A Weight Lifted
Weight-loss surgery helped June Hinkle lose almost 100 pounds, ease back pain, and reduce diabetes and cardiovascular risks that claimed her father.
Three babies helped June Hinkle of Allentown decide it was time for weight-loss surgery. In fall 2014, both her daughter and daughter-in-law were pregnant. “Within 48 hours, one had twins and the other a boy,” Hinkle says. “Looking at those grandkids, I said to myself, ‘June, you want to be here for them.’”
Not being there was a real possibility, which Hinkle knew from experience. Her father suffered from diabetes – as did Hinkle and her mother. The condition prevented her father from receiving a heart transplant for related cardiovascular disease, and he died in December 2003 at age 67. Closing in on 60 herself, Hinkle also recalled being a cardiac technician at then-Allentown Hospital in the 1970s and 1980s. “I knew all too well how people with diabetes can go on dialysis, lose toes, go blind,” she says. Despite other health problems, “I was more afraid of what diabetes would do to me than anything else.”
Her father’s wisdom inspires a call
In December 2014 – just days before the anniversary of her father’s death – she scheduled her weight-loss procedure. “My father was on my mind when I made that call,” Hinkle says. “On his deathbed he said, ‘I wised up, but not soon enough.’ He struggled with weight his entire adult life, and I was not going down that road if at all possible.”
At first she worried about the surgery. Education sessions at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Weight Management Center reassured her that the procedure was safer than a hip surgery she’d already had. Hinkle never considered her age an impediment. “It wasn’t about wearing a bikini,” she says. “It was about being healthy – and you’re never too old to get healthy.”
Shrinking appetite shrinks June
Bariatric surgeon Richard Boorse, MD, with LVPG General and Bariatric Surgery, performed Hinkle’s sleeve gastrectomy (or gastric sleeve surgery) in April 2015. The procedure removes about 85 percent of the stomach, including a portion called the fundus, which is responsible for producing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin. “You’re left with a tube about the size of half a banana and little appetite,” Hinkle says. Instead of big meals, she eats small quantities about five or six times a day.
Weight loss was immediate. “I lost 19 pounds in the first 10 days,” Hinkle says. Once 253 pounds at 5 feet 4 inches, she’s now 155 pounds and wears size 10-12 instead of 24. “That’s a big difference in terms of what clothes are available and comfortable,” she says. Not carrying extra weight eased pressure on her back. “I’ve struggled with back pain for years and was even slated for back surgery, but that’s on hold,” she says. “My back is much better.” Best of all, she no longer fears life-threatening effects of diabetes.
Completing the transformation
But happy as Hinkle was, her transformation seemed incomplete because of excess skin where fat had been. “Even with people telling me how much better I looked, in the mirror I’d still see excess folds of stomach,” Hinkle says. “Part of me felt I didn’t really lose that weight.”
In August 2016, Hinkle decided to have plastic surgery to remove excess fat and skin from her abdomen and thighs. “Now my stomach is flat,” she says. “I’ve been heavy all my adult life and don’t remember being able to say that before. There’s something about it that makes you stand a little taller.”
June’s success now inspires others
An outgoing self-described talker (“I get that from my father”), Hinkle has inspired two longtime friends and her husband’s godson, a former football player, to undergo weight-loss surgery as well. If you
attend a Weight Management Center information session, there’s a good chance Hinkle is volunteering at the sign-in desk where she enjoys sharing her story with people who are much like she was before
The reality of that previous life struck her when she recently found a pre-surgery photo of herself – rare because she avoided cameras then. “It was like – wow, I was bigger than I thought,” Hinkle says. “I honestly had blinders on. Looking back on that time, having known full well what happened to my father, I think: ‘What were you waiting for?’”