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10 Year Surgiversary update for 2024

Updated: May 4

It's been a whole 10 years. My VSG (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy) surgery was April 23rd in 2014 but my journey started in August of 2013. If you know the process, then you know, it takes a lot to make it to the surgery date, or should I say, to even be approved for a surgery date. My rise to being overweight was an oversight on my part by far. I had my first child at 17, in 1998 at around 200lbs and did nothing to repair my body, wrongly assuming since I'm young, I will tighten back up with basically no effort. Boy was I wrong! After my daughter was born, out of the 40lbs gained, I kept 20lbs which began the downfall. Soon over time, I became less active running around with my friends and spent more time at home being "MOM". I was weighing around 235lbs around high school graduation time. And thus, the spiral continued..

By 2006, I weighed about 250lbs after moving back to my childhood hometown to go to school for medical training. Then, the unthinkable happened. I had an injury where I had fallen down lots of stairs and it took over 8 weeks to recover and all I did was eat to make myself feel better. What a mistake! Once graduating and moving back to my old neighborhood just a few hours away, I was weighing about 272lbs and that was in 2009. Then, after starting my new job, getting my own office, which kept me pretty secluded, I was now at my highest in 2013, weighing 292lbs and by this time, I'd finally had it.

Honestly, I was pretty much ok with my weight for a long time for all the wrong reasons. Yes, I truly loved myself and learned to love every inch of me as I grew. My body was proportioned to make it look like I worked on all the perfect curves I was wielding but it was just too much weight. I was definitely noticed when I walked into a room and was highly sought after which made me feel good personally. I was usually a pretty active person, love to dance and loved to throw my weight around but it was noticeably becoming too much to have fun with. Thus the research had begun. I was looking for all types of workouts and local gyms but my answer came from the most unsuspecting place.

My OB/Gyn was a superstar, being the primary practitioner for my entire family, she had been working with me for years. She knew that I didn't always eat too much but that my issue was not being as active as I could be when I did over eat. She also knew the sadness that came from me not being able to have my 2nd child, as I had been trying now for many years to have back to back siblings. I always thought I was infertile even though she insisted that I wasn't. My issue was explained as a "chemical imbalance" that caused my irregular periods. So one day, she asked me if I had heard of VSG - Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy? I hadn't.

She told me to go home and do my research and let her know what I thought.

She informed me that she would approve me for a weight loss surgery if I was interested but only after doing my research. Before leaving the office, she mentioned that this surgery would knock my hormones out of wack which is bad for some people but for me, it would put me where I need to be in order to possibly get pregnant. This had me light up and jumping, screaming and all that good stuff. She quieted me by explaining, I had to know what I was getting into, I had to dedicated myself and I had to do the research before she would approve it.

She warned me, it was a lot of work after her approval because then, the surgeon would have to find me a "good candidate" before also approving me.

Needless to say, it became my daily duty and I researched every site I could find. being my number one go to for all sorts of information and details. had all the before and after photos I needed as I was often trying to imagine what mine would look like. Here's the link to my profile on that site. I even found many post ops who documented their journeys on and I was able to see transformations over 3 years, 5 years and even 10 years. That's why I am here today. There were different types of surgeries to choose from but my Dr was correct, the one for me was VSG. I can see how helpful it could be to know what you're getting into for better or for worse. So let me tell you how the VSG journey looked for me...

I was approved by my Primary Care first in August 2013. Then had to attend group counseling sessions that were helpful to explain what to expect, how to eat at different times in this process, how to lose the required weight and more. Yes, I said "required" weight loss before approval. That was the hard part because I was never able to lose weight from working out alone but meeting with the Nutritionist, which was also a requirement, seemed to be the game-changer! Your surgeon will require you loose a percentage of weight. For me, it was 13lbs. They do this to see if you will use the education provided at the counseling sessions and dedicate yourself to following the rules of this new lifestyle.

There were other stated reasons but I can't say that I remember them all. Another major thing that I didn't expect was the requirement to stop smoking cigarettes. I later found that requirement was just to prepare for the surgery and only a recommendation for long term. I had learned it would take about 10 years to recover the damage done to the lungs over years of smoking, so I decided to go for it and start now. It was always something I wanted to do. I thought it would have been so hard to do but once I had a reason to back up the fact that I always wanted to quit anyway, it become a huge success for me.

