I was ready to take control of my life so I started researching bariatric surgeries online. I confirmed that my health insurance did not cover bariatric surgeries, so I started to research affordable options, and saw that there were all kinds of options in Tijuana. I looked carefully at several different clinics that offered Gastric Sleeve surgery, read tons and tons of testimonials, and reviews of the doctors and clinics. I decided to go with the OCC because all of the stories I read were positive. I am so happy I went with the OCC!
I’ve been moderately overweight my whole life, but when I was 30 years old, I got out of a serious relationship, and my weight really packed on. Even though it was my decision to end the relationship, my self-indulgence in eating, drinking, shopping, and spending, spending, spending went completely out of control. I think that I was trying to prove that as a single person in my 30’s, I could still have an amazing, fulfilled, fabulous life. But that fabulous life caused me to pack on about 90 pounds and thousands of dollars of debt. My weight started to really impact living a normal life. I was humiliated on flights when I had to ask for a seat belt extension every time. I could hardly fit into any normal chair. I was exhausted and sedentary. My life was out of control and I was desperate for a change but had no idea where to start since it all felt so daunting to dig my self out of the mess I created for myself. Then, about 3 1/2 years ago, my best friend, Andra, was diagnosed with a very aggressive type of cancer at the age of 35. Andra and I are cousins and she really urged me to go to the doctor too to check into my health, and even to get the cancer gene test (my test came out negative, which was a relief!). I had not been to a doctor in probably 15 years, so I did it for her.
With that small step of going to the doctor and to stop living in denial about my poor health, my life started to change. I was finally starting to take my health seriously. A few months later, it was also time for me to get control over my finances. I read Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover, and made up my mind. I cut up all my credit cards and started paying off my debt. That was another step involved in gaining more control over my life. Then I started walking. At first, I would only walk for 15-20 minutes around the office building I worked at. Everything hurt! My shins, my back – everything ached. But I stuck with it. Eventually, it got easier, and I would add a few minutes onto my walk each week. Around this time, I started a Pinterest Board called Gaining Control. I pinned all kinds of practical and inspirational pages that helped me start to wrap my mind around changing myself inside and out. I went to it constantly for inspiration and guidance. But I kept it a secret board because I was afraid of failure. I had tried to change so many times before, I didn’t want to make a big announcement about wanting to change, just in case I failed. Again. In the fall of 2014, I finally decided to look into bariatric surgery and decided to go to the OCC. It was a big scary decision, but I was desperate and I was ready for a serious change. I got my financing approved right away and then I was off on my journey. I started out at 290 lbs when I decided that that was as big as I would ever be. I was aiming to lose about 40-50 lbs before my surgery. That seemed a bit daunting to me because if it was easy for me to lose weight, I wouldn’t have done the surgery! But I set my mind to it and went for it. I knew that once I was committed to the surgery date, I had to do my part which meant I stuck to a super strict low-carb diet, no alcohol, and I started increasing my walking up to 3 miles each day.
The pounds started to come off and I got down to 254 lbs by my surgery day, December 19, 2014. My whole experience at the OCC was awesome. My surgery probably took about 45 minutes and I had no pain at all. Maybe some soreness, but it was not a big deal at all. I took the next week off work to recover, but I was up and walking every day. The post-op diet was tough to get through just because consuming all liquids got old fast, but before long, I was eating real food again. I had no complications whatsoever; it was awesome. Right about the time that I decided to do the surgery, I also decided that I wanted to go to counseling. I figured that if I was going to make the drastic decision to voluntarily remove most of a perfectly functioning organ in my body, then I better be committed to making long term lifestyle changes. This wasn’t a band-aid fix for me. I wanted the surgery to be a tool to change my life for good, but that also meant that I needed to figure out what some of my issues were and get those resolved. You don’t get up to 290 lbs when you’re a petite 5’2″ without some underlying issues. It wasn’t easy for me to dig deep to unearth what mindsets were behind my self worth concerns, but I went through it and came out a better person. I learned to gain real confidence in myself. I started to believe in myself and maybe, just maybe, I would succeed this time. Change is hard, but it is so worth it! All the changes that happened to my body were awesome as all the weight started to come off! The support and encouragement from all my friends and family were amazing and really helped me keep working on myself. In June of 2015, I started going back to the gym and did some weight training, step, and core training classes. It felt good to get back to the gym and to feel my body getting stronger and stronger. And it was SO much easier to do EVERYTHING now that the weight was coming off! I was well on my way to figuring out what my new life was going to be like and I loved it.
On October 22, 2015, my cousin Andra died from cancer-related complications. It really shook me up, as you can imagine. Andra’s sister, Merci, and I spent a lot of time together with Andra the month and a half before she died. As adults, Merci and I had grown apart just because our lives got busy and we had gone in different directions. I really enjoyed spending that time with her those last few weeks while Andra was in the hospital and we got through all that together. When Andra died, Merci and I really wanted to stay more connected because we needed each other, even though we lived several hours away from each other. Merci had run several full marathons before so she thought it would be a nice way for us to stay connected if we did a marathon together. It would give us a goal to work towards and a healthy way to channel our grief. I agreed and we signed up to do the Rock and Roll Marathon in Seattle on June 18, 2016. I was once again afraid of failure after I registered for the marathon. How in the world was I ever going to be able to run 26.2 miles?! Merci was so awesome, though. She helped me find the right training program and encouraged me all along the way. I started training in January and before you know it I was running 10 miles and 15 miles and 20 miles! What?! I actually really loved running, which surprised me. This is the person that weighed almost 300 lbs a year ago! So crazy!
Soon, race day was upon us. I was so nervous! Like, seriously freaked out. All my self-doubts and insecurities were lurking in the back of my mind. What if I couldn’t do it? And everyone knew I was running the race, so they would all know if I failed. Ugh. But I sucked it up. And I did it. Merci said that what helped her get through the really tough miles in the race was to run certain miles for people you love. So I did that. I started running miles for people at mile 18. I ran for people that inspired me and believed in me. I ran for my parents. I ran for Andra’s husband (my best-friend-in-law). I saved mile 24 for Andra. I imagined how proud of me she would have been and how she would have been pulling for me all along the way. But I saved the last mile for Merci. If it wasn’t for her love and support, I never would have done this amazing thing. The marathon was proof of how far I’ve come in my journey towards gaining control in my life. I now know with confidence that I can and will do anything I want. My journey isn’t over but I’m loving every second of my new life. And I love ME now. I used to say terrible things to myself when I would look in the mirror, but now I say really nice things to myself. I’ve figured out how to love and respect my body. And that makes it all worth every second of the journey.