Category Archives: bariatric surgery

The Scale Says What?!?….3.5 Years. Success. Amazing.

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As I am about to enter my 2nd year  with APHSA, I have had some time to reflect on what the past 42 months has meant both personally and professionally.  First, I can’t believe it has been 42 months (and most importantly December 13), that I checked in at Fair Oaks Hospital for life-changing surgery with the team from Blue Point Surgical.  Under the direction of Dr. Amir Moazzez, I underwent having bariatric surgery with the election that is known as the sleeve surgery where 85% of a person’s stomach is removed.

For more years than I care to remember, I was the chubby (yes, fat), funny girl that worked hard to be one of the crowd.  I was living a great life but struggled privately with many health issues – anxiety, sleep apnea, PCOS, always being tired, IBS, low back pain, addiction to food (I always wanted something to eat), leg pains – however, even with this private struggle I worked tirelessly to be healthy.  From as early as I can remember, doctors would say – eat less, move more – it takes time and dedication.  How does one move more when they are tired and in pain most of the time?  You don’t.  You come to accept that this is the way life is and will be.  Then bariatric surgery was introduced to the world.

I watched a couple of friends go through the early surgeries with success but never felt I was a candidate.  For years, as indicated in earlier posts, I read about the advances with this type of surgery as I was curious if it really worked.

I had moved to VA for my career which meant a new set of doctors.  One suggested that I have sleep study done which lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Now added to my pills was a cPap machine.  However, I started noticing that I had a bit more energy and at least was getting some solid rest plus even lost a few pounds.  I found that I was working harder to eat better and move a bit more but was always in pain because when you are carrying close to 300 pounds on your joints they aren’t too happy – and – they will rebel.   I found that I was going to the doctor more often – it seemed that we just couldn’t find a cause for the pain – except for the weight.  Being assured that I was not alone in the quest and that I was a candidate for surgery, my doctor encouraged me to go an informational meeting – no strings attached, no commitments – just go and listen.  Being a bit skeptical that I was truly a candidate, I didn’t go right away.  A side note: during this time period another industry peer had this surgery done.  I watched quietly as I saw her successful progress. 

The “straw” that broke me was taking narcotics 3x a day while doing a meeting in July 2010.  I either had to do something drastic or change careers.  Physically I just simply could not do what I loved doing as it was too physically difficult.  I was exhausted not only from the long hours but from the pain that I experienced every day.  I couldn’t get across a trade show floor or run up the stairs without being totally out of breath.  There were times that I would become so flushed from pushing myself that colleagues and attendees would think something was wrong with me.  But I could not do my share – I had to prove that the fat girl could carry her share of responsibilities. Within a week of that meeting, I went to the informational meeting that changed my life.

Has the road been easy?  Yes and no.  Let me explain.  Yes, as I quickly accepted that what the doctors were saying. I need to do as they were instructing and be present for every moment of this new journey.  It was THE journey that would change my life, my career and my future.  I work in a profession where dining out and cocktails are a regular course of life.  It is during these times that I struggle with my surgery…I want to be social but food is still a trigger…so I struggle when I am out with friends and colleagues for a dinner where there are multiple courses and lots of cocktails – a couple drinks (if that) and a few bites of an appetizer – I am full.  If I overeat, it comes back to haunt me.  If I drink without eating, I am plastered within the first drink.  I am still learning the balance as I don’t want food or drink to control my life again.

The positive results outweigh the struggles or negatives.  I am free of five medications and the cPap machine.  I am not in constant pain.  I can wear a size 10/12 (down from 24/26). I can walk into almost any story now and buy clothes off of the rack – current trends and fashionable clothes – I am not any longer relegated to the few plus size racks.  My blood pressure is the best it has ever been my entire life. I can run a 12 – 14 minute mile – never ran before.  Finished walking a half marathon and raising funds for LLS and have done five additional races.  Continue to find opportunities to add a walk or run to my day with my wonderful dog, Bentley.   I can sit in the exit row on an airplane – and – I am on them a lot these days (translation – no seat belt extender).  I don’t get the “look” when I am sitting next to someone now – and – if you are overweight, you understand what I am speaking about.

