When it comes to deciding to have weight loss surgery, the motivating factor varies from person to person.
For Nicki Martin, it came down to a desire to live a fuller life — one with less pain and fewer medications.
For several years, Nicki had taken prednisone, a drug that often leads to weight gain. Before she decided have Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, she found herself about 80 pounds overweight.
“It was rough,” says Nicki, who’s worked for ThedaCare for 21 years. “There’d be times that I just wanted to give up because I’d be exercising, I’d be at the gym constantly, and no weight was coming off.”
In addition to the extra weight she was carrying, Nicki suffered from acid reflux and diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can occur with diabetes. For Nicki, this led to intense pain in her feet that kept her from being active.
“My feet hurt so bad. I couldn’t walk for long distances,” she says. “The neuropathy was just too bad.”
The many medications she had to take also affected her quality of life.
“More and more meds weren’t helping me,” she says. “I came to a point where I didn’t want to be taking a bunch of medications. I just wanted to get healthier.”
Nicki’s doctor told her that if she had bariatric surgery, she would lose a significant amount of weight while also addressing her acid reflux and diabetes. Despite that, choosing to have the surgery wasn’t easy, and Nicki spent about two years researching her options.
Through her work as a registered sleep lab technologist at Encircle Health, Nicki was able to talk to several people who had undergone bariatric surgery. Hearing others’ stories and attending a ThedaCare Bariatrics information session helped Nicki decide to go ahead with the surgery in 2018.
Like all patients in the program, Nicki had to meet several requirements prior to surgery. Those include completing behavioral health evaluations and nutrition and fitness classes that help prepare patients for life post-surgery.
“You learn how to eat and about not eating on a whim or out of boredom,” Nicki says of her sessions with a dietitian. “You learn why you eat.”
Before long, she had met all the requirements and done all the work leading up to the surgery. But when the time came, it felt surreal. Nicki says she was in a bit of shock when she received the call asking if she’d like to schedule surgery in two weeks.
“It’s life-changing. You’re changing a lot,” Nicki says of what lay ahead for her after surgery.
‘You Can Plan More in Your Life’
Now more than four years out from her surgery at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, Nicki has achieved her goals of improving her lifestyle and overall health.
“I feel a lot better. My insulin and blood sugar levels are good,” she says. “I’ve got more energy. I wake up in the morning without acid reflux. You don’t realize how bad the reflux and the burning in your throat are until they’re gone.”
Nicki has also embraced physical activity of all kinds. These days, she does strength training, works out on an elliptical trainer, and runs with her dogs. In 2019, she ran her first-ever 5K race. She’s gone on to run as far as 10 miles and hopes to someday run a half marathon.
“You set a goal and you achieve it and then you want to keep on going,” she says.
Throughout the whole experience, Nicki has learned a lot, and the ThedaCare Bariatrics team has always been there to answer questions and provide support.
“When you have ideas and say, ‘I really need help with this,’ or ‘I struggle with that,’ ThedaCare is there,” she says. “For example, they said, ‘Let’s do a yoga class.’ I thought, ‘Who wants to be turned into a pretzel?’ It really wasn’t me, but I went to it and discovered it was amazing. And it’s great for your body.”
Today, Nicki enjoys spending time with her daughters, running around and playing with her grandkids, and traveling. She recently celebrated her 50th birthday with a trip to Virginia Beach.
While Nicki acknowledges that the changes following surgery haven’t all been easy, she’s says she has no regrets. If there were one thing she could tell her 2017 self, it’s this: “Don’t hesitate. Just do it.”