Thursday, August 8, 2013

wow that is sobering

Tried to read some of this today looking for an old entry....

really hard to do...still.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Year to date, yesterday,  on the last dose of radiation.   I had no idea then that the journey would take so long on a road so short to get to where I am today.

That realization however kept me awake until late in the evening, simply being thankful I am here now and where I am at.

Never has the journey meant more to me than the destination.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Climber with Cancer


Pat's story is inspiring!


"Hi Dane, 


I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and it taught me many lessons and i learned a
lot and am still learning heaps, 11 months ago i had the biggest surprise of my life
when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant after i came home from a climbing trip
to Turkey, we were told because of my cancer i would never have children!!

I tried to share my story on your blog but it was to big so i will share it here
with you.......... if you want to share it further feel free to repost in whole or
parts.

Stay strong, believe in yourself and your inner strength, its a personal fight.

Look forward to catching you soon......

Pat



The Beginning
In 2006, I first started getting a pain in my groin area when I lay down, I thought
I was just doing to much sport, hockey, football, running and had just started
climbing. I went to my family doctor. After a routine examination, she said she was
not sure, but to go away for the long weekend ice climbing anyway. Terrific, just a
strain! Whilst I was away my doctor left me a voice mail to say she had booked a
scan, just a precaution.
"Yes," the lady scanning me said, “something’s not quite right”. She showed me on
the monitor one testicle was just black.
She said to wait there whilst she would see if the Urologist was around, he could
see me straight away, I was starting to worry now. I sat in his office as he looked
at the scans, he turned round and said you’ve got Cancer.
Shit!!!!
Bollocks!!!!! (hey but not much longer)        
But I don’t feel ill, I’m not sick and I’ve got no lumps or bumps and I’m only 35
years old. I have never done drugs or smoked, ok I like and drink or two with my
mates, “are you sure” I think I asked, although some how I already knew, he was just
confirming it.

What now? getting good medical treatment is only the first part of the secret. The
other part, the personal part, can be much more agonizing. It means getting your
head on straight and preparing yourself to deal with some very critical emotional
problems.

I knew that, win or lose, I was in for a heavy emotional trip. But I decided that,
win or lose, it was going to be a meaningful and beautiful trip. I'm still working
on it, and I'm doing the best I can, but it's not easy. I'm learning how to live,
and I wasn't prepared for the hard work of living.


First comes the bad news, then the good news.






The Bad News:
Fear of Dying
Death is unknown by the living. There's no one around who can tell you what being
dead feels like, so you're not so worried about that. The real bummer is to die
without having experienced what living feels like. That's the real cheat. Most
people suffer from the fear of living. Don't do this, don't do that; it might
involve pain, it's too risky, it's too chancy. Not too much pain, not too much joy,
just keep to the middle road with your head down to miss the flak.
Then you get slapped with the message that says: You have cancer. You make a quick
choice. Fold or go for it, back off or make that move, have your last swing on the
merry-go-round. It's very tempting to cash in your chips and tear up your membership
card in the human race.
You might voice your fear of dying by wondering, "What if I gave a funeral and
nobody came?" Self-doubts begin to play tricks with your head, like, "Does anyone
give a damn whether I live or die?" You begin to see and hear evidence that nobody
does. No one else seems panicky, just you.
The doctor is cool, scientific. Your mates and parents are cool, sad-looking. Your
work mates are cool and have a few sad, sympathetic words that sound like "have a
good trip" (to wherever), “or hang in there mate” (you fucking bet).
Maybe you pick on God. "Why me, you son of a bitch? What did I do so bad you want to
kill me, you God-creature who decides who gets the short end of the stick?"
Punishment for dimly perceived wrongs? Gray, lurking sins from memory past?
No you’ve got to focus, I’m only 35.

