I grew up in an Italian-American family. I don’t know about other families, but it seems that mine had many pre-conceived notions. One very important factor in my road to obesity and what led me on this weight loss surgery journey was that my family was most definitely dysfunctional. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have an easy childhood, but it made me who I am and I’m getting to like that person more and more each day. As children we were not allowed to leave the table if we didn’t clean our plates. We were constantly told about the starving children in China and how it wasn’t fair to them if we didn’t finish our food. I could never figure out how us eating over here in America was going to do those kids in China any good. Having an Italian background also meant that food was pretty much an answer to everything.
I was unhappy as a child, I learned to make food the answer for me. I would sneak into the refrigerator for food all of the time. That went on for a while until my Dad figured it out and started to sabotage the food. That wasn’t going to stop me. I began to find other crafty ways to hoard food. For every problem, mood-swing or depression, food was the solution, comfort and friend. I would tell myself that I don’t really eat that much, but there was the (secret) eating. I binged, and then guilt hit me so I purged! I didn’t realize that anything was wrong. I didn’t realize that I was hurting myself. I also didn’t care.
In 1997 I had an accident and injured several discs in my back and neck which left me pretty immobile. I had to leave work and go on Social Security disability. I weighed around 320 pounds by this time. I couldn’t walk very well and was using a cane. I began my withdrawal from the world. I gained even more weight and I was disgusted with myself. In 1998 my husband and I relocated to Lancaster, PA from Brooklyn, NY so that I would be able to get better medical care. I was mostly getting around in a wheelchair, which was such a burden on my husband. I became afraid to live. I was so big I was always worried about what people thought of me. I was afraid of falling again too. I got into an excellent day program for eating disorders and that was the beginning of my salvation. I learned so much about myself and why I had the problems I did, and I began to heal emotionally. Thank you so much Jennifer, Angie and Susan!
Unfortunately, I still had all the physical problems to deal with. I was taking many medications. I hated living this way but I had no idea what to do. I felt helpless! One day I picked up a magazine and it had Carnie Wilson on the cover. The inside story told about her having RNY Gastric Bypass surgery. Although I was terrified of the thought of surgery, I was intrigued with the idea that surgery could change her life so drastically and wondered if it could do the same for me. I talked about it with my husband and as always he was supportive, so I started to do the research. I had herniated discs in my back and neck, osteo-arthritis, my knees were shot, and I was in pain all of the time. I couldn’t lose weight because I couldn’t really move around and I was so depressed with my current situation that I really didn’t want to live this way any longer. My doctor suggested that I check out the surgical weight loss program at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
I began to go through all of the procedures that Penn State Hershey program requires of you. I remember sitting there in my wheelchair feeling like it was all a dream. Was this really me? Was I really going to go through with this? The day I met Dr. Ku, I was really sure I was doing the right thing. He made me feel very comfortable and I felt completely safe in his hands. (also, I threatened to come back and haunt him if I died!)
I had my surgery on October 3, 2001. Surgery went pretty smoothly for me. I didn’t have any serious complications, however, I did have to stay in the hospital a bit longer. I weighed 378 lbs the day of my surgery. I lost over 117lbs in 8 months and am still dropping. I can’t believe it! I never thought it would be possible for me. I no longer need a wheelchair I AM WALKING! I’m not going to say that it has been easy for me. There are days when the pain is still unbearable, but I know that I will get through it and tomorrow will be better. My quality of life has improved dramatically! I have started going to school. My husband and I are even considering starting a family.
The most important thing, is not what I can do right now, but the hope of what I can accomplish in the future. I never had that hope before. I never thought there would be a future for me. I am so grateful for the chance that I have been given through the grace of God, the skillful hands of my surgeon, Dr. Ku, the expertise and the genuine concern of the Dietitians, Janelle and Heather.
I also want to thank my husband, Rob. You are the one that made this all possible for me. We stood by each other during the hardest times in our lives and we never gave up on each other. I never will! I love you.
If I were to give any advice and I am no expert by any means, I would have to tell anyone who is interested in having this surgery that you have to really want it, in the deepest part of your heart and soul you have to know that it’s the right thing for you. You have to be prepared to work, and I mean work hard, everyday is a struggle, this is no magic cure, it’s a very special.