Two years ago, MaryAnn Wagley was 5’1” and weighed 223 pounds. When she glanced at herself in the mirror, she knew she was overweight, but not morbidly obese. She got winded completing minor tasks like playing with her grandchildren or even checking the mail, and although she knew she had a health problem, she didn’t believe it to be severe.
That all changed when MaryAnn went in for her annual physical exam.
“It was my lab work that spooked my doctor,” MaryAnn recalled. “I was on medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and had a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device for sleep apnea. My doctor told me that if I wanted to live a long life, I needed to look into bariatric surgery.”
Bariatric (weight loss) surgery is an option for patients who have been unsuccessful with traditional weight loss methods. In MaryAnn’s case, she had tried numerous diets such as phentermine and Weight Watchers, and would see some success before the weight inevitably came back – often times more than she had lost.
“But at the time, bariatric surgery seemed so extreme. I had this idea that surgery was for people who were 600 pounds, not for someone like me.”
After mulling it over, MaryAnn decided to meet with a bariatric surgeon at PeaceHealth to discuss her options and whether surgery would be right for her.
“I was surprised by how thorough the team was,” MaryAnn shared. “They talk to you, evaluate you, look over your medical history, your current health conditions, and have you meet with a psychologist and dietitian. The three of them decide if you’re a good candidate for a particular surgery, and if it’s the right fit.”
After being accepted into the program, MaryAnn was provided with tools to ensure her weight loss journey would be successful. A psychologist helped identify her emotional associations with food, and a nutritionist taught her how to make healthier food choices and read nutrition labels. These lessons proved crucial to her eventual success.
“Meeting with the team, the discussion wasn’t just about weight loss surgery. It was, ‘How am I going to live the rest of my life?’ The surgery is not the fix; it’s just a tool to help you as you build habits that are going to help you live your life happier and healthier. They helped set me up for lifelong success.”
MaryAnn decided to pursue a gastric sleeve surgery, which removed 85 percent of her stomach. The laparoscopic surgery, done with small incisions and the aid of a camera, left her with minimal scarring. MaryAnn says she was feeling great within five days. Now, two years later, she has lost 98 pounds – 20 pounds under her goal weight – and, most importantly, kept it off. She no longer needs to take her high cholesterol medication, her high blood pressure medication, or use a CPAP. And, MaryAnn says she is excited about her increased mobility and elevated self-esteem.
“It has drastically improved both my health and my quality of life. I ran two 5K’s last year, took my grandkids to a water park, and I’ll be going skiing for the first time this winter. I feel like I’ve gotten my life back.”
For those considering bariatric surgery as an option to manage their health, MaryAnn says she would encourage them to ask a lot of questions, come to their support group to speak with patients who have gone through the surgery themselves, and make an educated decision.
“Weight loss is not about what you look like, it’s what the weight does to your health. I tried for so long to get a handle on it, and this was the only solution that ever worked. It’s not an easy fix. It is very hard. But it is every bit worth it, and my biggest regret is not having done it sooner. I am a whole new person.”