Sleeve Talk Saturday: 5 Things You Should Know Before Choosing A Surgeon

Welcome to the first ever Sleeve Talk Saturday.  While I was planning out posts for the blog, I realized that I wanted to break out my experiences step by step and provide tips and resources to get you through the process.  Whether you’re just considering surgery (or know someone who is) or you’re further along in the process.

STORIES

So you’ve decided to have bariatric surgery?  Whether it be gastric band, gastric sleeve, or gastric bypass, kudos to you for being brave.  Seriously.  The decision to have surgery is not an easy one, but it’s the crucial first step in your new journey.

When I made the decision to have gastric sleeve surgery, I really didn’t have any resources to go to for information and I ended up kinda winging the whole process.  I didn’t know about all of the extras that needed to happen and that I needed to consider before I could even get close to a surgery date.

I’m here to shed light on a few things I wish I’d known after making my decision, but before I thought about who my surgeon would be.

Insurance or not?

For me, this was the number one decider on whether or not I would say yes to having surgery.  I wasn’t sure if my insurance plan would cover it or not and that’s something you’ll definitely need to look into with your own insurance provider.  Some have very strict approval guidelines before they’ll even consider covering your procedure, so you need to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  I looked on my insurance provider’s website, looked at what my plan covered, and even called customer service to confirm.  Just be aware that even after going through all of that, your claim may still be denied.

Cost

Along with insurance, cost was neck and neck for the number one spot.  Even if the majority of your procedure is covered by insurance, there are other costs that come into play that I never realized.  Depending on which doctor you choose, there will be a battery of tests that you’ll need to go through, both on the doctor’s checklist and the insurance company’s checklist if you are going through insurance.  This includes any co-pays, lab fees, gas to and from each visit, and any additional fees not covered by insurance.  See the list below for the majority of tests I had to go through during the approval process.

  • 3 month doctor supervised diet program – this included three mandatory webinars and a couple of in person visits with the nutritionist.
  • Psychological Evaluation – as I found through this process, most psych evaluations aren’t covered by insurance and those fees will have to come out of pocket.  I called around to several different psychiatrists (those that took my insurance and those that didn’t) and the price points were between $200 and $600 dollars depending on how extensive the evaluation needed to be.
  • Abdominal Ultrasound
  • Blood Work/Stool Sample/Urinalysis – it’s a lot of blood work.  A lot.  And it has to be done a couple of times.  The first time I went, I believe she took about 15 vials of blood.  Then I had to go again a week before surgery for follow up blood work.  The urinalysis is self explanatory.  And the stool sample…well, it is what it is.
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Sleep Study – if you suffer from sleep apnea and already have a cpap machine, you may be able to skip this per your doctor’s instructions, but you’ll more than likely need to bring your cpap with you on your surgery day.  I have mild sleep apnea, so I was able to rent a machine from the sleep care center for a few months to get me acclimated before surgery and to hold me over after surgery before I needed to make a more permanent decision.
  • EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy)

Time

Now that you have the list of procedures that need to be done, you’ll need to find time to do them.  I had a three month deadline to get all of my tests done per my insurance requirement, so I had to hustle to get everything done.  That meant time off from work, either from taking the day off to get a handful of tests done at one time, taking a long lunch break, or coming in late/leaving early so I could make my appointments.  If you work in an office or industry where that’s feasible, I highly recommend talking about it to your manager.  I lucked out having one of the best bosses in the world and explained my situation to her upfront.  I didn’t tell her what I was having surgery for, but I did let her know my appointment schedule right off the bat and kept her updated as things changed.  That was a major help in keeping my sanity!

Support System

I’m going to be perfectly honest and say that I didn’t really have a support system during the beginning stages of the process.  Mainly because I only told probably three people.  For me, this was something that I personally needed to go through on my own.  I also didn’t want to jinx anything by telling too many of my friends and family.  If you’re not like me and you need to tell it to the world, make sure they’re people that will be honest with you, but still have your back in the long run.  There’s nothing wrong with your friends playing devil’s advocate so you look at the process from all angles, but it’s not okay for them to not be supportive of a choice that could save your life.  If you don’t have anyone you can go to, but need someone to talk to, I’m here for you as well!  I’ll try to answer questions as best as I can!

Downtime

This is mainly for after your surgery, but I wanted to include it in here as well because it is something important to consider.  For me, I took about two weeks off from work and had the luxury of being able to work remotely a few days from home, but if that’s not an option, you’ll need to figure out what’s best for your situation so that you can get the rest you need.  You’ll be spending at least a night in the hospital, if not two, and then you’ll want to let not just your body, but your mind recover and get used to your new stomach and your new way of life.  This also gives you a chance to start a routine that will help you succeed as you get back into the real world.

Now that you know what lies ahead, I believe that you’ll be able to move forward, confident in your choices. This journey is one of the toughest you’ll ever go through, but remain focused.  You can do it.  Stay brave!!

 

(featured photo credit: Daniel Frank Photography)

My Breakup With Food

I’m breaking up with food, everyone.  I can’t do it anymore.  The seductive call of a slice of pizza (or two, or three), the temptation of the plate of cookies at work, the need to snack while watching t.v. or reading.  It’s way past time for this relationship to be over.

But seriously, after my gastric sleeve surgery, my relationship with food has drastically changed.  If I’m being perfectly honest, there’s no enjoyment in eating anymore.  On one hand, that’s a good thing.  That was the point of the surgery; to break my addiction to food.  Like I tell myself anytime temptation rears its ugly head, I’ve had enough cake, soda, and deep fried everything to last me a lifetime.  There’s absolutely no need to continue eating the way I was eating.  This whole process has forced me to look at food completely differently.  As fuel and not comfort.  As a necessity and not a luxury.

