In memory of the chicken fillet roll

It’s all fine. But I miss the ease of the liquids-only diet. When I was just on liquids, I didn’t really have any decisions to make. I just had to remember not to get dehydrated. On Thursday, I crossed the two-week post-op barrier, which meant that I could move from liquids to soft foods.

On Thursday, I also weighed myself. I’ve lost a further 10 pounds, so my running total is now 3 stone 4 pounds lost (that’s 46 pounds or 21.7 kilos).

Soft foods are nice. I started on Wednesday evening by trying a yoghurt. I figured it wasn’t that much different from drinking milk. It is. My chest was full of yoghurt for the next two hours. I know that sounds weird, but my stomach has moved to my chest. The constriction starts very high in the digestive system, so when food gets backed up, I feel it in my chest. The sensation of fullness has moved place in my body. I even noticed this my first night in hospital, when drinking water and the water seemed to stop mere centimetres below my neck. Anyway, after two hours of shifting around uncomfortably and more burping than is ever welcome, the yoghurt moved its way through my digestive system.

I’ve read extensively about eating after surgery and this experience seems fairly typical.

The next morning, I had a single scrambled egg for breakfast. It was the best food I’ve ever had in my life, soft and savoury. Every morning since, I’ve had a scrambled egg. It’s basically my middle name now.

I was too full for lunch that day after my single scrambled egg, but I was totally ready for dinner. I cut the skin off half a chicken sausage, fried it and mashed it up with two tea spoons of pureed carrots. Readers, I nearly died. Oh my God, my brand new stomach did not appreciate that. I put the remaining 5 and a half sausages and bowl of mushy carrots into the freezer – they won’t be used any time soon.

I’ve read lots of people who speak about vomiting a lot once they start trying food after weightloss surgery. I haven’t vomited once thankfully, but I suspect it will happen. So far, it’s just been discomfort and burps, more burps than you can even imagine.

So now, yoghurt is fine. Scrambled eggs are fine. Mashed potatoes are fine. Tinned mandarins are fine. I baked two dishes last night to last me the week. One is an Italian soft bake – low-fat ricotta and egg mashed together with Italian seasonings, covered with a layer of passata and a layer of low-fat cheese and baked. I also baked a Mexican one – a layer of mashed refried beans mixed with Philadelphia Light and fajita seasoning, covered with a layer of passata and a layer of low-fat cheese and baked. I haven’t been hungry enough to try either of them yet, but they smell yummy and are recommended all over the weightloss surgery forums for the soft foods diet.

I still haven’t been hungry. I also haven’t had any cravings for food. I know that sounds wrong, given how I wrote last week about my food fantasies. But that’s what they are – fantasies. They’re not real. They’re not like cravings I would ever have had on any diet before, because those cravings could be fulfilled. These new longings are nostalgic and mournful. I will never again eat the way I did. In a year or so, my stomach will have stretched to more or less the size that’s able to accommodate a full normal meal, but not the size that would cope with a binge.

I was at home in Cork earlier this week and I surprised myself by having something of a mournful goodbye while I was there.

I know that as an Irish person in the UK, I’m supposed to miss Ireland terribly and crave things like Barry’s Tea and Tayto crisps, but I would be perfectly happy if both tea and crisps stopped existing. They’re fine – I just can’t imagine getting worked up about them. Other than people, the only actual thing I miss about Ireland is our small shops. Corner shops in England are crap. They’re poky and dusty and have cardboard on the floor. In Ireland, literally everywhere you go, you’ll find a large and bright newsagents with a hot food deli. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a poor inner-city area or a tiny village in the countryside, there will be a lovely convenience store. And the hot food delis are what I miss. You literally can’t go far in Ireland without finding one. Petrol stations, post offices, at every bus stop and every corner, there will be a hot food deli in a little shop. (There are also similar hot food delis in big supermarkets now.) I don’t know where all of these came from. They weren’t there while I was in school. There were a few by the time I finished university. Then I went away to Poland and when I came home in 2006, they were everywhere.