I work every day to make smart (and smarter) choices.  I work on the “voices” in my head when I get tired and want to eat whatever I can find rather than taking five minutes to think it through.  I struggle to not to become obsessive about the numbers on the scale. I weigh myself every day as a method for me to check myself.

Over the past 42 months, I have had moments where I cried uncontrollably … out of joy and disbelief.  I never thought I would ever be smaller than I was in high school.  And turn heads?  Right that happens to the cute ones not to the fat girl – yes, I am experiencing that phenomena as it happens now from time to time.  I still see the “fat” girl in the mirror and work tirelessly to make sure she doesn’t reappear.

I have also had many moments where I experienced such wonderful support and encouragement from friends and family.  My father, who is 80, made my day when he hugged me Easter 2012 and lifted me off the ground – it was an overwhelming moment.  The pride on his face was worth any amount of pain that i endured for the surgery.  When I attended Expo! Expo! in 2012 and people didn’t recognize me – totally overwhelming – I learned from that experience to always have photos to share with those who wondered what all the fuss was about.  Jane Dahlroth who went through this journey with me and continues to do so.  Susan Haning who is responsible for getting me addicted to running/walking competitively.  Chris who is learning new ways to cook and understand that pasta, rice and pork are not part of my diet any longer.  Friends who check in on me from afar and send me notes of encouragement. My sister, Janell, who stood by me when others thought I was taking an easy way out to lose weight.  My “village” will always continue to be a part of my journey…I could not have done it [cannot do it] without you.

I still love to cook and continue to add to my cookbook collection.  I eat just about anything I want except for pork, pasta and rice.  I eat more protein than carbs.  I drink less alcohol now.  I drink more water and green tea.   I enjoy going out with friends as long as I can plan ahead regarding menus.

When I think about what the last 42 months have been like here are some words that describe this journey

Amazing. Wonderful. Blessed. Supported. Encouraged. Struggle(s). Work. Surprise. Positive. Strength. Impressed. Challenge(s). Hard. Emotional. Happy.  Sad. Shift. Game Changer.

I trust that as you read this post you will be inspired to take control of your life or at least an area…make a shift, cause a change, become the person that is hidden below/behind the facade…you will not only change who you are but you will be able to impact someone around you — many times without even knowing that you have done so.

The Scales Say What?!?…. A Choice to Make!

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Since my last post life took a turn that was not necessarily part of my life plan – I was laid off from a job that I love.  HOWEVER, when life hands us a “bump” in the road, we have a choice to make.  We can either choose to rise above it and move forward OR we can choose to wallow in self-pity and depression.

Prior to having lost my weight, I would have went the route of self-pity, depression, “woe is me” and figured that I was doomed.  That is not to say that I didn’t feel sorry for myself, wish it hadn’t happened, said a few choice words or felt sadness – I did all that and then some!  BUT, the difference this time, for me, was that as a result of having starting the journey of being healthier and happier being well on its way for me – I was able to stay focused on what I needed to do – find a job and keep moving forward.

Just prior to the job loss, I had signed up to be part of Team HOPE, a community-based group of individuals, who were raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  In fact, they were attempting to raise $100,000 to fully fund a blood research grant to help eradicate blood cancers.  By signing on to the team, I was committing to personally raising $1,800 – scary now that I didn’t have a regular income.  It also meant taking on training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.  Something that I had NEVER, EVER done before.  So the choices continued…stay the course, raise the money, support my friends – or drop out and quit.  Oh I thought about the later more times than I can count but…I also had committed to myself that this was the year (2014) that I would identify an exercise that I would enjoy to help me keep the weight off.

Here is how I tackled what seemed impossible:

