Jan Zileski - Midland, MI
"Surgery was the best thing I could have done for myself and I'm so glad I did."
From Frustrated to Fit - Bariatric Surgery Restored Her Health
Jan Zileski knows firsthand how frustrating it can be to rigorously diet and exercise and still not lose weight. "I had issues with my weight for many years," she said. "When I was younger, I joined Weight Watchers® with my mom." It worked for a while. "After having three children, I started putting on weight and it was really, really hard to get it off."
Like many people, Jan said she would struggle to lose 25 pounds only to gain it back again. Other than managing a thyroid problem with daily medication, she was healthy except for her Body Mass Index. While she had no issue with cholesterol or hypertension and did get regular exercise, her BMI was a dangerous 35.
"Obesity, diabetes and heart disease run in my family," said Jan. She lost her father and a brother to heart disease. Her father was only 52 and her brother was not yet 60. "I was only 16 when my dad died." Being able to enjoy life with her children and grandchildren was a major reason she tried so hard to regain a healthy weight.
Jan knew that her family history, combined with her weight, were serious risk factors. "I work in health care, I knew the road I was on," she said. "I have a wonderful family and didn't want that for myself or for them. I just couldn't lose weight."
She had talked to her family doctor many times before about her inability to lose weight. "I did not like the way I felt, and I didn't know what else to do," she said. "She finally referred me to Dr. Bonacci."
Meeting with General and Bariatric Surgeon Jeffrey Bonacci, M.D., was the first step in Jan's journey to a healthy weight. "It's a process," she said. "I went to some support group meetings to talk to other women who had gone through the surgery. That was very valuable, and I met some great people. I also had to undergo some physical and psychological testing. After that, it was back to Dr. Bonacci."
Despite preparing as best she could, some apprehension was inevitable. "I heard good stories and bad, but I knew I had to make a change," she said. "There is a lot of mental preparation for the surgery. You have to change your mindset."
Jan said a good support system helped her through the process. "My husband was always there for me," she said. "He has always told me I'm beautiful no matter what I weighed. When I first talked about surgery, it scared him, but he knew I needed to do it."
Dr. Bonacci performed Jan's surgery, a sleeve gastrectomy, on June 14 at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma. While a sleeve gastrectomy maintains the basic function of the stomach, the volume the stomach can handle is significantly less. Patients who undergo sleeve gastrectomy feel full quickly and consume less food at each meal.
Jan said her surgery went very well. "I got up and walked around as quickly as I could," she said. "I only stayed in the hospital one night."
Once home, she did equally well. Within just a few weeks, she felt completely recovered. Ten months later, Jan, who once carried 207 pounds on her 5'4" frame, now weighs 140 pounds.
"The whole experience has been wonderful," she said. "I feel 100 percent better."
Jan also said she feels content, not deprived. "I can eat what I ate before, just very small portions, plus I drink a lot more water."
She said patients who undergo sleeve gastrectomy do have to modify how and when they eat. Since the stomach is 85 percent smaller, they have to eat conscientiously. "I had to learn to eat slowly and chew thoroughly," she said. A daily goal is to eat enough protein. "I don't each much bread anymore, so I try to eat protein that fills me up. I drink protein shakes and make sure I eat a little something every couple of hours."
Jan has no regrets about her decision. She encourages others in similar circumstances to talk to their family doctor, explore the options and perhaps attend a support group meeting. "Surgery was the best thing I could have done for myself and I'm so glad I did," she said. "I feel better about everything in life. Best of all, I feel healthy."
MyMichigan Health offers bariatric surgery in both Alma and Midland. Those who would like more information about surgical weight management may register for a free in-person information seminar at www.mymichigan.org/bariatricseminars or watch MyMichigan's online seminar video series at www.mymichigan.org/bariatriconlineseminar.