Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why not lap-band? Why Gastric Bypass???

Family biking was impossible when I was 300 pounds.

From time to time people ask me why I chose gastric bypass surgery rather than the quite popular lap-band alternative.  Recently a friend of mine, who had lap-band at virtually the same time I had my bypass surgery wrote to me about her own personal journey. She gave me permission to share our correspondence so that others who may be weighing their options could have access to information that may save you money, time, and heartache.

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Anna I need to talk to you. Three years on and I am back to my original weight, pre-lap-band.  Can you believe it? After [a personal tragedy] I just ate and ate and ate and ate, comfort eating my way through my shock and grief, cheating the band. I am filled with such massive self-hatred over it. But then I read your blog on the day you told everyone about 'cutting out the sin', and that, for you, meant your stomach. I'm so regretful that I didn't go all the way and have a gastric bypass instead of a lap-band. So, I am seriously considering getting my band removed and having a gastric. Will you spend maybe fifteen minutes talking some stuff over with me on the phone sometime? I have gone over your blog again in the last few days, but I still have questions and I really need to find out from you how you really feel post-op about the ongoing repercussions of living with a gastric bypass. I know you are so busy, we have parallel lives with homeschooling! So I really promise that I will keep it short, to the 15 minutes.......

In shame and embarrassment,

[my friend's name]

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So happy to talk to you anytime. [Here I related the best days and times to call me, along with my phone numbers.]

By the way, there should be no shame or embarrassment on your part. Your story is the same as many who have lap-band... and is actually the reason I decided to go "all the way" with the bypass surgery.

When I had to go through the education part of my pre-surgery, I was convinced to do lap-band.  But, after looking at a side-by-side comparison of the results of lap-band and the results of bypass... that was one of the three things that convinced me to go bypass.

So you don't have anything to be ashamed of.

The other two things that convinced me were these...

Lap-band puts a ring around the top of the stomach.
At a support meeting I met a lady whose mother had died very overweight (like over 400 pounds). She and her sister had promised their mom on her deathbed that they would both do something about their own weight problems. One sister had lap-band, the sister I was talking to had bypass. The lap-band sister lost 80 pounds, and then slowly gained them all back. The sister I talked to, lost all the weight she needed to, and had gained none of it back. Her surgery had been 8 years ago. She was there to support her son (who was probably getting close to 400 pounds himself)... and he, after watching the results of both his mom and his aunt had decided bypass was the route for him.

The third thing that convinced me happened at a support group meeting.

I was sitting near the biggest person I've every been physically close to. She was probably over 500 pounds. She had actually a very pretty face ... she was one of those people who never gain weight in their faces, and it actually looked odd. Like this normal weight person's head stuck on top of this really really large body. She was so large, it was like those people that you see on documentaries who have to be moved to the hospital with a fork lift. I never saw her actually walk, but it would have been somewhat unbelievable if she could have walked. She was seated with some friends when I arrived. (Going to this support group meeting was one of the requirements I had to do in the education part before I was allowed to have the surgery.)

Anyway... I was totally eavesdropping on her conversation with her friends. She was talking about church. As I listened, I realized she was probably a genuine Christian. She was talking to her friend about why she picked lap-band instead of bypass surgery. She said something along the lines of "I just think God knows how the human digestive system should be wired, and I don't think we should be cutting people up and sewing them back up like Frankenstein."

Now, I was still in the process of trying to decide which was right for me... lap-band or bypass. And that sounded like completely good reasoning to me. Because I DO believe that God knows how the digestive system should work!!! He is the Creator! And just hearing her say that tipped my mind greatly toward lap-band. But as I continued to listen in to her conversation, my mind was changed in an instant.

Bypass surgery physically reduces the size of the stomach.
She said to her friend, "I have to get my band adjusted again. I haven't lost a single pound in the last month."

Uh-oh.

