Patient Testimonials

Annmargaret Conway

I was asked to share a few words about my experience with gastric banding. If anything I have experienced can help someone else that will be a thrill in it self. I find it so surreal that I spent 10 years trying to avoid bringing any attention to my body and me and now here I am taking the chance of bringing on the thing I feared the most.

As I look through the pictures in my photo diary, I run a gamut of emotions of shame of how I use to look and the excitement of actually enjoying having my photo taken. I had fewer than a half dozen pictures to choose from for my "before" picture as I never wanted my photo taken.

When I decided to undergo Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band surgery, I had reached a point where my weight was influencing just about every aspect of my life. Although I was not obese my entire life I did struggle daily with my obsession with food and body image.

I was put on my first diet at 9 years old. I weighed 96 lbs. I never even thought about weight before then but from that day on I though daily about how much I weighed and if I my clothes would be too tight. It is funny that when I look back at my high school picture when I thought I was huge. In reality, I fluctuated from average to chubby. I was skinny for my senior year thanks to a lovely combination of playing soccer, diet pills and bulimia. It worked pretty well, or so I thought, until I was about 21 and then each year the weight began to crawl. By the time, I was 30 I weighed 200 lbs. In the 8 years following the weight continued to build up until I topped the scales at 297. Not only was I obese, but also morbidly obese as if just obese was not disgusting enough. It is not as if I did not try to diet. Diets, I have tried them all. Weight Watchers, Atkins, grapefruit…then there was starvations, bulimia, over the counter diet pills and then prescribed diet pills. That last combo almost did me in. Finally, after amassing an array of weight related disorders high blood pressure, sleep apnea, asthma, shortness of breath,and water retention, my physician suggested I go see Dr. Ren. I knew very little about weight loss surgery but I was so desperate to change I would have tried anything. Therefore, I met with Dr. Ren and went over my options and in June of 2002, I underwent Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band surgery.

Almost three years after the operation here are the changes.

Beginning weight: 297
Present weight: 152
Beginning clothing: size 24
Present clothing: size 8 some 6’s
Beginning Bra size: 55 F
Present Bra size: 38 B

I cannot say it was a smooth ride. I don’t do smooth. I am stubborn and thick and think I have control of everything. Well this devise and God showed me differently. The food withdrawal during the first 6 mos., especially the first 6 weeks was brutal at best. I remember, and not proudly, the day I called my sister Joanne to tell her I had licked the French fry pan in desperation. I did not adhere to the rules at first. I cheated, I pushed it, I vomited and finally, I learned. Not overnight, not even in six months. It took a year for me to realize when you are full you are full.

I like instant gratification, not a pretty trait I possess but I do. I wanted to be thin right away. The weight loss was continuous. Not fast, but constant.

My sister Mary had gastric Bypass and the weight just poured off. It was so frustrating. I was so happy for her but I was still fat. Even after a 100-pound weight loss, I was still fat. Now that was frustrating. I learned a lot about myself during that time and realized that I had to change my insides both emotionally and spiritually for this to be successful. I could be stick thin but if I don’t like myself, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Once I came to the point in my life when I started to respect and like myself and built up my relationship with God everything else started to come together.

Actually, in reality, the slow weight loss was better for my body. My skin, although loose was not as excessive as it can be with gastric bypass surgery. I did have to have breast reduction surgery in April 2004. It was my 40th birthday present to me. My breasts have always been big so when I lost weight they looked heinous. The reduction made a tremendous difference in my appearance. What a joy to be able to buy a bra in any store and not have to buy a top that is 3 times bigger than your bottom. In March 2005, I had a tummy tuck and excess skin removal. It is still too soon to see the difference but I am anxious to see the new me. I am done after this. I am what I am and I don’t need anymore "home improvements".

Obviously, besides the physical changes there were mental and emotional ones to deal with also. As much as I "prepared" myself for the changes that would occur with my weight loss I could not help but be amazed at other peoples reactions both good and bad. It was nice to have the compliments of looking good or compliments on my dedication. However, it was the other comments that tended to stick out. How sad after all these years that those negative things would still make a difference. This country is very prejudiced against heavy people and although I was aware of the prejudices it wasn’t until after I lost the weight that it became all so evident. I actually had a friend cut off all ties when I became thin. I have had a "former" friend say, "You know what, I am glad you are thin, I don’t like fat people". Then my favorite is "You are so pretty now that you are thin". Ok, I may be more attractive with my new look but thin and heavy have NOTHING to do with pretty, and that was just wrong. Oh yeah, here’s another favorite. "Boy, you lost your other half". You know what, that is not a compliment. I know I was big, I know I lost a lot of weight but saying that way is just mean. So of course, my response was "Yes, I did, unfortunately the half I lost was the nice part, the bitch is still here!"

Overall, I am very blessed to have had this opportunity. If I did not have this surgery my life would be limited if I had a life at all. My medical disorders have cleared up. I can now do things that I always wanted to do. Last year I coached my daughter in softball. How exciting it is to do active things with her and try to set a better, healthier example by doing and not telling. I can shop anywhere. I can wear any style. I can sit in a movie theatre and airplane seat comfortably. I don’t worry about breaking other people’s furniture when I sit down. It’s a great place to be. I like my body, my life and most of all I like myself.