Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I would like to share my story here on my blog. As you read my story, please keep in mind that it is exactly that, MY story. What I am about to write is my personal experience of life with the lap-band, and may be very different from other stories you have heard, or not.
I was banded back in August of 2009. I weighed, at that time, my highest weight ever at 294 pounds. I had tried SO many times before then to lose weight: Weight Watchers, prescription medication, starvation, bulimia, excessive exercise, anorexia... etc. You name it, and I am sure I have tried it. After researching the band, and reading what I wanted to read, I decided to become banded.
After the band was in place, my life changed completely. The weight started falling off- 17 pounds in one month. My energy was through the roof for the first time in a very long time. I would find myself outside for HOURS running around playing with my two young boys. My depression lifted and for the first time in my weight loss journey, which started when I was 8, I felt a sense of HOPE.
Having hope for the first time was so empowering. I started gardening again. I was able to RUN again. Life was great! Life was great and my pants were falling off- shopping in the regular size clothing section holds a feeling that I cannot explain. Even though my thick hair was starting to fall out in clumps, nothing could bring me down.
I started running every night and worked my way up to 3 miles a night. It wasn't a marathon, by definition, but it was my own mini marathon. I was darn proud of myself and it felt great to have self-confidence again. I was on top of the WORLD!! I ate very little and had to chew my food well, but had a pretty good level of restriction. If I pushed my luck, I would end up in the bathroom.
The weight loss started to slow down, as expected, and I plateaued after losing 75 pounds. Up until that point, I would see my surgeon for a small tweak here and there to help achieve optimal restriction with the band.
In November 2010, I went into my surgeon's office to have a fill because I was able to eat more than usual. I went in and the PA put in 2 whole ccs. As it turned out, that was way too much and I ended up vomiting non-stop for three days. I called my surgeon's office, but they told me because it was a long weekend, I'd have to go to the hospital until someone could take fluid out on Tuesday. Seriously!? I couldn't even drink water and no one could meet me at the office for ten minutes to help me!!?? On Tuesday I went back in to have a slight fill removed, and received some bad news. My doctor examined me under fluoroscopy while drinking barium and found that my esophagus was severely dilated and had become aplastic (pre-cancerous). He sent me home to "enjoy" a two week "band holiday" (a band holiday is when all of the fluid is removed from the band), along with a prescription for steroids and Omeprazole.
Feeling disconcerted, I took away from my appointment that things would be fine and hey! I could now enjoy steak again!! Woo-hoo! FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! I could eat any food I wanted without fear of getting stuck or getting sick. It was a great "band holiday" that turned into six weeks. My esophagus was still in bad shape when I went in for my 2 week and 4 week check-up after my episode, and required even more steroids. Now, let me say this, I know that a band holiday does NOT imply you get to eat whatever you want, but my sick brain had it all under control. Right? Wrong. In that six week period, with help from massive amounts of steroids, I gained around 15 pounds. Not good.
Around this time I developed a peculiar symptom. For no reason at all, my body would flush, swell up and itch. Itch like I've never itched before. I scratched at myself until I bled. I was miserable. The itching drove me crazy. Like psych patient crazy. The doctor ran tests, but never found an explanation. The only conclusion he could come to was that I may possibly be allergic to the band.
In February of 2011, I finally started my journey back to a healthy fill level. I went in every 4 weeks to slowly add fluid to my band. This continued until as sense of despair took over. We couldn't seem to get it working again. I was able to either eat anything I wanted, or nothing at all. It was extremely frustrating. I tried to keep up with my running, but with the weight creeping back on, it became too much for my poor little feet. I ended up sustaining an injury to my right foot that grounded me. So, without a good fill, and being unable to exercise comfortably, the weight stopped creeping on and flew on, only to stick like glue. The 240s, the 250s, the 260s... seems like in the blink of an eye, I was back in the 270s. I was out of control again. The itching started getting better, but was still an issue.
Once I was firmly planted in the 270s, things went from bad to worse. A feeling of general malaise took over, I felt sick all of the time- tired (the kind of fatigue you feel when you've been up all night for 3 months straight with your newborn), seriously depressed, everything seemed to be falling apart.
Unable to get my band to start working again, I ended up eating only slider foods (sliders are foods that seem to "slide" through the band's restriction with ease). My diet consisted of popcorn, soda (diet and non-diet), ice cream, chocolate, candy... etc. I had lost hope and quickly slumped into a deeper depression. I went to my primary physician time and time again insisting something must be wrong with me. I MUST have Lyme disease, MS, something! The way I was feeling was not normal. My blood results always came back "normal".
I decided that it must be my surgeon's fault and sought out a new surgeon. Surely he could get my band working again. Despite his best, and my fleeting efforts and my flimsy resolve, I still existed on crap food. Before I knew it, I saw 300 on the scale. 300. 300!! I never thought I would ever see that number. I was crushed. I continued to see my primary doctor from time to time positive that they would certainly find the cause of my constant ill feeling and my "un-explained" weight gain.
