A mountain with a trail going up it leading to a flag

The Long Haul to Bariatric Surgery

The day is May 4, 2021; may the force be with me. After 4 years of steadily trying everything I could on my own and under physician supervision, I had unsuccessfully lost weight. My oncologist and PCP had suggested the bariatric surgery route several times as it seemed that chemo had altered how my body metabolized anything, especially food.

My history with fluctuating weight

I lost 60 pounds during chemo between 2016 and 2017, but as soon as treatment ended, the weight piled back onto my 5'2" frame despite my best efforts.

The scale continued to climb, and I was physically uncomfortable in my skin. For me, bariatric surgery was a last resort. Still, I gave in and agreed to undergo the bariatric surgery process.

First steps in pursuing bariatric surgery

On July 1, 2021, I had my first office visit with the bariatric surgeon. This kicked off the long, arduous process of pre-op testing, feeling like I was jumping through all the hoops.

Aspects of pre-op testing

I received a letter of support from my PCP, saw a cardiologist, and had a sleep study done, resulting in obtaining a BiPAP machine. In addition, I consulted with a psychologist, had an EGD with biopsies, got labs done, and more.

Dealing with delays in my surgery timeline

Initially, I was under the impression that the process would take about 6 months and that I'd have the surgery at the beginning of 2022. However, things don't always go as we planned.

Due to a change in employment and my health insurance, there were some hiccups along the process. Due to COVID-19 and a massive equipment recall, I didn't receive my BiPAP machine until nearly 3 months after I ordered it.

Struggling to meet expectations

Despite my best efforts, I was having issues controlling my A1c and wasn't losing weight as my surgeon had wanted. The surgeon wanted my weight to be under 350 pounds (BMI less than 65) and my A1c under 8 percent.

As a result, I underwent many medication changes, followed a registered dietician's suggestions closely, and tried to be more active despite the constant pain I experienced.

Riding the rollercoaster of emotions

The roller coaster ride of hope and disappointment triggered my depression, and I struggled. Thank goodness for great friends and better meds.

After 7 months passed from my originally projected surgery date, I finally reached all my goals. 14 months after I began the process with a surgery referral, I finally had a surgery date.

Finalizing a bariatric surgery date

My bariatric surgery is scheduled for the end of September 2022. As I write this article, I'm down about 36 pounds and will likely lose at least another 20 pounds before surgery. My BMI has decreased by nearly 7 points so far.

This process has not been easy and has felt like an uphill struggle. Yet, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's July 27, 2022, and today's plan is to revisit the bariatric surgeon to track progress and sign consent forms. Next, I have a 3-hour pre-op class to take.

Scheduling in vacation time

Soon I'll be heading to Pennsylvania for a Young Adult Cancer event that I've been looking forward to during Labor Day weekend. I will finally get to spend some in-person time with friends I've made throughout the pandemic!

After the event, I'll be heading to New York for some time in the Adirondacks. The challenge I anticipate in New York is that I will be on a 100 percent liquid diet for the duration I've planned to be away.

So, that means no special vacation treats for me. Fortunately, I'll be able to distract myself with hiking and time on the lake.

Planning ahead for surgery day

On the day of surgery, I'll pack a bag with some humorous t-shirts and a bariatric plush to represent the gastric sleeve I'll be getting. After the surgery, I'll stay a few days in the hospital before returning home.

I'll be on medical leave for about 6 to 8 weeks. I'm looking forward to time to be creative and read. I'm hoping to get some quality writing during recovery.

Feeling mixed emotions

I'm excited, nervous, and a bit anxious about the new adventures ahead but ready to get the show on the road and complete the surgery.

Please keep in mind that each bariatric center has its own processes. Some aspects of the surgery preparation may be similar to mine as insurance requires national guidelines before the procedure. Still, everyone's journey will be different.

Are any of you considering bariatric surgery? What are your questions?

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