I send people to OCC all the time and I tell them “you’ll never regret your decision”
In 2019 I was 50 years old and miserable, depressed and weighing in at 355 lbs (my heaviest) female and 5’ 8” tall. I have yoyo dieted most of my adult life. Starting in my mid 20s weight would just start sneaking onto my body and slowly year after year there I was a whooping 355lbs. (I have always tried to stay active, but it was a struggle) Reality was over the last 15-20 years all I did was work and go home and when at home just laid in bed and watched tv night after night hour after hour. This is what my life had become. I put myself into my own private prison. I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I was always so sad and ashamed of who I had become and how I looked. I was self sabotaging myself with food. I was playing the dieting game. I would lose 10 lbs but then would gain 20 lbs and then lose 20 lb but gain 30 lbs it never failed. I would always gain more than I lost. And I tried every diet out there. This became a very vicious cycle. Many days I would hide the foods I was eating from my family. It was easy for me to hide and eat a whole cake and a bottle of diet pop or eat a whole box of donuts by myself, I was indeed a food addict. This is how bad it had become. Eventually, I stopped being asked to go do things with family and friends as I never went anywhere unless it was necessary. Always full of excuses on why I could not go. I took a lot of anger and frustration out on my family and since I could not control my eating and weight, I needed to be able to control another part of my life which happened to be my family and home. Which was a horrible thing and a lot of unnecessary fighting and hurt feelings.
Fast forward to the beginning of March 2020 – My sister Michelle has watched me getting worse and sadder as time passed by and she knew I was not living life at all. I really did think well this is what my life will be until I die. Just settling for what I had let myself become. Fat and sad.
My sister, Michelle happened to be going to a friend’s (Kim) place to sell hockey tickets. (Kim’s husband Jim had WLS at the OCC in 2019.) Kim and Michelle got to talking about me and how I should go for the surgery at the OCC. My sister then called our parents and discussed with them that they needed to invest in my health. (I was approved 9-10 years before with our BC medical system for weight loss surgery, but it was a newer procedure to us. My mom was not comfortable with me doing it at that time as we had just lost my brother, Danny to cancer and she was not wanting something to happen and lose another child) but when she heard that Jim had this surgery at the OCC and Kim gave her stamp of approval for how great it was there. My parents jumped on board and apparently did not even hesitate to say okay let’s do this. My parents then talked to me and told me if I want to get the ball rolling and find out what we needed to do, they would cover the cost of surgery and traveling. The very next day without hesitation I was on the OCC website filling out the questionnaire. I was ready and I jumped in with both feet at the opportunity for a better life to get back to doing the things I loved to do.
This is where my new journey with the OCC family began…
Everything was going well. The OCC was great to deal with and everything was going smoothly then BAM towards the end of March 2020 covid hit with a vengeance, and everything was delayed and shut down. I was crushed that suddenly everything stopped but I did not let that deter me. I continued to follow the OCC plan to lose weight. I received an email in late April saying that the OCC clinic was opening again, and it took me no time to call my family and tell them and within a day I had booked and paid for surgery for August 3, 2020. I was 341 lbs when I started the process with the OCC. Over the next 3 ½ months it was time to get busy and get everything completed on the checklist and following the covid rules. I had to lose 21 pounds before surgery. With the forever changing covid restrictions many flights were cancelled or changed, and we had to change our flights 7 different times but I was very determined to make this all work and stayed true to the course and followed the OCC rules to a “T”. Then BAM 3 weeks out from my surgery day, California and Mexico had huge covid cases and had numbers that were rising like crazy and so many deaths that the OCC decided for the safety of everyone the clinic was closing for two weeks in hopes that things would change. I was so crushed thinking that my surgery date would need to be rebooked but no they where reopening a week before my surgery date so everything was a go, but now I had to try to get a covid test in my small town and when I called they said they would only give me the test if I had symptoms when I explained I was going for health reasons and needed it. I was denied. So again, I was crying and called my sister so we called again and got a different person on the phone, and she made it happen so I was scheduled for a covid test, I was so thankful my sister was like, “Oh no they are not going to stop us for getting your health back” (there might have been some curse words as well lol)
So now it is July 31, 2020, and it is time to make our way to Tijuana, Mexico. We were flying out of FSJ to Los Angeles, flying was easy, no issues at all. Everyone was great even with all the new rules with covid. We could not get a flight from Los Angeles to San Diego, so we decided that we would rent a car and drive. Thanks again to my sister for driving and getting us there safely (about a 2-hr drive but it was beautiful), we made our meeting at the San Diego airport with the driver of OCC van, very easy to spot, our driver got us to the Mexican border with no issues. We had no issues getting into Mexico. Once we got through the border the van picked us up and drove us to the Marriott hotel, which was very welcoming and helpful. They knew exactly what we needed. We were upgraded to a room as they did not have double beds in the one room so room 116 was amazing. We had 3 huge floor-to-ceiling windows which one opened as a patio door onto a huge cement patio with suntanning lawn chairs for us to use and just a few stairs away from the pool. The hotel supplied me with delicious broth, popsicles, and bottled water daily.
