Roller Derby Girl’s Athletic Transformation

Sleeve weight-loss surgery helps skater become Roller Derby All Star

Jillian Wexler’s easy smile belies the strategic persona she takes on as “Stella Mac,” a no-nonsense jammer – the scoring position – with the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls All-Stars team. “I like the fight, plus it tests my strength and endurance,” she says.

The 26-year-old Coplay resident earned the jammer spot after losing more than 100 pounds with weight-loss surgery.

Before that, Wexler was a blocker on the team who hoped the activity would help her lose weight. “I was more active, but I wasn’t making good food choices,” she says. “I got to the point where I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror. I wanted to be an athletic, strong player and having extra weight hurt that.”

Her transformation to agile athlete

Two years ago, Wexler attended a free information event at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to learn about weight-loss surgery. At that gathering she met Richard Boorse, MD, surgeon with LVPG General and Bariatric Surgery. “Dr. Boorse is inspiring,” Wexler says. “He’s an athlete, and he understands my athletic drive.”

“Knowing Jillian wanted to improve her roller derby performance helped our team prepare her for weight-loss surgery,” Boorse says.

Advance preparation is guided by health insurance requirements, and can take anywhere from three to six months.

Wexler had gastric sleeve surgery, a procedure that removes about 75 percent of the stomach. “Gastric sleeve, or sleeve gastrectomy, works on the principle of restriction,” Boorse says.

“You feel full with much less food.” This procedure also removes a part of the stomach called the fundus that secretes a hunger-stimulating hormone called ghrelin. “By removing that eating trigger, most gastric sleeve patients tell me they never feel hungry,” Boorse says.

Jillian’s athletic ambitions

Wexler recalls something Boorse told her before surgery. “He said, ‘We’re going to make you that derby girl you’ve always wanted to be’ – and they have.”

Now Wexler competes on the AllStars team, and she’s taken up running.

“I’ve entered several 5K races,” she says. It’s all part of her ongoing weight-maintenance strategy. “Surgery is definitely a tool − it’s not a fix-all,” she says. “If I didn’t make good choices afterward, including staying physically active, what was the point of surgery?”