My Doctor said, “Your weight is killing you.”

I’ve always had weight issues. I’d lose weight but ease off my diet over time and regain the weight I’d lost plus some. I was on a medically-supervised program where I lost 100 pounds, only to gain 120 back.

Years ago, I went to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics about my back problems. They said I had degenerative bone disease, but I couldn’t have surgery because of my weight. The doctor was honest and truthful, and he referred me to the bariatric surgery program. Bariatric surgery seemed the only way out. My diabetes was out of control, and my physical body was not able to hold the weight anymore.

My doctor told me I literally had only five to 10 years to live if I didn’t do something.

I had teenagers at home, and I wanted to be around for them.

What I really liked about UI Hospitals and Clinics is that they treat the whole person. That really matters to everyone on the team. They gave me the facts and are strict in their expectations, but I needed that. They were honest and made sure I knew what to expect. They understood the dilemmas that got you to that point to begin with and how to help you not go back. Ultimately, the access to information and the fact that they were still open to me after the surgery really made the difference.

Debi, the clinical nurse coordinator was awesome. She took me by the hand and continuously told me I could do it, even when I didn’t think I could. It’s been two and a half years since my surgery, and I know I can still email Deb and get an answer!

Nancy, the dietician, kept telling me the same things over and over before the surgery, and I would think, “Why does she keep telling me this?” But afterwards, when I was living it, I remembered everything she told me and understood why she beat it into my head.

Before surgery, I weighed around 271 pounds. I’ve lost a total of 97 pounds. Can you imagine carrying that with you for years every time you have to go up the stairs?

I follow my regimen religiously. They made sure I remember that everyday I change a little, and I can do a little more than the day before. If one day I walked a mile, the next day I could walk a mile plus one block. I haven’t taken any diabetic medication or high blood pressure medicine since the surgery.

Now, I don’t want to go back to my old habits. They gave me the tools to get through it. So if I even overeat just a little, it doesn’t feel good. I make sure I’m exercising, drinking my water and eating small portions.

I feel like it’s a gift to be able to do things I never experienced before in my life. I was a large woman who didn’t get to do a lot of physical things with my kids as they were growing. But afterwards, when we visited my son in Phoenix, we all climbed a mountain together! My husband and I left my son behind. He was like, “Mom, Dad, slow down!”

I even went with the Red Cross to help Hurricane Katrina victims. I did two shifts of six weeks total. Before the surgery, I never would have had the endurance to handle the pressure or the stifling heat. I have self-esteem. I’ve gone back to school. I never would have done that before the surgery because of the humiliation of being overweight. My husband and I go on trips now. I’m active in the community and do a lot of volunteering.

I just want to tell everyone about the program at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. I’ve referred friends, and my husband referred some of his co-workers. I would recommend the surgery to others, but would tell them to investigate their options to find the one that works for you, and always check out what the University is doing and what they recommend. I know people who have had bariatric surgery done elsewhere, and I’m shocked at what they didn’t know before the surgery. They didn’t even meet the requirements for surgery, and they weren’t well educated as to what to expect afterwards, so they’ve had complications and failed.

It’s not a quick fix. You have to work at it every day for the rest of your life. I couldn’t do this for my husband or anyone else. I’ve succeeded because I was well prepared and ready to do it.