Fear means "they" have suddenly caught up with you.
________________________________________
Time of Death:
Unknown
The emotional strain begins with "Am I going to die right now? This week?" Then it
becomes "When will I die?" The how-long-do-I-have-before-I-die refrain goes on and
on till the end comes. This strain is sometimes unbearable when overlaid with other,
preexisting emotional problems. All your self-doubts or long-suppressed fears then
become major complications. The uncertainty of your personal time of death forces
upon you a unique philosophical dilemma: What do you do in the time you have between
now and the time you die? And you don't know exactly when that will be. You have to
be prepared to go at any time-and on short notice.
Time begins to have a different meaning for you. Time begins to mean now. Even this
breath, this heartbeat. Life becomes a numbers game. Without treatment, a 99.999
percent chance of dying. This year's treatment is better than last year's by X
percent. Brand X cancer has a 90 percent death rate. Brand Y cancer has a 10 percent
death rate (providing Z circumstances are the same). If you live 6 months after
apparent remission, odds improve that you'll live for 2 more years; 5 years clean,
odds are good for a go at 15. Everything you do, everything the doctor does,
everything in your emotional outlook and your environment changes the odds on your
living or dying.
Some of you will say, "I could get hit by a truck and die tomorrow!" Yes, but if you
never step in front of a truck, you can affect the odds greatly in favor of your
living. Once you have cancer, you have bad numbers to work with and you still have
those damned trucks to worry about.
(For all this I get a "hang in there, baby"?)________________________________________
Relating to Others
Because you have cancer, you will have problems relating to others-family, friends,
people at work, in groups. You feel different about yourself and feel that others
are treating you strangely now. You speak the word "cancer" and people step back
from your breath. It's frightening because nobody knows what it is, what causes it,
where it comes from, or how you catch it. 
It's unpredictable. You can have it and not know it. You can live with it for twenty
or thirty years. Or you can die from it next week. You may get it, be treated, feel
fine, and die sixteen years, six years, or six months later. There are no guarantees
available for any of it.
Work becomes a problem. six months lost in a Chemo haze. Ten days lost with surgery.
It is still a fight to keep the business going. Company's insurance premiums
increase. Mine cancelled, you’re too much risk, but you don’t know what I do in my
spare time, climb rock and bloody large mountains, sod the cancer.
You are the one who has to bring home the beastly news that cancer has struck. You
say the word: cancer. Tears. Crying. Grim fright. Controlled terror.
Helplessness. What would you say to someone you love who has just told you, "I could
be dying"?
"Don't go."
"When are you going to die?"
"How can you do this to me? 
You search for some way to express your love, but words stick in your throat. Trying
to breathe is more important than saying everything that is rushing through your
head. The best that you can do is tell them how much you love them, but wishing you
had someone to hold you and tell you its going to be ok. Your aging parents are
fearful of their own deaths. They can't bring themselves to even mention the word
"cancer." They don't mention it . (Are they the ones who don't come to the funeral
you give?)
Needing love and wanting to give out all the love in your body and heart before it's
too late. (Last chance before dying.)
All of a sudden I have this desperate urge to see all of my old friends, all of my
old places. Where I was born. Milestones in my history to date. Tell old friends in
faraway places that I love them. Let them know they made me happy. Thank them for
caring. Maybe they'll let me know they care too.
Please tell me I left a shadow.
New friends withdraw. Why risk sorrow and pain by caring, getting involved,
investing in someone who will leave you? You die, they cared, they hurt. You hurt
them. So you withdraw like a wretched mongrel. You don't fit in. You're only
temporary. You go out or meet people, they say you look well considering, but looks
aren’t everything
"Hang in there, baby"?
________________________________________










