For many people struggling with their weight, surgery is often a risky last resort. But for Susan Maria Leach, author of "Before and After: Living and Eating Well After Weight Loss surgery," the procedure has been life-altering. She discusses her experiences and her new book on “Today.” Read an excerpt here:
The Countdown To June 11 Begins!
May 26, 2001
I feel so weepy and emotional. I went to breakfast this morning with my husband, my father, and his wife, and I sat there staring at my plateful of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausage, and bagel slathered with cream cheese; it made me feel so terrible about myself, I wanted to cry. I couldn't eat it. Lately, I analyze what is on my plate at every meal and think, "I will never eat this again." It is a very difficult feeling to deal with. Then five minutes later, I get angry with myself and think, "You have eaten enough in your life, get over it!" I regroup my thoughts and it is more like "I will never eat this much for one meal or on one plate again!"
June 5, 2001
My best friend, Ronni, and I checked out the surgical floor at Florida Medical Center. The fifth-floor bariatric suites appeared comfortable and clean. It made me feel so much better about the surgery looming before me. Everyone I have come in contact with at this hospital has been exceptional. When they perform a diagnostic test, the technicians are very professional and know what they are doing, and there is no confusion. You can feel so exposed and vulnerable in this setting, but the staff has given me even more confidence in my choice. The nurses took the time to talk to me and showed us around the floor, even taking us into one of the specially-equipped bariatric rooms. I was surprised to see that this hospital has large leather recliners, and the beds have a steel frame canopy with a hanging bar you can use to help move yourself. I will be in a private room. Ronni will stay with me the first couple of nights since my husband can be pretty useless in medical situations, and I mean that in a loving way. I adore my husband, but after I had throat surgery two years ago, it took him entirely too long to figure out that my frantic hand gestures meant I desperately needed some water.
I have been comparing notes with people on the weight loss surgery message boards and some of their hospitals and surgeons don't have scales capable of weighing them, or compression stockings to fit their large legs, or even hospital gowns for larger patients. I wonder why someone would choose a surgeon or hospital that didn't make special accommodations for the comfort and safety of larger patients. More importantly, I wonder why a bariatric surgeon specializing in this procedure would not make sure that his or her hospital provided these items for their patients.
I only have a few days left to eat "big food" so tonight we are going out for pizza. Tomorrow, Ruth's Chris Steak House is on the calendar so that I can enjoy a final giant steak. I am 39 years old and I figure that I have eaten enough. I will be able to eat again, albeit in very small portions, but I will enjoy a few more days of shameless gluttony. I am scared, but on most days I can't wait to get rolling.
June 8, 2001
I am looking forward to being on the "losing" side of this surgery. Tonight, my husband went solo to a party we were invited to. The invitation touts that there will be a band with dancing, cocktails, and incredible food. I just didn't want to go. I am the biggest that I have ever been in my life, so of course my first thoughts were of my closet full of clothes too tight to wear. My newest size 26/28 Lane Bryant jeans are so tight that if that button on the waistband popped, the ricocheting metal could injure an innocent bystander. I can barely breathe while sitting down in them. My black knit twin set, the only acceptable item in my closet for a casual party, will make my makeup run in ten minutes flat in the humid June night air. Everyone will be running around in little tops and mini skirts and I would be the red-faced fat girl in the hot sweater and jeans. The clincher that cemented my decision to stay home was that it is a yacht christening party and I just know I would have been in an uncomfortable situation getting on and off the boat. I have already had a couple of embarrassing situations on friends' boats! Even when you can get on the boat, you have to worry about the tide changing. On one occasion a fairly easy two-foot jump down to the boat later became an impossible four-foot leap back up to the dock. I immediately recognized the problem at hand and watched in terror while everyone else seemed to fly effortlessly up to the dock aided by the helping hands of the uniformed boat valets. I tried to think of a reason to stay on the boat, but there was no way out. When my husband and a friend's husband realized that I was going to have difficulty getting up to the dock, they began to formulate a plan to help me. Then more of our friends became aware that there was a problem and got back on the boat to help. I found myself the sudden focus of attention while our well-meaning friends pulled and pushed me upward. As my feet landed on the dock, I tried to act nonchalant about whose hands had been on my butt, giving me that final boost. I suffered not only from embarrassment, but also large bruises on my arms and legs from the incident. This was supposed to be a fun end to a day of boating, but I remember it for the humiliation instead of the event we were celebrating.
Tonight, our dear friends giving the party will wonder where I am ...
The foregoing is excerpted from "Before & After" by Susan Maria Leach. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022. To learn more you can visit the book's Web site at: http://www.harpercollins.com/catalog/book_xml.asp?isbn=0060567228