Changing my life to save my life....
I’ve had issues with my knees since around 2008. I tore the meniscus in my left one first, dancing at Vacation Bible School one night (yes Christians CAN dance J ). Then, as I was waiting to have that one repaired, the stress on my other “good” knee caused that one to also tear. Of course it didn’t help that I was also overweight at that time. I eventually had surgery on both of them, and all was good, right? Well, not really. They were never the same, I couldn’t bend down on them and they continued to hurt, the doctors answer being arthritis. So I lived with it, and managed with NSAIDS and such. But I continued to be fairly active, even while overweight. I went to an orthopedist in 2018 because one of them was so bad I could barely walk, despite exercising and keeping pretty active. In March of 2019, I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS, and took massive doses of steroids to reduce a lesion on my spine. Those things make you hungry. ALL. THE. TIME. I was eventually able to get off of them, but the lasting effects took a toll on me, my body and my emotional state. Then, in February of 2020, my left knee went out and I couldn’t even walk. My daughter had to wheel me in a wheelchair into the orthopedist’s office. X-raysand exams were done, the pictures were NOT pretty. The after visit summary went something like this, “Chronic pain of both knees, Genu Varum of both lower extremities, bilateral knee swelling and bilateral primary osteoarthritis of both knees”. Basically my knees were toast, done, completely over my years of abuse of being overweight. This dr went on to tell me that I needed both knees replaced, but “no one will touch you at your weight. You need to lose at least 100lbs and come back.” That stung. I knew I was overweight. Did he think I DIDN’T see that every time I saw myself in the mirror, or every time I tried to walk anywhere and not only my knees hurt but I got terribly winded? My daughter and I left there angry, upset and bewildered at how I was going to do that without even being able to walk to exercise. I went home feeling defeated and even more depressed than before. I weighed 343lbs at that visit, had a Bmi of 57.08, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obstructive sleep apnea.
Needless to say that was a very dark time. I had no hope and no idea how to do this. I had a new granddaughter and a wonderful daughter that I wanted to be around for, and to be able to do things with them. But I just didn’t see it happening. A few weeks later, steroid shots in both knees didn’t even help me. But the sweet PA that did them said, “Ms. Fant, if you can lose the weight, you might not even need knee replacements.” . I left there resolved to do something about this, no matter what it took! I sent my primary doctor a message that I wanted to be referred for bariatric surgery. Yeah, I know what some people might think, even some of you reading this, “That’s the easy way out.” “She did this to herself she needs to just control her eating and stop being lazy.” Etc., so on and so forth. Well, I didn’t care what anyone thought, I was willing to have a risky surgery with lots of possible complications to try and get myself to a better place health wise. This was in March, and in early May I had my first consultation with my amazing bariatric surgeon. He and I discussed the surgical options, vertical sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass. Since I already had issues with acid reflux, and had a large amount of weight to lose, we decided that gastric bypass would be best for me. There were lots of things that had to be done prior to being approved for this surgery. Lots of lab work, EKG, visits with dieticians, a psychological evaluation and lots of forms with lots of questions to answer. I prayed and prayed that they wouldn’t find anything that might disqualify me (physical, mental or emotional wise) for this surgery. I prayed about this and just gave it to GOD. I knew I had no control over their decision, OR my insurance company’s decision to approve it or not. So I was amazed and shocked when I got a letter the last week of June that not only had they insurance company approved my surgery, the surgery date was in less than 2 weeks!!! Now, we were still in the first 6 months of a pandemic, and elective surgeries had just been reopened. I was scheduled to move the first of August, and had thought I would wait until after the move to have surgery. But God had other plans! I called my sister panicked because it was happening so fast, and she reminded me “you said you told God to handle it, and HE is doing just that. If you wait they may cancel elective surgeries again. You need to go ahead and have this done!” She was right. I had done that, and I know that He doesn’t make mistakes, so I got busy making arrangements to be off work and such. I was excited, worried and anxious. I was the helper to my daughter for my almost 1 year old granddaughter, and worried who would help her while I was recovering. I knew we needed to pack to move and make all those arrangements. I knew I would have a special diet (pureed foods) for the first month after surgery-I had no idea how to do that or if I would even feel like prepping food and eating. True to form, but totally unexpected, my sister texted me a couple of days later and said she was coming down when I had surgery, despite the fact she had just been here in June for a weeklong visit. I cried. I don’t deserve the most amazing people in my life, but I have them. An amazing daughter, sister and a couple of other very close family members and friends are always there for me, and so supportive.
