Mary Taylor was the invisible woman...all 28 stone 10lbs of her. Such was the scale of her dangerously obese frame, she felt that few people were prepared to send a glance her way and that they would rather avert their gaze elsewhere.
"The bigger you are the more invisible you become.
I just didn’t have another diet in me"
Being shunned by fellow human beings was one of the tribulations that was a daily part of Mary's life.
There were many more obvious negatives which came with being so hugely overweight. Mary couldn't walk more than a few yards and was frequently consumed by depression. Her problems led to the loss of a career, home and marriage. Her life, in short was catastrophic.
Mary was a lot of things – but she was also a fighter.
Why weight loss surgery?
After countless attempts at dieting, she started investigating the possibility of weight loss surgery.
Satisfying herself it was her best option for a new life she decided to undergo bariatric surgery at the Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield Cheshire, about 40 miles from her home in Chester.
The results have been utterly life-changing.
In less than two years, Mary lost 11 stones and is still knocking pounds off the scale. At 60 years young, she swims 20 lengths of the pool and enjoys gym exercise. Her new found freedom has also influenced the emphasis of her work. Already a trained counsellor, Mary is now offering private counselling sessions in her home county of Chester to people considering weight loss surgery or those seeking support post-operation.
This is Mary's heart-warming story. In her own words...
“I have been ‘overweight’ all my life to varying degrees. I first became aware of it on my first day at school when the children called me ‘fatty’. I was born in 1950 – there was no junk food, no access to my own money to buy sweets etc and I had exactly the same diet as my brother and sister who were both very slim.
"Unfortunately the family attitude was very punitive and I can remember clearly being told I wasn’t hungry, but greedy when I asked for food. Throughout my childhood I was told by school doctors etc. that this was ‘puppy fat’ which would miraculously disappear at puberty. Of course the opposite happened and I went from being plump to obese by aged 16.
"This coincided with the advent of Twiggy, mini skirts and discos – all of which made my adolescence almost unbearable. I was a very bright child but didn’t take up further education options because I thought that was only for slim girls and I wouldn’t fit in or cope."
"This set a pattern for many years of isolating myself and totally believing that I just didn’t deserve anything good – all I needed was self-control and to stop being so greedy – it was all my fault. I married my first boyfriend which lasted a very short time and only served to reinforce my strong belief that I was not supposed to be happy. Fat girls couldn’t be. I have never re-married. Interestingly I look back and see that I cannot recall any other overweight children in my primary school and only one other (a boy) in secondary – unlike today unfortunately.
"During my twenties and thirties I began to slowly develop some insight into my eating problems and my weight fluctuated between 13 stone and 17 stones. I began to dip my toe in education again and aged 34 managed to get into university. On a daily basis, I would diet then binge, then diet – all in the space of 24 hours. My ‘lack of control’ preoccupied me and made me very unhappy but I made myself study and get as involved as I could in my studies and subsequent employment in the mental health field."
Bingeing and ill-health
"Despite myself, I slowly became successful and was making friends who were not interested in my size, but who I was. Then between 1997 and 1998 I lost several close family members and friends which coincided with moving jobs and house. This led to several years of bingeing and ill-health which finally took me in 2008 to a massive 28 stone 10lbs.
"I had to take early retirement on health grounds which was financially catastrophic as I had to sell my home and car. I have an extremely understanding and insightful GP who had supported me through all this and I came to the conclusion that I just didn’t have another diet in me – I couldn’t carry on and felt I would probably die or at the very least become even more disabled if I didn’t take radical action."
Referral for weight loss surgery
"My GP referred me for funding and 18 months later I was referred to the Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield to see Mr W. Brough. During this waiting period I managed to lose some weight and at the time of referral weighed 23 stone 4lbs. My health problems at that time were clinical depression, asthma, angina, and high cholesterol. There was also chronic lower back pain, pain in hips and knees, reflux problems and extremely limited mobility.
"At the supermarket I had to use an electric wheelchair and qualified for a disabled parking permit because I could not walk more than 15 metres without pain and breathlessness. I couldn’t attend fully to my own care: I couldn’t cut my toe nails or put my socks on – I needed help getting out of chairs. If I fell, I couldn’t get up and stairs were almost impossible."
