Carrie Joughin & Cyndee Sanders: Gastric bypass surgery

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By LISA KLOK

Carrie Joughin’s doctor told her she’d be in a wheelchair by the age of 50 if she didn’t lose weight. That’s when he suggested gastric bypass surgery.

Cyndee Sanders, too, decided to have the surgery to improve her health; she was struggling with diabetes. When her endocrinologist wrote “morbid obesity”  on her chart, Cyndee knew she had to do something.

For Carrie Joughin and Cyndee Sanders, gastric bypass surgery—a surgery intended to aid in weight loss— did more than improve their health; it also affected their lives.

twins They battled obesity for most of their lives, but the surgery wasn’t the first solution Carrie and Cyndee had considered to lose weight. Combined, the women tried over 10 different diets, including the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, Formula Three, Jenny Craig, Quick Weight loss, Slim-fast, diet pills, the cabbage soup diet, the Mayo clinic diet, the TOPS diet, Richard Simmons’ diet, Metabolife, Andy’s caramel chews and hot tea and the grapefruit diet.

LIFESTYLE—But more than their health, the weight was also affecting other things in their lives, simple things that others might take for granted.

Carrie said that at her son’s basketball games she would sit in the first or second row of bleachers because she would get winded climbing the stairs, keeping her from being up in the crowd.

She would also scan the room at events for places to sit based on how close the seats were. If there was an area where there was more room between people, she would sit there.

When she drove, Carrie would avoid wearing a seat belt and could just barely touch the gas pedal.

Seats were perhaps one of the biggest issues, especially at restaurants. Both women said they would avoid booths at all costs; at a table, they could sit as far back as they needed to.

Carrie and Cyndee also hated amusement park rides because of the tiny seats. Movie theatre seats weren’t much better.

Carrie also remembers going over to friends’ houses for get togethers and looking for the sturdiest lawn chair.

The weight also hindered the women from being involved in various activities.

“I would go, but I would sit on the sidelines and watch,” Carrie said.

Cyndee said her children would often want to go for bike rides and she would tell them, “maybe later,” hoping they would forget.

“I feel like I missed out on a lot, my kids missed out on a lot,” she said.

It may seem strange that in a society characterized by obesity being a “national epidemic,” weight is still a taboo subject and one of the last accepted prejudices.

 However, Carrie and Cyndee often worried about what other people thought during this time because of society’s obsession with being thin. Cyndee said she often worried that people were watching her when she was eating or making comments about her size.

“People are still very mean to overweight people,” Carrie said.

AFTER SURGERY—The weight loss surgery changed all of that for Carrie and Cyndee. Carrie has lost 140 pounds and Cyndee has lost 110 pounds since the summer of 2001, but it hasn’t always been easy.

“People say you’re taking the easy way out—it’s not easy,” Carrie said.

Gastric bypass surgery involves two parts: first, the stomach is separated so that it is considerably smaller. In fact, the fraction of the stomach still used after surgery is about the size of an egg.

The other part of the surgery shortens the small intestine and reconnects it to the remaining part of the stomach. This procedure reduces the amount of calories absorbed by the body.

The 30-minute procedure may seem simple enough, but it is life-altering.

Cyndee explained that they have to eat six small meals a day—small meaning a half cup to a cup of food. They also have guidelines for how many grams of sugar, fat and protein they can have.

Following the guidelines is important. Too much sugar or fat can cause cramping, vomiting, pain and gas. Too little protein can cause fatigue and hair loss. Too much food can even cause death.

Carrie said she’d heard of one woman who heated a jar of Cheeze Whiz to make it a liquid because surgery patients can have more liquids than solids. However, the woman didn’t realize the Cheeze Whiz would solidify again in her stomach, which caused her stomach to rupture.

And certain foods can cause problems for certain people. Carrie said she has to avoid sausage, rice and bacon, and Cyndee has a hard time digesting cheese.

“There are so many challenges and you have to be thinking about it every day,” Carrie said.

However, the lifestyle changes have been worthwhile to Carrie and Cyndee. Throughout the process, both have had a series of successes.

For Carrie, losing the first 50 pounds was an important goal. After she reached that, 75 pounds was her goal and then 100. She also took a picture when she could cross her legs, something she hadn’t been able to do in 20 years. She’s now had her rings re-sized two or three times and needs to have it done again, she’s bought name brand shoes that are not a wide width, button down shirts and jeans with a zipper.

Cyndee, too, looked forward to buying jeans while she was losing weight, but not just any jeans; she wanted a pair of Levi’s. She also wanted to be able to buy a pair of bib overalls and walk into any store to buy a shirt and pants.

And both women were able to overcome their fear of amusement ride seats. Carrie’s family went to Disney Land where she not only rode the rides, but didn’t have to take frequent rests while walking; Cyndee’s family went to Cedar Point.

For Carrie and Cyndee, the positives far outweigh the changes they’ve made and challenges they face from the surgery. Both women said they regret only one thing—not having the surgery sooner.

-March 24,2004 

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