One Year On

Hello and welcome back, it’s been a while 🙂

I cannot quite believe it has been a year already, and what a year! So much has happened where do I start? New job, new business, back to college (again),got married, modelled on live t.v, did a gig.

Firstly, an update on the new body. During this last year my weight has stabilised at around the 12.4 stone mark (76 kg). The bariatric surgery has effectively done it’s job and as was explained to me by the surgeons is now just a ‘tool’ to help me maintain my weight loss. I admit is was a bit of a shock and a little difficult to deal with gaining a few pounds, but as was also explained to me, this is absolutely normal and expected due to the fact I can now eat better portions. So, whereas before I could only consume around 1000 calories a day, I can now eat the ‘normal’ amount recommended by the NHS of around 1800 calories. I am comfortable with this weight and my shape, I have a far from perfect body underneath my clothes, but as I am often told, who has a perfect body?. I have flabby bits, and wobbly bits and of course you could do dot to dot on me with all of my scars but it is all good.

I would have to be honest and say that it is always on my mind, the fear of what I refer to as ‘the fatness’. I am regularly told by friends and family that it is normal to be aware of and concerned with staying a healthy weight and that there are very few people in the world that do not worry, even if just a little, about their weight.

So as I was saying, during this last year I have appeared on This Morning as a ‘real women’ model twice. GREAT fun! I met loads of celebs including Trinny who was a force to be reckoned with and was very interested in my journey. She ended up doing my make-up for me so we had a long conversation about what I had been through and she mentioned it when she introduced me for my slot. Who would have thought it, me, a model!

I have also had an article published which was cool.

The biggest event of the year was my wedding on Christmas Eve. I will share something with you, my husband (still feels weird saying that) actually asked me to marry him the day after we got together, I said yes, but told him that I would only marry him when I was a size 14. Well, that kinda happened didn’t it, so I had to go through with it ha ha ha. Anyways, here’s me all dolled up:

I also got the old vocal chords out after 3 years without singing a note. I was great fun, and for the first time ever I did not mind people taking photo’s or filming me at all. The following day there was images and photo’s all over social media and I didn’t cringe once, well maybe just a little at some bum notes, but hey I am out of practice! In amongst all of this I started a new job at the very university I studied at. I worked in enterprise helping students start their own businesses and other cool stuff like delivering workshops and running events.

So what’s happening now? Well, the biggest news I guess is that we have moved back to Wales. A whole new chapter is about to begin and I am super excited. All of the hard work, pain and sheer determination has motivated me to really go for life now. The most exciting thing is the starting my new business. My personal experience has fuelled a passion in me to get involved with helping other people through the challenges they face when they feel ready to address their health. I am currently working with my partners to build a website offering a free support network. I am aiming for launch early 2018. My website will be online very soon for people to subscribe and then be notified of the launch. I will keep you updated 🙂

Thanks for all for reading my blog and for your continuing support.

Claire x

Home Recovering And Guess What?

Recovering Well

July 2016

Start weight: 25 stone, 6 pounds (161.4 kilos)

Final weight: 11 stone, 9 pounds (74kg)

Total loss: 13 stone 10 pounds (87.4 kilos)

Been a few weeks since surgery and things have gone pretty smoothly. I am a dab hand at the recovery stuff now. Got my routine down. Got some photos to show you though, please don’t be too shocked, I recovered quickly I promise. So here are my arms,

After discussions I decided not to post a photo of my boobs in the flesh, I am sure you understand 🙂 However, here is a photo of them in my 36 B bra,

Aren’t they fab? I’ve had a few stitches that decided to push out, it seems I heal faster than the time the stitches take to dissolve. Had some gross moments pulling them out and a course of anti-biotics for a little infection in my arm pit but all in all I have recovered very well. My surgeon and the nurses are very happy with me.

Now for my other news. You know that alongside the huge lifestyle and physical transformation I have been through these last few years that I have have been studying for a business degree? Well, I am extremely proud to announce that I graduated with First Class Honours. As I was still wrapped up like a mummy I decided to go for a suitable outfit, check me out!

I also had a wonderful time shopping for my sister’s wedding, got me a gorgeous dress, and I bought my first ever pretty padded bra!

So this is what I look like now. I feel fantastic, and though there have been really difficult and traumatic times, I am still very confident I made the right decision to have all of my surgeries. I have to stress here, that although my appearance has changed dramatically, and for the better, this was always about taking care of my health and my future. Yes, I have experienced side effects from the gastric by-pass and will always have to live with various associated issues such as the terrible fatigue, and forever have to take various supplements, personally, for me, it has been worth it. I understand it is not the path for everybody, but it has worked for me and I thank everyone that has been a part of my journey. I’d like to sincerely thank the Homerton hospital, the Oaks hospital, my GP and my family and friends.

It is time for a new journey and I am both nervous and excited. With new confidence I feel I can take on anything! I have a lot of exciting things happening including a new venture in which I plan to offer help and support to people who are considering making changes too. Watch this space 🙂

Huge thanks for reading my blog, please do share.

Comments very welcome

Lots of love and light

Claire x

Surgery Day Is Here

I have finished university HURRAY 🙂 I have to say that was quite simply the most stressful and difficult couple of months EVER. Four years of study and assignments and exams over. My last exam was just last week, now the wait for my final results. Am I nervous? Ha ha, just a teeny bit, but now there was my surgery to prepare for. I kept myself busy in the week leading up to my surgery and to be honest my brain had run out of petrol and I was exhausted anyway so it was a bit of a blur thankfully.

So, here I was once more, same hospital, same room. I knew most of the staff and they recognised me from last year. Having been back and forth to the hospital for over a year now it almost felt like home from home which was quite comforting and certainly calmed the nerves, I felt in good hands. After settling in it was time to undress and put on the socks AGAIN, I own quite a few pairs now! First the anaesthetist arrived to talk to me about the procedure, though I am a seasoned professional by now I listened to all the information, it is still quite scary when you you consider the possible dangers. Soon after in comes my surgeon to prepare me for surgery. Look at the pretty drawings…

The circles are where my nipples are supposed to be and where he was going to put them. I know, it is unbelievable. He measured 12cm distance. He explained that due to the excess there was a chance that he would not be able to keep the nipples attached to the blood flow and that they may have to be grafted back on afterwards but that he would do his best. He also marked up my arms and I was ready to go. I said my prayers, said goodbye to Tony and was taken to theatre.

I am a mummy! Wrapped up like a Christmas present ha ha. Came round in recovery room and had a lovely chat with the nurse. I wasn’t in any pain just a fuzzy head and very stiff. First thing I did was look down and to my delight, even with a surgical bra on I could see the difference. Couldn’t really see my arms as they were all bandaged up, but I could feel they were different too. After about 30 minutes I was taken back to my room. All I could think about was FOOD. I was very hungry as I had hadn’t eaten for almost 24 hours. I had a cup of tea and a sandwich and felt much better.

