Real struggles with weight loss

Markland woman loses 105 pounds after bariatric surgery

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on December 27, 2015
On the right is Kayla Bennett 41 weeks after she underwent gastric sleeve surgery.
Submitted photo

It's been over 40 weeks since Kayla Bennett took the biggest step towards the most drastic change in her life.

Kayla didn't take the decision to undergo bariatric surgery - a procedure that reduces the size of the stomach - lightly, but she felt it was necessary.

"Despite being extremely active I was always unable to maintain a healthy weight," Kayla told The Compass. "For as long as I can remember I had aches and pains in my hips, knees and feet; not to mention I had an un-diagnosable issue with one of my ankles that would force me into a walking cast for weeks at a time."

It wasn't just about how she looked. In fact, it was an emotional rollercoaster.

"Have you ever gotten on an airplane and the seat belt wasn't large enough to fit around you?" she asked. "I flew for a work conference in November 2014. I had to ask for a seatbelt extender. I have never been so embarrassed in my life."

For years, she would hear negative comments from people about the way she looked. It took an emotional toll.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports one in five Canadian adults are overweight, which increases the chances for chronic health conditions such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

Kayla's health issues were more in her joints, but they were still bothersome. Being young and active, the issues she experienced from being overweight were a hindrance to the lifestyle she wanted to have. She enjoys softball, but she was having difficulty playing with the excess weight.

"This past summer I hit my very first triple, and I ran it on my own. I cannot explain that feeling. I could have cried with joy."

She noted her team, family and friends have been her biggest support system throughout her transformation.

Some 6,500 bariatric surgeries were performed in Canada in 2013-14, as per CIHI. The "typical" patient is a female approximately age 45.

Kayla is much younger. And because she doesn't have diabetes, high cholesterol or any other illness that requires her to lose weight without putting her life at risk, she was not considered a priority for bariatric surgery in Newfoundland and Labrador, facing a five-to-seven year wait.

Kayla and her mother planned a trip to Tijuana, Mexico this past February to have the procedure done. The full cost out-of-pocket was approximately $4,500 U.S. The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Care Plan (MCP) covers the surgery in-province.

"At 28 years of age I thought it was time to take control and become a better me," she said.

Kayla joined gyms, did boot camps and food management programs. She would lose some weight, but once the program was over, she would gain more back than she lost.

After researching the procedure, asking many questions, learning the risks and getting testimonials, she was ready to take the next step.

When she returned home she changed her eating habits. Unfortunately, because she can only eat a small amount of food at a time, she has experienced some minor side effects.

"I have lost some of my hair, and that comes from not getting the right nutrients," Kayla explained. "My blood sugars have been low and I have fainted a few times, but that's under control now."

She has not had any issues with excess skin, and she thinks it's likely from her age and activity level.

"Personally, I would rather have some excess skin then continue on the path I was," she admitted.

Kayla doesn't regret anything about the surgery, and is proud to say she's happier, much more confident and doesn't mind approaching people, which is good since she is the volunteer public relations director for the Penney Mazda St. John's Junior Hockey League. She also a clinical trails ethics co-ordinator for the Health Research Ethics Authority.

This option is not for everyone, Kayla noted. She advises people to seriously consider their options before jumping into surgery.

Her life has been full of changes since February, but so far things have been for the better. And she does assert that it hasn't been an easy journey.

"Some people say this surgery is the 'easy way out,'" she said. "I respect the opinions of others, but I ask that in turn they respect my decisions as well. The misunderstanding lies with the fact that having this surgery actually isn't a quick fix. It does require work."

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc