Another year older

Wow. Five years. Already.

Have you ever had this feeling – all of a sudden you turn around and you realize ‘x’ number of years have passed by and you don’t know where the time went? I had that feeling late last week.

Five years ago today, I had the first of two operations, only one of which was scheduled, that has changed my life immeasurably from a physical standpoint. The true test of roux-en-Y surgery, more commonly known as gastric bypass or the even more-chummy “stomach stapling,” is how the patient is five years down the road.

On Dec. 7, 2002, I weighed 373 pounds when I first went to see the doctor in New York City that would eventually do the surgery. On Feb.17, 2003, I weighed 356 pounds when I went into the hospital for pre-surgical testing, fighting my way through a blizzard that dumped nearly two feet of snow on the New York metropolitan area.

After getting down as low as 202, now on Feb. 18, 2008, I weigh 217, still about 25 pounds more than I would like but most, if not all of that, is a pannus – an apron, call it a roll if you like – concentrated in my lower belly and probably will not be gone without some additional surgery.

That's not a vanity thing. It's more commonplace than most may realize.

The thought of going back under the knife is not an appetizing one. I appeared fine after the initial surgery in 2003, but had to go back in later that night after two liters of blood leaked into my abdomen because something in my new gut was not tied off properly.

So, bottom line, what can I do today that I couldn’t do then? I can walk with no pain. I can easily do 75-90 minutes on a cross-training selection on an elliptical machine, covering about 6 1/4 to 7 1/2 miles. Following that, torso crunches, torso rotation, inner and outer thigh exercises, shoulder and arm work. I don’t get winded, but I also am careful because I don’t want to add bulk.

I eat. Maybe not always as good as I should, but I do eat.

Last week, on my sick-ass drive to Windsor, Ontario for replica hockey sticks from McDonald’s, I did stop at Wendy’s for a fish sandwich and the dreaded “Baconator” – a double cheeseburger with six strips of bacon, I needed to try this.

The fish sandwich was gone fairly quickly. I ate maybe 60 percent of the burger later on while listening to the Roger Clemens flaying on the radio.

Giving up fast food and soda with sugar have been keys to the surgery’s long-term success. I will have McDonald’s or something similar maybe three or four times a year as opposed to four or five times per week in the past. I haven’t had soda with sugar in it since before the operations. Coke Zero works just fine for me.

Perhaps the weirdest thing that came from all this? A love of coffee. Before 2003, I would drink it rarely. Now, I average one good-sized cup per day … and yes, I know, I have an unhealthy crush on Starbucks Gold Coast made in a French press.

And as I have said in the past, I would go through this all over again – the second emergency operation, the year it took before I had my strength back completely, the chills, the vomiting.

There are still things in my life that I need to work on. I could be happier. I could use a job with more stable hours. But I do know this: when I explained to those around me why I would undergo such an invasive procedure, the best reason I could come up with is I didn’t want my parents to bury me. Additionally, I didn’t want to have my first heart attack at 44.

For that, all I need to do is get past Sept. 5, 2009.

And that’s why I celebrate on Feb. 18.

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