The testimonials below are all real-life stories from patients who have undergone bariatric surgery through our award-winning program. Their pictures were taken throughout their journey and during one of our annual bariatric fall fashion show events in the Grand Court at the Cherry Hill Mall.
There was a time I thought I was invincible, but as it turns out, I wasn’t.
I was 419 pounds and in very poor health when I realized I was close to death at too young of an age. I was only 58 and had a six-year-old daughter who I couldn’t play outside with or ride a bike with.
My dear friend, Dr. Nicholas Depace, and former classmate, Jefferson NJ President Joe Devine were very nervous about my health. I had taken advice from Dr. Depace, but a little too late. Over the course of about three years, I experienced being in a coma twice; spent time in three different hospitals and rehab centers; was put on a feeding tube; had a tracheotomy; was taking up to 18 pills each day; and was quickly deteriorating.
I wish I had listened to my doctors sooner, but then I thought, better late than never. I decided to get gastric sleeve surgery; I chose life over death!
I now weigh 288 pounds and plan to lose a little more. I only take one pill a day, instead of 18. I can go on trips and play with my daughter, and I can even buy clothing off the rack.
There is no place like Jefferson Health NJ, and there are no professionals like the staff that helped me through this, especially Dr. Marc Neff.
Not unlike many bariatric patients, my weight loss journey started many years prior to my surgery.
I tried just about everything, including weight loss pills, gym memberships, community Zumba classes, and, of course, dieting. I ate carrots and rice cakes like it was my job! At one point, I even attended a bariatric surgery seminar, but thought to myself, “You don’t need that. You can lose weight on your own. Why be so drastic?”
From there, I reverted back to a lifestyle of remaining sedentary and overindulging.
Last spring is when I decided I needed to take back my life. I needed to get back to smiling; get back to a daily routine of healthy eating; get off the water pill and blood pressure medication.
I signed up for another bariatric surgery seminar, and this time I was all in.
I met with Dr. Marc Neff and Cheri Leahy, RDN, CSOWM, and right away, I knew it was the best decision I could have ever made. Dr. Neff and his staff were incredible; they helped me navigate the process and made sure I had the knowledge and materials needed to be successful.
I had my surgery November 9 of last year, and it not only changed my life, it saved it! I’m off all my prescription medications. I lost 76 pounds!
Cathy B.'s Story
All my life, I was overweight. My first memory of being on a diet was age 5. After years of ups and downs, dieting, disappointments, and major weight fluctuations, I decided enough was enough.
I have a granddaughter, and I wanted to see her grow up, go to college, and lead a beautiful future. I wanted to live for her! I just didn’t know how.
When my doctor suggested bariatric surgery, I jumped at the chance. It was the best decision I ever made. I am so happy to be able to live life with her and my daughter. No more sitting on the sidelines! I’m living my best life! With them, for them, and, most of all, for me!
Back in September 2018, I had gastric sleeve surgery done by Dr. Marc Neff. I decided to have weight-loss surgery primarily because I was struggling with my rheumatoid arthritis. It started to significantly limit my daily capabilities. Even walking became a harder and harder task.
When it became necessary for me to use a cane every day, I knew I needed to make a change. I was planning two knee replacements, which I wanted to be successful. Losing weight would improve my recovery. At my age (now 67), I didn’t want any of these issues to worsen, nor did I want to face complications brought on by obesity. After doing my own research, talking it over with my primary care doctor, as well as Dr. Neff, I decided it was the right choice for me.
I’ve lost nearly 80 pounds, and I’ve recovered from two knee replacements. I’m feeling and moving better than ever! I’ve been able to cut back on medications I once needed. Stairs are no longer a feat, and I can ditch the cane! Weight-loss surgery gave me a great portion of my life back. I have a lot more energy, and I’m able to take part in fun, family activities again. Not to mention – I was back to work within two weeks’ time!
Dr. Neff was incredibly supportive. He’s understanding, knowledgeable, explains things in an easy-to-understand manner, and answers all questions. I felt very well-informed prior to surgery. The office staff was also excellent throughout the whole process.
Around 10 years ago, I was nearing 500 pounds and struggling to live my life to the fullest.
Now, I currently weigh 220 pounds, and as a long-distance cyclist I finished a 71-mile ride, and will soon tackle a 104-mile ride!
