“Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me. . .” I often woke to the sound of beautiful hymns being sung in perfect soprano. My mother’s voice was angelic and comforting and her love for Jesus the same. I was blessed to have a mom gifted in music, excellent sense of humor, and Godly but who spent most of her life with one struggle she felt that she would never overcome.
For her, the journey began when she was young. The baby of 3, her older sister could do no wrong and was the jewel to her mother in all ways. Her brother’s hyperactivity and wild ways drained her mother thin. Reflecting back now, my mom has come to realize that her mom was struggling with anxiety and depression privately and was too ashamed to seek help but released her pain on my mother.
A beautiful woman in her teenage years with blond hair, a beautiful body, and perfect skin grew up seeing a different image in the mirror. Her mother’s voice of criticism was internalized in her mind causing an internal battle that would last for many years to come.
Fast forward to me, also the youngest of 3 but the only girl. I was precious to her and we enjoyed a close relationship from the beginning. We both shared our struggles with each other and have been best friends my whole life. But, there was one struggle that she’d keep to herself. As a young girl, I rode in the car many times to Weight Watcher meetings while waiting in a room and playing with my Barbie dolls. Many times I would sit in a waiting room of a women only gym while she attempted to burn off the calories that seemed to stick. But all the while, she never talked about this great battle of obesity that she faced every day and kept much of the pain from me.
At her peak, my mom weighed 280 pounds. It began as baby fat and what I began to see in her as a lack of self-confidence or self-worth. A beautiful woman was hidden behind layers of fat. The yoyo dieting consumed her and left her feeling defeated, hopeless each time. The old white scale in her closet was all over the place.
One funny memory was my young 5-year-old nephew who asked his dad “how many wives did granddad have?” This observation came from looking at pictures of my mother (his grandmother) through all her weight loss, weight gain photos. She really did change so drastically and so often that you would think she was multiple people.
There were many times that I found my mom on the couch for days with novels to distract her from the pain. Back then, I just thought she loved to read but now I know better. There was a day as a child that I found her diary by her bed and read a page. I realized that day that there was a side of my mom that was hidden from me. I was being sheltered from her pain. Most likely, she didn’t want me to be burdened from her hurt. She didn’t talk about it but used humor to deal with it verbally.
A day came when the “miracle drug” happened. It seemed to be magical in how quickly it took her weight off and how happy she was. It was Fen Phen diet pills and they worked. For the first time, the pounds were falling off and not coming back. It transformed my couch mom into a dancing weight losing machine! I liked this new mom and can remember her dancing in the kitchen as we all thought the battle was over!
Then one night I overheard my dad speaking firmly to my mom “You will not take that drug anymore. It will kill you!” I could hear my mom crying from my room. I knew the “miracle” was a trick. The medicine was taken off the market. It seemed like the weight came back overnight but not just that weight but much more.
The only good news is that the yo-yo dieting stopped. She gave up. We all accepted that this was who she was.
As a teenager, watching my mother with her battle and it created a fear for me. The fear of gaining weight caused me to obsess over my own weight for a time. It was fear that drove me to a guilt and shame relationship with food and exercise.
“On the outside so many people can look healthy but inside be hurting themselves.”
When Marc and I felt the call to Cambodia, my parents were excited. But, one pain held them back. My mom couldn’t fit on a plane to fly over and see her daughter and best friend. About the same time we were getting ready to leave, my family was building a lake house. We came to the realization that this lake house would need a wheelchair ramp as my mother would soon be in one. She was quickly becoming home bound and her future was short. By now she wore the pain on her face. She didn’t want to miss out on life. We prayed hard but for a time it seemed hopeless.
Gastric bypass surgery was a fairly new surgical procedure at that time and not a lot was known about it. My mom was desperate to continue to live life and we all felt she had no other choice. My mom went through the Roux-n-y gastric bypass surgery and had a difficult recovery due to her obesity. Though at the time, we felt the surgery went well except that the surgeon cut out too much and ended up taking most of her small intestines too. This accident left my mom with another problem: life long vitamin and iron deficiencies along with another underlying issue that wouldn’t be revealed until her near death experience.
Within months, my mothers weight came down to a healthy weight! She was able to fly over and visit me sooner than expected!
In fact, she lost so much so quick, that we met in Thailand where she had plastic surgery to remove her excess skin.
What seemed like a dream come true surgery had its downfalls but the greatest one was when she came close to dying as she lost over half the blood in her body.
This day took place at her home in America while I was in Cambodia. She had been not feeling well and started vomiting while home alone. The vomiting turned into bright red blood. She called my brother to take her to the hospital. By the time they arrived at the ER, she was constantly vomiting bright red blood. For some reason, the receptionist in the ER did not realize how sick my mom was and asked her to be seated. When my mom stood up to go to the bathroom, they found her passed out in a pool of blood.
Before I finish this story with you, I have got to say that this was not the first time my mother encountered death. When she was a teenager, she went swimming in a lake with her uncle. Jumping into the lake, she hit her head on a rock and lost consciousness. Her body drifted to the bottom. “The water was murky but I could see everything. It didn’t make sense. There was a car tire on the bottom away from us and a broken anchor another direction.” She began floating above her body and bright lights surrounded her. They felt peaceful. She felt safe. She could see her uncle throwing his shoes and watch to jump in the water after her but he couldn’t find her body. Then a strange event happened. Her future flashed before her for what seemed like a second but in that second she saw her future husband and the face of each child she bore years later. She realized one face was smaller than the 3 others. She felt the presence around her was God. “When I felt God’s presence, I headed toward His bright light flooded with joy, but He told me it wasn’t time, ‘look, your uncle is coming for you’.” She woke up finding herself on the shore being resuscitated by her uncle. After things calmed down, no one believed her. She told her uncle exactly where to dive to find the tire. He found it of course! That night at dinner, he reached on his wrist for his watch but realized he lost it at the lake. My mother told him she knew exactly where it was. They ran to the lake and she picked it up right where she saw him throw it. He was in shock as the only way she could have known was by observing from above not on the bottom of a lake. Interestingly, many years later, she did give birth 4 times but had a miscarriage once, the baby with the small face.
Back to the second time that God saved her. In the ER, they rushed her to a surgical room and opened her up to find that her stomach had burned a hole through her exposed intestines causing massive bleeding internally. The bypass almost took her life leaving her stomach in disrepair. Come to find out, her stomach had been reattached wrong. She fully recovered from that event but is still aware to this day that it could happen again.
My mom is not a woman to give into fear. 70-years-old, she is still enjoying her new body and life and is as active as ever. An encourager to all around her at her retirement village and traveling America singing her favorite hymns and songs. And Cambodia, well she still makes the trip to see me every year! Don’t assume she feels great! She struggles every day with fatigue but chooses the life she lives. She chooses to get out and change the world for good!
As I reflect on her journey, I am thankful for the research and information that has gone into obesity. I am thankful for the healthy and natural ways available today. After 4 kids, I faced gaining weight for the first time in my life. If you want to know the natural things I did to get my weight and health back, message me. I love to talk about the things that truly work and the gimmicks that don’t!
I want to walk you healthy weight journey with you. I have a sensitive heart towards this struggle and want every person to feel accepted and encouraged in their journey to a healthier body. If you are interested, join my Facebook group @Healthy Weight: A Motivational Community