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Gill and Sheila went to Tunisia for gastric bands::That's Life, 3rd January 2008


Read the full story of the gastric bands in Tunisia

Read the full story of Gill and Sheila's gastric bands in Tunisia

Eyes squeezed tightly shut, I stepped onto the bathroom scales.  I'd been dieting for a week - how much had I lost?  As I saw l7 stone flash up,. I let out a bloodcurdling screech.  I've lost nothing !' I ranted.  'Not even one pound!'  Stomping down the stairs, I seized the phone.  'Seven days of rabbit food and I haven't shed an ounce.' I wailed to my best pal Gill Collington, 50.  'Poor you.' she sympathised.  ' What you need, my dear, is a slab of cake'.

Gill could always make me feel better.  Within a few minutes, I was giggling again.  I was 52 and mum to Denise. 25. Sean, 20, and 10-year-old Marc.  I'd met Marc's dad. 50-year-old Peter, a machine operator. 16 years earlier.   Back then. I'd worked as a lifeguard, was a super fit size 14, weighing 11 stone at 5ft 7in.  Then I'd hurt my back, which meant I was laid up for nine months.  My energy had dripped away, as fat settled on my bones.  Marc arrived when I was 42, I'd expected my stomach to flatten again afterwards, as it had with my eldest two.  Instead, the flab just redistributed itself around my hips.  When Marc was four, I began working as a travel agent from home I'd only move from my desk to raid the biscuit tin.  And so my weight increased.

I'd try diets, would lose a stone, then gain another two.  Now. the yo-yo effect meant I was size 24.  My double chins depressed me, I hated my wide-load backside.  But I had no idea how to change.   Gill knew how that felt.  She was size 22 at 5ft 3in.

Married to Andy. 42, she had three grown-up girls and lived in Derby, 190 miles from me in Cramlington, Northumberland.  We'd never actually met, but working together over the phone for the past two months, we'd developed a glorious friendship.  Gill and I would speak and e-mail for hours every day.  'You're like Hinge and Bracket', people we worked with would tease, remembering the wittering comedy characters on TV.

Much of our banter revolved around our body shapes.  "I've just eaten a baguette with loads of butter", Gill would moan.  'I wish you could buy will power  But today, she took my mind off my la test failed diet.  "Only four weeks till we meet.,' she bubbled.   We were off on a work trip to Egypt.  With Gill, I knew plenty of fun lay ahead.  She'd told me all about uproarious excursions she been on in the past.  "When Andy and I went to Thailand," she chuckled, "I sat astride an elephant".   The thought of it tickled.  "I can't wait to see what you look like", I said.  "I'm 16 stone," Gill hooted.  You can't fail to miss me."

A month on, in the airport cafe, we found each other at once.  "Right,"I smiled mischievously", lets get ourselves to the nearest bar!"  After our flight, arriving In our hotel room, our chins dropped.  We'd been given a double bed.   We soon saw the funny side, though.  Donning vast nighties we cackled; "We re sleeping together on our very first night!"

Gill and I spent the rest of the week on a Nile cruise.  Surrounded by thin types, we stuck together.  'Joined at the outsize hip,'   we sniggered defiantly.  Sharing a cabin, we'd bang into each other as we dressed for dinner.  It could have been depressing, but we just laughed it off.  "We're in the same boat," we'd grin.  " lets hope we don't sink it."

At the buffet, we'd look on enviously as slim work mates in tight, short dresses pilled their plates with creamy desserts.  "Where's the justice", we sniggered, nibbling on fruit salad.  By day, at the poolside, Gill and I would huddle in the shade in our coverall sarongs - - two humped backed wales bobbing in a sea of bright, beautiful fish.   From behind dark glasses, we'd eye the skinny women in tiny bikinis tanning their taught tummies.  Thank goodness we had one another.  " bosom buddies, of the very biggest kind," we'd say, glancing down at our 44 D busts.

The holiday was over all too soon.  We'd been back a month when Gill rang, bursting with news.  "I'm sick of being fat," she babbled.  "I'm going to have gastric band surgery.  In Tunisia."  Shock ricocheted through my ripples of flesh. "What?" I barked.  "Have your totally lost your mind."  I'd read about the dangers of cosmetic surgery abroad - the botched jobs, post op infections.  "I've looked into it and my GPs also checked it out,"She went on".  "Its safe and, at 3750, far cheaper than it would be here.  Why don't you have it done too?""No!" I snapped, and hung up.  I'm just worried for her I told myself, excusing my short fuse.  Or was I simply jealous?  Admit it, a voice inside me chided, you don't want to be stranded alone on planet porker.

Over the next few days, Gill kept trying to cajoled me into going with her .  "No way," I sulked.   "I don't want to die."  A fortnight on, we were still at odds.   "OK, I give up," Gill said eventually.  "but don't blame me when I'm slim and your still fat."  Ouch.  My stomach churned as I pictured her, 4 sizes smaller, with the svelte cossie crowd.  "that does it!"  I boomed.  " I'll have the surgery too".  "Yessss!"  Gill whooped.

She and I were using savings to pay.  Both our husbands were worried but supportive.  I think they realised we were unstoppable.  We had another work trip to Egypt the following month.  "I fancy giving parascending a go," I mused to Gill.   Trouble was, I was harnessed to a 7 stone male colleague.   Our weight was so unbalanced, the parachute kept bouncing up and down, dipping him in the sea.  I spotted Gill watching us from the beach, doubled over with laughter.  "Sorry," I gulped to my work mate, back on the sand.  "your trousers are wet through".   Two months later, Gill and I were settling into our rooms opposite each other in the Tunisian clinic.

The place was spotless, the staff friendly, efficient.  "Told you so," Gill smiled.  That evening, we were served steak in the dining room.  "This could be our last proper meal".  I remarked nervously.  Next day, Gill waved me off to the operating theatre.  And an hour or so later, it was her turn.   I came round, groaning and feeling groggy.  Before long, Gill shuffled in.  "Bleurgh," I mumbled. " What on earth have you put me through".  "You'll feel better soon enough".  She promised.  "Right, I'm off for a fag."   I wanted to laugh - but feared it might bust my band.  Over the next week, we recuperated, nipping in and out of each others rooms, chatting over sips of thin soup.

Back home, we'd ring with daily updates.   "I'm losing weight steadily"  Gill enthused.  Jealousy nagged.   Mine wasn't coming off at all.  Two months on, I needed my band tightening in a private hospital near home.  "Give up your nightly wine," Gill bossed. "it's just empty calories. " Spoil sport", I grumbled.  But she was right.   When I cut out the booze and started exercising and made my portion sizes smaller, the pounds fell away.  "You look amazing," Peter said, cuddling me.

Now, a year after our ops, I'm 14 stone, a size 16 to 18.  Gill's managed to do even better.  She's 11 stone 5 lbs a trim size 12 to 14.  Two months ago, we went to the Caribbean island of Granada for a treat.  Sunning ourselves - me in a new tankini, Gill in a lime green checked costume - we merged comfortable with other holiday makers on the beach.  I'm as proud of my mate as she is of me.  We journeyed together from fat to thin.  There may be less of us now, but were closer than ever, thanks to our gastric bond.

Sheila and Gill contacted Linda Briggs for advice about their cosmetic surgery.  For info, visit or

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Cosmetic Surgery Abroad   |   Page last updated 16 October 2018