Cindy Kanitz - Cadillac, MI
"The bariatric coordinators are outstanding. Navigating this journey can feel like crossing an ocean, but they do everything they can to get you to the other side."
A Life-Changing – and Life-Saving – Surgery
For years, Cindy Kanitz had struggled with weight. "I was a chubby kid and heavy teenager," she said. "I've gained and lost a thousand pounds over the years."
In 2006, Kanitz underwent an adjustable gastric banding procedure, a type of bariatric surgery. Unfortunately, due to complications with a liver and gall bladder surgery, the band had to be removed.
Her weight climbed even higher after the death of her husband in 2013. Kanitz acknowledges that she is a "comfort eater" and she used food to help her deal with her broken heart. During that most intense part of the grieving process, she gained more than 50 pounds.
Kanitz's youngest son, a physician assistant, first approached her about having a second bariatric surgery. During his training, he had worked a rotation with General and Bariatric Surgeon Jeffrey Smith, M.D. "He was really impressed with Dr. Smith, so I looked into it," she said. "I needed a tool to help me permanently lose weight."
At 312 pounds, her weight was seriously affecting her health. It was threatening her life. The now 54-year-old had high cholesterol and had been treated for high blood pressure since her 30's. The crucial factor was her dangerously high body mass index (BMI). "It was just over 50," Kanitz said. She needed help and she needed it quickly.
In May 2015, Kanitz underwent a sleeve gastrectomy at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot. A sleeve gastrectomy maintains the basic function of the stomach; however, the volume the stomach can handle is significantly less. Patients who undergo sleeve gastrectomy feel full quickly and consume less food at each meal. On average, patients lose about half of their excess body weight in 12 months.
Kanitz was happily surprised by her experience at the Medical Center. "I've had my fair share of surgeries and this was by far the best experience I've had," she said. "The program in Alma is very well-coordinated." Kanitz sees things differently than most patients – she is a registered nurse who specialized in outpatient surgery. "It is a very, very clean hospital. I was comfortable and felt very well taken care of.
"Dr. Smith and the staff are just wonderful," she said. "They saved my life. The bariatric coordinators, Abby Hunter and Angela Munro, are outstanding. Navigating this journey can feel like crossing an ocean, but they do everything they can to get you to the other side. It really is a fantastic, fine-tuned program and I'd recommend Dr. Smith to anybody."
After surgery and recovery, Kanitz said learning what she could and could not eat was a matter of trial and error. "The key was learning to listen to my body," she said. "For instance, I cannot tolerate food with a high sugar content and I'm conscientious about eating enough protein every day. Otherwise, I don't restrict myself too much. I don't get that hungry anymore, and I don't feel cravings for fast food like I used to. On the other hand, if I really want a cookie, a bite or two will satisfy me."
Kanitz said although she became more active after her surgery, she hit a plateau after a year. "The weight comes off very easily at first," she said. "Then I stalled. It took a while to acknowledge I had to do some hard work." She took a serious step and hired a personal trainer. "She's amazing and holds me accountable. It has not been quick process – I've only lost 27 pounds in 10 months – but I'm much more toned and I have a ton of energy. I feel better than I ever have in my life."
Her progress has continued to be steady. Her immediate goal is to drop below the 200 mark on her way to her ultimate goal of 180 pounds. "Today, I feel fabulous and exercise is a huge part of why I feel so good," she said. "It took a while, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I have to work out to feel my best. I exercise for 30 minutes every day.
"The best part is the way I feel," Kanitz said. "I love being able to chase after my grandkids." In fact, the birth of her first grandchild was a motivating factor when making the decision to have surgery. "I wanted to be alive and watch them grow up."
Kanitz believes bariatric surgery saved her life and has helped her move on. "It's the best thing I ever did for myself," she said. "Bariatric surgery is not a cure but it's a wonderful tool. I just wish I had done it sooner."
MidMichigan Health offers bariatric surgery in both Alma and Midland. Those who would like more information about surgical weight management may register for a free in-person information seminar at www.midmichigan.org/bariatricseminars or watch MidMichigan's online seminar video series at www.midmichigan.org/bariatriconlineseminar.