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Oct20FriKim Howlett knew she needed to make some changes before it was too late. October 20, 2017 by Diane Stark
"I’m afraid you’re going to need surgery,” doctors told Kim Howlett in 2014. She had been suffering with stomach pain and digestive issues for years, and this exploratory surgery would hopefully reveal the reason why.
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But Howlett knew what part of the problem was. For most of her life, she had struggled with her weight. At her heaviest, Howlett weighed nearly 400 pounds. She needed 3,800 units of insulin each day to control her diabetes, was in constant pain and was unable to work because of her many health problems.
“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Howlett says.
Howlett was born and raised in Conception Bay South, N.L. She attended a Salvation Army church and loved it, and accepted Christ when she was “just a wee little girl.”
Throughout her childhood, Howlett’s father was in and out of the hospital with his own medical issues. “He was so sick, but he never felt sorry for himself,” she remembers. “He never said, ‘Why me, Lord?’ ”
In 2006, Howlett attended a friend’s wedding. There she saw Rod, a man she’d worked with years before. “I was taking care of my dad at that time, and I had no interest in a boyfriend,” Howlett says. “But Rod didn’t give up.”
As the couple’s relationship grew more serious, talk turned to marriage. “We used to joke that I’d have to sit on my dad’s lap in his wheelchair so he could walk me down the aisle,” Howlett says.
But her father passed away in 2007, the year before she and Rod got married. “He’d been put on a respirator more than 20 times and every time, the doctors said he wouldn’t pull through, but he did. At one point, he was paralyzed from the neck down, and doctors said he’d never walk again, but he did. He was so determined to live.”
When Howlett’s father caught pneumonia, she feared he’d be too weak to recover. “We trusted God to take him when he was ready, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Journey to Health
After her father’s passing, Howlett’s own health continued to decline. “When the doctor diagnosed me with diabetes, my sugar level was so high that the meter couldn’t even read it,” she says. “I had so many stomach problems that it was hard for me to even leave the house.”
And that’s how Howlett ended up in the surgeon’s office. “I had a lot of damage to my kidneys and my liver because my sugar levels were so high, and the doctors wanted to do surgery to find out what was causing all of the stomach pain,” she says. “It just seemed like common sense that losing weight would help me avoid complications and recover from the surgery more quickly.”
Howlett went on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. She gave up her beloved diet soft drinks and drank only water and milk. She kept a journal of everything she ate and cut out all junk food. “It was really hard at first, but I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t lose the weight,” she says. “When it got really difficult, I thought about my dad. I am so much like him, and I get my determination from him. I was determined to lose the weight so I wouldn’t pass away early like he did.”
Howlett underwent the surgery. Doctors found that her stomach and colon were blocked with cancerous polyps. “My doctor was able to remove the polyps and repair the damage to my stomach,” she says. “But the surgery just reinforced that I needed to make changes in my life.”
Howlett continued to diet and also began exercising. “A friend of mine won a trial membership to a gym and I went with her,” Howlett says. “When the free trial ran out, my friend’s husband offered to pay for half of the membership so we could keep going.”
Howlett’s best friend, Karen, was a huge source of encouragement. “Both she and Rod really helped me to keep my self-esteem
high,” Howlett says.
Other people helped her, too. As the weight came off, she needed new clothes, but she was concerned about the expense. “Someone donated a whole bunch of clothes to me anonymously,” she says. “It was so wonderful of them to help me in that way.”
Howlett also received divine help in her weight loss journey. “I prayed every day and asked God to help me,” she says. “I knew I couldn’t do it without him. He carried the burden for me.”
Howlett found a sticker with her favourite verse on it and she put it up where she could see it every day. “It’s Matthew 19:26: ‘With God all things are possible.’ It really inspired me.”
Over the next year, she lost 130 pounds. Rod began eating more healthily, too, and the couple have lost a combined total of 450 pounds so far. “We are literally half the couple we used to be,” she says with a smile.
Howlett’s self-esteem has improved as well. “I try on clothes that used to fit me and they hang on me like a blanket now,” she says. “It reminds me of how far I’ve come.”
Because of Howlett’s weight loss, she has been able to reduce her daily insulin dose from 3,800 units down to 75-80 units. “I used to need five shots a day, and now, I only need two each day,” Howlett says.
In August 2016, Howlett was healthy enough to return to work. “I got a job as a home health-care worker, and it feels good to be able to help people again,” she says.
But best of all, her marriage relationship has improved. “Everything is different,” Howlett concludes. “We have a life now. We have so much more energy and are able to do more things together. We’ve always been close, but this journey has brought us even closer together.”