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Forked River Woman Is Fit at 40 Thanks to Weight-loss Surgery

Typically, we photograph every patient appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the COVID-19 pandemic, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits of patients.

When it came to her weight, 41-year-old Cara Ingenito of Forked River, New Jersey, she had always felt like she was fighting a losing battle.

Overweight since childhood, she lived a mostly sedentary life until her mid-20s, when she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder in women that causes an excess of male hormones, the effects of which include ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles, insulin resistance and other side effects. It also causes high glucose levels, which in turn fuel weight gain and associated conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

Suddenly, Cara’s weight was no longer just a self-conscious number; it was a chronic illness.

Determined to change her fortune, Cara resolved to get serious about weight loss. With the help of her next-door neighbor, a personal trainer, she worked out regularly. She enrolled in fitness classes. She tried diets tailored to people with PCOS. She even tried weight-loss medications.

But nothing worked. In fact, things got worse. “PCOS makes it extremely hard to lose weight on your own. No matter what I did, I just could not lose any weight,” Cara says. “As I got older, I began having thyroid issues, as well. Then I had emergency gallbladder surgery. I had knee issues. Everything just snowballed. I worked hard, but the scale would not budge. I felt like I was beating a brick wall.”

From Frustration to Victory

Cara’s frustration escalated as she approached her 40th birthday. At 39, she was tired of climbing up the hill, only to find herself at the bottom again every day. She wanted to not only reach the summit, but also find out what life was like on the other side. Finally, she decided to look into weight-loss surgery.

Her surgical journey began in September 2018, when she attended a free seminar by Jonathan Reich, M.D., bariatric surgeon at Southern Ocean Medical Center. Less than a month later, Cara scheduled her gastric sleeve surgery, wherein a surgeon removes up to 80 percent of the patient’s stomach to reduce their appetite and capacity for food, which typically results in excess weight loss.

Prior to surgery, Cara met with a psychologist and cardiologist, took nutrition classes and participated in regular weigh-ins to demonstrate that she was capable of long-term lifestyle changes. “Surgery was a big decision, but I knew it was the right decision,” says Cara, who immediately bonded with Dr. Reich over their mutual love for the rock band Pearl Jam. “I went through so many years of trying to do it on my own, so I was gung-ho to do it.”

Her surgery went off without a hitch in December 2018. She went home to recover after only one night in the hospital and returned to work after just two weeks. “The procedure is minimally invasive and only takes about 45 minutes. Patients typically have an easier recovery than something as routine as even gallbladder surgery,” Dr. Reich says. “It’s rather magical, and Cara has had fantastic results.”

Two years later, Cara has lost over 100 pounds and has gone from taking eight daily medications to just one. Although there’s no cure for it, her PCOS no longer shows up on her bloodwork. She even participated in a 5K obstacle-course race with her friends.

“That race was amazing. I was flinging myself over sawhorses and walls, doing monkey-bars, crawling through mud and tubes. At the end, I was shaking and crying because I was so happy,” Cara says. “That moment alone was worth having the surgery because I able to experience something I thought I’d never be able to do.”

Next Steps & Resources:

Learn more about weight-loss surgery by attending a weight-loss webinar

Meet our source: Jonathan Reich, M.D. To make an appointment with Dr. Reich or another doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

Signs it’s time to consider weight-loss surgery

7 things to know about weight-loss surgery

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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