I would like to start this chapter with a small disclaimer… there will be very little, if anything, in this chapter regarding gender issues. But Crystal, you might be thinking, you literally just mentioned the word transition in the chapter title; well read-on and you'll understand shortly why the next step in my journey was all about starting my transition without actually transitioning.
After the euphoria of the Halloween party subsided, I was left with trying to figure out how to address my growing issues regarding the state of my body and the serious lack of nice clothing that was available to me. As I had previously mentioned a few weeks ago, I was 6'2 and currently at my heaviest, weighing in at 325lbs; a weight that classified me as "morbidly obese" based on the Body Mass Index. Ironically, my height did a great job at hiding my excess weight and few people ever believed that I weigh so much. Aside from the issues this caused me as far as shopping, I also suffered from numerous physical problems including a few herniated disks along my spine, some mild stenosis, and what one doctor referred to me as "impressive scoliosis." I had been in and out of doctor's offices and emergency rooms for years, but as much pain as I was ever in, I didn't qualify for any sort of surgery to repair my spine. I received a few steroid injections into the most problematic areas of my spine, and then would get told that I had to lose weight in order to reduce the stress on my body.
Over the years, I had started several diets; some standard try it on your own diets as well as a few attempts at Weight Watchers. I had signed up for gym memberships several times, each time going once or twice before either giving in to laziness or aggravating some area of my body so badly that I couldn’t bring myself to go and exercise on my own. But now, after the heartbreak of my recent shopping trip, I refused to let myself fail at another attempt to lose weight.
Kat and I lay in bed a few days later and I started talking about how desperate I was to lose weight; including a confession that several months earlier, after another failed attempt to drop the pounds on my own, I had done some casual research online about weight loss surgery. There were quite a few options out there, and while I swore that the one path I would never undergo is actual surgery, there was a non-surgical procedure which I was curious to look into, where they place a balloon into your stomach in order to block you from overeating. Kat was very supportive of the idea of further researching the subject, while addressing her fears of me having any sort of surgery.
"I WAS MORE ANXIOUS THAN I COULD EVER REMEMBER BEING..."
I found Dr. B, who was pretty local, operating about 5 minutes away from my office; they had a link on the website to request information (I hate talking on the phone) and after a few correspondences back and forth, I had an appointment to meet the doctor the week after Thanksgiving. I was more anxious than I could ever remember being, even more so than on Halloween; was this finally the first step to dropping the extra weight and maybe not being obese anymore?
When Dr. B came into the room, I felt immediately at ease. He gave off a very comforting disposition that I assume made everyone trust him wholeheartedly. We sat down and discussed my previous attempts at losing weight; he asked me what my goals were and what I felt about the different procedures that were available. I explained that I was very against the idea of surgery and wanted to do the balloon, and he explained all the benefits of this procedure and how there were only two real disadvantages.
The first was the most important, and this was because of how new the balloon was, there were currently no insurance plans that would cover it; meaning that the entire cost of nearly $10,000 out of pocket. The second drawback was that the balloon was a temporary device, having to be removed in about six months in order to avoid complications; there was only so much weight that could be lost from having it in place. In other words, if after having the balloon removed, I fell back into my current bad eating habits, I could very easily gain some, if not everything back.
After going over everything regarding the balloon, Dr. B shifted the conversation to some of the other procedures that were available to me. Even though I was dead set against surgery, I still felt it important to listen to the details and gather all the information that I could before dismissing the maybe 1% of me that was currently willing to consider going under the knife. We discussed the few pros and many cons of the band procedures, where they place a device around your stomach to keep it from being able to fill too easily.
We talked about the traditional bypass, where they essentially split the stomach into two parts and reroute the small intestine; and finally, we talked about the gastric sleeve; which Dr. B most strongly preferred for his patients. In this procedure, they remove a large percentage of the stomach, leaving it at about the size and shape of a banana. It was a simple surgery, requiring only 2 days in the hospital, after which my meals would be roughly 3 ounces each. The downside was that overeating, or even eating certain foods that might not agree with my stomach could make me seriously ill; but on the flip side, with a much smaller stomach, I would be almost guaranteed to lose a much larger amount of weight in a relatively shorter period of time.
I left the appointment feeling like my head was spinning, there was so much information to go over, but he thankfully gave me plenty of documentation about everything; including what to expect during the few months prior to and following each procedure. When I arrived home, I called a family meeting, Kat and I sat down with my parents and I explained everything as it had been explained to me. I hated to admit it, especially after swearing over and over that I would never have surgery, but I was seriously leaning towards the idea of having the sleeve procedure. After going over everything, surprisingly, all three members of my household agreed and the following day I made my follow-up appointment with Dr. B to start creating my plan towards surgery.
"I WAS VERY NERVOUS, AS I HAD SO FREQUENTLY CHEATED AND FAILED AT DIETS, BUT THIS TIME I WAS FOCUSED."
I was told that I was required to undergo a few months of supervised meal plans with a nutritionist from the office, so on New Year's Day; I officially started my pro-op diet. I was very nervous, as I had so frequently cheated and failed at diets, but this time I was focused. I had another family meeting with Kat and my parents and pleaded with them for help over the next few months. Kat, who worked in a supermarket, could absolutely not bring me home my favorite flavors of chips, or surprise me with a candy bar. Once or twice a week we ate dinner with my parents and carb filled meals such as baked ziti with garlic bread was a household favorite; Mom promised to avoid pasta as much as possible and instead make some more grilled meals with chicken and fish and other healthier options.
I began taking salads with me to work, mixing in grilled chicken breast and dressing it with buffalo sauce so that I would enjoy the flavor. Not only did my weight begin to go down, but my paychecks began to last longer as I stopped ordering pizza and Chinese on a weekly basis. My daily breakfast trips to Dunkin Donuts were replaced by coffee from home and either oatmeal or 2 hard-boiled eggs (which mom mass boiled for me twice a week.) My surgery was booked for March 26, and that morning when I stepped on the scale, I was 280lbs, an amazing 45lb drop since that fateful pre-Halloween day that set this journey in motion.
The surgery was a success and when I came home 2 days later, I felt amazing, with very minimal pain and discomfort. I took an extra week off of work just to be safe and spent a few days catching up on Netflix while drinking a lot of water and plain broth as I was not allowed to eat solid foods for 2 weeks. I struggled with foods as the time went on, as some things occasionally upset my new smaller stomach. But I felt good overall and was elated as I continued to watch the excess weight melt away. Before I knew it, my formerly 52" waist was fitting into clothes I never dreamed I would wear again. I started buying shirts in an XL instead of the 3X that made up most of my wardrobe. And I finally knew that Crystal would be able to walk into a store and find clothes that not only fit, but would also look good. I was becoming a new, better version of myself, and next, I would start taking the next steps forward into my transition.