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Losing big
Terry weight loss1.jpg
Shannon Terry was losing the battle of the bulge. At 353 pounds, she felt like a prisoner of her weight. On Monday, she was on the Barren Fork River Greenway and 70 pounds lighter after undergoing gastric sleeve surgery in November 2018. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Sometimes diet and exercise aren’t enough.

For some, sticking to a regimen of good diet and exercise will help shed pounds. But for others, an extra edge may be necessary to return to a healthy weight.

Local resident Shannon Terry said she’s in the latter group and selected gastric sleeve surgery, a surgical procedure in which the stomach is reduced to about 15 percent of its original size, as the edge she needed. 

“I’ve tried pretty much everything to lose weight,” said Terry. “I started gaining weight after I had my children. I was thin as a teenager. Since my children, I’ve been slowly gaining weight for 25 years. My heaviest was 353. I tried Weight Watchers, I tried the ‘bad’ diet pills. I’ve tried any kind of fad diet where you could take a pill and lose weight. I did the Atkins diet. Nothing worked for me.”

Her father passed away with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, while her grandfather passed away with Alzheimer’s disease. Obesity is linked to both dementia and Alzheimer’s and is associated with Parkinson’s.

“I knew I needed to do something,” said Terry. “I had checked in seminars for weight loss surgery 20 years ago, but I wasn’t in the position to do it. I wasn’t in a position financially, and I didn’t have the support at the time. I didn’t go, so I got heavier and heavier. Thanks to insurance, which paid a large portion of the cost, and a very supportive husband, I was finally in a position where I could go.”

The seminars provide individuals with the information needed to make a final decision on surgery. During those sessions, surgeons and care team members talk about the process, the surgery, and about the commitment it takes to achieve weight loss surgery success. 

Terry made an appointment in March 2018 and went to a seminar in May. She had appointments with a primary care doctor, the surgeon, a nutritionist, a psychiatrist, and started regularly attending a support group. Her surgery was Nov. 26. 

“As far as post-op pain, it was uncomfortable but not unbearable,” she said. “It was the nausea that got me. I was sick for about three days after I had surgery. I actually stayed an extra day in the hospital. I think it was a combination: I don’t think I do well with anesthesia and they just worked on my stomach. The surgeon said he took about 90 percent of my stomach. He said he wanted me to succeed. I did everything I was supposed to do prior to surgery, and he knew I would continue to do what I needed to do.”

On Jan. 21, Terry’s weight was down 68 pounds. Along with exercising daily, she has worked on establishing healthier habits and building a better relationship with food: eat mindfully, eat when physically hungry, stop eating when satisfied, don’t keep problematic foods in the house, exercise daily, etc. 

“This is not a diet. This is a lifestyle,” Terry said. “This is my ultimate chance at losing weight. Nothing else has worked. Having surgery was my boost, my tool. I want to do all that I can to get the most out of it. I’m eating to live. When you can only eat a certain amount of food each day, you want every bite to count. The good eating habits I’m establishing now are going to be forever.”

For her height, a healthy weight is 150. Goal one is 200 pounds. 

“I’ll have to lose 153 pounds to get to 200. Two hundred is the goal that my surgeon and I made, but this is not just about a number on a scale. I already feel better after losing 68 pounds. I can only imagine how much better I’ll feel if I lose 50 more. Of course, I don’t want to stop at 200, but if I can get to 200 and maintain afterwards, that’s fine with me.”

While medical insurance required Terry to undergo the educational process, some people can opt to pay out of pocket and skip it. She has words of wisdom for anyone considering medical weight loss surgery without the pre-op education. 

“Do your research and know what you’re getting yourself into. I woke up from surgery with a lot of nausea. That first week was rough. Then, realizing how limited you are in what you can eat in comparison to what you used to eat. Food can’t be your go-to when you are happy, sad, mad, glad, or any other emotion. You have to find other ways to cope with your feelings. I was ready. I have no regrets. The only regret I have is I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I could have done this 20 years ago.”

Terry continues to visit with a nutritionist and regularly attends support group meetings.