Mike Bryck after
In the summer of 2019, little more than six months after undergoing bariatric surgery, Mike Bryck enjoyed many new adventures, including taking up cycling, going on roller coasters and, as seen here, completing the CN Tower Edge Walk. (Photo: Courtesy Mike Bryck)

In the end, it was a frank discussion with a social worker that convinced Mike Bryck to make the commitment.

Having spent some time working to improve his mental health, Mike was considering an important option, which was recommended by his psychiatrist to help alleviate his remaining unhappiness, undergoing bariatric surgery to lose weight.

"At the time, I weighed 432 pounds," recalls Mike, now 35 and nearly a year post-surgery. "The weight was obviously a concern, but I also had high blood pressure and there was a history of heart disease in my family.

"All signs pointed to surgery, but I had a lot of concerns about it."

Mike had struggled with his weight since his late teens. He would lose some but always gain it back and, as his activity level slowed down as he got older, it became more difficult to stop gaining weight.

"Finding clothes that fit was a challenge, any physical activity was difficult to the point that it was annoying," he says. "And when I did manage to workout, I just felt zapped of energy."

More than 3,800 patients in a decade

Still, for Mike, surgery was a big and challenging step.

Despite his apprehension, Mike decided to look into it and was referred to Toronto Western Hospital's (TW) Bariatric Program.

Celebrating its 10 year anniversary on Oct. 1, the program has helped more than 3,800 patients such as Mike achieve long-term weight loss, and improve their quality of life and day-to-day functioning through surgery and sustained lifestyle changes.

"It is unbelievable how fast the program has grown in 10 years," says Sharon Douglas, Administration Assistant, Bariatric Program, who has been with the team since the beginning. "We have grown from a team of about 10 to now 40 staff and I'm really proud of all the work we have done to help patients."

After the pre-surgery education session, Mike still wasn't sure he wanted the procedure, but then he had that one-on-one with the social worker.

"It was a very realistic, human conversation about the positives and negatives of the surgery and how to prepare for it," he says. "It wasn't one thing in particular that convinced me and there was no pressure, but having that honest conversation about my fears just got me to the right place."

The Independence
A year ago, Mike Bryck weighed more than 400 pounds and knew he needed to take action to improve his health. Support from the Bariatric Program at Toronto Western Hospital gave him the reassurance he needed to finally pursue bariatric surgery. (Photo: Courtesy Mike Bryck)

On Nov. 27 of last year, Mike had a sleeve gastroctemy – a minimally invasive procedure where a small stomach pouch is created without affecting the small intestine.

And, he hasn't looked back.

As the one-year anniversary of his surgery approaches, he marvels at everything he has accomplished.

"It's a completely new world," he says. "And all the changes have been for the better."

Mike has lost 156 pounds since his gastrectomy, and hopes to lose 50 more to reach his weight goal. He's also very excited about the activities he's been able to do after the surgery. He completed the CN Tower Edge Walk and went on roller coasters for the first time in years. He's also started cycling.

"I got a new bike this summer and have ridden almost 1,300 kilometres on it so far," he says. "I even rode 100 kilometres in one day, which I never thought I'd be able to do.

"Now I'm thinking about doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer next year."

'The support is really the coolest part of the program'

Mike notes his success wouldn't have been possible without the on-going post-surgery support from the Bariatric Program. Surgery is only the first step on this life-changing journey which sees patients receive follow up from a multi-disciplinary team of nurse practitioners, social workers, dieticians and many more to ensure patients have the information and tools they need to make the necessary lifestyle changes for successful weight loss.

"The support is really the coolest part of the program," Mike says. "I know people who had their bariatric surgery in the States and weren't as successful with their weight loss because they didn't have the same support."

As a way of giving back to the program, Mike will be joining the TW bariatric team and other patients for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 5K Run/Walk on Oct. 20 to raise money and awareness about the program.

"This really has been such a positive experience for me," he says. "I would say to anyone considering this surgery, that if you're already thinking about it, you should do it."

The TW Bariatric Program celebrates its 10-year anniversary on Oct. 1. Join the team for a staff Open House from 1 to 3 p.m. in the BMO Conference Centre located in the Krembil Tower.

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