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To All “Significant Others”

My name is Frank Thompson and I am the Webmaster of this site.  Barbara Thompson is my lovely wife.  I want to talk to all the husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, boyfriends, girlfriends or any other “significant other.”  If your loved one has asked you to read this section, congratulations on doing so.  I have gone through, and survived, what you are probably experiencing now and know that I can offer some words that will help you to deal with it.

About two years ago, our family doctor recommended that my wife see a nutritionist about her weight.  The nutritionist suggested several plans for her to lose weight, most of which were the standard: more exercise, better eating habits, identifying why people eat emotionally, and taking prescribed weight loss medication.  One of the suggestions, however, was for her to have weight loss surgery.  I was shocked.  How could this man come up with this?  Does he really know what he is talking about? 

My reactions then, were probably the same as your reactions now.  I know what most every one of you was thinking when your loved one told you that he or she was considering weight loss surgery.  I can hear your thoughts and your words now as I am writing this. 

“This is a major operation!”

“You are perfectly healthy!”

“You could die!!”

“What about the family?”

“What about just one more diet?”

“You are not THAT overweight!”

“How can they say that you are morbidly obese?”

“Why do something that will change your life forever?”

I could go on and on.  How do I know what went through your mind?  I know because I had the very same thoughts and emotions.  I think that anyone who finds out that their loved one is “volunteering” to undergo such a serious operation is naturally concerned about the consequences of such a drastic procedure.  I use the word “volunteering” because at that time, I did not fully understand the “need” for the operation.  I was worried about how this operation would change her life.  I was worried about how she would feel when we would go out to dinner with friends or when she attended a work related function that was centered around food.  I was worried about the fact that some surgeon was going to literally change her insides.  Cut some parts here.  Reconnect some parts there.  This surgeon was actually going to re-route my wife’s intestines to places that God never thought about.  I was horrified.  I was scared.  I was speechless.  And with all my worry for how this would change my wife’s life, I also wondered how this would change my own life and our family.  How could I eat in front of her without making her feel bad about not being able to eat more?  How could we go out for dinner and a movie?  How would I go on if she had complications and died?  It is amazing how many thoughts go through your head when you are panicking about the health of your loved one.

After I got over the initial shock, I was able to think a little more rationally and talked over the options with Barbara.  After hearing what she had to say, I still could not accept the fact that she needed such a serious procedure.  After much discussion, I talked her into trying another diet.  I would help.  I would go on a diet with her.  I would do anything to avoid the operation.  Being the wonderful person she is, she agreed to try one more time.  She went on another diet and watched what she ate.  She went to nutrition classes.  She exercised.  She did all the things that the nutritionist originally suggested except for the surgery. She did lose weight but she was not happy and was in constant pain from her back.  This is when I started to learn about something called “Co-morbidities.”

Many times when people are overweight, there are usually other problems happening now or problems that will develop in the future.  Barbara was in a car accident many years ago and has had back pain ever since.  The increased weight on her body was not allowing her to live life without pain.  Some days the pain was less.  Some days the pain was more severe.  But there was always pain.  This additional problem that is associated with the weight is called co-morbidity.  Being overweight makes a person vulnerable to many other problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and something called sleep apnea, when the person actually stops breathing when they sleep.  Barbara didn’t have any of these other problems then, but being overweight made her a prime candidate for developing these problems in the future.

Another problem that is not classed as co-morbidity is “quality of life.”  Barbara was not happy about her weight problem and the ever-present back pain.  She missed going shopping with our daughter, Erin, because she could only walk for a short time at the malls.  She felt bad that she could never fit into the slinky outfits that she wore many years ago.  She loves playing golf, but her back would be screaming at her after playing only nine holes.  Playing 18 holes of golf was absolutely out of the question.  She was taking prescribed and over-the-counter pain medication, going to a chiropractor several times a week, and even got treated several times at a pain center at a local hospital.  She was told that the treatments would give her some temporary relief but would not cure her problem, as long as she was heavy.

The turning point for me to accept weight loss surgery was one day when I found Barbara in the kitchen and in especially great pain.  She was crying and sitting in a chair with her head hanging low.  She looked up at me with her beautiful blue eyes that were now red and full of tears, and said that she was tired of being in pain all the time and wanted to go ahead with the surgery.  My heart melted.  I looked her in the eyes and I knew in that moment that we were about to take a new direction in our lives.  I could not continue to see the person I love most in this world, in so much pain and I could see that weight loss surgery was the only way to ever find an end to her misery.

Barbara had the pain, but your loved one may only be overweight.  My use of the word “only’ should not be taken as an indication that there is not a grave problem.  To be considered for weight loss surgery, the patent is normally 100 pounds or more over their ideal weight.  We have a cat and buy kitty litter in 33 pound containers.  To get a full appreciation of what an extra 100 pounds feels like, try strapping three of those containers to your belt.  Now spend a couple of hours trying to live your life.  I would not be surprised if you gave up after only a few minutes.

As the years go by and the person you love gets heavier and heavier, (which is typically what happens), co-morbidities will surely develop.  At some point, you and your loved one will be faced with the horrendous fact that the weight will never come off with conventional means, and the quality of life will deteriorate to the point that there will be a spiral down hill to early death.  With every passing day you will notice only small changes and think that there is not a big problem.  But things will be slowly getting worse until one day there will be a terrible disaster.   It is absolutely critical that something be done to manage the weight problem and it must be done now.  Any further delay will only add to your loved one’s misery and mounting health problems.

If weight loss surgery has been recommended to your loved one, I urge you from the bottom of my heart, to open your mind to the seriousness of the problem.  Make an effort to educate yourself about all aspects of the surgery.  Keep in mind that your loved one is in physical and emotional misery and desperately needs your help.

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