In 2011, Cameron Summerson changed careers. He went from working an active job at a school district, which allowed him to walk up to 7 miles a day, to being a full-time writer. His active work life shifted to sitting behind a computer for hours every day, forcing him to essentially become completely sedentary. He knew he was gaining weight — standing 5-foot-6-inch with a small frame, it was easy to put on pounds. He had weighed about 150 pounds for most of his adult life. By 2013, however, he hit 210 pounds.
At the end of that year, Summerson decided to get serious about losing weight. He and his wife somewhat haphazardly walked into a bike shop, and, an hour later, he walked out owning a Specialized Sirrus bike, by far the fanciest two-wheeled contraption he’d ever owned.
Summerson started training right away, thanks to the mild winters in his home state of Texas. At first, he couldn’t ride for more than 5 miles without a rest, and he lost only 5 pounds his first month on the bike. “Frustration crept in,” he says. “And I almost gave up.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, he stumbled onto an article about the theory of “calories in, calories out” (CICO), a simple and useful metric for weight loss. It dawned on him his diet might be the reason his weight-loss progress was so slow. This is when Summerson downloaded MyFitnessPal and turned his attention to tracking his caloric intake every day. This, and tracking his calories burned on the bike, was a game-changer. By the end of 2014, he’d lost 45 pounds, weighing in at 165. Still, he wasn’t at his optimal weight in BMI terms.
What happened next would change Summerson’s life more dramatically than his weight-loss success. In December 2014, his youngest son, Ax, was diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome, a life-threatening kidney condition. Ax was two years old at the time. Soon after the initial diagnosis, the doctors delivered the news that the condition was chronic and Ax would need a kidney transplant. Summerson decided immediately he would be first on the list to be Ax’s donor.
While Ax went on regular dialysis until he weighed enough to be eligible for the transplant, Summerson turned his attention to getting into the best shape of his life in preparation for donating his kidney. To say he was motivated is an understatement.
The use of various technologies allowed Summerson to pull together all his good intentions and organize his efforts around fitness and continued weight loss. In addition to MyFitnessPal, he used a number of smart tools and apps to track his cycling miles, record and share his progress and guide his work on the indoor bike.
On October 9, 2017, Summerson walked into the hospital for surgery at a lean 136 pounds, stronger than he’d ever been, both physically and psychologically. He was a man on a mission. “My son was my motivation for training,” he says. “Every time I wanted to back off, I thought about him. I thought about everything he had been through, how hard he fought every single day just to be normal. The emotional response was everything I needed to get through the toughest of workouts.”
While surgeons removed Summerson’s kidney, another team was prepping Ax to receive his dad’s kidney just a mile down the street at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. After much recovery time and many medication adjustments, the transplant was deemed a success.
Summerson’s commitment to better health started as a purely personal pursuit, but it turned into a much more important endeavor. Luckily, the result was a double benefit: It catapulted him to excellent health and saved his young son’s life. Soon, he hopes they’ll be riding bikes together, enjoying their renewed health.