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Roberta's Lap-Band Surgery
Roberta Speyer: “Hi, this is Roberta Speyer, and I’m doing a follow-up after two and a half years of having my adjustable LAP BAND surgery in Frankfurt. In that time, I’ve had a lot of e-mails from a lot of people that have wanted to know about the surgery, especially since it’s now been approved for the United States and that happened in April of 2001. I thought it would be nice to explain. A lot of people said they’d like to know what’s it like now, two and a half years after the surgery; what am I feeling, and would I do it again so I’m going to address some of those questions.
First of all, am I glad I did it and would I do it again – yes, I’m absolutely delighted I did it and I would do it again in a New York minute. There was no way I was ever going to lose ninety pounds which is the amount of weight I’ve lost and then with no effort whatsoever keep that ninety pounds off consistently for a year and a half. That was not going to happen in my life. I know you can say I could have exercised, I could have gone on diets, and I could have done this or that. I could have done a lot of things but apparently I hadn’t done them by the time I was in my mid-forties so it didn’t look like they were going to happen anytime soon. This worked for me.
How did it change my life? Physically, a lot of aches and pains I had like backaches, ankles, and knees, all those problems disappeared - I don’t have them anymore. I have more energy, and I feel more comfortable moving around through this space that I occupy in the world. Would I like to lose more weight? I lost about 80% of the weight I wanted to lose. I wanted to go down from 270 to 160, and I sit consistently at 180 now for a year and a half. I think I could lose additional weight if I’d reduce the amount of fat intake in my diet. I tend to travel a lot for my job, and I eat in a lot of nice restaurants and of course that’s usually fatty food. Probably, I also could decrease more if I didn’t consume alcohol. I like to have cocktails so the question is do I want to lose the twenty pounds or do I want to have my cocktails and my fatty foods - and I guess at this point it’s probably the latter rather than the former. However, I’m not unhappy at this weight so for me this has been a success even if I only lost 80%. If I was willing to put in more effort I believe I could have lost the entire 100% of weight that I was looking to lose when I went into this odyssey two and a half years ago.
Do I feel it, do I feel different, and how does it affect my life? People ask me those questions sometimes. First of all, you don’t feel the device anymore than you feel, I guess, contact lenses or anything else a person might get like a new filling and they play with it with their tongue but after a while you get used to it. You don’t really feel the device there. If I eat too fast or don’t chew my food well enough, which sometimes is the case, or I eat something that’s very fibrous I might get a blockage right where the band is inserted around the pouch of the stomach that’s created and then nothing will go through. At that point, usually you end up having to throw up.
Is it nasty, terrible, or awful? It’s not like throwing up when you imagine it when you’re sick, you’ve had the flu, or you’ve got a hangover. This is more like it’s in and it’s out and it’s very quick. It really hasn’t had the opportunity to become digested with stomach acids so it’s not horrible, and at that point you really don’t have much of a choice. I’ve never had a case where I couldn’t get to a bathroom. It’s not like it comes over you like a wave; you know something is stuck and you’ve got to go get rid of it so you go to the bathroom. I put my finger down my throat, it comes up, and that’s the end of it and we move right on from there.
How often does that happen for me – that probably happens about once a week. I can go weeks without it happening or I can have it happen a couple of times in the same week but if we wanted to average it I’d say once a week.
How did it affect me emotionally? When I first started losing the weight I was just delirious, I mean, this was something that I couldn’t get over. I was buying new clothes, I bought a new car, I was getting my nails done all the time, and my hair done. It was wonderful but it did have some ramifications with my family and that is that someone who had prior to that been entirely focused on them and on the home and the house suddenly had a new toy. My new toy was myself and I wanted to focus all my energy and attention on myself - buying new clothes, doing things, and enjoying myself in ways that before this just hadn’t been physically or emotionally possible. So it did have some repercussions in my relationships; I became very selfish and self-centered for a period of about a year and it caused some problems with my relationships with my family. Now in the time that’s intervened since then I’ve come back down to earth, and I no longer am quite as excited about it. I’m used to it, it’s just who I am now, and my relationships have gone back to being pretty much what they were prior to surgery but there was that so I would say to anybody that was thinking about having this surgery to anticipate that it is a life altering thing to lose that much weight and it is going to affect you not just physically but emotionally.
So if you start feeling different, expect it, and also that people’s perception of you is a certain way. You behave and look a certain way and you do certain things, maybe you sometimes did some of those things to compensate for being overweight. When you lose the weight and you change, it changes a little bit the way they see you and maybe it makes them feel nervous or uncomfortable about their value or importance in your life.
So those were just some of the things I think I would bear in mind; it is a big change and it will change relationships and you have to try to understand that and not expect that not to happen. We’ve covered emotional, we’ve covered hyperemesis - that’s throwing up for those of you who don’t know, and we’ve covered how I feel about it. I didn’t have any diabetes or high blood pressure or any of those types of problems prior to surgery so I can’t really address those though I know there are other people who have had the surgery and it certainly has helped with those. I think in looking back over it the only thing I could possibly say is I wish it had been available sooner and I wish I had done it sooner. I think that anyone thinking about doing this surgery if they’re quite substantially overweight or have problems with losing or keeping weight off and if those problems tend to be more related to the amount of food they consume rather than the fact that they’re a sweets eater then I think they’re probably a good candidate and should look into this.
It’s reversible and people have asked me - when are you going to have it removed? I said they’d be tearing it out of my cold, dead hands; I’m never going to have it reversed. I don’t want to because in a year or two I would be back to 270 pounds and maybe beyond. That was my fate, and I really feel that this surgery gave me a new chance to have a new life and I am very glad I did it. I hope any of you that do it have as much success as I did. My only advice about surgeon selection is because it’s a new procedure people are getting proctored by surgeons from Europe and Latin America. It’s new in the U.S. so it’s difficult for people to go and get someone who’s had a lot of experience. It is possible to have the surgery done in Mexico, and some of those surgeons are the ones who are training the U.S. surgeons. So it’s perfectly conceivable to go down there, and if you’re paying out of pocket, it is less expensive. I had it done in Germany with an excellent surgeon, and a lot of plans do cover it now in the United States. I think this is the thing of the future for anybody who has chronic weight problems, and I wish you all a great deal of success. Thank you.”
At this time, three years post-op, Roberta is satisfied with the outcome of her surgery and hopes you have found her story helpful in your search for answers. Please direct any questions about LAP BAND surgery to your personal physician, or email the product makers directly at: http://www.inamed.com/contact/bio_patient.cgi. Due to time restraints Roberta Speyer and the OBGYN.net team cannot respond to personal emails.