  • Job front:  I emailed every person I know in my network and sent them my resume along with a short snippet of what I was looking for and asked them to share opportunities with me.  I applied for jobs that didn’t make sense just to put my name out there.  I met with anyone that was recommended either by phone or over coffee.  I listened. Stayed engaged on LinkedIn.
  • Fundraising front:  When you ask people to give to a great cause, it is amazing how generous people are – I did team events, sent personal emails, posted on social media – and gave people a reason to get involved.  My uncle has CMML, a blood leukemia, and a I asked him to “borrow” his story to put a face to my fundraising efforts.  We had to meet a $1,800 minimum by April 14 – scary to say the least – but I met it and exceeded it by more than $500.  As I write this post, I am at $2,378 with one outstanding corporate donation!
  • Race training:  I made myself get out of bed every Saturday, except one, and went to training – cold weather and all.  I scheduled time to train during the week with other teammates.  On the one day that I missed team training, I trained by myself.  Found out quickly that training with the team was more fun.
  • Weight control:  To keep the weight in check and not fall back into bad habits was a challenge for me during this time. I found that it was easier to grab something on the run instead of planning meals which I allowed to happen on certain days ‘just because’ but was quick to put myself back on a protocol of eating more protein than carbs.  I used my Unjury and Body by Vi products to help me stay on track.  I put a few pounds on; however, I was moving much more and didn’t allow the scale to get out of control.

I committed to completing the half marathon with a smile on my face.  What happened was much more.  As I rounded the 12th mile and headed into the finish line all I could do is let the tears roll.  Walking 13.1 miles was and is a HUGE accomplishment for a girl who couldn’t run stairs just 27 months ago without feeling like she was going to have a heart attack.

Here are some fun pictures of the half marathon that will be forever my reminders that I simply need to stay focused and keep moving…

 

Nike Wall imageTeam ready - Race day

The Scale Says What?!?…27 Months Does Not Erase the Mental Tapes…yet!

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As one goes on a the journey of transformation and changing a lifestyle to better health there are obstacles that get in the way sometimes.  For me, one of those obstacles is what I “see” when I look in the mirror, pass a window and see my reflection or look at pictures.

Of late, here is my battle:  I have successfully lost over 135 pounds.  I have dropped 14 dress sizes.  I no longer need a cpap machine to sleep soundly at night.  I no longer take high blood pressure, anti-anxiety, high cholesterol, thyroid or pain medications – yes that is 5 – count them 5 – medications gone!  With all of these successes one would think that I would be floating on air and happy as a lark!  YET, I battle with myself as I see the person who started on this journey 30 months ago, counting pre-surgery months – taking all the medications, not sleeping through the night, not able to sit in an airplane seat without a belt extender and so many other things!  So I have been doing some thinking about why … why can’t I get rid of the mental pictures, erase the tapes – why can’t I see what others tell me that they see….

Here is my analysis of this part of the process…

  • I lived with these real images for more than 40 years – so they were my friends.  Losing this much weight is like a death – there is a process – much like death – that one has to go through.  I believe I was so wrapped in the excitement of the success that I didn’t properly grieve the loss of “my friends”.   I am now grieving them and so I have had a few moments.
  • For many years, I identified myself with my work instead of finding hobbies or other interests outside of work.  When one is fat, you bury yourself in work and work hard to be successful so no one thinks that you are lazy or not able to perform the job that you are assigned.  I am now finding new interests…in fact, I am walking in my first half marathon ever!  I am so excited and feel empowered in a way I can’t explain! And when it is over, I will find another one to focus on…who knows what I will accomplish before I turn 60 (several years from now :))
  • I am in transition in my career.  When transition happens, it causes upset to our routine.  And for me, I need a routine to keep me on track.
  • I have started eating more carb-laden foods which I wish I had not learned that I could still eat because they give me comfort. I still have not eaten rice or pasta (yes that is about 27 months without these two comfort foods).  However, I have convinced myself that good bread is not bad for you…guess what…not true.  While I need to increase my carbs due to the training, I need to find the right carbs to eat.
  • I started allowing foods that I thought I could ignore to be brought in the house again – cookies, chips, breads, unhealthy snacks.  I am not as strong as I thought and need to go back to keeping things out of the house that are too tempting.
  • And finally…it is a journey that is one day at a time!  And these few weeks of set back are giving me pause to re-focus and get back on track!  Besides, I refuse to buy larger clothes!

While I continue to work on erasing the tapes – both mental and visual – I am forever a different person than I was 27 months ago.  Today at my check up with Blue Point Surgical, I heard phrases like…’great blood work – your numbers look amazing’; ‘you look great’; ‘keep up the good work’; ‘you are in tune with what you need to do to keep on track’; ‘you are an inspiration’…so while I have had a bit of mental set back, I know that I have come a long way in two years and have no regrets of having surgery and becoming healthy, which was my #1 reason for having the surgery done.

