i couldn’t fall asleep until 3 am last night. as the idea of surgery becomes more and more real to me, i have begun to consider the way i would feel if i was told i couldn’t have it. i remember my mom telling me “oh god, yes! it’s covered. out insurance covers that, and even the reconstructive surgery!” but my mom has a habit of jumping the gun. she wants nothing but the best for me, and to give me whatever i need. still, sometimes she overshoots her expectations, and i always foolishly believe her. so i spent all night looking up insurance coverage and all of the policies available. good news, i’m about 90 percent sure i should be covered.

I went downtown today to the hospital where I’m going to have my surgery for an informational seminar. one of the surgeons talked about the digestive system to a room full of overweight middle aged people and myself. he explained all of the options for surgery- roux- en- y, gastric sleeve, gastric banding. he explained the preparation process for surgery- papers that needed to be filed and tests that needed to be done… and pounds that needed to be lost.he said that patients need to lose 5% of their body fat before the surgery to both get them used to their new lifestyle and demonstrate their ability to adhere to a diet and lose weight. after the talk, i went to the bariatric clinic upstairs to get my initial weight. i stepped on the scale, and the nurse wrote down a number. 315.4. she asked me some questions, including my date of birth.


“how old are you?”


“uh, hon, you have to be 21 for surgery.”

“you’re joking, right?”

“wish i was. we’ll have to have the NP give you a call.”

i knew it was too good to be true. i left the office feeling like a deflated balloon, ready to go back to my fat life in my parents’ house forever. i tossed my half- inch thick application folder on the back seat of my car and drove home in tears. i got home and immediately looked up other hospitals in the area, trying to find another solution. the only other hospital that offered the surgery only practiced open bypasses, where they cut open your entire stomach lengthwise. this includes a far longer recovery time, one that as a student, i do NOT have, a far greater chance for infection, more pain, and a serious scar.

i was stressed, to put it lightly. and as i sat on my bed browsing the web for more options, i began to question whether or not i ever really intended to have this surgery. whether or not i could ever set my mind to an complete a major task.

then the phone rang.

“hi Jenna? Jenna this is Tammy at the General Hospital. Hi how are you. Yeah i was just calling to let you know that i talked to the surgeons and they said as long as you have the support of your doctor and family, everything should be fine with going through with the procedure.”

i’m back, baby.

the biggest wave of relief i’ve ever felt poured over me.

i just finished filling out my application, which is going back to the hospital as soon as i get my doctor’s letter.


breaking the news

My mom told me that when her and my father got engaged, she was a little nervous about it. So she milled it over in her head for a while and told me that the way she looked at it, as soon as she told her friends and family, it would become real. You can’t backtrack after you drop major news, right?
So I’ve taken this mentality about my surgery- even though I haven’t had an official consultation from a surgeon yet, I am absolutely 100% positive that I am going through with this surgery. I don’t care if these surgeons end up telling me they don’t have room for me, I’ll go somewhere else. Barring some kind of medical catastrophe to keep me from it, this surgery is mine.

The first person I told was my sister. I was watching TV with her and every time I tried to make the words come out of my mouth, I felt absolutely sick. I probably sat there a whole hour, forming the words with my mouth, trying to force them out. Sweaty nauseous and dizzy, I finally uttered the phrase that I had never said out loud before: “I’m having gastric bypass surgery” I couldn’t believe myself- why was I so nervous to tell my own sister something that¬† I’m happy about?

Because telling people makes it real.

Every time I’ve told someone since then, the prospect of my surgery becomes closer and closer- not in time, but perhaps closer to my heart; more a part of myself. This IS happening.

I went for coffee at my grandparents’ house the other morning, and as I stared down at my cup during a lull in conversation, the same feeling worked its way up inside of me that I had felt the day before with my sister. As my mom stood out of view, wide eyed, prompting me to spill the beans, a smile grew on my face. I love my 90- year- old grandparents like second parents. Or maybe I love them like children. They have been through so much in the past ten years- my grandma had breast cancer when I was thirteen and just last winter my papa had emergency open heart surgery. My first instinct is always to protect them, as they have spent their entire lives doing for us- my entire family. They care so much about all of us; I think they really see us as pieces of themselves that will live on after they’re gone. As much as I knew the news of surgery might worry them a little, I know that they’re ultimately concerned with my health and my happiness and my hope and ambition for the future. At first when I told them, they were a little confused. But when I explained the process and the effects it will have on me, the same smile emerged on their faces. Honestly, it was the best I’ve felt since I began my process last week. It’s weird because thus far, I’ve wanted reassurance as a confidence booster for myself, but with my grandparents, I wanted to give them confidence in me.

I told my best friend Liz next. She’s not tiny, but hardly as overweight as myself. She acted puzzled when I told her. “Well aren’t you gonna have to like, work out?” was the bulk of what she had to say about it.

