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A Cup of Change

Mandy Tentinger flips the handle of the espresso machine at Belissimo Coffee Works, distilling freshly ground beans into a tiny glass of concentrated brewed coffee.

“If I could work here every day, I would,” she says, handing a to-go mug to a customer across the counter with a wide smile. “I get to drink coffee and talk to people. What’s not to like?”

Four years ago, the 36-year-old woman wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a job at the Le Mars, Iowa, coffeehouse. Weighing over 250 pounds, she struggled with diabetes, taking massive amounts of insulin while her body’s blood sugar levels and blood pressure raged out of control

And being in the spotlight was the last thing she wanted. With weight gain that snowballed after an emergency surgery, Mandy gradually slipped more and more into the background of her life.

One last option

The former nurse decided that weight loss surgery was her “last option,” a way to protect her future and her health. Now, over 100 pounds lighter, almost every part of her life has changed.

“I’m half the person I used to be, but I’m twice the person I used to be,” says the vivacious blonde, greeting friends who stop by the busy coffee shop. “I’m healthy and I feel good. I can be that bubbly, outgoing person again.”

Diagnosed at age 21 with diabetes, Mandy had long struggled with health problems. Throughout her 20s, she had several surgeries for reoccurring ovarian cysts, some the size of a volleyball. Her weight began to slowly creep higher.

In late 2007, with a newborn daughter at home, she went to the emergency room with massive bleeding from another cyst. A surgery done at her local hospital led to an abscess and infection. Sanford obstetric gynecological surgeon Dr. Maria Bell performed a complicated emergency hysterectomy that saved Mandy’s life.

A growing problem

Following the surgery, Mandy’s health problems just got worse. Her weight continued to grow, reaching 267 pounds. Several prescription medications were failing to control the post-menopausal symptoms caused by her hysterectomy – severe night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings.

Every month, she took 16 bottles of insulin. The average diabetic takes one or two per month. Her diabetes was ravaging her body, making her doctor suggest that she consider bariatric surgery.

“I had done every diet. I could starve myself and still I couldn’t lose the weight,” she says. “This was my last option and I was doing it so I could live, so I could see my daughter graduate from high school someday.”

After attending a Sanford seminar on weight loss surgery, she consulted with bariatric surgeon Dr. Dennis Glatt. On October 2009 , she underwent gastric bypass, a procedure to reduce the size of her stomach and bypass part of the small intestine.

The first few months were difficult, but it was worth it to see her weight start drastically dropping, she admits tearfully. As she adjusted to reduced portion sizes, her 14-year-old step-son gladly stepped in to eat what she now couldn’t.

A return to health

Since the day of her surgery, Mandy hasn’t needed a drop of insulin. As her body weight dropped to 153 pounds, she discovered that her other prescriptions were also no longer necessary. She also added regular activity to her daily routine, walking and wrestling with her Great Dane.

“It’s not hard to stay active because I feel so much better,” she said.

The weight loss has also allowed her to feel more confident, prompting her to go back to being the vivacious extrovert she used to be. She changed careers, taking a job she loves at the coffee shop and helping her parents with their farm operation.

She loves shopping, wearing fabulous thigh-high boots and tank tops. She loves being able to buy regular-sized clothing and wear styles that make her look even younger than her age.

“I knew that I could be this fun, outgoing person, but people judge you by the way you look,” Mandy said. “Now my outer beauty matches my inner beauty again.”

Posted Date: August 2012