Battling the ‘Conspiracy of Silence’

My dad and me. I was 16. This was taken in the 80s.

I am a fat man’s daughter. It took me years to figure this out, and I really didn’t know it until after my dad died when I was 35. This is a picture of my dad and me when I was about 16 years old. My dad weighed over 400 pounds. What you can’t see in this digital picture but you can see in the real copy is that he has a patch on his chest. I believe it was a nitroglycerin patch. It was for his heart. He would later have a pacemaker.

I knew my dad’s weight. I obviously knew what he looked like, but I didn’t realize the impact his weight was having on our relationship because I didn’t have anything to compare it with. I was happy to be his daughter, and I still am. I love him, and I always have. But after his death, I became very angry.

This is the only picture I have where you can see his stomach because he was very good at making sure his shirt was long enough to cover it up.

He died in 2006. I was 35, and I was so MAD at him because he died from complications of his weight. For the last 10 to 15 years of his life, the quality of his life was horrible. For the last 5 years, he spent most of it in and out of hospitals.

His highest weight was almost 500 pounds. When I married in 1994, he was at the lowest he had weighed in many years at about 350 pounds.

I loved/love my dad. I never saw him as fat.

But when he left me (died), I was so angry at him. At the time of his death, I wasn’t that overweight. I weighed about 180. I gained weight after he died. And when I finally realized what the weight was preventing me to do, I tried losing it. I couldn’t keep the weight off. I would lose weight, gain it back and gain even more.

This is why I finally decided to have WLS. When I was about 10, my dad was going to have WLS. It was scheduled. He made it into the surgery room and something the anesthesiologist told him scared him. The guy said my dad had a 50/50 chance of not making it through the surgery. There was some concerns about his weight pressing down on his lungs.

I wonder now that if he had gone through it, what would my memories of him have been like? I remember him sitting or laying down on things. He would tell me to get this or do that for him. He had a bell he would ring to get my attention. I was his legs. He didn’t go to my concerts or games or talk to my teachers.

He couldn’t put on his own socks and shoes. My mom or I did that for him. He loved to go to flea markets and yard sales. He would sit in the car, the window rolled down and direct me to bring him items to check out. I would be walking around the yard sale or the flea market, grabbing the items and bringing them to him and putting them back or buying them for him.

If he had weighed less, he would have been more a part of my life. He would have been a full participant in my life instead of someone watching from the car or hearing about it later. My kids would know him.

As an adult, I remember thinking how great wheelchairs were because it allowed my dad to go with us places he couldn’t walk to. This was part of my delusion. I didn’t see him as fat. I didn’t think that weighing less would be another way he could go to places with us.

I loved my dad. I love my kids. I chose this surgery to give my kids something that they don’t even know they would have missed.

For as long as I can remember, my dad told me I should be a teacher. I always disregarded his advice. I couldn’t see myself as a school teacher.

In 2005, two years after my dad died, I took a part-time job teaching journalism to college students. I was passionate about journalism, and I felt there was a need to advise new journalists.

Then I fell in love with teaching. I went back to grad school. I became a teacher, and I eventually quit being a journalist. I teach college students to write.

While in grad school, I wrote a memoir titled “Fat Man’s Daughter,” where I dealt with many of my issues about my dad and myself. Here’s a link to the first chapter: http://lindasherwood.com/wp/category/fat-mans-daughter/chapter-one/

There are blogs out there that say horrible things about WLS without a lot of evidence. The bloggers claim there is a “conspiracy of silence” surrounding weight loss surgery. That is, when WLS doesn’t work patients are embarrassed and don’t talk about failures and regained weight. Many times these bloggers are people who have lost weight “the hard way.” They encourage people to find weight-loss patients happy with their weight loss surgery 10 years down the road. Yet many of these same bloggers haven’t sustained their own weight loss that long.

Weight loss is tough no matter how you choose to do it. But it has been my experience as both the child of a morbidly obese parent and as a morbidly obese parent myself, that weighing less allows you to participate more in life.

I want people to know about the impact not doing something has on lives. If my dad had WLS, he might still be here. Because I had WLS, I plan to be here for my family. Now and in the future. It’s already changed my behavior. It has already allowed me to participate more fully in my children’s lives.

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