As expected I got very sleep the first night in hospital. It is hard to get comfortable attached to 4 drains and the anti-DVT suction pads inflating and deflating constantly. I was also woken at regular intervals for various injections of pain killer and anti-biotics through my I.V. Apart from all that I felt fine. In the morning my surgeon came to see me and I got to see my breasts for the first time. WOW, I was in love. Soooo cute and pert and in the RIGHT PLACE!!! Woooo hoooo I had nice boobs, well, sort of, they were in a right state and swollen and hard, but they were fab. My arms were also very swollen and feeling very tight, but were so slim, they were amazing. So, my nipples. The surgeon was able to save my left nipple and keep it attached to my blood flow and so it was just stitched back into place, however he had had to remove my right one completely and graft it back on. Only time would tell if it would survive or not.

I thought I might get away with it this time, but alas no. I felt fine in the morning and managed breakfast and some lunch but in the afternoon the dreaded post anaesthetic sickness arrived to say hello. After 2 doses of anti-sickness drugs and about 2 hours I finally recovered. I slept a little better the second night and woke up feeling fine, luckily I was not experiencing any pain as such, just discomfort. One by one the drains were removed and this time they all came out without too much trouble and I was able to go home. Before I left I was measured for my surgical bra, 36 C. I’m sorry, I have to say that again, 36 C. Before I lost weight I was a 48 L and before surgery I was a 38 GG. I put on the 36 C, and was given a 36 B for when the swelling reduced, yes I did say 36 B HA! Packed off with my goody bag of dressings, creams and surgical bras I was off home.

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time

Claire x

Here We Go Again, Final Surgery Coming

Weight – 74 kg

Can you believe that I have lost 112% of my body weight? It seems quite unbelievable. And now I am about to lose another kilo or two by having my last surgery. Back off to the surgeon to discuss sorting out my breasts and arms. Now, some people have asked me why I am considering more surgery and told me that my boobs look great. I get that, in a bra my boobs look fine and you don’t see anything out of the ordinary. However, I promise you they are not in good shape at all. I have absolutely no structure and they literally hang down to my knees! OK, so I will show you, as much as this pains me it will hopefully convince you that this surgery is very necessary.

There we go world, my boobies. I had already discussed the breast surgery with my surgeon, but as yet I had not mentioned getting my arms done too. After long discussions with family and friends I decided I would go for it. After all, I wanted to get the job finished. The sheer amount of lose hanging skin made it impossible for me to wear sleeveless tops and with my new boobs I felt they would be even more noticeable. My surgeon explained that arm surgery is actually more severe than breasts and can be problematic in regards to healing. I did a bit of research and saw some images and I was happy to go ahead. Surgery was booked for just after my final exams in June 2016. Now all I had to do was work my arse off finishing my degree.

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

First Time Shopping 🙂

Weight – 78kg

I cannot tell you the sheer joy and elation I felt on my first shopping trip for new clothes after my surgery. I had already donated all of my plus size clothes to charity shops during my weight loss so far and now was the last of them. Here is a pick of a jumper I kept, a bit of fun, but also shows just how big my clothes were before.

I didn’t have a clue what size I would need, but for the first time I wasn’t worried about finding clothes to fit me. In truth it was a bit overwhelming. Thankfully Tony was with me and he is very patient and also has great taste in clothes so he helped me choose a few items. I started with just a few tops, I got size 16. OMG! Size 28-30 to size 16. I tried on a dress and I was like a kid in a sweet shop in the changing room. I danced around like a loon and was admiring my reflection for the first time in my life “looking hot Claire” ha ha ha. I phoned my mum, “I fitted into size 16 mum (screaming) SIZE 16”.

A few weeks later, when I was able to drive again, we went on a special shopping trip to acquire an item of clothing that was a real milestone moment for me. I had always wanted a pair of Levi 501’s. I had never been able to get a pair to fit me before and it was on my bucket list. I tried on a few pairs and found a pair I liked. With a great big smile on my face I bought them, even got 20% student discount, result!. That night we went out in my new outfit (top photo) and I felt great. I also bought the most amazing dress for my brothers wedding shown below. Lots of my family didn’t even recognise me and had to check it was actually me. I felt a million dollars that day, me in a dress that was a first!

I was still wearing my corset, and would need to keep wearing it for at least 3 months but I was healing well and was now using bio-oil to help with the scarring. After 6 weeks I didn’t need to go back to hospital for anymore check ups and I wasn’t to see the surgeon again for 6 weeks. I was always able to call the hospital should I have any problems, fortunately I didn’t need to. My mobility was improving daily and I was out walking lots. My strength was returning. There was one incident though that was a bit upsetting. Now that my wounds had all healed over I wanted to go for a swim. I bought a new swimming costume and off I went. I got into the pool and attempted to set off with a breast stroke only to find I literally could not do it. I am not exaggerating when I say I had absolutely no strength at all and couldn’t even do one stroke. It was horrible. I have always been a fairly strong swimmer and I felt like I couldn’t swim. I was also conscious that I was being watched by the other swimmers. I must have looked ridiculous. I fought the urge to get straight out and instead just went to the side and tread water for a little while. I eventually got out. Wouldn’t be doing that again for a while!

Apart from that little incident all was well and it was time to start preparing myself for my final year at university. It was going to be the toughest year yet and I needed to be focused and well.

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

Back Home

Weight before surgery – 88kg

Weight after surgery – 81kg

Returning home was a welcome but scary prospect. On the one hand it is better to be out of hospital and back in your own familiar environment with the home comforts, on the other hand you are now on your own. I was sent home with a bag full of various dressings which I was now responsible for changing every day and a list of do’s and don’ts to stick to. No hoovering or other housework, not a bad thing ! Plenty of rest, and short walks at first building up to longer ones.

I wouldn’t say I was experiencing pain as such, just discomfort. The surgical corset really helped. It is the weirdest feeling, sometimes it literally felt like I was going to actually fall apart and the corset was the only thing keeping me together. Before my surgery the surgeon has explained that though 6kg was removed (yes, 6 kilo’s!), that would not mean I would actually lose 6kg in weight, however, that is exactly what I lost which was amazing. Almost 1 stone in a matter of hours.

The day after my return home it was time for a shower. My journey so far had presented a number of challenges and some traumatic situations, but this can be counted as one of the worst. Not only for me, but more so for Tony. He had not yet seen the extent of my wound incisions and this would be the first time. I tried to prepare him as best I could, but honestly I don’t think anything could have prepared him, or me for the shock. I took off my corset slowly and revealed what can only be described as looking like I had been eaten by a shark. We both got upset and I really cried. After the initial shock we just got on with things and very carefully had a shower. Instantly I felt better. After a surgery like this it is a bit of a military operation showering and then changing dressings, applying creams and so on but you get used to it quickly. After a week or so I had it down to a T.

In the weeks following surgery I had to go back to the hospital weekly for check ups. The nurses and my surgeon were very happy with my healing process and I didn’t experience any issues thankfully. I was warned that due to the extent of my surgery, I may have some problems with fluid build up and possible infections but I was lucky and I did not. My surgeon was actually very chuffed and admitted he was surprised at how well I was healing. Go me!!! Here is a photo about 2 weeks post op.

Next time, my first shopping trip 🙂

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time

Claire x

After Surgery

Hello and welcome back to my blog.

Thursday July 9th

Before I start I want to just let you know that I will be adding some photo’s of surgery, they are not that graphic or horrible, but I just wanted to warn you in advance.