While I was doing my PhD and again while I was living in Longford, my main form of sustenance was the hot food deli. In Longford, I had it down to a fine art. I wouldn’t go to the one in my own village, as I was too embarrassed to do that. I would drive into Longford itself, to a deli in a petrol station on the Dublin Road. My order was generally the same: a breakfast roll – a large roll with butter and taco sauce, two sausages, two rashers, two white puddings and an egg if it was looking decent, and a chicken fillet roll, a large roll with taco sauce, coleslaw, cheese and a spicy chicken fillet (a breaded and fried chicken fillet). I would also buy a litre of skimmed milk and a bottle of diet coke. Milk tasted better with my rolls but I’d need the Diet Coke afterwards to help me clear the congestion. I always fooled myself that the cashier would think if I was buying two rolls and two drinks then it must be for two people. I would eat these two rolls in the car. Then I would drive to another petrol station on a roundabout on my side of Longford, and I wouldn’t have enough space for a third roll, but I could fit a wrap, so I’d get a tomato flavoured wrap with taco sauce, coleslaw, cheese and another spicy chicken fillet. I’d also get two jambons (a pastry square with a gooey cheese and ham sauce) or a few sausage rolls if they were looking sufficiently floppy. I’d then eat this second part of my meal in the car again. This would be both my breakfast and my lunch and it was so much food that I’d have to sleep it off afterwards. If I love any food (and a lot of the time in my life I’ve hated all food) it is the food of Ireland’s hot food delis.

One of the best hot food deli counters in all of Ireland is the one in O’Herlihy’s Centra on the Grand Parade in Cork. It has an incredibly good range. On Tuesday, I visited it and said goodbye. I said goodbye to the shiny-with-grease sausages, the stacks of chicken fillets, both plain and spicy, the perfect golden jambons. I was sad and I was happy. I hate saying goodbye, but I love saying hello.

Hello New Connor.

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A nostalgia for cheese

I’m on a liquid-only regime for two weeks. I’m on my ninth day of fourteen. And I’m feeling fine.

I’ve forgotten what hunger feels like. I genuinely don’t experience it any more. One evening, I had a weird feeling in my tummy and I asked myself if it was hunger, but it wasn’t. It was gas.

Instead of hunger, I feel nostalgic for food. I’ll watch Masterchef and I’ll think to myself “Oh. I remember chicken!” The voice saying that in my head is a sad voice. But don’t worry. The sad voice goes away quite quickly.

It’s savory foods I miss. I can have fruit juice and fruit squash and all my Slimfast shakes are sweet. In fact, here’s a little secret. I never really liked sweet stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I was completely addicted to Diet Coke (but found real Coke a bit too sweet to handle) and I was perfectly capable of bingeing on biscuits and cake, but I have always found fruity flavours a bit much and I’ve never been someone who liked jam or jelly or fruit juice or anything like that very much. Right now, when I crave something, it’s super savory. It’s cheese. Or it’s cheesy. It’s sausages. It’s pork chops. It’s pizza. The other day, I had a graphic fantasy about mashed carrots and swedes. The only savory food I can have at the moment is soup. At first; I wanted to nourish myself and I bought rich and creamy soups in tins and cartons and watered them down and sieved them so they’d fit in my new stomach. But that was a mistake. It was still too thick. Cuppa soup has turned out way better.

I watch videos on YouTube almost constantly about cooking for the next stage of my diet. The next stage is mushy foods. After two weeks of liquids, my brand new stomach will be able to cope with sloppy, pureed, mashed and very soft foods. I can’t wait to have scrambled eggs. And something cheesy. Very cheesy. I’ve watched lots of videos about the kind of foods I can eat and I visualise myself cooking elaborate mushy meals. Of course, they can’t be too elaborate, because I’ll only be able to fit three bites into my new stomach per meal. But it doesn’t stop me fantasising.

Most of my fantasies are good ones. But there are still demons. It’s hard to shake the feeling that I’ll fail. That it won’t work. It’s so much easier to drink water now than it was a week ago. What if it’s the same for pizza? What if it goes from three spoons of mashed potato to ordering from Dominos in a week? What if I end up cheating? For the week before my operation, I had my normal dreams and nightmares, mainly about work, friends or family. But since the operation I’ve been plagued by “what if it doesn’t work?” nightmares.

But it will. It’s working already. My brain is free from hunger and it’s very liberating. And I weighed myself in Boots on Wednesday. I’m down 2 stone 8 pounds already (probably more by now). And I don’t feel drained of energy or weak or dizzy or anything like I’d expect to feel given I haven’t eaten anything in ten days.

I’ve felt fine almost all the time since my last post, other than occasional pains from when I try I gulp water or milk instead of sipping. The only time I felt really bad was on Monday night. I went out to the cinema to see A Star is Born and afterwards I felt fine and then suddenly I didn’t. I was doubled over in pain. My stomach felt like it would explode. I couldn’t face getting a bus home and got an Uber, which didn’t help because we took all the back roads through residential areas and ended up bumping over every speed ramp in South London. It’s the first time in my life I’ve felt travel sick and just wanted the motion to end. Speaking of motions, the answer soon became clear. I needed a poo. I’d forgotten what that was like. I hadn’t had one in five days. I went to the loo and everything was fine again.

