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Brianna Bottorff, left, and Chris Schmitter both had gastric bypass surgery and say support from families, friends and each other along the way was vital to their success.

Brianna Bottorff and Chris Schmitter have lost a combined 180 pounds through gastric bypass surgery. The two friends had their surgeries barely a month apart last fall and were able to be each other’s cheerleaders.

“I would say the most important part is to have a good support system,” Schmitter said of the process.

Schmitter, local sales manager at News-Press NOW, had the surgery first after she struggled with type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, acid reflux and fatty liver disease.

“The long-term effects of those different disorders scared me a little bit,” she said. “Especially my daughters wanted me to be around for a long time.”

After encouragement from her family and cardiologist, Schmitter attended a gastric bypass seminar. By the time she decided to go through with surgery, Bottorff had started considering the procedure, as well.

“Late last summer, I started looking at the options for it,” Bottorff said. “When I went to talk to my mom about it, she said Chris is getting ready to do that. She was further in the journey than I was, but I went to the same seminar and got on to some groups on social media, just to kind of talk to people who had already done it and went from there.”

While Bottorff and Schmitter have struggled with weight in different ways, they shared one primary goal: to be healthy for their loved ones.

“I lost my dad at an early age,” Bottorff said. “So I wanted to be healthy for my family and for my kids and to be able to help prevent those things from happening. And so it was something that I wanted to do for health.”

During gastric bypass surgery, part of the stomach is closed off and a new connection to the small intestine is created. In preparation for the surgery, patients are put on a liquid diet for two weeks. Afterward, food is slowly reintroduced to accommodate the much smaller stomach.

“I texted her in the beginning when she was on her liquid (diet) to cheer her on, and then I texted her when I was on the liquid to complain, and then she could cheer me on,” Bottorff said. “And then to get to hear things that she had done, you know, clothing sizes changing or things that she’s starting to notice, really was good motivation.”

Bottorff and Schmitter had their surgeries at the Bariatric Center at Mosaic Life Care, which offers support meetings for patients. Both joined bariatric groups on social media, which offer more flexibility.

“I’ve also just recently become a mentor on this site where if somebody is really struggling, they will pair you one-on-one with someone so that you can help them through their journey,” Schmitter said. “I’ve been paired with this gal from Ohio, I will probably never meet her in person, but she’s at a point in her journey where she needs that extra coaching or support or cheerleader, and I get to be a cheerleader for her.”

Both Schmitter and Bottorff said being open and talking about the surgery has helped them.

“I talked to my husband and I said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about this,’ thinking that he would say, ‘Oh, you don’t need to do that’,” Bottorff said. “And he said, if that’s what you want to do, I support you. And from that moment, the support began. And then I talked to my parents about it and my friends. And so people who want me to be around, who want me to be healthy, are supporting me.”

Jessica Kopp can be reached

at jessica.kopp@newspressnow.com or

you can follow her on Twitter: @NPNOWKopp