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In the Driver's Seat


Seven years ago, Damara Conyers followed in her mother’s footsteps and pursued a career in the trucking industry. Her mom has been a truck driver since 2005, and after graduating from Miller-Motte College at the age of 31, Conyers got her own truck and has been an owner-operator ever since.

But life on the road took a toll. Sitting for long periods of time and being addicted to food had her needing to make some serious life changes.

“I’ve been overweight my entire life and that was normal for me,” Conyers said. “From the time I was ten, I’ve been the fat one in the family, and it was part of my identity.”

Conyers said that part of growing up was involving food in everything she did. Eating, planning and cooking meals consumed Conyers’ thoughts.

“For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed eating. I’d be enjoying a meal and then sadness would come over me because the plate was now half empty,” Conyers said.

She likens an addiction to food as being no different than alcoholism or substance abuse. And as much as she thought about food, she and her best friend would talk about gastric sleeves.

“We’d start and end every conversation talking about it. I still have screenshots in my phone from 2018 or 2019 when I first truly started considering it,” Conyers said.

A couple of years after becoming a truck driver, Conyers googled Fayetteville weight loss surgery, which led her to the Cape Fear Valley Bariatric program. She watched the informational video and immediately felt connected to Ijeoma Ejeh, MD, a board-certified general surgeon who has been performing weight loss surgeries at Cape Fear Valley since 2007.

“I was impressed with where she went to medical school and did her residency, but beyond that, I’d never seen a doctor who looked like me before. Then I’m listening to her, and she mentions her love for helping others gain a part of life that they’d either lost or never experienced because of their weight,” Conyers said. “That comment really resonated with me. That was exactly how I felt! I’ve been living with this lively, bubbly personality, but my weight and lack of energy kept me away from activities my heart desires to do.”

Five days later, she had an appointment for her first consultation at Cape Fear Valley General Surgery – Ferncreek. Upon meeting Dr. Ejeh, Conyers knew she was making the right move.

They decided on vertical sleeve gastrectomy (or VSG), which is a type of bariatric weight loss surgery with a minimally invasive procedure that reduces the size of your stomach to three or four ounces. This limits the amount of food you can eat to help you lose weight.

After her surgery was scheduled, Conyers started an all-liquid diet consisting of bone broth and protein shakes. Her support system came in the form of her mom.

“My mom did it with me,” Conyers said. “That first two weeks, we decided to join forces on her truck, so she was my accountability partner.”

“The process was exactly six months for me. I did experience discomfort after the surgery, but once I decided to get up and walk around, that subsided as well,” Conyers said.

For Conyers, her weight loss surgery was a game-changer for her entire life.

“My unhealthy habits were all that I knew. They ran deep!” Conyers said. “But I literally feel like I’m living a new life. God has granted me so much grace and I’m grateful for where I am.”

Conyers fully credits Dr. Ejeh and Cape Fear Valley for providing her with the perfect tool to aid in a healthier and more active lifestyle.

“Let’s be real. I miss everything about eating,” Conyers said. “I miss the burn of a nice cold soda pop. However, what keeps me from falling off the ledge is the joy of trying on new clothes and loving how I look in the mirror. That far exceeds those few minutes of food or drink on my taste buds.”

Before surgery, one of her lowest points was when she stood in line at an amusement park for three hours with her daughter and was turned away at the gate because she could not fit in the seat properly.

“But now, I’m looking forward to summer and riding all of the rides!” she said. “I’m going to zip line, indoor skydive and the list goes on. I feel good, and I’m just getting started!”

After three months, she has lost 50 pounds and is halfway to her goal weight of 195. She plans to stay active in the support groups and continue attending nutritionist appointments through Cape Fear Valley.

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