For Keith Doerksen, this is indulgence; the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, a steady heartbeat, the prairie air. “Life in my estimation was going to be short. I was taking elevators to meetings and sweating over the least bit of exertion,” says Keith. One year ago he weighed 360 pounds, maybe more. “For a bunch of years I never looked at the scale. I just was so disgusted. No matter what I did, how many things I accomplished, or what kind of letters I had behind my name, FAT was still the letters I had behind my name,” Keith continues.
His battle with weight started in 3rd grade. His parents took him to experts, even tried rewarding him to lose weight. Keith’s mom also struggled with obesity. For Keith, it carried over into adulthood, when he met the love of his life. “He is always striving for excellence.” Colleen Doerksen watched her husband strive to lose weight…the gym, diets, and he would succeed, only to gain it back. “There was a lot of yo-yo dieting,” says Colleen. “You are just absolutely desperate and that is where I was at,” Keith adds.
In one dark moment, he turned to the computer to research a tool his own mom used years ago. Keith says, “The frustration, the desperate need for change, I think I typed in the words in Google and just put in weight loss surgery.” Doerksen discovered the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, a new weight loss procedure much better and less invasive than the one his mom had decades ago, before techniques were developed. Those new techniques are now offered in Manitoba as part of a pilot program. “My first thought,” says Keith, “was ‘Wow, this is local. I can go to Winnipeg, covered through ____ health.'” Doerksen was turned down and told the pilot program only takes women. That is when the family cobbled together savings and money from a line of credit to work with a bariatric surgeon in Las Vegas. Without travel, it cost more than 10,000 dollars. Colleen says, “It was scary for me. You know, you hear worst-case scenarios and you hope that they are not going to happen.”
In one weekend, last January, Keith’s stomach was cut down to the size of a banana. He was on his feet in days and what happened next felt like magic. Weight kept dropping. Keith started running and entered a relay. Colleen says, “That was amazing. That was a very proud moment.” Keith and Colleen say,” We could both fit in there [Keith’s pants]. We could hop in.” Keith dropped 150 pounds. Without surgery, Colleen lost 40 pounds. Her diabetes went away. “I think we all eat healthier because of it, higher protein kinds of things, smaller portion sizes, definitely able to do more as a family. This past summer, tubing, Keith always drove the boat and this year he got to go on the tube,” says Colleen. “I started running up hills just because. I take stairs to meetings,” says Keith. Doerksen wishes his mom was still alive to see him now. He remains on a waiting list, in case the local pilot program is expanded, hoping he will get turned down one day for being too thin. CBC News.