Written by Malverna Streater for WCTV:
My name is Malverna Streater - my friends call me Mal - and this is my story. I am 52 years old and I've been married to Rev. Robert (Bob) Streater, III for nearly 23 years. We met in January 1987 and married in December while working in broadcasting in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Bob proposed to me live on-air on my birthday. We have three sons, Robert IV, 17, and twins, Richard & Ramon, 12. I gave birth to the twins at 40 years old. There's usually not a dull moment in our household with the boys.
I always knew that I wanted a good family life. I always had zeal and enthusiasm for living. What I did not know and what I had not counted on or factored in, was how severely that zeal would be challenged and how my enthusiasm would wane as a result of tremendous orthopedic joint pain in both knees. I had bone rubbing against bone. Ouch!
In 2005, I had surgery on both knees to scope in between the joints. It helped, but another problem had developed that became very serious. My increasing weight was adding pain and pressure to my joints. When I was expecting the twins, my maximum weight reached 284 pounds. That was in 1998. Fast forward to 2009, and I weighed around 250 pounds, still with lots of pain. I had to wear a custom-made leg brace, another leg support, use a cane, walker, ace bandages, pain rubs, pain shots and I needed a grabber to pick up things. I also used knee sleeves for support, a back supporter and a wheelchair whenever I would go to a store.
Sitting in most chairs was difficult because they were too low. Walking up stairs was hard. Bending low to find items was hard. Using the restroom was challenging if it was not a raised seat. Not being able to participate in school related and family related activities with our children was probably the most difficult to bear.
Pain and morbid obesity is not a good combination. It affected me physically, emotionally and spiritually. It challenged and strained the relationship in the home because the stiffness, aches and pain kept me irritable.
My husband has been wonderful over the years, being there for the "worst", because most people concentrate on hearing only "for better" in the marriage vows, or not "in sickness" but focusing on "in health", for richer or poorer. Truly, my health and quality of life had diminished. I am so thankful to those persons (you know who you are), who have been encouraging and supportive to me and my family over the years when we were experiencing some of our darkest moments. I appreciate your kindness and compassion. When you go through difficult times throughout the seasons in your lifetime, it's a blessing to have genuine people there for you who are sincerely concerned about you. It's easy to have friends when everything is going great in life, but the true test of friendship is when the storms of life blow your way.
I knew that my state of being was not how I envisioned my life as a young girl growing up in Connecticut. Being involved in community and having a passion for living seemed automatic. I take after my mom, Nettie Davis, a woman who never meets a stranger and can hold a conversation with anyone.
Getting back to my story: You know how we can get a mental picture of how we desire for our lives to be and we can see ourselves doing certain things or being a certain way, well, I certainly didn't see myself limping and bent over on a cane like I was 90 when I was 45. Something had to give and a change needed to take place. I was prayerful and sought out a solution to my problem. I contacted the local vocational rehabilitation office who helps people to overcome challenges that prevent economic stability. Marlene Scheiffer, a VR counselor, helped me to navigate through the process.
My orthopedic surgeon at TOC, Dr. Rolle, performed the surgery years ago. He would have performed the double knee replacement surgery, but counseled me about addressing my weight issue because I would still have the weight problem on the replaced knees. He recommended having medical intervention for the weight loss, or bariatric surgery. It was excellent advice for me because the amount I needed to lose, in excess of 100 lbs, could have taken years to do, if it was possible at all. I have tried several programs in attempt to lose the weight, but I was in a critical situation that required more immediate results.
So, my journey of going from 249 Lbs in October 2009 to 144 Lbs in October 2010, was a process. I went from a size 22/24 at my heaviest, now to a size 6/8. My wedding band needed to be re-sized smaller. The feeling is amazing.
Hundreds of pounds of pressure have been lifted from my joints! The surgery, performed by Dr. Sieloff, was a tool to help me reach my weight loss goal. It took and continues to take a greater level of discipline to eating. The nutritional value of foods that I consume is very important because of my capacity to hold less food. I don't want to fill up on empty calories. I read that the average stomach can hold about a liter (soda bottle size) of liquids/foods. Now, the size of my stomach is a little bigger than an egg. I cannot consume liquids and solid foods at the same time, or you know what will happen. Protein is essential. I cannot have sugary foods. I must chew or bite smaller pieces and chew longer for better digestion (this is a great habit for anyone).
As a result of the surgery, I was introduced to things that normally I would have considered a part of a meal, including sugar-free jello or pudding, low-sodium chicken broth to sip on, sugar-free frozen juice pops. I cannot have too much starchy foods like bread, rice, pasta, etc. Also, the acid in sodas are not good.
Right after the surgery, I was put on liquids only for a couple of days, then progressed to soft menu. It was like my system was going down and then was re-booted with a clean slate. It is important that I drink plenty of water and I must take supplements for the rest of my life, but I don't mind at all because I'm into health and wellness. I'd rather take vitamins than prescription meds any day.
I have three brothers - they are triplets - but they are all now deceased. Two passed away a year apart at 47 and 48 years old, both having diabetes. So, when I was turning 50 and very overweight, it was a great concern for me. I thank the Lord for allowing me to regain the quality of life that I so desperately needed. In addition to the obvious weight loss, I have greater mental clarity, higher self-esteem, more stamina, vitality, and improved cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.
My husband has his wife back (although I'm not the 29 year old I was when we first met, at least I am not the 90 year old that I was emulating). Now, our sons have their mom back. I can go to school meetings, help out in the classroom, ride a bicycle, go walking, etc.
I feel that part of my mission in life is to turn my painful experience into encouragement for someone who feels like giving up. I seemed like I had been in a hopeless situation for so long that my circumstance would never change or get better, but I never lost hope. I may have grown a little weary along the way, but I held on to faith and believed. I embraced my inner strength and held on tight. I knew that a brighter day had to be in my future. I am an example that it is possible!