And everything really is fine. I’ve had a procession of visitors coming out to see me at home and I love it, but I do feel guilty, because I’m perfectly capable of going out to town. I’m glad I haven’t though. This is my first time in 2018 taking more than three days in a row off and it’s been wondrous. Every week should be a holiday week.

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The Surgery

I didn’t sleep the night before. I was a nervous wreck. I tidied the house. I gave the fish an unexpected middle-of-the-night feeding. I watched video after video on YouTube of people describing their experiences of weightloss surgery. I checked my phone for the time at 4:25 am. My alarm went off at 4:50. I got up and had a shower and made it down the hill on time for the 5:36 train.

I tried to read on the train, but couldn’t. I distracted myself by answering all the good luck messages I was getting. It’s amazing how early all of you get up.

I got to the hospital as requested at 6:30. I was immediately prompted to sign a piece of paper, the first of four things I signed that morning without reading and I was shown to my room.

A nurse checked my blood pressure and told me it was very high. Of course it was. I was about to have surgery. He took my temperature and double checked my name and my date of birth. He put a hospital wristband on me. He left me alone to change my clothes.

I was given a hospital gown, a pair of anti-embolism socks and a ridiculous pair of see-through paper underpants. I put them on. The nurse popped back in and told me that I was first up today and that the surgeon and the anaesthetist would both call in soon.

Alone in my room, waiting for the surgeon was the loneliest fifteen minutes of my life.

The surgeon came, jolly as ever. He felt my belly and told me that it looked good. He said that it was the beginning of a whole new life. He had me sign something and left.

The anaesthetist came next, a gruff man. He asked if I was on any medication or if I had any allergies. I said no and he left.

A nurse came to walk me down to theatre. The corridor of bedrooms where I’d been was a very peaceful place. The operating theatres were abuzz with activity. Lots of people, lots of noise, lots of shiny metal. It reminded me of a hotel kitchen. Another nurse led me into a small room full of equipment and had me lie on a trolley. She checked my name and date of birth again, just to be sure they did the right operation I guess. She attached me to various monitors and machines and took away my glasses. I felt completely powerless.

As she hooked me up, she asked me about where I was from. It turned out she had a friend from Ireland who would bring her black pudding every time she visited home. She loved the black pudding, and said it was an excellent hangover cure. I remember thinking how wonderfully inappropriate a conversation this was for someone who’s about to have their insides sewn up so that they stop eating so much. I thought to myself, “I hope I remember to put this in the blogpost”. I did.

The surgeon came in, laughing and jolly and told me again that I’d made the right decision and I was lucky because the best team available were on that morning. I bet he says that to all the teams.

The grumpy anaesthetist joined us. He attached a drip to the back of my left hand and put a mask over my face. I remember thinking, in my overdramatic way, that this could be my last moment of consciousness.

It wasn’t. I woke up. I was in horrible pain and I was confused. The anaesthetist was still there but we were in a different room this time. He asked if I was in pain. I remember literally moaning as I said “yes”. He said he’d give me more morphine. I dozed off again.

I woke up to a new nurse telling me she was taking me back to my bedroom. I remember feeling as if the bed was being rushed too fast down the corridor and I remember moaning some more but I was kind of waking up to reality now. We got back to my bedroom. I was given my glasses and I asked for my phone too.

It was 11:00 am. I managed to announce on Facebook that I was alive and to text my sister and mother too. I went to sleep.

Or at least I kind of slept. I was extraordinarily sore. Everything hurt. My head. My shoulders. My chest. My belly. My insides. My outsides.

At least I wasn’t attached to loads of machines. I had read some accounts of surgery where it was normal to have a catheter put in and various monitors attached. I didn’t have any of that. For a short while, I had a little oxygen thing under my nose, but the nurse soon removed that. The only other attachment was the drip going into the back of my left hand. The nurse was worried about this as it didn’t seem to be working and she wanted me to get some fluids and some nutrition as I’d been fasting before the operation.

At about 1:00, the physiotherapist came calling. She wanted to get me out of bed. I didn’t think I’d be able. But I could. And once I was out of bed, I felt a bajillion times better. We went for a walk around the corridor. As we did, the drip popped out of my hand and I started bleeding all over the floor. I walked back to my room and they bandaged me up.

A nurse and two different doctors came to try and find a vein and get the drip attached again. They pricked my arms and hands in a number of different places and failed utterly. They decided I’d be OK without the hydration.