Research and choosing a bariatric surgeon
"After seeing the surgeon, nurses and dietician at Spire Regency, I felt the first hope I had had in years that there might be a future for me. I was given a lot of information both written and oral and had the opportunity to ask all my questions.
"I also looked at a lot of websites on bariatric surgery and researched as much as I could prior to surgery. On the day I was very anxious as I knew full well the risks involved and had been informed of the problems that could occur. Despite this, I felt this was the only chance to have a ‘normal’ life – whatever that was."
Help and support
"The staff at Spire Regency were very kind and reassuring and I felt safe and secure with them. The surgeon and anaesthetist saw me prior to the gastric bypass operation and were again reassuring and confident of a good outcome. I had very little pain apart from trapped wind and made a good physical recovery within a few weeks."
Weight loss surgery aftercare
"The support from the Regency Hospital in those early months was so important as my mind and body tried to adapt to this radical change in lifestyle. Initially I lost a lot of weight but being so large it did not really show until I had lost around 4 stone. I felt very well and basically simply took all the advice offered, following the diet sheets to the letter. I was seen on a regular basis and always felt I had time to ask questions and raise any concerns I had. I was told I was on target with my weight loss which was very good to hear.
"Almost two years on I now weigh 12 stone 6lbs and I'm still losing weight! My life has changed beyond recognition and my two years post-op care has been a lifeline of support, information and reassurance. The symptoms from my health problems seem to have gone and I am ready to look at working again with great excitement! The last 20 months have been a roller-coaster of change, mostly positive of course in that my aforementioned health problems seem to have disappeared – I am fit, healthy and able to exercise strenuously on a daily basis."
Recovery and advice about weight loss surgery
"It has not always been easy to live within the strict parameters of the new way of eating, portion control etc. and I have developed a lot of strategies for dealing with unexpected feelings of loss and anxiety when the weight loss was really rapid – it would be naive to say it was all plain sailing – it certainly was not an easy option.
"However having said all that, just knowing that all I have to do is follow the rules, I can look forward to the rest of my life with the confidence that for the first time ever – this weight loss should be permanent. When my weight reached 28 stone 10lbs – my whole day was spent trying to manipulate my body through that day – planning routes which did not necessitate stairs, long walks etc.
"Shopping in Chester was a nightmare as I was only able to manage around half an hour's walking at any one time which meant having to plan which shops were close to each other etc. then home as soon as possible. I became expert at knowing which cafes were accessible to me; seating, steps etc. I could not count the invitations I have turned down over the years such as weddings, parties because I knew the chairs may not take my weight or the walk from the car park might be too much for me. I was living the life of an old lady."
Benefits of reaching a healthy weight
"One aspect of being morbidly obese is that strangely you become invisible in the wider world – people glance quickly at you then look away – the bigger you are the more invisible you feel. I now see a big difference in how people look at me, smile at me and want to engage with me. This can actually take some getting used to but is one of the big benefits of being a healthier weight.
"These days I plan my day and don’t give my mobility a thought other than revelling in marching down streets, in and out of shops without thinking or planning. Such simple joys are all available to me now on a daily basis.
"Often people who have had significant weight loss talk about ‘getting their life back’. Others, like me, who had no memory of having a life without a weight problem, cannot envisage what it will be like! I think most people believe that significant weight loss will make everything in their life better but if you have problems with relationships, self-esteem etc. they will still be there but I believe, easier to deal with because worrying about your body is no longer such an issue.
"There are so many advantages to losing your weight – but be prepared for you to still be you! Warts and all – you cannot eradicate a lifetime of low self-esteem, bullying and discrimination simply by losing weight but you should be in a stronger position physically and mentally to deal with it.
Spire weight loss surgery
"I will be forever grateful for my GP and my local Health Trust for putting me forward to Spire Regency Hospital at the grand age of 57! How wonderful that they felt I was worth it! I like to think that I have earned ‘my keep’ and not wasted time or money by self-sabotaging the procedure.
"Above all, I am grateful to the team at the Regency for their time, patience and expertise – I certainly went to the best possible centre as far as I am concerned and would recommend them to anyone.”
Read more Spire patient stories about bariatric surgery.
For further information call your local Spire Healthcare hospital or complete our online enquiry form on the weight loss home page.