A CORK woman who is quarantining after gastric surgery abroad revealed that she had penned farewell letters to her children following a long battle with weight issues.
Claire Desmond, of Bandon, feared she would not survive weight loss surgery and so penned letters to family members with instructions for her children’s ones to be read aloud. This followed a heartbreaking decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery — an operation dramatically reducing stomach capacity — at the Kesler Clinic in Turkey.
Life up to that point had been made excruciatingly difficult by health fears and what she described as constant fat-shaming. One particular incident, she said, saw a group of stag party guests openly verbally abuse her about her weight. It would be two years before she finally worked up the courage to socialise again.
Now, just a week after her life-changing operation, the mum-of-two insists she has no regrets. At 28 stone, she said that her fears of what might happen without the operation far outweighed the risks of surgery.
One of her main concerns was that her youngest child Charlie, 3, would grow up to be her carer.
“I was watching an episode of My 600-Pound Life on television where the child was washing his mother because she was too heavy to wash herself,” Claire explained.
“My oldest son Jack has autism. I knew that if I kept going the way I was, Charlie would not just be caring for one person. He would be caring for the both of us.”
She described how she had exhausted all weight loss options before scheduling the surgery.
“The problem had become so bad that my legs would go numb if sitting down for too long as a result of them bearing the weight of my stomach.
"However, my lowest point was having to turn around after five minutes while going out for a walk with my children. There were people who said ‘just go for walks and you’ll be fine’ but it had got to a point where my body couldn’t bear the extra weight anymore.
“My fear was that I wasn’t going to be enough for my children.”
The 39-year-old was keen to secure the operation so she can continue her training to become a play therapist.
“I kept wondering how I could be on the floor playing with them being the weight I was. That really shook me.”
Claire, who has a degree in psychotherapy, said her battles with weight issues started from an early age.
“I’ve never been slim at any point in my life. Food has always been my armour. It protected me from being hurt. I was never ready to let my armour down. My family owned a shop at the side of the house and I’d often grab chocolate bars from there. Then my dad bought a chip van which we often worked in so there was always unlimited access to unhealthy foods.
“I can’t blame my parents as they always prepared healthy meals for us at home. It was not being able to give in to the temptations that caused problems.”
The issue continued for Claire long into adulthood.
She also feared her weight may have contributed to a mini-stroke she suffered in recent years. She described being left in constant pain.
“Everything hurt. My stomach was pulling down on my lower body and there was a lot of pain.”
She explained why the surgery was by no means an easy way out.
“There is no going back from something like this. If I go out for dinner now, the most I could have is a starter or something in a baby bowl. I have to spend the rest of my life taking multivitamins to make up for the nutrients I’m lacking.”
Claire is now eager to get back to her work with Jack and Friends, where she supports and advocates for the families of children with autism.
She had set up the charity with her husband Finbarr after experiencing social isolation following her own son Jack’s diagnosis.
“I knew that if I hadn’t opted for the surgery, I would have had a heart attack by the end of this year.
“Diabetes was just around the corner. I won’t deny that this is scary and you have to do your research.
“When I woke up after the operation, I felt so awful that I instantly regretted what I had done. I’d been told that everybody feels this way at first and it’s completely natural. Now, I know it was the right decision.”