After a restless night I was feeling exhausted and emotional. Thankfully I was still not experiencing a pain due to the lovely drugs I was receiving. As some of you that have had operations will know recovering from anesthetic takes a little while, I call it fuzzy head. I was a bit tearful and wanted my mum. I called her and had a talk and then felt a bit better. If you remember, I did the same thing after my gastric by-pass surgery. I had some breakfast and tea and started to feel a bit better.

My memory of the day after surgery is a bit of a blur. I was in and out of sleep, woken up regularly for obs and drugs and to have lunch. Tony visited and we watched some t.v but I was pretty useless. The surgeon came at some point and checked me over, I didn’t actually look at this point as I was not quite ready to see the surgery yet.

Friday July 10th 2015

I had another restless night but I did start to feel a bit more like myself the following day. I was told that today they would take the catheter out and I would be able to get out of bed and move to the chair. I thought, ok, that sounds like a good plan. I was a relief to have the catheter out, it is very uncomfortable, convenient, but uncomfortable. The nurses came in accompanied by two physio therapists. I remember thinking, why all the people? I soon realised why. Sitting me up and moving me from the bed to the chair next to the bed took ten minutes! It felt like none of the muscles in my body were working at all, It didn’t hurt but it was hard work. The nurses said I did very well, but I felt useless. I had been warned that it would be like this but it was worse than I had expected. Because the surgery cuts through the core muscles you literally lose all your strength. Even just moving an arm is an effort. Going to the toilet was a military operation. I had a bag containing my vacuum drain which went over my shoulder and the four other drains to carry. It gave another meaning to bag lady, I was bottle lady! Tony visited and was pleased to see me up and looking better. We had dinner together, the food at the hospital really was very nice indeed.

Saturday July 11th 2015

Today I was more mobile, it was easier to get up for the loo, and I was encouraged to walk around the ward. I some visitors which was nice and chatted away to the nurses. I did do something very silly though. I spilled boiling hot water over my leg, it hurt, a lot! I called the nurses who came rushing in and gave me cream to help the burn. I also has an awful hour of sickness and terrible heartburn. It was all the drugs I think, I had some medicine and it got better. Had a bit of a nightmare this afternoon. The doctor came to administer my antibiotic through my I.V but my veins had collapsed to only 15% so it would not go through properly and it bloody hurt. He had to sit for 30 minutes until it had all finally gone. He kept on apologising bless him. (Between me and you though, he was pretty hot stuff so I didn’t mind at all that he had to stay ;-)). Tomorrow is the day the surgeon will remove my vacuum drain and stitch me back together. It should be ok I think.

Sunday July 12th 2015

There are no words to describe. I was given morphine at 7am. My surgeon arrived at 7-30am. He removed the vacuum drain which was not too bad, then he proceeded to stitch me back together. The stitches had been put in place during surgery and just needed to be pulled together to seal the wound. Now, this sounds ok doesn’t it? That is exactly what I thought, however, it was the single most painful 3 minutes of my life. The morphine had no effect, and with no anesthetic I felt everything. As you can imagine it was already pretty swollen and sore. I actually screamed. Afterwards I was traumatised so I called my mum and I cried like a baby. The reason the procedure was done without anesthetic was because it was so quick and they didn’t want to give me anymore as I had enough body trauma already. I understand the logic, but I still would have preferred not to had to go through that! Anyway, it was done. One drain out, four to go. The first two were taken out later that morning and came out without a hitch. The next two were to come out the following day, something to look forward to. Here is a photo taken the day after the drain was removed.

You can see the 6 stitches below the bottom incision. I always think I look like a shark has taken a big bite out of me!

Monday July 13th 2015

Feeling so much better today. Now that heavy drain is out I feel lighter already. The nurses came in the morning to remove the last two drains. The left one came out easily but we had issues with the right one. Because I simply could not leave without another episode of pain, because that is just what I needed, I had so more! The tube inside had become stuck as tissue had started to form around it, I know, it sounds gross. Anyway, with a lot of pulling and tugging and moving into various positions the nurse eventually managed to pull it free but oh dear me, it stung like acid. Thankfully, now all the drains were out I could go home. Hurray 🙂

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

Out of Surgery. Yippeeee it’s Gone 🙂

Hello and welcome back.

Here I am looking a bit spaced out after surgery, very high on drugs, thank the universe for drugs!

Surgery took about four and a half hours and went well and according to plan. One thing I want to mention here which I have only touched upon before, is the impact that my journey has had on my family and friends and most of all my partner Tony. Quite often, when we are on a personal mission for self improvement such as this, we forget to consider the affect it will have on the people who love us. I want to thank everyone who sent messages and called, I know you were all worried and I’m sorry to put you through it. I know you all support me 100% but I also know you were concerned too.

I am happy to report that I woke up pain free. When I woke up in the recovery room my surgeon came straight over. He did not ask me how I was feeling at first, instead he blurted out that he had broken his personal record by removing 6kg of excess skin and tissue and he was very pleased with himself. It’s not that he wasn’t interested in how I was, he was just animated about the achievement and the huge difference it was going to make to my life. I spent a little time coming round and then was moved back up to my room to a very relieved Tony.

Back on the ward the nurses actually commented that I didn’t even look like I had just had surgery at all. FOOD, I needed food, give me food! I was so hungry. I had a sandwich and a cup of tea and all was well. So, the details. The actual surgery itself was covered up with a surgical corset so I couldn’t get a look. However, what was evident was that I was missing one rather large tummy. It didn’t look like my body, it was a bit strange. I had four ordinary drains and one vacuum drain, I also had a catheter and the inflating DVT pads. I looked a right state. It was a bit shocking for Tony and also a bit frightening but I assured him that I felt fine. I couldn’t move very well, even to sit up, I felt about four hundred stone and stiff.

Here is a photo of me wrapped up, just so you can see the corset. It was taken once I was back home.

I am sure most people know what drains are, but some may not of heard of a vacuum drain. I shall explain. Due to the extent of my surgery and the trauma due to the huge wounds, the surgeon thought I would produce significant amount of fluid. He decided that it was best to leave the area where the two incisions met open for a few days to allow for the fluid to be collected. The vacuum drain does exactly what it sounds like; it sucks the fluid out and stores it in a container. It’s pretty weird knowing you have an open wound, but it was only for a few days.

The first night I didn’t get much sleep. I had to have regular obs taken and drugs and antibiotics administered through my I.V. I wasn’t in any real pain though which was good. Because I had a catheter I didn’t have to move from my bed, I had initially been a bit reluctant to have one, but I was very thankful I had it as the thought of trying to get up was a little terrifying. I thought I might fall apart which I know sounds a little extreme but that is how it felt. I had prepared myself as much as someone possibly can for the recovery period but nothing really ever prepares you and the next few days would be a real challenge.

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

Plastic Surgery Day

Hello and welcome back.

Today is the day. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today I am having the biggest and scariest surgery I have ever had. Today I am both nervous and excited.