What are your battles when it comes to making a transformation in your life?  What have you done to overcome the obstacles and declare success?  How do you deal with setbacks?

A visual reminder of how far I have gone in 27+ months…

Donna with Tjay Spencer at Starwood Academy Awards Event

Donna with Tjay Spencer at Starwood Academy Awards Event – March 2014

Who is the girl in pink?

This is where I started – Sept 2011

 

The Scale Says What?!?!…Two Years and Counting

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A journey of many miles starts with the first step.  What a journey it has been the past 18 months.  From the informational meeting with Blue Point Medical Group, to my first visit with Dr. Amir Mozzaez, surgery, recovery, hair loss, dropping 14 sizes and many inches. I have experienced anxiety, excitement and growth plus many other emotions that are related to such a journey.

As I look back while moving forward, I think about the process to get to the point of surgery. Here are some questions that I have answered for myself and am asked by people inquiring about my process and progress.

Why did it take so long for me (you) to decide?  In short, I wasn’t ready.  I kept thinking that I could lose weight with another fad diet, more exercise or not eating as much.  Prior to making the choice to go this route (and yes, it was a choice), I spent hundreds of dollars on weight loss programs, personal trainers, bigger clothes and diet food (and pills).   Choosing to have 85% of your stomach removed (reminder: I had the sleeve form of surgery done) is not a quick overnight process.  I had to wrap my head around the fact that I would only be able to eat about a cup of food a day for the rest of my life in order to be successful.  I had to grasp the fact that I wouldn’t be able to “grab and go” when on site producing a conference.  I had to make sure that I was 110% committed to a new lifestyle of taking vitamins, making sure that I got in 80 grams of protein daily and was willing to give up sweets and other junk food that I liked to “treat” myself to from time to time.  I wanted to make sure that I was willing to do this and more…exercise regularly, eat on a regular schedule, drink 64 ounces of water or non-carbonated beverages daily, be committed to working on the things that triggered me eat comfort foods, be willing to do the work….and yes, it is work.  I had to accept that my obesity was much like any other disease and that I needed to treat more than just the symptoms – I needed to treat the root causes!

How do you survive?  This one is a bit easier to answer – like anyone else – with smaller amounts of everything that I consume – less food, less drink.  As the doctors and dieticians told us in prepping us for this journey “you will become a cheap date”.  Those words ring true just about every time I go out.  A regular entree purchased out can be up to three meals for me.  And alcohol – well, that is where I really save money – usually one drink will do it.  I didn’t think I would survive without drinking (after all I am in a profession where entertainment is a central part of what I do) – but I can nurse a glass of wine for about two hours now!  Back to the question…there are days when I look at foods that I used to eat and want them.  And sometimes, I try to eat it.  However, I am founding (still) that my taste buds have changed drastically.  Those french fries just don’t have the same taste as they did before and they upset my stomach too much to indulge.  Just like any addict, I take it one day at a time.  Fortunately, I find that I am winning this time.

What is the biggest change? My Quality of Life!  I am more positive than ever now.  I find joy in getting up every day.  I am not tired or exhausted after a night’s sleep.  I don’t have to take five medications to cope.  I don’t need my cPAP machine to make sure that I am breathing while I sleep.  I have fun shopping (well, sort of as I have never been a big shopper) but now it is nice to run into a store and grab something off the rack and know it will fit without a struggle.  I still enjoy cooking and entertaining – just don’t eat all the food – and I still bake treats from time to time.  I am learning how to modify favorite recipes to make them more healthy.

What foods do you miss? If I were to say there is one thing I miss … it might be pasta.  I haven’t eaten pasta for close to 24 months now.  And I used to have it at least three times a week.  I always enjoyed a good plate of spaghetti with my homemade sauce – well maybe two plates or macaroni and cheese.  I don’t crave it but I do miss it.  It was an old friend that gave me comfort when I was stressed out or feeling down.

What is your biggest challenge? This question varies from day to day.  One day it could be resisting a scrumptious-looking treat in the office or at dinner.  Another time it could be not wanting to exercise.  Or having more to drink than eat which means low blood sugars and fainting.  And some days it is myself…old tapes playing in my head that I work to erase or remove regularly.  Learning to accept compliments from strangers and friends.

