I want to offer a special thanks to
Sherry Johnson for offering her
success and insights to us. Here is her story:
My moment of
truth was when I was lying in bed one day in
January 2009 about to inject an autoimmune suppressant for
a disease I live with everyday. I was so overweight that my
stomach was stretched to the point that it appeared to be
tearing. I was frightened as I poked the needle into my
stomach, for fear of popping it. My epiphany came, "lose
weight or die."
At the peak of my obesity and eating
disorder, I carried
215 pounds on my petite
5'3” frame. Before my weight loss
surgery, I had a wide variety of
including neuro-cardiogenic syncope (correlated to the
multiple sclerosisin my case), acid reflux, back and hip
pain, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue and
chronic severe pain. To manage these
I took in excess of 38
pills daily, and was ready to purchase a
mobility scooter. I also underwent surgery for
stage 3 melanoma cancer
in my stomach, before it went to the lymph nodes. Given my
excessive weight and numerous medical conditions, I had
given up on myself in a fundamental way.
I was never a heavy person growing up,
and gained my weight due to my medical conditions,
depression, and fear and anxiety associated with them. A
diagnose of multiple sclerosis at age 19 was a new
complexity, and brought pain and illness to my life.
The pain increased, and I ate to numb the pain physically
and emotionally. I became very sick with extreme vertigo
that limited my mobility and ability to care for
my daughter. I also went through a painful divorce when I
was 25, with a small daughter to raise alone.
I work as a Marriage & Family
Therapist, and for the Department of Corrections. Some
people turn to alcohol or drugs, but
my drug of choice was food.
I was lost in my addiction for about 10 years, and tried
every diet known to man. It is imperative to say my disease
progressed to the point of me eating out of the garbage at
times, isolating myself and just living to eat every day. I
pulled away from others, and turned toward food, which was
not a fun life. I felt as though society viewed me as fat
and lazy. I had limited clothing options that weren't always
the most flattering. I did not like the maternity style they
always followed. Mostly it was painful to have to dress the
way society saw me.
Even under a doctor’s supervision, I
could not shake the weight, or even if I lost weight, it
would be right back on in a matter of months. I was killing
myself trying to better myself. I was so desperate and
hopeless. My best guess to date is that I spent in excess
of $22,000 on diets trying to control something I could not,
without the help of weight loss surgery.
I started to investigate different
weight loss surgery options. I interviewed doctors, patients
and talked with family and friends about the risks and
benefits of weight loss surgery. Some friends thought this
may be another ploy to get skinny, but when my medical
situation changed, my perspective changed. You can’t do this
surgery to be skinny; it’s too much work. You have to have
more than that as a motivation.
After all the research, I decided
the best option
for me was lap band surgery, and in
April 2009, I scheduled my surgery for June 23, 2009. My
insurance denied me to go to the doctor and use the team I selected,
3 days prior to my surgery date, which they had already
pre-approved. I am still fighting my insurance company. I
was devastated, but I decided to self-pay the procedure to
get my life back! This is one of the positives to self-pay.
You select what type of procedure you will have, and the
team you want to support you.
My grandfather gets full credit here as
well; he passed way before my weight loss surgery, but he
knew I had multiple sclerosis. I inherited his home when he
passed, which allowed me the ability to pay for the weight
loss surgery. I know he is looking down upon me, and knows I
am doing the right thing to live again. I love you
grandpa......you helped me save my life.
Between the time I scheduled in April
and the surgery date, I gained an additional 15 pounds,
because I was struggling psychologically with having a
medical procedure to stop my addiction. I gave myself
permission for the first time in my life, to eat whatever I
wanted with no judgment or guilt about food. It is
recommended you lose a percentage of your weight before
surgery, my journey was just different. My surgery team knew
why it was happening, and they talked with me instead of
punishing me and denying my surgery.
new life birth date was/is June 23, 2009. I have
to say it feels much longer than a year since my surgery.
The journey has not always been an easy one, especially
continuing to fight against multiple sclerosis and cancer.
But I am now 120
pounds, and I have learned so much on my
journey. My largest size was a 20, and I am now a
comfortable size 2! My
previous BMI was 41, and now it is 21!
That is a 20 point BMI drop. My labs every 3 months used to
contain all bad news, and more medications or appointments.
Now my lab work is
All of my medical conditions have improved or completely
disappeared since my weight loss surgery. After my surgery,
I required fewer and fewer corrective medications, and now,
just one year post-op, I only take 1 medication to offset
the required injections of autoimmune suppressants! And I am
in remission from cancer!