How did I get here? Well, that’s really a two-part answer.
First: I had a sleeve gastrectomy done in September 2017 by Dr. Marc Neff.
Prior to surgery, I lost over 100 pounds – as this is necessary to improve the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.
Dr. Neff and his team are as knowledgeable as medical professionals come, and for that I am grateful. Having the opportunity to work with a dietitian through this journey has been incredibly helpful; she educates me on what to eat, when to eat, and how to properly refuel for my races (with plenty of electrolytes!).
Second: I had to get into the right mindset. If you aren’t mentally prepared for life after bariatric surgery, then you need to speak with your doctor, and your loved ones, before having it done.
Like most things in life, with bariatric surgery, you’re only going to get out of it what you give.
As I was working out, I thought to myself, “what if I took my fitness to the next level?” That’s what inspired me to get into long distance cycling. It’s helped me to focus on maintaining my health, as well as work toward new goals.
After bariatric surgery, you have to think in a similar way. You have to put continuous effort into your own health. Not everybody is going to want to take up cycling, but finding something to strive for keeps you from falling back into your same old habits.
"In 2016, when I elected to have gastric sleeve surgery, under the care of Dr. Marc Neff, I was unaware that I had made the most important, life-changing decision ever. Within 15 months, I reached my goal! I lost a total of 139 pounds. It was a major victory, but my journey did not end there.
Reaching that number on the scale was just a small part of my new life after weight-loss surgery. I’ve had to continue working on my health. A focus on exercise has been equally as important as awareness of what food I’m putting into my body.
For many people, especially those who have had weight-loss surgery, it takes effort to maintain your weight. However, if you gain a couple of pounds here and there, which is only natural, you just have to be cautious and act on it in a timely manner.
Dr. Marc Neff and his team were by my side the whole time. Dr. Neff is a great doctor. He always has a smile on his face. He takes his time, and thoroughly explains what you should expect. I was scared before surgery, but after meeting with him, that fear completely disappeared.
The benefits of having weight-loss surgery have been countless. Before, I had very little energy. I couldn’t walk up stairs without needing support and becoming out of breath, I couldn’t walk very far, and I couldn’t even imagine going to the gym. My joints were in pain, and I missed out on so many things I wanted to do with my daughter.
Now, I walk multiple miles a day. I go to the gym 5 days a week, and I love it! I am more energetic than ever before. I can play a game of volleyball with adults younger than myself, and they’ll get tired before I do! I’m no longer experiencing any breathing issues, and I can wear beautiful clothes again. I feel so much better about myself."
“After three failed attempts to repair my hiatal hernia, which was affecting my everyday quality of life, Dr. Marc Neff suggested I undergo gastric sleeve surgery. This would help to stop the reoccurrence and alleviate the pressure on my stomach.
On July 3, 2018, I had the surgery, and since have lost over 70 pounds. Thanks to Dr. Neff and his team, I have a renewed lease on life.
I am now able to walk, bend, and do other strenuous activities without gasping for air. I have stopped all my medications, including blood pressure and stomach, and no longer have to use my Bi Pap machine for sleep apnea. What’s even more amazing is that at age 54, my energy level is back to where it was in my 20s. My life has drastically changed for the better, and my wife is glad to have the man she married back.
On such a difficult journey, it’s essential to have a caring support system. I know this because Dr. Neff and his staff have stood by my side this whole time. They are always courteous, professional, and willing to help with anything they can. They are readily available to answer questions and concerns, and they make sure you feel comfortable throughout the whole process.
As for Dr. Neff, it’s clear that he truly wants you to succeed. He spends a lot of time speaking with you and taking a personal interest in your life. He is also willing to fight for you, and work with all your physicians to ensure you get the best possible care.
Having the opportunity to work with a dietitian throughout this journey was super helpful. She got me on the right path to eating healthy, specifically when it came to meal planning.
Contrary to popular belief, physical appearance is not the primary benefit of weight-loss surgery, nor was making this decision the ‘easy way out.’ To have weight-loss surgery, you need to be diligent and follow the instructions of all medical professionals involved. After surgery, you need to continue to work hard to maintain your new physical status and overall well-being."