This was good. I could sleep better without anything attached to me. I napped hard.

At some stage I noticed that my paper underpants had disappeared. Did they rip them off for surgery? That’s odd. When I had the energy, I got a pair of my own underpants out of my bag. As I put them on, I found the paper hospital underpants. They were in a ball of paper between my butt cheeks. I don’t know how they got that way and I’m choosing not to ask.

Not only have I had seven-eighths of my stomach removed. The one eighth that remains is very swollen after the surgery so basically nothing will fit in my tummy. This has turned me into a very delicate consumer, like the princess and the pea.

I was presented with a glass of water and a glass of orange squash. I can only take the tiniest, most ladylike of sips. A gulp is unbelievably painful. The most common reason for readmission to hospital after one of these operations is dehydration and I can understand why. Drinking water is hard work.

And the other problem is that drinking water creates gas. The gas pains are easily the worst part of this whole process. I can feel the wind moving through me but refusing to actually exit. Burps and farts are a matter of great joy and much-needed relief. I find myself rubbing my own torso like a baby who needs to be winded. It’s the worst.

Walking definitely helped with the gas pains though and I walked the corridors of the hospital every half an hour or so.

I examined my belly in the bathroom. They had shaved it in the most cack-handed way, leaving lots of hairy patches and it was already stubbly. There’s nothing sexy about a stubbly belly. There are five small wounds, each with a dressing on and none of them are at all painful.

Tablets are hard to take because they involve swallowing and they involve taking water. I’m like a baby learning new skills from scratch. I never thought I might forget how to swallow but I have a few different painkillers and anti-nausea tablets that I have to take so I’ve had to learn fast.

The nurse also had to teach me how to inject myself with heparin. When she did it, it was completely painless. When I do it, it stings to high heaven.

I woke up on the morning after the operation feeling fresh. No pain, no drowsiness. I just felt normal.

The surgeon popped in. He told me that the operation had been one of the easiest he’d ever done. He told me I’d obviously followed the liver shrinking pre-op diet well and that my liver showed no signs of fatty liver disease and he didn’t detect any negative effects of obesity on my internal organs. He told me I could go home whenever I wanted.

Wow! It was only 24 hours since the operation!

(I didn’t tell the doctor this fact, but I’ll tell you. I found the divorce from food difficult. I was on the pre-op diet for 16 days. I cheated on each of the first five days. Five days in a row, I started with good intentions and had my SlimFast shakes, and by the evening, I ordered a large pizza for delivery. Five evenings in a row. I did eleven days on the diet properly after that, but it was not an easy goodbye. Not at all.)

Anyway, I got dressed and waited for the nurse to bring me my paperwork and my take-home drugs.

By 11:00 am, almost exactly 24 hours after waking up from surgery, I was on the District Line, on my way home. I was fine.

And I still am fine. My brother arrived for a surprise visit last night so I have someone minding me for until tomorrow morning. Not that I need it really.

I’m sleeping a lot and the gas pains still bother me, but I really do feel mainly normal. My main mission now, as well as staying hydrated, is to get nutrition into my body. Milk, protein shakes and thin soups are what I’ll be living on for the next two weeks. Each sip is easier than the last, but learning to eat again from scratch is a weird thing to have to do at 37.

Right now, I’m calm. I know where I’m headed and I’m happy about it. Not frenetically excited like I was before the operation. Just calmly happy. It’s nice to have a bit of zen. And a sip of milk. I’m basically a cat now.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the messages of support. It’s been kind of overwhelming. Love you all. xxx

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Songs for a patient on the eve of a sleeve gastrectomy

*Not a playlist you’ll find on Spotify. Yet.

My Love is Your Love (Whitney Houston) – YouTube link

In the summer of 1999, as I was finishing secondary school, Whitney Houston had a moderate-sized hit with this weird little song, the first line of which is “If tomorrow is Judgement Day (Sing Mommy!)” On the day before my leaving cert results, nothing was going through my mind except that line, over and over again, and ever since then, on the day before momentous occasions, I’ve found myself singing “If tomorrow is Judgement Day (Sing Mommy!)”. And so, here I am today, the day before the surgery, singing Whitney, googling the exact risks, the chances of death, asking whether I need to leave exact instructions with anyone just in case I do die on the operating table. (I don’t have any property to dispose of in a will, but I would like you to take a printout of this blog and my Facebook timeline to a big-time movie producer and see if my life could the source material for an acclaimed movie.) (Sing Mommy!)