I have not posted anything on Facebook about my surgery yet and I have only told a few close friends and family. However, this morning I have posted about having my surgery and asked for everyone to wish me luck and send positive thoughts. I figure the more positive energy I can generate the better, plus I know my friend is watching over me from the stars. I want to just take a moment to thank everyone for all of your messages and support, I felt very loved 🙂

So, before I go on, I want to share with you a photo of exactly what I am about to have removed. I wasn’t sure if I was going to start posting images of myself showing my bits and bobs, but after long discussions with my partner and mum I decided it was best to be completely open and honest to show my true journey. I hope that this is ok with everyone.

This photo was taken about 5 minutes before my surgeon came in to start drawing all over me with a black marker. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of that because it really was quite funny. As you can see there is a lot of excess and it was heavy to carry around. I very much look forward to saying goodbye to it.

As I am paying privately for my surgery I am in a very nice hospital (actually a bit too posh for me!) I have a lovely private room and have been presented with menu’s for my meals and the choices are very nice indeed. I look forward to eating later as I have been fasting since 10pm last night.

I have my gown and DVT socks, which I can report fitted without issue after the palarva when I had my gastric op. Off we go to theatre.

Thanks for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

5 Days to Go! (oaks)

Weight- 13 stone 7 pounds (87.1 kg)

Total loss- 11 stone 8 pounds (75.4 kg)

I am happy to report that I finished my second year at university with a first class. GO ME!!!! I am feeling very accomplished, and a little bit clever ha ha. It was tough, and with the events of the past 6 months, it was definitely a real challenge, but I did it. I am also feeling so much more confident and I am enjoying shopping for clothes for the first time in my life. I don’t dread going into shops or feel that terrible sense of anxiety and stress. I actually see things in windows and know that I will be able to fit into them. I am still I size 16-18 but most stores do that size. I am finally able to say goodbye to the plus size shops. Even though they go down to a size 14 I have made a deal with myself that I will never ever go into those stores again. I do, however, have a rather large amount of flopping excess skin on my tummy which is not at all attractive. But I know that I will be getting that removed pretty soon so I look forward to it.

I had my pre-assessment appointment. Unlike my previous appointments with my surgeon, this was with a staff nurse and it was more focused on the details of my surgery and medical history. Since my decision to go ahead and have the abdominoplasty surgery I have known that there was going to be pain involved and this was stressed to me further by the nurse. She really was very nice and all the time she was reassuring me that was going to be so happy with the results and that it would all be worth it.

I am a little nervous and apprehensive, but also excited. This is the next step in my journey and from fear of sounding dramatic, I know it is going to change my life. Levi jeans here I come! (I have always wanted a pair of levi’s but never been able to get a pair to fit)

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

I just want to let you know that in my next posts I will be adding post surgery images that some people may find a bit graphic. Just a friendly warning 🙂

First Appointment With My Plastic Surgeon

Here we go ! Today I had my first appointment with the surgeon who I have chosen to perform my skin removal surgery. The official name for the surgery is abdomioplasty and I will be having a technique called the fleur de lys. The decision to perform this specific technique was made by the surgeon after he had examined me. I have two sections of excess skin on my tummy so I will need more than the more common tummy tuck surgery. The examination was a little uncomfortable, not due to the surgeon who was extremely professional, but because in a nut shell he pulled, shoved and squished me about. He estimated that he will remove approximately 4.2 Kilo’s of excess from my tummy which is a huge amount. He also examined my breasts and commented on the fact that they were very out of shape and lost almost all the structure, in fact he measured approximately 14cm between where they fall now and where they should actually be.

After the examination we discussed my options and during this time he informed me that he would not be able to perform both my breast reduction and tummy tuck surgeries together. There were a number of reasons why, the main one being the time it will take to perform the tummy tuck itself. He explained that it can be too dangerous to lengthen the time under anesthetic more than 5 hours and that the tummy surgery would take at least 4 hours. Of course I was initially disappointed as I really did want to have both procedures at the same time so that there would be just one recovery period and I would have had what I had wanted done in one go.

All in all it was a good appointment I was happy and felt confident about my surgeon and the surgery. Actually, I was more than happy, I was starting to get excited to finally be able to go shopping without stressing out about my size. Surgery was booked for July, just my term and exams to do in university to do first.

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

How Was I Carrying That 10 Stone?

Weight – 15 stone 5 pounds (98.6 kg)

Total loss – 10 stone 6 pounds (63.9 kg)

Since my last post I have had a bit of a nightmare. Remember I told you about the bad reaction I sometimes get to certain foods? Well, it turns out I had gallstones. Unfortunately, I spent Christmas eve in Cardiff hospital on lots of painkillers until I was allowed to go home Christmas morning. I can honestly say I had not experienced pain like it before and it was very, very frightening. More so because I had had such a significant surgery and I was worried something was wrong. I then found out that gallstones are a very a common post-operative issue and 70% of patients get them. I was referred for surgery to have my gallbladder removed and luckily I didn’t have to wait too long. The operation was scheduled for April 2nd. During the wait I had a couple of pain attacks but at least I knew the cause. It was an unwelcome side effect but I was just glad it was a fairly straightforward procedure.

In January I also had an appointment with the dietician and the bariatric surgeon at Homerton and they were both very happy with my progress and weight loss. I was only in there for 20 minutes, a long trip for such a short time but necessary. They asked me about my diet and if I was having any problems to which I told them I seemed to be ok and was adapting well. Amongst the obvious concerns about having such a huge surgery, my mum’s other concern was my love of cooking and food and how I was going to cope with this after the operation. I can honestly say that I actually love cooking more than I did before and of course I still absolutely LOVE FOOD!!! I enjoy adapting recipes and buying new ingredients I’ve never tried before. Tony and I have never eaten so well.

I’m afraid at this point I have some bad news. After my birthday, turning the big 4.0 and a visit home to Wales, 2 days before my operation to have my gallbladder removed, I lost my longest and very best friend in a terrible accident. I won’t go into detail but as you can imagine it was an incredibly difficult time. I did go ahead with the operation as my friend would have told me to and I had enough time to recover before travelling back to Wales for the funeral. Unfortunately things got a bit worse. 2 weeks after the operation and 5 days before the funeral I woke up in the most incredible pain I have ever felt in my whole life. Honestly, it was worse than the gallstones. It was shooting up my right side to my shoulder and I literally could not breathe. I screamed for Tony and told him I thought I was going to die and to call an ambulance. I was so scared, but the pain even stopped the tears. Of course, I was not actually dying, but can you believe it? I now had kidney stones which were passing through. If any of you have ever had kidney stones you will understand how much pain they cause. I found out that again, this was another post-op issue that effects some patients. I spent 4 nights in hospital hooked up to painkillers until eventually the pain subsided and I was able to leave. The whole time I was panicking that I would miss my friend’s funeral but fortunately I made it just in time.

Though this was an incredibly difficult time I was doing well at university and looking forward to the future. Next time I will tell you about the next stage, plastic surgery!

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time.