Side Effects
For those people who didn't have unusual discomfort before their cancer was
discovered, the treatment becomes the disease by association-the trauma of surgery
that leaves you disfigured or missing a limb, an eye, a tongue, a testicle, or a
breast. Half a face. Not quite human.
But I’m only going to be sitting in a chair while they pump some chemo into me, how
hard can that be! Ok I can’t sit still for two minutes let alone a whole day or
week.
The hair-raising ( or should that be hair losing) drama of chemo. Lets find a real
bad concoction of drugs and chemicals, but don’t worry it should work, it has on
some others already. The eerie, but kind of comforting beat of the pump that doesn’t
leave your side for weeks on end. Getting sick to your stomach and throwing up, you
thought a hang over was bad, but hey this is some session! Chemotherapy injections
three times a day, preceded by a shot in the arm or butt that knocks you out for
hours so you won't know about the searing agony your blood and veins are going
through.
Then there are the little things listed under "side effects of medication and
treatment," such as loss of hearing, feeling, taste, coordination, hair, or teeth.
Inability to chew, swallow, speak. Sterilization or reduced potency/fertility.
Arthritis symptoms, rashes, the biggest spots you’ve ever seen, getting fat, loss of
muscle and cartilage. 
I leave hospital between chemo cycles, “see you next week”, more like one or two
days, I can’t stay well, fevers, high temperatures, sickness and lack of red blood
cells, “inject yourself with this, it boost the manufacture of red cells, oh it may
hurt but atleast we will be able to keep to the chemo regime”, later on no red blood
cells, “ can’t stop the chemo now, so we will have to give you transfusions”, “OK
what ever”, I’m passed caring they could stick what ever they like in me now. . 
I used to be fit, I can hardly walk and the stairs are really hard work, will I get
fit again?
Cancer? The treatment was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.
________________________________________
Living with Cancer
"The prognosis is good," says the doctor. Evidence of remission. Blood count rising
again. Weight stable. Drop plans for chemistry maintenance program-not needed. Life
signs good. Normal recovery from surgery. Scar tissue normal for surgical operation.
Now you are faced with the problem of living with, or at least adjusting to, the
side effects of cancer treatment. The doctors don't worry too much about the side
effects. They're more concerned about keeping you alive. They consult with each
other out of your earshot, they think.
"Radical surgery!"
"Massive totalbody chemo!"
"Latest drugs, superstrength!"
"Kill that cancer now!"
"Save this person's life!"
Okay, doctors, you saved my life. Thanks. But how do I live with what life I've got
left? Even if the cancer threat is reduced or removed and the patient survives the
threat of death from cancer, the person must adjust emotionally and physically to
disfigurement, dismemberment, sterilization, or other side effects of the treatment.
What say you now, cosmic counselor:"
I remember as kid checking for monsters every night under my bed, now this monster
has me checking every night again and it visits me most nights too.
Hang in there, baby"?
________________________________________
The Good News:
A Philosophy for Living
Not wishing cancer on any living thing, I must confess it was the best thing that
ever happened to me. I'm glad it happened, because now I know what living means. I
was forced to come to terms with the concept of death, with heavy questions like:
What is the value of death? What is the purpose of living? How do I live the
lifetime I have left? The prospect of death forced me to look at the quality, value,
and purpose of my life. I had to come up with some quick answers and now there are
still more answers needed if I want to use the time allotted to me. Some answers
came, without my asking and lots are still unanswered.
I had spent months alone with my worry and anxiety, wondering how I got picked for
this death number. I remembered stories about a God. Somebody in power who could
make deals. The really important deals. I planned my case. I worked up my brief for
the judge. If there was a God, I figured, and if this God had something to do with
this bad rap, maybe this God would buy my deal. Maybe this God wasn't merciful, but
maybe this God would be susceptible to a good trade. The bargaining began.
I laid out what I had to offer, going through the details of my life--good points,
bad points, the potential in me. I was asking for a future. Some time to be in. Let
death pass me by this time, God. What do you want of me, God? What price life, God?
The answers came one Saturday morning when I arose early, fixed a cup of coffee, and
waited for the sunrise to come to my tent in the Peaks. I was wrapped in a warm
sleeping bag, thinking about this world I share with everyone. The conditions must
have been right for a proper meditation, for my mind was free of my body, of the
world, to roam over vast stretches of the universe in search of the answers.
I perceived answers to questions I didn't even know I had asked. A feeling of
understanding and unity came to me. I felt at peace with all things living or having
energy. That tree, that sparrow, that flower, that rock and I were one. Equal. You
are you, and I am I. Each of us has a meaning, a purpose, a shared existence.
Some of the answers came.
The purpose of despair is to make us hope. The purpose of pain is to give joy its
desirability. The purpose of death is to give life its value. Death offers nothing;
living includes everything. Living is experiencing all the feelings a human
existence offers. Accept what comes; good and bad are equal in value.
Risk. Risk asking yourself for all the strength within you. Risk disappointment in
order to achieve a greater sense of participating in life. Risk loving someone as
much as you can.
Do. Do as if you will achieve everything. Accept the pain when it comes. Accept the
fear when it comes. Suffer the suffering. Accept the joy, the excitement, the peace,
the tranquility, the love that comes from others and from yourself. Use the negative
to direct you to the positive. Walk through the valley of the shadow of death; there
is a better you on the other side. The sun is warmer, the people are friendlier,
life is sweeter. Your vision is sharper. You can see and hear, with your mind and
imagination, things you could not perceive before.
“You don’t need eyes to see you need vision” Faithless
You will have understanding. The benefits of a full life, but no guarantee on the
life span.
I accepted. The bargain was struck.
There are still many unanswered questions, but hey that’s my life now, today is
always better than yesterday.




