A mum-of-two who was advised to undergo an NHS gastric bypass to save her fertility was overjoyed to give birth to two sons after she lost ten stone.
In total, self-employed nail technician Joanne Cooper, 31, has lost 13 stone since undergoing bariatric surgery on the recommendation of doctors.
Miss Cooper, of Rotherham, who is now mum to Noah, three, and Alfie, two, also underwent an NHS-funded tummy tuck operation in June 2013 to remove irritating excess skin.
She said: “I was nervous about having a gastric bypass, but I knew it was the only chance I had to have children.
“I thought carefully about it and knew it was the right thing to do, despite the risks.”
Miss Cooper saw her weight pile on through a combination of convenience eating and the effects of polycystic ovary syndrome, which she was diagnosed with when she was 16.
She said: “I only had one period between the age of 12 and 17. When I got the diagnosis of PCOS when I was 16, the weight gain made more sense.
“I did not stuff my face, but did have some bad eating habits. I ate a lot of bad foods – chips, pizza, pasta and takeaways.
“I used to work in a pub, so often had fattening drinks after work, and the only places open for dinner after closing at 2am were late-night takeaways.”
By the time she turned 23, Miss Cooper weighed 23st 7lb and wore size 28 clothing.
She said: “I was down, but put a brave face on. I suffered with back pain and got breathless when walking. I had quite a few health problems.
“I went to the doctor to ask about my future fertility because at the time I was engaged and having children was on the cards.
“I knew it would be a challenge because of the infrequency of my periods, but I was still stunned when the doctor flatly told me that the PCOS, combined with my weight problems, meant it would be practically impossible to conceive. He said a solution would be to have a gastric band.
“Preparing myself for the operation was terrifying.”
Miss Cooper underwent surgery in October 2007.
She said: “It took a long time to get used to the change. If I ate anything which I wasn’t ready for, I was sick. It took about six months to start eating properly again.”
Despite the challenges, Miss Cooper’s perseverance was rewarded firstly when she lost 10 stone in just 18 months, and then, in the spring of 2010, when she fell pregnant with her first son, Noah, now three.
To her amazement, within eight months of giving birth to Noah, she fell pregnant with her second son, Alfie, now two.
She said: “It was a huge relief to know that the plan suggested by the doctors had worked. I was over the moon to have the two boys in my life.
“After having Alfie, I was horrified to see my weight creep up. Having two children so close together meant I really struggled to lose the baby weight. I realised one day that I was back up to 17st.
“I was terrified that I would slip back into the way I was. I’d been through the surgery – I couldn’t let it happen again. I’d been on such a long journey and I felt I was letting myself down. I knew something had to be done.”
Miss Cooper started on the Cambridge Diet in September 2012 and began visiting the gym up to five times a week. She would go on to lose six stone in 10 months.
Before beginning her weight loss journey, she typically ate a bacon sandwich for breakfast, followed by a chip butty with a bar of chocolate for lunch, with spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread for her evening meal. She would snack on sweets and chocolates throughout the day.
Under the weight loss regime, which she continues today, she typically ate a protein shake with banana for breakfast, with Quorn chili con carne for lunch, followed by salmon stir fry for evening meals. She tends not to snack.
As her weight reached 10st 7lb, allowing her to fit into size eight clothing, she began experiencing unbearable irritation from the excess skin left from her 13 stone weight loss.
She said: “I was left with a lot of excess skin and was very uncomfortable. Coming down from more than 23st to 10st 7lb came with some serious consequences.”
Miss Cooper was approved for an NHS tummy tuck, which she underwent in June 2013.
She said: “I was more nervous the tummy tuck than I was about the bypass. It was a massive operation. I was under for four hours – they needed to cut vertically as well as horizontally.
“The risks of being under for so long were massive and there were a lot of risks associated with the wounds and scarring.
“Now I’m happy with the way I look. It’s hard to believe, when you put pictures side-by-side, that those old pictures used to be me.
“My life has been completely transformed. I would never have been able to keep up with the children when I was bigger. I feel like a completely different, much more confident, person.”
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