"I’m a 70-year-old man, with tears filling my eyes as I write this. How do I put into words how I feel? Dr. Marc Neff and his team did not do me a small favor; they gave me my life back.
In 2015, at a visit with my cardiologist, I asked, 'Doctor, I’m 320 pounds. I’m 66-years-old. What is my life span?' Without hesitation, he responded, 'at your weight, maybe 72.' This was incredibly daunting to hear. We began discussing options right away. When I asked about gastric sleeve surgery, he gave me his medical approval.
In October 2015, I attended Dr. Neff’s Bariatric Weight Loss Seminar. Unfortunately, I had some setbacks that were out of my control. On March 12, 2018, I had the surgery. I was finally taking control of my life.
It has been a year since my surgery, and I have lost 117 pounds.
I feel victorious in ways that aren’t even related to that number on the scale. I can do things I never imagined, including playing with my two gorgeous granddaughters. I also don’t have to take diabetes medication anymore! I’m healthy again, and most importantly, I can be there for my family.
I only have good things to say about Dr. Neff. He became more than my surgeon. He became my friend. I know he and his team have performed thousands of surgeries, but I was never made to feel like a number. Their concern for you as their patient, and for your success, is genuine.
If you’re considering weight loss surgery, know that it’s not easy. It takes full commitment, not only for a day, month, or year, but for a lifetime. It’s a long journey, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t dwell on who you were; always look to the future and what you can be."
“I saw Dr. Louis Balsama for my one-year checkup – all good news! I lost 117 pounds, my blood pressure was 118/66 and all my labs came back looking great, except for a slight Vitamin D deficiency.
I have so much more energy! Not only do I feel healthier, but I also have a positive mental attitude about myself. I was at the lowest point of my life, 18 months ago, with my weight and eating habits completely out of control, causing lethargy and depression. Coupled with worsening peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) – mostly concentrated in my feet and lower legs – and two foot surgeries, my situation was a recipe for hopelessness. I knew that if I didn’t do something to improve my weight and health soon, I would be diabetic and have to deal with so many obvious complications.
After an exhaustive search for the best tool for weight loss in my situation, I decided to have the gastric sleeve done by 'Dr. B.' I thought I would have a much harder time losing weight compared to others because of my inability to exercise. I was WRONG.
‘The sisters,’ sisters Susan and Robin (bariatric angels), visited me in the hospital after my surgery to give me a pep talk and inform me of exercise programs that can be done even while sitting in a chair or during a water aerobics class.
Fast forward to the present – I still sit down during our 20-20-20 exercise class due to balance issues, but I benefit greatly from it. The water aerobics class surprised me the most! I never expected I could do so many exercises in the water that I can’t do ‘normally.’ My balance in the water is unbelievable, as is the ability to hop and bounce on my bad foot. My arms, legs and core keep getting stronger and my stamina has increased substantially.
I cannot emphasize enough how crucial these programs have been throughout my weight loss journey. Not only are there obvious results from all of this hard work, but we have a ton of fun – especially during 'noodle time.' One more crucial element is the monthly support group, where we gain a wealth of information from the staff and hear advice from the experiences of other bariatric patients.”
"Today marks my one-year 'surgiversary,' and I’m astonished by my results.
I couldn’t have done it without the help of so many people. First and foremost, I would like to thank my surgeon, Dr. Louis Balsama, and his team members Kathleen McKeever and Chris Arroliga. They truly care for each and every one of their patients.
Secondly, I am so thankful for my family’s love and support, and all of the new friends I’ve made throughout Jefferson Health. Last, but not least, I would like to thank my dear friends Cindy Jones Johnson and Anthony Grelli. If it weren’t for these two, I would be in a much different place.
To the right are a few pictures that document my journey to a healthier life. From left to right: my birthday last year; day of surgery; Dr. Balsama and me at my first 5K; my birthday this year; and my one-year follow-up appointment with Dr. Balsama, Kathleen McKeever and Chris Arroliga.
In the most recent picture, I’ve lost 110 pounds with 10 more to go. The future looks bright, and I’m excited to see what I can accomplish next!"
"This life chose me!