For those who are reading this blog and have been considering (or know someone who is) bariatric surgery of any kind my recommendation is simply this…find a surgeon that is part of a Center for Excellence practice, talk with them and jump in with both feet!  It will be work but it will be the best work you will ever do for yourself – and – most of all – the best present you will EVER give yourself.

Dream big.  Dream often. And live each day to the fullest…I do that every day now!

The Scale Says What?!?…12 Months Makes a Difference

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Where does the time go?  Didn’t realize I have been so remiss in posting updates until I started sharing my blog this weekend with a friend.

Thanksgiving 2012 has been a bit challenging for me.  It was a year ago that I shared with my family and friends that I was having my surgery.  I am back with them a year later a much healthier, happier person.  However, it was a difficult time for me.  While I have learned new habits, changed my food habits, tastes have changed – in part because of the surgery – and in part because they had to in order for me to be a success…the worlds that my family live in have not changed.  So I worked with what I had…added what I could…and made the best of it.

What challenges could there be?  I can hear that question loud and clear.  Carbs were the worst.  Recently I have been feeling challenged by the excess carbs that are being added to the menus in my home since my husband has retired.  And it was no different this weekend.  From freshly baked dinner rolls to more than seven pies (but I did contribute two bean pies to try to introduce a new taste to the family) … it made for difficulty in navigating the Thanksgiving buffet.  Selecting turkey over the ham loaf wasn’t hard but walking past the dinner rolls was like slicing my wrists.  I was dying to dive in and never look back.  But I didn’t.

I stood for myself and asked to have unsweetened tea made.  I did enjoy asparagus wrapped with bacon and baked.  My brother-in-law didn’t realize that he was helping me have a bit of enjoyment with his addition to the menu. Thank you Dan!  And my sister, Janell, added fresh broccoli to the menu.

Okay, enough whining.  I am keeping my eye on the prize of being healthy and it is one day (well in this case,  a weekend) out of the big picture.  When I look at pictures from last year compared to this year – I have made great strides.  Over 110# gone forever.  I am drinking my Body by Vi shakes while I am traveling to help keep me on track.  It has made a difference between caving in totally or not.

During my trip back to Ohio, I was able to catch up with some friends.  To remind myself how far I have come, I stopped in to see Lee Kelly and take a picture in the same spot where we took one last year.  This my friends, is my measure of success….

I am thankful for the success that I have had the past 11 months.  I am pleased to see that the closet is starting to fill with smaller clothes and that the fat clothes are gone.  I am having fun finding new clothes and new looks.  It is an amazing feeling to walk into a store and buy “pretty” clothes that make me feel pretty.

So for the quick comparison – I re-created a photo with my dear friend and wonderful supporter, Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving Day this year.

With Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving 2012

With Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving 2011

With Lee on Thanksgiving November 2012

With Lee on Thanksgiving November 2012

So my friends…as I approach my year anniversary of the surgery that has changed my life, I leave you with this thought.  When you want something bad enough, you can have it – simply put it out to the universe and begin living as if it is so – and it will come to pass.

If you are reading this blog and are considering one of the bariatric surgeries, I am very open to listening to your concerns as well as sharing my insights to help you make a decision that is best for you.

Watch for the annual update blog!

The Scale Says What?!…7 months and counting!

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One thing I enjoy each month is celebrating another anniversary of becoming a healthy individual.  Friday, July 13 was seven months since surgery.  I have never felt better in my life.  I am becoming more confident with every day and matching what I am seeing in the mirror with the photographs in my mind.

When I stepped on the scale today, I have officially lost 90 pounds from when I first met with Dr. Moazzez at Bluepoint Surgical.  I am down 10 dress sizes (oh and I am wearing dresses!).   I do need to get some photos taken this week to post as an update but I promise you that it will be worth the wait!

I still struggle to find the perfect exercise pattern.  Thank goodness for Bentley, my chocolate lab, he is my walking buddy.  I love taking him out and about with me.  He keeps me honest!  The yoga class I was taking ended and they didn’t renew the session for lack of interest.  I am now in search of a new yoga class that I can go to during the week at work.

