I was the youngest of nine children and maybe a little spoiled. I don’t really know how my challenges with food and weight began, but I did struggle from the time I was a young kid. Becoming obese was something that happened over a long period of time as my life became less active due to a sedentary job, and also just becoming busy with raising a family. The way I coped with stress was food, and really it was an addiction. At times I would work on losing weight and then I would gain it all back. Oftentimes I’d gain more than I had lost. As an obese person you become imprisoned just moving from seat to seat; it is a gradual thing that captures you. In 2003 my wife was diagnosed with cancer, and for the next three years everything else in my life went on hold while we focused on her treatment. Of course I had a lot of worry through this time, which led me to eating. I probably gained 50 pounds through these years of treating her cancer, and then in 2006 my wife passed. We had been married for 24 years. From the grief of loss, and the loss of support she had given by cooking healthier meals for me, I continued gaining weight for another five years. I put on another 60 to 70 pounds and at that point, I was over 400 pounds. My wake-up call was in 2012 with two ambulance trips to the hospital to treat leg infections and a breathing issue. I realized I was on a course to die early if I didn’t take care of myself. While I was in the hospital, my kids had so much concern and it was the look in their eyes—the same way I had seen them look at their mother when she was sick—that showed me I couldn’t do this to them. I couldn’t leave them parentless. Seeing that, I realized I had a choice and I wasn’t going to die without a fight. In 2012, I began following a nutrition program to eat healthy, and I began walking daily. My daughter bought me a Fitbit, and the first six months were really difficult. I had a lot of knee pain but I would do at least 10,000 steps a day. I walked 20 minutes three times daily: morning, afternoon and night. In this same year I had a friend whose son was fighting to walk again after an accident, and his story touched me so much. I thought, “Here is a person fighting so hard to walk and I’ve been choosing not to.” I realized I had really taken my life for granted and I set a goal to walk in a 5K to help raise money for my friend’s son. Another friend who was a marathon runner helped me set goals and continue training. Eventually I built up enough strength to walk the 5K. I was the last person to cross the finish line after nearly an hour and a half, but I did it. Over a two-year period I had lost 100 pounds, nearly a quarter of my weight. But at 300 pounds I still needed to do more to regain my health. I continued setting goals and participating in 5Ks. To further my efforts, my primary care physician, Dr. Robert Brew, felt I would be a good candidate for laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery and urged me to attend a presentation at the Surgical Weight Loss Center at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center. My health plan required six months of behavioral coaching prior to the surgery, which allowed me to prepare mentally and continue to establish good habits of health to help ensure a good outcome. I was apprehensive about the bypass procedure at first, but the top-notch care team at Lahey earned my confidence through their professionalism, education, support and authentic care. Dr. Dmitry Nepomnayshy and his team really treated me well; they weren’t just going through the motions. The nurse practitioners, the psychologists, the surgeons, and the interns all gained my trust and eliminated any fears I had. It’s been three years since my surgery, and six years since I’ve been on this journey, and I’m really living, not just existing. It’s all due to the education, the gastric bypass procedure, and the continued support from my care providers, my friends, and my kids. I continue to set goals so I don’t get lax on my exercise. In 2015 and 2016, I completed a 5K for our troops, and for those races I was actually able to run! For years I also had a goal to climb Mount Lafayette, the sixth-highest peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, with my two children. On September 19, 2015, we did it—we made it to the top. Now I’ve got my sights set on earning the badge for the “Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Four-Thousand Footer Club” by climbing all 48 of the 4,000-foot peaks in New Hampshire. I’ve changed physically, but the procedure doesn’t automatically change you mentally, so I continue to receive support and inspiration from monthly group meetings at Lahey. Meeting with many people at different stages along their way is an opportunity for me to help others and to learn about, and prepare for, potential road blocks I could still meet in my journey. I’m under 200 pounds now, maintaining my health by eating well and exercising regularly. Even more important than my running and mountain climbing, I was also able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding and dance with her at the reception. She calls my fight to lose the weight the “greatest act of love.” I’m more active now than I’ve been in my whole life and I intend to keep doing all it takes to enjoy life to the fullest and be around for my kids for many years to come.