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Joanne Eaton

To know Joanne Eaton is to know what it’s like to feel special. Every student and parent she meets at her crossing-guard post for Ryan Elementary is greeted by name with a smile and a shower of encouraging words. Rain or shine, she’s been a cheery fixture on the corner of the Corinth school for 12 years. But over the last year, Joanne has gone through a radical transformation. The smile, the laugh and the heart are the same, but the silhouette has been drastically altered by a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. Many look twice to see if it’s really the same person.
For decades, Joanne’s bubbly exterior concealed the loneliness of obesity. Her weight struggles began with puberty but escalated when a date rape led to an unplanned pregnancy and adoption plan for the baby. To cope with the trauma, Joanne found solace in eating, leading to a food addiction. “When I woke up, I knew what I was going to eat for breakfast, and before breakfast was over, I was dreaming about what I would eat for lunch,” she says.
Life began to fall into place when she married and had three boys, but her weight continued to climb to 270 pounds, pushing her into isolation. “When we would go camping as a family, I couldn’t participate,” she says. “I couldn’t hike or bike. I could only hope that someone would come over and interact with me.” Yo-yo dieting became a regular part of her life. “I’d been dieting my whole life and tried every diet out there,” she says. With each diet attempt ending in failure, Joanne became more depressed and withdrawn. “Every morning when I got dressed, I was reminded of my weight.”
As the emotional pain of obesity grew, the physical toll of the extra weight escalated as well. “I had a lot of co-morbidities – high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea – that were fighting against me. My doctor told me that if I didn’t do something about my weight, it was the beginning of my end.” She knew she had to do something, but Joanne initially balked at weight-loss surgery, which she considered a cop-out. She and her husband Tim began to research weight-loss options, and while Tim looked at doctors and surgeries, Joanne sought out support groups.
Together they settled on gastric bypass surgery and chose Dr. Sina Matin at Baylor Weight Loss Center Grapevine. “He was the only one who offered comprehensive before, during and aftercare for patients,” she says. Although there are major risks involved in weight-loss surgery, Joanne has had a normal recovery. “I was mentally ready for the changes that I needed to make,” she says.
While Joanne was steadily losing weight after surgery, the rest of the family was gaining the gifts of a healthy mom and wife. The three boys, ages 14, 13 and 10, expressed their gratitude during the family’s New Year’s Eve gathering. In keeping with tradition, the family shared one thing for which they were most grateful, and both boys expressed a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Matin for giving them their mom back.
A year after the surgery, Joanne has lost 112 pounds and regained her health. She no longer suffers from high blood pressure or high cholesterol and has the energy to join in games of catch with her boys. She credits her weight-loss surgery with saving her life and reclaiming her self-esteem. Through it all, she has continued to hold her post at the crosswalk, but she no longer has hidden pain. “I like who I am now,” she says with a sparkle in her eye. “My outsides finally match my insides.”