Maybe This Time (Liza Minelli)YouTube link

This one is an obvious one. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to start diet after diet after diet. Every Monday morning of my life since I was about 11 years old, I would swear to myself that this time it was for real. I would sign contracts with myself. I would throw out all the food in the house. I would burn food. I would make public declarations on my blog and my Facebook and on Tumblr, I would make appointments with doctors, I would start food diaries, I would cry, I would swear that this would be the time. This time it would stick. “Maybe this time, for the first time, I’ll win.” I always meant it. Always. But each time, I believed myself a little less. And now, here I stand on the precipice of it actually working. This time really is different.

Maybe (Aileen Quinn)YouTube link

This is a song from the movie musical Annie. I didn’t mean to make this playlist quite so gay. Sorrynotsorry. This is the song where little orphan Annie fantasises about what her parents are like. I like to play it and fantasise about alternative versions of me. In this case a thin Connor. I really don’t know what a thin Connor would be like. I only ever got some of the way there. I’m given to making ridiculous statements about it. In the last few weeks, I’ve started lots of sentences with “When I’m skinny I’m going to…” Today, I found myself saying “When I’m skinny, I’m going to wear nothing but baby oil and short shorts.” I really don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I do know I’ve been dreaming about it for years.

Shout Out to My Ex (Little Mix)YouTube link

This is a girl power anthem that I listened to on repeat when I first moved to London. This song emblematised the new Connor. I wasn’t going to be scared of life any more. I was leaving the bubble I’d built for myself in Ireland. I’d walked out of a permanent, pensioned, salaried job with no notice and taken a plane to London to make my name. After literally averaging one kiss every seven years, I found myself having sex with three men in one week. After living alone in a three-bedroom house in Longford two hundred miles from my nearest friends and hiding from the world, here I was living in hostels, sharing a bedroom with 24 people. I even published my little book. London Connor was brave in a way Ireland Connor wasn’t. And now, I’ve settled here and I have a permanent, pensioned, salaried job again, and I live alone again, and I’ve stopped writing. But I’m still brave. And what I’m doing tomorrow is brave.

Make Your Own Kind of Music (Mama Cass)YouTube link

I was briefly a member of a support group for gay and lesbian teenagers around 1997/98. We met in the Other Place, the gay and lesbian resource centre that used to be on South Main Street before the internet made that kind of thing somewhat redundant. It was on Wednesday afternoons (most schools in Cork city had half days on Wednesdays at that time – I have no idea why) and I still remember standing on the opposite side of the road for up to half an hour working up the courage to walk in the door, which I would always do as quickly as I possibly could. The group frustrated me because they didn’t find a boyfriend for me and I didn’t feel like a ‘proper gay’ for years afterwards. Anyway, the most memorable meeting for me was the afternoon I was the only one who turned up and the middle-aged lesbian in charge put on a video of the film ‘Beautiful Thing’, a lovely little coming out film that still makes me cry even to think about it. In one scene, the two teenage boys run around a forest and kiss each other while ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ plays. That scene ruined me forever. The idea that being gay wasn’t a burden and wasn’t just about sin and AIDS, but about kissing a hot boy in the woods was a revelation to 16-year-old Connor. I’ve still never done anything with a boy in a forest. But I think I have made my own kind of music. And that’s what this surgery is. I have had so much support from people, but some people have not welcomed my decision to have surgery, with reactions ranging from  “Don’t” to “I’m sorry you feel like you have to do this” to “I thought you were well able to get around.” I know I’m probably failing the fat community and the weightloss community simultaneously by taking this decision, but goddammit, I’m making my own kind of music and I’m proud of it.

I’ll make a man out of you (Donny Osmond)– YouTube link

This song is from the Disney movie Mulan, which I’ve never seen. I was introduced to it on a weightloss channel on YouTube that I used to watch obsessively. It’s a great motivational track. One of my recurring thoughts about extreme weightloss is the hormonal changes. I really have no idea how significant these are, but I do know that obesity puts both men and women at risk of breast cancer because of the excess oestrogen stored in fat. I also know that weightloss tends to lead to a rise in testosterone levels. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from many of the ‘chubby chasers’ that I’ve dated/had sexy time with that all fat guys are bottoms (prefer receptive sex). The chubby chasers don’t like this, as it doesn’t fit with their sexual fantasy of a fierce gorilla-like fat man pinning them down. I also heard from one chaser whose ex had weightloss surgery that it resulted in a complete change in his sexual appetite. Is that going to happen to me? Am I going to be some kind of sex-mad butch dom top? Do I want to be?

