Bariatric Patient Story: Mike and Di Anne Malone
When Mike and Di Anne Malone first met at a Milwaukee bowling alley in 1989, they discovered they had quite a bit in common. They both thoroughly enjoyed bowling. Both loved getting out and socializing with their friends. Both were hard workers. And both had been struggling with obesity since early childhood.
“I’ve had weight issues from as early as I can remember, probably second or third grade,” Di Anne said. “I tried Weight Watchers. I would lose weight, but then gain it back. I had a physical once a year and they would always tell me, ‘You should lose weight.’”
“I’ve been overweight since I was a little kid,” Mike said. “I was always the heaviest in class, and I’ve tried all sorts of diets. At one point, I lost 100 pounds and then gained it right back. I lost 90 pounds with Weight Watchers in three months, but then I got an ulcer. Whatever I could have on my ulcer diet, I couldn’t have on the Weight Watchers diet and vice versa. I just gained back everything.”
Mike and Di Anne married in 1994 and, as time moved on, their struggles with obesity worsened. Four years later, while at his job as a machinist, Mike suffered a traumatic back injury which set him back even further.
“After I hurt my back at work, it got to the point that I couldn’t exercise,” Mike said. “I had surgery for the back injury and got an infection. The infection fused my spine where they did the surgery and in the vertebrae above the area. Also, my spinal column was shrinking. My weight didn’t help and because of the pain, I couldn’t exercise.”
Like her husband, Di Anne was also waging a frustrating, unsuccessful battle to control her weight. For about six years, she consulted with her internal medicine specialist to eat healthier foods and become more physically active.
In 2005, she joined Weight Watchers and, at first, was able to lose weight. She started light walking but in the end, she just couldn’t keep the weight off. “After I turned 40, it seemed to get harder and harder to lose the weight,” Di Anne said. “I couldn’t keep it off. It was frustrating, and that’s what led me to start watching my diet. I’ve always eaten healthy, but portion size was a problem. I was eating too much. It was really frustrating — one week good and the next one not.”
The following year, Mike’s spine physician suggested he strongly consider bariatric surgery. He weighed 443 pounds and the future looked pretty bleak.
"It Was So Frustrating"
“Being a diabetic, I was taking a pain medication that caused me to gain weight,” Mike said. “It was frustrating in that I knew what I needed to do, but I just couldn’t do it. I tried eating less, eating more salads, more vegetables and fruit. I cut out the heavier fats, but without the exercise, I would lose a pound one month and gain three the next. It just seemed like a never-ending thing. I was very depressed. It was so frustrating. I wanted to lose, but I just couldn’t.”
Finally, Mike decided to attend a bariatric surgery seminar with James R. Wallace, MD, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin surgeon and director of the Bariatric Surgery Program at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. That’s when Dr. Wallace delivered a bombshell.
“He said if I didn’t have the surgery, I would be dead in five years.”
“At the time I was 55 years old,” Mike said. “I didn’t want to die before I became 60. I didn’t want to leave Di Anne by herself. I’m the youngest in the family, and I’m not supposed to be the first to go.”
With Di Anne supporting him every step of the way, Mike decided to go ahead with surgery. But there was one other problem. To have the surgery, he needed to lose at least 40 pounds. Fortunately, his regular physician was able to change his pain medication, making weight loss possible.
A Tool to Assist
“Once I changed the medication and started to lose weight on my own, I thought about backing off on the surgery, but then I thought, ‘No, I need an assist.’ Surgery is not a cure for being overweight; it’s a tool to assist you.”
Dr. Wallace performed Mike’s surgery in August 2007, and the results so far have been amazing. He’s lost 225 pounds and counting. He gets outside and is more active. He’s living again.
“When I was so big before the surgery, I couldn’t go out and use a snow-blower to clear my driveway, because I couldn’t stand that long,” Mike said. “Now, I enjoy taking care of the yard. For two years, I had my neighbor doing my yard work, mowing the lawn, because I couldn’t do it and Di Anne was at work all day. I couldn’t even get on a riding lawn mower, because I was too big. Now, I mow the lawn, whack weeds, and walk the dogs. I can do a lot of stuff. Before, if I walked half a block before sitting down, I was lucky.”
Success Provides Inspiration
Seeing Mike’s success with bariatric surgery inspired Di Anne. Even though she had a negative surgical experience 20 years earlier, she knew she had to overcome her fears. Her weight had climbed to 288, and she knew it was time to act.
In January 2010, Dr. Wallace performed Di Anne’s surgery and by the end of February, she had lost 45 pounds. She says her life is getting better by the day, and she is continuously amazed by the changes she’s been able to accomplish in her eating habits.
“Four ounces is more than I can eat,” Di Anne said. “Before, I’d have that four ounces and more — maybe a vegetable and a potato. Now I’m on protein and a little starch. It’s amazing that I can’t eat what I used to eat. I really should have been eating the amount recommended now. I feel a lot better. Because I had an open procedure, I still have some pain in the abdominal area, but it will take six months to a year before those muscles will heal.”
Clearly, Mike and Di Anne are back on the right track, eating healthier, being more active and continuing to lose weight. They realize they’ve embarked on a lifetime commitment, not on a quick fix.
“I certainly recommend the surgery, as long as people understand it’s not a miracle,” Mike said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to have this surgery and six months later, I can start eating half a pie and a dozen donuts.’ You can’t do that and lose weight. The stomach is amazing material and it’ll stretch. You will start packing on weight again. Then it’s just a waste of your time and the doctor’s time and effort.”
Team Approach Is Key
Di Anne adds that she is thankful for the team approach offered at Froedtert & the Medical College. “To meet with the dietitian, the psychologist and the nurse each month and discuss your progress is important,” she said. “That’s one thing I would emphasize for others. The team approach is what I really liked about the program.”
As they celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary, Mike and Di Anne hope they’ll be able to get out together even more – maybe even back to the bowling alley.
“I want to get back to bowling, get back to where I was, at least to where I could bowl three games, enjoy myself and even be semi-competitive,” Mike said with a smile.