My lap band has become my conscience.
It does not allow me to eat the way I might like to when I
get the urge to binge. If I try to binge, I vomit instantly.
Did I mention I hate to vomit! You definitely must be
committed every day to make it work. If I don't eat my
recommended protein level, I feel sick within days.
This surgery is not a joke, and it is
not the easy way out. I get angry when I hear someone speak
like that out of ignorance. They have no idea what someone
who has had weight loss surgery has to endure to be
successful. Dedication is a must to success.
Having a lap band is a
tool, not a magic solution to allow you to sit back and
continue with bad lifestyle habits.
I have struggled with bowel issues;
mostly multiple sclerosis related, but the weight loss
surgery has complicated matters, because I mostly eat
protein. Carbs and roughage of some sort can get "stuck" in
your stoma and feel really painful until it passes or comes
back up. On occasion my lap band has been adjusted too
tightly to the extent that I can’t eat. Trust your doctor’s
recommendation when he is adjusting your lap band fill. He
or she knows best. Don't be in a hurry to lose the weight,
and ask for more than what is a recommended fill.
The lap band fills are
helping me stay connected to my body,
although I am still learning, and am in the infancy stage.
My head plays tricks on me too, telling me that I am hungry
when I am really not. I have also struggled with body
dysmorphia. I still often feel the size I was prior to
weight loss surgery, even though I am not.
And here comes the real kicker. You can
still cheat the lap band if you try. But I ask myself why
one would do that when they have suffered so much already.
Certain foods can slip right through the band. You just have
to ask yourself if the slip is worth the price you pay for
it? This is why it is imperative for you to participate in
support groups, be honest with those close to you, and take
this surgery seriously.
Without some form of exercise or
movement, the surgery isn't going to work long term. I have
incorporated a 5-lb hula hoop into my life for core
conditioning. I walk, hike and play Frisbee with my service
dog, Lucy. I park outside the handicap zone, even though I
have my handicap tags. And I am swimming again regularly. I
am in recovery! I am so humbled and blessed.
Pay it forward, and give
service to others struggling with obesity. Spread the word!
I have learned that if you don't fix"
whatever put your weight on, such as depression, fear,
abandonment, or grief, you will easily put the weight back
on. I think the weight is just a symptom of a much bigger
issue psychologically. It is critical for me to continue to
examine my beliefs about food. How I eat shows how I view
and care for myself.
I am finally reflecting on
the outside, what I feel like on the inside - complete
oneness with self.
The key to success for me with the lap
band is weekly individual therapy. Weight loss surgery
support groups as needed, nutrition/eating disorder
counseling as needed, and being honest with those close to
me, all help tremendously.
I used to live to eat, and now I eat to live.
I have also learned that many things
change after weight loss surgery. Friendships, especially
with those binge buddies, can become strained. Eating out
socially is difficult. It is hard to justify paying $15 for
three bites. And sometimes the reactions of others can be so
alarming. You don't see the changes as others do, so when
they react by saying something such as, "are you
healthy?" it’s imperative to educate them about your
Weight loss surgery has its own
underground subculture. You either get it, or you don't. I
suggest to all that have a loved one who has had weight loss
surgery, to read a brochure or attend a support group
meeting. I suggest also that they try to understand what
their loved ones are dealing with after weight loss surgery,
instead of judging or commenting on things they don't
understand. “Don't be someone else's food police,” I tell
I feel like I was in a costume for the
last 10 years, and now I am me and out of the costume. I am
comfortable in my skin again! I am now in recovery, and it
is going to be a journey that I ride every day. However, for
now, my addiction and acting out with food has ceased. It’s
on the back burner. But one thing I learned from attending
Overeaters Anonymous for years prior to my decision to have
weight loss surgery is, "don't underestimate your
disease/addiction. When you’re doing good, and not paying
attention, your disease/addiction is in the corner doing one
Don't forget where you came from.
Unlike drug addiction where you can remain abstinent, food
is needed to live, which makes it hard for a person addicted
to food to make the right choices. I live with the
psychological struggle of wanting more food than I need,
every day. It is a tough road, but I am in this for life. I
did not go into this surgery as a surgery that some say is
"reversible." Yes, if I want to return to where I came from,
I can think that way, but no thanks.
I chose to be altered for
life with my lap band, and I am so glad I did.