The longer I live this new way the less sure I am about the life I want to live. When I started out at my most unhealthy my only real goal was to one day have a doctor tell me that I’d regained the health I so cheaply gave away to obesity. That was the only moment of success I really imagined. Now, the healthier I get the more I find myself asking questions about what I’m going to do with that full-health life when I get there.
In a lot of ways the closer I get to my goal – which is still a long way off – the more I worry that I haven’t spent enough time thinking about the life I want to be living then. I’m coping by taking everything one day a time and knowing the life around me supports and serves me today, and accept that it may not always be the case. At this point in my journey that thought scares the hell out of me, but I’m growing in to the idea, finding comfort there bit by bit – and at times find pure excitement knowing that this whole challenge allows a certain degree of reinvention.
Yet, there are others who start their journey knowing full well what their happiness looks like. When I met Sarah 13 years ago we became instant friends because her smile and personality were bigger than life. Over the years I’ve learned she has a heart of gold, always willing to bend over backwards to accommodate those around her, and often put her needs behind those of her friends. I used to see these are admirable character traits – and things we had in common. Over time I started to see them for they really were for both of us – classic characteristics of people struggling with obesity.
When Sarah married Colin we all knew a family was in their future. When you’re in their house it always feels like a kid might just come bopping around the corner. They filled their life with other children and it turned their house in to a home with all the classic signs of kids-at-play. Sarah’s natural inclination to be a caring friend evolved into a motherly manner that suited her well, standing in the kitchen baking away, making one birthday cake after another – perfectly iced with whatever cartoon character or superhero a kid could want to put their birthday party just over the top. Colin rolled with the punches, developing a calmness that reminds me a lot of my own Dad. I can’t imagine what kind of chaos it would take throw Colin.
But at the end of the weekend the kids would be packed up and head back with their parents, and Sarah and Colin would be left wondering what it was going to take to start a little family of their own. Years of doctors appointments later they were told that because of health reasons worsened by her weight, Sarah was unable to get pregnant. They signed up for adoption courses and knew that someday their house would be filled with the laughter of a child they would love and care for as their own – biological or not.
When I had my weight loss surgery Sarah started asking questions about how it all worked. The more weight that I dropped she saw a transformation in me that intrigued her. I was the definition of a guy who was stuck in his ways at 460 pounds – but if I could find the will to change, and use the lap-band to keep my eating on track so that my obesity didn’t sabotage my efforts – than maybe she could too.
Over a series of months Sarah and Colin made the huge decision to take out a loan so Sarah could have lap-band weight loss surgery. I remember sitting in her living room, both of us with tears in our eyes, as she confessed to me how fragile her smile really was, and how sad she was to know that people in her life would soon know she wasn’t always as happy as she seemed. Just like me, and so many others, there was an anger in her admission. She was angry at her obesity and the choices she made to accommodate it.
She pushed all that anger in to passion. She made great choices after surgery and bit by bit the pounds came off. Her smile grew bigger and her face shrunk around it. She was getting in to her truck without a stool. She was meal planning like her life depended on it – because she knew it did. Colin, sitting in the corner every time Sarah and I chatted about this, walked that fine line between a strength she could draw on, and being a voice of loving honesty when he saw her making choices that worried him. It’s the kind of support every successful patient relies on.
And then one day I was sitting at work and got a message from Sarah. Her and Colin were expecting a baby. Her weight loss had changed her body so much already that now it allowed a pregnancy. Two of my friends were getting their years-long wish to start a family. No one deserved that more than these two.
Baby Ahnika Mae Adams was born March 5th, 2014. We call her our lap-band baby. When I first held her it was like holding opportunity in my hands. Doctors told Sarah she’d never conceive. Her power to change herself literally gave new life.
For the rest of my life when I look at baby Ahnika I’ll think about the real power of change. One choice at a time Sarah changed her life, changed her body, and changed her family, and just by showing up baby Ahnika changes all of us, and challenges us to be stronger and make better choices toward our goals. Who knows what will be possible for us? Who knows what these changes will bring in to our lives?
All the best to Sarah, Colin, and Ahnika. Thanks for letting me be a part of your story and of her life. She doesn’t know it yet, but in the darkest, weakest moments of my journey, I know I’ll find strength in her, and the memory of when I first held a baby we were told would never exist. That’s the power of change.