Bariatric Surgery: I Got My Life Back!

Candace Willis, a 55-year-old case manager for the Missouri Department of Corrections in Vandalia, Missouri.

Weight pre-surgery in November 2017: 249 pounds

Weight today: 164 pounds

At age 55, Candace weighed 249 pounds. She was diabetic, coping with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Candace’s life was busy and her health was out of control! She was working as a case manager for the Missouri Department of Corrections and busy caring for her husband, Wayne, three kids and six grandchildren. “Life just takes over,” Candace says.

After trying several diet programs without success, Candace recognized she needed help. “Keeping off the weight was a constant battle that I always lost,” she says. “Having the will to try again after failing so many times made it feel like a war I could never win.”

The moment Candace decided she needed to take action was when she received routine blood work back from her primary-care physician, Dr. Aaron Trone. “I could no longer ignore the numbers,” she recalls. “The blood work painted the real picture of my health.”

Hitting a Dead End, She Found Dr. Nicole Spencer

Dr. Nicole Spencer and Candace after her surgery

Candace found the courage to overcome the negative self-talk and met with Dr. Nicole Spencer, Columbia Surgical Associates bariatric surgeon. She also attended a weight-loss seminar at Boone Hospital Center where she could meet with a support team and staff that could answer questions and help determine the next steps that were right for her.

Dr. Spencer performed Candace’s sleeve gastrectomy in November 2017. Now 90 pounds lighter, Candace’s life has changed dramatically. “I feel so healthy!” she says. “I am lighter on my feet and can do so many things that I couldn’t do before my surgery.” In addition to the health benefits, she’s had many emotional “wow” moments as well. “When I was younger, I worried about aging. Now I think life just gets better and better,” she says with a smile. “Life is simpler and less complicated.”

One of Candace’s happiest days was when she saw her primary-care physician Dr. Trone after losing most of her weight. “He had supported my decision from the beginning,” Candace says as she happily remembers the visit. “He smiled from ear to ear when he saw me and then even more when he saw my new lab numbers.”

Life after Weight-Loss Surgery

More than a year after bariatric surgery, Candace now weighs 164 pounds. The change has been life-altering. Candace no longer lives within the physical limitations that come with obesity, and she has a new perspective on life. Being healthy isn’t just being physical fit; it’s about having a healthy self-image and confidence. “It is important, because we are meant to live our lives fully,” Candace adds. “I want to be a participant, not just be a spectator. I have a wonderful family and I want to enjoy them for as long as I can.”

Candace before surgery

Candace after surgery

“The surgery is only the first step in a lifelong process,” Candace tells other patients considering weight-loss surgery. “Ultimately this journey would not have been a success if I were not surrounded by such an amazing support and medical team.” She recalls her first visit to Columbia Surgical Associates, when she knew she’d found the right team to help her reach her goals. “I love Dr. Spencer and her team! They were so supportive and encouraging,” she says. “I know Dr. Spencer is as excited about my success as I am.” Candace also saw bariatrics surgeon Dr. James Pitt for follow-up visits. “It is obvious that he wants to help his patients be happy and healthy,” she adds.

A big proponent of paying it forward, Candace hopes her story will inspire others. “I’m hoping to help others get healthy too,” she says. “I would advise people considering bariatric surgery to do their research, go to the seminars and ask as many questions as possible. Don’t be afraid to succeed. A healthy lifestyle is really possible for you! You can do this, and you will be thrilled that you did.”

Question Quickie

  1. What’s your favorite healthy food? I love grilled veggies and my husband’s delicious smoked fish.
  2. Favorite exercise/activity? Gardening, kayaking and aerobics.
  3. Least favorite exercise/activity? Pushups. URGH!
  4. Favorite item of clothing? Jeans!
  5. One word that describes you before weight-loss surgery? Slow.
  6. One word that describes you after weight-loss surgery? Quick.
  7. What would your friends say about you after your weight loss? I have a lot more confidence and can finally keep up with them.
  8. Pounds lost? 90.
  9. Biggest misconception about weight-loss surgery? That there would be lots of complications.
  10. What does happiness mean to you? Being able to move without pain. I have a ton of energy and I feel amazing!!!

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Please note this procedure may not be suitable for every patient. This testimonial represents the individual’s experience. Please discuss procedure options and potential risks with your doctor.