That is extremely bad news for someone over 500 pounds... because statistically once you have lap-band or gastric bypass surgery you ONLY have 12 to 18 months to lose ALL the weight you're going to be able to lose. And I thought... "A whole month without losing a single pound... time is ticking away, and she is NOT going to lose what she needs to lose. It's just not going to happen."

That was the final straw that tipped me over the edge to choosing bypass surgery.

Now does that mean that I've come to the conclusion that God does not know what He is doing when He created the digestive system? No no no! A thousand time, no!

What I AM saying is that our digestive systems, along with all the rest of creation, are under a curse. Behaviorally, we are all bent toward sin... and genetically we are living in a cursed world. There are certain people who have an undeniable genetic bent toward the evidence of gluttony hanging on their bodies. (Believe me, there are also plenty of "skinny" people who indulge in gluttony--meaning they overindulge and stuff themselves sometimes--but they have the metabolism to burn it off.)

I'm sure that when Adam and Eve were in their perfect state, not only did they have the perfect metabolism, but they probably did not originally have any desires to eat more than their bodies needed. After the curse, all that changed.

Twins often both have weight problems.
Now you can look at families walking around in the market together and see that most everyone in a family looks somewhat like the others in the family. Overweight parents, for the most part, have overweight kids. Some of that is due to kids modeling the behavior of their parents... true. Some sin is taught. HOWEVER, studies using twins separated at birth and raised in different families shows that the twins will almost always be similar weights when they become adults. If one is overweight, the other will be too... despite the fact that they may have grown up watching their fit adoptive parents model great eating and exercise habits. There IS a genetic factor to this. There just IS. To deny that is medically ridiculous.

This is the place that some Christians run into a problem. We KNOW that man is responsible for his sin before a Holy God. God doesn't give anyone a free pass. So... we take the next logical step in our minds and conclude: "God would NEVER give someone a genetic tendency towards a certain sin... that just wouldn't be fair!"

But this idea of "fairness" we've conjured up in our minds is the problem. God is not "fair" at all. Never. It is not "fair" that I was born in the USA with plenty to eat, surrounded by churches where I could learn the gospel, while some little child is born in Nigeria with no food, a mother who dies when they are two, and no one to tell them the gospel. Life itself is completely UNfair. Salvation is UNfair -- NONE of us deserve it. Salvation is born completely and entirely of the undeserved grace that God pours out on those He chooses.

I'm getting a little off subject here, but it is because I want you to be able to leave that self-hatred behind... forever. The guilt you feel over not being able to keep yourself at a "normal" weight is guilt--no doubt--gluttony is a sin. But, dear one... we ARE sinners. Our whole being is bent toward sin. And some of us... like you and me... also have the disadvantage of a genetic bent toward this particular sin. The miracle is that medical science--blessed by God Almighty--has learned a way to help us deal with this particular effect of the curse. We may not be able to cure many of the other effects of the curse on our bodies... but this is one area that the Lord has sovereignty enabled doctors to come up with something that can help us.

Even though I am now at a more normal weight, I am still a person who struggles with gluttony.

I STILL desire to eat more than I need... but I now have a tool, built into my body, that keeps me from eating way too much. It also punishes me if I eat too much sugar by making me feel very sick. These things are external measures that help me to "beat my body into submission."

In a sense, the surgery functions like an internet blocker for someone who struggles with a lust for pornography. It is an external measure to help them be physically prevented from indulging in that sin.

The problem with lap-band is that it is not a strong enough deterant for some of us. Yes, it does help some people, but for others of us, it's just not strong enough. We need more solid help.

I guess, in this analogy, lap-band would be like an internet filter that keeps bad websites from popping up... but doesn't actually block the person from purposefully searching them out. In other words, the filter isn't strong enough... it can be easily cheated.

Let me ask you, dear one, should any Christian man feel guilty or self-loathing for having a super strong internet blocker/filter put on all his computers? Should he hate himself for needing -- and taking advantage of -- that external, physical measure to help him keep himself from sin? Of course not. We battle our sin natures every day, tooth and nail, we fight against ourselves -- Romans 7. As Christians we will use whatever tools we can find to put that "old man" down.

