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My Medical Journey: What Came Before My Surgery

by Holly Schippers | August 27, 2018
That’s me in the summer of 2014 (at an Australian wildlife preserve).

That’s me in the summer of 2014 (at an Australian wildlife preserve).

Here I am this summer, less than a year post-surgery.

Here I am this summer, less than a year post-surgery.

Many of you have reached out, either in person or online to get advice on weight loss, congratulating me on my success. Because it is important to me that no one feel like they are not trying hard enough or doing the right thing, I would like to share my struggle with you.

As many of you know, I am a diabetic. For the first several years, I chose to ignore it rather than be proactive and manage it. Having PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) while working in the beauty industry is difficult enough, adding the demands of diabetic choices seemed unfair. Unfortunately no one promised that anything about life would be fair and being diabetic is hardly something to complain about when surrounded by people with things like cancer, strokes, and more. The problem with being stubborn and in denial with diabetes is that you damage your body whether you acknowledge the problem or not.

Even though I eventually came around and tried harder to watch carbs and make better choices when it came to being a little healthier each year, it was too little too late for some parts of my body. While my eyes have been affected, the most severe damage was actually to my stomach. I developed gastroparesis. The diagnosis was a nearly four-hour process that involved eating “radioactive” oatmeal several times. It required special handling, and being scanned after a certain amount of time had passed.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But if you have gastroparesis, your stomach's motility is slowed down or doesn't work at all, preventing your stomach from emptying properly.”

To make a long story short, what came next was two years of throwing up partially decomposed food, trying to adjust diet to compensate for it, and having a progression that made the throwing up more frequent in addition to being more violent and painful. Cancelling days in the salon in addition to missing days of work as an educator was getting to be stressful and frustrating to say the least. Also, to prevent damage to my esophagus and teeth, action was becoming necessary.

What my doctor settled on as a solution was to remove the portion of the stomach in which the food settled. This meant undergoing a gastric sleeve. It is a very difficult decision to undergo a surgery in which you know there will be drastic results that you cannot keep private.  There are a lot of things that play with your mind and counseling beforehand in addition to meetings and classes is required.

The funny thing about going into a weight-loss surgery for reasons other than weight loss is your views and thoughts on it are not like anyone else’s. It isn’t something you’ve looked forward to, planned on, or wanted actually. One thing I have definitely learned though is it does make all the hard work you do with diet and exercise actually effective. I’m still actually coming to grips with it, especially as my body continues to change at a stage in life after I had gotten comfortable with myself!

November 14 will be one year since the surgery. It is not the shortcut, easy way, or cheat as so many would have you imagine it to be. I carry a food scale in my purse to ensure I eat the proper amounts of food, pour things into measuring cups at home, use snack size Ziploc bags to pack my meals, try to walk miles each day, and do strength training, taekwondo, and am looking into yoga. It takes more willpower and work than anything I have ever done before to maintain the lifestyle the doctor recommends for success.

This is a lot of explanation for the simple question of tell me your secret to losing weight. The point in opening up this part of my life to you has two purposes. One, if you have PCOS, diabetes, thyroid issues, or anything else that prevents you from losing weight no matter how hard you work, the surgery is a tool that will make your work effective and I would gladly support you in any way I can. Two, there is never a secret; it is always hard work. Try what you can, start off small with something like eating a little healthier and drinking enough water, then work in something new every other month or so until you hit your stride towards health. You’re not doing anything wrong — sometimes some of us just need to do things a little different. Hugs!

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