Fall 2004 - Patient Newsletter

Greetings from the Editor

My name is Jody Abrams. I am sixteen months post-op. The journey of gastric bypass for me began at another large Boston hospital, as this is a popular procedure now performed at most major medical institutions and some other ones.

As with most choices one makes, I chose Tufts Tufts-New England Medical Center because it was the right fit for me personally. Like most of us who have arrived at the decision to have major surgery as means of dealing with obesity, I came to the decision because the nerve damage I had been suffering made it impossible for me to move. Physically, I couldn't get out of my own way.

I've been fat all of my life and like many of you, participated in the colorful array of diets and programs available to people of size. In 1986, I had an accident jumping onto the deck of a boat. I ripped up my knee. At the time, my sisters considered it a punishment from God that I was fat. While convalescing, I found the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), a human rights organization that promotes quality of life for fat people and fights discrimination on the basis of size. I helped found the New England Chapter and for the past 15 years I have been working with Representative Byron Rushing and other legislators in adding language to the civil law statutes on height/weight, making it illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of size or height.

It has been my experience that when you are subjected to discrimination and alienation, you either withdraw or you look for unity in community wherever you can find it. I chose the latter and I have been advocating for others and myself as a person of size for many years now.

Making the decision to have gastric bypass surgery for me has come with a lot of ironies. In the late 90's as a member of NAAFA, I ran an event in Santa Monica, California that was televised around the world called the "Million Pound March." In addition to the sea of fat people gathered for this event on the Santa Monica pier, both Carnie Wilson and Camryn Manheim joined us. Both of these women are members of NAAFA and both of these women spoke about the pain of growing up fat, about being treated poorly by others, and about learning to celebrate oneself. This particular event was very empowering. There is nothing like being connected to a group of people who share the same struggles and triumphs.

Herein lies the basis for this newsletter. My entire experience at the OCC in Tufts Tufts-New England Medical Center has been about connection and it has been about community. Like many of you, I remember obsessing about the surgery and when I was finally going to have it, I was frightened about being opened up because I had never had any major surgery. In my meeting with Dr. Shikora, I remember him explaining to me that I had the choice of being opened up with the traditional procedure, or I could choose to have it laparoscopically if I lost some weight. I don't know what came over me, but right then, I understood two things; first, the surgery wasn't all that important, the ability to change my lifestyle and lose the weight en route to the laparoscopic procedure was... and it was thrilling... the second thing was, I was being involved in the process as part of the team. This program isn't "being done to us." We have choices. We are part of a community.

The ability to achieve community and connection is of paramount importance. We have experiences that will connect us in ways that, while our loved ones may be able to support are not as fully understood by those outside as they are by one another.

This newsletter is a means of bringing us all closer. I have been speaking with many of you. People want information on subjects running the gamut from pre-op to post-op. Support for those of us who are single and in relationships. You want to talk about food. You want to talk about recipes. You want to share resources about shopping, exercise equipment, vitamins, nutrition, clothing swaps... Essentially, you want to talk about your lives and what they will be going forward.

We want you to write about yourselves, your experiences, your struggles, and your triumphs. We want you to raise questions and issues that you would like to see addressed in our forum. We are planning themes to the newsletter and gearing articles around those themes and varying stages in the program. We are hoping for a great deal of participation because there are a lot of us here in this community and all of your voices are important. The staff of the OCC is part of the community and will also contribute to the newsletter. However, it's important for you to know that this newsletter is patient driven.

I am excited about this newsletter. I have been talking about wanting to put this together from the beginning of my experience with the OCC. For me, creating community is an important venture wherever I am. I would like to thank Dr. Saltzman for making this happen. This endeavor involves a lot of paperwork and red tape. It's a hospital after all. It took months to make this happen, but Dr. Saltzman persevered. I would also like to thank Phyllis Thomason and Dr. Greenberg, who also actively support this endeavor. I am sure in fostering this project that they, with the rest of us, honor the spirit of community that Dr. Darrell Vogel brought to the OCC. For those of you who are new, you will learn more in the newsletter about Dr. Vogel, who passed away, a year ago June. Dr. Vogel embodied community and I am sure that he would have been quite pleased that this newsletter is finally getting off the ground. I am sure that he would be proud of all of us for having the courage to share a little of ourselves with one another.

We all came to this program to improve the quality of our lives. I believe that enhancing our connections with one another by creating community also contributes to our quality of life.

This newsletter is for all of us. I look forward to hearing from you. If you want to tell us about yourself, write a story, share an idea, or ask a question... contact me at [email protected]. Celebrate yourself by contributing to the newsletter. Thanks.

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