Fund-raising appeal to help teacher after dramatic weight loss

Lisa Brabrook needs six operations to remove the excess skin
Lisa Brabrook needs six operations to remove the excess skin

“You think when you lose that weight you have done it, but you haven’t. There are times I think I was better off before I lost the weight.”

Teacher Lisa Brabrook is less than half the woman she used to be, having shed 14 stone in recent years.

Lisa Brabrook when she weighed 25 stones. She has since lost 14 stones.

Lisa Brabrook when she weighed 25 stones. She has since lost 14 stones.

The mum-of-two admits she had always been overweight, but at her heaviest she tipped the scales at 25 stone in 2006.

But the journey has been a difficult one, which has seen Lisa pay thousands of pounds for weight loss surgery and battle an aggressive form of leukaemia.

She has now slimmed down to 11 stones, but the large amount of weight she has lost means she now has a lot of excess skin.

Doctors believe up to one-and-a-half stones of her current weight is skin and she is desperate to have it removed.

I have always been overweight, as far back as I can remember. I was a big child and my weight has gone up and down over the years

Lisa Brabrook

But because she believes the NHS will not fund the six operations she needs, her daughter Beth has launched an online appeal to pay for them.

Lisa, 48, thinks the surgery would make a real difference to her life.

She said: “It would be incredible. Yes, I would have scars, but it would be much better. I think I have a stone to a stone-and-a-half of skin - it’s that extensive. I will be able to swim. I will be able to wear clothes that fit me, because right now if I can get something over my legs and hips, it’s massive at my waist. I can’t get anything to fit properly.

“The soreness is horrible, especially in the legs, it gets a bit infected.

“I have to wear long sleeves because of the excess skin. It would change everything.

“There are certain chairs that I have to be careful about sitting in because while I’m slim, the skin spreads.”

Weight has always been an issue for Lisa, even when she was a child.

“I have always been overweight, as far back as I can remember. I was a big child and my weight has gone up and down over the years,” she said.

“I had two children, I lost my mum very suddenly and that was a big shock and food was my comfort. It was a classic tale of comfort eating.

“I had a lot of things that weren’t great in my life, a lot of ups and downs, and every time something came along that wasn’t great, I would self-medicate with food. I can see that now.

“Looking back, I tried so many diets. They all worked but I couldn’t stick to them. I didn’t have the willpower.”

By 2006 Lisa weighed 25 stone - the heaviest she had ever been - and she decided to have a gastric band operation. This sees a cuff put around the oesophagus where food reaches the stomach, leading to the person eating less and feeling full more quickly.

She lost weight and in 2010 she finally had the confidence to follow her dream of becoming a maths teacher.

Lisa studied a degree in maths and passed her PGCE, before securing a jobs as a maths teacher at Westleigh High School.

But Lisa regained some of the weight she had lost and by early 2015, it was causing problems with her movement and meant she had to take daily medication for high blood pressure, type two diabetes and depression.

After appointments with weight loss professionals from the NHS, it became clear that Lisa needed a gastric bypass. This would reduce the size of the stomach and bypass the main part of the stomach and intestine, so she would absorb fewer calories and eat less.

But the NHS was not able to fund it, so Lisa and her husband Kevin decided to take out a loan to pay for the £10,500 surgery at a private hospital in May 2015.

Lisa, who lives in Aspull, said: “I didn’t want it done due to the expense but thankfully Kevin convinced me to do it.”

The surgery was a success and Lisa began to recover.

However, about three weeks later, she started to feel unwell and was coughing up blood.

She went to Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department, where several tests were carried out over the next few weeks, including a full blood count and a bone marrow test.

Lisa was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia, a particularly aggressive form of the disease.

She was immediately admitted to the haematology unit at Salford Royal Hospital, where she underwent four courses of intense chemotherapy.

By the time the treatment finished in December 2015, Lisa had lost a lot of weight and could not go back to work straight away due to fatigue.

Kevin resigned from his job to become her carer and the family had to rely on benefits.

As she recovered, Lisa was keen not to regain all the weight she had lost after the surgery and her illness.

She said: “Once I started to get better after the chemotherapy, I wanted to carry on the momentum of losing the weight and the bypass helped with that.

“I joined Slimming World so I was doing a proper eating plan and I carried on losing.

“I have lost in total 14 stone. It’s fabulous. I’m slim, I’m fit and healthy. I worked very hard.

“I do a lot of walking and joined a rehab gym to get back on track. I’m fitter than I have ever been.”

Lisa was awarded the title of Woman Of The Year by her Slimming World group and received a Changing Lifestyles award at the Believe Sports Awards 2016.

She is now in remission and returned to the job she loves at Westleigh High in September.

But she says the only downside to her dramatic weight loss is the “ridiculous amount of excess skin”.

Lisa needs six operations to remove all of the skin, but does not believe it will be available on the NHS. Even if it is, she fears they would only do one of the operations.

Each procedure would cost between £5,000 and £6,000, which the family cannot afford to pay. So Lisa and Kevin’s 15-year-old daughter Beth, a pupil at The Deanery CE High School, has launched an online appeal to raise the funds.She is also planning to hold a social night with several performers.

Lisa, who also has a 17-year-old son, Josh, said: “Having not worked for a year and my husband having to give up work as well to look after me, there are no savings. My daughter has taken it upon herself. She sees what I go through every day with this skin. It gets so sore. It restricts a lot of things.”

Lisa says she is very careful about what she wears and although she loves swimming, she does not feel comfortable in a swimming costume.

She said: “I wouldn’t go swimming or wear clothes that would reveal any of my legs and tummy and arms. I’m always covered up and I get really hot.”

Beth is trying to raise £6,000 for the first operation to help her mum, who is affected every day by the extra skin.

Lisa said: “I’m glad that the weight’s gone. I’m not particularly fond of the way it’s gone, but I am glad it’s gone because I can do more.

“But it has left me with restrictions I didn’t have before. I used to go swimming when I was big because I was just big, but now I’m like a freak. It’s horrible.

“My self-confidence has gone out of the window.”

l To make a donation to help pay for Lisa’s operations, go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Beth-Brabrook-mum