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Weight loss saves woman's life

Staff writer

Cristina Peterson of Lincolnville was taking almost 350 units of insulin a day two years ago, but her diabetes remained out of control. Her doctor sent her to an endocrinologist in April 2013 in an attempt to stabilize her blood sugar, which was sky high. She weighed 230 pounds.

‘The doctor told me, ‘If you don’t do something, you are going to die,’” she said.

She hadn’t been diligent about following doctor’s orders after her diabetes diagnosis in 2006, but that verdict shook her up. She got serious and began taking regular blood sugar readings and changing her diet, but her diabetes remained out of control and her kidneys were slowing down.

The doctor suggested weight-loss surgery. She was willing to try anything, no matter how risky it might be.

“You have to be your own advocate,” the doctor said.

She was encouraged to do the surgery when she learned that her husband’s insurance would cover the cost and her family would support her.

“This wasn’t just my decision,” she said. “I sat down with the family, and they told me my health was important to them. ‘You have to do what you have to do, or you won’t be around,’ they said.”

She spent the next eight months preparing for gastric bypass surgery. The laparoscopic procedure divides the stomach into a small upper section and a large bottom section. A portion of the small intestine is connected to a hole in the upper stomach pouch. The walnut-sized pouch can hold only an ounce or so of food at a time. The food is digested in the small intestine.

In preparation for the surgery, Peterson said she had to prove that she could lose weight. She spent six months in supervised weight loss. She kept a food log, walked a lot, and lost 20 pounds.

She was given a psychological evaluation and was educated about the surgery and what to expect afterward. She said she was told to expect to lose some friends, but not to worry, “it’s all about you.”

She had the surgery in April in Kansas City.

Six months later, at age 47, Peterson has lost almost 80 pounds. She is proud of her accomplishment, and she loves telling her story. She emphasizes that gastric bypass surgery is not for everyone and was just one tool she used to get healthy. She has to eat right and remain active to be successful.

Her diabetes is gone, she has no need for insulin, her blood pressure is normal, and she no longer has heartburn.

Eating right is important

Peterson was back on the job as a licensed practical nurse two weeks after the surgery. She learned quickly how to eat right. She can eat almost anything. She can’t eat much at one time, so she eats slowly and focuses on protein, which helps her stay satisfied until the next meal. This includes small amounts of chicken, beans, tuna, eggs, peanut butter, and cheese. She sometimes eats protein bars.

An example of a recommended breakfast is one scrambled egg and one-fourth or one-half of a banana. Peterson said she can only eat a fourth of a banana.

“I still get hungry sometimes, but I don’t want to waste the little room my stomach has.”

She has learned that if she eats more than her stomach can hold, she gets an uncomfortable feeling in her chest.

“One little bite extra can be too much,” she said.

She drinks no liquids while she eats, so the body gets the nutrition it needs. She hasn’t had a soda since two weeks before her surgery, and she has discovered that she doesn’t miss it.

When she and her family go out to eat, instead of ordering something, she eats bits and pieces of what the others eat.

Peterson said her new lifestyle is rubbing off on her family. Her husband, Troy, has become more active and is starting to lose weight, and the whole family is eating healthier. The couple has three teenage girls together, and Cristina has two adult children.

“I have a grandbaby, too,” she said. “I want to be around for her.”

Peterson said some people hardly recognize her when they see her now. Her weight has stabilized between 147 and 150 pounds. She still checks her blood sugar “just to make sure,” and she walks a lot.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she talked about her experience.

“I would not change a thing,” she said. “It saved my life, and I’m not tied to insulin anymore.”

Last modified Oct. 30, 2014

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