Last Fall, I came to a decision: something in my life had to change. In fact, maybe a lot of things in my life had to change.

I was in physical therapy for my right ankle, after turning it in some wet grass on a hillside while walking out to Rupert last April. And I had to wear tennis shoes. Good tennis shoes. But there was a problem. I lost 50 pounds in 2021 and gained all of it back in 2022. I had gotten so out of shape that I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes; nor could I raise my legs to cross each other enough to tie them that way. I was mortified. I was depressed. I was ashamed.

At the same time, I was having a lot of issues with my gut – my physical gut, not the place where feelings come from. I had diarrhea on a daily basis and often completely lost control of my bowels. I had reached the point where I was almost afraid to go somewhere on a trip and stay around other people because I never knew when it was going to happen. It was embarrassing and unpredictable, not to mention unpleasant and irritating.

So, last September and October, I started consulting with my gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. McKinney. I had worked with him back in 2020 when I was having similar problems and he did my colonoscopies – two in three months because the first one showed precancerous material and polyps. (The second one resulted in a clean bill of health, but I have to have colonoscopies every three years, just to be on the safe side.) Dr. McKinney increased some medication that I was already on, tweaked a couple of other things, scheduled an endoscopy for late December – but was mostly at a loss without that procedure. Tearfully, I told him that what I really wanted was to lose the wight, because I knew it would help matters, even if it didn’t resolve the issues completely. But I had tried and tried and the wight was not coming off a fourth time. See, I started out at 330 pounds back in 2012. The doctor I had back then put me on insulin because my diabetes was out of control. That, combined with Contrave and dietary changes and exercise, and I lost down to 220 pounds, the lowest I’d been since right after college in 1993. Then Papaw Little died, and I went into a tailspin of depression for a solid year and gained back most of the weight in 2014. I started losing weight – again with the help of Contrave – and managed to lose down to somewhere around 250-275 pounds, then Mamaw died in 2016, and things with Mom became very strained and we eventually quit talking because of her attitude and estrangement when we tried to assist her with things. Then Mom died in 2018 – I gained weight again, especially during the “serious” part of covid in 2020. (Like most people did, right?) I was at 300 pounds again on January 5, 2021. I was determined to lose weight again. My goal was fifty pounds. I started Contrave again, with some success, but less each time I went that route. With lots of hard work (and yes, the Contrave), I managed to get down to 250 pounds again. I plateaued at 250 around mid-August 2022, but I was satisfied there. Then my friend Myrica died in October 2022. Mykee’s death hit me really hard. We Pledged our Sorority together. We were both writers. We loved so many of the same things. We’d both been overweight in college. And I spiraled again, gaining back the 50 pounds I had lost during the year leading up to her death.

I asked Dr. McKinney last Fall, “Do you think I’d be a candidate for bariatric surgery, a gastric bypass?” I knew nothing about any doctors in our area who specialized in that type of thing. He sat down with Russ and me and talked about three doctors at the Surgical Group of Johnson City. Being a nurse, Russ had seen the “results” of some of the doctors’ patients on the job, and we decided to go with the one he knew the least negative things about through patients’ words and deeds. Dr. McKinney referred me to Dr. Gray in late-October, and I met with him in his office the first time in mid-November. We talked at length and he told me that he thought I would indeed be a good candidate for the bypass; the sleeve wasn’t going to be an option for me because I had so many issues with acid reflux and that particular surgery can cause more problems in that area because of how it has to be done.

