“I always walked all day at work,” she says, “but I would come home in agony, you know, my legs would feel like they were full of lead, and my body would ache.”
Though she was wary of a full gastric bypass, she began hearing about alternative procedures like the sleeve gastrectomy from numerous people.
“There was no way I wanted the bypass, you know, because that to me sounded a little more radical.”
“I think most of the bariatric surgeons are performing sleeve gastrectomy more than anything else,” says Mass General Brigham bariatric surgeon Ursula McMillian, MD, who performed Mary’s procedure. “The risk profile is so favorable.”
“I didn't know so many people had had the surgery and I had never heard of having a sleeve done before,” Mary says. “It wasn’t until I started telling others I was going to have it that all of a sudden people started saying, ‘oh my so-and-so had that,’ or ‘this person had it or that person had,’ and I was like, wow. One friend of mine telling me how this was a tool to help you get weight off and keep it off was all I needed to hear.”
In the 10 weeks leading up to Mary’s surgery in late July, 2022, she met with Dr. McMillian.
“I felt great actually, mentally,” she remembers. “I had a lot of success before the surgery, losing 42 pounds. Dr. McMillian gave me a program to follow, and I stuck to that to a T. I was so excited about that and to know that the surgery was going to help get even more off, and the more I lost, the better I felt. I was just so excited.”
Mary credits the many employees at the Cooley Dickinson General Surgical Care practice for exceptional mental, physical, and emotional support throughout the process.
“I think the program's great,” she says. “I love the people at the office, and Dr. McMillian is wonderful. They've all been great; they're like a little family. They act as if you've known them for your whole life and they’re all very supportive.”
Like most bariatric surgery patients, Mary says the first month or 2 after the procedure were difficult, going from a liquid diet to being back on solid food and readjusting to a greatly reduced stomach capacity.
In the last year since her surgery, Mary has lost half her weight — about 145 pounds. She says that though she no longer drinks the protein shakes that got her through the immediate aftermath of the surgery, protein still makes up the bulk of her current diet.
“Now breakfast is just an egg, some Canadian bacon and cheese, basically,” she says. “I have an egg sandwich every morning, I eat nuts, and I do eat a protein bar pretty much every day. And then I usually have a Greek yogurt, which has 12 grams of protein, and I really don't eat junk food like I did before. Occasionally I’ll have a treat, but it's very occasional and it's very small.”
After the dramatic weight loss, Mary says she didn't keep her surgery a secret at work. Other coworkers have noticed her success, and she’s open with anyone who asks about the procedure or the process.
Dr. McMillian says she sees Mary as someone who has made up her mind that she is going to succeed.
“I tell all my patients that the most important change you need to make is not a physical change, it's a mental change,” says Dr. McMillian. “You make up your mind that you want to make a change. And once you do, you can succeed. You have to say to yourself every day ‘I'm going to do this; I have the ability to do it and I'm going to do it.’
And when I said that to Mary, I felt like that's when I saw the change in her eye. She said, ‘you know what, I can do this.’ And now she’s just somebody who is completely determined. She made her mind up and she's not going back. She eats what she's supposed to, she exercises the way she's supposed to. She's super active at work. I see her walking everywhere.”
“And now I come home, and I feel great,” Mary says. “I have no problems. I'm taking the stairs all day. I walk all day, walk in the morning before work, walk after work most days.”