Melissa Gutierrez1) What moment made you finally decide to have surgery?

I have been overweight my whole life but my journey got very rocky in 2008 when I got diagnosed with Leukemia. After that my health experienced so many ups and downs. I started to gain weight very easily and it was so hard for me to lose it.  I had heart failure, diabetes, problems in my knees, you name it…I had them all! Plus, the pain I felt emotionally didn't compare to the physical one. I knew about the gastric bypass through my wonderful oncologist, also from the UC Davis family. Although I didn't think it was possible for me to get the surgery, she referred me. After thinking and praying about it, I made up my mind and went for it – I knew it was my only option to be healthy!

2) How has your quality of life changed?

My life changed for the better in simple ways that people wouldn't understand. It's just amazing to see your health improve. You feel better! You do things you never thought you could do – I am now able to cross my legs, ride roller coasters, fly in an airplane with no seat belt extension, fit into "normal sizes", and wear high boots.  I am energetic, motivated, determined, and am stepping out of my comfort zone. I eat healthier and exercise regularly now – I even ran two 5k races last year! I'm convinced that the surgery is not the answer to obesity but it is a great tool. It all starts in the way you think. Can you say I'm blessed? I sure can!

3) What is your advice to those who are struggling with their weight?

Baby steps! Don't try to make huge changes in a short amount of time; it took years to get to your highest size. Change your habits and the way you think so your life can be transformed. Surround yourself with people who can challenge you, motivate you, and make you better. And please, don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle. Remember, the scale will only show you a number that does NOT define you – focus on your non-scale victories and your health instead.