Since mid-November of last year, I have jumped through hoop after hoop after hoop. I have added “Chrissie Salads” to my diet – baby spinach and baby arugula, matchstick carrots, and mushrooms. I add a little diced ham, a few croutons, low-fat mozzarella cheese, and some balsamic vinegar. It’s not a full-blown salad bar – but it works for me. (Except that I do not understand how people can get full from just salads! I can eat a huge bowl and be hungry again in two hours… But I digress.) I’ve had a gall bladder scan. I’ve had an endoscopy performed by Dr. Gray – weeks before the one scheduled with Dr. McKinney would have happened. I have had a nutrition class, an education class. I have been to support group meetings and joined a Facebook group dedicated to the patients within the practice of SGJC. I have head paperwork submitted by my primary care physician, who agrees that I have tried virtually everything else and have not been able to keep the weight off permanently. I have had – and somehow passed – a psychiatric evaluation. I have had a sleep study (I don’t have sleep apnea, but they did find that my sleep efficacy rate is under 42% — no wonder I’m always tired). And just when I thought we were all set, In early May, Dr. Gray asked who my regular psych doctor is at my “final” appointment pre-op – we had already set a date of June 19. I explained that I don’t have one. “Then who prescribes your psych meds?” My primary care physician. MY PCP’s have always prescribed my psych meds. All 20+ years I have been on them. Dr. Gray said that he wouldn’t perform the surgery unless I could get “established” with a suitable psych provider – I will have to see him/her for six months following surgery, too. He gave me until the end of May (the month had already started) to do so, then he would meet with me again on June 1 and leave the surgery scheduled for June 19. For two days, I called every psychiatric group in the Tri-Cities and no one could get me in by the end of May. I was devastated to think we’d come that far and I was going to have to wait until another fiscal year began with our insurance on July 1 to proceed with plans. I did find a place that could get me in on June 7. I made an appointment to see Dr. Gray for a second “final” appointment on June 8. So, tentatively, we are still set or surgery on June 19. You know me, though – I keep waiting for something else to go wrong and have it all delayed. I understand why he’s making me do this – after surgery, all of my meds will need to be tweaked and he wants to make sure that there is someone tweaking the psych meds who is the most qualified to do that. Do I like it? No. Do I want to start seeing a psych doctor at this point in my life? No. But that’s the way it is, for at least the first six months after surgery. I pray that I will like the person I’ll be seeing. I know nothing about him except for his name and that he practices with a group through ETSU.

I would tell you all the changes that this surgery will mean, but I don’t have the patience or time to do so. My stomach will go from a 40-ounce capacity organ to a 2-ounce pocket that will act as my stomach for the rest of my life. Is it a drastic operation? It is. But I truly have tried everything else. I’ve lost and managed to keep off 10-15 pounds on my own since my first visit with Dr. Gray. I’ve not been ale to get back into working out like I would like to because my allergies and asthma have been so severe since I had flu in December. But I’m trying.

A lot of people have expressed their concern. Which I appreciate. Several have expressed their disapproval. Which is not needed. This is my decision. Russ has gone every step of this process with me. I have a wonderful support system. And I knew early on that I don’t need – nor do I want – and negativity about this procedure. I have enough to worry about without trying to please people who do not know what it is like to walk in my shoes – which I fervently want to be able to tie again, on my own.

With that said, I appreciate your prayers and positive vibes in the coming weeks and months. I have a hiatal hernia that will need to be repaired when Dr. Gray goes in to do the bypass. I’m diabetic, and I know that my recovery will likely be a little more difficult because of that. I can expect a 2-3-day hospital stay next month, and Russ will be there with me for that. I will keep people apprised of my situation, likely on Facebook, and probably in a couple of months, through another blog post. I’m almost 52 years old. I want to be able to enjoy life again. I want to fly on an airplane without a seatbelt extension. I look forward to my health increasing so I can discontinue some of the twenty or so medications that I currently take daily. I want to be able to walk for more than 10-15 minutes without feeling like I’m dying from asthma and physical over-exertion. I’ve done my homework. I’ve prepared for what is coming next month. And I want to surround myself with the people in my life who will wish me well and help support and encourage me as I continue this journey – it’s for a lifetime. And anyone who feels otherwise can keep it to themselves or remove themselves from my life; I’m perfectly fine with that, too. This is the path I have chosen. The option I’ve worked insanely hard to be prepared for since last November. It is not something I just decided to do for the heck of it. I want to live a healthy life that is just as fulfilling as my 52 years have been up to this point. For a long time to come.