Every time Christine Price takes to the waters of Lake Lanier, the choice she made three years ago flickers across her memory, and she smiles. She smiles at the path her life has taken since that momentous decision, the affirmation she now feels, and the promise of future fulfillment.
In October of 2018, Christine made the decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery with Longstreet Clinic’s Center for Weight Management. Despite years’ worth of weight issues, yo-yo diets and, ultimately, disappointment, it was not a simple choice. However, it opened the door to a rejuvenated life, and she now considers it among the best decisions she’s ever made.
“It’s amazing; life is completely different; it’s been different for the last three years. I’ve been able to enjoy life with my husband, my kids, family… stuff I would never have imagined to be able have done before,” Christine said. “From paddleboarding to being on the lake with my friends and family, in a million years I would never have just been in a bathing suit and jumped into the lake with 10-15 people around – that’s just something I would never have imagined doing.”
In the three years since surgery, Christine has lost 125 pounds. And, with the help of Miguel del Mazo, M.D., FACS, and the entire Longstreet Clinic Center for Weight Management staff, she knows she has the tools to keep it off for good.
“The Longstreet team and Dr. del Mazo were a huge, huge, huge impact to the journey, just from the first phone call to all the things that you have to do during the process to after surgery to even after that, they just went above and beyond,” Christine said.
That is because Center for Weight Management providers understand that meaningful, lasting health is the result of a journey, not just a surgery – as important as the procedure is to a successful journey. And that is why Dr. del Mazo maintains a relationship with Christine, ensuring that she receives all the support necessary along the way.
“When you’re going the right way, don’t stop. And that’s one of the things that we provide at Longstreet Clinic is that long-term care and support model – to keep her enthusiasm up, to keep her journey going – because she’s worth it,” Dr. del Mazo said. “The challenge is, keep doing it. And Christine has found what works for her. She found what approach to food, what approach to exercise works for her.”
Following recovery from surgery, Christine followed a determined path that included a strict dietary and exercise regimen – a path that she maintains to this day. And that is a big part of why she is now able to enjoy lake living to the fullest – including the boat that she and her husband purchased during the height of the global pandemic to provide a needed escape.
“We go out every weekend; we enjoy time with our friends and our family; we stay out on the boat at night. It makes my soul happy,” Christine said. “To be able to sit on the front of the boat and feel how thankful I am for everything – I mean even just climbing on the top of the boat to drop the anchor, I never would have done that before. I never would have felt confident enough.”
Dropping significant weight at a steady pace, however, has imparted Christine with a source of self-assurance she once thought impossible.
“My goal at first was just to do like 20 pounds, so I went from 20 pounds to 50 pounds, and then my ultimate goal was 100, and now I’ve done 125, and I do feel confident, just to be able to be me and just to be able to be with my friends, my husband, the kids and just not have to feel like I’m not good enough,” Christine said. “I feel like now I am good enough to be able to accomplish everything.”
It is a very different reality from the one Christine faced before beginning her journey with the Center for Weight Management.
“I started having heart palpitations; that’s when I knew that I had to do something and do something immediately,” Christine confided. “I started thinking about my two kids and how I wanted to be around to see them graduate from college and get married…I decided right then to change my life.”
It is a moment frozen in time, one that Christine will always remember as the instant she took control of her life – in a way she previously believed unattainable.
“I wish I would have done it sooner,” Christine said. “So much has changed.”
Bariatric surgery is far from a miracle or shortcut to better health, however. In fact, it is a decision which requires full involvement and commitment from any prospective patient – and Christine is no exception.
After meetings with Dr. del Mazo and Center for Weight Management staff, as well as plenty of her own research, Christine determined that following a bariatric medicine protocol was the best option to not only help her lose stubborn weight, but also keep it off for good.
Together, Christine and Dr. del Mazo selected gastric sleeve as the best option in her lifelong journey. A gastric sleeve, also known as surgical sleeve gastrectomy, is a procedure during which a bariatric surgeon removes 85 percent of the patient’s stomach in order to change the way the body digests and processes food.
“It changes the metabolism of the body. With a gastric sleeve, patients generally lose two-thirds of their excess weight within a year,” Dr. del Mazo said. “It’s a major surgery completed through several little cuts. By and large people do very well with it. And the day of the surgery, I want people up and walking.”
That proved the case for Christine, who underwent a successful sleeve procedure at Gainesville’s Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
The surgery is only a small part of the path to success, however.
“Bariatric surgery is not a one-and-done process,” Dr. del Mazo said. “We are building long-term relationships here. The entirety of our practice at Longstreet Clinic is medically improving people’s health through weight management. That requires the patient to be actively involved.”
Christine has done just that.
Dedicated from the moment she made the decision to undergo the procedure, Christine began prepping for the rest of her life. That included undergoing a pre-operation psychiatric evaluation. “They want to make sure you are committed, not just looking for a quick solution,” Christine said.
Perhaps the hardest part, however, was a two-week clear liquid diet Christine required just prior to receiving the gastric sleeve.
“It was not easy, especially with two teenagers in the house,” Christine said in reference to her children, Sarah and Kevin Michael. “It’s really a life-changing experience; people don’t understand that. It’s not just a surgery and you lose weight and you keep on with your old life – not at all.”
The operation demands significant changes in what and how much patients may eat. That includes eating just one cup of food three times a day – “any more and I’d get sick,” Christine said. She has also cut out such American diet staples as carbonated beverages and a whole range of carbohydrates. Her meals now center around quality proteins and plenty of water – not to mention a regimen of vitamins that Christine will continue to take for the rest of her life.
“Patients do need to be on vitamins for life after a procedure like this,” Dr. del Mazo said. “We have a great idea of what is necessary because bariatric surgery has been around for some time; in fact, the first gastric bypass was performed in 1959.”
According to del Mazo, the biggest requirement for success, however, is a willingness to learn and a stick-to-itiveness attitude – and Christine has that in abundance.
“Christine has done quite well; she’s enthusiastic and wants to be a lifelong learner, and that’s a big deal in this kind of medicine,” Dr. del Mazo said. “We coach our patients what to eat post-surgery, and we provide them with as much support as we can give them for success. And it’s great for us as doctors because we get to see people take control of their lives. We see things like diabetes go into remission, people control their blood pressure without medication…We get to see people live the life they want to lead.”
And that’s where Christine finds herself these days. And those heart palpitations? Long gone, replaced by invigorating runs and meditative moments on the waters of Lanier.
“I’m a completely new person. I’m living a better life, and I would encourage anyone else who finds themselves in the situation I was in to go for it,” she said. “Anyone can do it. Do your research and look into it. Go meet with a doctor. They make it so easy for you here at Longstreet Clinic. Dr. del Mazo was amazing; he made the process great, and told me, ‘I’m here to serve you.’”
And Dr. del Mazo continues to be impressed by Christine’s approach to total health.
“What I see when I see Christine come into the office is someone who just approaches life openly. She takes the challenges; she takes the wins. She puts everything under her belt as experience and she moves forward. She really does have a great zest for life,” Dr. del Mazo said. “She is someone who takes on new and exciting chapters in her life, and I’m really proud to be a part of that journey with her.”
He is not alone in the delight he feels at Christine’s transformation.
“My kids are super proud of me. They tell me all the time, mom, I’m so proud of you for all that you have accomplished and that you’ve been able to maintain your weight loss for the last three years,” Christine said.
Judging her progress to date, it seems clear that Christine will continue imparting that pride for years to come – and all because of a determination that she made three years ago.