Cindee's WLS Journey

ABOUT ME: My name is Cindee Allen. I was obese. I wanted a better life, a healthier life, and a longer life. I was scheduled for the gr-ds procedure on October 15th, 2002. I was 35 years old, 238 lbs with a BMI of 39.4. I had been up to 267 pounds just a year before!

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Ray and I have 3 wonderful teens around whom our lives revolve - Bubba is 18, Emma is 17, and Steven is 15. Ray has two grown children Brian, 24, and nena, 26, and we have 3 beautiful grandchildren 7, 3, and 6 months whom just don't see often enough but they are always in our hearts if not in our daily lives. Cindee & Ray We have a houseful of dogs that keep us busier than the kids at times! We have 2 AKC Dalmatians (what else would a firefighter have?), and 5 mutts (Beagle/Terrier/Chihuahua/Pomeranians and a Jack Russell "terror") that literally rule the house! Life is chaos, but it is controlled chaos and we adore it!

I was born and raised in Tulare, Ca. where I attended school, married, started a family and then spent 8 years volunteering full-time as a teacher's assistant. I moved from my hometown to Hanford, Ca in 2000 and volunteered for the American Red Cross - NAS Lemoore as an Office Assistant for 3 years. Ray is the Training Officer - Federal Fire NAS Lemoore. He spends his days on base and I have taken time time off from volunteering to enjoy the kids WHILE they are still kids! We still spend our weekends, afternoons, and evenings at baseball and football games and Ray officiates high school and youth football and baseball during the seasons. This year we are watching our youngest, Steven, as he gets ready to play Varisty football for Hanford West and we marvel at the changes in not only OUR lives, but the lives of our kids.

I had this surgery not because I hated the way (I always thought I was a beautiful BBW!) looked but because I hated the way I felt! I just wanted to be able to walk to our stadium seats without pain, to sit in the normal section instead of the disabled section and to be able to enjoy life again! Life is too wonderful to miss out on so much of it by being obese! For those who know me well, and understand the emotions behind these words...."I WANTED TO GET ON TOP!".

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I was born with a condition called Scimitar Syndrome. I have a hypoplastic (underdeveloped and missing several lobes) right lung and asthma. I also have a severe case of scoliosis as a result of my left lung over-expanding to compensate for the lost right lung volume and pushing my spine, trachea, and internal organs to the right side of my body. I spent many years on steriods for recurring respiratory infections caused by this disorder and so began a vicious cycle of illness, weight gain and loss of mobility that ended with me at 250+ pounds. My blood pressure was sky high at the age of 31, my asthma worsened, I was breathless and exhausted upon any exertion and I developed GERD. The reflux made the respiratory problems worse and I battled pneumonia quite often. I developed apnea and woke up exhausted. I spent so many nights in the ER that I knew the staff by first name and they knew my history by heart! I had back pain from the scoliosis, and my hips and knees started aching from arthritis. I was diagnosed with arthritis related to obesity. I also was fighting the battle of my life with severe depression and OCD and my blood pressure was high enough that a stroke was in my future!

By 1998 I was a hefty 267 pounds and wearing a size 26/28. My friends and family told me I was beautiful but I knew I needed to lose weight to be healthy. A friend talked me into visiting a local health club that offered kids activities and childcare at a reasonable cost and I felt comfortable there so I joined. Blame it on my OCD or just plain determination but I literally lived at that gym that year. At 8am I was there, and I stayed until 8pm. I started flower walking 5 minutes at a time until by the end of the first month I was up to an hour on the treadmill without even raising a sweat and several months later I was up to 3 hours a day on the treadmill as well as 3 water aerobics classes every afternoon. I spent every free minute in the pool, the weight room, or on the treadmill. I lived on water, nutrition bars, and salads, but little else. By the end of that summer I had lost 57 pounds. I was by no means small, but I was down to a size 16/18. My blood pressure dropped, my asthma improved, the reflux was gone, and my arthritis pain was relieved. I even stopped snoring! At 195 lbs I actually felt like there was hope for a normal life. But all too soon reality struck. I couldn't stay at the gym 12 hours a day. I had three children who wanted and needed their mother at home and my marriage was falling apart. I cut my hours at the gym, my marriage dissolved anyway, and after 14 years together we filed for divorce. Thus began a new chapter of my life.

In early 2000 I moved to Hanford with the love of my life. I was about 190 pounds but happy and semi-healthy. I soon began to battle respiratory infections though and with every bout of pneumonia and each asthma attack I took more steroids and the weight started coming back. My lifestyle became slower and I grew sicker. I watched the scale climb to 195, 200, 215, 220, and all the way back up to 250+. My health began to deteriorate and soon I was back on all those meds I had left behind 2 years earlier. My doctor told me simply "lose weight or die." I was being considered for supplemental oxygen, I needed a wheelchair to go to the mall, and walking to my mailbox left me exhausted. I was miserable, in pain, and depressed. Because of my lung disorder they refused to allow me to try Phen-Fen and Meredia and Xenical were not covered by my insurance so drugs were out of the question. I had already tried many diets and exercise programs but the steroids always caused the weight to come right back on. It was a vicious cycle of illness and weight gain and I felt hopeless and doomed to live what was left of my life fat and sick.

One winter day in 2001 I was sitting at my desk in tears because I hurt. I was so damn sick and so damn tired that I couldn't even walk to the bathroom down the hall! I just wanted to feel human again! I remembered something one of Rays ex-wives had said to me about weight loss surgery and I began to wonder of it could work for me. I knew several people who had RNY's and I was intrigued. What WAS this magical procedure? How did it work? Was a a candidate for WLS? I spent that day at work online researching the RNY. I didn't like the side effects of it but it sounded better than the life I was living. I started calling surgeons in my area and found that my insurance would cover the surgery, but there were 6-12 month waiting lists for a consult alone as well as a 2 year wait for a surgery date and that was IF I was overweight enough to qualify. At a BMI of 39.4 I was just a few pounds "underweight"! I was so frustrated, I knew I would never last that long, and I just didn't have the energy to fight for it. So I said a prayer, gave it all to God and I waited.

Six months later in June of 2002, I was online at the Red Cross when I ran across the duodenal switch website. I started reading and comparing it to the RNY as well as other procedures and I began to wonder why no one had ever told me about THIS procedure. I started asking questions and I could feel my hopes rising with every word I read! The quality of life was so much better post-op than the RNY, the side effects much lower, no dumping syndrome, no plugged stomas, the variety of foods tolerated were more varied than the RNY and the weight losses seemed to be maintained much longer than any other surgery.

I looked for surgeons in my area, found Dr K in Delano and was amazed that he was only 45 minutes from home! I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, said a long heartfelt prayer, and I told God that if THIS was the right one for me, He needed to let me know and soon! I picked up the phone and I dialed it, all the while holding my breath and waiting for the words "at least 6-12 months" or "we don't accept your insurance". When the words finally came from the other end of the phone my chest got tight, my eyes started tearing up, and I couldn't even speak. I was told that No, they did not have a waiting list for consults, YES, they accepted my insurance, Yes, they could schedule a consult without a referral, and my appointment was then scheduled for 10 days later on June 13th, 2002!

I remember forcing the words " I will be there" out through the tears and I hung up the phone and I cried. I sat there and thought to myself "Sometimes God say YES, sometimes God says NO, and sometimes God says NOT YET!"   My time had come and I believe with all my heart that RNY was just the wrong choice for me.........

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