As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
This is Terrilyn Smith's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Have a consultation.
Research and select a doctor in my area for months.
Meet with a Patient Care Coordinator to review steps required by my private insurance to cover costs.
Four monthly sessions with a Nutritionist.
And a sleep study.
This was my vertical sleeve gastrectomy process. All of the above took five months to complete in order for my case to be submitted to my insurance. The surgery was approved and scheduled for June 11, 2018.
That was the day my life changed.
Courtesy of Terrilyn Smith
In my 20's, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which means my thyroid was enlarged and didn't produce enough hormones for my body to function properly. This caused excessive weight gain and fatigue. I fought this disease for seven years; seven long years of up-and-down weight loss and weight gain.
My body was exhausted.
In 2017, my weight reached 300.4lbs despite working out, eating "right" and drinking tons of water. Nothing was working.
I was fed up. I decided it was time to make a decision to live.
I searched the internet for the best viable options: liposuction. Gastric bypass. Ultimately, I settled on Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (also known as VSG) as my method of choice. Simply put, with VSG, the surgeon removes a portion of your stomach, roughly 15%. The result is a sleeve or tube-like structure—which limits your amount of food intake, thus making you feel full sooner after eating small amounts of food.
I researched every single component of VSG; it became a part of me like a best friend. I immediately learned that this wasn't going to be a quick or easy choice. But once I finally decided on moving forward—and with who—the hard work began.
Courtesy of Terrilyn Smith
There were so many factors involved in something as simple as basic surgery approval, and when you're approved, Phase II of a separate selection process begins. I was on a liquid diet for two weeks prior to surgery to shrink my liver so that no complications would emerge. And it was absolute hell. I remember praying often and clearing my life of all distractions to help me cope with moving forward and I didn't share my decision with many people being that I didn't want their opinions to cloud my mind. I needed a clear head going into surgery.
My mom and sisters became my support system. They were extremely supportive throughout the entire process. My children and the rest of my family didn't know that I was having the surgery until right before my surgery date. Again, I didn't want opinions or for anyone to be worried.
Surgery lasted for less than an hour and I was moved to recovery. I chose to stay the night in the hospital to ensure proper recovery. Post surgery, I was placed on a liquid diet again for another two weeks, and slowly transitioned into soft foods during week three. Solid foods were reintroduced after week four. The focus during these weeks was water, protein and vitamin intake. I also walked daily to assist with recovery.
When the dust settled, and I was able to work out aggressively, I knew I made the best decision for me.
But, why? How did I determine that I was going to have the VSG surgery?
I tried so many methods throughout my life, guys. Ultimately I was fighting my own body. I needed a boost to help me reach my goals. I needed a positive direction. I chose this route because it was the one that would save my life. And I feel like anyone should choose this route after researching and deciding it's something that they're ready to commit to. It takes a lot of work and changes your life completely, sure.
But now, my only regret is not doing it sooner.
During post-op, self-love began to set in. My lifestyle changed, my relationship with food flipped. I became someone able to consciously tell myself, "you're not hungry", "you're full", or "that junk won't fix it!" I also save a lot of money when eating out because I'm either splitting meals or just having appetizers.
Addressing my food addiction forced me to acknowledge that I needed to find another way of dealing with the stresses of daily life. I worked out prior to surgery, but now, my workouts are a form of therapy. I value that alone time and I crave it. I even became the Dallas Chapter Leader for Black Girls Hike Global. Me. A former 300-pound woman. I'm outdoors hiking every chance I get. It brings me so much peace.
Today, I enjoy the little things. Things that people take for granted—shopping for new clothes and sliding in pants 3, 4, 5, 6 sizes smaller than I wore six months before, walking up and down a flight of stairs without getting deathly winded, and physically feeling my confidence rise at an all-time high. It was as if my body was melting away.
And the more it melted, the more I became focused on my goals, happiness, and the success of my journey.
I'm on my new life's path and I'm here to encourage those who are struggling to take back their health. Do your research, plan out all steps, and commit. I was prepared for everything that has come along with this process because I did my research.
Look to women who have been through the surgery for motivation. I surround myself with like-minded individuals who are on health and wellness journeys as well. A couple of my favorites are @thechicandsavvybelle and @travel_sleever_keto_diva.
In the end, just trust yourself and do what works for you. Other people will have something to say, but you are the only one that can live your life.
Live for YOU! Your journey, your way!
To keep up with Terrilyn and her journey, follow her on Instagram @whos_phat_vsg.
Featured image courtesy of Terrilyn Smith