The second torpedo took the form of gallbladder attacks requiring an immediate cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery). The third torpedo kept me in the hospital nine days fighting the resulting streptococcal sepsis.
At five feet seven inches tall, I weighed in at 327.5 pounds (148.55 kg). It only took a look in the mirror to see who had fired those torpedoes.
I did. At me.
Well, a compromised ship needs to be repaired, so, having tried just about every weight loss program in creation and finding myself at the end of my rope I sought the help of a bariatric surgeon.
I had a sleeve gastrectomy on December 28, 2016, a surgery that removed about 70% of my stomach.
Hi, everyone! I'm Rocky, and this is an update on my bariatric journey. You can link the other three parts on The Psychology of It website here if you have not yet read them. If you have, then this will let you know that I am well!
I had my one year check on Friday, December 29, 2017. The surgeon, Dr. Melanie Hafford, told me how pleased she was at my progress. Statistically, the average gastric sleeve patient, also known as a "sleever," loses between 50% and 60% of their excess body weight in the first eighteen months.
I listed my highest recorded weight above, 327.5 pounds. At my one year follow-up, I weighed in at 201.5 pounds. That's a net loss of 126 pounds (57.15 kg).
In fact, let me quote directly from my chart, which in this marvelous day and age, I have access to online.
Weight loss goal of 50-60% excess body weight with predicted goal weight of 218-236 lbs at 18 months postop. The patient has exceeded this goal, and anticipate he will continue to lose weight. Discussed importance of maintaining new life style to maintain weight loss longterm.
All of this is clinical, though. What I want to update you on is how I feel, because anyone thinking, even in a small way, about bariatric surgery will want the answer to that. I certainly did at the beginning of my journey.
Quite simply, I feel better than I have in 20 years. I am now 60 years old, so that is a full one-third of my life ago. I now truly understand the old cliché "A new lease on life."
I reread "A Christmas Carol" this past year and can relate to Scrooge's transformation from "Bah, humbug," to "merry as a school boy."
When I began the journey, I composed a list of reasons to lose weight. Here are five of them.
1. I wanted to be able to tie my shoes and breathe at the same time.
2. I wanted to be able to order two Big Macs, two large orders of fries, and two sodas at MacDonald's and not have the cashier think I would consume it all myself.
3. I wanted to order two Big Macs, two large order of fries, and two sodas and NOT consume it all myself.
4. I wanted to be a part of a crowd and not have everyone look at me if someone farted.
5. I wanted to be able to watch myself urinate without having to bend at the waist.
These and a few others I made public. Yes, there is a note of seriousness in each of them, but I made a clear attempt to deflect my inward agony with humor. If people would laugh at me, I reasoned, then I would laugh first. So there!
Let me share some of the true befores and afters.
I can walk up and down stairs without holding onto the rail, much less for dear life. I no longer plan my day around going down and up a single flight of stairs one time, and no more.
I no longer need a seatbelt extender on an airplane. I did not mention this on in my last articles because of absolute shame, but a year ago last November. I spent two three and a half hour flights where my butt didn't come within an inch of the seat. The arm rests held me up, much to the chagrin of my seatmates, one of whom passively aggressed "Humphs" all through the flight. The seatbelt extender barely connected.
I could have been tossed off the plane.
I no longer enjoy the first three or four bites of a large meal, then mindlessly eat the rest. With a smaller stomach, I enjoy seven or eight bites and stop. The net effect is that I enjoy food more than I ever have because I pay attention to each bite.
I summoned the courage to ask the wait staffs at restaurants if they will let me order ala carte, or order off the children's menu. I have yet to be refused.
I've discovered new and varied places to eat. A wonderful little Japanese restaurant close to me serves small plates, similar to a tapas bar. One plate is perfect for me. Speaking of tapas bars, I have discovered a couple close to me.
I've noticed that many restaurants serve small portions of main courses as appetizers. Perfect!
I've also learned that leftovers can be a good thing, particularly those that can be frozen. I've successfully experimented with cutting recipes drastically.
A slider is a huge sandwich for me. A bacon, lettuce, and tomato slider is my favorite. Excepting a burger slider, of course. Can't beat a gooey cheeseburger.
I can split a steak with a friend and let that person have the lion's share.
A can of soup really does have two and a half servings rather than two and a hald cans being a single serving. Then again, I enjoy making my own soups. Even if I use store bought broth, it's so much better when I make it myself using fresh ingredients. And what's better on a cold day than a hot bowl of soup?
I'm eating four small meals a day. When I reach my goal, I will add a meal or even two rather than increase the size of each meal.
My days of chowing down on the massive restaurant servings are, thankfully, over.
Since my attitude on life has improved so much for the better, I no longer use alcohol as medication. It is a food, plain and simple. With calories, so therefore a treat. I enjoy an occasional glass of wine, or a mixed drink, maybe even two. I no longer drink every week, much less every day. I cannot honestly say that I haven't been drunk during this last year. I have been, mostly because I've had to discover my new limits.
It is a process, but suffice it to say that I no longer WANT to drink every day. It would be like having a hot fudge sundae every day. I could not imagine it. Though every month or so ...? Mmmm. And these days my hot fudge sundae would be a single dip version, and considered a full meal.
I'm loving exercise again. At 327.5 pounds, I had trouble walking ten minutes without needing to rest for five. Now, I'm back in the pool swimming. In six months, I'm up to 1,800 meters non-stop. It takes me about 55 minutes, so I'm no threat to Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky, but that's okay by me. Hell, an 82-year old lady at my health club can swim faster and longer than I can, and with perfect flip turns, and that's fine, too.
