My resolve to go through this process came after lengthy consideration. It was not done on a whim; I did not take it lightly. I am not sure that one could take the decision lightly and succeed in gaining approval from all of the necessary specialists– it requires at least 6 months of commitment with dozens of hurdles to clear before they even set a date for the surgery.
Yesterday, 10 days into my 40-day liquid diet and 5 days out from surgery, I began feeling the first hints of moodiness.
At first, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong. I felt a bit down, which happens to all of us from time to time, particularly as the days get colder and shorter. I couldn’t turn to any kind of food or alcohol, and both have been frequent points of refuge throughout different stages of my life. Losing weight has required tapping into my fat stores for energy, which can also throw the delicate balance of bodily hormones out of sorts. I knew that I was getting closer to what I had seen for so long as a finish line, and I felt excited– even as nervousness has begun to creep ever so stealthily in. Although I knew all of these things intellectually, I still felt slightly melancholy.
Some enter this process thinking it a sprint. I saw it more like a marathon, but as I reflect on it, it is far closer to a triathlon. I haven’t even covered the bulk of the miles before me. I’m just getting started.
I know that on Monday, I will experience a range of emotions. I will be nervous. I will feel apprehensive as they put me under anesthesia. I am likely to feel an unknown degree of pain and nausea when I awake, and I will not have the luxury of curling up in a ball and sleeping it off. In order to minimize the pain and reduce the risk of post-surgical complications, I will have to, quite literally, walk it off. I will have to test my new digestive system with 2 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes on a rigid schedule to reduce the very real risk of dehydration. It is only then that I will enter into the next step of the process when the most challenging work begins.
Those first hours and days are something of a test of faith. Many question what they have done when they find themselves standing at what they thought was a finish line, all to learn that they still have a painful stretch of road before them. I hope that, as I look back at what I have been through and ahead to where I am going, I can see the bigger picture as clearly as I can.
I want to be prepared for what comes next.
Last night, I found it difficult to sleep. I turned on YouTube and watched the vertical sleeve gastrectomy performed twice, with different surgeons talking their way through a very visual representation of what I have already come to expect on the table. Although surgical videos are not for everyone, I found it comforting to know the lay of the land, to see the terrain in something other than a diagram. For me, it was somehow settling to see the instruments: the placement of the trocars, variations of laparoscopic surgical stapling devices, even the (hopefully unnecessary) liver retractor. To me, they were not as terrifying as I had made them out to be. It demystified the unknown.
Today, I feel better. I know that my feelings are bound to be strong, unavoidable, and even a bit confusing over the coming days and weeks. But I know that I can navigate them skillfully as they come.
I am as ready as I will ever be.