My sister had lap-band surgery and didn't tell me!

My two (living) sisters and I are very close. The one who had the surgery lives 3.5 hours from me. The other one lives way out west.

I IM’ed with my sister on Thursday. Among other things, I asked her about another family issue we’re dealing with. She was on her way to a meeting and said, “Call me Saturday.” I e-mailed her some inconsequential thing on Friday (a LOLcat or something), and I got an auto-reply that she’d be out of the office for a week. Huh? She didn’t say anything about that. Oh, well. I’d ask her on Saturday.

I called on Saturday and her husband answered. He said she was feeling pretty bad and it’d be better if I called back the next day. (My sister has lots of health problems, including IBS, which has flared up lately, so I didn’t think too much about it.)

I called yesterday. Her husband answered. I asked how she was feeling, and he said better. My sister got on the phone and sounded really puny. She said something like, “I have a surprise. I had lap-band surgery on Friday.”

I told her I thought that was great, and she said she wasn’t feeling so great at the moment.

I talked to my other sister yesterday evening, and she didn’t know either.

Yes, I’m perplexed that she didn’t tell us, but she has issues. Hell, her issues have issues. Whatever. The important thing is that she had this surgery she’s wanted to have for a long time. (The one thing I did get out of her in the phone call is that her insurance finally approved it.)

My oldest brother (20 years older than me) abused alcohol for years, is morbidly obese, diabetic, and is on oxygen due to COPD. He recently had to go into a nursing home. My oldest sister died two years ago. She had many issues, too, including anorexia and anxiety disorder. My next brother in line has lymphoma, and after numerous difficulties is doing much better. My older remaining sister (the one way out west) is in fairly good health, although last year at this time she went through serious, scary complications from abdominal surgery. In other words, I’m very aware of my and my sibs’ mortality.

My sisters are my best friends. The thought of losing either one of them is beyond awful. I want all of us to enjoy many more years together, and I hope the surgery does everything for my sister that she hopes it will do. I’ve hated seeing her suffer from pain and debilitating fatigue and be able to do less and less every year.

Oh, and if anyone has some pointers about how to be supportive of my sister, even at a distance, I’d be happy to hear them.

My mom had gastric bypass surgery a year ago this coming Sunday, and it’s the best thing she’s ever done. It’s given her her life back, and I wish she’d done it a long time ago so as not to have lost the years she spent in pain and unable to do the things she loved.

I live about 5 hours away from them, and we were actually out of the country the day she had the surgery and the week afterward. (I was reaching for the phone to tell her we’d finally set a date and bought tickets for our vacation, and she called to tell me they’d gotten her surgery date–same day. She told me to go and have a wonderful time, she had plenty of people to sit around staring at her in the hospital.) The hospital set her up with a laptop, so we emailed several times, and I called her as soon as we got home.

Before we left, I got her a gift subscription to Netflix, and set it up so she had a couple of volumes of Dark Shadows waiting when she got home. It gave her something to keep her occupied and her mind off the post-surgical pain and the puking and whatnot. And it was a tangible reminder that I was thinking of her, which is really all the support I could give her. She had a lot of stuff to deal with, but it was stuff we couldn’t help her with other than to not make a big deal about it.

My understanding is that the aftermath of band surgery isn’t nearly so…extreme as that of bypass, but it’s fairly similar. If you don’t have previous experience with bariatric surgery patients (my first trip home afterward was quite the crash course), there are some things you should probably prepare yourself for, especially the next time you see her. She may puke. She may puke a LOT. Mom puked so much and so hard, I honestly thought she was going to tear something loose. It was all I could do not to jump up and down wringing my hands and offering to take her to the hospital. Don’t do that. Ask if she needs anything, and then leave it alone. The more you stew and fret, the more likely she is to get upset. This usually gets a lot better a few months out.

Eating meals with her may feel kind of weird at first. Intellectually, I knew Mom’s stomach only held 2 ounces, but it was still a shock the first few times I saw her take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and measure out her dinner. I felt so awful eating in front of her, even though it didn’t seem to bother her at all. And if you only see your sis every few months, she’ll be visibly, notably smaller every time you see her. That’s a wonderful feeling, but it initially takes some adjustment.

Really, the most supportive thing you can do for her is to be as matter-of-fact about the changes in her life as you can. Don’t treat as something big and scary and different, even if they seem like huge changes and scare the pants off you; this is the new normal for her life, so treat it normally.