I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.–Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist
I am less than two months away from surgery and the reality of what I am about to do to myself is rapidly sinking in.
I am about to ask a surgeon to remove 80 percent of my stomach. On purpose.
I am about to radically change my digestive system. This will change how I eat, which will lead to radical changes in how I look and feel.
I am about to change my health for the better. And I am terrified about this process.
I have never had major surgery before. In fact, when I met my surgeon’s PA for the first time, she asked me if I’d ever had surgery and when I told her no, she asked, “Not even a C-section?” with a surprised look on her face. I said, “No, because I don’t have any children.” Even my surgeon said, “To have made it to 40 without any surgical procedures is rare.”
So it’s normal to be scared, right? It’s okay to be afraid of the fact that while I sleep, this man is going to cut five holes in my abdomen, root around with laparoscopic surgical tools and remove 80 percent of my stomach because I asked him to?
I really am genuinely scared of the surgery. Like fearful to the core, shit myself scared.
I’m scared of what they’ll find once they open me up. I’m scared they’ll have to fix a hernia. I’m scared they’ll remove my gallbladder. I’m scared of the liver biopsy my surgeon has already said he’ll do (he wants to check for fatty liver disease and I’m diabetic so he checks all his diabetic patients for it). I’m scared of the anesthetic–will it be enough? I’m scared I’ll wake up during the procedure. I’m scared I won’t wake up in recovery. I’m scared I’ll have surgical complications. I’m scared of getting pulmonary embolism. I’m scared of not leaving the hospital.
I’m scared of the pain, because I really don’t like to hurt (just ask my husband). I’m scared of not knowing what’s happening to me while I’m unconscious, as I’ve never had a medical procedure performed that I couldn’t see or feel in progress. I’m scared of staying in the hospital in a strange room, in a strange bed, sharing a room with a strange person and following a strange routine.
I’m scared I won’t be able to drink enough that first day. I’m scared of being dehydrated. I’m scared of being nauseous and vomiting. I’m scared that if I do, I’ll rupture my new, swollen, angry, tiny stomach. I’m scared of picking up a nosocomial infection from the hospital, like C. dificile or MRSA.
I’m scared of what will happen once I leave the hospital. I’m scared of how I will sleep at home, since the incisions are mostly on the left side, and that’s the side of my body I sleep on. I’m scared of my incisions getting infected. I’m scared that whatever pain medication they send me home with won’t be enough to stave off the pain I know will follow me home from the hospital. I’m scared that going to the bathroom will be an ordeal since a bit of abdominal pressure is what eases everything out in the first place, and my abdomen will be quite tender for a few days. I’m scared of constipation. I’m scared of diarrhea.
I’m scared that no protein drink will taste good to me and that I’ll screw things up by trying to eat too soon. I’m scared that I won’t be able to stick to whatever plan my doctor gives me. I’m scared that I’ll lose at a slower pace than I should. I’m scared I won’t lose anything at all. I’m scared I won’t learn what “full” is. I’m more scared that I will never know what it means to be satisfied after a meal. I’m scared that 1/4 cup of food max won’t be enough.
I’m scared that the tool will work too well and that I’ll lose more than I want to. I’m scared that I will look emaciated even though I will be at a healthy weight. I’m scared that my friends will treat me differently when I am no longer my current size. I’m scared that people will treat me differently. I’m scared that my relationships with others will change so drastically that friendships may be irretrievably broken. I’m scared of how my family will treat me. I’m scared of how my relationship with my husband might change–we’ve only known each other as fat folk.
I’m scared of being judged for what I am about to do to my body. I’m scared people will think that I’m taking an easy route to weight loss, even though I know this path is not going to be an easy one.
I’m scared that I will suck at the things I want to try to become healthy–running, swimming, yoga, using an elliptical. I’m scared of running and swimming because it’s been so long since I did either of them and have since forgotten how. I’m scared of running because 40 years of being overweight (with two knee injuries sandwiched in there for good measure) has taken a nasty toll on them. I’m scared I won’t be able to run, and it is the one thing that I want most to be able to do.
I’m scared of all the extra skin I know I will have, since I have been fat my whole life. I’m scared I won’t be happy with my new body. I’m scared of what I will see in the mirror with each passing month because I won’t recognize the woman staring back at me–I’ve never seen her before. I’m scared I won’t know how to be smaller, because I’ve never been small. I’m scared of what I will become.
I’m scared that this tool may not work as well as it is supposed to. I’m scared that my body will resist the weight loss as it has done so many times before and that I’ll stall out. I’m scared of gaining the weight back. I’m scared I might need a revision to a bypass or duodenal switch. I’m scared of failure.
As much as I’m afraid of the surgery and the results, I’m more afraid of what will happen if I don’t go through with it: worsening diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, shortness of breath, continued sleep apnea, stroke, certain death at a young age. I don’t want my parents to bury a child or my husband to bury his wife. I don’t want my siblings to lose their sister before it’s time.
So even though I know what must be done, a great deal of fear still resides in me. I’ve got so much more to learn before surgery day if I expect this fear to dissipate, even just a little bit.
One thing I do know is this: I’m scared that if I don’t do this, I will live with the worst feeling ever–regret.