I want to share my story to help others get their life back

Cheryl Yonkers, Patient

I have struggled with weight my whole life. I remember at the age of 9 years old weighing 140 pounds. My mom to take me to a dietitian for the first time. I remember in middle school weighing 190 pounds and by the time I was a senior in High School I weighed 290 pounds. I am tall, 6 foot 1 inches but I was always big. I have tired many things in my life Weight Watchers – 3 times, Phen-Fen, Atkins diet, dietitians, and nothing worked. My husband would diet with me he would lose 40 pounds, I would lose 2 pounds. I exercised and I gave up after a few weeks. I felt like this was a normal thing.

Finally in 2013 my new year’s resolution was to lose weight. I found articles in the Kalamazoo Gazette about people having the gastric bypass surgery so I researched this online and found Dr. Weaver. I decided to go to an initial meeting at Bronson Hospital to learn more about it. I came out of that meeting all excited. I knew I needed to do something and nothing else worked for me. I scheduled my initial apt with Dr. Weaver and at the time I was 397 pounds and my BMI was 54. At this meeting they gave me a checklist of everything I needed to do. It seemed all the doors opened up and I passed all my appointments with the nutritionist, Darci Schimp and Psychologist, Dr. Ajayl-Nabors. My insurance approved it since my BMI was over 50. So I completed my checklist and I had my surgery for April 16, 2013.

Another reason I did this was for my kids, besides myself. I was always one who sat around and watched my kids do the activities. My daughter’s doctor was concerned over her weight/height ratio and the doctor stated if we didn’t start watching a little closer then she would have to go to a Nutritionist. It reminded me of how I was when I was little. So this was another reason I wanted to do this. I didn’t want her to follow me in this in her life, thought if I could help my child now, then she could grow up being healthier. At the last report from her doctor, he was very happy with her results. She has grown several inches and has not gained any weight, so she is leveling off.

After surgery I made myself walk every day and it would be to many different places. By the end of summer I felt like I had walked all over Portage. When the weather started to get bad, my husband and I decided to get a membership at the YMCA. I was always very self-conscious about working out at a gym for being big. But finally I decided to go and now my day is not the same if I don’t work out first. I get up every day at 5:00am go to the Y and come home and get my kids up and ready for school and head to work. My husband, in the process, started to work out during his lunch hour at the Y and eat what I am eating, he didn’t have the surgery but was very supportive of everything I was going through. In the meantime, he lost 115 pounds. I have changed myself, but also helped my husband and children to eat healthier and be more active. Also during the winter my husband and I would take our kids to the Y at night, just to get out and get exercise. We would go and play racquetball, basketball, baseball, or just walk/run around the track.

Today I weigh 210 pounds and I have lost 187 pounds. My BMI is 28. Now instead of sitting around, I am playing baseball with my kids in the back yard or we ride bikes all around Portage. I am doing so much more and I never thought this could ever be for me. But I look back and I would do it again just to be around doing more with my kids. My husband and I have been running in the last month on celery flats or in our neighborhood while our kids ride their bikes. On April 19th I ran my first 5k with my husband supporting and running next to me. I did it in 43 minutes. I am planning on doing another 5k on May 17th with my husband and son, while my daughter will be running the fun run. Another thing I wanted to do was go to Great Wolf Lodge in Traverses City to the water park. We ended up going on our kids Spring Break. I never thought there would be a weight limit, but realized this when we got there. If I went there a year before I would not have able to go down the slides with my kids. My husband and I watched parents who were bigger sitting on the sidelines watching their kids go down the water slides. That would have been us. Instead my husband and I went up with our 2 kids, running up the 5 flights of stairs and racing each other down the slides. We figured we did this 60 times in the one day we were there. It was so much fun and I am so glad that I could do it. Another dream is that I have always wanted is to kayak or canoe. We are planning a trip this summer north of Muskegon and I get to go kayaking for the first time. I am so excited to go. My kids are having a new life with us since we are doing all the activities with them instead of sitting on the sidelines watching them.

I am actually being able to enjoy life. If I hadn’t taken this step and changed our eating habits and life habits, I would still be sitting on the sidelines. I keep setting new goals. Next year I hope to run a 10k. There are always new goals to set and something new I haven’t done. I feel that this surgery was a tool for me to get my life and family’s life back. I want to share my story to help others get their life back.

To learn more about Cheryl’s story and bariatric surgery at Bronson, visit bronsonpositivity.com/bariatrics.

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