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"It was the best choice I've ever made!"
Elk River resident, Stacy Parker, described her pre-weight loss surgery self as a busy mom trying to juggle work, family and everything in between. She struggled with her weight for years and tried an assortment of diets and exercise. It wasn't that she didn't know what to do; it was that she often didn't have time to do it. Although Stacy said she didn't have a definite "ah ha" moment that led her down the path to weight loss surgery, she became increasingly more concerned with her health. "Simple things, such as walking up and down stairs, started to be difficult," she said. "I also had elevated blood sugars and was at risk for diabetes. I wanted to be a good example for my children and be able to keep up with them, doing the things that kids enjoy."
Stacy started learning about weight loss surgery three years prior to having the procedure. "I went to an informational session with another program, but left that meeting not feeling like it was a good fit. I wanted to have another baby and make sure I was done having a family," she said. "In the year that followed, I had another girl and decided it was the right time to look into bariatric surgery. I had gestational diabetes with both my pregnancies, but this last one the diabetes was barely under control with medication. I was afraid that after the baby, if I didn't make some serious changes, I would have diabetes at 35 years old."
Starting my journey with an informational meeting
Stacy liked the close proximity of the Unity Hospital Bariatric Center. "The informational meeting gave a good overview of what to expect both before and after surgery. I really connected with the former patients that spoke about their own journeys," she said. "I felt like if they could do it, so could I."
After exploring her options, Stacy decided the Roux en Y gastric bypass surgery was best, but her journey wasn't always easy. Although her insurance required six consecutive months of structured weight loss, she found herself at the sixth visit wondering if she was really ready.
"I had a really stressful month, and turned to food for relief, even after everything I had learned," she said. "I felt like a child again, but with Unity's program there was never any judgment. We revisited all of my goals, and I set up another appointment for the following month. That was all it took. I returned after losing five pounds and I had the confidence that I could use the tools I'd been given. I trusted the system and felt like I was in really good hands."
Stacy's weight loss surgery
Her surgery was October 29, 2012, and Stacy went trick-or-treating with her girls just two days later. "After that, though, I did retreat for a while. Outside of my close family and friends, I had not shared my decision of surgery with my neighbors or casual acquaintances. This was such a big decision for me, and I wanted to keep it to myself at the beginning." Two weeks after surgery, Stacy said she reached a real low point. "It was very emotional for me. As much as I wanted to move into health, I was also grieving that my relationship with food was forever changed. You practice all of the behaviors, but you really can't prepare for the reality of it," she said.
After snacking on candy resulted in unpleasant sickness, Stacy said, "To this day, I am very careful with what I put in. I eat what I know I can handle. I don't try new things out in public, so very little takes me by surprise. I eat until I'm full, which was something I had never experienced before. I have to take it day by day, and each day might not be perfect, but I practice with what I have been taught and try again."
Success and support
Stacy said her saving grace is the YMCA. She also credits much of her success to fabulous support systems, including a loving husband, an awesome exercise buddy and her own determination to stay on track. "As time went on, and the more I exercised, the better I felt," she said. "Not only that, my girls love going to the gym and I say, 'What's good for the goose is good for the gander!' They get to play and then often afterwards, for a treat, I take them swimming."
Today, Stacy describes herself as very strong and active. She often walks with her girls to the parks near their home. Hiking is one of their favorite activities, and Stacy easily maneuvers the trails with her five-year-old by her side and two-year-old on her back. She said people are often shocked to know that she once had a weight problem. "They'll say, 'What? You're such a skinny girl!' Today I am a skinny girl, but I know what it was like not to be. Literally the weight is off of my shoulders."
When asked of who really stood out in the program for her, Stacy had great things to say about her nurse clinician, Lynn. "Lynn is so down to earth and also so knowledgeable. I felt so comfortable with her, and she was so supportive at every step." She also has high regards for Dr. Jeff Baker. "They told me at the informational meeting that you would be given the surgeon's pager number. They did, and more importantly, he answered. He is really caring and is such a great doctor. I would recommend them and the Unity Hospital Bariatric Center to my closest friends and family."
Stacy is now a vibrant, active mother who makes healthy food and lifestyle choices. "My new love of granola has replaced the chips and sugar choices," she said. "I can't believe I just said that! Granola??? Yep, my new favorite."