MARIETTA, Ga. – Chris and Michelle Miller, married 26 years, love their life together in Marietta with their 3 dogs.
There was only one problem.
For years, they have both felt weighed down by their weight.
Last fall, on a 12-day trip to Utah, they stopped for photos at scenic overlooks, but spent most of their vacation in their vehicle.
Chris and Michelle Miller of Marietta, Georgia, have lost a combined 110 pounds months after both underwent weigh loss surgery.
“We drove everywhere,” Chris Miller says. “We never got out much. If we got out, we walked to the edge and back. That’s it.”
At 48, Michelle, who works in medical billing, has been struggling with her weight for 30 years.
“At 19, I had thyroid cancer, and they took out my whole thyroid and some lymph nodes over here, and that year, I gained 100 pounds, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it off,” she says.
Chris Miller, who is 54 and a fire systems inspector, felt like his weight was catching up with him.
He was close to 400 pounds, and says his knees were shot.
Then, there was the diabetes.
“Diabetes hit me two years ago with a vengeance,” he says. “I went from being pre-diabetic for 10 years, to full-blown, this close. The next thing was the shots in the belly with the insulin.”
So, the Millers decided to both undergo weight loss surgery.
“Without doing it together, one of us would have failed,” Chris Miller says.
They came to see Dr. Nathaniel Lytle, medical director of Northside Cherokee Hospital’s bariatric surgery program.
As part of the process, they both underwent psychological screening to make sure surgery was a good fit for them.
“How supportive they are, how well they work together to stay on track with things, especially when road bumps come in, life changes, how well they can support each other can really affect the outcome,” Dr. Lytle explains.
In January, they set out to lose as much weight as they could going into their surgeries.
On April 25, 2022, Chris underwent a gastric bypass.
“We make a small pouch out of the very top of the stomach, then we go down and get some (small) intestine to reconnect up to that pouch,” Dr. Lytle says.
Miller says his stomach is now the size of a hard-boiled egg, which has dramatically limited how much he can eat and how much food his digestive tract can absorb.
“Now it’s protein shakes, it’s protein bars, it’s a lot of soup,” he says.
Michele underwent gastric sleeve surgery June 27, 2020.
“We basically remove about 80% of the stomach, making the stomach into a thin tube,” Dr. Lytle says.
Chris Miller’s father also underwent a gastric bypass after he retired, and Chris says it gave him “an extra 10 years”
of a much more active lifestyle than his father had been living prior to his surgery.
The Millers’ health insurance does not cover bariatric surgery, which was $32,000 for both operations, including their pre-surgical and follow-up care.
They’re photographing their progress each month.
Chris Miller has lost 72 pounds, and Michelle Miller is down 40 pounds.
Miller says he can see a difference in himself.
It’s the weight loss out of the face, out of the hands,” he says. “I couldn’t make a fist. I literally, these fingers would go about this far. I couldn’t do that.”
They can also climb the stairs without having trouble catching their breath.
“And I think we’re going to come out better for it in the end, a lot happier, being able to do stuff together,” Michelle Miller says.
“Physically it’s not that hard,” Chris Miller says. “Mentally, you have to be ready. You have to change your life. This is a tool, it’s not a magic wand.”