Bariatric Patient Story: Heather Shanklin
For 35-year-old Heather Shanklin, a Waukesha mother of two, life hit a dreary, depressing plateau late in 2008. The longer things dragged on, the worse she felt. For years, she was receiving treatment for a thyroid condition that sapped her energy and caused serious weight gain. She had plenty of questions – but was getting no answers.
“I knew I wasn’t getting better,” Heather said. “I asked my doctor, ‘Can’t we do something else? Change my medication maybe? Obviously, what we’re doing is not working.’ Her reply was, ‘No, we’re going to keep doing it this way.’”
Heather was suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition in which her immune system attacks her thyroid gland, damaging it and causing insufficient production of thyroid hormone. When these hormone levels fall, one of the symptoms is weight gain.
Enough was enough. Heather decided it was time to get a second opinion and, after doing online research, she eventually found Bradley Javorsky, MD, a Medical College of Wisconsin endocrinologist at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Comprehensive Weight Loss Center.
“I’ve always had good luck with Froedtert,” she said, so she made an appointment. (Ironically, she found she and Dr. Javorsky had attended the same middle school.) His treatment approach proved to be a complete 180-degree turn for the better.
“He listened to me,” Heather said. “He just started doing what I was asking for years to be done. With the previous doctor, I’d be in her office for about five minutes. Dr. Javorsky would visit with me for an hour, asking me how I felt, what would I want to see done - just asking me questions showing he was interested in what was going on with me.”
Dr. Javorsky’s first step was to adjust the dosage of Heather’s hormone medication to get her thyroid disease under control. “She had abnormal thyroid hormone levels when I first saw her, and we got those under control. In addition, we provided the other types of care that are a standard in our weight loss program. Heather saw a dietitian and an exercise specialist.”
Heather had desperately wanted to lose weight for more than eight years. At 5’2” tall and 263 pounds, she had gained more than 100 pounds that she couldn’t lose, despite her dietary modifications. This caused her a great deal of stress. With a family history of obesity and a father who has diabetes, Heather feared she would someday have to battle diabetes and her thyroid disorder.
“Just from the thyroid problem, you gain weight,” Heather said. “You can eat normally but you still gain weight and then it’s harder to take off, especially as you get older. Once Dr. Javorsky got my thyroid condition under control, he asked me, ‘Now, what do you want to see?’ I had tears in my eyes when I replied, “I want to lose weight.”
In March 2009, after her condition normalized, Dr. Javorsky prescribed sibutramine (Meridia®), an appetite suppressant weight loss and maintenance drug that is used in conjunction with diet and exercise. As of January 2010, Heather is down to 205 and continues to lose weight.
“I feel a lot better,” she said. “I know I still have more to lose, but even losing those 60 pounds - it’s crazy, the feeling – I’m not tired; I can do more. I don’t feel sluggish. It’s a nice feeling.”
The lesson here is that when someone is motivated and willing to work hard, like Heather, they can have achieve great weight loss success.
“She’s making tremendous progress, more than you typically see just with medications, diet and exercise,” Dr. Javorsky said. “In general, we’re very happy if we can get a 10 percent weight loss and she’s at 22 percent. That’s a very good outcome for non-surgical weight loss.”
Dropping the pounds has meant so much more to Heather than feeling better physically. It’s changed her whole outlook on life.
“I just feel like people are looking at me differently – before, they were looking at me like, ‘Look at that fat person.’ And having a doctor like Dr. Javorsky makes all the difference. He’s encouraged me and taken the time to help me succeed.”