Ease on Down the Road (Michael Jackson and Diana Ross)YouTube link

This song, from The Wiz – the all-black version of the Wizard of Oz, was the song I listened to every morning of my Camino, as I set off down the road to Santiago. Walking 708 km when I was 28 stone wasn’t easy and it never got easy. It got easier, but it was work. The same applies to this. This operation isn’t an easy way out. This operation is putting myself on a life-long diet. After the surgery, I’ll have a tiny stomach. I can expect to only be able to have a meal that’s about three spoonfuls before getting full. It will gradually get bigger, but apparently it will always be small and it will be unco-operative if I try to eat a lot or eat quickly. This is not a small or an easy thing I’m doing. This is not the easy way out. This will be work.

Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)YouTube link

What’s the biggest thing missing from my life right now? I have friends, I like my job, I have the option of sex with anonymous internet men, I have a lovely flat. I would say that the biggest thing missing right now is the feeling of safety. I feel insecure. When was the last time I really felt safe? It was when I was living in Trinity Hall, sharing my daily life with 1000 teenagers, and it was an artificial life that couldn’t last, but I want to build a relationship that will make me feel safe and I really do think that will be easier to find if I’m not walled behind hundreds of pounds of protective, self-defensive fat. In my first year in Hall, 2011-2012, the year I shared my flat with those lovely Boys, the one ubiquitous, unavoidable song was Call Me Maybe. When things were going well in my PhD or when things were going badly in PhD I used to go to my secret place on the staircases of the Arts Block and play Call Me Maybe and jump up and down joyously, like I was a character written by Shonda Rhimes. It was excellent preparation for my Viva exam and it’ll be excellent preparation for this operation too.

I Dreamed a Dream (Audition version) (Susan Boyle)YouTube link

This is my favourite place on all the internet. Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s manufactured reality TV poo, and I know that Piers Morgan, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden are all varying degrees of deplorable, and I know that Susan’s massive success mightn’t actually have done her any good, but Oh My God, this video. It’s perfect. The seemingly ugly, overweight woman who no one expects anything but comedy from. The girl in the audience who rolls her eyes. And then she sings and it’s beautiful. And a whole auditorium full of people go wild for her and believe in her. And the idea that fat and ugly me could someday produce something beautiful and be actually seen just breaks me apart.

Let Me Be Your Star (Megan Hilty and Katherine McPhee)YouTube link

This is the song that I sing when I’m excited, and is the song I’ve actually been singing non-stop for the last week. It comes from the cancelled, but amazing, but awful, but fabulous, NBC Broadway-based drama Smash. It’s a song of longing, of wanting, of confidence, of dreams, about a young Marilyn Monroe, sung by two young actresses aspiring to be Marilyn Monroe and it’s one of the best ever written. One day, when I’m skinny and I have money and a camera crew, I want to do a shot-for-shot exact reenactment of the video of this song, where I play both roles. Anyway, hopefully this is the right thing to do, hopefully my life will get better. Let me be your star!



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On Friday morning I went to hospital for my pre-operative assessment. It’s a nice small hospital in East London and I was only 20 minutes late for my appointment.

The nurse doing the assessment, a greying South Asian man with a kind face, introduced himself as Jim and then said that if there were any complaints, his name was Tom. I wondered how many times he’d told that joke before.

He took me through a long list of diseases I don’t have and medications I’m not taking. Then he gave me a long cotton bud to test for MRSA. I had to swab the folds of the V of my groin to test for it. I don’t understand how it’s so contagious if that’s where it lives.

He measured my weight and height. I’ve lost about 1 stone 10 pounds since starting my pre-op diet. More on that in a minute. He also measured my blood pressure. I’ve never been in a medical situation where the facilities are designed for the obese. Their default blood pressure cuff is the supersize one. I didn’t have to wait for someone to hunt it out from the back of a dusty cupboard after trying and failing to take my blood pressure with a regular sized one, like I usually do when I go to the doctors.

This gave me high hopes for the next part. Would I finally be in a medical situation where someone would be able to find a vein and take blood without drama? No. Of course not. Fat people’s veins are buried and invisible to the human eye and every time a medical professional has to take blood from me it’s a palaver.

First of all, Jim felt my arms and hands and inspected them closely. No, he decided, he couldn’t see a vein. He phoned a colleague. A bubbly female nurse came in. She said she had a trick for finding veins. She prodded and poked me, squeezed and rubbed. She found a vein, but decided that it was too deep to risk piercing. She called in her colleague, another smiley nurse (but a little less smiley and a little less Northern than the first nurse). They tried together as Jim apathetically looked on. They couldn’t find a vein and asked Jim to phone for the doctor.

