“This Surgery Changed My Life.”

“This Surgery Changed My Life.”

“Depending on what study you look at, between 60% and 70% of the U. S. population is either overweight or obese,” says Leonardo Claros, MD, FACS, Chief of Bariatric Surgery at St. Luke’s Weight Management Center. “It’s considered a pandemic, and the U. S. is the most obese nation in the world.”

While being severely overweight is a health problem in itself, it can also aggravate or induce a laundry list of others conditions (known as co-morbidities), including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and body pain and difficulty with physical functioning.

Cassie Enderes, a 34-year-old mother of two who lives in Brodheadsville, can testify to that. She was afflicted with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that can be complicated by obesity – and she was carrying 245 pounds on her 5’2” frame.

Both of her pregnancies were accompanied by the threat of long-term diabetes. “That disease runs in my family,” she says, “and I developed gestational diabetes in the third trimester of my first pregnancy.”

Gestational diabetes results when hormones from the placenta cause an increase in blood glucose that requires more insulin than the pancreas can produce. The condition usually disappears after birth, and so it was with Cassie. Six weeks after her son Landon was born, her glucose levels were normal.

But the condition reemerged at the start of her second pregnancy and required four doses of insulin each day. After her son Asher was born, Cassie’s glucose tests indicated she was on the brink of developing full-blown Type 2 diabetes. “I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life,” she says, and so she was determined to get rid of her excess weight.

Cassie’s children provided additional incentive. Older son Landon is a nine-year-old baseball player, and five-year-old Asher loves playing soccer. “I got out of breath just from climbing stairs,” she says. “How would I be able to kick soccer balls or go on bike rides with them?”

But diets didn’t help, and neither did exercise. She attributes those difficulties to her PCOS. “I didn’t metabolize food properly,” she says. “I often told people I could get fat just from drinking water! And I was always looking at the scale – gain two pounds, lose one, gain two more. I could never get ahead.”

Cassie runs her own business, providing hair and makeup services to brides in the Poconos area, and works in a salon two days a week as a hair colorist. One day, a co-worker suggested a procedure she had undergone at St. Luke’s, which yielded amazing results.

Formally known as a sleeve gastrectomy, the operation removes a major portion of the stomach. “We take out about 80% of it,” Dr. Claros says. “The stomach becomes long and thin; and because patients are able to eat much less food, weight loss is the result.” The procedure also reduces the amount of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, produced by your stomach.

Cassie’s surgery was performed in 2015 and she’s still happy with the results. Within the first week, she shed 18 pounds. Just 10 days after the surgery, she was cleared to begin working out in a gym. Within five months, through diet and exercise, Cassie dropped 75 pounds – 31% of her original weight.

She’s maintained that weight loss through proper nutrition and exercise, and her PCOS and diabetes are gone. Her energy level has soared, and it’s much easier to play with her boys. “My confidence level skyrocketed,” she adds, “I gained a love for myself I never thought I’d have.”

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram