STRANGER HERE: How Weight Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed Up My Head


Chapter 1

secret fantasies . . . an unexpected discovery. . . a life-altering decision

Here is a fantasy I used to have.

The doctor looks at me gravely. He sets his clipboard down and folds his hands neatly on his lap, one stacked on top of the other. He looks so sad. He says, “It’s cancer.”

I lift my chin and set my face in brave and stalwart lines. Beside me, my mother bursts into tears, but I don’t. I am the bravest person who ever lived, who was ever about to die.

“There’s nothing we can do,” the doctor says, and his voice cracks.

My mother’s shoulders shake.

Everyone cares. Everyone regrets every terrible thing they have ever thought about me. Everyone is filled with shame, and loss. Everyone can’t believe this is happening. The cancer creeps throughout my body and in the space of months, I lose hundreds of pounds. I am slender, hollowboned, ethereal. I glow with a light that must be reflected from the eminence of heaven. No one can believe this is happening to such a beautiful girl. I give away everything I own: to people I love, to charity, to the world. I ask for nothing in return.

Sometimes, I go into remission. Sometimes, I make a beautiful corpse.

Oh, the thunderous sobbing that lifts the roof off of the funeral home, the tears that flood out the door.

Here’s another fantasy.

A terrible car accident. I am beheaded. My body is a ruin, but my bouncing head is swept up off the highway, jammed into a bag of ice and raced to the nearest emergency room. Rushing doctors yell stat! and machines wail and gouts of blood splash against the sterile walls. A doctor picks up my head, looks into my quickly clouding eyes, and sees my beautiful soul. I am secreted away for emergency, experimental surgery—my head is implanted on the body of a supermodel! The implant works! The scars heal invisibly.

At first, it is so difficult to walk when I’m six feet tall and my legs are spindly and my ankles are so narrow, but muscle memory is magical. I quickly learn how to walk in four-inch heels. Even better, I don’t have to figure out what I want to do with my life, why I am so lonely, why I am depressed, why I feel like I mess up everything I touch—I’m a beautiful supermodel, and my ass is superb.

And another.

There’s a switch. I reach inside my rib cage and flick it on, and suddenly everything is different. No—suddenly I’m different. Totally changed, flipped inside out, polarity reversed. I am a good person, a happy person, a smart and dependable and wise person who is never scared of anything. Everything is clear and easy.

And another:

Weight loss surgery.

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