I asked what the doctor could do that they couldn’t. The first, bubblier, nurse said that the doctor could take blood from any part of my body she wanted, so she’d definitely get a result. I had visions of her slitting my throat or piercing a vein on my testicles.

The doctor came up, a quiet young woman with a West African accent. She said she’d prefer to take me next door where there was a chair. I don’t know why this sounded so ominous, but it did. “Next door” turned out to be a big empty room with a row of large orange chairs, each chair surrounded by medical equipment. It looked a little bit like a chemotherapy ward, a place I don’t like the memory of.

The doctor didn’t try any unusual places. She went back to slapping my arms and the backs of my hands in the hopes of finding a vein that the other three hadn’t found. She made her first piercing on my left wrist and failed to draw any blood. Then she pricked high up on my right arm and failed again to draw blood.

At this stage, the bubbly Northern nurse came into the room. This was good, as all the doctor had done was sigh at me and I don’t particularly like needles and I needed someone to distract me. Nurses are always better at this part of the job than doctors.

Finally, on the third skin puncture, about halfway down my right forearm, the doctor struck a vein and she gave a little delighted cry. However, she was soon sighing again. Apparently it was a very slow vein and the blood was just coming out in tiny drops. The doctor’s hand got tired of holding the tube and the nurse took over. They filled one and a half tubes before the vein stopped producing blood. There were five tubes waiting to be filled. The doctor said that the vein was now empty, which sounded vaguely life-threatening to me but I think was really just more or an inconvenience.

She tried the back of my right hand and failed and then she tried my right wrist and failed. As she was trying up high on my left arm, the ward sister came in with the less smiley, more Southern nurse from earlier.

The sister and the doctor were obviously friends and the doctor visibly cheered up when she arrived. As the doctor prodded my left arm, the sister announced that she was going to find a vein on my foot. She took off my shoe and sock and within seconds she announced triumphantly that she’d found a vein. I was pierced at once both on my arm and on my foot. Neither punctures produced any blood. The sister couldn’t believe that what was clearly a vein on my foot wasn’t producing any blood. She had me stamp my feet while the doctor apologetically extracted the needle from my left arm. Blood refused to issue from my foot.

The four medical professionals around me started tutting and saying that if I couldn’t have blood taken then I couldn’t have the operation. I willed myself to bleed. They suggested coming in again in the afternoon after eating a lot and drinking lots of fluids and exercising vigorously to get the blood pumping. I didn’t want to come back in the afternoon! I had work.

The doctor said she’d give it one last try. I put all my effort into making blood flow. She put the needle about halfway down my left forearm and it worked. They filled tube after tube with blood. Phew! I could have the operation after all! And the next time I go to the doctor, I’ll be skinny and my veins will be easy to find.

They asked Jim if I could go and he said yes. Yay!

I’m much more ready for the operation in my brain than I was last week. It had felt very unreal but it’s better now. So is the diet. I still get hungry but my body is used to 800 calories now. I can cope. I don’t want to stab people anything as much.

Still, I have moments of absolute panic. I smell a pizza or I pass a burger restaurant or I see someone eat pasta and I think I might never taste those tastes again. I went out on Friday night, and felt terrible, woozy from giving blood and dehydrated and hungry and I had to leave early and I felt like I’d never have a social life again, even though I’ve had two nights out without eating or drinking since starting the diet and they were fine, but one missed night out gave me eternal FOMO.

And the practicalities of it all, and of doing it alone just terrify me. So many people have offered to visit and offered to help and that makes me feel so grateful, and so lucky, but a big part of me is just so scared and alone and it’s been such a hard year with my dad’s death and my family disintegrating for a variety of reasons, and it’s very hard not to feel like I’m on a tiny little raft bobbing in the open seas without an anchor.

I’ll tell you one thing. As soon as I’m skinny I’m getting me a boyfriend. I’m not doing something like this alone ever again.

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But what if…?