You need to start seeing this problem we share in this same way. This is a sin we are both bent towards, and this surgery is one measure we can put in place that helps us battle it.

I hope this is part of what you needed to hear.

Much love,

Anna

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Anna,

I have to begin by saying how humbled I am at the amount of time it must have taken for you to write to me. That was a lot of writing, and at times I wept my way through it in my heart. You really ministered to me, and I am so grateful for your friendship.

Everything you said is true. Everything. And I feel like such a fool. Also, I went on the website of the weightless surgeon here in [where she lives], and it says due to complications and newly discovered long term risks from lap-band surgery, their surgery does not do that type of operation anymore. Gulp. Apparently there is a high rate of later-problems occurring in band patients. 

I am very frustrated, as it cost us 15,000 dollars for my operation, which we are still paying off. And the gastric bypass costs 20,000. High cost to my mistake.

[Her husband's name] is so desperate that I lose the weight that I know he'll just extend the loan out to cover gastric bypass if I ask for it, meaning we will live tightly for more years due to me. But I know he struggles with me being this size, and it has actually caused problems in our marriage  poor [her husband's name], this is not what he signed up for when he married a slim vivacious young woman. 

Yesterday the Lord spoke into my spirit about this, fairly clearly. He said "your life is being stolen". He's right- even my [one of the things she does as a ministry] has stopped because I'm too embarrassed to get up being this big.

I am at the point of aching joints again, sleep apnea, exhaustion and zero motivation to exercise because of how hard it is to get moving and how desperately unfit I am. I have a closet FULL of Optifast boxes that, if I stuck to for six months, I could probably lose a massive chunk of the weight. But, they've been there for six months now, and I can't face starting them. Optifast = hungry all the time and constant mental torture over food. The reason I am fat again is because I just don't have the mental fortitude to face doing that.

But. If life post-gastric bypass is equally as hard, ie balancing food intake, measuring vitamins, buying specialty food that requires lots of effort, I may as well do optifast. If it going to be the same type of nightmare.  Is it?

Oh and I so afraid of the hell week, as I already went through that post-LB and it was totally horrific. I absolutely have to know if you think it all worth it........

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It was worth it for me.

I don't have to measure and scrape and starve myself. I don't even think about it. I just eat till I'm full... which is about 1/2 to 1/4 of what I would have eaten before. That's basically it.

Doing without large quantities of sugar is the thing I run into most often as something that makes me a little sad. But I can eat 1/2 a cup of ice cream -- the real stuff -- without getting sick. (I have to stay below 14 grams of sugar at any one time.) That's not so bad, now is it?

I don't buy any specialty food.

I take vitamins every morning, but it doesn't seem like a trial.

I'm not hungry all the time.

Hope I'm answering some of your questions.

Would I want to go through the first couple of weeks again?

N O.

N O.

N O.

But, honestly, as bad as they were, I would choose to go through them again to get to where I am now.

I feel more energetic... I play with my kids more. I was out in the driveway just yesterday jumping on a mattress with them like a maniac! (We were waiting for our new mattress to be delivered.) We went to a birthday party on Sunday after church and they had a bouncer there... I got in with all the kids and jumped around like an idiot! Came out gasping for breath and laughing. Ray (who was there... it was one of his grandkids' party) said, "You couldn't have done that a few years ago!" And he was right.

I'm glad that I did it. Even though it means I am limited in certain ways, it has helped me to be a more energetic mom. That was my goal... and bless the name of the Lord, He allowed it to happen.

Now... as far as marriage goes...

My husband was so wonderful -- even when I was 300 pounds -- that he almost doesn't like to say how excited he is that I've lost so much weight. But I can see it in his eyes. He would have loved me at 600 pounds -- and I'm sure [her husband's name] is the same with you... but there is no doubt that my husband is a happier man today.

I hope this helps you, dear one.

Please call me or write back if you want to talk more.

Love to you,

Anna

4 comments:

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