To the Overweight Type 1 Diabetic Considering Weight Loss Surgery

Dear Type 1 with weight issues (like me),

I don’t know your history with diabetes or with your weight, but mine is something like this: I was always healthy and active as a kid, and even into my late teens and early 20s. I didn’t become diabetic until I was 21 years old and in college (after having been on Accutane for a year and also having my tonsils taken out. Did one of those things cause/trigger my diabetes?? The world may never know.) It was crazy and crappy. I initially lost, then gained, then lost weight right after diagnosis. But then I maintained a healthy weight for at least a decade. And then came my 30s. A sedentary job, years spent on birth control pills, and then getting married and having fertility issues (inject tons of stress, hormone shots, hormonal imbalances, you name it ) all led to a sharp incline in weight gain, and also a sharp incline in insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, I had to take more insulin. Taking more insulin, I gained more weight. Gaining more weight, I had to take more insulin. My endo basically told me I had become a Type 1 who also had Type 2 diabetes, and I was put on Metformin to help combat some of my insulin resistance. It helped, but didn’t fix the underlying issue. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t seem to break with any amount of dieting and exercising. I had all sorts of back pain, plantar fasciitis in my feet, and barely had enough energy to get through most days. I needed a dramatic change, and I needed it fast.  I was in my 40s, with a 3 year old child that could out-run me. How could I protect her if I couldn’t even protect myself anymore?

So, I did my research. Talked to other friends who had some type of bariatric surgery. Joined a couple of Facebook groups to talk about it. Searched and searched for other T1s who had the surgery, but came up short. I had decided against the more complex gastric bypass (where they reroute all sorts of things) and chose the sleeve (VSG) because it was easier to comprehend how my digestion would change post-surgery, the weight loss would be more gradual, and I felt I could manage my diabetes (and health) better in the long run with this surgery.

Now, I am almost 8 months out from surgery. I finally have energy and can eat (more or less) regular foods. I eat FAR less than ever, focus on eating my protein first, then keep to a minimum amount of carbs over the course of the day.  My goals each day are to eat at least 70g of lean protein, drink 64+ ounces of water, take all my various chewable vitamins and supplements (there are quite a few) and to keep sugar and fat intake around 5g at each meal/ eating time. In order to consume just what I need to consume, but not overfill my “sleeve” stomach, I have to eat several small meals – I am basically “snacking” all day long. I have lost 70 lbs total, and am currently in a “stall” so now I need to switch it up, exercise more, and really work to get the weight to come off. But get this: My insulin requirements went from over 100 units per day, down to about 50 units per day now (that’s meal boluses and basal rate combined.)  I no longer take Metformin. My A1c is sitting pretty & playing nice at 6.1. I’m down 2-3 sizes in most clothes. I can sit comfortably in those super-close stadium seats. I can chase after my daughter. I can play with her on the floor, and then stand up without groaning. My feet don’t hurt nearly as much any more. I’m ready to join the local swimming pool this summer and enjoy it with my family and friends. I *feel* better than I have in YEARS.

This has been a tough road, and it remains challenging. With diabetes, LIFE ITSELF is challenging – we know that. There are days when I have low blood sugars and shake my fist in the air that I am forced to go off my diet plan and eat when I don’t want to. There are days of unexplained highs that send me into a spiraling fatigue, just like before. Juggling exercise and blood sugars and my teeny stomach is even more challenging. Having a crashing low, cramming my face full of an apple and then having my stomach feel like it’s going to explode is NOT fun. But would I say this surgery was a success for me? Even though I still have at least 50-60 lbs left to lose? YES. Every time I will say YES.

But you – all the other overweight Type 1s out there with BMIs in the “morbidly obese” category like I was – you have to make the decision on your own. Every surgery comes with it’s risks and potential complications. For me, the results I’ve had so far, even though I’m not “at goal” have been SO worth it.

Happy to have my life back —

Before-AfterJan2015

20 thoughts on “To the Overweight Type 1 Diabetic Considering Weight Loss Surgery

  1. So happy to read your writing again, and happy for your success so far!

    • Stephen, I feel sooooo slack, but seriously, work and home life have just been crazy busy! Not enough hours in the day to do everything. But I’ll keep trying, sporadically though it may be! 🙂

  2. Thanks for an update and happy to know that things are going well. I’m glad you posted some photos before Las Vegas because I recognize the face on the left. The one on the right not as much. Just wear a button with a photo of your daughter because she is the one I would recognize for sure!

  3. I’ve met you a couple of times at adult T1D events in the RTP area. You look amazing and it is so great to hear how well you feel and how much progress you’ve made since your surgery. You’re clearly dedicated to making your final goal, so you’ll get there =)

    You should try to make it to one of the adult T1D events that have been happening in RTP – on Feb 18th there is a get-together at the Pit in Raleigh, and it would be great to see you there!

