The More Christine Marshall Disappears, the More She Comes to Life
By: Cheryl Serra
Christine Marshall says people began to actually see her after she had surgery and lost 100 pounds.
“Somehow when you’re obese, it’s as if you’re invisible,” she says.
Much like Grace in Hoping For Love, book 5 in the Gansett Island series, losing weight has opened up a whole new world for Christine. Part of this new life entailed coming to Readers Weekend 2015 and attending a reader event with Marie in New York City, both of which she enjoyed after having her surgery, the best gift she has ever given herself.
Christine, 49, lives in Holbrook, on Long Island in New York, with her husband of 11 years, Westley, and her 23-year-old son, Andrew. Westley is a retired Long Island Railroad employee and Andrew is a certified paramedic. Her younger son, Christopher, is a musical theater major at Pace University.
Christine’s mom, Anita, had read all of Marie’s series and shared the books with Christine and Christine’s aunt, Angela. When Anita saw the announcement for Reader Weekend she booked it for the three women and gave the trip to Anita and Christine as birthday gifts under one condition: they had to at least read Maid for Love so they would have an idea of what Gansett Island was all about.
“Well, needless to say, my aunt and I read all 12 books,” Christine says. “We didn’t stop at book 1!” And they read the recently released (and New York Times and USA Today bestseller) Love After Dark and loved it, as well.
To infuse some frivolity into their Reader Weekend, the ladies renamed themselves: Anita was Maddie, Angela was Carolina and Christine was Tiffany.
Once at Reader Weekend the trio met a bunch of new best pals.
“It all began at the Tiki Bar Party on Friday night,” Christine says. “We really didn’t know what to expect and it was nice to see that it was other Marie Force fans, just like us, looking to have a good time. Every person there was very open to new friendships, and we were so impressed by how far some people traveled to be there.”
Between their newfound friends, the free-flowing drinks, the festive mood and their respite from everyday lives, Christine and her family had a delightful time, picking up new ‘groupies’ as the night went on. For instance, while Christine was refilling her ‘fantastic’ cocktail, her mom noticed the nametags of two women indicated they were from Vermont. Anita asked if they’d been to the Vermont Country Store, inspiration for the country store in the Green Mountain series. Been there? Yup, they sure had. Quite often, in fact, as they worked there!
Christine said she got a bit tipsy, explaining that this happens quickly to bariatric patients, and when she returned to her table, her mother had made a group of new friends and they all took a selfie. Christine noticed a woman sitting alone and they asked her to join them. Her name was Hilda and Angela really bonded with her. Her “blabbericious” aunt and Hilda got along splendidly, singing to the music and to each other all night. They rearranged the time of their Block Island tours the following day so they could be together.
“We needed to explain some of the naughty parts of the Gansett books to Hilda, which created a lot of laughter. So much so that Marie called us out on it on the ferry!” Christine thinks Hilda was just the right salve for Angela, who was likely missing Christine’s grandmother, the fourth wheel on many of their girls’ weekends. Hilda and Angela now text, email and talk on the phone every week.
Christine’s decision to have surgery to lose the same 100 pounds she had gained and lost twice in the last 25 years was not as frivolous. She discussed this decision with Marie at the NYC readers’ event, which exceeded Christine’s and her mother’s expectation for a more intimate audience with Marie.
“I got to the point that I was so heavy I couldn’t exercise or do much of any type activity due to my weight,” she says of the circumstances leading up to this major decision. “I had no energy to do anything. I was a spectator in my own life.”
As is often the case with obesity, Christine’s situation was more than physical. It took years of private therapy, the realization that she is addicted to food, and the diagnosis of and medication for anxiety to help her gain her mental and physical health.
“I realize now that I used food as a comfort when I couldn’t deal with situations in my life.” She thought she should be able to lose the weight on her own, that surgery would be the easy way out.
She researched her surgical options and decided that a vertical sleeve gastrectomy was best for her. She explains the successful surgery entailed removing 80 percent of her stomach. She followed the guidelines very closely post-op and lost the weight. She must be careful with her eating every single day if she is to maintain the weight. Some days it isn’t easy, and some days she slides.
“Every once in a while life gets in the way and I make poor choices. The good part about that is that tomorrow is another day and I can leave yesterday behind.”
Christine speaks of the stigma of admitting to having a mental health issue: “Mental illness gets such a bad rap these days. If someone has high blood pressure or high cholesterol, they are prescribed medication, and there is no question of it being a necessity,” she says. “Unfortunately some people feel shame about taking medication for mental illness. I am not one of those people. I know that in order to live a fulfilling life it is necessary for me right now, maybe forever.”
While she’s waiting for forever, though, she’s living in the moment, enjoying things like Reader Weekend and the NYC reader event and her time with Marie, where they talked about the things they had in common, like parenting challenges.
“She is such a genuine funny person and we were floored at how much she cares for her fans. It was evident from spending some time with her in Rhode Island and then again in New York City.”
Cheryl Serra is Marie’s director of publicity—and one of her bridesmaids 23 year