My Journey Through WLS: An Escape From Food And Alcohol Prison
By Melissa Frush Harmon
Hello! Let me take a moment to introduce myself. I'm the beautiful, healthy woman hiding inside of this overweight facade people see when they look at me. I have been trying for years to find my way out, but each time I thought I found a way to emerge I became trapped yet again. You see,
I can remember back when I was the one people would see. Oh, they treated me so well. I was respected by others and always told how beautiful I was. It didn't matter that I was a bitch, people loved me because I was beautiful. I was in my prime and never thought that things would change.
As life went on and I got older, many tragic things happened within a short time span and I became depressed. I turned to food and alcohol for comfort. Quickly I changed into someone that people didn't adore so much, and I didn't care because if they didn't like me it wouldn't hurt if they weren't in my life.
I delved deeper and deeper into food and alcohol as a source of comfort. I don't know how I managed to function most days due to the amounts of alcohol I was consuming. I would drink just because I was awake. I would eat because I didn't have plans that night.
On January 18, 2007, my life suddenly changed. I had felt as though I was coming down with the flu for the past 2 weeks, and therefore my drinking had stopped. On January 18th I took a pregnancy test, just to ensure that wasn't why I was feeling ill and found out I was pregnant. I was scared as hell. I remember thinking "I'm not ready for this!" The next morning I started bleeding and cramping heavily. We went to the E.R. and found out I was for sure pregnant and my body was trying to terminate the pregnancy. I was immediately given meds to stop this and put on bed rest. I lost one baby. Luckily, somehow I didn't lose the other.
I was so happy at that point and thought things would be smooth. Needless to say I had a very rough pregnancy resulting in me exhausting all of my FMLA
While being a stay at home Mom to my son, I continued to pack on the pounds. I was depressed that I no longer had the job I loved because I opted to do what was needed for my son, a little baby that fought so hard just to stay alive. I ended up losing only 30 of the more than 100 pounds I gained during my pregnancy. My weight stalled there.
Fast forward to 2009.
I am working at a job I don't plan to make a career out of. I am still depressed and finances are tight. I am always tired. I find out from a few co-workers that our insurance covers WLS (weight loss surgery) in full. This is news to my ears as I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. I talk to two of my co-workers that I consider good friends about their choice for surgery and how this affected their life. I am encouraged by their stories.
I called Barix Clinic in Ypsilanti and had my initial consultation on November 11, 2009. On Thanksgiving, our car died and I was unable to proceed with the process at that time. I was devastated once again, knowing that at 300 pounds I had to do something and none of the diets or exercise programs I had tried were working. I called Barix and asked them to please keep me on the list.
In February 2010, I got my tax refund and bought a beater that would get me to and from Barix. I managed to pass my psych eval and get immediate approval from my insurance company. On April 5, 2010, I took my PATS testing. I weighed in at 299.6 pounds (down slightly from the 303 I was back in November). I was scheduled for the Realize Band Weight Loss Surgery to take place on April 14, 2010. On the morning of surgery, after being on pins and needles and my nerves driving me nuts, I weighed in at 290.0 pounds. I was ecstatic. One week post op (4/21) I weighed in at 281.0. Three days later (4/24/10), I'm down to 277.5.
I keep telling myself I will never weigh 300 pounds again. WLS is NOT the easy way out. I had major surgery. I now have a permanent foreign body inside of me. I have to learn to all over again how to eat and drink. I have to exercise every day. I am losing weight the same way as anyone else who does it, only I have a band around my stomach that will make me sick if I try to go above my portion allowance. Right now, until my first fill, I am doing this on will power alone. There is very little, if any, restriction from the band. I will be on willpower alone for six weeks. After that I will have a tool to help me if I have a slip on will power, but it will help me by making me vomit and have severe pain as a way to teach me not to do it again. You tell me, what is easy about that?
I can no longer eat anything I want. I can have 1/2-3/4 cup of food TOTAL per meal. I cannot drink 5 minutes before nor 30 minutes after eating. I have to chew my food to the consistancy of a liquid or I can get sick. I have to ensure nothing I consume has more than 2g of sugar per serving unless it is a fruit or vegetable with naturally occurring sugar. I have to have less than 11g of fat per meal, and less than 43 grams for the entire day, while having 6 small meals per day. I have to make certain I get at least 54g protein daily and take 2 chewable sugar free vitamins daily or my hair will fall out and I will be malnourished and end up in the hospital.
I am happy to do all of this because finally, I am seeing results. My blood pressure and pre-diabetic conditions will improve. When and if I decide to have more children, I shouldn't have such a rough time and may be able to carry the baby to term. I will feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. I will be able to be active in my son's life as he grows and not sit on the sidelines watching. I no longer turn to food to ease my pain, and alcohol is not in my diet. I am beginning to emerge again, the beautiful, happy, healthy woman within. I will spread the word to others who may have the overweight facade staring others in the face that they took can re-emerge if they so choose. It's a lifetime commitment, but it is worth it.