Monica Clark: Life in a New Body

Monica Clark, who weighed 275 pounds, had gastric sleeve surgery in 2004. When results were mixed, she had gastric bypass surgery. Today, she is seeing herself shrink.

I had always been asked if I would ever have my procedure again would I do it. The answer is, YES! Because I had to have the weight loss procedure done twice. Here is my story…

In March 2004, I was approved by my insurance company to have the gastroplasty (sleeve) weight loss surgery done.  I was at over 275 pounds to start with.  I went to see the doctor that was going to do my surgery and had a consultation with him. He answered all my questions and some that my father had, too. On March 28,2004, I completed all the requirements of my insurance company: the psychiatric testing, the sleep apnea testing, the EKG and chest X-rays and the blood work. I was going in for surgery on April 5, 2004. The process was extremely fast for me, but I knew that this procedure was going to work.

MONICA BEFOREI went into the surgery not really knowing what to expect afterward. I remember waking up after the surgery with a tube down the back of my throat and a lot of family around me.  Several hours later they had removed the tube and had me walking around. I was cut from stem to stern. The procedure was going to restrict the amount of food I could eat. I went home three days later holding my abdomen trying to keep it from feeling like it was going to hit the ground.

When I got home, I had to figure out how to get in and out of bed without ripping stitches or causing even more pain. A couple of times I was stuck in bed with my arms underneath me unable to move. This is when I found out I was allergic to Lortab! The first time I ever vomited with my new insides, I thought I was going to die. The heaving and pain was incredible. I remember calling the doctor and asking him what I needed to do. He told me to lie down and try not to move too much.

Five months later my doctor was out of business. I was on this journey all by myself. I had no medical assistance after he stopped practicing. I was transitioning from one job to another and no longer had the same health care insurance. With my new insurance, they did not have coverage for the procedure. So I went untreated for my gastroplasty for four years.

The first year was great; I was losing the weight the way I thought I was supposed to.  Little did I know that the procedure was coming undone in my body. After the second year began, I started gaining weight again. I didn’t think that the procedure was wrong, I thought it was me falling off the wagon and failing. I started to doubt all my hard work and pain that I had gone through for the procedure. I was barely eating anything but it would come up sometimes. Other times, it would go through with no problems. My body began to store all the food that got through to my stomach. The procedure was causing my body to go into starvation mode and would store every calorie I would eat that would make it through to my stomach. It became a battle that my body was fighting and I had no idea what was going on.

In March 2008 I was taken to the emergency room for severe chest pains and abdominal pains. I had an emergency room doctor tell me that he needed to do a chest X-ray to make sure it was not my lungs. Little did I know what he was going to find. When the X-ray came back he asked about my procedure. I had told him what I had done and he re-examined me. He then sent me for a barium swallow (yuck!). that’s when they found that the sleeve was no longer attached to the abdomen wall. The sleeve was moving up and down the new passageway. It would cause a kink in the passageway that would cause me to vomit anything that I had tried to eat. Then eventually it would move and some food would be able to get through. Here all along I thought I was failing with a tool that was given to me.  Little did I know that the tool was defective, not me!

On December 31,2008, I was given a new opportunity. I was able to have the procedure again, only this time, I was having gastric bypass surgery. I started this time at 292 pounds and was so relieved that I was going to have the opportunity again.

Today, eight months into this procedure, I’m down to 213 pounds. I am going to counseling because I’m having problems adjusting to my new body. I explain it like this: I’m used to driving an 18-wheeler and now I’m in a Honda Civic. I have to figure out my boundaries and boarders. I still need to figure out how society is going to place me in the scheme of things — I was so used to being the “big girl” or the person that was laughed at or made fun of.  Now, it’s weird to walk into a room and kind of fit in with the “normal-sized” people.  I no longer think they are looking at me because I’m big.

MONICA AFTERNow, my vision of myself has to change. I see me, but not the smaller version of me. I can finally relate to the people who are anorexic. I can’t see the weight coming off like the scale says it is; I still see me at the size I was when my journey first started. The clothes that I put on my body have also changed. I still go into the plus-sized shops and grab the size I use to wear. In my mind, if the clothes go over my head and don’t stop me from breathing, it fits! I’m working on getting used to dressing this new body. When I was heavier, it was all about covering everything. I never wanted to show anything but my arms. My legs were always under jeans or long skirts. I would hardly wear shorts because I thought people would laugh. I’m still trying to get used to wearing shorts that actually fit the size I am now.

I was lucky. I had great support from my family when I decided the first time to have the procedure done, and even more when they had to correct it. My new year was the start of my new life in my new body. I know not everyone is cut out to have the procedure done. But if ever I’m asked if I would do it over, I can honestly say “Yes!” — because I have.

5 Responses

  1. Sharon Hinshillwood

    Hi Monica. You sure have been threw alot. You look great.I had gastric bypass surgery in 2004 and lost 200 pounds but gainned back 55 back. I am having such a hard time getting it off. Are you able to eat ok now? I wish you alot of luck with everything. You sure deserve it. Sharon from N.J

    Reply
  2. Zola Lander

    Hello Monica,
    I’m so proud that you were given a second chance at surgery for success. I’m sorry it took that however. I love your comment regarding “I’m used to driving an 18-wheeler and now I’m in a Honda Civic.” I know EXACTLY what you mean. I am also glad you saw the need for counseling. Believe me, I’m all for that as it so important in the journey to success with weight loss – be it with surgery or medical management. I too had Gastric Bypass surgery in April of 2004. Lost a total of 210 pounds. I gained back 30, but lost 10 of that, and am working on losing about 10 more. It is a lifestyle change, and one must be willing to make the changes necessary. I gave up a lot of things, but I don’t consider it “giving up or doing without” I consider it gaining my life and health back.
    I applaud you and wish you more successes on your journey,

    In Better Health,

    Zola Lander

    Reply
  3. Rene Schultz, RN

    I sincerely believe weight regain in bariatric patients is a lack of education and follow up on the part of the program you had your surgery with. As a bariatric program coordinator and an RN, I find educating the patient on how to use their “new tool” is critical for the success of long term weight loss. I hope both of you are affiliated with a program that has a comprehensive after-care program. If you are not taught lifestyles changes (good food choices, portion control, etc) and implement them, you will undoubtedly regain weight. Support groups are extremely important. Good Luck to you both.

    Reply
  4. Vanessa & Aunt Nancy

    Hi, Moniquita,
    That was an excellent read! Congratulations on your success, and as always you have our support on the rest of your weight-loss journey!Thank goodness- no more trips to the hospital. We love you!!!!

    Reply
  5. Sally V

    lOVED YOUR STORY, BUT MOST OF ALL I ADMIRE YOUR DETERMINATION TO LOSE WEIGHT. YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL PERSON. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND I WISH YOU SUCCESS IN ALL YOU DO.

    Reply

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