Claire x

Adapting To The Rapidly Changing Me

Weight – 18 stone 7 pounds (119kg)

Total loss – 6 stone 7 pounds (43.5 kg)

First year of university done, results in, got a 2:1. I am incredibly happy as that is quite the achievement under the circumstances! Had a few ups and downs since my last post which I expected, however, nothing really prepares you for the dramatic and rapid changes both physically and psychologically. My diet was improving though I still couldn’t drink my beloved coffee. I was learning that some foods were more tolerable than others in terms of digestion and what caused me to have stomach cramps. One instance that will forever stick in my mind was making the mistake of eating a Haribo sweet given to me by my grandson. I’ll explain what happens when you have a new digestive system that is more sensitive than the old one; when you eat something that disagrees with you, it is the worst feeling. You literally cannot move from the pain of stomach spasms and cramps. The good news is it lasts no longer than an hour or so but you have to just ride it out. Constipation is obviously an ongoing issue and will remain so indefinitely. This has been confirmed by others I have spoken to who have had the surgery. Another significant issue is the fatigue. Out of nowhere all the petrol in my tank runs out and I am exhausted. Even when I was at my heaviest I did not experience such tiredness, the smallest activity drains you. I hope that this improves over time.

During the summer the absolute worst thing that happened was the hair-loss. As the photo above shows, I cut my hair short and at the time this was not out of choice. My lovely thick glossy blonde hair was falling out by the handful. I had been warned by the hospital that this would happen but I still was not prepared for how traumatic it was. I have to say though that my trauma was temporary and as each day passed, the excitement of my physical transformation far outweighed the upset about my hair. I remembered what the lovely nurse told me after my mini breakdown the after the surgery “In a few months you will see your reflection in a shop window and not recognise yourself” and she was absolutely right!

I spent the rest of the summer recovering and building up my strength doing a lot of walking preparing to return for my second year at university.

Thank you for reading my blog, see you next time 🙂

Claire x

First Hospital Appointment After By-Pass (8)

Weight: 20 stone 9 pounds (132 kilos)

Total weight loss: 40 pounds

After a by-pass operation the changes to lifestyle are dramatic, none more so than eating habits. These changes affect the way you feel about food and your approach to food. Life throws everyone good and bad times, and before I had the surgery food was always there to comfort me in bad times and to enjoy for celebrations. To be honest it was just always there no matter what was going on in my life. This sometimes makes the emotional roller-coaster that follows this surgery very difficult to deal with. Some people like a glass of wine, some even prefer a cigarette. For me food was my go-to vice when I was anxious or stressed, and by that I mean I would overeat turning to pizza’s and kebabs as friends. Of course now this is now no longer an option.

Getting through the extreme diet following surgery was incredibly difficult. I knew I must eat and sip water but it was a real task to do so. Most of the time, I felt exhausted. I know that after a huge operation it is to be expected, but nothing quite prepares you for the recovery and just how much it takes it out of you. Of course, with my surgery there is the added stress to the body of a lack of nutrition which also causes extreme tiredness. What kept me going was the knowledge that this process was temporary and that it would get easier with time. I tried to focus on the forthcoming benefits and picture how my life was going to be changing.I often thought back to what the lovely nurse had said about catching my reflection in a mirror and not recognising myself and I tried to look forward to that.

Three weeks after my surgery I had my first follow up appointment at Homerton. I was weighed and had lost 18 pounds. 18 pounds !!!! RESULT. As you can imagine I was incredibly chuffed. I have to say that though I was on track and the surgery was obviously doing its job I did feel a weird combination of excitement and frustration. Anyone who has attempted to lose a significant amount of weight will understand how impatient you can be. While you are going through the process of losing the weight it feels like it is going to take forever and that you will never reach your goal. The surgeon had explained that it usually takes approximately 2 years for people to reach their goal weight after surgery. Though this is realistic and as it was stressed, a safe and steady amount of time it is hard to deal with when you have dreamed about being healthy and feeling better about yourself. The good news is, now that I am at my goal weight I can say that the time went very fast. But it does not feel that way at the time.

At the hospital I first had an appointment with the nutritionist. She was very happy with my progress and asked me general questions about my diet and how things were going with the process of introducing foods back in to my diet. I explained that certain food, such as milk and green vegetables gave me a bad tummy and that I could not drink coffee at all. The tummy ache you get when you eat something your new digestive system does not like is kind of like gripe. It is very unpleasant and takes about an hour to subside. As I have said before, it is a long process learning what you can and cannot tolerate. Even now after 18 months I still find new foods that give me a bad tummy. I also saw the surgeon briefly. He was pleased and just checked with me that I was not experiencing any problems, it was a short conversation as I was doing well with no obvious issues.

After my visit back to the hospital I returned home and continued with my revision for my forthcoming exams. When I think back to this time I cannot believe that I got through it. How crazy to have such a huge operation and then sit exams at university! But, I did.

Thank you for returning to read my blog

See you next time

Claire x

Home After Surgery

A good friend drove me home from hospital. It is a good 2 and a half hours drive and was not the most comfortable journey I had ever done, however, I was glad to be on my way home. Apart from feeling a little uncomfortable, I actually felt really well which I hadn’t expected so soon after surgery. I didn’t feel I needed strong painkillers at all, I was taking only paracetamol. Due to having keyhole surgery, I had only 5 small incision wounds that were dressed with waterproof dressings and they were also not causing me any pain which was fantastic. And I could have a shower hurray!. It was such a relief to be home, but it soon dawned on me that I was about to start probably one of the hardest journeys I had ever taken. I was armed with all of the booklets and instructions for the recovery period over the next few months and I had read them thoroughly but I still felt very nervous. It is very strange to go from eating large meals when you want to, to not being at all hungry but having to eat, basically to live. We were told that we would not feel hunger at the education session but that we must eat drink regularly. This sounds so easy, I can tell you it really is not.

As I have explained before, the first 2 weeks was clear liquid only. At first eating was scary, I know it is irrational, but it feels like you might hurt yourself somehow. I approached it with caution to say the least. I was managing to eat chicken broth, I came up with my own recipe and it was tasty. I managed about half a cup twice a day. The rest of the time was sips of freezing cold water with ice cubes. I did try the build up shakes, but I quickly discovered that my new system did not like that at all and it made me feel ill. After 2 weeks I moved on to liquidised food, I stuck to soups, chicken and vegetable mainly, and weetabix. Then on to soft food, mostly vegetables, lentils and soups which I was cooking from scratch. I felt safer knowing exactly what was in my food and I was using spices to season. The portion was about 2 tablespoons at this stage and that was hard enough to manage. The feeling of fullness can be likened to that feeling you get after eating Christmas dinner or a big meal out.

One of the side effects post surgery, as with following the milk diet before, is constipation. It is made slightly easier with lactolose, but it is still a huge problem, excuse the pun !. It is hard to get enough liquid, and one of the rules of the change in eating habits is not drinking and eating at the same time. There must be a gap of 30 minutes before and after eating, which as you can imagine doesn’t help the situation either. There are many foods that are no longer tolerated after surgery and learning which ones you can tolerate or not is a long and ongoing process. As I have mentioned before, sugar is something people who have had this surgery must be very careful of. It is recommended to have no more than between 5 and 15 grams at any one time. This is harder than it sounds, you only need to look on the back of most food in the supermarket to see just how much sugar goes in to the food we buy.

