CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Andrea Rhone and Ashley Mackey became best friends in sixth grade. Over time, the two drifted apart, but their bond was renewed from shared journeys with bariatric surgery.
The women had gastric sleeve surgery performed by Dr. Richard Gorman of WellSpan Surgical Specialists just hours apart at the beginning of 2017. In early January, the friends celebrated their first "surgiversary."
Rhone, who struggled with weight and witnessed family members endure the struggle, too, said fibromyalgia and a few other health problems prompted her to consider bariatric surgery.
"I was hoping (the health issues) would be relieved some if I lost weight," she said. "I also was hoping to gain self-confidence (and) I wanted to be able to do things like run around with my children I hope to have some day - without getting out of breath."
Mackey said she had been obese for about a decade and gained most of her weight after having four children.
"At first, my goal was to be 'skinny,' but after going through nutrition counseling, I realized there was so much more to this than just wanting to be skinny," she explained. "I did not want to focus my achievements by the number on the scale, but how I felt, overall."
After having their surgeries, the friends admit they had their fair share of ups and downs.
Mackey realized emotions and stress triggered her unhealthy eating patterns and worked to find healthy ways to relieve stress.
For Rhone, challenges came from changing the way she thought about food, the portions she used and the types of foods she ate.
Getting through together
The friends said they were grateful to have each other to lean on throughout the process.
"After the surgery, you go through so many emotions," said Mackey. "Having each other there to talk to and get through all the emotionally and physically tough times made things so much easier."
Mackey added that they still work together to hold each other accountable and stay on track.
"She has been able to support me and talk to me on my toughest and most stressful days," Rhone said of Mackey. "I am so thankful for her."
Hope for a healthier life
Both Rhone and Mackey said bariatric surgery made them hopeful for happier, healthier lives.
"I was hopeful that I would eventually be healthy and had hope that I was going to feel better about who I was," said Rhone.
Mackey agreed, saying there previously were times she avoided leaving her house or eating in front of other people because of shame.
"My journey provided me hope by giving me my life back. I was sad and miserable being overweight," she explained.
For those on the fence about bariatric surgery, both Rhone and Mackey urge others to move forward if they are ready to commit to the change of life the surgery requires.
"Do it," said Rhone. "If you're thinking about it and truly want to better your life, take the step and do it, but you also have to be ready to accept change."
"Write down the pros and cons of getting surgery and not getting it," recommended Mackey.
Mackey also gave advice for people worried about what others may think.
"There are a lot of people that will think you are 'lazy' or say you 'took the easy way out.' Don't listen to any of them. You have to do what is best for you and you will have an entire community behind you!"
Tips and Snacks
Eating tips and go-to snacks from Rhone and Mackey.
- Follow all your nutrition counselor's rules! ALL of them!
- Stick to your diet guidelines.
- Avoid eating bites that are too big.
- Don't forget to chew food well.
- Keep snacks on hand to avoid fast food when out.
- Go-to snacks include beef jerky, nuts, and cheese.
- Always keep water with you.