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Chef Jeremy Blythe received gastric bypass surgery in his effort to lose weight, but it revealed he had thyroid cancer.
Land O’Lakes Chef Jeremy Blythe teaches culinary class and runs a bakery, so he is constantly surrounded by food. He’s learned to change his mindset that food is the first medicine and he’s not on the weight loss journey alone.
Since gastric bypass surgery, the team at Tampa General Hospital has been helping guide that journey.
“The durability of it comes from working with a clinical team. That’s where we can help, we have psychologists, nurse practitioners, dietitians, we have an exercise physiologist,” said Dr. Christoper DuCoin, Director of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at Tampa General Hospital.
Dr. DuCoin says the weight loss was life-saving for Blythe in ways more than the numbers on the scale.
Weighing 615 pounds at one point, Blythe says every aspect of his life was affected by his size.
The classically-trained pastry chef started his career about 13 years ago. He used to work in the hotel industry but found he loves sharing his passion for cooking in the with his students.
“It brings me joy, it makes me happy, and it allows me to be able to be creative and it allows me to bring creativity to younger students,” said Blythe.
While cooking brings Blythe joy, he says his relationship with food has been a lifelong battle.
“I’ve always had a very tumultuous relationship with food. It’s always been a very emotional relationship,” said Blythe. “Growing up there was always just, you eat to feel better, I always ate for sadness.”
“I really let things kind of get out of control to a point where I got into a car accident because I had sleep apnea so bad that I didn’t do anything about it, I let it go untreated and fell asleep on my way to work one morning,” said Blythe.
That’s when Blythe knew he had to make life-saving changes. He lost weight, had gastric bypass surgery, has since lost more than 200 pounds and feels better. “Not worrying about being in a car and will the seat belt fit in this car? Putting my shoes on easily, simple things, finding clothing,” said Blythe.
The weight loss would uncover something else. Blythe’s doctor discovered a cancerous tumor during a follow-up visit.
“For Jeremy, it was a glandular disease in his neck. It was thyroid cancer, actually,” said DuCoin. “When he lost the weight we could actually see the goiter and saw that he had cancer.”
“The reason it was never noticed was because my neck was so much bigger,” explained Blythe. “A huge save that having those extra 200, 250 pounds on him, we probably would have never noticed,” said DuCoin.
Blythe attributes the surgery and weight loss to finding the tumor and says he is currently being treated. Meantime, he says it’s helpful for him to stay focused on sharing his cooking expertise with his class and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
The teacher has been transparent about his entire journey with his students. “It’s just cool to see that how even with the struggles he keeps going and he keeps encouraging us as well, that’s a big part of the reason why I want to go to culinary school after high school,” said 11th grader, Lilly Orndorff.
He and his wife started Sunshine State Sweets Bakery out of their home in 2021.
“I just decided that I wanted to try to make an official go of it,” said Blythe.
The day Spectrum Bay News 9 caught up with him at his home bakery, he was filling an order of cake pops for a baby shower.
Constantly being surrounding by food in the bakery and the classroom can make a weight loss journey difficult but Blythe says he’s finding the right balance and mindset.
“Eating to live instead of living to eat, I guess is what I’m trying to keep my focus on because I realize that that’s the healthy path.”
For Blythe, that path also includes focusing on his business and the travel blog he and his wife enjoy posting.
“We’re finally going on a cruise to Alaska,” said Blythe, excited about his healthier lifestyle. “I don’t want to be back at that place where everything was really hard to do,” said Blythe, who also celebrates his changed relationship with food.
He’s ready to keep putting the work in to continue living a longer, healthier life.