I was fortunate to not be experiencing any pain, just muscle ache, especially when I was walking. I had started to go for short walks the second week after returning home and was building it up slowly. Because my operation had been performed as keyhole surgery the small wounds healed very quickly and the staples were removed after 3 weeks. It is amazing really, such a huge operation on the inside and these 5 little scars. During this recovery time I had returned back to uni and had started to revise and prepare for my exams. I had told just a few friends about having the surgery and they offered me great support. They also had a lot of questions and were interested in the process and talking about it actually helped me get through. Just 6 weeks after my surgery I was sitting in an examination room for the first time since I was at school. Luckily I was feeling well enough to concentrate, and though my exams were difficult and scary I made it through them without any problems.

Now that I had finished my first year I was off home to rest and recuperate. It was actually only then did I have time to reflect on what I had been through and get my head around it. I had my first appointment back at Homerton in July so I was keen to see my progress. My clothes were certainly starting to get very loose already.

Thank you for your support. See you next time.

Claire x

Surgery Day Has Arrived

Gastric by-pass surgery March 2014

Weight: 22 stone 3 pounds (141 kilos)

The day finally arrived. I was slightly nervous but not as much as I thought I would be. Up at 6am to be in hospital for 7-30am. On arrival I was shown to a cubicle and then weighed. Things started very well, by following a diet since January and then doing the milk diet prior surgery I had lost 22 pounds already which was cool. Next, I was asked to change in to a gown and plastic knickers and of course the sexy socks. Putting on the knickers was comical as they were one size fits all only one size does NOT fit all ! I thought it was hysterical that a hospital that conducts bariatric surgery does not provide underwear suitable for the patients who have the surgery. Having wrestled with the knickers, and torn them, by which point I couldn’t have cared less, I was ready to go. I was able to say a quick goodbye to my partner and I was off to theatre.

Waking up from surgery was a real shocker. The operation had taken longer than expected and I was under anaesthetic for about 5 hours so I was groggy and very disorientated. I was aware that my partner was there and that a friend had visited, but other than that I don’t remember too much about that first night. I was also dosed up with very strong painkillers which was a good thing obviously, but meant I was a bit spaced out to say the least. My partner was a little overwhelmed and distressed seeing me after surgery. I had tubes and drains everywhere and was on oxygen. This must have been frightening, to see the person you love in this state but he put on a brave face. I also do remember the shock on our friends face when he popped in to visit. I basically just drifted in and out of sleep for the next 24 hours. I can say though that I was not in any significant pain, just uncomfortable. My throat was sore due to the anaesthetic and I felt like I had been punched in the tummy, but other than that it was not so bad.

The following morning I was woken early by one of the surgeons who explained to me that the operation had gone well and according to plan, though it had taken a bit longer than expected due to my size. I was happy to hear all had gone well but reality had sunk in and I became very anxious and upset. When the nurse came to see me I was very upset and told her I had terrible doubts that I had made a huge mistake that I could now not do anything about. She reassured me that it was perfectly normal to feel these feelings and that they would not last. She also told me that in 6 months time when I glanced at my reflection while passing a shop window I would know that I had absolutely made the right decision. It made me feel a little better about things and after speaking to my mum on the phone I started to feel a bit better. Later that day my partner came in to visit and was relieved and happier to see that I was back in the land of the living and up and about.

I spent 3 nights in hospital and was on saline to keep me hydrated and regular pain killers. I could just about manage very small sips of water through a straw but there was no desire at all to drink or eat anything which I can tell you is a strange feeling. Everything ached, even my little toes, and walking the short trip to the toilet was a real drama. I was also encouraged to go on regular short walks around the ward to help limit the risk of developing DVT which I did do with my I.V trolley in tow, though it was hard work. I can report though that I was not in terrible pain, just very uncomfortable. On the second day I was given some clear soup which I tried to eat but it was very difficult, I think I managed about 3 spoonfuls. The anaesthetic really had knocked me for six and my throat still felt swollen and sore. Day 2 was pretty miserable to be honest and I just wanted to go home. Day 3 was a slightly better and I started to feel more like me again. My mum had said that I would feel better when I had spoken with her the day before, but at the time I didn’t think I would. I had to have my drip needle relocated which was awful as my veins had collapsed due to dehydration. It was very painful and they tried a number of veins before finally finding one that worked. It was important to have the I.V because I was unable to physically drink enough to keep hydrated. On day four the surgeon came to see me and was happy with my progress, he told the nurses I could go home, hurray !. I was discharged with the various medication and dressings and off I went home to start my recovery.

Thank you for your continuing support. See you next time.

Claire xx

Counting Down To Surgery

The weeks leading up to surgery were a testing time. Not only was I flat out at university attending classes and completing assignments, I was also following the required milk diet. I knew it was going to be tough and it was! The first few days were the hardest, it was very difficult to finish the 4 pints of milk and I found myself drinking the last of it late at night. The oxo cube drink was also hard to stomach at first, but thankfully I was allowed to have sugar free jelly and that made the diet a little easier. After the first week I had developed a routine and was just getting on with it. Being very busy with university certainly helped divert my focus both from the diet and from the impending surgery which was rapidly approaching. Unfortunately I did suffer some side effects on the diet, the worst being constipation. Another was fatigue, as you can imagine my calorie intake prior to the diet was quite high. I don’t actually know how many I was consuming, but I guess around 3000 a day. The drastic reduction in calories and the fat intake made me tired and if I am honest, a bit moody. It was also hard to sleep, but that was not just the diet, that was also due to stress and anxiety.

I think that when a person decides to have major surgery like this it affects everyone in their lives and this was certainly the case for me. My family were understandably worried as were my close friends and more than anyone else, my partner. As I have said before, there has been a lot of negative press about weight-loss surgery and more often than not the horror stories and ‘my surgery nightmare’ stories are published. This of course fuels negative opinions about the surgery and also frightens people. It is the same as all publicity, horror stories are more appealing to the viewer than the ordinary success stories. It is because of these stories that some of my friends were very concerned. Even though my nearest and dearest were worried everyone was very supportive and understood my reasons for going ahead. I didn’t tell many people I was having surgery and did not post it on FB, in fact many people will only find out through reading this blog. I was only just dealing with it myself and I guess at the time, due to my insecurities, I felt like I might have to had justified myself to people and may have had some negativity which I wanted to avoid. My head was not in the best place and after all it was my business and my personal battle. Now I have come out the other side I feel a little more confident about talking about it.

I submitted my assignments, finished university for Easter break and had 5 days to wait for surgery. I tried to keep myself busy, did some painting, housework, reading and other stuff, but the truth is that now I had nothing major to focus on it was getting very real and I was up and down emotionally. One minute I was positive YES I am doing the right thing, next I was…OMG what are you doing ????. Funny thing is, the day before surgery I was calm as a cucumber and very rational about it all. I was scared, definitely, I would not be human if I wasn’t, but I was as ready and as prepared as I could be. That evening I drove to London to stay with friends so as I could get the tube to Homerton early in the morning. I had to be at hospital at 7:30am. It was nice to spend a few hours relaxing and chatting with friends and took my mind off things for a while. I woke up early the following morning, nil by mouth, so no coffee, dressed and off we went.

Thank you for your continuing support. See you again soon.

