Weight Loss Surgery Series:
Ups and downs of post-surgical life
I recently shared with my readers that I had bariatric surgery in December 2011 and I talked about how I came to the decision. This time I would like to talk in more detail about the ups and downs of the surgery. While I have not had any major complications, I did encounter some side effects because I engaged in bad eating habits from the past that were still with me even after the surgery.
I have never experienced as much overall body pain as I did immediately following surgery. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, yet the doctors wanted me to get up and walk daily, several times a day! Luckily, I had been walking prior to the surgery, and I knew that walking would help with healing and other processes related to the procedure. I was able to leave the hospital in three days with no issues. The first few weeks I ate sugar free popsicles, broth, protein shakes, and water. I was able to advance my diet after a few more weeks to sugar free pudding, apple sauce, cottage cheese, soft oatmeal, cream of wheat, protein (canned tuna or chicken), and that was about it. I had no appetite at all. I had to crush any medicine I was taking at the time and that was, well… nasty tasting.
After some time, I advanced to more fibrous food like broccoli and baked chicken. It is imperative to mention here that the rules to bariatric surgery are to sip, sip, sip, chew, chew, chew, and take your multivitamins (for life). It is expected that you use your mouth as a human food processor. It is expected that you take small bites, chewing your food at least 32 times before you attempt to swallow. I consider this mindful eating, which is something I never did before the surgery.
As time went by, I got the hang of making my meals, packing a lunch, preparing in advance, and following the rules. However, one day I did not have time to cook my broccoli or cut it into very small pieces to chew and swallow. I was rushing and was eating my entire lunch during a 15 minute break in class (I am a professor), and a student came to me in order to discuss a grade. I was mindlessly popping the florets into my mouth, chewing only three times and then swallowing, not realizing that I was breaking a cardinal rule of the surgery.
All of a sudden, my chest started hurting, I was sweating and I felt like something was blocking my throat. The broccoli floret that was about the size of a half dollar got stuck at my new entry way to my new stomach (pouch). The student noticed that I was having difficulty and she asked me if I had had a surgery that would prevent me from chewing and swallowing that fast. I quickly snapped the word "NO!" at her and denied having any surgery. Another student offered me water and then a third student strongly suggested that I not drink it. It was if they all knew exactly what was going on with me. I had a guest speaker coming in after break, so I asked the first student to introduce them while I excused myself to the bathroom. I drank a sip of water on the way and before I could make it into the bathroom I was vomiting. It did not have the acidic taste that vomit usually has and I was frothing at the mouth. That was the first day that I actually questioned my decision to have the surgery. My body was sore and I was so tired that after class I went home, laid down, and then reverted back to a liquid diet until I felt that my system could handle food again, which was a few days later. This episode forced me to remember mindful eating. By the way, I eventually thanked those students and told them each that I did have the surgery. Two of them stated that they had had the surgery as well! Thank God that I was in good company!
Having gastric bypass also means that I can go through what they call "dumping syndrome," which is a condition that occurs when a person who has had the surgery ingests too much sugar or eats too fast. I had a few dumping syndrome episodes, because foods such as vegetable juice, tomato soup, certain sauces and other processed foods mask sugar very well. Now I just stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
I have just shared some of the worst-case scenarios that occurred as a result of my bariatric surgery, but there is also good news…
I am currently managing my diabetes through diet and exercise. I am off most of my medications and I have lost almost 100 pounds! I have more energy, I am able to make better choices for food, I cook more, and I am eating more fruits and vegetables (mindfully chewing at least 32 times or until the food is like the texture of baby food in my mouth). My blood pressure is also lower than it has ever been and I have found that I enjoy food when it is prepared correctly and absent of all the extra fats, sugars, and junk.
So in my opinion, the surgery was worth it for me — I am so glad I did it! I would not change a thing about it. It has made me more mindful, it has helped me to slow down, and it has helped me enjoy life!
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.
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