by Marie Osborne contact:

Bariatric Surgery

"Patients are reassured to know I truly understand what they're going through," says Candace Johnson, a bariatric nurse clinician at Park Nicollet Bariatric Surgery Center. "I know how frustrating it is to be overweight. I know how scary it is to make this decision. And I know how life-changing it is to finally achieve success."

Johnson, 45, also knows how difficult it can be when deciding whether to have bariatric surgery. Like many, her path to this life-changing decision came after living with obesity for many years, and enduring many unsuccessful attempts at losing weight.

"When I was younger, I was always about 30 to 40 pounds overweight," she says. "But after my children were born, I found myself weighing 150 pounds more than I did before my first pregnancy."

Besides the pregnancies, Johnson believes other factors contributed to her weight gain, more She worked 12-hour shifts, often at night. And when she wasn't working, she was exhausted from raising her two boys and not getting enough sleep.

Turning the corner

About five years ago, Johnson started to work with patients recovering from bariatric surgery. After watching so many others overcome their struggles, she finally decided it was her turn. "I chose adjustable gastric band surgery because I wanted my weight loss to be slow and steady," she explains.

Johnson recently marked her two-year anniversary since surgery, and has lost a total of 120 pounds. She is now working toward losing the remaining 30 pounds to reach her pre-pregnancy weight. "That's the beauty of the band. It can be adjusted to help you reach new goals," she says.

Leading by example

This past year, Johnson made yet another change - she joined the Park Nicollet Bariatric nursing team. "I'm at Park Nicollet Bariatric Surgery Center, helping patients decide which procedure is best for them. Patients feel very comfortable asking me questions, because they know I have gone through it myself."

At Park Nicollet, patients may choose to have one of two types of bariatric surgery - adjustable gastric band or gastric bypass. To learn more about each surgical option, read "When surgery is needed for treating obesity."

Today, Johnson has never felt better. She no longer has high blood pressure and her chronic back pain is gone. Last summer, she even ran a half-marathon. Although she still works nights, she makes it a point to take care of herself. "My children are now 11 and 13, so I'm able to sleep," she says. "I also make sure to eat correctly and exercise regularly."

Johnson encourages her patients to do the same. "It really is important to take care of yourself. It's not being selfish; it's one more way of taking care of your family," she says.