I was overweight my entire life. Being born nine pounds, nine and a half ounces pretty much set the tone for the weight struggles I’d constantly endure from childhood into adulthood. I’ve been told stories of how my family would overfeed me as a child. One year on Thanksgiving, they fed me so much, I had to go to the hospital to get my stomach pumped. However, these stories and my weight only DESCRIBED me. In no way, shape, form or fashion did I allow it to DEFINE me!
I was gifted and talented in many things, but I was still always known as the BIG girl with the pretty face or the BIG girl who can SING! Over the years, and into adulthood, I got tired of that being my narrative. I found my voice! I discovered my passion and started walking in my purpose. Since 2009, I’ve lead a community organization for overweight women and young girls. I host workshops and support groups empowering and encouraging self-love and body acceptance. I built an incredible social media platform and network of women who - like me - were seeking images and inspiration of plus size women living and LOVING life! We weren’t hopeless and helpless. We were stuck in a rut of having low self-esteem and self-confidence. Many of us started to celebrate our curves and learned to love the skin we were in.
My reality started to change as I got married, had children and traveled. The harsh reality set in that my weight was starting to hinder the quality of my life. I wasn’t playing in the parks with my children. I was embarrassed every time I boarded a plane, because I needed a seat belt extension. Going up a flight of stairs was getting harder and harder. Even being intimate with my husband started to change. I found myself joining Weight Watchers and was only 11 pounds away from 400 hundred pounds. I cried when I stepped on the scale, because I never realized just how big I was. I tried diets and different regimens on my own for years. Nothing ever lasted. I would nearly kill myself working out five days a week only to lose two pounds. I realized I had to do something about it. Most importantly, I had to stop caring what everyone else thought, especially the community of plus sized women I had surrounded myself with, and make the decision to SAVE MY LIFE!
How could I challenge these women to truly love themselves, when here I was struggling with my own weight issues? I realized that weight loss surgery was NOT the easy way out. It was a tool to jumpstart the lifestyle change I was so desperately seeking. My message is still the same, only now there is an added clause. If you love yourself, then you’ll take the BEST care of yourself. That requires taking a REAL assessment of your health, which can force you to see how your weight has started to cripple you and decrease your quality of life. That’s what happened to me. I finally accepted medical intervention, because I decided I WANTED TO LIVE!
While I didn’t have any extreme illnesses, I was one or two points away from EVERYTHING. I didn’t want to wait for the doctor to tell me I had to take medication for the rest of my life before making a change. Currently, I am almost six months out from having a baby girl, and I am super proud that I am back to my pre-baby weight. This means that VSG still works for me! I had my surgery in August 2016! Now, not only did I divorce the park benches, but I’m beating my kids when racing! No more asking for seatbelt extensions. Now, I have lots of space after buckling up! I am looking forward to running behind my first baby girl, because she’s already a walker. Plus, this past summer, I already beat my boys (ages 7 & 11) at a game of basketball!"
"Today marks a very special day in my life: the day I made the decision to take control of my health for myself and my family.
Choosing to have a life-altering procedure like bariatric surgery is not an overnight decision. Outside of the intensive medical testing before surgery, I felt uncertain, fearful, excited and embarrassed - but that didn’t stop me. The obstacles I faced before, during and after my surgery only reassured me that this was the right decision.
Bariatric surgery is not the 'quick-fix' that many think it is. It is a tool that helps jumpstart a healthier lifestyle. I work each and every day to maintain my weight loss by eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy exercise regimen.
I could not have done this without the support of my family, my incredible surgeon, Dr. Louis Balsama, and his amazing team at Jefferson Health New Jersey! I also couldn't have done it without the support of the many new friends I have met throughout this process, who also made this brave decision to change their lives for the better.
No matter what life throws at me, I will never give up. I said goodbye to the old me for good, and I’ve made the choice to never go back!"
"I write this today having lost 103 lbs. and a desire to share my story.
November 20, 2017, for me, was, and will remain the day, I embarked on a new journey. This journey wasn't easy, but it is one I will never regret. It is the day I began the journey to a newer, healthier and happier me. I knew I wanted to make a change and become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
In November 2017, I was grossly overweight (morbidly obese) and disgusted with who I let myself become. I was 300 lbs. and my triglycerides and blood pressure were dangerously high. Most days, especially in the summer, I would feel the negative impact on my body. I had a hard time catching my breath and would get pounding headaches (from my blood pressure being too high). I was afraid of having a heart attack. Throughout my struggle, I did not tell my wife, which was a mistake. I didn’t want to worry her, but soon discovered she was my biggest source of motivation.