It’s not a really great feeling to get doubt when you’re expecting support. I don’t know what about my personality would make my friend think that I’m not capable of achieving a task I set my mind to. Maybe it’s something about her personality; that’s all I can hope. After this talk with Liz, I concluded a few things about telling my friends and family about my decision:

Not everyone is going to give me the reaction I want, but It’s important for me to remember to be patient with my loved ones. They haven’t lived my life as a 300+ pound person, and they haven’t been to the doctors with me, or done the research I’ve done. They may not realize the far-reaching impact this surgery is going to have on so many aspects of my life. Furthermore, they may be puzzled by my news for a number of reasons. Turns out Liz didn’t actually know what gastric bypass was, and assumed that I was referring to liposuction. In that case, I can hardly blame her for her reaction. My mom told me that she’s had a few friends who have undergone the surgery, and she admitted that she was unsure of how to react to it. She said that she hesitated to act overly excited, not wanting to make the person feel like this was such an improvement from their disgusting past image. On top of that, a lot of times people have this surgery in the wake of a lot of bad weight- related news. You’re not exactly throwing a party when you find out your diabetes and blood pressure are out of control.

But I’m 19. I’m healthy. I have a bright future, and I AM throwing a party.

Just this little encounter with Liz has opened my eyes to reactions I could face when everyone i know finds out about my surgery. But This is MY journey. not theirs. I am responsible for myself, my actions, and my future. I am capable of facing down a challenge. I do not need approval or reassurance that I am making the right choice from anyone besides my doctors. I am strong, and I have the support of my family. That is enough for me. People may not understand what this surgery is going to entail. They may jump to conclusions, or even say hurtful things. They may think that I’m copping out by having surgery instead of just relying on diet an exercise. I can’t make everyone understand what this surgery means to me, and I can’t convince everyone that I’m doing the right thing. I am going to have a lot to deal with over the next year and for the rest of my life, and I don’t have enough time or energy to care about everyone’s opinions. It’s not my burden to change everyone’s opinion- my commitment is to myself.


My name’s Jenna. I’m a college sophomore and law school hopeful, and I’ve recently moved back to my home town. I consider myself a hard worker; rarely do I fail. and when I do, I don’t take it very lightly. I have a good life, good friends, and a relatively good self- image. I like to have fun, and I like to work hard. I think of myself as level- headed; I identify myself as a leader. I’m creative- I like to paint, but I’ve had less time for it in my college years.

The past few months have been somewhat of a low point for me. I moved home from Pittsburgh, where I attended the school of my dreams, in order to save money by going to a local university. I took the change pretty rough, but I’m reaching a place where I’m grateful for this experience. Being at home and working at my own pace, I’ve learned that I’m more than my credentials; I’ve realized that certain things are possibly more important than the way I see myself academically.

You see, I’ve spent as long as I can remember critiquing myself on my academics and my professional image that I’ve spent little time truly questioning the way I see myself as a person. In this respite of moving home, I realized that I’ve been so tunnel- visioned, I never considered the fact that my success is nothing without good health.

I’ve been overweight my whole life. both of my parents are overweight, as are my two younger siblings. I conceded at a young age that being fat was just the way I was, a fact of life; the way God made me. I remember that all through grade school, I saw myself as massive. If I had to guess, the way i labeled myself started at a very young age, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. I think it was because I matured at an early age, feeling cumbersome and awkward around my tiny peers. What could have remained as little more than a few awkward years for an early bloomer spiraled way out of control.

My mom was alarmed by my size. I was registered for weight watchers at nine years old, and when that proved unsuccessful, I was taken to an eating disorder psychologist when i was maybe 12. Don’t get me wrong, I think my mom has always had my best interest in mind; I may have just been less receptive than she had hoped for.


me 10/01/11 - 320 lbs

since those years, I’ve continued to gain weight. Yes, you read that right: I now weigh three hundred and twenty pounds. The part that frustrates me the most is that when I look at pictures of myself from eighth grade, I don’t really look all that big; I hardly look out of place. I remember feeling horrible about myself at the time, but I feel even worse now. Did I have any idea that my situation was going to get this bad? Why didn’t I see how preventable it was back then?

The part that scares me the most is the thought that this is going to keep happening if I don’t stop it. If I’ve gained almost 100 pounds since the time I started high school, what am I going to look like when I look back at pictures of myself today and think that I look healthy? Will I be able to walk then? Will I have diabetes? I sure as hell won’t be a successful lawyer.

I’m an adult now, and I’ve learned to listen to myself. I need this vicious cycle to end NOW so that i can get on with my life. I don’t want to wait until i’m middle aged, desperate, and filled with regret. I’ve decided that in order to profoundly and permanently¬† change the course of my life, I’m going to need help. I think I’m ready to admit to myself that my situation is somewhat dire. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m ready for change.

I’ve decided to have weight loss surgery.

For right now, my mom and my doctor are the only people that know. I’ve applied to the bariatric surgery department at a recommended hospital, and I’m waiting for an appointment.

I decided to create this blog for a number of reasons. There’s a lot to be talked about. I want to remember and share every detail of this life-changing experience- as a sort of souvenir, and also as a tool to help other young people through similar experiences. It’s also sort of cathartic for me- I’m almost not sure if I’ve ever even realized some of the things I’ve written thus far until I put them down in words. I plan on posting mainly about my surgery process, but I can already tell that during my journey, I will be faced with issues of relationships, hope, resilience, failure, self-image, and responsibility. I want this to be a place where I can hash out my feelings and though processes about my challenges.

I know that what I have decided to do is not going to be easy. I want to make it clear right now that based on my life’s circumstances, I do not see another viable option aside from surgery to become a healthy adult. I don’t want anyone to think that I think major surgery is a blanket solution for obesity. In fact, for right now, I don’t want anyone to think i have any sort of opinion about obesity in general. Maybe some day I’ll sort all of those feelings out, but for right now, I’m doing me.