Bangkok to Bali – my gastric bypass story
At the start of 2016, my husband and I went to Thailand on holiday. Expecting it to be warm everywhere, we were not prepared for the chilly Chang Mai. We rented a scooter (biggest engine we could find as the 125cc wasn’t going to get me up the hill) and went shopping for warm clothes. Three hou rs and 20 shops later I was in tears! At 250lbs and size 22 not even jeans in the men’s section fit me. I just wanted to go home!
I wasn ’t always overweight but in my early twenties I started picking up weight. Surviving sexual assault in my late teens and a petite mom with her own traumas and eating disorder didn’t help and my weight doubled over the next 15 years. One memory of mom telling me she can’t even look at me with my fat double chin stuck. Years later I know she did the best she could. Coming from a family who loves a therapist and medication, I went to my fair share of therapy sessions. I believe I dealt with my trauma and was incredibly defiant that I was fat and happy! Almost like I only realised that I was that big in photos and that the pile of “one day I ’ll fit in it again” clothes just got bigger.
In 2014 I married my best friend. We met in 2003 so he knew the smaller me, but accepted me for me and I’ll always be grateful for that! Let’s just say our wedding photos were not meant for the ma ntelpiece.
After trying everything from the cabbage soup diet to Sureslim, to Herbalife, to Weight Watchers and the entire Dischem weight loss aisle, I would lose 3lbs and pick up 7lbs the next month. My biggest effort to lose weight started in 2017 and included healthy food, regular exercise and almost no alcohol. My tiny friend Hannah dragged me to 3 to 5 spin and aerobics classes a week for 9 months. I lost 3lbs, barely any centimetres and felt completely broken. When your entire female community loses weight from the latest over the counter miracle drops and you don’t, sitting in the gym’ s parking lot crying is a regular occurrence.
I started chatting to my America friend Debbie Droke and this made me believe there is a solution. We met in 2009 in Botswana and we were both fairly large. We had the “fat” jokes down to a T. When I saw her after 5
years again, I could not believe the change. Debbie had a gastric bypass and lost more than half her body
weight. I so appreciated that she made sure I do my research and that I understand this is not a quick fix!
In 2018 another beach holiday in Umdloti (where I felt like a complete blob) gave me the opportunity to make an appointment with Dr Funnel at the Durban Bariatric Surgery. I contacted Dera at the rooms and immediately started believing this could work. She was so kind and supportive and made arrangements for my consultation. It included a full work up from cardio, dietician, biokineticist and a psychologist. I almost laughed when Dr McIntosh asked me if I’m depressed… I mean why wouldn’t I be! Dr Funnel explained that being pre diabetic with a BMI of 41, my body doesn’t understand weight loss and that starving myself was never going to work. This was such a moment and from then on my life changed.
My surgery date was the 15 of January 2019 and after some Medical Aid complications and a lot of back and forth this was moved to the 17 of January 2019. I have to mention Shaun at Discovery Medical aid here as without his support and loads of after hour assistance I would not have been able to get the surgery. At some point I was denied and my lovely dad and amazing boss even offered financial assistance.
This operation is not a cop out and you have to believe this from the start. Not only does the preparation include fluids only for weeks before and at least 3 months of almost no food after, it is a mind change that is most important. For an emotional binge eater, the fear of what if I can never do that again is hard to overcome. This is not an easy fix. For the rest of your life it changes who you are and it changes how people see you. The entire process changed me and I am finally not angry with the world. This even changed my work life – I’m confident and my relationships with people have cha nged completely.
Going back to Asia for a Bali holiday 9 months ago was so different! I could go into any shop and not have to buys clothes for my tiny mom and friends cause I didn’t fit. I felt amazing and we could even rent a smaller scooter!
Today, 19 months later I am down to 158lbs and have lost more 100cm. I can walk into a shop and buy a size 12 for the first time in 20 years. The yoga child’s pose is finally doable and I can cross my damn legs. I would never be able to thank Dr Funnel and Dera enough! I’m turning 40 in 3 months and like Debbie said, my only regret is not doing this 10 years ago!
Surgeon: Dr Ivor Funnel