It's now been over 10 years smoke-free for me. I stopped cold turkey on September 6th 2013. I was also able to lose the weight required by working out for 1 hour a day, along with following the meal plan the Nutritionist created for me. Stopping the cigarettes helped my workouts and changed the taste of food for me. I'm also happy to report that my clothes, my car, my apartment, even my hair smelled better after the decision to quit.

I started to feel as if I could actually lose some weight on my own with this new knowledge but wouldn't act like I could stick to it enough to lose the expected 100lbs or more. Maybe more like 20 or 30 on my own but who was I kidding, I need to lose a whole lot more. I met all the requirements and finally got approval from the surgeon around February 2014.

After the approval, everything went very fast. Unfortunately, I had 2 surgeries done at the same time. I had a hernia repair along with my VSG procedure. Once the anesthesia took over, I was out like a light and the surgeries were done in no time. When I woke up, I had a stomach drainage tube that was so uncomfortable because one tech told me there would be removal in 2 days and another told me 2 weeks. I learned that the 2 days was accurate when I had returned 2 weeks later and the skin had closed around the tube and my removal become a painful procedure when it shouldn't have been.

Once the tube was removed, I can say my full healing began. The hospital won't let you leave until you can eat and drink a certain amount. There was also the self injectable shot that was taken daily to prevent blood clots. It's a good idea to have someone else assist with this if possible. It was a quick injection but most would rather not inject themselves. Once the tube and injectables were done, it all seemed more bearable and I was ready for my new life to begin. I would say in about 4 weeks and I felt pretty good.

In the beginning, I was only able to drink shakes for a while, then moved up to more solid foods over time. The shakes were pretty good and had different flavors to choose from. I remember I couldn't eat bread or eggs and barely being able to eat anything in the early weeks other than nibbling on foods to get the taste. Sometimes, I would chew food into almost liquid form and spit it out just to have the taste but not let it touch my stomach. I had a huge change in my eating habits. Nothing fried or oily was the biggest changes for me. Also, I couldn't seem to even look at a plate of food with too much on it. A burger with everything on it would make me gag. Simply the mere thought of some foods made me cringe. My mental played along the whole time I went thru the changes. I could only take small bites of food and then chew until my jaw hurts most times. I remember not being unable to eat and drink at the same time. That was clearly a no no. That was probably the most excruciating thing I had experienced. I had to understand that I only had 25% of a normal stomach capacity and once I got food in, getting water in would have me doubled over in pain. I was soooo super full and would throw up until I learned how to measure the intake properly. I could only sip water and it had to be room temperature. Oh yeah and I was drinking water now. I never drank water previously, I would only drink juice or soda with about 4 slices of pizza at a time. Now, even 10 years later, I can only eat 1 slice and maybe in about 30-40 minutes later, I could do another half but that's it. I get full even thinking of it. The food digests even more slowly if you don't chew it up enough. That will soon become a workout as I notice my face even thinned out and I blame those jaw exercises.

It took weeks for me to get use to only having shakes, soups or loose foods. No pastas or rice because that would swell in the stomach after eating. Bread was another sweller but I learned that toasting the bread made it a bit more edible. I stayed away from sugars and fatty foods, that helped the most. Once I realized my stomach was the size of a 5 year old's and the restriction was real, I learned to manage my portion intake.

In the early weeks following surgery, this handy dandy card the nurses provide may help you when you go to a restaurant and you can't eat full portions. In my earlier days, I've been charged kid prices due to this. At this time, I do eat a standard adult portion and no longer carry this.

This image shows why they call it a sleeve. That's all you have left after the rest is removed.

I imagined what I would find on a children's menu and attempt to match the portions until I brought proper measuring utensils. Let me mention, there will be some required items to be purchased as well before surgery and the Surgeon is very adamant that you will be able to handle this new transition properly. I had small plates, small bowls, measuring cups/spoons, water bottles and they even want to see the food you'll purchase. I would have jello, soups, applesauce, shakes and the vitamins were also most important.

You'll be eating less and it's almost impossible to get all the vitamins and nutrients in so the daily supplements along with the correct protein and water intake made it possible to have the energy needed to work out. Which I was walking for an hour a day to combat the saggy extra skin that most battled with. It was a complete system that did the trick to building your strength and health in your new body. My walking longer and faster, then incorporating more body parts over time, helped with keeping my skin tight while most others in my group had terrible skin sag.

