Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In which Carnie Wilson, the supposed WLS Failure, schools MacMadame, the supposed WLS success

The Keynote speaker at this year’s WLSFA’s Mother of All Meet and Greets was Carnie Wilson. Carnie is probably the first WLS celebrity. She had her first WLS back in 2000 or so and, unlike other celebrities such as Star Jones who initially denied that they even had WLS, was very public about it from Day One. She even had her actual surgery broadcast over the internet!

As is normal when you are pretty public about your private life, this invited a lot of scrutiny and criticism which intensified when she had problems with regain after the birth of her children. I’ve written about Carnie before and how I didn’t think 100% of those criticism were fair or accurate.

A few weeks before the convention, a question was posed in my Facebook feed: Would you go to see someone talk (at WLS Conference) about WLS success who had regain and a revision. Pretty much EVERYONE was saying NO WAY. And: what would such a person ever have to say to me?

I found that rather interesting given my new feed was also full of people excited to be going to Vegas to hear and meet Carnie Wilson. Who is a WLS patient who is struggling with regain and who had recently had a revision.

Now I wasn’t kept score so it’s possible that there was absolute no overlap between these two groups of people. But somehow I doubt it. And, yes, I did mention that in response to the question and also said my personal answer was that it would depend. For one thing, I was definitely looking forward to hearing Carnie. So clearly there are circumstances where I would go to see a revision patient or someone struggling with regain talk.

I was not disappointed in Carnie’s talk, either.

Carnie is warm woman and a funny speaker. She’s also a bit crass and there were some f-words and some craps in there. This amused me as I’ve been known to let a few fly myself, particularly when I’m struggling with a particularly hard software bug.

While I was interested in her story because she has so publicly struggled, I assumed that she -- someone who was struggling -- had nothing to teach me. In this I was wrong.

I also had made some assumptions about her story and her journey because of how publicly she lives her life. I assumed she had just jumped into WLS without a lot of research and had gone the band over bypass route for her revision because, well, Allergen paid her. I was wrong about that too.

As Carnie talked -- about being teased for her weight as a kid, about struggling with it, about the Wilson Phillips publicity machine trying to turn them into sex objects and how distressing that was, about dating, and her family, and having kids, about first considering WLS and researching the crap out of it, about making changes in her life after surgery -- I realized that she was just like the rest of us who struggle with our weight and turn to weight loss surgery.

Like all of us, her experience had its unique aspects that were all her own, but way more of its universal aspects that we could all relate to. I, saw too, that her struggles were not the struggles of the patient who wasn’t willing to change her life, but the patient who still had food demons and also who got farther out and forgot a bit of where she came from and started to bend the rules, as most of us do to some extent or another as we get farther and farther from our surgery date.

This made me think about Angela Jolie who recently announced that she had the BRCA1 gene that caused breast and uterine cancer and, as a result had had a double mastectomy. Some people online were trying to make the argument that because she was rich and famous that going through this wasn’t a big deal, not like it would be for someone poor. I jumped all over them and said money doesn’t protect you from fear of dying and from the mental aspects of having to lop off your breasts.

But here I was doing the same thing to Carnie Wilson -- assuming that because she was Carnie Wilson that she couldn’t possible have been teased as a kid for being fat. Or assuming that her experience growing up with a crazy father couldn’t possibly have been as bad as my experience growing up with a crazy father. I mean: she’s Carnie Wilson!

One of the reasons I still go to support groups this far out and why I go to these conferences when I can is that meeting other WLS people helps me. Hearing other people’s stories helps me and I always get something from it. If Carnie hadn’t been famous, if she was just some gal I met on a support group, online or in real life, I would have assumed there was something I could learn from her just like everyone else I meet at these things. Instead I just wanted to hear her story because of curiosity. But I assumed that, when it came to WLS, I had nothing to learn from her.

