Previously published February 13, 2006
by Kaye Bailey
Lately I've been thinking about how WLS people are not that much different from Antarctica's emperor penguins. Have you seen the beautiful movie March of the Penguins ? Narrated by Morgan Freeman it is a story of love, perseverance, commitment, survival and triumph in the harshest conditions of nature and environment.
The story begins with the penguins leaving their home in the sea to travel inland where the ice is thicker. The narrator states, "Technically the emperor penguin is a bird although one who makes his home in the sea. He will leave the comfort of his own home and embark on a remarkable journey. He will travel a great distance and though he is a bird he will not fly. Though he lives in the sea he will not swim. Mostly he will walk. But he will not walk alone." The penguins are traveling to the thick ice to meet a partner and produce offspring.
It is impossible not to draw a parallel with the WLS community because we, by having surgery, are doing something that is counter-intuitive to everything we know. We are making a remarkable journey against the odds of our genetic nature and we are traveling in a harsh unforgiving environment. But we need not walk alone. Like the penguins that go against the odds, "perhaps we are just stubborn."
As the story of the penguins continues we learn their survival is in the group as they huddle together to become a united and cooperative team. The narrator describes, "As winter descends the tribe's only defense against the freezing cold is the group itself. The huddled animals form a single moving mass; one designed for the sole purpose of sustaining warmth."
Like the penguins we, the WLS tribe, must sustain warmth and protection from our own harsh environment by becoming a huddled mass designed to sustain life and enable not just survival but success as we fight for our health in this unforgiving environment. So often I receive letters from people who tell me they feel all alone in their journey after WLS. At one time I too felt alone without friend or traveling companion. Like the penguin, traveling this journey alone is risky; we need our huddled mass to survive. Of the solo penguin the narrator says, "The lone penguin has no chance against winter's cold. He will simply fade away absolved by the great whiteness around him."
We cannot let our fellow WLS Neighbors simply fade away.
Ours, like the penguins, can be a story of love, perseverance, commitment, survival and triumph in the harshest conditions of nature and environment. I personally have been overwhelmed by the show of love and kindness to me from so many of you. Your letters and encouragement have been the fuel to sustain me while working to bring this Neighborhood to being. I appreciate you all and welcome you to my huddled mass.