A 605lb grandmother was told she had to lose a third of her body weight before doctors could perform a surgery to remove excess skin.
Tracey Matthews, 44, from Lorain, Ohio, carried up to 400lb of her weight in her legs, which had become extremely swollen as a result of lymphedema. They were so heavy her husband, Anthony, needs to lift them out of bed in the morning.
She shared her weight loss journey on the TLC series My 600lb Life, which followed her as she travelled for 20 hours in the boot of her family’s 4×4 car in the hope a doctor in Texas would perform a life-saving weight loss surgery.
Struggle: Mrs Matthews’ enormous legs are partly caused by a condition called lymphodema
Last hope: Anthony drove for 20 hours to take his wife, pictured, to a specialist clinic in Texas
‘Every day that passes my lymphedema gets worse and worse. I have to try and do this,’ she said on Wednesday night’s episode.
However Mrs Matthews, who is also played by a bacterial skin infection called cellulitis, was told her lymphedema ruled her out of weight loss surgery. Instead doctors offered to remove excess skin and fluid if she first lost 150lbs on her own.
After she failed to lose weight, a dietitian visited Tracey’s house and advised her on how to eat healthily. But the new diet caused friction with her husband and he started to refuse to help her in retaliation.
Determined to turn her life around, Tracey persevered and kept to her diet. Within nine months she had lost 167lbs and weighed 439lbs, qualifying her for the surgery.
Troubled childhood: Tracey, pictured as a girl, turned to food to cope with her father’s abuse
Trapped: The mother-of-three gained close to 100lbs with each of her pregnancies
Changed relationship: As Tracey put on weight, husband Anthony, pictured, became her carer
As a child, Tracey watched her father physically abuse her mother, and the stress of growing up in such a violent household was only occasionally relieved when her grandmother spoiled her with food.
Tracey learned to turn to food for comfort in times of distress, and when she had her own children, she gained more than 100lbs with each pregnancy. Following the birth of her third child, Tracey had ballooned to 400lbs.
As she became heavier, Anthony became more of her caretaker than her partner.
Dangerous: Much of her weight was carried in her legs and was caused by lymphedema
Challenge: Doctors told Tracey she had to lose weight on her own before they could remove excess skin. She ended up shedding nearly 200lbs in under a year
Speaking ahead of their drive to the weight loss surgery, Anthony said: ‘Tracey really needs this, so we are willing to take this risk, this chance of going way down there and being rejected.’
Anthony has to physically exert himself just to get Tracey’s legs inside the back of their vehicle, and she admits that she is worried about traveling.
‘I am really nervous, but I know I can’t keep going on like this for much longer,’ she said. ‘I can’t even fit in a normal seat anymore, so I am going to have ride in the back, and I am a little worried about being uncomfortable for so long.’
Tags: Tracey Matthews