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Dare to Dream

Roughhousing on the living room floor with his boys? Sure! But Chris Brown could barely get up.

Kickball with the school kids? Absolutely! But immediately after he’d retreat to his office to catch his breath.

Softball with a church group? Batter up!

“Even at my heaviest, I’d push myself -- and pay for it,” says the 37-year-old dad, husband and church youth director from Frazee, Minn. “I’d get winded and sweaty just going up a flight of stairs.”

A softball game in summer 2009 triggered a downward spiral Chris will never forget. “I got up the next morning and my foot was killing me. The pain wouldn’t go away,” he says. The diagnosis? Plantar fasciitis -- a common condition made worse by excess weight. At 5 feet 8 inches, he weighed 360 pounds.

Chris cut back on activities, hoping to ease the foot pain. But it persisted, plus his back pain worsened. The inactivity added pounds.

“I felt horrible -- worn out, aching, tired,” he says. “Everything was getting difficult. It scared me.”

A new tool

Chris had struggled for years, trying diet after diet. Doctors visited with him about weight loss surgery, but he wasn’t interested. “It seemed too drastic and I wasn’t that desperate,” he says.

By fall 2009, Chris knew he needed help. Online he discovered Sanford offered a free weight loss surgery informational seminar in Fargo. He drove 60 miles to attend an evening session -- and came home inspired!

Several aspects of Sanford’s program impressed him:

  • Transparency of results.
  • National designation as a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence.
  • The completeness of Sanford’s program -- surgical expertise, nutrition education, psychological assessment, support groups and more.
  • The emphasis on healthy living.

Late that evening Chris sat down with his wife and shared his thoughts. “Initially Shari was against surgery, but she said something I appreciated: ‘You have to do what’s best for you.’ She’s right,” says Chris. “This is something you do for yourself, not for anybody else. It’s your health and your life.”

Together they consulted with Dr. Timothy Monson, one of three board-certified weight loss surgeons at Sanford. They learned a final piece they didn’t expect. “My size meant I was looking at 10 to 20 years less of life,” says Chris quietly. “That really opened our eyes.”

Real success

Within three months, Chris completed all pre-surgery steps. On Jan. 18, 2010, he underwent laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery and went home the next day. The following week he returned to work at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Perham.

The weight melted off -- more than 20 pounds a month initially. His jeans size dropped from 50 to 36. And the foot pain? Gone a month after surgery.

Chris lost 167 pounds -- and gained a better life! Last spring he ran his first 5K, teaming up with other Sanford weight-loss surgery patients at the Fargo Marathon. In fall he cut five cords of wood without backache or breathlessness. This winter he can’t wait to try out the Christmas gift he bought for Shari and himself: two pairs of snowshoes.

“Weight-loss surgery opened doors I never dreamed of -- and I feel great!” says Chris. “But I don’t kid myself. I’ve been given a fantastic tool and all the information I need to live a healthy life. Now it’s my responsibility. Ten years out I still want to be able to say I’m doing the right things and taking care of myself.”

Airplane seats, rollercoaster rides, deer stands -- Chris fits comfortably in all of them. But there’s one place he never wants to fit again. “I saved one pair of my size 50s just to remind myself,” he laughs.

Posted Date: February 2011