Paducah couple Melissa and Brian Henry underwent weight-loss surgery last year and have lost more than 100 pounds each, experiencing major life and health improvements along the way.
Melissa, 38, and Brian, 46, haven't tried on their old clothing since the weight loss. That will change Tuesday during Baptist Health Paducah's fashion show for bariatric patients, where they and others will be the stars. It's set for 6 p.m. in Barnes Auditorium, on the second floor of the Carson-Myre Heart Center.
"We've looked at them and stuff, but we haven't actually put them on," Melissa said. "That's going to be part of the fashion show -- seeing what we look like in our old clothes. … It's one thing when you're gradually losing weight, you know it's happening, but it's gradual and you don't see it so much. To look back, it's amazing to see I've come that far."
Melissa went to Nashville for gastric bypass surgery in December 2018, while Brian had gastric sleeve surgery six months earlier in June at Baptist Health. They have both lost 115 pounds and are involved in Baptist Health's bariatric support group.
The surgeries weren't a light decision, as it comes with significant changes, particularly diet.
"Every day is a little bit better," Brian said. "Every day is little bit easier to walk and to breathe when we're walking. We've been hiking this year and we're bicycle riding quite a bit and we don't have to worry about, 'If we go someplace, is there going to be a place to sit down?' Or how far of a walk it's going to be from a parking space."
Brian said his surgery is worth it.
He was able to come off insulin and most of his diabetes medications, while he no longer has leg and feet problems. As for Melissa, she doesn't have to take diabetes medication anymore.
"It's easier for me to move around and easier to do lots of activities," she said. "Like Brian said, we're hiking and cycling and I couldn't do that before. It's been fantastic to be able to do that stuff that I haven't done for years and years."
Melissa praised Baptist Health Medical Group bariatric surgeon Dr. Anthony Davis and his staff, when it came to the overall process and care. Her pre-op weight was 405 pounds.
"They were all very supportive and they were like the first medical staff to ever say, 'You're not fat because you overeat and you're lazy. There's a whole bunch of stuff that goes into being obese. We'll work on that all together,'" she said. "They were just very supportive, so it was easier to make this decision to have surgery."
Brian suggested for anyone interested in weight-loss surgery to attend a Baptist Health bariatric information seminar, such as Tuesday's event, or make an appointment to speak with Davis and his staff. Surgery is not the first or only option, he said.
"Take that step to become healthy, to become happy," Brian said. "I know it's not the answer to everything, but it's a tool that will help you reach what you need to reach, as far your goal weight, or just a better life."
They are getting used to the new changes.
Brian said he weighed 385 pounds and still sees himself as big, and can see a pair of pants in his size and think, "those won't fit me." He can now wear clothes off the rack at the store and comfortably wear a 2X-size T-shirt.
Meanwhile, Melissa said she feels happier overall, but experiences some confusion because she hasn't seen her body -- the way it now looks -- since she was a teenager. There are moments where she walks past a mirror and doesn't recognize who she is.
"Emotionally, I feel happier because I know that I've done the right thing for my life," she said.
"I've changed my life. I've saved my life. But just like anything, some days are great. Some days are not. You just have to be prepared to deal with those days that are not so great."
The couple are a built-in support system for each other, Melissa said. She thinks that contributes to their success.
"(I'm) not saying that people who are single or whatever can't have the same success," she said. "But for us, being able to support one another has made all the difference, I think."
They are two of 15 scheduled participants for the fashion show.
Sheryl Wallis, practice manager for bariatric and general surgery office, said fashion show participants have a combined weight loss of up to 1,400 pounds and the hospital hopes to make the show an annual event. It is open to the public and includes door prizes.