'I wish I hadn't had lapband surgery'

DRASTIC MEASURES: Kate Finlay thought lapband surgery would solve her body issues, but it only exacerbated them.
DRASTIC MEASURES: Kate Finlay thought lapband surgery would solve her body issues, but it only exacerbated them.

After a life-long struggle with weight loss, I thought lapband surgery would be the solution. I was wrong.

I was only 12 years old when my parents decided I should join Weight Watchers because I was slightly chubby. The group at my local church actually applauded me the first week I lost weight. I now see the damage this did to my body image and consequent weight gain.

By the time I was 18, I was obese. I became the "funny fat girl", the "lucky you have a good personality" girl. Perhaps people thought I had no feelings under the fat - that I "needed" to hear it. I tried starving myself and by 20 had tried to remove fat by cutting it off of my body with a sharp scalpel.

It wasn't until I moved to London that I started to get fit and lose weight. I attended a wedding and was excited for my family to see the real me, happy, slimmer and mature. Instead I was taunted again - "you've managed to gain weight".

When I returned to Australia, I decided I didn't want negativity in my life any more, but slipped into old habits. Within six months I was back up to a size 16-18.

Eventually I met a man who loved me for me, via the internet, so I was judged not on looks but on personality. When our first baby was born, I had ballooned to over 100 kilos. I struggled to lose baby weight and just lived with it. After my second child was born I suffered post-natal depression and put weight on. I was told by a neighbour that I was too fat and my kids would be bullied if I didn't lose weight. I exploded to a size 28-30. I hated myself, but had made up my mind that I was never going to lose weight, I would always be fat.

I begged my GP to get a lapband surgeon, or I would kill myself - I was better off dead. Within two weeks I was booked in and we had whacked NZ$14,000 on the mortgage. I was given a list of complications during and after lapband surgery but I had no fear. This was going to save my life.

In eight months, I lost 52 kilos but had to get my gall bladder removed. According to my surgeon, this was a side-effect of fast weight loss. I rolled with it. Two days after giving birth to our third child I had liver failure. This was another new side-effect of my lapband - I was not receiving all the nutrients I needed to sustain my body or my baby.

Over the next year I went days without food, weeks without using the toilet. But on the upside I was getting skinny and I had a dream - I wanted to buy clothes from a mainstream clothing store. However, the loose skin that hung on my stomach and arms were another side-effect.

Having 15 kilos of skin removed was the most intensely painful experience. The wound split open on my back and refused to heal. I was now eating less than three times a week. I was very sick, but skinny - a svelte size 12. In December I bought my first ever boutique dress. It wasn't long before I was admitted to hospital for malnutrition. On my wedding anniversary, I was again in hospital with chronic abdominal pain. I had yet another new side-effect - an "erosion". I was told this was very rare, but I was to find numerous online "Bandits" who had also had erosion.

The band was removed via open surgery - my lapband surgeon blamed my plastic surgeon, my plastic surgeon blamed my lapband surgeon. I spent months trying to get answers and was handballed from one to the other. Eventually my lapband surgeon handed me to the public system, where they wanted to re-band me. I refused, concerned about the pain. The surgeons were more worried about weight gain.

I still hate what I see when I look in the mirror - I hate my fat, I hate the scars. I have been operated on once or twice a year since I was banded. I live with pain, and still eat very rarely. I spend hours a day on the toilet. I vomit between five and 15 times a week. I know I am not living well.

I wish I had known erosion was a risk. I wish I had better after-care, I wish I had made smarter choices. I wish I could sit with patients and talk to them, make them rethink the hard sell. A gastric band is a product just like the many weight-loss gimmicks we fatties invest in. Not all of these will fail, but I urge all people considering banding to be informed. Ask all the questions, and talk to lapband patients - not just the successes, but the failures too.

- Daily Life