You see, despite my surgery and a year of absolute bliss, my brain was still "sick". I had and still have the brain of someone with an eating disorder. Sure, I had the band. Sure, I started exercising. Sure, I was losing weight and life was great. BUT, I did nothing to "treat" the REAL issue- my sick head. I couldn't justify my weight gain to myself because I was hardly eating! There must be something wrong with me. My thyroid, cancer... something! Find it and fix me!! I may have been hardly eating, but what I was eating consisted of empty calories void of any nutrition. No wonder I felt so sick all of the time! I was gaining weight while starving to death at the same time. I was also unable to properly digest my food. I would eat at 11:00am and at 11:30pm, I would bend over to kiss my dog goodnight, and the food I had eaten 12 hours earlier would come right back up into my mouth. I figured it was just GERD. Up until August of 2012, I went back and forth to the bariatric surgeon confident that this visit, this time, I was going to be "fixed" and life would be great again. It never happened. I started looking into having the "sleeve" procedure performed. I was aching for a sense of hope again, and I was positive this would be the correct route for me. I scheduled a consult with my surgeon, a dietician and a psychologist to proceed with the sleeve surgery.
In the beginning of September 2012, I started feeling extremely ill. Beyond what I had been dealing with for the past two years. It started off as back pain. After a few days, the back pain radiated around to my ribs and abdomen. It hurt to move. The stabbing pain would drop me to my knees and I would scream out in pain, often embarrassing myself in public. A week into the pain, I started vomiting and having diarrhea. I concluded I had a kidney stone and needed to wait things out. Another week went by and things started getting worse. I saw my primary doctor, and she sent me to have a CT scan of my gallbladder. The scan showed no kidney stones, no gallbladder stones and my appendix appeared to be just fine. A few days later, I was on my way to a homeschool co-op with my boys in the van. I started passing out and dry heaving and vomiting uncontrollably. I kept pulling off to the side of the highway every time I started blacking out, and by the grace of GOD, got my boys to their Daddy's work safely. I drove myself to the emergency department fearing I was dying. Yes, it was THAT bad.
The ED doctor ordered an ultrasound of my abdomen and when that came back clear, he concluded I had a stomach bug and told me I could be admitted for pain management, or he would just have to send me home. Feeling like a washrag, I picked-up my things and went home. The pain only got worse and I didn't think I would make it through the night. I had an odd sense of calm come over me when I thought about not waking up the next day. I thought for sure this was the LORD's plan, and that my time had come. I hurt for my husband and two boys who wouldn't have a Mommy. Obviously, I made it.
Feeling desperate, I decided to see a Gastroenterologist and returned to my original bariatric surgeon for advice. I had an upper GI scope and a nuclear medicine (Hida scan) scan of my gallbladder. Certain it was indeed my gallbladder, my bariatric surgeon had me scheduled that same day for a gallbladder removal. The Hida scan showed my gallbladder was fine. Surgery was cancelled.
My upper endoscopy showed my esophagus was extremely swollen and dilated. This explained why my food would come back up into my mouth twelve hours later. My esophagus was acting as a stomach and my food was sitting there, undigested. I have dis-motility of my esophagus and it is now pre-cancerous. I am on special medication to help with the internal damage, but there is nothing they can do beyond that. The inflammation is too severe.
My band needed to be removed as soon as possible. Even though my band was empty, my stomach had swollen shut. Wednesday, September 26th, my band was removed.
During my removal surgery, my surgeon noted that I have a good deal of internal inflammation. My band had caused such an irritation of my stomach, it was just a snowball effect from there. My surgeon told me that they aren't even recommending the Lap-band any longer, and in it's place are suggesting the sleeve procedure. They are now seeing that the band is causing more harm then good over the long term.
Today, sitting at 305 pounds, I am in agony while dealing with the destruction my band left in it's wake. My gallbladder is inflamed, causing nausea and diarrhea with vomiting. My esophagus is pre-cancerous and inflamed. My stomach is swollen and I still vomit. I have developed Costochondritis (rib and sternum inflammation- bone and cartilage) which causes an extreme amount of discomfort when I move, laugh, sneeze, drive and at night when I try to sleep. I feel like my insides are being crushed.
On another note, I am able to eat vegetables and protein again! I find myself eating a bowl full of asparagus or broccoli for lunch. It's so nice to be able to finally eat healthy foods! I never thought the band would cause such poor diet choices. I have some really bad habits that I need to break and I am learning how to eat properly all over again.
Because my poor body has been put through so much, on my own doing, I have decided against the sleeve procedure. At this point, I cannot fathom putting my body through anymore suffering. I am praying that my body can heal from all of the damage caused over the course of the last three years. I am praying that I may one day feel normal again.
***After you read my story, and you think to yourself, "Geez, this is so strange, I've only heard wonderful things about the band?", please remember that most of the people who "fail" with the band also keep their stories to themselves. They experience a sense of failure and embarrassment, and fall off of the radar. This is why there are so many huge gaps in my blog, when times were rough, I stopped blogging. I felt that I shouldn't blog unless I had something positive and encouraging to share. Make sure you are speaking to people who have failed with the band as well as following and reading all of the success stories here in Blogland.***
Best of luck to you, and thank you for reading my story! Please feel free to email me with any thoughts, comments or questions you have, but please try not to be mean or ugly. Again, this is MY story.