Claire x

Waiting For The Call

After the discussion with the surgeon about the by-pass being my only option I was really confused and honestly, quite scared. I had not really considered the gastric by-pass for me and it seemed so very drastic and overwhelming a prospect. One thing that it really highlighted and something very difficult to deal with was the realisation of the extent of my weight problem and the health issues I already had, and if I was to do nothing, the health issues that could come in the future such as diabetes. Having to face such a serious and potentially dangerous operation, and the massive changes that it would bring, was very mind consuming. Though I tried to remain positive about the benefits and that I was doing the right thing, I just couldn’t help thinking about the potential dangers. During the first education session we were informed that one in one hundred people die during surgery, and that there were many post-operative dangers too, such as blood poisoning and DVT. Fear and doubt are perfectly acceptable feelings when embarking on any kind of surgery, no matter if it is minor or extensive and I acknowledged that the surgeon, as a professional and expert in his field would have advised me correctly and would have my best interests in mind with regards to the benefits of having this particular surgery.

After being told I should expect to wait anything up to 6 months to hear a decision on my funding it was a huge surprise to hear from the hospital only 8 weeks later. I received a phone call in which in was informed I was deemed a suitable candidate for surgery and had been awarded the funding for surgery. Not only that, but that there was a surgery date available in January 2014. This was not going to be possible for me as I was in my first year of my degree at university and I needed to attend lectures and had assignments to write and submit. I requested that my surgery be moved forward to March when I had Easter break. Though I had exams scheduled for May, I thought I would have time to recover and could revise before without too much interference.

An appointment was made to see the dietician and surgeon 3 weeks before surgery. During the time leading up to my surgery I was completely immersed in university studies and working hard which was a blessing in disguise as it meant I didn’t really have much time to think about it. I also made the decision to not do too much research and definitely not to watch any video footage of surgeries. I also avoided all the television programmes about weight-loss surgery, a lot of which were very negative anyway. They depict people struggling with their weight as lazy and people who shouldn’t be receiving help from the NHS. On this note, I do have a lot of thoughts and opinions about the general attitude toward overweight people and how society views the issue, but I would rather not discuss here. There will be a time and place to get in to that. For me, and I realise this would not be the case for everyone waiting to have surgery, the reason I did not read or view too much is because I did not want to overload myself with fear and anxiety. I had made the difficult decision to go ahead and felt that I would just get on with it.

My hospital appointment arrived in no time at all and was fairly routine. The dietician explained the post surgery diet to me again and what foods to avoid and just discussed the general rules of good nutrition. I have to say, it was nothing I didn’t already know really. As a seasoned dieter, as I am sure some of you will know, you gain a lot of knowledge about good and bad food, although sometimes the advice is not always correct, especially with the more faddy diets. After seeing the nutritionist I saw the surgeon who was to perform my procedure. Once again he explained the dangers and gave an overview of the surgery. He then told me I was to start the specific milk diet immediately. Overall the appointment went well and I was still confident with my decision.

That evening was to be my ‘last supper’ so to speak. Usually, in the past having a food blow out would be the night before starting a new diet, this time was slightly different! I got in my favourite treats and said my goodbyes to all the foods that I would no longer be able to eat, probably never again. It was like saying goodbye to a friend, food was my comfort and emotional crutch, I knew it was going to be a very tough journey ahead but I was determined and as prepared as I could be.

Thank you once again for your support. See you next time.

Claire x

My First Hospital Appointment At Homerton

My first appointment at Homerton hospital was for an assessment with a bariatric professional. She would be writing a case study which would then be presented to the hospital board in order for them to decide whether I would be awarded the funding for surgery. During the meeting I was asked a number of questions regarding my health and previous struggle with my weight. I was very honest and got quite emotional, quite unexpectedly, I realised just how important this was to me and how serious I was about getting help. As part of the assessment process I also had to attend an education session. This session was with other surgery candidates and was led by another specialist bariatric nurse. She briefly explained the different surgeries and the risks, including death rates and future problems that can occur. At this point I was still considering the gastric band and the band was actually shown to the group and we were able to have a good look. There were slides with diagrams illustrating the different procedures and each one was explained briefly. I know that these sessions are not in anyway designed to frighten patients but the truth is that it is a lot to and take in digest. It is a very serious operation with very real life risks and I was a little overwhelmed. Though I listened intently to the information, it felt very surreal.

The second half of the session was taken by a nutritionist who explained the requirements leading up to surgery. The first was that we were expected to lose approximately 5% of our body weight before surgery and that 4 weeks before surgery we would have to follow a very specific diet. The diet is designed to reduce the fatty deposits that surround the liver in order to make it easier for the surgeon to perform the keyhole surgery. It sounded awful, 4 pints of milk a day and 1 salty drink a day such as an oxo cube and absolutely nothing else. We were then informed of the post-surgery diet. It is in a number of stages first of which is clear liquid only for 2 weeks, then pureed food for 2 weeks. Next is soft food for another 2 weeks and finally the slow and steady introduction of normal food. The quantities were also explained, our new tummy would be the size of the top of a thumb at first and would eventually be the size of an egg so it was stressed how important it is to not over-eat. Also stressed was the seriousness of avoiding eating anything high in sugar as it has an adverse effect and causes a condition called ‘dumping syndrome’ which can cause sickness, diarrhoea and a significant dip in energy. Another thing that has to be considered, though it doesn’t effect me as I don’t drink, is that alcohol has 4 times the effect on people in regards to tolerance post-surgery. Another point that was made during the session was regarding future post-operative plastic surgery including the potential removal of excess skin. We were informed that there was no longer any funding available for it and that we should start to save money straight away. I took this very seriously as I knew that it was something I would have to consider in the future.

The last part of the appointment was a consultation with the bariatric surgeon. Whilst sitting outside the surgeon’s office another lady joined me. She was very tall and slim and I remember thinking that she could not possibly be there to see a bariatric specialist there was nothing of her! At the time I still didn’t quite believe the difference the surgery would make to my life so reaching my goal seemed almost impossible. Now, however, I know that the surgery, along with self-discipline does indeed work. The funny thing is, when I have my next appointment, there may well be a lady or gentleman who feels the same way when they see me. This appointment was the most difficult to deal with. Though I was armed with the information already presented in the education session, the surgeon repeated the dangers and really emphasised the dedication and commitment needed to ensure long-term success. We discussed the surgery options, and I told him I would like the gastric band. Now here is where things took a huge turn. The surgeon was of the opinion that for me, the gastric by-pass was the only option. This was a shock to me and a lot to take in as it is the most serious of the surgeries and really is the most life changing. When I asked him why he told me that it would be the surgery that would be the most likely to work best for me and give me the best future outcome due to my weight. It was then that I realised just how serious my situation was. Though I found this very difficult to digest, he did also say with a smile that he was confident he could help me and that it would be a positive move forward for my future health and well-being helping to avoid health issues such as diabetes.

Though I felt overloaded with the sheer volume of information given, the assessment team and staff were lovely and I still felt confident moving forward with my decision. Now I had another wait to hear the decision from the hospital.

Thank you for continuing to support my blog, hope to see you next time.

