Jean had her surgery in May 2007 shortly before her 54th birthday. We have been together for over 25 years and she has always had difficulties with her weight, although when you live with somebody and see them every day somehow you don't notice it the same. There were times when she lost weight, on one occasion around 6 stone, but sadly on each occasion the weight went back on and more. It is shocking to see her pre-op photos and it is hard to believe that Jean really was that big.

Things came to a head when Jean had a hysterectomy in 2005. We were very worried beforehand due to the high risk from the anaesthetic and also Jean's history of wound infections post-op but thankfully she survived the op, although the wound did become infected afterwards and Jean needed follow up and wound care from the district nurses for some time afterwards. However she began to experience back pain on standing and walking and this only got worse over time.

Looking back this signaled the start of major health problems arising from Jean's weight. She was referred to the pain management clinic but it quickly became apparent that this was to help her live with the pain rather than alleviate it. It gradually became more difficult for Jean to do things both at home and outside of the house, and about a year later the physio that she was working with suggested she might want to consider using a wheel chair.

We were shortly to go on holiday abroad and we bought a wheel chair just before we went which meant that we were able to do much more when away than would have been possible otherwise. However it was very depressing to think of Jean as a disabled person. I tend to go into denial when negative events are happening and saw this as a temporary measure thinking that if Jean was able to do sufficient exercise etc. that this condition would alleviate. Thinking about it now though the reality is that Jean would never have regained her mobility had it not been for her surgery.

By January 07 Jean was using a mobility scooter which, while it enabled her to get out and about more, also confirmed her status as a disabled and dependent person. We had hoped that she would be able to go about independently but her employers were extremely obstructive and discriminatory to her which made it impossible for her to return to work as she had intended (access to work had recommended a hoist was fitted to her car which would have enabled the scooter to be taken in and out but her employer's attitude made this impossible).

We experienced first hand how discriminatory people are to those with disabilities (and especially I think to those who are fat and have a disability). One of our hobbies is going to car boot sales and this became more and more difficult with me having to push Jean in her chair or trying to use the scooter in difficult terrain with lots of impatient people pushing ahead etc.

The deciding factor in Jean having her surgery was her consultation with a bowel surgeon at the end of January 07. We expected this to be a routine appointment and consequently I had not accompanied her. However she was told that her abdominal wall was collapsing and that unless she lost a lot of weight quickly she had only 6 months to live.

Of course this was really frightening, but Jean dealt with this so positively realizing that the only way she could achieve this was via wls and researched the options, joined the site and decided she wanted a DS with Simon Dexter in Leeds. As this was life or death we remortgaged the house to pay for the surgery and then Jean argued the case for funding retrospectively and managed to get some money from the PCT. However even if we had paid for the surgery in full it would have been worth it as it has both saved Jean's life and given her her life back.

Every stage of the weight loss journey has brought fresh challenges. Very sensibly Jean focused initially on how much weight she had lost rather than how much she weighed. This helped her cope with the fact that in the early stages when you have a high starting weight it takes a while for the weight loss to be noticeable. It took some time for Jean to tell me her weight - this was the first time she had done this for many years. I'm pleased she has as it has meant she has been able to share with me more milestones e.g. when she goes into the next stone.

It is fantastic in the first year as the weight loss is so rapid and sustained. However it still takes some doing to believe that this will actually continue as history has always proved that the weight will go back on. I have had the tendency to lose faith particularly when Jean has hit a plateau but over time have become more confident that Jean will succeed and the weight will continue to come off and she will be able to reach and maintain a weight that she will be happy with.

There are so many positives associated with Jean's weight loss - she looks absolutely fantastic and has been able to wear lovely clothes. We have also been able to have four trips abroad this year and are starting to have more of a social life once more. Within the last month we have been to see Stevie Wonder at Manchester and have also been to London (with the AGM in between). None of this would have been possible before her surgery. Also Jean's mobility is so much better than before - she still suffers from arthritis but the distances she can walk bear no resemblance to her mobility previously.
I guess it must be more strange for the person themselves to see their body change so dramatically over such a short period of time. However it is really strange for their partner as well and I often look at Jean (or catch sight of her when we are out) and think is that really her. Of course Jean is still the same person but she looks so different it still takes you by surprise even seeing her every day.
However the process is not straightforward. There have been times over the past 18 months when Jean has felt well but this has generally been very short lived. She has had a succession of urine infections and often feels very tired which is possibly due to vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Moreover it is a constant battle to take sufficient protein and fluids which are essential to keep the weight loss going. Also I wouldn't want to give the impression that everything was bad before Jean had her surgery - we have had some wonderful times together.

About 6 months after Jean had her surgery I began to experience symptoms of anxiety which were disabling and badly affected my sleep. I think what happened was that I coped at the time when she had her surgery when I was worried Jean was going to die and afterwards when she needed a lot of looking after, but when things started to improve and she became more independent again I was able to let the anxiety in. It took a long time for this to improve.

I also discovered that a lot of marriages break up after one person has wls and obviously that worried me. However I am hopeful that our relationship is able to cope with the major changes that come with such massive weight loss and that we can enjoy doing things together that would not have been possible pre surgery.

It has been an exciting journey for me as well as Jean. I don't know where it will end but I am so pleased that she took the decision to have the surgery despite the complications and the anxieties it causes.

Dave Cutler
November 2008