Roux en Y Gastric Bypass

Michelle's "Before and After" Photo

As a woman living with lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue in her body, exercising for Michelle Getchell meant joint pain and swelling.

Her weight didn’t help matters either. At 270 pounds it was difficult for her to exercise without pain, and running was almost impossible. 

“I met Dr. Korus after a family member had recommended him,” says Michelle. “We talked about the lupus, and a clotting condition I also had, and the possibility of having bariatric surgery. He felt confident I was a good candidate, and my weight-loss journey began.”

Michelle has been seeing physicians at Penn Medicine for more than 25 years, and felt good knowing all of her doctors there would be connected to Dr. Korus and be on the “same page” when it came to her care. Michelle and Dr. Korus decided the gastric bypass would be best for her, and she began the pre-operative process. 

“I met with a dietitian, who helped me start eating better and prepared me for how I would be eating after surgery,” says Michelle.

She also had pre-operative testing, which she passed without issue. 

“The lupus and arthritis and joint pain were the big issues for me,” says Michelle. “I know if I lost the weight, I’d have less pain, and could be more active.”

Michelle had bariatric surgery in 2010, and by 2011, had lost 100 pounds. 

But her journey wasn’t over. Michelle had another goal in sight – running the Lupus Loop, a 5k race that raises money for lupus research. 

“Dr. Korus was completely supportive of my goal,” says Michelle. “The race was in October, and it was the June before when I started running.”

Michelle joined a running group who taught her how to run, and helped her train for her first 5k. 

“Running helped me get stronger physically and mentally,” says Michelle. “I never thought I could run, but I believe running actually helped my lupus. I was sweating out a lot of toxins in my body, and was moving my joints and muscles in a way they never moved before.”

When one race ended, Michelle started to train for another. Soon, she was running 10 miles at a time, and losing even more weight in the process. 

“I was losing weight, but I was also getting stronger,” she says. “I noticed my clothing was getting looser, and I started to use the way my clothes fit as a way to judge my weight loss.”

Michelle also viewed food differently – it was fuel for her body. 

“I no longer had any emotional attachments to food,” she says. “It’s a way for my body to get the energy it needs to be active, and I don’t like the way I feel if I make poor food choices.”

Michelle is still running, and is training for the Philadelphia Marathon in November. She often joins the bariatric support groups at Penn for encouragement and motivation. 

“I tell people they should find something they love to do – it doesn’t have to be running, but find an exercise or activity that they enjoy and makes them move and sweat,” says Michelle. “When you become passionate about an activity, it’s easy to stay active and on track.”

Michelle’s Tips for New Runners

Michelle's "After" Photo

Not everyone wants to, or can, run. If you are interested in running, here are Michelle’s tips for getting starting. 

  1. Get a check up and the “okay” from your primary care doctor to run. They'll confirm you’re in good health before you start getting that heart rate up.
  2. Get fitted for proper running shoes at a running store – not a big box retailer. “I tell people to find a store with the word ‘running’ in it,” jokes Michelle. “Getting fit by people who enjoy running themselves, and are knowledgeable about the shoes, their make and your foot build will help keep your whole body healthy.”
  3. Find a running group or try a beginners program like “Couch to 5K”.
  4. Find a safe place to run and wear reflective gear if you are running in the dark.
  5. Wear comfortable clothing. “I like to wear capris or running pants,” says Michelle. “Just make sure the fabric is breathable and ‘wicking’, which means it wicks away the moisture from your body.”

Let Penn Medicine help you lose weight. Register for a weight-loss surgery information session here

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