The word “FAT” has been a part of my vocabulary since as long as I can remember.
When I was 6, I called myself fat.
When I was 12, my dad called me fat, so I called myself fat.
When I was 14, I was muscular and was into sports, so I compared, and I called myself fat.
When I was 17, I was in boarding school, weighed 150 pounds, found boys who treated me poorly, used me, looked at me wrong, and I called myself fat.
When I was 18/19, I finally began finding myself… I was in college, I was finally realizing that my perspective of “Fat” was absolutely ridiculous. I was learning to slowly love myself, and by the Grace of God I found a man who loved me for everything I was, who in return helped me love myself even more.
Up until my 19th year of life, I had such a warped view of what being fat meant. I thought that because I was muscular and not a size 2, that I must have been a whale. That because I got used, cheated on, manipulated by men that it must have been because of me and how beautiful I WASN’T. My whole entire world and my worth revolved around how skinny, or not skinny, I thought I was.
A few months after I turned 20, my dad passed away tragically. His health had declined rapidly from around September of 2013 until he ended up in ICU at Mass General for about 3 months from January 2014 until March 2014 when he passed away. During this time I was my fathers only caregiver. I would drive an hour from Providence to Boston almost every evening to see him after a full day of school or work. I sat for hours in meetings with doctors, sat by his bedside just watching him and hoping and praying for a miracle. During this entire time he was unresponsive. When I maybe feel comfortable enough I will speak further about what it was like when my father was sick, but to say it was traumatizing and a life altering event for me, is an understatement.
I slowly over the next year and a half, started gaining weight. I was in severe denial. I was convinced my stretch marks appearing everywhere were just because of stress or because I was “losing weight rapidly”… the shit I made up in my head was endless. But the fact of the matter was, I was gaining weight, and quickly. Depression hit me, I was spending hours in my bed binge eating whatever felt good and tasted good because it was the only thing in my life I could have control over. It was the only thing that was satisfying me emotionally, and the only comfort I had. Food, as sad as this sounds, became my friend. And one of the only friends I had.
To make a long story short, over the next few years due to my gaining weight, stress and massive amounts of anxiety and depression I developed, I began experiencing very scary health issues. But at the height of it all was always my weight and what it was doing to my small framed body.
October of 2017 we moved to San Diego, California. I had never thought of gastric bypass surgery. I had never even considered it or thought about it, mostly because to be honest with you, I was in deep denial about just how large I had gotten and how much it was doing to my body. I knew I needed to change, so I began working out again at a local studio and met the sweetest coach who was determined to help me become my best self again. I was also starting to see new doctors out here, one of whom recommended me to see a nutritionist at our naval hospital. I saw her at the end of December in 2017, and at the time she had just finished her run as the nutritionist for the bariatric program at the hospital, and she began to tell me about it. The more I saw her, the more we spoke about it, the more she talked to me about my weight, my food choices, what I was doing to my body and physical self… the more I finally began to realize just what I had done to myself.
The morning of my gastric bypass surgery I weighed 278 pounds.
Almost 300 POUNDS.
I am terrified of hospitals. Terrified of surgeons, surgery. This would be my first surgery I would have ever had in my life. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up, terrified of complications, terrified of something going wrong and me regretting this huge change.
But the one thing I did know… if I didn’t do SOMETHING for myself, I wouldn’t be around to see my kids grow up. I would develop heart disease, I would develop diabetes, I would be at risk to develop severe hypertension, cholesterol issues. I would be a high risk pregnancy. The list went on and on.
Funny enough, James, my now fiancé, had been on a work up for deployment and wasn’t supposed to be there for my gastric bypass surgery. I had to take whatever date they handed me and I didn’t want to push it off further. He is a medic, and will fly people off the ship when they are sick or injured or in emergencies. I hadn’t heard from him in two weeks due to communications being down. At 5am that morning I get frantic texts saying “Courtney I’m here, I’m in San Diego.” “Courtney where are you I’m getting flown to your hospital with a patient” “Courtney I’m here please answer I am going to be there to see you for your surgery”. By the Grace of God, My best friend and biggest support system, was able to be there to encourage me before surgery and calm me down. Give me a kiss of good luck and tell me he was proud of me and that everything was ok. He was able to be there until around 3pm that day until they had to fly them back to the ship.
So at 7:10AM on August 22, 2018 I was wheeled back into the OR and they performed my gastric bypass surgery.
I woke up later that evening not in too much pain. Surprisingly the pain was well managed. I had to stay two evenings due to me having the gastric bypass my hospital likes to watch you for two nights. I was getting my sips in, walking around, not needing as much medication and was sent home.
The first few days were hell. Thankfully I had friends who watched over me, took care of me and Moose and came when I called them crying because I was in pain and sore and frustrated. I have a very great support group around me, and for a surgery and life change like this, it is very necessary. I was sore, very sore and completely exhausted. It was a lot for me to even walk around my house. I thought the exhaustion and tiredness would never end, but it did and I began to get better.
Two months had passed since August, and I began to have excruciating pain in my stomach right above my belly button. I had gone to the ER for it, they thought it was a minor ulcer because no other tests came back with anything, so I was sent home.
I scheduled an appointment with my surgeon for a week later because I was still in mass amounts of pain. On October 30th 2018, right after James had left for deployment, my surgeon admitted me to the hospital to do exploratory laprascopic surgery. I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t drink. I was nauseous, in pain, anxious, overwhelmed and completely alone. This was the first time I had started regretting my bypass surgery. I prayed and prayed very hard that evening and on the 31st I went in and successfully came out of my explorative surgery.
Thank GOD, there was nothing severely wrong with me. It turned out that I was completely fine besides the fact that I had scar tissue that had built up and wrapped around some of my remaining staples that had attached to my small intestine. It wasn’t severe, but they went in and removed it and the pain began to subside over the next few days while I was kept there. Unfortunately, a risk of laprascopic surgery is that they may hit an artery in your stomach and this happened with my second surgery. I had horrid pain, discomfort and nerve damage from it.
There are always risks with surgery. Especially stomach surgery. I was sent home with pain meds and thought I was doing ok… until I literally couldn’t eat, drink, or stand and long story short, two days later I ended up back in the hospital for 10 days because I was released too early from the hospital. They needed to get me stabilized, fed, and able to function on my own again, and I am thankful for my team of surgeons who were able to take care of me and make me be able to feel more human again before releasing me from the hospital again.
This journey was really hard. It’s been really hard and will continue to be hard. But would I do it again? Absolutely.
Not only do I feel the best I’ve felt in years, I finally know that I will have a healthier future. I will be able to have kids with James, see them grow up, run around with them. I will be able to go on hikes, ride on planes without an extender belt, workout with James, have experiences that I’ve never had before.. and so much more.
There is whole lot more to my entire story. There’s my mental health aspect, what I’ve been eating, how I’ve been working out, how long “recovery” has taken, etc. I will continue to divulge into this journey as I experience it and as I continue to get questions about it.
I want those who are struggling with their weight to always know that only YOU have the power to change yourself. No matter how hard things may seem or how dark your life may seem, there truly is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Making life changing decisions is difficult, but worth it. I am so much happier and lighter and able to just be my true self again. I wouldn’t change this for the world.
I am excited to continue to take you all on this journey. Only 5 months out and I cannot wait to see where I go from here.
If you have any questions for me, or want to hear more about my surgery process, recovery, post op, food, etc, please reach out to me via Instagram @Courtneyhayde or comment below.