Nancee Nichols was always active. She camped and hiked all over the world. "I knew I was overweight, but I tried not to let it stop me," she said. At age 50, the 315-pound Nancee began feeling the effects of her weight. She was diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and borderline diabetes. Her asthma required three inhalers a day.
Losing weight wasn't a new idea for Nancee. She started dieting at age 16 and had run the gamut of both traditional and fad diets for close to 35 years. "Dieting just wasn't enough," she said. "I needed something to help me control me. I ate large portions but was never satisfied." After being told she wasn't a candidate for the banding surgery by another program's doctor, Nancee found herself in the Unity Hospital Bariatric Center seeking a second opinion.
Why Unity Hospital Bariatric Center?
"I really liked that both the surgeon and former patients were at the Introduction to Weight Loss meeting to answer questions. I think it was the 'hope' piece. I met with Dr. Jeff (Baker) in consultation and was relieved and excited when he said the banding surgery was an option for me, despite my BMI being greater than 50. I knew I was in the right place."
Along with her nurse clinician, Lynn Shriver, and the Unity Hospital Bariatric Center dieticians and exercise specialists, Nancee worked diligently to prepare for surgery. By the day of her surgery, Nancee had lost 50 pounds. She said she wasn't nervous and her surgery went smoothly. "I thought I would be a little unsettled going into surgery, but between Dr. Baker and all of the others, I wasn't. I really just felt prepared."
Another thing that really stood out for Nancee was that she received Dr. Baker's pager number and was told to page him with any concerns. "I really could not believe that I could reach him 24/7. I actually did need to call a few weeks following my surgery and, sure enough, Dr. Baker called me back five minutes later."
Although it was three years before she needed an adjustment to her band, Nancee continued regular follow ups with Dr. Baker and successfully lost 110 pounds. "I then started to feel over-restricted, even though I had never had a fill. Dr. Baker explained that the band does contain some priming fluid. He removed that fluid and I felt fine." Since then, Nancee has required band adjustments to keep her on track with her weight loss. "I was kind of an anomaly for those first three years without ever needing a fill," she said. "I now am more of a 'normal' bander."
Throughout her weight loss journey, Nancee also recalled addressing some emotional eating behaviors. "Life can be stressful. That is just life sometimes. I started putting back on some weight because I wasn't following the guidelines. I knew this was 'head' eating and I needed help. I came back into the program to meet with Lynn and was so happy with the support I was given from both her and Dr. Baker. I was never looked down on for falling off the wagon, but rather supported in getting back on track. Lynn and I worked out a plan to help me be successful again. For me, this meant meeting with Lynn once a week, then twice a month and then monthly until my new behaviors had become habit."
Her bariatric family
"Today I would say I truly have a new life and a new family. The doctors, nurses and support staff at Unity, and my new friends from the support groups, have become my new bariatric family. I was lucky to have Dr. Baker as my surgeon. He is the best – knowledgeable, caring, supportive and nice. He has always treated me with respect."
Having once been impressed that former patients came to the Introductory to Weight Loss Surgery meeting, Nancee now presents as one of those '"former" patients. "I really enjoy the opportunity of helping someone who is just starting the process. I understand what it was like sitting at that meeting for the first time. I want those people to know that life can be different, and they can make the changes necessary for a healthier and happier life."
More active than ever
Today Nancee is often found on one of her long bike rides. "I rode 71 miles one day," she said smiling. "That's a long way from the days when I couldn't even ride around the block. I now work out regularly at the gym and get a kick out of young men who can't contain their surprise when I am able to lift more weight than they are." Although Nancee still does experience some joint pain, it improved a great deal. "I'm proud that I have had sport injuries. Get it? Sports injuries come from DOING sports!"
Asked to think of a moment that was profound following surgery, Nancee recalled walking with her best friend, a friend she had walked with for years. "She looked at me and said, 'It's so nice I don't need to walk slowly anymore so you can keep up.'" Today, Nancee is the one to keep up with. "I understand that I am in charge of my tool," she said. "I make food choices. I choose to exercise. I am in control. I am 'DOING' life."