I didn’t stand a chance when my morbidly obese mum took me out of school and fed me until I reached 46 stone. Then Mum made a shocking confession…
By Debbie Reason, 48, from Warrington
Hearing my name called, I jumped to my feet. I wonder what Mum wants now, I thought to myself as I dashed into the living room.
Looking up from the sofa, where her vast 46 stone bulk was splayed, my mum Pauline smiled and said: ‘Be a good girl and get me those cream cakes, would you? There’s eight there. Take some for yourself too, I don’t want you getting anorexic on me.’
I sighed as I headed into the kitchen and opened the fridge door to find the box of sugary treats sitting on the shelf.
Only for me, it wasn’t a treat. I’d already had a family-sized portion of fried chicken for lunch, followed by a huge slab of chocolate.
I wasn’t hungry but I knew there was no point arguing with Mum. She’d only accuse me of ‘wasting away’ if I didn’t devour the lot.
‘Thanks love,’ she said as I plonked the box in front of her. ‘I’ll get us a kebab for tea. You don’t mind pushing me to the takeaway in my wheelchair, do you?’
I shook my head. Ever since Mum had taken me out of school aged 14, I’d done whatever I was told.
She said it was because I was being bullied and it was true, struggling with learning difficulties, some of the other kids had given me a hard time.
But I couldn’t help but wonder if Mum simply liked having someone around to care for her, some company.
I was only a tiny thing but Mum had always struggled with her weight. She’d even had her jaw wired in a bid to beat the bulge but when she liquidised her meals it didn’t make any difference.
Food for my mum was an obsession. And when I was 14, she decided to share that all-consuming addiction with me.
‘Let’s crack open this multipack of cookies, shall we?’ she grinned one day, greedily tearing at the biscuits and passing me the packet.
Mum didn’t mean any harm but as we sat and ate together, day in, day out, while my friends played outside, the weight piled on.
I daren’t say no to her and when my dad, Michael, begged her to stop feeding me, his pleas fell on deaf ears.
‘Come on, Pauline. You can see this isn’t doing Debbie any good. Enough is enough now,’ he insisted.
But she simply shrugged it off. She was completely in denial and a formidable woman, she very much wore the trousers.
So as we gorged on junk food and chocolate we grew and grew… until, aged 42, I tipped the scales at a colossal 46 stone.
‘Dad, I’m really sorry… but can you help me?’ I whispered, tears pricking my eyes as I wedged myself onto the toilet.
I was so big, I could just about shuffle from the sofa to the bathroom before I had to have a breather. But even then, I couldn’t manage to wipe myself.
I was trapped. Mum had fed me up so much, I could barely move. I was a prisoner in my own body.
‘This is so embarrassing,’ I winced, as Dad reached for the loo roll. ‘I did it when you were a baby, I’ll do it again,’ he told me softly.
But I wasn’t a baby. I was a grown woman. How had it come to this?
Then a bombshell hit. Not long afterwards, in 2010, Dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. ‘It’s terminal,’ he told me sadly. ‘I don’t know how long I’ve got left. It could be as much as a year but…’
My heart broke as he tailed off. I was devastated and just getting my head around Dad’s diagnosis when a week later, Mum suffered a kidney infection and fell into a coma.
‘What’s happening?’ I begged Dad, as Mum was rushed to hospital. ‘She will be alright, won’t she?’
Dad’s face fell as he said solemnly: ‘I don’t know, Debbie. Your mum isn’t well.’
I was desperately worried as I thought of Mum in hospital but then Dad carried on. ‘Promise me you’ll do one thing before I go,’ he whispered. ‘Save your life. Have gastric surgery. But whatever you do, don’t tell your mum…’
Dad’s words rung in my ears. Gastric surgery… a chance at another life. Something clicked in me then.
Of course I was terrified I’d lose Mum. Despite everything, she was my best friend. But while she was receiving treatment, I saw my chance to escape.
‘I promise, Dad,’ I told him, taking his hand. ‘I’ll do it.’
Dad died three months later but by then, I’d already signed up for the operation. I’d taken my chance – and fulfilled my promise to him.
In August 2010, I was fitted with a gastric balloon which was then removed in February 2011 when I underwent a more permanent, gastric sleeve operation.
I was racked with nerves as I was wheeled into theatre. What was worse, Mum was in the ward above me – completely clueless that I was going under the knife.
Thankfully, the gastric sleeve was a huge success and while Mum recovered in a care home, I lost a staggering 18 stone in the first year alone. MF
But I couldn’t keep it a secret from Mum any longer, she had to know.
‘Mum, I’ve got something to tell you,’ I started when I went in to visit her. ‘When you were poorly, in the coma, I did something… I had gastric surgery.’
I watched as her face fell. ‘I can’t deny I’m not upset,’ she told me. ‘You should have told me. What if something had happened and I’d lost you?’
I fell silent as I remembered Dad’s words… whatever you do, don’t tell your Mum.
I knew there was no way she’d have let me go under the knife if I’d told her, she would have talked me out of the operation.
And when she came home after a year of residential care, she was soon up to her old tricks. ‘Look at you Debbie, you’re wasting away,’ she exclaimed, passing me a biscuit.
I was 22 stone.
Although Mum had discharged herself from the care home, she still needed a lot of help and caring for her meant I couldn’t focus on my weight loss journey.
She’d feed me the wrong things and kept me so busy tending to her needs, I didn’t have a chance to get any exercise.
Mum cheated my surgery and for a whole year, my weight plateaued. I’d seen a glimmer of hope. I was getting my life and my body back and had never felt better. I was so desperate to keep going.
But meanwhile, Mum had eaten her way to an early grave. And at a colossal 46 stone, her organs gradually began shutting down, one by one.
‘I haven’t got long left, Debbie,’ she whispered on her deathbed. ‘You’ve done so well, I’m so proud of you but I have to tell you… you could have had the gastric surgery years ago.
‘Doctors offered to operate when you were 30 but I refused. I turned them down. I was scared of losing you. I’m so sorry,’ she confessed.
I should have been furious. I’d been offered a way out but Mum had stolen the chance to change my life, all so she could keep her eating partner.
But as I looked at her lying there, helpless, I couldn’t feel anger towards her.
‘It’s ok, Mum. It doesn’t matter now,’ I soothed.
In April 2013, Mum died. She suffered a final humiliation when funeral directors couldn’t find a hearse big enough and she was driven in a double coffin in an ambulance.
Even the mortuary in the chapel of rest didn’t have fridges big enough for her 46 stone bulk. I’ve never seen a coffin so big in my life, I thought as I watched it being wheeled into the crematorium on a special trolley.
It was a terrifying reminder of the fate I so easily could have faced. I missed Mum terribly and after we lost her I moved in with my sister, Diane.
Without Mum around I quickly reached by goal weight of 12st 8lbs. Now, after losing an incredible 34 stone, I’ve been left with huge folds of excess skin.
The NHS has offered me a full body sculpture and so far I’ve had a tummy tuck and an inner thigh lift.
The remaining surgery, which will cost at least £60,000, will take place over the next five years.
Slowly but surely, I’m getting my body – and my life – back. I don’t blame Mum for nearly feeding me to death but the fact is, losing her has saved my life.
Debbie was so proud of her huge achievement she wanted to share it with a wide readership. We helped her sell her story to two magazines and various news websites. If you’d like to share your slimming success, have a read of our ‘how to’ guides then fill in the form on the right.