Going to the support groups was also very detrimental to see what you're dealing with vs what others are experiencing so you could recognize what was not a normal reaction. We compared notes regularly and even supported each other throughout the first months. Some became good friends. I learned from one unfortunate situation that if you don't continue to grow your stomach and choose to only drink fluids, your stomach could not grow enough for you to take in foods at all. One group member experienced this and her recovery was very difficult and painful. She needed other surgeries as well as a few emergency calls for help. She would pass out and become weak often. It was truly hell for her but she admitted she didn't follow the rules.

I had actually lost weight very quickly. Before even leaving the hospital, I had lost 19lbs. The nurses will have you get up and be active as much as possible before discharge. You will be instructed to walk around the surgery department like it was a running track, holding your IV and possibly holding your stomach up, as you'll have the feeling like something will fall out if you're not holding it up. That could have been just I think I healed quickly and it would have been quicker if not for the hernia surgery as well.

As time went on, I ate little for a very long time, mostly protein shakes but I was eager to eat foods so the trick was to chew everything as much as possible to make it look and feel like baby food. I even ate certain baby foods in the beginning which was a huge savior. That's actually my suggestion for you in the early weeks. Hit up the baby food isle. It's imperative to remember you need to continue to up your food intake. After the surgery healing, you will need to stretch your stomach just a bit in order to be normal. You'll soon learn how serious this new restrictive surgery is. You will no longer be able to overeat. You'll learn your capacity and you'll definitely stop yourself before overdoing it.

Your body will help you with this whether you like it or not. You need to not just eat more over time but also, try different foods and learn your new tolerances. My doctor informed me that my taste buds will change and yes, they absolutely did. I never liked green vegetables previously but over time, I can eat a variety of vegetables and even fruits that I hadn't eaten before. Also, after not smoking cigarettes, your taste will change. Foods taste better and more robust. Another surprise was even your allergies may be different. My doctor suggested that I put my previous allergies to the test. Being allergic to shellfish, I had always wanted to eat crabs and lobster but was unable to. Lo and behold, I was able to eat these foods without the reactions I had previously. I still only nibbled on them but there was no swelling of the lips and tongue so it was a win for me.

Now here's where things got hard for me. I was use to being noticed everywhere I went and that changed drastically. I thought that was what I wanted but the mind tricks your body will cause may confuse you. I wanted to fit in and not stand out so much. I wanted to sit in the seat and not make others uncomfortable as I squeezed for comfort. I wanted to cross my legs which I was unable to do for many years. All these goals were accomplished and yet, I felt the exact same. I felt like I was still big and out of place.

Mentally, I had to fight to accept the new me. I had become average and began to fit in. Sounds good in theory but I was use to being the stand out person that all men and sometime, even women gawked at. I had the shape, the boobs, the butt and though respectfully covered, I caught all eyes as If I were half naked most times and to keep it real, I liked it like that. Now, I had become the norm, I felt, invisible. I was disturbingly considered average and it was hard for me to accept. I still felt that I could shop at the same stores and I could not, now, they didn't have my size. No more Lane Bryant and Ashley Stewart for me but I loved those store so I was not happy!

Overall, I went from 292lbs to 187lbs in about 6 months before my periods became regular and I became pregnant instantly. People I spoke to every day, even worked with would walk past me. I was now not even noticeable as myself. Some thought I was sick or depressed. It was hard to adjust but the support groups helped. There were people who were pre op and post op who attended and were very open to answering questions. Seeing others who promised that in time, normalcy would resume was all I needed to hear most days. I went from a size 22 jean to a size 10. Actually a size 8 but I refused to buy anything smaller than a 10 and I wore a size 10 consistently up til about 6 months ago.

I was kind of excited to go from a 10 to a 12. Usually, any physical activity would cause me to lose weight so I definitely no longer worked out. For some reason, I could easily lose 5 lbs in a week just by being too busy and I was not happy about that. For a while, I couldn't gain any weight because my restrictions stayed in tact over the years and I only ate what I needed and not an ounce more. Needless to say over the years I was now able to eat anything I wanted just in small portions, and I do mean anything without gaining a pound. So gaining weight when I did, still was not an issue for me. I just started a 6 week transformation workout at a local cross-fit gym and by the 10th day, I had already lost 9lbs. I realize, my body is still on my side and I have the control but let me explain how I gained the weight finally.