So my worries about the surgery go as follows:

  1. My hospital appointment is at 6:30 am. What if I sleep in and miss it?
  2. Apparently they pump air into your digestive system while they operate so you get horrible trapped wind and you’re going to need to do GIANT BURPS afterwards.
  3. What if I die?
  4. What if I fail to do this pre-operative liver shrinking diet and they refuse to operate? It feels so cruel to me, to tell someone who has tried and failed at losing weight all their lives that the solution to this problem is dependent on me not doing the thing that I can’t not do. Seriously, keep your fingers crossed for me that I follow the diet.
  5. What if I wake up after my general anaesthetic and in my woozy state start texting my friends and telling them how much I fancy them/hate their boyfriends/want to marry them/hate them/am passionately in love with them?
  6. So much of my identity and personality and thoughts and dreams and life are and have been about trying to lose weight. What if I can’t find anything to replace that? What if I feel empty without the struggle? What if I don’t feel like me?
  7. What if it hurts? (It will.)
  8. What if I’m one of the 5% of people who don’t actually lose the weight?
  9. What if the fat down below is gone but my willy doesn’t get any longer?
  10. What if I’ve already done so much damage to my joints that I’ll need to have hip/knee replacement operations in my forties anyway?
  11. I know this is ridiculous, but WHAT IF THIN PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS TOO? I’ve spent all my life envying thin people and not really sure that they have ever suffered and I know that of course they do suffer, but because I blame literally every problem I’ve ever had ever on my weight, I tend to view thinness as an unproblematic state. I know that’s not true. I know I won’t stop being Connor, with whatever faults and failings that involves, but that’s not how the dream of thinness goes.

I’m still excited. It seems completely unreal, but it’s happening. I’m being given the chance to re-write my story. To be reborn. To not have my whole life be about this any more. I have to pinch myself every so often.

What is life like if you never wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe because your neck fat is literally choking you? What is it like not to have constant pain (my hips are screaming)? What is it like not to break chairs? What is it like to be able to sit up in bed without any hoisting involved? What’s it like to not have to ask yourself whether someone is attracted to you because a fat man touched them when they were eleven, but maybe they like you because they like you? What’s it like not to have to worry that mothers will have to discipline their children and make them cry in shopping centres or on buses because they called me a fatty?

I’m being given a new chance. I’m terrified. But I’m much more excited than I am terrified.

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I drank too many pints of cider the other night. And we got to talking about my surgery and one of my friends said that she didn’t want me to not be Connor any more after I become skinny and gorgeous.

I mean, I kind of hope I’m not Connor any more after the op. I want to be like Jesus after his transfiguration. I want to be like Jade Goody after she learned not to be a racist bully. I want a complete rebranding.

I’ve read a lot about identity and I remember being depressed to realise that we probably are just products of our time and place in culture and history, that we’re not unique, free-thinking individuals who can choose our own paths. At one stage, I got really interested in the idea of changing sex as a means of self-creation. And I kind of look at this operation as an act of self-creation. It’s maybe not as radical as gender reassignment, but it makes me feel like the author of my own destiny. I’m building a new generation of Connor. Shinier and better than the first.

I think my friend was worried that thin Connor wouldn’t be as fun, wouldn’t be as larger-than-life. I won’t be as large. And I won’t drink as much cider. But anyone who knew me when I was losing all that weight in 2007 will know I was less reserved, less likely to just stay at home and avoid the world. Even in recent times, I’ve been in London for two years – in the first year, I lost a lot of weight and I had a lot of sexual adventures and did things I never thought I’d do before. This year, I’ve gained a lot of weight and started withdrawing into myself again, avoiding social occasions and flirting with men online but not actually meeting them. I think thin Connor is demonstrably more fun than fat Connor. But I’ve never been as dramatically thin as I’m likely to be over the next year, so who knows how it will actually turn out.

This is a ridiculous word, but I am “blessed”. I get a chance at reinvention. A chance at reincarnation before I even die. Not everyone gets that.

The surgery is booked for 4th October. So my pre-surgery diet starts on Tuesday. For two weeks I have to eat 800 calories a day. This is to shrink my liver so that it can safely be moved during the surgery so the doctor can access my stomach easily. If I don’t follow the diet, the surgeon warned me that he’d just sew me back up without changing anything and I’d get no money back.

800 calories is not a lot. I’ve bought a lot of Slimfast shakes and bars and I’ll basically be eating one small meal a day plus Slimfast stuff. And then the operation will come and I’ll be eating nothing solid for weeks.

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing a goodbye tour of food. I’ve ordered so many takeaway pizzas and takeaway Indians. I’ve gained weight with abandon. I feel like I’m getting divorced from food but I haven’t told him yet, so I’m using his credit card as much as possible in the run up to the final showdown on Tuesday.

Saying goodbye to food is something I’ve dreamed of. I hate food so profoundly for the shame and discomfort it’s made me feel all my life. One of the reasons I think I’ll never have children is I can imagine starving them because I’d be so afraid I’d inflict my fatness on them.

But a new dawn beckons. I don’t have to be afraid of food any more. It doesn’t know that, but on Tuesday, I’m serving it divorce papers. And I’m going to be free.

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