Because covid was so new everything was pretty much still shut down in Tijuana so no tours, no beach, and no spas. We did get to walk to Walmart, where only one person per family was allowed into the shop.
CT scan, blood work and covid test were down without any issues.
The day my life would change forever….
Monday, August 3, 2020, surgery day I was so excited we got picked up at 5 am, 3 of us went at this time the other 3 came a little while later. 4 ladies and 2 men. My sleeve sisters are Stefani, Brenda, and Taylor and for the life of me I did not become friends with the 2 men, but they were nice as well.
Surgery weight was 305 lb (which was 15 lbs more than I needed to lose for surgery). Yah me! I got to meet all the doctors including Dr. Ortiz and nutritionist Lucia, but because of covid masks were worn at all times and meetings were for a very brief time and no pictures were taken, (which makes me jealous seeing everyone getting pictures these days lol oh well I’m thankful I had my surgery when I did.) The OCC Clinic was amazing, very clean, professional and the staff were great to deal with and answered all my questions.
Surgery went smoothly with no complications or issues. Beside a little gas, no issues. I walked a lot every hour, walking and using the breathing tube to make sure the body was doing what it should be, as instructed by the clinic. No issues sleeping at the clinic and was brought back to the hotel by 5 am the next morning. I did a lot of walking around the hotel to get the rest of the gas moving.
Wednesday morning, we went back to the clinic to get the barium swallow test done to make sure nothing was leaking, and everything is looking like it should be, no issues so we got to check out of hotel and the OCC van took us to San Diego to a hotel as we had an early flight out the next morning. At the Mexican/US border we did not have the nicest US border guy. Our letters from the OCC explaining why we should not stand for long periods of time did not help so back to the line we go. It was not too bad. It was hot out but the walkway was covered. The line moved quickly and once we got to the front there were new US border guys, and they were very nice, and we went through quite quickly and smoothly with no issues.
Thursday morning, we flew out of San Diego to Los Angeles to Vancouver BC to Kelowna BC, where we drove to Salmon Arm to start our 14-day quarantine at our parent’s house while the parents went to our cabin to hang out. No issues with flying or driving, it was easy getting back into Canada. Thankfully, we had our parent’s neighbours to talk to over the fence and another neighbor who brought my sister her favourite coffee drink from Timmy’s. I walked 10,000 steps everyday around and around and up and down the driveway. I swore I wore some pathways on my parent’s driveway. Finally, we got to go back home to Fort St John (12-hour drive) after 3 weeks of travelling and isolation. It was so nice to go home and continue forward with my journey.
Fast Forward to today August 19, 2021, just over a year since my surgery…
So many things have changed since surgery:
-I started a new job in November
-I have lost 145 lbs from my heaviest weight and 95 lbs since my surgery (not quite at my goal weight but working on it)
-Learned what it meant to be a food addict and how to control my way of eating
-Learned that my surgery was a tool and how I treated this new tool would result in success or failure.
-Realize that there will be struggles and stalls. Many up and down days but that’s okay it’s all a part of living, just go with the flow and get back on track, watch for the cues that you might be starting to self sabotage yourself and flip the script.
-I did an interview with Dr Ortiz on YouTube on February 3, 2021 (6 months post op):
“Surgery for individuals Aged 50+ on the Lighter Side with Dr. O”
Things I have done/tried and are continuing to do:
Ice skating, running, working out, playing slow-pitch, hiking, bike riding, walking dog for longer faster walks, not having to ask for a seat extension on a plane, not being afraid to go out with friends and not wondering if I can fit into the booth or if the chair will hold me up
Things I still want to do:
Water ski, snow ski, do a half marathon, do a mini triathlon.
My life has been non-stop since my weight loss surgery, and I can never thank the people in my life who have supported me every inch and pound of the way. And to the OCC clinic and family, who gave me the tool to get my life back and for checking in often to make sure I am doing okay.
I was never very much into taking pictures because of my weight so there are about 20 years of not so many pictures but now over the last year I have probably made up for it plus some. I have even done a video or two, 😊
I hope my story helps anyone who is on the fence and how drastically this life changing surgery can be for the better, No Regrets. Life at 52 is good 😊