The idea of losing 50 pounds is daunting. And when you’re doing everything you can and progress stalls? That’s where Jacqui Gibson found herself.

On top of working as a phlebotomist drawing blood from patients in Winston-Salem, raising a son, staying close to her adult twin daughters and becoming a grandmother, Gibson was participating in Novant Health’s CoreLife weight loss program. She was following guidelines from a personal nutritionist, consulting with a mental health specialist and learning new exercises from a personal trainer.

“I joined CoreLife with a goal to reset and restart my health journey, and outside input is always helpful,” Gibson, 39, said. “The whole program is designed to help you win.”

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Starting the CoreLife journey

She was first referred to the CoreLife program at age 38 after a primary care visit with Amy Farmer, family nurse practitioner at Novant Health Adult Primary Care Waughtown. Through routine testing at that visit, Gibson learned that she was at risk of prediabetes and early-stage kidney disease.

“I really advocate for that annual primary care visit and physical,” Farmer said. “We do that head-to-toe physical exam and look at preventive care, including vaccines and mammograms, and we look at your overall health.”

When Gibson learned she was at risk of prediabetes, the news hit hard. Gibson had been avoiding a primary care visit for years, fearful of bias and bad news. But one of her daughters nudged her to go.

“A lot of times, for Black women, we have a stigma of going to the doctor,” Gibson said. “I was fearful of the negative. But I’m glad they caught this early on. I want to be here as long as I can for my children and grandchildren.”

Gibson had already worked so hard on herself. She was actively addressing the core cause of her weight gain in therapy. As a young girl, she was sexually traumatized by two different men.

“No one ever got me the proper help,” Gibson said. “From my teenage years until my 30s, I didn’t recognize that I was emotionally eating to unconsciously cope with that trauma. I finally connected with the right counselor to break down the traumas to take care of my mental health.”

Time for bariatric surgery?

Despite her hard work in CoreLife and her progress with her emotional health, Gibson wasn’t reaching that 50-pound weight loss goal. At age 39, the fear of developing diabetes continued to bother her. So she talked with Famer about bariatric surgery, in which the digestive tract is altered to aid in weight loss.

“I had watched my grandmother deal with diabetes, and I didn’t want that life,” Gibson said.

Farmer wrote Gibson a recommendation letter for surgery. “She was so motivated from the get-go,” Farmer said. “And when it comes to the right candidates for bariatric surgery, that’s what it boils down to – their motivation. It’s not a quick fix. You still have to make lifestyle changes.”

Gibson met with Dr. Paul Chandler, bariatric surgeon at Novant Health Salem Surgical Associates - Clemmons. “We discussed all the surgical options using an extensive national database that helps establish a patient’s estimated risks for each procedure as well as expected weight loss,” Chandler said. “Using this data-driven information to help guide our decision making, we decided together that robotically assisted Roux-en-Y gastric bypass was the best option. Especially since it has the best control of diabetes.”

In robotically assisted surgery, highly skilled surgeons use leading-edge technology to perform the procedure through small skin incisions.

Want to learn more about bariatric surgery? Watch a free virtual webinar at your convenience. Click here for details and choose the “weight loss services” event category. To see a seminar with Dr. Paul Chandler and Dr. Josh Rickey, click here.

While preparing for Roux en-Y gastric bypass surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach and rearranges the small intestines, Gibson stayed motivated – she continued to meet regularly with her CoreLife team. “I just dove right in and went for it,” she said.

Chandler successfully performed the minimally invasive surgery in May 2023 at Forsyth Medical Center. “This technique has a shorter recovery time, which greatly benefits our patients since it allows them to get back to their lives more quickly,” Chandler said. Gibson spent just one night in the hospital.

Meeting – and surpassing – health goals

As of September 2023, just a little more than four months after surgery, Gibson has lost 74 pounds, surpassing that original, daunting goal. Her A1C blood level that measure for diabetes are also normal.

Meanwhile, she’s also studying for her bachelor’s degree in behavioral health with a focus on trauma. “I’m tapping into who I want to be,” she said. “My goal is to help troubled young girls now.”

She’s still participating in the CoreLife program to track progress and get new workout ideas. Her method for coping with stress or trauma triggers has transformed, too.

“It’s definitely a mindset shift – where usually I’d go get ice cream or cake, the gym is now my therapy,” Gibson said. “If I’m having a rough day, I go from work straight to the gym. I keep a bag in the trunk. If surgery is going to work for you, you have to put your mind to it and you have to take the right lifestyle steps. If it's what’s best for you, do it.”