On the 28th of November this year, I underwent a sleeve gastrectomy, a type of bariatric surgery where 85% of my stomach was removed, leaving what is known as a gastric sleeve.
Image credit: Singhal Surgical.
60 kg. in 6 years
So why did I need this operation? Since I started hormone treatments and IVF (in vitro fertilization) in 2007, followed by twin pregnancy in 2008, I have battled with serious weight gain (60 kg. gained in the last 6 years), one that showed no signs of letting up, largely due to the condition PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
I began hormone treatments and IVF in 2007, due to infertility caused by PCOS. Women with PCOS have a dysfunction in the cells responsible for secreting insulin (Beta cells). These cells are responsible for detecting sugar in the blood stream and may overreact, producing more insulin than is needed. This means that more glucose is stored as fat, irrespective of diet.
PCOS is an endocrine disorder in women. Many women with PCOS are at risk for metabolic syndrome (MS), a condition coexisting commonly with PCOS, as well as infertility and being predisposed to glucose abnormalities and ultimately diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia and eventually cardiovascular disease.
Bariatric Surgery as a cure
Bariatric surgery can prevent or reverse the metabolic syndrome and it can be effective in achieving significant weight loss, restoration of the hypothalamic pituitary axis, reduction of cardiovascular risk and even in improving pregnancy outcomes. As surgical techniques have become safer and less invasive over time (bariatric sleeve surgery is now done laparoscopically - that's "keyhole" surgery to you and me), they have been found to be effective in achieving significant weight loss, and bariatric surgery is now by specialists considered something that ought to be part of the treatment of PCOS.
My weight was out of control
That was all the technical bits...but what does this mean to someone like me? Well, in short, it means that I have struggled with weight gain like millions of people do. In the last year, as I weighed from 135 to 144 kg., I have struggled breathing, stairs were my enemy and dieting seemed an impossible mountain to climb. Basically, my weight was out of control and I needed help.
I knew I was overweight, obese in fact, but being self-employed and mother of twins, I didn't have much time to sit and feel sorry for myself, so pushing health- and weight issues to the back of the closet where nobody ever goes, was just easy and convenient (and stupid, I know!). But I hit rock bottom on a plane from Copenhagen in the summer holiday. Going home on a plane to see my family in Denmark with my children, the seat belt was just not long enough to go all the way around me. With great difficulty I managed to get it fastened, but I nearly passed out while keeping it fastened for the 2-hour plane ride.
On the way home a week later, I was not as lucky! The seat belt was slightly shorter and there was just no way it ever going to fasten! I had to go up to the air hostess to ask for an extension and walk the walk of shame back to my seat with a bright orange (why, why, why do they have be bright orange?!) seat belt extension. And that was my moment... I hit rock bottom on that plane from Copenhagen and the first thing I did when I came home, was phone my doctor for an appointment where I was finally ready to address my serious weight issues.
Not ill enough!
I saw 2 doctors, both mentioned bariatric surgery as a real option for me. So my doctor referred me to a weight loss management programme on the NHS, a process that is likely to take several years and one where, at the end of it, if you're not ill enough (I swear to you, that's what I was told!), you are not eligible for surgery. And "ill enough" means you need to have one or more of the serious illnesses that come with obesity, like sleep apnoea, diabetes, heart problems, knee problems and so on. I wasn't "ill enough" so I was unlikely to be offered the treatment needed on the NHS.
Now, allow me to point out the obvious: Bariatric surgery costs £5-10.000... a mere fraction of what a heart- or diabetes patient costs the NHS over their lifetime. #JustSayin'
But before I even entered "the system", my wonderful, fabulous, A-MA-ZING mum offered to pay for my surgery privately. She had seen my struggles first hand and considered the money an investment in my life, my children's lives and in making sure I didn't become "ill enough". We spoke about this the first time on the 14th of October this year. 6 weeks later, on the 28th of November, I had my bariatric sleeve operation. Thank You, Mum, for giving me life... again!
The donuts are the poison, not the reason
So why am I sharing this? Because I don't think enough people speak up about bariatric surgery, about having had it, about wanting or needing it. Many are embarrassed that they ended up so out of control and overweight that it was necessary, something I'm certain comes from the fat-shaming that still seems to be okay and acceptable in the society we live in. Well, ENOUGH, I say! Most fat people are not fat because they choose to eat donuts all day! They are fat because they weren't as lucky as most thin or normal sized people in the gene-lottery or because they have underlying psychological issues or illnesses... the donuts are just the poison (other poisons are available!), not the cause or the reason.
My gastric sleeve is now nearly one month old and I intend to share my journey publicly with anyone who cares to read about it here or on my blog, Mummy Loves You. Perhaps my experiences can offer someone comfort or even courage.