AN EATON Socon woman who was given just five years to live has turned her life around after losing 18 stone.

Charmaine Wilkinson with her son Maison and her daughter Poppy after her gastric bypass operation.Charmaine Wilkinson with her son Maison and her daughter Poppy after her gastric bypass operation.

Charmaine Wilkinson, of Bushmead Road, weighed 34 stone and wore size 36 clothes. Doctors warned she was putting her heart under tremendous strain and could have been confined to a wheelchair unless she tackled her size.

The 34-year-old, who has brittle bones, gained weight while taking steroid injections for her arthritis. But a side effect of the injections - along with unhealthy eating - saw her weight increase.

The turning point came when doctors gave her the grim prognosis.

Ms Wilkinson told The Hunts Post: "It was a reality check - they said I was not going to see my kids grow up and that I was going to be dead in five years. I cried my eyes out - it was such an upsetting time."

She decided to have a gastric bypass in February last year after all of her past attempts at dieting had failed. The operation went smoothly and she was home within 24 hours - although she described the following months as a psychological battle.

Since then, her weight has dropped to around 16 stone - with the help of bypass, healthy eating and gentle exercise - and she now wears a dress size 14.

The operation has meant that Ms Wilkinson can now fully enjoy family life despite her health problems, such as walking to the park with her children Poppy, four, and Maison, 13.

She is also now set to marry her partner Michael Faulkner, 34, after a 10-year engagement. "I would never have got married being that big," she said. "We've been together for 11 years but I'd never get married at the size that I was."

The couple are considering beginning wedding preparations next year in time for a 2015 ceremony.

Now Ms Wilkinson also uses her weight loss experiences to help other gastric bypass patients, using social media and video blogs.

She said: "I'm feeling good about myself and I feel like a new person. It is the first time that I actually feel that I can see the kids growing up - before I was like a ticking time bomb."