Hi, I’m Chris Early. You already know me, in fact we see each other a few times a week. I’m the energetic instructor that still gets excited for every class I teach. Probably the guy whose class you walk away from thinking “he needs less coffee..” Every day when I wake up I can’t wait to get to work and start interacting with my people (If you’re reading this, you’re one of them). If you asked most of my clients, they’d tell you I’m outgoing, encouraging, and fun to work with. I can honestly say that If I won the lottery tonight, you’d see me walk through the back door of AFS tomorrow at 5am. I love being there for our clients that much. I love nurturing them, picking them up when they’re down, and celebrating with them when things are going well. I love being a rock for them because I know how important having that support can be. I know because I’ve been in their shoes. I wasn’t always this Chris Early. I made it this far because I had the support that I’m now so proud to provide. That support came from my mom, Debbie.
The old Chris was a lot different. I walked into my first day of school in 7th grade weighing 225 lbs. I was shy, I lacked confidence, and I felt shame about my weight. As if I didn’t make it hard enough on myself, my peers made sure I was well aware of my size as well. Most of my middle school years were spent as a verbal punching bag for bullies who didn’t have the same issues I had. Each day I would draw further and further within myself, not feeling like I was worth anyone’s time. I remember going home from school in tears on several occasions. I’d come through the door with that “red-eye” look and my mom would know something was off. She’d let me storm to my room at first, but then like clock-work about 10 minutes later she was there with me, holding me and telling me everything was gonna be ok. She told me not to worry about what the kids at school would say and that if they knew her son like she did, I’d be the most popular guy in school. Every day I’d fight these battles. Sometimes I’d win, sometimes I’d lose, but she was always there. Sometimes to listen, other times to encourage, most often just to love.
In 9th grade I hit rock bottom with my weight. There seriously must have been rocks in my bottom because I weighed 275lbs! If you’re reading this blog there’s a chance you know the rock bottom moment. You see yourself in the mirror a certain way, or you get half way up a flight of stairs and have to stop, and you instantly get infuriated and almost want to shout “THAT’S IT!” “NO MORE.” I had that moment a lot younger than most and I instantly started trying to find ways to fix it. It started with my diet. Up until this point, I ate like a kid (I was a kid, so it made sense haha). Unfortunately, That had to stop. I started packing my lunches and my mom (supporting me as always) started working hard to make healthy dinners for the family. Our whole family rallied around me and gave up some things just to help me.
The diet was going great, but I knew I needed more. I needed to get moving too. I was never a football or basketball kind of guy, in fact the only sport I did when I was younger was swimming. One afternoon my mom and I were discussing organized options for me to get involved in and she said: “why don’t you take up swimming again?!” “You loved it as a kid, and you burn a lot of calories in the pool!” I was mortified. Just imagine the first day you joined AFS. You sat in an office with your trainer for the first time and they had you get down to just your underwear and pinched you with a cold metal device and told you how fat you were (obviously we’re a little nicer than this, but I’m sure it feels this way!)… Ok, so you’ve had that embarrassing moment with your trainer. Now imagine being 275lbs and squeezing into a speedo, then walking out onto a pool deck in front of 250 people..yeah, no. I looked at my mom like she was crazy. The truth is I really did love swimming, but I couldn’t see putting myself out there like that. The physical aspect of the swimming was one thing, but the emotional fear was a whole different animal (I’m sure you can relate). Intrinsically I didn’t have the gusto to go through with it at first, but my mom nudged me. She was so encouraging and had so much confidence that I could do it, that I actually (for a second) started to believe her.
A few weeks later I took the plunge (see what I did there 😉 ) and joined the team. Our first meet came only a few weeks after I started. I still remember sitting in the locker room before my first event. I was a nervous wreck thinking “oh my god, this speedo is small, so damn small..Am I really gonna do this?” Then I thought of my mom cheering me on. I put on the speedo, took the first few steps out onto the pool deck… and into the rest of my life as the new Chris Early. Steps I wouldn’t have taken if it wasn’t for the crazy lady in the stands incessantly clapping for me. My rock, my support, my mom.
I wrote this article because In the past few years my mom has faced some incredibly difficult health challenges. In 2012 after some complications she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent a successful procedure to remove the tumors and receive a targeted dose of chemo to kill cancer cells within the bladder. She’s since had two more procedures. In October of 2013, she had a scare when some clusters were found in her breast tissue during a routine mammogram. Luckily they were removed successfully and found to be non-cancerous. She now goes in yearly for the bladder procedure (cystoscopy) and has had several other less threatening (but still scary) health issues come up. Along with the obvious stress of worrying about her prognosis, my mom and dad are now inundated with medical bills from the storm of complications since 2012. They’re very proud people, but in the past few months I could really tell the weight of the medical debt is weighing on them.
Last week I started a private GoFundMe page for my Mom’s bills. I didn’t really think it would go any further than just family, but I should have known that my co-workers would get ahold of it. Once AFS people heard about it the page had raised over $2000 in less than 24hrs. When I logged on to check it I honestly had tears in my eyes reading the messages that Mike (our owner) and others had written with their contributions. On Friday I got a call from Nate encouraging me to let our clients know about the page. I’d never do something like this for myself, but I feel responsibility to do everything I can for my mom so I agreed to talk about it.
[actionbutton color=”#ff4301″ link=”https://www.gofundme.com/zmn3j9zj”]Visit GoFundMe Page[/actionbutton]
Even if the donation page doesn’t get inundated with contributions I still feel good about writing this blog, because I got to tell a part of my story that many have never heard. Plus, my mom will know even more about what an impact her support had on me when I needed it most. I can only hope I’m that person for my clients someday 🙂
I promise I won’t make you wear a speedo though!