I am watching Extreme Makeover tonight and am hearing so many of the words that I have said about myself from Nyla who is on the show tonight.  What people saw on my exterior – my confidence, my humor, my laugh – was not at what was going on in my inside.  I was a scared individual who didn’t believe that I deserved to be happy all the way through.  I can identify with the struggles that she is sharing on national TV.  Many have said that they can’t imagine that is how I felt – that is the whole point – I didn’t want anyone to know that is how I felt.  So I hid behind my weight and in the comfort of the food that took away the pain, I buried myself in my career as the ‘fat girl’ had to try harder to prove herself.  As I shed those beliefs and attitudes, I am becoming a stronger person whose exterior confidence matches the inside!

So to answer a question that Bryan Dodge asked me a few months ago…Where do I see myself in two years?  What am I seeing? – Bryan: this is for you – I see a fun loving, confident self who knows that she is a pretty and beautiful as the mirror tells her everyday!  My smile that I am famous for – matches the person inside! And I am loving that person fully every day.  I am blessed to have had this opportunity and do not take for granted one day.  I am shedding more than weight I am shedding bad habits – I am decluttering my life with Kathleen Ronald’s DeClutter U Program – from beliefs to stuff to relationships. I am learning to be kind to myself.  I am learning to give myself credit for my accomplishments and acknowledge my weaknesses.  I am facing issues head on and standing for myself.  I am appreciating where I am in life more than ever before.

So as you read this post and are thinking about having surgery to help you lose weight…that is just part of the process – the real work happens long after you leave the surgery table.  It is understanding that you will need to think about what you eat at every meal (yes, that is right no more McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardees, etc.), you will face ups and downs, you will deal with emotions and feelings that you have either buried or never dealt with before – you are worth it!

I know I am!

Until next month…enjoy a peaceful July!

The Scale Says What?!!!…The Journey Continues!

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It has been a while since I wrote an update on my journey to better health.  I’ll start with the great news…I had my six month check up and Tiffany, the PA, at Blue Point said words that I didn’t expect to hear…You are no longer considered obese!  My BMI is below 30 and that makes me normal in the medical world.  Holy cow!  Did I hear her correctly? So I asked her to repeat it.  And she said it again.

The other news she gave me was that all of my other numbers – cholesterol both the good and the bad, Vitamin D, B, and all the other things they check are all GREAT!  Blood pressure is so low that I don’t recognize it.

And it didn’t stop there…I have lost 72% of my pre-surgery weight.  They consider a patient successful with 60 – 65% weight loss. And I am not done.  I am excited to continue the journey to better health.

As I go through this journey, I am being challenged to “rewire” my brain to think more positively, to be kind to myself (yes, Tiffany, I am practicing your instructions), and to make me a priority.  From accepting compliments from well wishers and friends to loving the look I see in the mirror now, I am learning how to embrace the newness of this in my life.  This is a challenge that many have when it comes to weight loss – whether it is through the process of surgery or other methods – and it is one of the reasons that people can fail.

So how do I deal with this new phenomenon? Learning to simply say “thanks” and not to undermine a compliment – not as easy as it sounds – but I am practicing every day.  I have begun beginning my day with a positive affirmations such as “have joy today in all that you do” or “today is the best day in the world” or “hello beautiful” – just a few things that you would hear if you were able to listen in on my morning ritual.

Another new thing that I am doing is a “time in” where I spend 10 minutes a day simply being quiet.  Now for those that know me – you will find that fascinating – but it is giving me time to reflect, put things in order and understand where I need to head on this journey.  I have to give the credit for this concept to Tim Durkin who was the facilitator at the IAEE Krakoff Leadership Institute this past May.  It is very challenging to be quiet for 10 minutes a day but I am finding it to helpful to keep me focused.  Thanks Tim for sharing this with us.

I am thankful for all the goodness that has come my way as I go through this journey.  My willingness to talk about having this surgery has given me the opportunity to share with people on a level that otherwise would not be.

What are you thankful for that has come your way as a result of making a major change?

P.S.  As I close, I realized that I haven’t told you the best news…I have lost 85# and am in a size 14!