Claire

My First Visit To The GP

The decision was made to ask for help and I booked an appointment with my GP to discuss my options. I was aware that it can be difficult to get a referral for bariatric surgery having heard and read various accounts but I was willing to try. My GP listened to everything I had to say and was very understanding. She then explained to me that in order to be referred for surgery I would have to have either type 2 diabetes or sleep apnoea. I told her of my suspicions regarding my breathing problems during the night and we decided that is was best to be referred for a sleep study at Papworth hospital in Cambridge.

After waiting for 3 months I received an appointment at Papworth for a sleep study. I had to spend a night hooked up to various monitors during my sleep which was a fairly painless experience. In the morning the specialist came to see me and I was indeed diagnosed with restrictive sleep apnoea which is directly associated with my weight and was told I would have to start using a CPAP machine. For those that are unfamiliar with sleep apnoea it is a condition in which you regularly stop breathing during sleep due to the weight crushing down on your chest. In my case, after a sleep test was conducted, it was found that I stopped breathing 28 times an hour which is pretty scary. The CPAP machine is designed to keep air circulating in your lungs by wearing a face mask which draws the air from the atmosphere in to the mask and forces it into your lungs while you sleep. The machine sounds like Darth Vader and takes some getting used to, but without it there is a very real risk to your health so I had to grin and bare it. In addition to the sleep apnoea I was experiencing mobility problems and general physical restrictions.

It goes without saying that my mental health was also suffering. I was swimming regularly which I loved, however it was a real push for me to go because of how I viewed myself, especially in a swimming costume. On one occasion I was getting out of the pool and I heard an elderly gentleman comment to his friend “Jesus, look at the size of her”. In my younger days I probably would have responded with a witty come back, but I just walked over to the shower and was somewhere between tears and anger. In the end it just made me more determined. The thing is with a persons weight is that it is visible and therefore people feel it is ok to pass judgement and comment. I believe a lot of people suffer with some sort of addiction or health damaging habit, in either a small way or a big way, but it is not always visible. No one is perfect, but the way people react to obesity is to assume the person is lazy, or stupid which I certainly am not.

Following my stay at Papworth I returned to see my GP and with the sleep apnoea diagnosis she was able to then refer me to be considered for bariatric surgery. I was also warned that this could be a lengthy process and there may be further requirements to be eligible for surgery. While I waited to hear from my GP I decided to do some research on bariatric surgery. I discovered that there were 3 main surgeries performed in the UK. A gastric band, a gastric sleeve and a gastric by-pass. At this point I believed the right choice for me would be the gastric band as it seemed to me to be the least risk and it could be removed. The other 2 options were a little too much for me to comprehend as they carried high risks and were very intrusive and required many big life changes, it was too daunting to consider at the time.

After 3 months my GP called me in for an appointment. She had heard back from my referral and the board wanted further evidence regarding the severity of my sleep apnoea and I was now required to see a health professional. Additionally, they were asking for evidence that I had a history of attempting to lose weight. My GP contacted Papworth for the confirmation evidence regarding my condition and I had a bit of a task tracking down my paperwork and contacting various slimming clubs and reps to gather the evidence of my weight-loss attempts. Eventually we had the evidence and it was forwarded back to the board. I was also referred to a health professional and again had to wait for an appointment. After another 3 months I got in to see the dietician, I had 6 weeks of consultations in which we discussed health and nutrition and I was given another diet and exercise plan to follow.

I admit it was very frustrating and an anxious wait for a decision to be made by the board and at times I thought it was never going to happen, however, finally, after almost 2 years of back and fourth communication I got a referral for an assessment at Homerton hospital in London. This was the next step forward and an appointment came fairly quickly, I was starting to feel more positive and optimistic.

Thank you for your support, I hope you will return for the next blog post.

Claire x

The Start Of My Journey

Hello and welcome.

After much soul searching and deliberation, I have decided to write a blog diary to share my weight-loss journey and to share my thoughts and experiences with those who may be interested. In the last 15 months I have lost more than half of my body weight, a total to date of 82Kg (13 stone to us older people), I am now at my goal weight and out of the NHS danger zone. I achieved this by dramatically changing my entire lifestyle with combination of a gastric by-pass operation, healthy eating and regular exercise. I want to add here that perhaps more important than the physical efforts has been the support and encouragement I have been so lucky to have had from family, friends and healthcare professionals. Arguably, the weight-loss has been the easiest part of the process of improving my health, it is the psychological aspect that has been the biggest challenge.

I am not going to write too much about how I lost control of my weight as my story is a common one of yo yo dieting, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining more weight, you know the routine, basically I had a bad relationship with food which resulted in obsession with eating, in a nutshell, food addiction. Not to say though that I hate food now, because I LOVE FOOD, cooking is one of my passions. My new lifestyle has just meant I have had to be innovative with food and it has actually been great fun. I mean, I am eating grains, seeds, and all sorts of stuff that is good for you. My new diet has many restrictions but I have learned to accommodate by coming up with recipes to make things taste good, and I constantly find ways of substituting sweet stuff using natural sugars. I have the best cookie recipe which even the most hard core sugar addicts would accept, and I have proof because I secretly tested them on a number of people.

My unhealthy relationship with food started when I was very young and I really started to struggle with my weight in my teens, I was always a bigger dress size than my friends which is a huge deal at that vulnerable age. Over the years I continuously and gradually gained weight until I became morbidly obese in my mid thirties reaching my heaviest at 25 stone, 6 pounds (161.4 kilos), even now I can’t quite believe I allowed that to happen. After a long term fight to try to control and reduce my weight I had become quite desperate and felt I just could not do it without help. To add to the way I was feeling about myself, it had become obvious that my family and friends had become increasingly concerned about my health. After a serious fall which resulted in a tear in my knee ligament I was at my lowest point. Another concern I had about my health was my breathing. Just walking short distances was leaving me breathless and I was not sleeping well at all, waking up many times in the night caused by severe snoring.

Deciding to seek help was a huge deal for me as I am a very self motivated person, in fact I would call myself stubborn, and when I set my mind to something I do my very best to achieve my goals. My weight, however, seemed to be my Achilles heel and the one thing that beat me. As someone who has spent most of my life confidently performing in front of crowds, no matter what my size, the last few years had been increasingly difficult. I began to lose my self confidence and felt like everyone was judging me based on my size and this affected my mental health significantly. I think most people would describe me as fun and outgoing with a big personality, but this Claire was disappearing rapidly. It is the little things that people who don’t have a weight problem don’t consider such as a simple trip to a coffee shop, will the flimsy chair hold my weight ? Asking for an extension belt on an aeroplane, very embarrassing. One of the worse things was shopping for new clothes, I hated it. It was a horrible experience and always left me deflated and depressed. When you are as big as I was, clothes are a burden and just another way of reinforcing how insecure and awful you already feel about yourself.

It was time to get pro-active and do something about my situation, well either that or move closer and closer to certain health issues and an early death which was not really on my life agenda. I made an appointment to see my GP and started to do some research on the NHS website to investigate what my options were. I also consulted with my close friends and family about my decision to ask for help, and though I could tell they were concerned, they were supportive and I felt encouraged that I was doing the right thing for me. Here is where I began my journey which was to become a long and sometimes frustrating and difficult process.

Thank you for your support and should you like to, please do leave a comment, I would love to hear from you. Or you can message me. I hope you will return for my next blog post.

Claire x