Weight Loss Surgery: Becky’s Journey

Becky in 1995

When Becky Sawtelle’s father died 17 years ago, she ate. When her marriage ended three years later, she ate. And when her older sister died of bone cancer six years ago, she ate. “Food has always been my comfort,” says Becky. “It’s the one thing I can control and it was always there.”

Becky’s comfort became her nemesis. Over the years she steadily put on weight, finally tipping the scales last summer at 272 pounds. She is only 5′ 3″ tall. Her body mass index (BMI) was 49. Anything over 30 is considered obese. “For the longest time I was in denial about my weight,” she says. “I’d be like, yeah, I know I’m overweight, but it’s not really that bad.”

One day Becky caught a glimpse of herself in a store window and was shocked at how big she was. “It’s embarrassing. You see yourself in a certain way.” After that, she acknowledged her weight by making fun of herself. “I don’t want people to think I don’t know that I’m overweight,” she explains, “so I make a joke about it. It’s easier to make fun.”

Becky is the kind of person you would expect to be the life of the party. Quick-witted, always making people laugh, and never one to hold back when she has something to say. But she stopped going out to social functions and turned down invitations from friends. “They would tell me I was funny and fun to be around, but I constantly wondered if people were making fun of me.”

She tried to lose the weight many times — was on lots of diets. “They’d work for a while,” she says, “and then I’d fall off the wagon. You don’t see the numbers going down as fast as you’d like and you get discouraged and think, whatever, I’m always going to be fat and just give up.”

Last summer, Becky’s doctor told her if she didn’t lose, she was on track to develop diabetes. Already on medication for high blood pressure, it was the jolt she needed to make a decision she hopes will change her life.

Next week Becky will be admitted to the Central Maine Bariatric Surgery Center at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where she will undergo gastric bypass surgery. She has been preparing for the past six months by taking nutritional classes, getting psychological counseling and going through a battery of medical tests. One revealed that her gallbladder was on the verge of rupturing and had to be removed.

Now, she is on a liquids only diet and counting down the days. She knows the surgery isn’t a cure, only a tool. A tool that she is determined to use wisely and well. She wants her life back. “I’m 41. I’m still young. What I look forward to most is being able to like what I see in the mirror. I’d also like to find somebody to spend my life with. I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me and this will only add to it. ”

Catching Health is going to follow Becky’s weight loss journey by posting weekly updates over the next several months. Next week we’ll find out how her surgery went and with the help of her surgeon, Dr. Jamie Loggins, explain the procedure.

If you have any questions you’d like me to ask Becky about her experience or her doctor about the procedure, please send me a comment. And don’t hesitate to add some well wishes and words of encouragement. I’m certain that she will appreciate the support.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.