"It's like a second chance, to be reborn."
"I thought they were the final days of my life," says Elena Minaya of the dark time before she had gastric bypass surgery.
By age 48 — three years ago — she weighed over 200 pounds and suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux and asthma – and had to take medication for each condition. Then she developed lung problems for which she underwent painful surgery and had to take steroid medication.
"That caused me to gain even more weight," she says, noting that she reached 252.5 pounds at her heaviest. "I couldn't take a shower or get dressed without my husband helping me. I couldn't even walk that well. I was very depressed."
In 2012, Minaya's primary care physician referred her to Lowell General's Center for Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery. There she learned about surgical options for weight loss and opted to undergo gastric bypass surgery performed by Roy Shen, MD, chief of surgery at Lowell General Hospital.
Her procedure took place on October 29, 2012. As of late July 2013, she has lost nearly 90 pounds, and has just 15 more pounds to lose to reach her goal weight of 150.
"It has changed my life in such positive ways," she says of the weight loss. "I can now bathe myself, walk by myself, even run! I feel younger and have much more energy. It's like a second chance, to be reborn."
Her health issues also have largely resolved, reducing or eliminating her need for medications.
"I don't have problems with high blood pressure so I don't have to take that medication anymore," she says. "My cholesterol is normal but the doctors want me to keep taking that medication. And my diabetes has improved – my A1C was 11.9 before and my most recent was 7.5. Plus, my asthma is 95 percent better and my acid reflux has improved a lot, too. I just feel so much better," she adds.
Minaya continues to meet with the Center's nutritionist to help guide her food choices.
"They show you how to eat in a healthy way," she says. "The only things my body doesn't tolerate are sweets and greasy, fried foods. Otherwise, I'm able to eat just about anything."
Because of her earlier lung surgery, Minaya is unable to lift weights, but she walks regularly for exercise.
"My self-esteem is much better," she says. "I feel good in my mind and when I look at myself, I like what I see now."
So does her husband, Jose (who underwent gastric bypass surgery three months after Elena).
"It's like I've found a new bride," he says, smiling. "And we're on our honeymoon, starting all over again."