  4. more than anything, you look happier in the “after” shot

  5. So great to read your latest update … because of YOU I investigated the VSG op more intently .. Im now 42, T1D for 30 years and had many of the same battles above as you have … I am now 5 months post op (tomorrow) .. and the “Sleeve” has been the most amazing decision for me … I have lost nearly 30 kgs .. and my insulin needs have dropped by about 60-70% … I am looking better, feeling so so much better, beginning to like myself again and just realising the great road ahead of me, which my fantasticly supportive husband and 2 kids … I can now achieve anything (Oh maybe that sounded better than what I actually believe – anyway work-in-progress!!) – So I want to say a HUGE THANKS TO YOU … I don’t know you, we live in different countries, but I owe you everything !!

    • Cindy – I am SO HAPPY for you!!!! I am moved to tears because, writing about having sleeve surgery on this blog was kind of hard for me. It is a very personal thing to share with the world, and I wasn’t sure about doing it, but I did – in the hopes it could help others. THANK YOU for letting me know that it has been totally worth it! Yaaaaayyy, you are rocking!!! (Doesn’t it feel great??)

  6. I am literally sitting here in tears, bawling my eyes out, because for the first time since my dx 10 years ago, someone else has a story that sounds similar to mine! I am so glad to know that I am not alone with the problems I have. Gastric bypass, lapband, and gastric sleeve are all phrases that have been floating around at my last few endo appts. They just couldn’t connect me with anyone else in my shoes. I reached out to a group on Facebook, Diabetic Chit Chat, where someone so kindly pointed me in your direction – all of about 10 minutes ago! Thank you for this blog. I am going back to read past posts of your now.

    • THIS makes me so happy! I hope that my story will help others, and the “tribal knowledge” we all learn from our experiences can help each other. Much love and good thoughts to you as you work through your journey!! You CAN do it!!!!

  7. I too have Type 1 diabetes – I was dx at age 12 – I am now 45. I also have Lupus, (and celiac disease, and like 4 more AI conditions which I won’t bore you with!!) Stress is my killer, and I have managed to gain 60 lbs. over the past 5 years – but the majority of it was in 2013. I don’t know about you, but weight maintenance has always been an issue.. (at least as I got older). I went for my consult, and my endo and rheumy both think this would be a good idea for me! I’m scared, worried… my husband is scared too. But thank you for this blog, and for everyones stories… It helps so much knowing i’m not alone! 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. My story is very similar to yours. Diagnosed at at age 12. Before the diagnosis I had a lot of tonsil issues as well. It wss a rough road at first, but I have been on an insulin pump for the psst 18 years and my A1c’s are always around 6. I have 3 kids and this left me at 100 pounds over my ideal weight. It’s just plain depressing and unhealthy. I was approved for the sleeve then I got pregnant during the process. So I am going for another consult tomorrow to get the ball rolling again.I would love to keep in contact with anyone who is on this crazy type 1 journey.

  9. Hey I wanted to see how you were doing as of now? I just read this post as I am thinking of doing the surgery! I am so insulin resistant and just keep on gaining weight. I was diagnosed at age 6 and have been on a pump for years now. My doctor is saying I’m going into type 2 as well as type 1 which is so depressing.

    • I 100% feel the surgery was successful for me, and well worth it! I’ve lost close to 100 lbs in a little over a year, and my insulin resistance has been greatly reduced. No more Metformin! I’ve hit a “stall” in weight loss over the past few months, but it’s totally my own fault = I need to exercise more, but have a couple of injuries that keep holding me back. But at least now I’ve STOPPED the continual weight gain, and I am stable in weight (and could still lose a bit more if I could work more at it.)

      • Jasmine … just wanted to jump in and give my opinion re the surgery .. I am 12 months post op .. and while I have lost basically no weight for the past 6 months (30kg overall), I have also not put on !! I have more to lose and I’m sure it will happen eventually – I need to find the motivation and good choices as we all need to understand and remember that the surgery is just a TOOL to help us, not the perfect fix !! I was totally insulin resistant (diabetic since 11 years old – now 42) and I did find that this changed majorly in the beginning…but Lately my sugars have been crazy and I am definitely needed more insulin now !! I have absolutely NO regret at having the surgery … I’m sure it has extended, and certainly brightened my life completely … Cindy

  10. Did your insurance cover it? I am 35 type 1 and started Fertility treatment in 2012 at 173. I am now 248 pounds and cannot lose weight at all. I cut carbs hit the gym 5 days a week and had a trainer with a meal plan. I only lost 6 pounds. My job is sedatary too. I feel defeated….

    • Yes, my insurance covered virtually all of the surgery, even several followup visits. 2 years out now, I have kept the ~80 lbs total that I’ve lost off. I still technically need to lose more weight, but with the sleeve it is really slow. I am still very pleased with my results, and would just have made the decision to do it sooner if I had to do it all over again.

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