So some things I learned:

Carnie struggled with the decision to have WLS just like we all did. She researched like crazy and picked her doctor carefully. She changed her life afterwards like you are supposed to. (I think her show gave me the wrong idea about that -- gave me the idea she was one who expected the surgery to do all the work.)

When she got thin, she had the same issues with loose skin that we all do. She talked about taking a bath and playing with the loose skin that would float up in the tub. Boy could I relate to that moment -- especially playing with your skin in the bathtub!

That’s when she decided to have plastic surgery.

She also said that when she had plastic surgery and posed for Playboy that her head wasn’t in a good place. Of course, this isn’t supposed to happen. When we’re thin and pretty, everything is supposed to be great. It’s when we’ve regained that we supposed to hate ourselves and be in a bad place.

But it seemed to me that Carnie was actually in a pretty good place right now.

That will probably drive the Fatty Haters mad but it’s okay with me. Getting some peace about your weight is something I hope for everyone and sometimes that doesn’t happen when you are at the magic Normal BMI and that’s okay. A lot of why we want to lose weight is to improve our Quality of Life and hating yourself really interferes with that.

She explained what happened that led to her revision too. After she got fairly far out, she started to get lax about some of the rules including eating while drinking. After that, she stopped being able to get full after eating. Tests showed that her stoma had expanded. She had a secret surgery that sounds like the StomaphyX or the Rose but it didn’t work, at least not long term. [Studies show those surgeries don't work long term for most.]

That’s when she considered the Band over Bypass. More research followed. And it was done.

This time the new revision worked and she lost the 30-ish pounds that were reported in the press when it was revealed she had done this surgery. She’s since lost another 10 or so after she gave up baking.

At this point, she’s still about 30-40 pounds over what she considers her sweet spot. But she seems happy and a lot less restless than when she was doing Carnie Unstapled.

I think this part of her story is pretty typical of by long term bypass patients who have significant regain, by the way. Over time the stoma does widen, that’s just natural. It’s like my sleeve getting bigger over time. I had expected that and my surgeon accounts for it by making the sleeve as small as he possibly can and still be safe to start with.

There is a belief held by some in our community that older bypasses are more likely to stretch out. There is also a belief on the part of some that drinking while eating will stretch the stoma. Combine the two and you have a double whammy!

The problem is, if the stoma is too big, food won’t stay in the pouch long enough for you to feel full. If you don’t have satiety, you are going to regain because now you are just like a person who hasn’t had weight loss surgery and is trying to maintain a large weight loss -- and the odds are as against you as they were before.

Putting a band over your bypass does return the feeling of satiety if it’s left due to the stoma being too big. A friend of mine had this done -- she also had an older bypass and it also had stopped working after a while. She had GREAT results with it so hopefully Carnie will too. 

After the talk there was a Q&A session. I hadn't submitted a question beforehand because I was still in "What could she possibly tell ME?" mode and I was sorry because I would now like to know, mother-to-mother, what kinds of things she does to help prevent her kids having to go through some of the things she went through as a kid and help lower the risk that they develop weight problems. As someone who has struggled with my weight, I struggle with my kids' eating habits and I suspect it's the same for Carnie.

She did talk about what she cooks for the family which gets to some of that. She also said her kids have never been to McDonalds. That got a big cheer from the audience (and a big eye-roll from me--you can get healthy and unhealthy food from pretty much any restaurant in my experience). But I was more interested in things like, what does she tell them about weight vs. health and how does she ensure they have a healthy body image (especially being a female in our society) and what kinds of things does she do to encourage them to be active?

But I missed my shot due to my own arrogance. Or maybe ...

Carnie also told us that after the convention she was flying off to do an audition for a new talk show. Her audition topic was going to be “How Dare People Make Fun of Kim Kardasian for Gaining Weight While Pregnant!” (A topic I heartily approve of, but that's another topic of another day.)

I bet she’d make a great talk show host -- based on her talk here, she has that knack of making you feel like you and she could be best friends. And, if she does get her talk show, maybe I'll get my questions answered after all.
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