Sue Frye has endured her share of health-related hardships. After surviving breast cancer, her body told her something else was wrong.
"I could not get my breath. I went downstairs, wanted to do a little decorating for my father. I was staying with him at the time for Christmas, and I couldn't get the ladder out. I couldn't do anything," she said Friday.
Frye was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, or immediate onset heart failure. After undergoing aggressive treatment, her heart began to heal, but a new life-threatening problem knocked on her door.
"I knew I was being restricted by my weight, and that the weight might win the battle over my heart," Frye said.
Dr. Mark Kadowaki is a bariatric surgeon at Holston Valley Medical Center. He said obesity can make a woman four times more likely to have a heart attack. "The bigger your body is, the more area that the heart has to pump blood to, and that's a tremendous stain on the heart, and almost anyone who's morbidly obese will have an enlarged heart just from the strain of the heart having to pump all that blood," he explained.
Because of the strain on her heart and joints, Sue opted for a gastric sleeve surgery to lose weight. In that procedure, the stomach is formed into a tube. It's something doctors say can actually be best when fighting heart disease.
"One of the increased risk factors with heart disease is not just how much you weigh, but weight cycling. Meaning, it's more dangerous if you re-gain it than as if you kept it on the whole time," Dr. Kadowaki said. Unlike many diets, surgery is permanent.
Sue Frye had hers just over a week ago, and she's already dropping pounds. "I'm doing it for me, but I'm doing it for my heart, and I'm doing it to extend my life," she said, "a year from now, a year and a half from now, I would be a very healthy, dynamic, active person." She's hoping by sticking to her program, she'll lose 100 pounds in the next two years.