I have been a very overweight person all of my life. Our family is from the south and they like their southern-style cooking…so well-balanced and healthy meals were not often on our menu. I was active as a child and enjoyed playing sports, but my weight held me back from my abilities, as well as the confidence to put myself out there. By high school, I was around 300 pounds. I don’t think I ever changed because I grew accustomed to it and that is how I defined myself. I had a lot of friends and besides the weight, I was very happy. I just don’t think I realized at the time how much happier I could have been.
In 2006, my mom made the decision to have bariatric surgery and over the course of that year, I watched her life change. Her diabetes was much more controlled and her demeanor as a whole really changed. That following year, I enrolled in a local program, but after six months, I changed my mind. I was still in college and I felt like I had to give this weight-loss thing one last effort. Over the course of the next few years, I tried more diets and my weight bounced up and down from the low 300’s the whole way up to my highest, 372 pounds.
On November 21, 2011, my Dad had a massive heart attack. He fought through the night to stay alive, but on a rainy Tuesday morning on November 22, 2011, he lost that battle with his family at his side. My Dad was the strongest person I ever knew, mentally and physically. He was a jack of many trades and if he couldn’t do it, then it was very possible nobody could. Watching him lose his battle that night showed me that the way we had been living stole my Dad’s life too soon. On that same day, I made a promise that I would use his legacy and his life to save my own.
That is when I began to research bariatric surgery again. I came into the program different from before. I didn’t want to get the surgery to get skinny and lose weight, but to get healthy. I wanted to make a change, but at that point in my life, I needed a tool to help me achieve that.
I decided to attend an information seminar at Lancaster General Health. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet different members of the team, as well as my surgeon, Dr. Ku. I felt confident after that initial meeting I would be in good hands, and I most definitely was! Everyone in the program is very knowledgeable in his or her field and they all work very hard to make you feel comfortable and motivate you. I often felt like I was their only patient because of the amount of attention they gave me. I felt like the staff was just as excited about my journey as I was. I also wouldn’t want to leave out the staff at the hospital during my surgery. The nurses made me feel comfortable and relaxed. That was my first experience in a hospital and I don’t think it could have gone any better!
From my prior experience in participating in a different program, I thought that the one-on-one meetings with the dietitian were invaluable. The dietitian helped me to not feel guilty about my eating habits/choices, but instead offered suggestions to improve. I felt like I could be honest about my struggles.
Ryan and Corey were also a great duo in motivating me to get moving. I started running last spring and when I first began, I couldn’t make it an entire lap (.25 mile) around the track without stopping. I thought my lungs were going to explode. Over the course of the past year, I’ve worked toward my goal of running in a half-marathon to honor my Dad’s life. On April 26, 2014, that dream became a reality. I ran in the Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in honor of my Dad. Every step of my 13.1 miles was in memory of each heartbeat he fought to stay on this Earth.
Now, aside from being active, every day activities are much more enjoyable for me. I enjoy getting dressed up and going out to dinner or the movies. I feel more comfortable in my own skin and have the energy to get out and do more. I also enjoy shopping much more these days (as my husband can attest). It’s not as depressing as it once was. Now I can go into a fitting room and find that the clothes I picked look just as nice on my new body as they did on the rack. I’ve noticed a difference in my job too. I have more much energy during the day and at the end of a work day, my body isn’t sore and I have the stamina to get things done at home.
But my biggest motivator throughout this entire past year has been my Dad. I am so driven to honor his life. I don’t want his death to be defined by an unhealthy lifestyle but for the difference he made in my life. So for me, that is what I work hard to do every day now. I know my Dad would be at peace knowing I can one day be a healthy mother to my own children and God willing, will have many, many years ahead of me.
I would also like to add that my success wouldn’t have been possible alone. It would have been impossible for me to maintain such a positive attitude and high level of motivation without the support I have had from my friends and family…especially my husband, mom, sister, and brother-in-law. They have showed me an immense amount of love and support and I am very grateful.
I’m not sure if I have the words to describe the ways this surgery has changed my life. I’m a different person than I was a year ago. I have a new excitement for life and the future that I did not have before. Almost every day I am reminded in some way just how much my life his improved and I continue to be motivated and determined to see just how much sweeter it can become.