CANNONSBURG, Ky. (KT) – Dicky Tiller isn’t half the man he used to be. Literally.
The Kentucky Baptist pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in northeastern Kentucky weighed in at 768 pounds five years ago.
Today he’s at 388 pounds and losing weight every week. The personable 49-year-old pastor has a community of friends and family behind him who he says has cheered him on every step of the journey.
He also has a deep faith that he credits for making it happen.
“I knew God wasn’t through with me yet and it was time to do my part,” said Tiller, who has been a pastor for 12 years. “I’ve had encouragement of other ministries, my family and everybody I know. Dr. (Eric) Smith was fantastic and his staff was great.”
Smith, a Georgetown doctor who went to Boyd County High School, did the medical weight loss surgery. Tiller has an affinity for Boyd County, where he has been involved in sports programs for years through broadcasting games and keeping the scorebook in baseball.
Tiller says he still has a long way to go but the 350 pounds of weight lost has given him a new lease on life.
“It was just the right thing to do,” he said. “God tells us to take care of ourselves. It’s embarrassing to let yourself get into situations like I did. God wants us to be healthy to go and serve Him.”
Tiller stayed in the pulpit at Liberty but he had to be seated and visiting became an impossible chore too. Three years ago his wife, Judy, died after a bout with cancer. He was devastated by that loss.
“Before she went home to the Lord, she made me promise to do whatever I could to become healthier,” Tiller said.
He had tried surgical weight loss before when he was at his heaviest. He lost 29 pounds to 739 and the surgery was scheduled. But they couldn’t do it because his stomach was too thick, he said.
“It was really disappointing. I gained the weight back and got big again.”
Eddie Barker, a former member at Liberty and the pastor at West Pineville Baptist Church, called him one day to tell him that he had gone through a weight-loss surgery and wanted him to meet his doctor, who graduated from Boyd County in 1992 and held the school field goal record.
“I told him I’d pray about it,” Tiller said. “He said, ‘You can pray all you want but you have an appointment on Tuesday.’”
Tiller went to the appointment, liked what he heard and began the journey again. He had to lose some weight before the surgery could be done. He also found support from many in the community, including a heart surgeon, Dr. David Bush, who told him it was a risk but it was more of a risk to not do it, Tiller said.
The procedure was supposed to take a little under two hours but his lasted much longer. “I was the first one at 7 a.m. and the second patient was still waiting at noon,” he said.
The problem was the same as before with the stomach lining being too thick. When they came into the waiting area to tell family and friends, Barker begged them to try again because it may be his last chance at surgery.
Five weeks after the surgery he developed a rare hole in his stomach, Tiller said. “It wasn’t even where they did the cutting. It was above all that.”
Tiller was in ICU for 18 days and was kept alive by IVs for 2½ months. “That was awful,” he said. “I have a great church family and a lot of Christian friends, people who continue to support me. I have my coaching family at Boyd County, my church family, my sisters who got me through that.”
Most of all though, he said it was God Almighty who pulled him through it all.
“I give God all the praise for this,” he said. “It was my fault. Nobody did this to me.”
Tiller said he weighed about 175 pounds as a senior who played in the band at Boyd County. He’s not sure when his weight went spiraling out of control but said he “woke up one day and weighed 700 pounds.”
Tiller wasn’t able to exercise or do normal activities. Special accommodations had to be made for him to broadcast football and basketball games.
But life has changed for the good with the weight loss. He talks about the victory of walking a block away from his job at a radio station or strolling downtown to have lunch.
More surgeries await to cut off the skin that once held the nearly 400 pounds that he lost.
But he’s standing in the pulpit and praising God for giving him another shot at being the pastor he was meant to be.
“The goal has always been to serve the Lord together,” he said, talking about his late wife. “It’s hard to serve without your wife. I don’t think God intended for a minister to do that. It’s so difficult without her. I try to keep on keeping on.”