Gaining more than she’s lost

Christy Simmons shakes her tall glass of ice cubes, letting them clank softly against the side. She doesn’t get up from her chair to refill her glass though. There was never liquid in there to begin with.

“All I can drink is hot tea,” she explains. “And ice cubes.”

Last June, Christy underwent bariatric surgery to help her lose weight. She suffered from diabetes and had been overweight her entire life. It was time for Christy to take control. After consulting doctors Christy decided to have the lap band surgery, but was later advised to undergo bariatric surgery. Christy considers this a huge mistake.

After bariatric surgery Christy lost 90 pounds in just four months. The rapid weight loss was too much strain for Christy’s body and caused numerous complications she is still dealing with today.

She lost so much muscle tone in her legs and back it now hurts to even lie in bed. She is unable to take pain medication though, because after the surgery she developed a stomach ulcer. Her diet is extremely limited and consists of only a handful of items. If she strays from the small selection of food her body suffers the consequences; intense vomiting and horrible diarrhea.

Christy has no problem showing one of the other negative physical results from her surgery. She jiggles the skin dangling from her arms, and then lifts up her shirt to show the rolls remaining on her stomach.

“When I get to where I can exercise, I hope to get rid of as much skin as I can and then go get skin reduction where they take off all this excess,” she says.

But excess in her daily life and routine is not something Christy shies away from. She volunteers during the week at the Isabella Commission on Aging by driving senior citizens to doctor appointments or answering the building’s phones. She’s started a card group on Monday nights and hopes to get involved with the line dancing program soon. She jokes about how she could live at the center if they would give her a place to sleep.

She is also part of a quilting group, Happy Rippers, which makes charity quilts from donated fabric for women’s and men’s shelters in the area.

Her greatest and most passionate involvement is her work with the Special Olympics. Her motivation for working with Special Olympics is her son, Ryan, who competes in the games each year. She has been involved in the organization for 11 years now and upon moving to the area became the Public Relations Representative for the Special Olympics of Mount Pleasant. She also coached a Special Olympics basketball team this year and was asked to coach soccer in the fall.

Her busy schedule doesn’t end there, though. Christy also attends classes at Central Michigan University on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this isn’t Christy’s first foray at a college degree. In fact she already has two Associates degrees from Grand Rapids Community College, one in Accounting and the other in Business Administration.

Growing up Christy had no intention of going to college at all. When asked to write a career report in junior high school she was determined her only career would be the job of wife and mother. After being told that wasn’t an option for the assignment, she was forced to write about the Peace Corps instead.

Although she never joined the Peace Corps, Christy did become a wife just months after her high school graduation. She was just 17 years old at the time. It took a much longer time to fulfill her dreams of motherhood. After being married for 12 years and failure to become pregnant from infertility problems, Christy and her husband decided to adopt a newborn. A few years later the family bought and moved into Christy’s childhood home in Wyoming, Michigan.

The family was not always a happy one and the marriage of 35 years crumbled. Her husband was bi polar and very possessive, eventually not letting her do anything with friends.

“I was depressed, and he was angry. It became progressively worse the last 10 years of marriage. On Christmas of 2007 I decided I had three choices. I could live with it, kill myself or check myself out,” Christy said.

She knew she was too depressed to stay in the relationship and she refused to give up on her son. She opted for the third choice and filed for divorce.

Now Christy is searching to find herself. She says she never had time for herself, spending most of her life as a wife and mother. Now she is pursuing a new college degree and a career she already has multiple levels of experience in. From sewing much of her childhood clothing to working in a factory making baby clothes, Christy knows a lot about apparel. Her new found dream to pursue a degree in apparel merchandise design isn’t all that new. In fact it stems from struggles in her childhood.

“I want to design a line of cute clothes for young, overweight teenage girls,” Christy said. “I was overweight all my life and I was sick of grandma print, ugly flowered tops and elastic waist pants. It was horrible. So I decided to make my own things,”
Christy recounts seeing pretty patterned skirts made for smaller girls, but never being able to find anything stylish in her size.

She would purchase two of the small skirts and sew them together to make one that would fit her.

Christy is slowly adjusting to the differences between community colleges and a university. She was first worried about the scheduling demands her advisor was proposing when Christy declared her major.

“I’m not a typical freshman that lives in a dorm and only has to go to classes. I have my son and I have my life. I told her not to make me give up all my other stuff.”

So far Christy has been able to maintain her busy calendar of events and continues her journey of self discovery. She recently pierced her nose because it is something she always wanted to do. She has three tattoos, including a daisy with falling petals and the phrase “he loves me” tattooed over her heart, and hopes to get either a butterfly or dragonfly tattooed on her shoulder soon. She speaks her mind openly now instead of holding back.

“It’s been a good experience to find out who I am now and who I’ll be for the rest of my life,” Christy smiles.