The “Big John Effect”

John P Erwin III, MD, FACC, FAHA, FACP

With my surgery coming up this week, I’ve been amazed by the degree of outpouring of support, prayers and well wishes from many far and wide and I’m very thankful for that.  Surprisingly, I’ve been asked by a multitude of people whether I was nervous about the surgery.  Perhaps you may think that I’m foolish not to be, but my lifelong exposure to medicine and surgery as well as my Faith give me an incredible sense of peace when I’m heading into a medical challenge of one form or another.

Despite the strong Faith of my wife, she IS nervous… 

There is another component to my weight struggle over the years where my wife, Suzi, is involved.  This one is related to body image.  I know that when body image is brought up in the usual context, it is related to people not being in harmony with their extra weight or some other body feature.  In my case, it is the “Big John Effect”.  Since I started competitively powerlifting my sophomore year in High School, my friends and teammates have nick-named me “Big John”.  In college football, that nick-name stayed with me, along with a couple others that I may or may not write about later! In my initial blog, I mentioned that I’d lost a 100 pounds on a couple of occasions in the past…and then gained them back with some “bonus”.  Even when my BMI was just north of 25kg/m2 (BMI isn’t the most accurate assessment for people with a large frame or above average muscle mass -my percentage body fat was only 11% at the time), I actually had people ask my wife: “Is John okay?”, “Does John have cancer?”, and “How do you like your new skinny husband?”.  All this despite me still being slightly above of 200lbs (90.7kg) at the time!  Obviously, it was uncomfortable for her to answer these types of questions in the first place, but there is another factor summarized by her frequent words:

“I married a football player, not a doctor!”

When I met my wife our freshman year in college, she was a tall (6 feet), lean, tanned “surfer girl”.  She still is, but because of the ribbing that she got starting in Junior High about her height, she has always really liked standing with a “big guy”.  To add to that, NOT fitting the stereotype of what many think of when they picture a doctor’s spouse has always been somewhat of a badge of honor to her. With me not “looking like a stereotypical cardiologist, this seemed less of an issue for her.  I reassure her that I will hopefully be 6’2” for at least another decade and I will continue to work out and still be capable of carrying her over the threshold even when she is 80, Lord willing!  I must admit, however, that it is also part of my own identity to be “Big John”, so I keep the words of the Apostle Paul in my heart: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  I’ve promised her that I will always be large in spirit!

In addition to the nervousness that she is having related to the “Big John” effect, we never like to see our loved ones hurting, nauseated, and not one-hundred percent “on their game”. The odds are that this will be the case for me in the next short stretch of time.  As tough as she is when she, herself, is ill, she handles it less well when it is someone else that she cares about- as is the case with most of us. With this in mind and knowing that I won’t be at peak performance for the next couple of weeks, she and I will “couples blog” over my next several entries and periodically on this site moving forward. In reading many emails and messages from readers, we clearly understand the dynamics of how relationships play into this process. We are hopeful that this will also add another dimension to help others on their own path.

I leave you with a few words from the great prophet, Jimmy Dean:

“At the bottom of this mine conclusion of this weight loss lies a big, big man…
Big John”
– Adapted from © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.  They have been greatly felt and I appreciate them.


45 thoughts on “The “Big John Effect””

  1. Thanks for another great post. The struggle is real. We are all”fearfully and wonderfully made”.Looking forward to hear about your journey.
    “ big john” —> “ big heart” . Hope as a cardiologist you are not thinking cardiomyopathy!!!

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