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A 12-year-old Texas girl who had weight-loss surgery to correct a rare metabolic problem is back home, visibly slimmer and healthier, but also much happier, less than three weeks after the potentially life-saving operation, her mother said.

Alexis Shapiro has lost at least 12 of the 40 or so pounds doctors expect her to shed in the first year after her March 21 surgery, her doctor said. But more important, she’s in good spirits and has hope for the first time since a brain tumor operation more than two years ago knocked her metabolism haywire and sent her soaring past 200 pounds.

“Alexis is doing good,” her mother, Jenny Shapiro, of Cibolo, Texas, told NBC News. “When she is feeling good, she feels really good. We notice a little happier girl and a sparkle in her eye.”

The sleeve gastrectomy surgery performed last month at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reduced the size of Alexis’ stomach by 80 percent, and also triggered a cascade of biological responses that reversed her type 2 diabetes immediately, said Dr. Tom Inge, the pediatric obesity expert who is leading her care.

Alexis is eating no more than a half cup of soft food at a time, her mother said. Her condition made her ravenous even though she was eating little and gaining weight, but the surgery has curbed her appetite, too.

The effects of the change are already visible in new family photos posted to Facebook.

“It’s the little things,” said Jenny Shapiro. “More room in her shoes, being able to cross her fingers, the tray fitting in front of her belly on the plane, no seat belt extender.”

Alexis tells her mom she can see better now because before, most of her view was blocked by her full cheeks. Earlier this week, she walked two blocks for the first time in a year.

Alexis drew international attention earlier this year when NBC News first reported that her family’s insurance company had refused to pay for the surgery doctors said was the child’s last hope for better health.

The insurer reversed the decision and well-wishers raised more than $86,000 to help offset the family’s expenses.

"We still have lots of work ahead, but so far we are liking what we see," Jenny Shapiro said.