“I’ve lost 96.5% of my excess weight and I’m so proud of it!”
Suzanne, 37, who runs a property development company with her husband, has suffered with weight gain over many years. ‘I’ve tried every diet and every tablet.’
About 10 years ago doctors found she had polycystic ovary syndrome, a medical condition which can sometimes hinder weight loss.
When Suzanne was at her 21-stone largest, she hated everything about her life. ‘I’m 6 feet tall. If I walked down the street people felt threatened by me and I’m just not like that. It was really upsetting. I just wanted to blend in.’
Suzanne would never go swimming with her children and if her husband told her they were going away on holiday she always said that she didn’t want to go. ‘I hated the thought of being on the aeroplane and not being able to sit in the seat properly, sitting next to someone and spilling over into theirs.’
The thought of shopping for clothes didn’t appeal to her either. ‘I could never find anything nice. People think you get to that size because you’re lazy, but with me it boiled down to an addiction to food. When I went shopping people would look into my trolley to see what I ate. I’ve got to be honest, I hated doing everything. It always got me down.’
Suzanne believes that her diet wasn’t particularly bad. ‘I’d eat throughout the day, though, even at work. I just loved chocolate and I always had a bar in my bag, and I’d eat crisps too. Carbs were my biggest downfall.’
From the moment she sat down to breakfast Suzanne would start to think about what to have for lunch. ‘I’d crave food all day and all evening. With every cup of coffee I’d have something to eat, like cakes I’d bought for the children – only they were really for me. I never felt full.’
The first wake-up call for Suzanne came when she was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure at the age of 30.
‘I’d seen what diabetes had done to my mum – she had lost her eyesight, her legs were constantly ulcerated and she had heart disease. My dad had died at 54 of a massive heart attack – I was worried sick I was going down the same route.’
Then Suzanne’s mother died of cancer. ‘Mum was insulin dependent and lost her eyesight through diabetes, but she was more depressed about that than she was about the cancer. More than anything else it was the thought of my mum and what had happened to her that spurred me on to lose weight.’
Although her mother was worried about her having surgery, Suzanne made up her mind that she wanted to have a gastric bypass.
‘I actually wanted to have “dumping syndrome*. I thought it would put me off eating. With the gastric band, yes, you have restriction, but I have heard of so many people cheating and liquidising chocolate and I thought that would definitely be me.’
Suzanne went to see her GP to discuss the possibility of weight-loss surgery. ‘My BMI (body mass index) was 35 – which is border-line. At my heaviest it was in the 40s and I knew it was creeping up. He told me to go away and do some homework into what I wanted. When I went back he agreed to refer me to weight loss surgeon Rob Macadam.’
When Suzanne went to see her surgeon she weighed 19 stone 8 pounds. No matter how hard she tried dieting, her weight just crept back on again. It was a vicious circle and by now she was at the end of her tether.
‘I spoke to patients who had already had weight loss surgery, and I went to the support group both before and after the op. It was reassuring to talk to other people in the same situation. You have to know what you are letting yourself in for.’
Suzanne was surprised when she was told by her GP that her weight loss surgery would be paid for by the NHS. ‘I couldn’t have afforded the surgery on my own. It was the NHS that enabled me to have it. How lucky I was – I felt like I had won the lottery to get funding for my op!’
Her husband initially didn’t want her to have surgery because of the risks associated with her obesity, but he went along to the support groups and talked to surgeon, who put his mind at rest. Before her procedure Suzanne went on a special pre-op diet and lost 18 pounds in two weeks.
‘The day of the op was a bit nerve wracking. I was the only person having the op on that day and I had to walk to theatre and climb onto the operating table myself which was a very bizarre experience.
‘Everyone put me at ease and told me this was common practice for overweight patients undergoing this op. The hospital itself was spotlessly clean and I was so well looked after by my team. The nurse was absolutely brilliant, too. She was with me all through the night and didn’t leave my room. I was at the hospital for four nights and from the beginning to the end of my stay the team was absolutely superb.
‘It was helpful to stay in hospital those few days after my procedure as the meals that were prepared for me gave me a good idea of the size of portion I would now be eating. It was good for me to learn about portion sizes because you don’t really know what you can cope with. The first few weeks were quite difficult.’