I am where I am, and she is where she is. That she competed in the 1956 and 1960 U. S. Olympic trials makes me smile, give her a big thumbs-up, and use her success and dedication as something to work toward.
It took work to get up to the 1,800 meters, a lot of it, but I did it. My next goal is to take 5 minutes off the time before trying to increase the distance to—dare I say it—2 kilometers.
Just this past August, I made my first visit to New York City. Loved it! This year I'm going to San Francisco, back to New York, and to Kauai.
I love traveling.
I'm self-publishing my very first novel after decades of beating my head against the closed door of traditional publishing. What's the definition of insanity?
I'm doing this! I'm freaking doing this!
I will not bore you with more examples. But I will say that I am proud of what I have accomplished in this last year. Most proud. Button-popping proud.
It hasn't been all peaches and cream, though. Nothing in life ever is. A longtime friend of mine died this past year, a man two months younger than I am. Beyond losing someone I will miss dearly, it is yet another event that holds up a mirror and shows me my own mortality.
I still have health issues. I'm currently going through a battery of tests to determine if I have ulcerative colitis. If I have it, it's in a very early stage and treatable.
I am learning that I still have "trigger" foods, those that, once I start in on them, I have trouble stopping. Peanut butter is one. Wheat Thins are another. Roasted almonds fall into that category as well. So, I buy those items sparingly, if at all.
Within the last couple of days of this writing I learned that banana nut bread (which I make myself) is a trigger. All four of my meals yesterday consisted of banana nut bread. Not good! Not good at all! I had to toss the remainder.
Which reminds me, I am learning to deal with waste. I hate waste, particularly of food. My parents were both raised in the U. S. Depression era and made sure my siblings and I had plenty to eat and that we ate everything served to us because, "there are starving people in China." I've had to dig down and understand that, yes, there are starving people all over the world, but the massive quantities of food placed before me by restaurants, family, myself, and/or well-intentioned friends will not help them. And eating the excess food because people elsewhere are starving only hurts me.
So, I've had to reconcile myself to a certain amount of waste.
I learned that a former work colleague, a man who had the same surgery and lost over 150 pounds, committed suicide. It seems his wife could not handle the new him, was frightened that he would leave her for another woman, and took the preemptive action of leaving him, taking the kids with her. He was not able to handle the abandonment.
My understanding is that things like this can happen. Change is exactly that. Change. Some people resist change. Others embrace it. At 60 years of age, I realize that I fall into the latter group. My father fell in line with the former. All my childhood I recall him saying things like "This world is going to hell in a handbasket and I don't want to be around to see it."
He wasn't. And he was only 48 when he died.
My point here is that bariatric surgery is not a miracle cure. It will not give strength or will or drive. It is a tool, one of many, the effectiveness of which depends largely on the psyche of the individual. At least from my own observation.
It requires a complete change in lifestyle, in attitude, particularly regarding eating, and it requires effort. A lot of effort.
Still, it has worked for me. Beautifully so.
I've learned to be more socially aware.
With regard to the above-mentioned waste, I compensate by buying extra food at the store and donating it to shelters in my area. The grocery stores where I shop make this easy for me. And I do it now on a regular basis, especially at holiday times.
With a couple of examples held back, I've donated all of my "big" clothes to the Salvation Army. I also donate food there as well. I donate to the Red Cross, and hospitals for children in my area.
I've changed in so many wonderful ways this last year.
My current job is to make sure things stay that way.
My baby brother had the same surgery a couple of months ago, and is doing well. He is 51. It looks strange to type his age out, but no more strange than typing that I am 60. I now sympathize with older people who constantly tell you their age. They tell it because they can barely believe it themselves. Time passes that quickly. What's that old song lyric, "I've been aware of the time going by/They say in the end, it's the wink of an eye."
Which reminds me. If you are older and considering the bariatric option and think you might be too old, confer with a surgeon. The mother of a friend of mine had the sleeve gastrectomy and she is 72. Generally, the older the patient, the greater the risk, but surgeons are more likely to work with an otherwise healthy patient in his or her 70's than a 45-year-old with a history of heart disease or other heath issues, so check with a surgeon.
Here's the good news.
I haven't had a "relationship" since my divorce over 30 years ago. The few dates I've had haven't worked out. One lady asked me once if I would give up my writing for the right woman. I said that the right woman wouldn't ask me to give it up. That was my only date with her.
Somehow, I believe that things would be far different now, because I'm so different. I might actually have success this time around. I've made jokes about loving solitude, and I do. But loneliness sucks! And solitude and loneliness are merely two horns on the same bull.
It's time I opened myself up again to the possibility of love, I think. That is why I've been closely following the last posts on The Psychology of It page.
So, moving into 2018, I've got my work cut out for me, but I'm looking forward to the journey. Each and every step.
That's about it.
If you have questions of me, let Jodie know. She'll pass them to me and I'll be happy to answer them as best I can.
Wherever you are in life, I wish you the very best!
By the way! Here is my before picture, and my picture one year and one day after surgery. I still have 30 pounds or so to lose.
Thank you so much Rocky for sharing your journey through bariatric surgery and amazing lifestyle behaviour changes with us. Your open and honest account of your experiences have been nothing short of inspirational and we are so grateful. Well done!