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Ramona's journey to better health

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Overweight and facing a potential lifetime battle with Type II diabetes, radio host Ramona Holloway decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery -- a decision some family members opposed. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for Qcitymetro.com)
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First of two parts
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Ramona Holloway was never high school skinny. In fourth grade, she said, she weighed about as much as some adults.

“I was a chubby kid who turned into a chubby adult,” recalled Holloway, co-host of the Matt & Ramona radio show, which is broadcast from the west Charlotte studios of 107.9 FM, “The Link.”

After a lifetime of dieting, in mid-January, Holloway bucked the strong advice of some of her family members and underwent gastric bypass surgery. But if you think the procedure was all about vanity, she said, you’d be wrong.

In 2008, Holloway was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a chronic and degenerative condition that exacts a disproportionate toll on African Americans and often goes hand-in-glove with obesity.

Holloway said her decision to have the surgery had more to do with reclaiming her health than appearing svelte.

A family history

In an hour-long and sometimes tearful interview, she talked about the impact that diabetes has had on the health of various family members.

“My grandmother had diabetes. My mother has diabetes. Seven of her nine siblings have diabetes. Then me,” she said. “My godmother’s diabetes has attacked her kidneys. She had an unsuccessful kidney transplant. She’s been in a nursing home for the past five years.

“My uncle’s toes are gone, and when they start cutting on your feet they just keep going up,” she continued. “My other aunt has had trouble with her eyesight, and they know it’s the diabetic retinopathy. My mom is having trouble with her eyesight. So you see all this going on and you’re like, 'OK, a future with diabetes is staring me down. What are you going to do?'”

Holloway has been public in her decision to have the surgery. She talks about it frequently on her show and blogs her progress on the station’s website. Going public, she said, was a matter of “personal credibility.”

“So many people who I know have had this surgery lie about it,” she said. “I believe there is a stigma that says, ‘If you had only put down the fork … If you had only gotten your fat behind off the couch' … Knowing what friends and family were going through with weight and diabetes, I couldn’t pretend like I had found this awesome protein shake or some new supplement. I couldn’t pretend.”

A secret revealed

For Holloway, the journey also has had an emotional component. While going through counseling in preparation for surgery, she found the courage to confront a secret she had largely keep to herself — that as a child she was sexually molested.

Holloway said she can’t pinpoint an exact moment when she decided to undergo the gastric bypass procedure, which in effect makes the stomach smaller and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine. But she said she began the mental process while watching her mother, who is also diabetic and moved in with her daughter in 2006.

“I go with her to every doctor’s appointment,” Holloway said, “and I hear what the doctor is saying to her. And I know that it applies to me. I’m living the same way she’s living, eating the same thing she’s eating, living the same sedentary lifestyle, just 30 year younger. I could do the same thing or venture off and do something different.”

Three weeks after her surgery, Holloway said she had lost about 24 pounds, but that included pounds she shed during a 10-day liquid fast that was required before the actual surgery. But more important, she said, her glucose level had dropped from a high of 300 to a pre-diabetic range of 130.

As for her ideal post-surgery weight, doctors have suggested that she might drop to as low as 132 pounds (from a high of more than 200) — a suggestion that Holloway finds slightly amusing.

“I am not lying to you when I say the last time I was 132 I was in the fourth grade,” she said. I wish it was a lie. I was in the school nurse’s ‘special program.’ For me, I see myself maybe more at 150.”
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Coming Thursday: Holloway talks about her lifelong battle with weight, her relationship with food and how gastric bypass has changed her eating habits.



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December 22, 2014
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