Bariatric surgery helps women shed hundreds of pounds — together

June 05, 2014

Dennis and BristowSome friends shop together. Others meet for dinner. Angela Bristow and Kelly Dennis did something a little bigger.

They had gastric bypass surgery together.

The Waycross women had struggled with their weight for years. By her 40th birthday, Bristow had been diagnosed with diabetes and sleep apnea. She’d tried dieting many times. Each time, she would lose weight, only to gain it back. Dennis had also tried dieting, with equally frustrating results.

Eventually, Bristow decided enough was enough. She decided to look into gastric bypass surgery.

“I needed a weight-loss solution that was permanent,” she says. “I really needed help.”

She found it at the Bariatric Center at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

“The people there were just wonderful,” says Bristow. “They were so kind and understanding.”

The Bariatric Center staff includes a physician who specializes in obesity medicine, registered dietitians, a clinical health psychologist, a registered nurse and surgeons. The team helps people decide on a weight-loss solution. Options include nutrition therapy, behavior modification, weight-loss medications, liquid meal replacements, gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy.

After learning about each option, both Bristow and Dennis decided gastric bypass was the right choice. But before they could have surgery, they had to prepare. That preparation took months and required meeting with a dietitian and making dietary changes. They each also met with a psychiatrist to ensure they were mentally and emotionally prepared for surgery and the lifestyle changes that follow.

P_BristowDennis_SP14_01“The staff were so accommodating,” says Bristow. “They coordinated our appointments so that we could drive to Jacksonville together.”

They also coordinated their surgeries, both scheduled for March 30, 2012.

“The surgery itself went very well,” says Dennis. “We were able to go home the next day.”

Soon after, the numbers on their scales started going down.

“The weight just seemed to come off,” says Dennis. “By the week after surgery I’d lost 20 pounds.”

Today, Dennis has lost 130 pounds. Bristow has lost 105. Both use the same word to describe how they feel: Amazing.

“It feels like I’m getting a chance to relive my life,” says Dennis. “But it’s not always easy. I can’t fall back on food like I used to when I was stressed or having a bad day.”

Although the surgery and lifestyle changes have at times been challenging, Dennis and Bristow both say the rewards make the challenges more than worth the effort. Bristow’s health problems have disappeared and she no longer takes any prescription medications. And she and Dennis are doing things that they couldn’t have imagined doing before surgery — such as shopping in regular (not plus-sized) stores, crossing their legs (which had been impossible when they were overweight) and running.

“We’ve run 5Ks and I never would have been able to do that before,” says Bristow.

Both women say having surgery together contributed to their success.

“I couldn’t have done it without Kelly,” says Bristow. “Having someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through makes a huge difference.”

The women have become vocal advocates for the Bariatric Center, and encourage others with obesity to meet with staff to learn about gastric bypass.

“Having surgery was the best decision I ever made,” says Dennis. “My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

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