Weight Loss Surgery: New Celebrations, and a New Way to Celebrate
These days, Robin Carter, 47, keeps adding anniversaries to celebrate, and they’re all related to her health. One is September 12, 2016, the date she had bariatric weight loss surgery at Cone Health. A second is November 5, 2016, the date her doctor told her she could finally start intensive exercise, an important part of her success. And related, she also celebrates April 28, 2018, the day she became a licensed Zumba instructor. Her training for that sometimes ran from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., dancing almost non-stop and racking up as many as 30,000 steps in a day!
“Never in a million years did I think exercise would be so much a part of my life,” says Robin, who at one point weighed over 380 lbs. But today, she sets aside at least three days a week for aerobics and strength training at the gym. “Before I started with Cone Health’s bariatric program, ‘impossible’ is the word I’d use about that much exercise. And I would never have had the confidence to be a Zumba instructor.”
As a requirement to start with the Cone Health bariatric weight loss program, she had a physical check-up. That check-up came with startling news: she had diabetes. “That woke me up,” she says. “My father, mother and brother had Type 1 diabetes (the kind someone is born with), but now I had Type 2. I knew that if I wanted to live, I’d have to take better care of myself. In a way, they saved my life.”
The Cone Health team made sure she got medical treatment, and they set up an appointment with a nutritionist.
“She taught me how to eat better, starting right then,” she says. “She gave me what I needed, so there was no way I was going to go back to the way I had been eating.”
Robin said the team at Cone Health remained engaged with her before during and after surgery. In addition to meeting the staff, she attended bariatric support group meetings, met new friends and learned from others in the program how to succeed.
One important thing everyone emphasized was exercise, she says. “They told me that surgery will only help you lose so much weight, and they helped me think differently about exercise,” she says. “They helped me realized that I need to take this seriously.”
That’s one reason she celebrates the November date, when she was told she can jump in to exercise. The team also gave her the support and the nudge to do so.
“During my first meeting with Dr. [Eric] Wilson after surgery, he really pushed me to commit to a formal exercise program and asked what I planned to do for it,” Robin says. She remembered a friend in the bariatric support group describing the BELT program at UNC-Greensboro. BELT, which stands for Bariatric Exercise and Lifestyle Transformation, is a joint venture between Cone Health and the university’s kinesiology (physical therapy) department.
“When my friend first told me she’d signed up for 6 a.m. classes, I thought she was crazy,” Robin says, laughing and recalling that her weight then was well over 350 lbs. “But when Dr. Wilson asked me about my plans for exercise, I thought I’d better tell him I’m going to BELT!”
Dr. Wilson went immediately to get the paperwork to sign her up.
“He took my word, but he also gave me what I needed to get started,” she says. “He was so encouraging.”
“Never in a million years did I think exercise would be so much a part of my life." - Robin Carter
Hurdles along the way
Robin has kept on track with her weight loss and fitness goals these past two years, losing close to 200 lbs. Today she is just a few pounds from her goal weight. “I’ve done it the healthy way: slowly, over time,” she says.
But it has not always been easy.
Besides diabetes, Robin also developed a thyroid problem and a blood disease that causes anemia. Together, they could cause low energy and problems with weight loss.
“I stuck to the program, to what I’d learned from everyone at Cone Health,” she says. “I refused to let these things beat me.”
Instead, she’s been a winner. Because of the surgery and lifestyle changes, she no longer has diabetes! She also no longer needs high blood pressure pills or medicine for heavy menstrual cramping.
And she’s fit enough to run and walk 5Ks, and even walk the steep 136 steps up inside the Caswell Beach lighthouse, a trip she made with others in the program.
As a natural extension of her transformation, Robin has encouraged others. Her husband, J.C., he has lost weight due to all the changes at home. And now they now prefer to go bowling or hiking with family and friends, instead of eating out.
And she’s found a special way to celebrate events.
“Before, I celebrated by eating,” she says. “Now, I celebrate by doing.”
Last year for her birthday, for example, she invited 25 friends for a “Pound Party.” Though the name is rather ironic, a “pound” class is a high-energy cardio and strength workout that uses weighted drumsticks.
“It was great, but a few guests kiddingly complained in texts to me the next day!” she says.
Part of the team
In addition to her husband, she credits all the people at Cone Health for their support, from her physician to the psychologist, nutritionist, bariatric nurse, support group leader, and more.
As a demonstration of her gratitude, she has shared her story with people who are considering or who are having bariatric surgery, during the Cone Health bariatric seminars. In doing so, Robin has become a part of the team to support others.
“My team at Cone Health was just an email away at all times,” she says. “I’m so grateful to have a better, healthier life, and so very grateful to everyone at Cone Health. When I think about what they did for me, I just want to cry.”
About Cone Health Bariatric Surgery
The Cone Health Bariatric Surgery Program is the only program in the Triad that is recognized as a Center of Excellence by North Carolina’s top four health plans:
- Aetna Institute of Quality (IOQ) for Bariatric Surgery
- BlueCross BlueShield Blue Distinction Center Plus (+) for Bariatric Surgery
- Cigna Designated Facility for Bariatric Surgery
- UnitedHealthcare Center of Excellence for Bariatric Surgery