Gastric Surgery Helped a Family Overcome Diabetes

April Leopin shares how weight loss has been a game-changer for her and her sons.

From the WebMD Archives

Diabetes runs in my family -- everybody has it on my father's side -- so it didn't really come as a big surprise when I was diagnosed in 2000. I was 30 years old and pregnant with my first child. My baby was born at almost 11 pounds, which is typical of a mother with diabetes.

With that first pregnancy I gained only 20 pounds, but during my second one I gained about 45 pounds. Throughout both pregnancies, I had to give myself insulin injections numerous times a day. After pregnancy, I took pills to control my diabetes.

All my life, I've struggled with my weight. I was heavy as a child, teenager, and adult, and took after my father's side of the family, where everyone is overweight. I'd lose weight and gain more back, thinking I could eat the same as I did before. It was a vicious cycle. No matter how much I tried to diet, I never seemed to get my weight or diabetes under control.

In 2014, I learned about a surgery called the gastric sleeve. I thought, "How wonderful. They make your stomach smaller, and you can control your diabetes." Surgery isn't the answer for everyone. For me, it was a tool to help me eat smaller and healthier portions of food. I decided with my doctor it was worth a try. I had to go through a series of tests to see if I qualified, and I did because of the diabetes.

I came home a couple of days after the surgery and had a sugar low because I was still taking medication. My doctor told me, "Don't take it anymore." Ever since then, I've never taken another pill. More than a year later, I've lost 75 pounds and I'm a lot healthier. I don't have diabetes anymore.

The thing that scares me today is that my older son, Ozzy, is borderline diabetic, just as I assume I was when I was a kid. Since having the surgery, I don't bring any sweets in the house. I encourage him to eat real food instead of junk food. We all eat more fruit, vegetables, and lean meat.


Because I'm not bringing unhealthy foods into the house anymore, my older son has lost about 17 pounds. At his last doctor's visit, his blood sugar levels didn't send up a red flag.

Now that I'm eating lighter, I feel more energetic. Instead of watching TV, we go out in the driveway and play basketball or hockey as a family. Or we'll go for a walk or bike ride. I'm trying to be more active and get my boys to be more active, because it makes me nervous that they have the diabetes gene on both sides of the family.

Getting off that vicious cycle of losing and gaining weight has been so good for my body and mind. I feel like I have a second chance in life now. I'm 45 and feel like I'm going to live longer. And I want to pass that along to my children as well.

April's Advice

"What helped me most was connecting on social media with people who had gone through or were going through the surgery."

"Surgery isn't the answer. It's just a tool to get you where you want to be."

"Losing weight is about changing your way of thinking and lifestyle."

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine." 

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 15, 2015



April Leopin, travel agent, East Islip, N.Y.

Mayo Clinic: “Gastric Bypass Surgery.”

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.