Going out to eat was and is especially difficult.  The first time a friend asked me out to breakfast after my surgery, my immediate response was no.  I couldn’t imagine sitting at the table, opening a menu of food I couldn’t eat, and enjoying myself.  Add on to that the fact that I’d be done with my meal after two bites.  In the end it turned out okay, but I’m still wary of going to restaurants and eating out in general.  It’s only been 3 months since my surgery, so I know it’ll get easier as the months go by.

The hardest part about this breakup?  I can’t bake anymore, which was something I enjoyed immensely.  My little side cupcake business is on hiatus until I can figure out what to do and how to move forward.  The things that I used to enjoy, coming home and making a meal, baking cupcakes for coworkers, and just sitting down to a meal in general have all gone away.

I  don’t want this to be a sad post though..because it’s not.  After every breakup, there’s the denial, maybe some backslide, but you realize that everything happens for a reason and that you’re better off without the person, so I’m going to go into the future knowing that this is the best thing for me.  That my reasons for going through this whole process outweigh the momentary contentment of a plate of pasta.  But damn pasta, why do you have to look so good??

 

(header photo credit: Brooke Lark)

 

 

 

Get Used To Eating Cold Food

That’s what they don’t tell you.  And by “they” I mean the secret society that’s supposed to come out of the woodwork and keep me informed when I’m making major life decisions.

The whole time I was going through the gastric sleeve process, the doctors and the nutritionists drilled it into my head that I have to take 20 minutes to eat my food so that I become overly aware of how much I’m consuming as well as giving my body enough time to tell me when it’s full.  What they neglected to tell me is that in those 20 minutes, each bite I take will get colder and colder.  Especially when I had the bright idea to have surgery during the height of winter.

So I’m telling you now!  You will eat slowly.  And your food will get cold.

I’m sure it won’t be too bad in the spring and summer when I can throw together a quick smoothie or salad, but during the winter it’s definitely been rough.  Especially when you’re sitting down to a screaming, piping hot bowl of soup only to sip a spoonful of tepid broth.  Not fun!  And extremely discouraging.

The solution?  I highly suggest getting a warming plate.  My mom bought me two (one for work and one for home) and I have to say that I didn’t know if I’d use them, but I really do.  Also, it doesn’t heat up the food, but does maintain the temperature of my already hot food.

This ends my public service announcement.  Seriously though, cold food sucks!

 

 

 

(header photo credit:  Jorge Gonzalez)

My Decision to Have Gastric Sleeve Surgery

This will be the first time I’ve openly talked about my recent gastric sleeve surgery past the three or four people that have known about it since the beginning.  If I’m being honest with myself and everyone else, I didn’t want to put it out there because it was like I was admitting defeat.  I couldn’t lose weight on my own, so I was taking the “easy” way out.  At least that’s how I perceived it to be.  There are such negative connotations surrounding the subject of weight loss surgery and I didn’t want any judgement from outside sources.  I’ve decided to talk about it now because I want to be able to remember where I was/am mentally and physically during the rest of the process.  On days when I want to give up, I want to be able to come back to this post and have a renewed sense of purpose.  Or curse the heavens for making me do this…it could really go either way.

My reasons for choosing gastric sleeve surgery probably aren’t that much different than anyone else’s reasons.  I was tired of trying every single diet in the world.  To go through the ups and downs of starting a new eating plan.  Being excited to take steps in a new direction, only to be discouraged because real life got in the way and I ate a candy bar.  And that one candy bar would turn into two, or it would turn into a week of bad meals, or it would induce so much guilt that I’d give up at the slightest misstep.  I don’t think I understood how fluid I needed to be when taking on the challenge of healthy eating.  That it’s okay if I take one step back and eat something I shouldn’t as long as I push through and make better decisions next time.

I knew something needed to change.  I’m a few years away from being 40 and I wasn’t physically happy at all.  Being a functioning adult is one thing, but actually embracing and loving life is another.  When I walk out the door in the morning, I feel exposed, yet restricted by the more than extra pounds blanketing my body and I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.  I’ll go into the gritty details of my surgery prep (doctors, tests, and all the in between) in a separate post, but I want to use this first post as a jumping off point.  Below, you’ll see a glimpse into the first few weeks after my surgery.  Every few days, I would make notes on my phone…a few sentences here and there describing how I was feeling.  And yes, you’ll notice that I decided to have my surgery during the holidays, pretty much throwing myself into the fire and being on strictly liquids while everyone around me was eating their holiday desserts.

12/14/16 (Surgery Day!) – PAIN!!

12/27/16 – Still getting used to the small stomach.  My mind isn’t used to seeing so little food on a plate.

12/28/16 – Did I make the right decision?  Everything I eat feels like it’s getting stuck in my throat.  I feel like I won’t be able to enjoy food anymore.  The act of cooking is more like a chore now.  I was so excited to make mini chicken pot pies today, but could only take two bites before I was full.  I’m so not used to that.

12/31/16 – Was able to put my belt down two notches.  Notches I’ve never used before!

1/4/17 – When I look in the mirror, I still see the same person I was before surgery even though I know I’ve lost weight.  I can feel it and I know people see it.

1/8/17 – I haven’t been doing well these past couple of days.  I’ve been struggling a lot with my meals.  Not being able to sit down and enjoy a plate of food has been hard.  I overate over the weekend and I had to step back and reevaluate why I went through this whole process.  I’m just feeling lost.