Late one afternoon in 2002, Scott Cutshall’s Grand Am rolled toward the leafy Jersey City, New Jersey, neighborhood where he, his wife and their daughter lived on the ground floor of a brownstone apartment.
The car was silent, except for a quiet refrain. “I’m a dead man,” the 38-year-old Cutshall said. “I’m a dead man.”
In the driver’s seat sat his wife, Amy, who had asked him to see a doctor about his weight, which then hovered at 427 pounds, and would later top out at 501. In back sat three-year-old Chloe, who Cutshall cared for as best he could given how little he could move.
The news was not good. The doctor gave him six months to live without bariatric surgery. With it, the doctor said, Cutshall had a 50 percent chance of making it out of the operating room.
“I’m a dead man,” said Cutshall, sobbing softly.
Over the next few years, even as he defied that dire prediction, every doctor, every authority he consulted would give him equally urgent warnings. Everyone told him the same thing: Lose weight or die. At the doctor’s office that day in 2002, Cutshall had voiced the foremost question in his mind.
“Do you think I can lose the weight on my own?”
“No,” the doctor had said. “At your weight, I’ve never heard of anyone doing it.”