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The Road to Inner Peace
Grace Biggio has long been at peace with herself. In fact, she has never been ashamed of being overweight. “I used to say that I was a healthy fat girl,” she says, “I’d go to the beach, swim and dance.”
But two years ago, she wanted to do an event that entailed a lot of walking. She had to buy a rolling walker, and was told by a doctor she’d have to lose weight to undergo a knee replacement. Her weight was holding her back.
As a speech pathologist with a background in massage therapy, the 57-year-old Poughkeepsie, New York resident felt that, “I’m not really a ‘surgery person,’ but physically I got to the point I knew that I didn’t have a choice.”
After trying numerous diets without success, she was spurred to a decision: to undergo weight loss surgery.
Finding Care and Compassion at Advanced Surgeons
Since childhood, Grace was always overweight, a trait she shared with other family members. In addition, she is a survivor of sexual abuse, which she points out is associated with obesity by using food to cope.
As a therapist herself, Biggio has “done the work” on her own life. That includes a lot of therapy. She characterizes herself by saying, “I’m a very outgoing person, and very positive.” Her decision to explore surgery was part of that.
Biggio had family members who, a decade ago, had benefitted from Advanced Surgeons. She followed up with them and met Dr. Anthony Maffei, a fellowship trained surgeon who also takes a lifestyle approach to care, including nutrition and exercise. “I was nervous,” admits Biggio of the appointment. “I didn’t want to screw this up. One of my big fears was gaining the weight back after the surgery.”
But at Advanced Surgeons, she found the empathy and support of an entire team. Dr. Maffei and staff answered all of her questions, in person and subsequently through email, and his assistant spent a good hour of intake with her as well. She also received the important ongoing counsel of the staff nutritionist prior to and following surgery.
In fact, the recommended doctors for pre-surgical testing were so good as well, says Biggio, that she now uses one of them for her continuing care. “Everyone is so wonderful at Advanced Surgeons,” she says, “from the front desk to the back room.” That includes the special shout-out she gives to nutritionist Janet Borra, RD, as well as Robin Mariconi, Dr. Maffei’s scheduling coordinator and Lisa Giorgi at the front desk.
As a therapist, Biggio really appreciated how the staff at Advanced Surgeons, and Dr. Maffei, combine medical expertise with compassion and understanding. “If I was having a rough time, we talked about how to deal with it.”
“Dr. Maffei is very personable,” explains Biggio. “I felt like I could ask him anything. I told him about my fears. He is very engaging, and made me feel comfortable and respected. As someone who is fat—I call it the ‘dirty F word’—there is a certain perception in the outside world that we’re just not trying. But I never felt that attitude at the doctor’s office. I was listened to and not judged.”
Sleeve Gastrectomy and Beyond
As part of the extended and comprehensive services at Advanced Surgeons, Grace attended a support group prior to her surgery. From that, she felt she knew what to expect. “I was ready; I did the work,” she says.
Of the surgery itself she feels, “It was easy.” The same day, she was doing laps around the hospital hallway. “I had a great surgery and a great recovery.”
At her first appointment with Dr. Maffei six months prior to surgery, Biggio weighed 374 pounds. Today, fourteen months following her surgery in June 2018, at 5’4” she’s down to 197 pounds. She’s on the way to her goal weight of 175 pounds, a number that was reached in collaboration with nutritionist Janet Borra. Biggio’s success was achieved with sleeve gastrectomy, the most popular weight loss surgery. Family and friends have consistently provided steady support, even giving her clothes at every stage of her weight loss. “There are weird things I thought I’d never wear,” she confides with a laugh.
Post-surgery was methodical, as everything is prescribed: when and what to drink or eat. “It’s actually harder now that I can eat almost anything,” she admits of the challenges.
Exercise helps with those challenges. “I had been working out prior to surgery, and then got even more serious,” Biggio explains. She goes to a gym to work out with a personal trainer. Some days are better than others, but she pushes on with the treadmill, free weights, kettlebells and a weighted ball. She even pounds a sledgehammer. “And I love it!” she proclaims.
Grace Biggio reflects on the person she has become with wisdom and grace. It is also her message to others.
“The real key is to be where you are. Don’t judge yourself. Be kind, gentle and loving of yourself. My stretch marks are my badges of honor, because my body and my weight, and how I carried it, speaks of my surviving what I went through, what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. In my job, I work with children aged three to five, some of whom can’t walk, talk or even move. So particularly when I go to the gym, I think about how blessed I am to have what I have.”
But she knows it can be hard, so her final piece of advice: “We’re all doing the best we can. That’s all we can do. Just keep chugging along.”
At Advanced Surgeons, we specialize in changing lives one patient at a time. If you are ready to get healthy and feel great, Advanced Surgeons can help. Request an appointment today.