Cassie Pollard

Cassie Pollard:
Running Toward the Future

The photo in Cassie Pollard's purse from May 2005 is not something the 36-year-old is proud of. Yet it is always with her.

The image of Cassie in a purple bridesmaid gown, taken just months before her Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery when she weighed about 285 pounds, is a consistent reminder of how far she's come in a few short years.

"It's motivation to not ever be back in that place," the Springfield resident said. "I'm not going back to all those bad habits."

A year after her surgery at Memorial Medical Center on Aug. 2, 2005, Cassie, who is 5-foot-5 and a native of Canton, had lost 150 pounds. Today, she is in the best shape of her life and recently began training for her first half-marathon. Before her surgery, she had never run at all, let alone participate in an organized race.

"This is something I could never do," she said. "I always wanted to say I could, and now I can."

image: Cassie Pollard, May 2005 Memorial Bariatric Service

Cassie credits the team with Memorial Bariatric Services, including her surgeon, Central-Illinois-Bariatric-Surgeons.aspx">Max Hammer, MD, for helping her achieve a lifestyle she is proud of. Obesity problems are common on her father's side of her family, she said, and she had always been somewhat overweight. During college, the weight really piled on, and kept piling. Because most of her older overweight family members had developed diabetes, she feared she would, too.

Her insurance company originally had denied coverage for her bariatric surgery, but Cassie was persistent. In addition to proving she had at least one co-morbidity (in her case, degenerative discs in her back and chronic pain) and a history of weight-loss attempts, she was required to pursue a six-month preparatory period with Memorial's comprehensive Bariatric Services program that helped prepare her both physically and emotionally. One of Cassie's aunts also underwent gastric bypass surgery around this time, and Cassie received a lot of support from her as she prepared. Cassie completed every requirement put before her by her insurance program, and it ultimately authorized the procedure.

Cassie Pollard

After healing from her surgery, Cassie, a special education teacher who at the time worked in Hillsboro, began working out seven days a week, two hours each night, at a fitness center that adjoins the Hillsboro Area Hospital. She would swim, run, walk or lift weights, and would also walk around her neighborhood on nice days. During her track workouts, she slowly taught herself to run.

"I'd never run before in my life," she said, "besides what I was required to do in high school."

A year later, in August 2006, she ran her first race: a four-mile event as part of a festival Hillsboro hosts each year.

"I had never run a race before that - and I had never run that far," she said. "I never in a million years thought that I could. Up until that day, I had only run two miles - and I ran the race straight through. I finished last, and that was OK. It was the fact that I had done something I hadn't been able to do before."

Two years later, she ran the 6.2-mile Abe's Amble in Springfield. Following that, she participated in Memorial's SportsCare's women's biathlon and continued participating in local and regional races. She also found a running buddy, and today they run together about three times per week. Since June, she has lost another 24 pounds and has inspired her dad to pursue a healthier regimen. He plans to join her as a participant in the 2010 Abe's Amble this August.

To stay on track, Cassie attends monthly support group meetings organized through Memorial Bariatric Services and follows her diet protocol to a "T." She also has yearly visits with Dr. Hammer and gets lab work done to be sure her body isn't deficient of any nutrients.

In addition to being at a healthier weight, Cassie said her weight loss has helped her back pain, and she no longer deals with chronic bronchitis. The experience, she said, "was definitely life-changing for the better."

"Did I ever think I would be here? No. Am I glad I did bariatric surgery? Absolutely," she said. "I would do it tenfold again. I would have the same staff I had before. I would recommend the program to anybody.

"It totally resolved any health issues I had. It's been an amazing experience."

Call Memorial Bariatric Services toll free at (866) 205-7915, and begin your journey to good health.