I want to thank Doug Shaffer
for sharing his story:
While I am not a rich man in financial circles, nor a famous man in
the world of show business or sports, I have been a success at
everything I have accomplished in life.
As a young child I lived a sheltered
upbringing; growing up in a very safe, happy, Christian home. I
wasn't the brightest student in school. I got by and graduated as
part of a high school class full of the children of university
professors, children of automotive executives, and children of
elected politicians. I was not a great athlete, but I played four
years of high school football. In the service to my country, I was
not a jet pilot. I got by as a fuel truck driver in the U.S. Air
Force during the Vietnam era. I am not married to a movie or rock
star, but have been married one time and still married to the same girl
for the past thirty-seven years. Together we raised two fine sons,
who are productive adults and good citizens.
It is not my nature to brag about my accomplishments, but
throughout my life I have been successful in everything I had ever
done except one thing ... my weight. My excess weight has always
been in the way for me to accomplish more in life than I was able,
but ... I always got by.
I realized that excess weight had been
a problem for me for fifty years of my life. In analyzing a possible
trigger, I have come to a conclusion about the following. When I was
eleven years old, my family lost my younger sister very suddenly to
an illness. She was four and a half at the time. Within six months
my mother went to work to help with household expenses, but mostly
it was to help suppress her grief. This left my nine year old
brother and me at home after school to fend for ourselves. We were
the first of what are now called "latch key children." We were paid
a nice allowance to do chores around the house and to keep ourselves
out of trouble. During times after school, I look back now and
remember eating. It is my assumption that eating was my way to: a)
suppress my own grief over my sister's death, b) handle the stress
of watching over my younger brother, and c) have a friend in times
of loneliness. These poor habits and attitudes carried forward into
my adult life as a young newlywed husband, and later as a father,
while my career developed and progressed.
In looking back at my life, my career,
my social life, and to a degree contact with my friends, many of the
things I did were directly or indirectly related to my weight. I
made decisions based upon how my weight might enter into the
equation. Like many other obese people, I stayed away from the
following things that most people would not give a second thought
to. They were mirrors, weight scales, and personal or group pictures
with me in them. I wasn’t ignoring or refusing to accept my issues
with my weight. It had more to do with the reality of the issue. I
knew I didn't look good. It didn’t mean I had to look at myself to
remind me of how bad I appeared or how low I felt emotionally about
myself. It was a difficult emotion to be a success in so many
aspects of my life in addition to being a failure at maintaining my
In all phases of my life, I had
everything to live for. On a different level, I knew I was
shortening my life by continuing to carry the excess weight. I
wanted to live to be an old man in a rocking chair. I wanted to see
my future grandchildren, and I wanted to do it with my wife who
helped to get us both to where we are today. I was not ready to have
her live another twenty to thirty years after planting me in the
ground. I didn't want the pallbearers to strain under the weight of
my casket and then think that was the reason they were burying me.
It was not only unfair to me but more unfair to my wife.
After all the years of having a weight
problem, it was finally time for me to resolve this problem. Oh, I
had lost weight several times. I could lose weight anytime I wanted
to do so. But it would eventually come back and add more pounds to
my frame each time.
I knew I needed to have weight loss
surgery. I didn’t expect to have a "quick fix" and then go on living
as I always had been. I knew this was my last chance to do something
before it ended my life prematurely. My three goals to commit to
this procedure were; 1) to feel better and be less tired, 2) to get
my body healthy to live a longer life (hopefully), and finally, 3)
to get off three different medications for blood pressure.
My surgery was February 25, 2004. My
surgery was completed by Dr. Roche Featherstone of Grand Traverse
Surgery (GTS) in Traverse City, Michigan. At that time I was the
oldest patient locally to undergo the surgery. I was 57.
After making the commitment to change
my life, and surviving surgery, I worked very hard to achieve my
goals. I started working toward those goals within hours after the
surgery in the hospital that night. My first day home from the
hospital I began my walking program that has continued to this day.
It took me nineteen weeks to lose the first hundred pounds.
Ultimately I lost 140 pounds. Surgery day I weighed 321 pounds, and
by Christmas I weighed 181 pounds. Needless to say, the year 2004
was one of the very best years of my life. The decision for surgery
is, and was, easily the best personal decision I have ever made for
myself as an adult. Several times I have mentioned that I truly feel
half my age. I also enjoy the best health and am in the best
physical shape of my entire adult life. Since the day of my
“Re-birthday” I have experienced many of the happiest days of my
Dr. Featherstone (“Doc Roc” as I call
him) knows how I feel about him as I wrote a letter to thank him for
providing me “the tool.” How does a man thank another for saving his
life? My only way to say thanks is to promote GTS by “paying
forward” for others who will follow with the RNY surgery. This has
been done by speaking at seminars, contributing at the support group
meetings, publishing the support group newsletter, and providing my
opinion and my responses online to encourage others. I truly have
found a new calling in life in order to try and do my little part
helping other people get through this same procedure.
It has not been easy to post the “fat
pictures” online, to reveal and have your past life and pictures on
the television news, to expose my opinions, my emotions, or to speak
publicly about this. My attitude has always been - if I can help
just one other person then it all has been worth it.
Many have said that the first year of this journey is about
losing the weight. The second year is about the emotions. Few
realize that the emotional part is more difficult for some than the
physical side of this procedure. There are two things I always
mention when I speak at seminars. First, it has been said that
having bariatric surgery you are given “a tool.” I expand upon that
by saying, You are given a tool, but not a magic wand.” You still
have to diet and exercise like your “normal” skinny friends do.
Second, while being “reborn” one has to “fix” what is in his/her
head, and to “fix” what is in his/her heart. One must revisit past
emotions in your life to determine what caused the abuse. You must
put yourself as the number one priority. You have to learn to love
yourself once again or maybe for the first time in your life. Once
able to resolve these emotions, your weight, your waist size, and
the size of your hips/butt will take care of themselves.
My desire is to be an example to others who may be at the top of
the age scale. I wanted to prove that age is not a factor whether
one is able to successfully complete this program and lose weight as
normally as younger patients. My message to my obese brothers and
sisters is that you can do this, particularly the “older crowd.” I
want to appeal to and be a role model for the “kids,” half my age,
which shows by example, no matter your age or your physical
condition, you can reach your goals by being motivated, having a
plan, setting a goal, and working hard toward that goal. If you are
obese, you don’t have to live this life anymore. This isn’t rocket
science, even though the end result seems to work like rocket
science. All you really have to do is follow the program and to be
motivated. How simple is that?
I’ve never felt it is my role to
recommend the surgery to others. That determination is an individual
choice for each to conclude on their own timetable and on their own
terms. My life has been so blessed to realize and achieve my goals.
I’m blessed to have a great family, great friends, great co-workers,
a great support group, and a program that not only saved my life but
so many others as well. I have had the great pleasure of knowing and
watching many patients who have had tremendous success. There is so
much satisfaction for me now in observing the successes of
others. My current motivation is to help others to realize and to
achieve their goals. They only have to reach out and I will be there
to reach back.
Traverse City, Michigan
I love good news. If you have good news, a
success story to share, or inspiration,
please send it to me at
Barbara@WLScenter.com so that I can
include it in future issues.