This past Saturday, September 9, was my two-year “sleeve-aversary” – the anniversary of my bariatric sleeve surgery. This, I confess, is hard for me to fathom. It has truly been a journey, an adventure, and a life-changing one. When people hear “weight-loss surgery” I’m sure they think that’s all it is, that’s what it’s all about – weight loss. But, from the very beginning that was never my mind-set. I didn’t have a size I was trying to get into or a goal weight. I didn’t take “before” pictures. I didn’t even think about those things. I, frankly, never even allowed myself to dream about losing a certain amount of weight. For me, it was all about my health.
If you’ve been reading along with me for any length of time you know about much of my health struggles. But, for the sake of those who are newer, I will give you a brief run down. I have suffered with severe migraines since I was about 7. At 17 I was diagnosed with TMJ and what they thought was arthritis in my hands and knees. Later we discovered this was not arthritis but Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After damaging my knees in a fall in my 30’s however, I did develop arthritis in my knees and, then, eventually in my hands. About that same time they also discovered Degenerative Disc Disease in my upper back. By my mid-40’s my Fibro had become so severe that I had to quit working. Then, three years ago today (9.11) I was in a serious car accident where I broke my shoulder in two places and fractured my spine in six. My weight sky-rocketed even higher and I, also, developed sleep apnea. A simple trip to Wal-mart could leave me practically fetal on the couch for days at a time. I struggled to stand long enough to shower or do my hair. My surgery was the act of a desperate woman. My desire to fight back against my body – against the pain, against the struggle and try to re-gain some semblance of a life.
When I opted for the surgery, we had absolutely no expectations for my fibromyalgia whatsoever. At the beginning stages, there seemed to be no real research on any connection between weight loss surgery and fibro. None of my doctors seemed to have any information either. But, we did know I was one point away from pre-Diabetes and Diabetes is rampant in my family, so that was just a matter of time. We did know that the weight on my knees was NOT a good thing and the doctor was warning of a cane in less than 10 years, if not knee replacements. We did know that between the degenerative disc disease and the additional weakening from the car accident, the additional weight on my back could eventually mean back surgery, as well. The list went on. Completely apart from my Fibromyalgia, the surgery needed to happen.
And, so it did! September 9, 2015. I walked down that surgical hall one person, and in many ways, was wheeled out another. We accomplished all the things we set out to accomplish that day – and more! Yet, lo and behold, after that day it was like my Fibro went into some beautiful remission! Like the surgery had flipped some magical anti-fibro switch inside my body! It was a miracle and I was praising God to anyone who would listen! I was exercising five days a week, enjoying the feeling of being able to move my body practically pain-free! As well, the other side symptoms that accompany fibro seemed to dissipate as well – the Chronic Fatigue improved, the cognitive issues… Suddenly, Ronnie had returned – I felt reborn!
Then, about a year ago, I noticed my pain starting to pick up again. Not a huge amount. Little droplets here and there. And my fatigue began to increase, so much so that my surgeon gave me a pass to have caffeine once a day – something you’re not suppose to have anymore post-surgery. (Your stomach is more sensitive to the possibility of ulcers. Caffeine can cause ulcers…) I wasn’t really concerned at first, thinking perhaps I had been overdoing things here and there, pressing my new-found body just a little too far. Or maybe it was stress. Or lack of sleep. Or… But, things kept getting worse.
Now here we are, two years later, and as you have probably surmised by now from the title, I’m back to square one. Almost. My pain levels themselves are pretty much where they were pre-surgery. But, the other symptoms have begun to return as well – the severe chronic fatigue, the brain fog, sensory overload issues, temperature sensitivity, balance problems… (Fibro is more than a pain!) And I’ll be honest, part of me can’t help but question why…why God would work this way. What was the point of seemingly curing me of this illness only to slam me back down – HARD – only two years later? And why now? When I’ve just started back to school – something I KNOW God was leading me to do.
I know there are some who think we shouldn’t ask God why. I disagree. I think God is a big boy. I think he can handle our questions! He knows who we are and what we are. He knows what’s in your head and heart anyway, so you might as well say it. You’re not fooling anyone! Job didn’t hold back his questions from God. And God didn’t slam Job for asking them. But, He reminded him who He was, and that He had it covered and that he could trust Him.
It’s been hard. I’ll be honest. I’m caught between the intensity of the illness – the deep desire to curl back up in that fetal position on the couch again – and the intensity of my desire NOT to give my life back! And yet knowing every time I push myself I’m also causing more pain. It’s a vicious, nasty, cruel circle. Additionally, as many of you know who’ve been reading along with me, I lost my wonderful fibro doctor of many years recently. (He took a very prestigious position far, far away from PA) Unfortunately, the gentleman, and I use the term loosely, who took over his practice, is NOT a wonderful doctor. So, I’m also scrambling to find a new doctor, as well.
So, now we look back on these two years and all that’s transpired and where I am now and what is my take – how do I interpret all of this? First, I’ll say that my surgery is still the best decision I ever made for myself! Since I went in with no expectations for my fibro, what is happening with that now is irrelevant. It has still exceeded my expectations. My health is still vastly improved! My chances of diabetes is GONE! My sleep apnea is GONE! The weight is off my joints and back! Mission accomplished! And I thank God for leading me down that road and allowing me to overcome my fears and the stereotypes that were in my head over the whole idea.
Second, yes, I will keep fighting for the life I’ve gained. I have an appointment this week with a new pain management doctor. But, I’ve also been reading EVERYTHING I can get my hands on about dealing with this through eating, exercise and natural and holistic methods. After 15 years of this, I’ll be honest, it seems like there’s little I haven’t read already, but, new ideas, new people, new research is popping up all the time. And my body is different now. It may react differently than it did before. I refuse to close my mind to any possibility.
Finally, no, I don’t understand why God allowed this, why He chose to work things this way. And I’m not real happy about it. BUT, I know this. I know that God is a god of love. He IS love. And I know that if He has allowed something, it ultimately comes from a place of love, even if I can’t yet see the reason or understand it. Case in point. My first husband died. It was horrible and heartbreaking and tragic. I NEVER would have asked for that or wished it. But, if he hadn’t, I never would have had Mr. T in my life or my wonderful son, Matt, which would also be heartbreaking and tragic! Or my car accident three years ago. Horrible! Devastating! Painful! Scary! BUT, it was the circumstances of that car accident that made it possible for me to be able to have my weight loss surgery a year later! A wonderful thing! See, those are God things. Things that seem horrible and awful at the time – we don’t understand them or understand why God is allowing them, but then in His time He makes something beautiful out of them. That’s what I’m believing now. That’s what I’m holding on to. No, I don’t understand this. I don’t like this. But, I know my God. And I believe He can make something beautiful out of this, too!