Ken had a sleeve gastrectomy at NWWC in July 2018.
What is the best part about this journey?
The best part of this journey was the reward for following through with all the advice. When I came in in February 2018 and spoke to Dr. Chock, she told me, “You’re going to need to make a lot of changes and it’s not going to be easy. It’s not a magic pill or a magic bullet but it will be worth it.”
After that, I quit smoking and drinking alcohol. I used to make craft beer and it was something I really enjoyed. Quitting all of that was a feat that seemed almost impossible. It was somebody’s Everest or somebody’s 4.0 at the end of grad school or a moon landing. All of those insurmountable changes… it has taught me that I can do anything.
What has been the hardest part?
I had a serious complication two weeks after surgery. I had a clot and was readmitted back in Alaska. It was scary but it really taught me how fragile everything was. That was the linchpin that got me fully committing myself to everything. I was walking laps every hour and was working out for 7 days in the hospital. I begged the nurses to allow me to exercise and they let a friend bring me a dumbbell.
The hardest part of the entire journey was relearning and coping with my stressors. I was a really bad stress eater. Three months post-op, I caught myself stress eating and I got full to the point that I threw up. I thought, “I can’t do this. This whole time I’ve been stress eating and it has got to stop.” I spoke with my boss and my wife and I quit my job and decided to go back to school. I’m now finishing my Bachelor’s degree to become a teacher.
I had to reinvent myself. I realized I couldn’t stress eat anymore. You could say that I made the right choice in the “choose your own adventure” book of life. The choice that I made that has resulted in a path that is going to end way further down the line with a longer life.
What goals did you set for yourself? Have you made progress towards those goals?
I had always wanted to become a firefighter. When I was finally able to pass the fitness test, I felt that I had made it to the moon. I am now a carded basic firefighter and wildland firefighter.
My activity level is where I’d always dreamed it would be. I’ve surpassed my fitness level from when I was in the Marines. I run 7 miles every Sunday. I can do a GORUCK hike with 50 pounds on my back. I can go to CrossFit and I’m actually good at it. While I have to make a few modifications, my fitness level and strength is through the roof. I used to make fun of CrossFit and I think deep down inside, it’s because I wasn’t good at it. Now that I can do it, it has changed my tune. These are things I wasn’t able to do before.
My next step is the Boston Marathon. I’m doing a walking marathon next March in New Mexico. I’m hoping to climb Mount Hood in the next 4 years and Denali in next 10 years.
I ended up becoming a personal trainer. I work with people who have gone to the local bariatric facility here in Alaska. I went through surgery. I know what it’s like. I can help these folks.
I’ve hit my goal weight and have been maintaining for over 5 months.
What advice would you give those who want to pursue weight loss surgery?
I’m a goal-oriented person. It’s what keeps me going. Make a goal and keep it. Start small and go larger. You’re not getting any better just sitting there complaining. If you get up and do something, you are better than you were the day before. It might not be noticeable at first but the results compound themselves.
Listen to the providers. Listen to what they have to say. They are not people with letters at the end of their name without good reason. I can tell you that Dr. Chock is an angel as far as I’m concerned. All the staff, everybody I’ve dealt with, are angels. From talking to Christine once per month to my appointments with Ginny to working with Dr. Chock, they know what they’re doing and they do it well. I know I did the hard work but the quality of care that I received was like none other.