Ever since I had gastric bypass I’ve been asked a ton of questions. People are very kindly interested in how I’m doing, which is really sweet. And I think that people are genuinely curious about what it’s like. So since I’ve decided to be real about the whole thing, here are my two cent’s worth on the subject…
The first few days right after surgery are honestly a painkiller’d-up blur of breathing exercises to prevent pneumonia, slow walks around the ward pushing an IV stand to prevent blood clots, and (apparently) long conversations with loved ones and friends that you don’t remember later. At all. It’s a painful effort to do even the smallest task, and you have to ask for a lot of help. I don’t appreciate having to ask for help. I do, however, appreciate having HAD the help of my sweet Sister, some wonderful nurses, and a few fantastic friends. I had to stay in the hospital a day longer than most because I was in a lot of pain, and that has always made me really nauseated. Being really nauseated is not what you want after just having rerouted your interior plumbing, so to be on the safe side the doc kept me in.
When I finally got home I realized that all the books and blog posts I’d read were right. My sense of smell really WAS suddenly about 1000% more acute. And I have a seriously acute sense of smell already. I could smell the dead rat in the ceiling above my desk at work a full week before anyone else could smell it. When I go into Starbucks I can smell the scent of coffee in my hair all day long. When I walked back into my house for the first time after surgery, I almost gagged on the smell of stargazer lilies and litter box. I don’t think there’s any way to prepare for this. I just dabbed Bath & Body Works lotion under my nose all day and Sister put the lilies on the back porch.
The first few days at home following surgery were uncomfortable. I was always burning up. My awesome Sister (meanie!) kept making me get up and walk even though I just wanted to stay still. She made me drink water when I didn’t want to because ingesting anything made me feel nauseated. She made me take medicine and do my blood pressure and temperature, as per directed. Annoying! Then my cat inexplicably wanted to sleep on my stomach when I was lying in bed. He NEVER wants to sleep on me, but suddenly he was dying to after I had major abdominal surgery. WTH???
After a few days, though, Sister had to go home. I was an emotional wreck and was honestly terrified to be by myself. I didn’t know how I could take care of myself when I couldn’t bend over, could barely get in and out of bed, and might not have the sense to know if I was having complications I should call the doc about.
Of course I was okay, but I won’t lie – it was hard…If I dropped something it stayed on the floor unless I could pick it up with my toes. There were days when I struggled with being alone and having no one to talk to. I cried a lot (anesthesia can make you very emotional). I fretted over getting dehydrated because it’s really hard to drink at first. I ate too little and felt weak. I ate too much and it hurt. There were days when I planned to venture out (Sister’s orders), but was so tired by the time I showered and dressed that I’d fall asleep on the couch for three hours. When I went back to work after three weeks I could barely make it through the day. But every day I got a little better.
The morning that I woke up and was lying on my side WITHOUT PAIN was the day that I knew I was getting back to normal. I think that was about six or eight weeks out. Soon I could eat two full ounces. By three months out I could eat almost three! People are shocked when I tell them how little I eat. But here’s the thing. You don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. If you eat one smidgen too much you feel like you stuffed yourself at Thanksgiving dinner. After eating just the proper amount you’re disgusted by the thought of eating anything else. You do not feel deprived at all. It’s kind of a miracle.
Today is my five month anniversary. I feel completely normal again. I’ve lost almost 80 pounds. I’ve also lost a BUNCH of hair, but that’s normal. I don’t like it, but I expected it. I exercise. I have more energy. I eat low carb because I need a whole lot of protein, and with a small stomach you can’t afford to let carbs take up much room. But I do eat carbs sometimes and don’t sweat it. I take, and will always take, a variety of vitamin supplements. I don’t eat sugar at all. I haven’t even risked it because sugar can cause dumping syndrome, the particulars of which I will spare you because it’s pretty gross. I thankfully haven’t experienced it yet. I’m learning to deal with emotions that I used to just cover up with food. Overall it’s been fantastic.
When I first got back to work/church, people would ask me if I’d “do it again.” In those early days I just told them that I couldn’t really say because I still hurt, didn’t feel like myself, and also hadn’t lost much weight. But now I can unequivocally say that I would have this surgery again. Even the tough first days are worth the end result. And I’m not even to my goal yet! But probably the most satisfying thing about this experience is knowing that I’ve done a brave, hard thing and I’m stronger and healthier because of it.