Weight loss surgery inspires Peachtree Road Race first-timer

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If you would have told 30-year old Nancy Sanchez a year ago that she would be running the Peachtree Road Race on July Fourth, the Fairburn mother of 3 says she would have laughed at you.

Because, after years as a Northside bariatric nurse, helping patients reach their weight loss goals, Sanchez says, she was struggling.

She says she was overweight, had high cholesterol, and she had zero energy.

 "I mean I tried everything from prescription medication, to going to the gym, to getting a trainer," Sanchez remembers.  "I mean, I would plateau at some time, I would plateau, and my health was getting worse."

So, one day, in the spring of 2018, Sanchez approached her boss, bariatric surgeon Srinivasa Gorjala of Bariatric Innovations, to ask him for his advice.

"I kind of worried about her weight over the years," Dr. Gorjala says.  "But, she came to me, and we talked about the options, and what she needed to do."

Because of Sanchez' body mass index and cholesterol were high, she was a candidate for a gastric sleeve gastrectomy.

That's a weight loss procedure in which Dr. Gorjala would remove 75 to 80% of her stomach, dramatically reducing how much she can eat and how many calories her body can absorb.

But, like all surgical candidates here, Sanchez had to first go through a medical weight loss program, working with a dietitian to prepare for the serious lifestyles and dietary changes she would need to make.

And when she got on the scale and saw the number 275, she cried.

"I had to literally just tell myself it's not about anything else," she says.  "It's not about your husband, your kids, your family.  It's about you and your health. I want to keep up with my kids and be healthy."

So, on May 14, 2018, Sanchez had the procedure.

Dr. Gorjala says people sometimes mistake weight loss surgery as "an easy way out."

"I will tell you, the patients I have are some of the toughest individuals you will see," Dr. Gorjala says. "Because, not only do they have to change their lifestyle, they have to think differently about food relationships, how they approached life.  So, for them, it's about living outside the bubble in which we normally live."

Sanchez has lost 75 pounds.  

She still has food cravings, but she's getting up 530 each morning, running on her lunch hour, training for the Peachtree Road Race.

"I mean I feel really good," she says.  "It just feels good to be able to do something that exactly a year ago I wasn't able to. Just walking up a hill, I felt so out of breath."

Running a 10K is a big step.

"I'm not so worried about my speed and my time right now, I just want to be able to finish it, Sanchez says.

Her family will be cheering her on.

I'm really nervous, but I'm very excited," she says.  "My kids are very excited. They're always telling me, 'Mommy, you look really good!'"

And as Atlanta celebrates its 50th Peachtree Road Race,  Sanchez will be celebrating her fresh start.

 "It's going to be really exciting," she says.