Transformation of the Day: Anisha lost 100 pounds. In 2018, she was diagnosed with two life-threatening diseases. Part of her treatment at the Mayo Clinic included prednisone, which caused weight gain. Eventually, she had to prepare for lung transplant surgery, which required weight loss. She shared with us all the ups and downs of her journey and how she eventually found success.
I was diagnosed in March 2018 with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease-MCTD (a cousin of Lupus). In June 2018, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease (Pulmonary Fibrosis) – scarring in my lungs from MCTD. I was given a prognosis of 3-5 yrs to live.
My husband and I quit our jobs in Texas and relocated to Rochester, MN, for a second opinion at Mayo Clinic. When I began treatment at Mayo (which consisted of a high dose of prednisone and some other medications for pain), I weighed about 240lbs. (height: 5’8″) The side effects of these meds caused me to crave sweets and overeat. I was placed on oxygen within six months of treatment at Mayo. Although the treatment was going well, the pounds kept coming.
Then the Pandemic and Quarantine started. Sitting at home worried that I might die made me eat even more. As time went on, my lungs got worse, and we had to start preparing for a possible double lung transplant.
In April 2020, I began meeting with a dietitian. We discussed weight loss options because my BMI needed to be 33 for a lung transplant. I was currently at 50, so we began with cutting calories. I used MyFitnessPal.com to track my eating and weighed myself weekly.
I purchased a Fitbit watch to count my steps and help me monitor my blood oxygen and heart rate. We met monthly, and I didn’t see much weight loss for the first few weeks. I started with a 2000-calorie diet because I was eating well over that amount. With little progress, we changed it to 1800 calories.
I started making healthier food choices; veggies, fruit, 3 oz of meat, etc. I started reading labels and eating just the serving size. I would plan my meals for the day, so I knew how many calories I was taking in and if I could treat myself at the end of the day. If I happened to go over calories one day, I would try to compensate by eating less another day.
I couldn’t do much exercise because the scarring in my lungs caused severe shortness of breath. So I would try to find ways to be active to increase my steps. I did a mindfulness breathing class through Mayo that consisted of a slow 6-minute walk and some upper body cardio movements that could be done standing or sitting.
I was still only losing half to one pound a week, which was very frustrating. I had gained about 85 pounds, and it wasn’t falling off as fast as I put it on. At my heaviest, I weighed 323 pounds. (The biggest I have ever been in my life.) I cut calories again to about 1500, replacing one meal daily with a protein shake and some fruit. This still only resulted in a loss of 1 or 2 pounds a week.
I ended up in the hospital twice during quarantine, and that’s when I discovered that I had severe acid reflux. I was referred to Gastroenterology and diagnosed with Esophageal Dysmotility. Basically, my esophagus doesn’t close properly when I eat or drink. Therefore fluid would back up into my lungs, causing the lung disease to worsen.
The best way to fix Esophageal Dysmotility is with Gastric Bypass Surgery (Roux-en-Y). So I was referred to Endocrinology. By this point in my journey, I had only lost 35 lbs. To continue with surgery, I couldn’t gain 10lbs before surgery.
This surgery was two-fold for me.
1. To correct my esophagus and
2. To allow me to lose the necessary weight needed for a lung transplant.
I had no idea getting to surgery would require so much. First, I had to meet with a dietitian for six consecutive months. Thank goodness I was already meeting one. I had to do 12 weeks of weight loss classes to learn proper eating habits. I also had to meet with a psychologist.
Next, I submitted all these tasks to my insurance for approval. Then once approved, I had to meet with a social worker regarding post-op. After that, I was scheduled to see the surgeon to make sure I understood the extensiveness of the surgery.
I was scheduled to have surgery on Sept 28, 2021. I was prepped and ready to go into the operating room, and my surgery was canceled. Due to my lung function, which is 34%, they needed to have an EKMO (life support) machine available just in case my lungs failed. Unfortunately, there weren’t any available due to COVID.
I didn’t know how to feel. I think I cried all the way home. All I kept thinking was, “What now?” Is time on my side?” I scheduled an appointment with my primary care doctor to discuss whether there were any alternative weight loss options for me.
She told me about a medication called Contrave. It is a combination of Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and Naltrexone (Vivitrol or Revia). The prescription was submitted to my insurance but denied. So she submitted it to my insurance as separate medications, and it was approved.
I began those medications in Nov. 2021. It really cut my appetite in half. It sent signals to my brain that I was full and had to stop eating. This was my weight loss surgery! I was losing 2 to 3 lbs a week with these meds. When I started the meds, I weighed 283 lbs. Today I weigh 223lbs. I have lost a total of 100 pounds. [Down from 323 lbs]
My motivation was to be here to see my kids grow up and for my grandkids. I wanted to live, period. As I lost the weight, I began to feel better overall. My breathing was better. My joint pain was better. I began to love what I saw in the mirror every day.
I was very impressed because I couldn’t exercise to help the weight fall off. I have purchased some 10lb weights to help tone my arms, but because of my autoimmune (joint pain), it is difficult for me to lift them.
My way of staying active is doing house chores. I do as much as possible, and then I take a break. Then, once I’ve regained normal breathing, I get up and do a little more.
I would tell any woman to find what works for her and stick to it. Finding what works might take some time, but don’t give up! Also, find an accountability partner. My sister was my partner, but I motivated her more than she motivated me…she did motivate me NOT to do what she was doing. 🙂