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Newhall Man's Loss Is A Gain For Breast Cancer Walk

Dropping 200 pounds allowed him to walk and honor those still fighting.

Mark Farnsworth is walking 39 miles in this weekend's Avon Walk for Breast Cancer because he can, and to pay tribute to his wife and daughter who supported him as he battled to drop more than 200 pounds.

Farnsworth chose the two-day Avon Walk, scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. in the Long Beach area, to celebrate the second anniversary of his gastric bypass weight-loss surgery, performed in 2007 at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

The Burbank hospital is sponsoring him in this fundraiser to help support under-insured breast cancer patients.

"I wanted to do this particular walk for a couple of reasons, selfishly because I can, but more importantly in support of all the women in my life," said Farnsworth 48, who will wear number 973676 in the walk. "I'm doing this as a tribute to my wife and my daughter, and we have some dear friends and my mother-in-law who have battled cancer. My mother-in-law is just an outstanding role model and survivor."

The walk also fell near the second anniversary of his gastric bypass.

Since his surgery, Farnsworth's blood pressure is down and his atrial fibrillation is gone. He holds onto his old size 64-waist pants as relics of a time when he passed 450 pounds on the scale.

Today he zips up the stairs at home wearing size 38 Levis and a new attitude about life.

These days, long-time friends don't recognize him, and he couldn't be happier.

He's a familiar figure walking the streets around his home in Newhall, tackling some tough hills but sticking it out. During a recent 10-mile walk, he averaged closer to 4 mph.

"I couldn't even walk that fast to the refrigerator two years ago," he quipped.

The one-time three sport school athlete owes his new life to his wife, who urged him out of procrastination and into surgery, and to the Providence Saint Joseph bariatrics team. Over the weekend, he spoke at a support group for bariatrics patients and repeated his own story about surgeon Philippe J. Quilici, M.D.

"Dr. Quilici made it clear he wasn't going to waste his time on my surgery if I wasn't going to do my part," Farnsworth said. "I was strapped down on the gurney, the IV in me and he got in my face and said 'My friend, are you ready to make a change in your life? Are you committed? Because if you're not, we're not going into surgery."

"I am just so fortunate that good people were looking out for me," said Farnsworth.

Dr. Quilici leads the award-winning weight-loss surgery program at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and his files are filled with success stories.

For three straight years, the weight-loss surgery program at Providence Saint Joseph has received top ratings for minimally invasive procedures including laparoscopic gastric bypass and lap bands.

The bariatrics program is one of only a dozen or so in the nation certified by both the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

For more information about bariatrics at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, contact Patricia Aidem at (818) 496-4780 or (818) 631-7429.

For information about the 2009 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer click here.