Fast forward to July 7 2020. This was a life changing day for me. I was nervous about being under general anesthesia. That worried me more than anything since it had been quite a while since that had happened. But once I was in pre-op, I was just ready to get ‘er done! Everyone was amazing, and my surgeon (who I had only met virtually thus far due to the pandemic!) came in and talked to me and I knew I would be in excellent hands. I felt a peace come over me and was no longer worried. Surgery went well, 3 days in the hospital (with a few antics between my daughter and sister to visit me!), and I was home. I was sore, but very grateful to be on the other side of surgery. Now, I will pause here to say, not everyone has as easy of a time as I did. Bariatric surgery has a huge list of “possible” complications. Some people experience the worst, some only have mild issues and some have none. I listened to all their stories, and still decided that I had to risk my life to hopefully save it. And I have never looked back. As of this week I have lost 102lbs since July 7th 2020, and 129lbs total since my highest weight of 354 in December of 2019. My bmi is now 38.01 instead of 57.08! I came home from the hospital off of all (2 of them) my blood pressure meds and type 2 diabetes (2 of them) meds. I have had some minor issues, such as gastritis at about 3 months out that required and EGD, and major motility issues with my bowels. But I can deal with those. Because now I walk pretty freely without knee pain or a cane, I rarely have to use my handicapped placard (which I have due to residual issues from the spinal lesion) and don’t need to use the motorized cart at the grocery store. It’s a life that at one point I thought I would never have again. I was willing to do anything, whatever it took to save my life. I know without a doubt that this surgery has done that. I saw my neurologist recently in person for the first time since before surgery, and she thought she had entered the wrong exam room. She was very happy for me because this can also help slow the progression of my MS. And taking all the extra stress off my body will help with the symptoms too.
Bariatric surgery is not “the easy way out”. I know people who’ve almost died from it, have died from it or have had numerous complications. Some people regret it. I don’t. I didn’t have any major issues because of anything I did or didn’t do, that’s just the way it happened. But I was willing to take any risk. I knew this was the only hope I had of saving my life and living a longer and healthier lifestyle. Bariatric surgery isn’t a magic fix. It’s a lifelong commitment to being better all around-personally, emotionally, mentally and physically. I’ve made a commitment to my health and I am forever grateful for this 2nd chance. I tell younger people, “Please learn from me! When people talk about nutrition and how to stay in good shape, LISTEN to them!!” I wish my 50 something year old self had continued to be as active as my 20 something year old self had been. I still have about 50lbs to lose, but I know this is a marathon and not a sprint. My “obese brain” still has a lot of catching up to do. I am struggling with buying smaller sizes and automatically go to the larger ones. I have to remind myself that those clothes are way too large now, and go to the smaller sizes. Such a strange concept, but I am getting used to it, and I will continue to work on the mental and emotional areas that led me to this place in the beginning. That work is much harder. And will take longer, but I know it will come.
Whatever your struggle, do whatever it takes to get to a better place. Life IS worth it. Don’t get so bogged down in everyone else’s struggles that you can’t or don’t work on your own. People who love you are counting on you, and want you to be around. I did this for myself, but by doing so I knew that it would also have a positive impact on those who love me. Life is hard, so love yourself and make your health a priority. No one can want it more than you, so do it! You’re welcome to message me with any questions about my experience thus far. I am no medical expert, in fact I am not an expert at anything. All I can offer you is my experiences, encouragement and pray for you. But as long as you make an effort, I will be in your corner. You can also follow me on my Instagram @worththeweightjourney.
My sweet daughter recently bought balloons to celebrate my 100lb weight loss. I love her so much and will always be grateful for her support!!
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I hope even some small part helps you or encourages you to keep making changes in whatever area of your life you are working on!