While I had no clue how sick I was at the time, I’ve always looked at Halloween 2015 as the informal anniversary of when this whole journey started.
One of the reasons that this particular day stands out is because of this picture:
I’ve stumbled on to it quite a few times over the last year, and I’m always stunned by how frail I look. I’m a big guy. My hands are big (XXXL in most gloves), my feet are big (size 13), my head is big (size 8 hat). When I’m not working out, I can get up to nearly 300 pounds without looking too much like a scoop of mashed potatoes. At the point where I was in the best shape of my entire adult life, working out 7 days a week and eating little to no meat, I was still hovering somewhere around 260. The day I took this picture, my weight had fallen to 253.3 pounds without my doing much of anything. I was wearing a size 38 jeans, and an XL shirt – the smallest clothes that I had purchased since I was about 16. It might sound crazy, because I was still a big guy by normal standards, but I was literally wasting away. Looking through some old Facebook posts, I see that I lost five pounds that week, without working out once.
The next memorable moment from that day happened when my friends Paya and Shawn came over with their two darling little girls to go Trick-or-Treating. When they arrived, I stepped out on the porch to greet them, because I am a gentleman and a gracious host. The moment Paya stepped out of the car and took a look at me, she yelled out “HOW MUCH WEIGHT HAVE YOU LOST?!” We all laughed; I probably struck a very sexy pose (this part cannot be verified), and then began our yearly tradition of knocking on strangers’ doors and asking them to give us things to eat. Paya and Shawn are some of our closest friends and at this point we saw them pretty often; it had probably only been a few weeks since Paya had seen me. In hindsight, her reaction to my physical appearance probably should’ve set off more alarms, but I had been to the doctor, had a full physical including blood work (btw wtf?), and been assured that aside from low vitamin D I was healthy.
Spoiler alert: I wasn’t healthy.
It was later this night that my wife pulled me to the side and told me, very seriously, that I looked sick. Really sick. If you’ve ever spent any time around us, you’ll know that were not very serious people. We make jokes out of pretty much everything, and we tease each other – innocently, of course – pretty much constantly. That’s just how we get down. We joked about my mysterious weight loss daily. We blamed it on gypsies and laughed at how loose most of my clothes had gotten. I even remember her telling me that I better not have cancer, because it would really piss her off. The reason this moment sticks with me is her tone. In the nearly 20 years that we’ve known each other, I don’t recall another moment that felt like this one. Of course we’ve had our arguments and moments where she told me that I really needed to get my shoes out of the living room, but this was different. I think it was more of an intervention than anything. We wouldn’t know what was wrong with me for a few more days, but she wanted me to know that she didn’t think it was funny anymore.
A few other things about last Halloween stand out to me, too, like being really tired from walking down the block and back. And having on nothing but a t-shirt on a chilly night but still managing to break a sweat while everyone else wore jackets and complained about the cold.
Before my son was born, Halloween was never a super important day to me. I’m not the type to go Halloween parties or decorate my yard with skulls and cobwebs. Honestly, I was always one of those people that turned off all of the lights so that the Trick-or-treaters assumed that no one was home. Once my son was born, all of that changed. Now I look forward to carving pumpkins on the front porch and listening to my son change his mind 100 times before we finally decide on a costume. I even leave the lights on and hand out candy now. Halloween is just one of those days that are always memorable for parents. I plan to celebrate another 60 or 70 of them, but I know -or maybe I hope- that none will as memorable as last Halloween.