Another amazing story from a friend and former patient of mine! Like many of us, Kelly didn’t keep any “before” pictures but as you can see (and read) her life is full of health and joy! Enjoy Kelly’s story and be encouraged in your own :)
1. Tell us about your weight struggle prior to surgery.
I was a mother of three boys and I was raising them alone. I worked long hours and we ate out a lot of the time. I had always had a weight problem but really lost control after I had cancer at the age of 23. I then had three boys in five years and lived in CO with no family around. My highest weight was 264 lbs and I hid behind my weight for years while I raised my children. I knew that no one would ask out a woman that weight that much and had three children to raise. I tried many diets but I do not think I really tried hard to lose the weight.
2. Share with us what led you to surgery and what brought you to ultimately make the decision.
I had thought about weight loss surgery for a while and had done all the research but I had always had an excuse. In Jan 2007, I was diagnosed with diabetes and sleep apnea. I had lost 40 lbs when I was diagnosed with a very rare auto immune disease called Sarcoidosis. The only way to control this disease was high doses of steroids. I put the 40 lbs back on in 30 days and added another 20 in the 18 months I had to take that medication. In that time, I also had a very good friend become bed ridden due to her diabetes and she lost sight in one of her eyes. I decided during all of this as soon as I was able it was time to have weight loss surgery and get my life back. I had to wait until all my doctors agreed I was healthy enough to have the surgery.
3. Did you feel well supported in your decision?
I was very supported both by my family, friends and my doctors. I can’t say I never felt alone because I was still a single mother raising three boys, two of who were having behavioral problems. I had a support system that was there for me and I could reach out to for the most part.
4. Tell us what surgery you had on what date. If comfortable, share how much weight you’ve lost.
I had gastric bypass because of my diabetes, with this surgery when you come out of surgery you are no longer diabetic. I lost a total of 134 lbs but decided that was too much weight so I have settled on a loss of 124 lbs. (Note: many patients do experience normalized blood sugars after weight-loss surgery although some patients do still need medical intervention for blood sugar control. Weight-loss surgeries are continually studied for their positive impact on diabetes.)
5. How where the early weeks and months after surgery?
The first few weeks are the hardest because you have to be on liquid for a couple of weeks. Then once you are on food it takes a while to learn what you can eat and how your relationship to food has to change. You are obsessed with food but it is important for you to be successful to not eat the wrong items. It really is a whole different world, we eat at every celebration and for everything we do but you can no longer do that after surgery so you might have some depression because you don’t feel you can be as social.
6. Tell us about your life now…..how it’s different….what you miss and what you love more than ever.
My life has changed drastically and all for the better. There is nothing I miss about my old life of being overweight and in bad health. I never felt like doing anything and I had no energy. I only did the things I need to do each day to care for my family. Since the moment of my surgery, my energy level has been going up and now it is very hard to keep me down. I am always moving and enjoying my life. I have been in a very serious relationship since May 2013 and there is nothing we can’t do together. When I turned 47, I bought myself my first tattoo in honor of my mother who died of cancer. Since then, I have added several others and all in honor of family and past. When I turned 48, I bought my first motorcycle. This is something I have always loved but at 264 lbs, it was not something I can ever have thought about doing. I could not even ride on the back of a bike because it was too much weight for most bikes to carry. Riding is the most amazing feeling in the world, it lets you free your mind and enjoy the ride. I am now four years after surgery, I recently was able to finance a tummy tuck and I feel like I am complete. I also have purchased a 2015 Harley Trike to ride for many years in the future. I had to give up two wheels because of some neck damage that was probably made worse do to my future weight. I love my life!!!!
7. How do you stay focused on a healthy bariatric diet in the midst of a busy life?
Staying busy and eating healthy is the key. I stay busy all the time and try to fit a 4 mile walk in at least 5 days a week. I can’t say that I always eat healthy but I have no clothes that are too big for me and I get on the scales about once a week to make sure I am staying under my goal weight. You have to know that if you make a mistake and gain a few pounds it ok, you just have to work quickly and get it off. It is not ok to say “it’s only 5 pounds.” That is how we came to be overweight in the first place.
8. What do you feel was the biggest challenger in your journey…..and is it still a struggle?
The biggest challenge is keeping the weight off long term. I love my active life and I can never see me putting the weight back on but I do catch myself not sticking to my life changes when winter hits and I am stuck in the house more. I still catch myself eating when I am stressed and bored. Going back to old habits is easy and familiar even after four years.
9. What words of advice and encouragement would you like to share with others postop patients or patients starting the process to surgery?
Never give up and remember we all have bad days and even bad weeks but that does not mean you will not succeed. I take it one day at a time, once you have met your goal weight then you know how to keep the weight off, just don’t let life put you back on the bad track. Always remember, going backward is not an option. Find a friend that you can share your story with, maybe a couple, and do not get mad when they call you on your transgressions. They are just being the best friends you could ever have and are there to help. Good luck and many successes.