The story I am about to tell has been a life-changing experience. All my life I have been known as “big Jenny” and have struggled with weight problems for as long as I can remember. I was overweight even at primary school and was teased and made fun of but would just brush it off on the outside like it did not matter (sometimes even laughing with them) but on the inside, the things that people were saying really did hurt. I tried all the diets you can think of and I would lose some weight but then very soon would pick it all up again with extra weight gain. I picked up the bulk of my weight while I was pregnant with my daughters because I was eating, I told myself, for two. After that, I would try dieting but never lost more than 10kg and after a while would pick it up all over again with the extra weight. It was a losing battle.
It got so bad that I would not even get on a scale to weigh myself so for a very long time did not even know how much weight I had gained but felt so terrible and the only place I would go would be to work and back. On the weekends I would stay home and did not want to go out anywhere. Walking became difficult and when I had to go to the shop I would have to sit down after just walking for about 10 minutes. My world became a vacuum.
Shopping for clothes was a nightmare and I never got anything to fit me. I put so much strain on my family as they had to fetch and carry for me and even help me get dressed for work in the morning as I could not even get down to put on my own shoes.
In 2013 because of my overweight, I had a slight stroke and landed up in hospital not being able to even walk and could not have a CT scan to determine the severity as I could not fit in the machine. It took me about 6 months to walk again but still, I resorted to eating. The doctor told me about this Bariatric surgery that would help me with my weight problem. I did some research and wanted to do this operation so badly but was told that medical aid would not pay for it so what did I do – yip gave up and carried on eating.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and cholesterol problems and was taking about 10 chronic tablets a day. I was later diagnosed with sleep apnea and had to sleep with a C-pap machine which I hated. All this just made me feel worse and I found comfort in food.
During a visit to my family doctor in 2014 he told me about this operation I could have that would assist me to lose weight. I still thought to myself “Medical aid won’t pay so what’s the use”. He went and gave my contact number to Dr. Du Toit’s office and I got a call the following week asking if I would like to come in to see a doctor discuss my weight problem. I said thanks but turned the offer down as I could not afford the operation and medical aid would not pay. I was asked for my medical aid details and they would get back to me. I got a callback and was told that they would pay a portion of the operation. I was so excited I wobbled home and told my husband I really wanted to do this. There was a sign of hope.
I made an appointment and went in for a visit and when I got on the scale I nearly had a heart attack. I weighed 177.9kg. I just burst into tears and was so emotional as it was the first time weighing myself in a very long time.
A date was scheduled and I attended all my pre-operation appointments and was determined to make this work so I co-operated with their advice and simply latched onto their support. It was at this point that I made a concise decision to undergo the operation. I was so impressed with all the support that I was getting from the bariatric team I decided then and there that they really cared for me and the least I could do was follow all their advice and instructions. I had the Gastric bypass surgery on the 4th of November 2014.
After the surgery, the first couple of weeks were the hardest for me. I was not hungry but because of my bad eating habits throughout my life, it took a while for my head to catch up with my stomach. One day I burst into tears because I could not have that burger that the family was having for dinner. I was however determined to make this work and would strictly follow the diet that was given. When I went back for my check-up and saw the weight that I had lost I was over the moon and decided that I can do this and I was no longer making food my obsession.
I have never been one for exercise (I even battled to walk) but my daughter bought me Zumba and I thought I would give it a go because I love to dance. The first time I tried it I lasted I think about 5 minutes and could do no more but I stuck it out and carried on with it every morning. The weight just kept on coming off and I was feeling great.
It has been just over a year now that I have had the operation and have lost 70.3 kg. I am not at my goal weight yet but working hard at getting there. The support and encouragement I get from my family, friends, and work colleagues have been so great. I can now do my Zumba exercise for 40 minutes and still feel so energetic after that.
I love to go out and spend time with my family and friend and being a new granny I am able to keep up with my granddaughter with ease. My life has changed so much, I no longer have to take any chronic medication. I do not have diabetes, cholesterol, or hypertension anymore and even the sleep apnea had disappeared so no C-pap machine. My health has improved tremendously. I can now buy clothes that fit me and get so excited when I go and try on something in a smaller size. Food is no longer my obsession and I have learned to eat properly and find it so easy to stick to the foods I can eat and it does not concern me what others are eating. I am also now in a position to deal with all the causes of my bad eating habits.
I attend the support group every month and it really helps to talk to people who have gone through what I have, share ideas, and just see how this surgery has helped so many people. I am excited about the future and would recommend this surgery to anyone who is considering having it. This operation has changed my life and has taught me many lessons. My approach to life has changed and I see food in a different light. Even though my journey is not over yet I am more confident and can’t wait to get to my goal weight.
Surgeon: Dr Gert du Toit