The Surgeon

Since the decision to have surgery, I haven’t known what to eat. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t try to diet? But all I know how to do is how to diet and how to break diets. I don’t know what I eat when I’m not dieting, even though I know exactly what to eat when I’m cheating on a diet. And the rare periods of my life when I’ve actively decided not to diet have always been a strain.

If I try to figure out what to eat when I’m not on a diet, the act of figuring out what to eat feels too much like a diet. I bought a box of chocolate pop tarts last week telling myself I’d have them for breakfast every day. I mean, surely that wouldn’t feel diet-y. But it did. It felt pre-planned and I rebelled and didn’t eat my delicious chocolatey pop tarts for breakfast because it felt like forcing porridge on myself and instead I went to a bakery for breakfast every morning last week. I wish my relationship with food made sense. In 2007, the magical year I lost six and a half stone at WeightWatchers, I was able to count the WW points in literally everything I ate for a whole year. And dieting makes me happy. I like counting calories and planning meals. But not dieting sets of all kinds of irrationalities in my brain and I start to malfunction. I prefer cheating on a diet to not dieting, even though I know that probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I’m glad this surgery will make being on a diet into my default setting.

My appointment with the surgeon was yesterday. I woke up early, full of nervous excitement. I was going to meet the man of my dreams. The man who would make me thin. The Dumbledore to my Harry. The Michelangelo to my David. The flames to my phoenix.

I agonised over what to wear like I was going on a date. Eventually, I chose my loudest Hawaiian shirt. I wanted my surgeon to remember me.

I posted on Facebook about where I was going. I started getting messages wishing me luck and I burst into tears on the bus. Yay! Connor is as stable as ever! It was a number of things that made me cry. Although my initial reveal of my plans to have the surgery went well, and people were very supportive, I started getting negative reactions as more and more people found out and I had begun to dread a lifetime of being judged for this and just getting this support buoyed me again. Also, the fact that men were saying nice things also set me off, as a part of my brain still believes I don’t deserve to be liked by men because I’m a gross fat gay and while a woman might like me as a non-sexually-threatening comedy prop, I see myself as having no value for men and so when they’re nice to me, especially in the context of anything related to my body, I tend to fall apart emotionally. Also, I was just keyed up with excitement at meeting the man who was going to change my life. For all of these reasons, I was crying on the 118 bus on a Saturday morning, covering my face with both hands so the teenage girl across from me couldn’t see my face convulsing with sobs. It didn’t work and she totally could see.

I got to the Harley Street office with time to spare. It was swanky. I was sent up to meet the doctor.

I love him. He started by complimenting my shirt.

He’s from Northern Ireland, so we pretended to be interested in where each other is from as all Irish people in England are compelled to do when they first meet.

Then he started asking me about my history of my weight, of my weight gains and weight losses. After I’d spoken for a few minutes he stopped me and said “You have to have the surgery.”

Phew!

He talked me through the different options available. The mildest is a gastric balloon, which is a no-risk operation whereby a balloon is inserted into your stomach and then inflated so you feel full quicker. People tend to only lose a stone or two using it and once the balloon is taken out, the weight usually goes straight back on. He said that he occasionally uses it for patients who are so fat that he wouldn’t be able to safely perform one of the better operations so he needs them to lose a few stone first. He says he also uses them for women who want pre-wedding weightloss surgery and aren’t particularly overweight but need to lose a little before their weddings.

After discussing the options, he agreed with my initial decision that a vertical sleeve gastrectomy would be best. He felt my belly and was relieved that it was soft fat and not the hard fat of an enlarged liver, which would make the operation harder. Apparently, I have male pattern obesity, which didn’t surprise me. This means that I hold most of my weight in my belly and that will be where I first lose weight too. He told me that women hold more weight in their hips and ass and so the first place a woman loses weight is her ass. He then did an impression of the black women he used to operate on in New York, some of whom would just walk out of his office when he told them that the first place they’d lose their weight would be their bottoms. How could they keep a man without a big booty? (I can attest to this. The first message I almost always get from black and middle eastern men on Grindr, Scruff, Growlr etc is pretty much always a request to see a picture of my ass.) And yes, a Northern Irish white man doing an impression of a New York black woman talking about her ass is questionable at best, but there is something hopelessly funny about someone attempting an accent that is completely beyond them. This guy could barely do a Derry accent and certainly not a Dublin accent, so the fact that he attempted a Harlem one was hilarious.

He spent a long time talking about the health benefits of weightloss surgery. Apparently, as a new baby doctor, he’d been sent to work on weightloss surgeries and he didn’t really believe in them. He thought they were a waste of time. But then he was converted when he saw someone being cured of diabetes literally hours after their surgery and being able to dispose of all the drugs they’d been dependent on for years. He thinks that this kind of surgery is miraculous.

The gastric sleeve that I’ll get doesn’t just reduce the size of your stomach so you can’t fit as much food or drink in. It also eliminates the part of your stomach that produces ghrelin and other hormones that promote hunger. And it works. It’s been proven to eliminate conditions like sleep apnoea (which I almost certainly have) and diabetes, to reduce cancer risk, to lower blood pressure, to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, to reduce the risk and scale of joint issues, to extend life span and to promote testosterone production in men (what if it turns me straight?) It’s been proven that people don’t just lose the weight, but they keep it off. It really is a miracle.

He would have been happy to do the operation in two weeks’ time. I asked for the first week in October. He’s also fine with that. I have to spend two weeks before the operation on a crazy 800-calorie-a-day diet to shrink my liver so it doesn’t get in the way during the operation. So now I just have to find the money.

As we were chatting about dates for the operation, he asked if I had someone to go home to. I informed him that I’m single and that I live alone. He told me that most people go home after one night, but the hospital would let me stay a second night after the operation as I had no one. He said it with love and I nearly cried again.

I’m excited. I’m going to make this happen. Be ready for Connor, the Skinny Legend.

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