I felt like I was a skinny person trapped in a fat body. I was always thin as a child. When I was in the military, during my Iraq deployment in 2003-04, I started gaining weight after a health issue, and I couldn't get it off. Clothes weren't fitting anymore. I was tired all the time. I got to where I didn't want to dress up or put on makeup. I didn't care what I looked like.
I was disgusted with myself, and I got depressed. Then gastric bypass surgery changed my life. I lost more than 100 pounds. I'm more confident now. I'm not down on myself. I'm not embarrassed. I'm happier with the way I look. I don't feel trapped in my body anymore.
This surgery is not only for me. It's for you and any children you might have someday.
Being overweight limited a lot of things. I could barely walk from my back door to the mailbox without being out of breath. In my photography business, anything I did outdoors became increasingly difficult, especially if there was a lot of walking.
I began having more health problems — high blood pressure and diabetes. Both my parents were diabetic. My father died of a heart attack. My mother had a stent placed near her heart. I didn't want these health problems and to be taking lots of medication. I didn't want that for myself.
Then my best friend suggested I check into gastric bypass surgery. I started talking to people who had the surgery. I went to a seminar at Vanderbilt. I watched YouTube videos of people who had the surgery. I was ready. But my sister talked me out of it. Looking back, I allowed her to talk me out of it.
Later, my cousin told me his wife had the surgery and said it was the best thing to ever happen to her. So, I decided to do it this time. My doctor referred me to Vanderbilt.
This time, my 17-year-old son didn't want me to have the surgery. He was an athlete, and he thought I could lose the weight on my own.
I sat him down and told him, "Do you see my struggle? The diet pills. The diets. I've done all that. This surgery is not only for me. It's for you and any children you might have someday."
I felt secure in choosing Vanderbilt for my surgery. After talking to my surgeon and other center professionals, I thought, "This is where I need to be. These are the people who are going to help me through this."
I remember my doctor saying, "This is just a tool. It's not a miracle cure." Once he drilled that into me, it prompted me to want the surgery even more.
The staff was awesome. The nutritionist was great about educating me on what you're supposed to eat and how you're supposed to eat and all the vitamins you have to take. And they explain why and hold you accountable. They actually care about you.
It's sometimes hard to believe that I'm a size 6 now. There are times I still feel like that fat girl. That's how I was conditioned to think. I'll go to the store and grab a bigger size, and my husband will say, "That's too big for you."
Some people refuse to tell other people they've had weight loss surgery. They're embarrassed or too private, and I think that's just crazy. I want to educate people who say, "I'm hopeless. I could never do that."
I'd tell them, "Yes, you can!"