Woman hopes to finish her weight loss journey with one last surgery
By Danette Dooley
Special to The Packet
The friend of a woman who lost an incredible 130 pounds after having 80 per cent of her stomach removed is raising money to help her get skin removal surgery.
Sandra Troke and Heather Bray work at Scotiabank in Clarenville.
Troke says when she heard Bray was having surgery to help her lose weight her first thoughts were about how courageous her friend was for taking such a big step to improve her health.
“I remember how disappointed she was when the surgery had to be postponed because she developed a cold," says Troke. "I watched day after day and week after week as she worked so hard on losing weight and getting healthy,”
The postponement because of illness wasn’t the first delay of the surgery. She initially discussed the operation with a surgeon in St. John’s over a decade ago. While she knew it was going to take time, Bray had no idea she’d be waiting over 11 years for the call.
“I had lost weight again on my own and gained it back again. I just thought it was never going to happen. I thought this is the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life.”
No one was more surprised than Bray when she got a call in 2012 from the surgeon’s office asking if she was still interested in having the operation.
After a visit to St. John’s and a discussion with her surgeon about the procedure, Bray knew she was ready for it.
In a surgery performed at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s in October, 2012, the surgeon removed most of Bray’s stomach.
Referred to as sleeve gastrectomy, the surgery is not an easy operation to prepare for or recover from.
“Two weeks before (the surgery) you’re on a full fluid diet and four weeks after surgery you’re on just fluids. It was really difficult,” says Bray.
Her husband Jeff Bray and mother Ruby Green have been among her biggest supporters, she says.
Her co-workers have been great as well.
Troke says she and the people at Scotiabank witnessed Bray’s ups and downs, her pain and her sickness.
“You could really see a difference. Everyone at work offered daily encouragement and it was exciting to hear after each follow-up doctor's appointment how she was doing… and some of us followed what she was eating as she was an inspiration to watch. I personally was inspired by her. She made me want to get healthy.”
Off work for over a month, Bray learned to eat all over again, losing over 50 pounds during the first six months after surgery.
Bray is now ready for an operation to remove the excessive skin that has resulted from such a drastic change in her body after losing 130 pounds.
An experienced plastic surgeon in this province has told Bray the surgery isn't available in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“That took the life right out of me," she says. "It was really disappointing.”
The surgeon suggested Bray travel to Ontario for an abdominoplasty surgery, also called a body lift.
Bray has found a surgeon willing to do the operation. However, she put the idea out of her mind when she found out the surgery costs over $11,000.
Friends come onboard
Troke says she learned of her friend’s disappointment about the skin removal surgery through a Facebook status update. As she read her friend’s words, Troke's thoughts went to a saying her father-in-law says to her often.
“He always says to me, ‘Anything money can fix is not a problem’.”
With those words in her mind, Troke assured Bray she would help raise the money for the life-changing surgery.
“Others from our workplace and our friends and family have offered to help, too,” Troke says.
The friends are ready to organize some fundraisers in the near future.
Some preliminary ideas involve a car wash, ticket sales, benefit dance and “whatever else we can come up with,” Troke says.“Heather is much smaller and healthier these days but one thing that still remains very large is her heart."
Bray is overwhelmed that Troke and her other co-workers, who have supported her emotionally, are now reaching out to support her financially.
“For them to be doing this … I’m very thankful.”
Anyone interesting in helping or supporting the cause can email Troke at firstname.lastname@example.org