I knew it was time to take action. As a father and husband, I feel I am responsible for providing for my family. I knew that would become impossible if I didn’t start making changes now. I decided to talk to my wife and doctor about having bariatric surgery. With both on board, I moved to the next step.
On January 10, 2018, I had gastric sleeve surgery and began my recovery. I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work, so I decided to flip my lifestyle on its head. Prior to my surgery, I successfully lost 33 lbs., but I knew I needed much more. Through altering my diet and exercising on a regular basis, my health is where it should be, and my energy and confidence are through the roof!
Some will read this and shake their heads or say discouraging remarks. Some will say I could have done it without the surgery. What I have to say to them is surgery was right for me and what I needed to reach my goals. I don’t even know how many times I lost the same weight. Now, I can keep it off for good. This was my tool to help me get there. However, I am thankful that the majority of people who see me now and know my story, are overjoyed for me. I don’t think it will ever get old hearing people say how thin I look. It’s been three and a half months since my surgery, and I’ve lost an additional 70 lbs. for a grand total of 103 lbs!
I am still on the journey to my weight loss goal, but I am thankful for where I am today."
"There has never been a point in my life when I wasn't overweight. Even my earliest memories are of being the biggest kid in class. After trying seemingly every diet or weight loss plan known to man, I convinced myself that I was going to be living however much was left of my life in a world that clearly wasn't built for someone my size. But then, with the help of Dr. Neff and his team, I realized my situation wasn't as hopeless as I had thought. Now, I'm doing things I thought were impossible for me. Heck, I can even fasten my seatbelt now. Most importantly, I feel better than I ever have in my life, not just physically, but also about who I am as a person. And that's why I can say, without a doubt, bariatric surgery didn't just save my life, it gave me one."
"I got to the point in my life that when I looked in the mirror, I didn't recognize the person looking back at me. Going into this, I knew it would not be a quick fix, but the single most important step in the right direction to becoming the best me both physically and mentally. Bariatric surgery truly has changed my life for the better!"
"Bariatric surgery resurrected my life! I was only existing; now, I'm living! Living with a purpose to prolong my life! To be here for my heart and soul, Daniella & Antonio, for as long as The Lord allows."
"After experiencing a life altering event, the death of my fiancé, Michael, who was my best friend and soulmate for life, I spiraled out of control and ended up packing on many unwanted pounds as a way to cope. After years of being unhappy, unhealthy and treated as if I was invisible, I started to research what I could do to help myself. I have to thank Dr. Balsama. Without him, I would not be where I am today - happy, healthy, very visible and living life to the fullest."
"Bariatric surgery has certainly changed my life. During the six years since my procedure, I have been able to 'un-complicate' my overall physical condition by eliminating several of my medical co-morbidities. This has resulted in ridding me of some of the medications that I required and providing me with an opportunity to enjoy life in general to a greater degree. I was reminded of this very recently when I spent an active, fun-filled vacation with my family, which happens to include a very energetic three year old grandson."
"Bariatric surgery not only changed my lifestyle, but literally saved my life. It’s amazing to be free of obesity in this society, and now, I feel like I am a participant instead of being on the sidelines looking at life pass me by. I wouldn’t change a single moment of this journey because, 'Look how far it’s taken me.' I’m now a part of this wonderful bariatric family, and I am very thankful for the opportunity!"
“For years before my surgery, I followed every diet in the book and coped with back pain and prediabetes. I was also scared for my well-being because of a cardiac history in my family. I’m a nurse at Jefferson, and I saw how well the Bariatric program was doing; some of my co-workers had surgery and they did so well and looked so great. So, I started looking into the program by going to a seminar given by Dr. Fakulujo. Now, I’m living life to the fullest and wouldn’t change a thing!"
"My weight has been an issue for me since I was a child. Surgery was my last option and it happened to be the best decision I ever made. I still have a few more pounds to lose and not all of my co-morbidities are gone, but they have gotten a lot better. There are still many things I have to explore and accomplish, and gastric sleeve surgery was just the beginning."