I hit a snag in life that caused homelessness

for about 4 months. I stayed in a cheap hotel while saving and attempting to not spend a dime more than necessary in a day. Unfortunately, the cheapest food located near cheap hotels is the "death food" or that's what I call it. McDonalds was the culprit. I ate whatever I wanted from McDonalds probably twice a day for about 4-5 days a week, then Popeye's on the other days. Affordable yes, but I wasn't a fan of fast food anymore until I was forced to eat it again. That weight crept up on me slowly but surely and became a noticeable issue by the time I moved into my new place. Luckily there is a gym in my building and I was able to walk those pounds right off. In that 4 month period, I had gained 18lbs. As I stated, I lost half of that within days but I sure did like how I gained it mostly in my boobs and butt. It gave me a rounded feeling that I was use to instead of the up and down flat feeling that took over. I decided to keep the extra weight and not work out too much and stay in my size 12 jeans and I'm still happy with that decision. My husband definitely makes it clear that he likes the additional plumpness.

Let me say this, learn to love your new body before attempting intimacy if you're as sensitive as I am. The first time I learned that my husband preferred my larger body frame over the smaller is when I noticed, there was not the same attention put on my body during intimacy. It became something that bothered me and hindered many attempts at a good time. At the same time, things can be a bit different with the new body as you will become limber and lighter so, get more creative! You'll notice you can be way more active and you'll make him love it again with a bit of effort and some new tricks you couldn't have pulled off before. New lingerie shopping will do the trick as you both learn to explore the differences together.

Now for the good stuff that I hope inspires someone out there. After trying for 17 years, I finally got pregnant about 6 months after my surgery. I was instructed to wait up to 2 years to allow my body to fully heal and settle into the new skin but I just couldn't. I always wanted lots of babies and thought I would try for about 3 more. That didn't happen unfortunately but I did get 1 baby boy out of it and I am happy with that. I should have listened to my doctor and waited since the worse thing ever is to be pregnant, hungry and unable to eat as much as you want and need. I was actually losing weight when I should have been gaining. I had the worse time attempting to eat because I was never hungry.

I ate little bites as much as possible but nothing close to the amount of food a growing baby needs. Needless to say, I had to find a way to combat that and the way that was surprisingly accepted by my team of doctors was smoking marijuana. Yes, I said it. It was the only thing that made me want to eat. When my test showed signs of use, they said, well you're finally gaining weight and they approved it in moderation. The bad part about that is my home had to be inspected before discharge to make sure my home was safe and showed no signs of overuse or inappropriate living for the baby. Not a problem there, we were release without any issues.

During my pregnancy, I was considered "high risk" at age 35 so I had special risk Obstetrician and my Primary/OB working together. My only complications during my pregnancy once we got over the weight loss, I almost lost my son at 10 weeks when I found out that I was 2 centimeters dilated. I had a procedure called a "Cerclage". This is when the cervix is banded shut and holds the baby until the bands are removed.

Mine was removed in week 35 but my son came directly on his due date in week 40. So all went well and he's a happy little 8 year old with a story to tell. Soon after, my doctor went missing for a few months and I found out that she also had the surgery and was pregnant with her very first child. Later we laughed about her using me as a test dummy for her study/personal theory but hey, she was right, even if I didn't get pregnant, I would have still lost the unwanted weight. I couldn't be mad at that. Another thing is my periods have continued to be normal and regular after being irregular for over 17 years. She made a great decision!

So in a nutshell, 10 years later, I am still happy with my decision. My restriction has held up and my weight has stayed down. Yes, I would recommend this surgery to others, especially if your'e having hormone issues preventing your pregnancy. I can say it worked for 2 of us for sure. I can say that I met all my goals. I can dance all night, I can cross my legs fully, I can run, I can fit in bus seats and airplane seats and I can shop in any store I want and best of all, I got my baby boy. My mind has finally accepted my new body and I even wear clothes that truly fit me instead of my normal 2x and 3x when I only wear a Large. It was a lot of mental challenges but it was all worth it in the end and very doable if you just follow the rules from the surgeon and nutritionist. I also highly suggest going to the support groups past the requirements to know what to expect and when you should get something checked out. I hope this helps! Good luck and baby dust to all those considering it for the double whammy!! Many blessing and safe pregnancies!

Here's a few of my changes over the years...

Before and after..

Before and after..

Before and after..

Before and after..

Before and after..

Never took many full body shots before but here are a few after..

Face changes after..

More after changes

Thanks for reading! God Bless!

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