctly. If you can’t wrap your head around that just picture over 3 FULL beer kegs. Or a full-size ape! I had tried everything that you can imagine to lose weight. Every diet that came my way and I cut out all of the foods that I was “supposed to” cut out. I was chewing a can of chewing tobacco each day, not staying committed to exercise, and would go out of my way to eat some junk food when no one was looking. I was eating to pass time. I was eating to hide feelings. I was eating because I feel I was addicted to these awful habits/routines.

As you might imagine there are countless things that come with these awful habits. I take full ownership that I brought all of these things on to myself. That is not an easy thing to admit. In today’s society where everything is to be blamed on someone else it was ME that was killing myself. It was ME that did not value myself. It was ME (selfish as hell…I am aware) that was only thinking of himself when he has a beautiful family in his life that needs him. Why? Why would someone do this to himself?

Here are some of the things that CAN HAPPEN to you when you have quit on loving yourself and balloon to a weight where you get the “If you don’t get this under control…you could very well die.” discussion. Some are physical. Some are emotional. ALL ARE DANGEROUS IN THEIR OWN WAY. All are things that I dealt with.

  • Exhausted all the time/Sleep Apnea
  • Kidney Stones/Gall Stones
  • Trouble breathing during simple tasks
  • Constant hunger (hangry)
  • Sweat when doing nothing
  • Knee/hip/joint pain
  • Avoiding stairs
  • Avoiding things/activities out of embarrassment
  • Avoiding airplanes, roller coasters, etc.
  • Steering wheel in contact with my stomach while driving
  • Making excuses to not play with my kids (THIS IS A GUT PUNCH TO TYPE…but truth is truth)
  • No confidence/embarrassed of how I looked
  • Blood pressure as high as 178/98
  • Can’t find clothes
  • Turn down offers to do things that you WANT to do….but are too big to enjoy
  • Actually getting stuck in chairs
  • Hearing people laugh or snicker when looking at you
  • Pre-diabetic treatment

I know that is a long list, but I am so excited to say that almost everything on that list is improved today! I have lost 165 pounds since my surgery date. I am even happier to report that my last blood pressure reading was 118/78. Making a list like this does two things to your head. The first is that it makes me sad. It makes me mad. Why? I clearly did not value all the good things that I had in my life enough to make the REAL changes. It takes effort to be that negligent. All of the signs were there and I was too busy to care. Not only for me…but for those that love me. For that I am so very sorry.

The second thing that list does is make me feel grateful. I am grateful for so many things in my life that I just took for granted before. Grateful that I have friends and family that have stuck by me through everything. Who have always loved and respected me and have listened to my thoughts and feelings when I was comfortable enough to share them. I am grateful for this second chance at a “new” life that is ahead. Today I attend the gym every morning at 5 a.m. I go for walks with my wife…when we can sneak away. My eating has never been more focused on the right foods. Everything is trending up.

I am most grateful for my family. As hard as this was for me, it was nearly as hard on them. Long discussions leading up to the decision. A million appointments. Then losing weight before the surgery. Two weeks of ONLY liquids prior to surgery. Two more weeks post-op in pain and still not allowed to eat. To where we are today. I love you for your support. Not just now, but the entire time. You all loved me more than I loved myself at times.

The last thing I want to say is that it takes a lot of courage sometimes to do what is best for YOU when you are so giving of yourself to others. I have learned (not only from this experience) that there is a time and a place for selfishness…as crazy as that sounds. I have ALWAYS been the one to help others. I have ALWAYS put myself on the “back burner”. If you are one of those people that do the same…please take some time and do something for yourself. Love yourself first…your emotions and thoughts matter and are valid…more than you may ever fully realize.

-Steve Smith