What I have learned

At any moment that you find yourself hesitating or if at any moment you find
yourself putting off something until tomorrow that you could do today, then all you
need to do is glance over your left shoulder and there will be a fleeting shadow.
That shadow represents death, and at any moment it might step forward, place its
hand on your shoulder and take you. So that act that you are presently engaged in
might be your very last act and therefore fully representative of your last act on
this planet. When you hesitate or wait for tomorrow, you are acting as if you are
immortal."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Measure it!



I spend a lot of time measuring things.  I measure my work in steel to .0001" or better.  I get a consistent body weight every morning at a certain time to .1 of a pound.   I want to know how hard I can climb on rock to the letter grade or how fast I run a 5 K or a marathon to the second.

I want to know if I am in the black on a target.  Is it in the X ring or just a 10?  I want to know how many pull ups or sit ups I can do and my blood pressure and resting HR every morning.  My Max HR on the bike and the same a run.  And I want to know what my dbl boots and my bikes weigh to the gram.

I measure because I want to do better.  If you aren't measuring how do you know if you are doing better?   The fact is you don't.   The flip side of that is if you aren't getting better you are getting worse.  If you don't measure you don't know what is better or what is worse.  There is nothing that takes any kind of physical skill that stays the same for long.  Use it or loose it.  Measuring it will help you keep it or better yet, get better at it.



The better shape you stay in, the more likely your are to notice changes in your own body and it's abilities.

This is the first cross post I have done.  But it seems really appropriate.  I found my cancer (yes I originally found it, not my Doc) because I keep track of my resting heart rate and recovery while climbing and working out.  There were several indicators that I was sick.  None obvious and all were very subtle.  None of them would have indicated cancer.  To the point at my annual physical, that I intentionally did early, my family Doc said, "don't worry, it is NOT cancer".  While I never even remotely thought I had cancer I did know something was wrong, seriously wrong.  My resting heart rate would not come down to normal.  I was gaining weight no matter what I did for exercise short of starving myself and I wasn't recovering from hard physical efforts like I typically would.  I was being told, "it is just part of aging."  And I started calling "bull shit".

Thank God I measure and keep track of things.  Because cancer is best treated as early as possible.  I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  The cancer had already metastasized from my throat to my lymph glands when it was found.

If I had left my family Doctor's office and gone by what he said my prognosis even a couple of month later would have been a lot different.   As would have been the cure and then the even longer recovery.

My suggestion is eat better, exercise more and keep track on a daily basis of what your body is doing.
It is never too late to start.  Try to get your loved ones to do the same.


When asked?

I got and email the other day from a climber asking about climbing and the aftermath of cancer and getting fit again that got me thinking about writing here again.  Here is my answer:

"Cancer?  Wow, just got back from my 2nd after action PET scan a few
minutes ago.  One year out from dianosis myself.  Good for you coming
up clean.

Physically I am still surprised how tired I can get for seemingly no
reason.  One day I can run 10 miles or bike 200 and the next week or
next day for unknown reasons I'll be exhausted by something I have 
no clue about.  So that is really weird.  Big thing for me is eating
right.  Still hard to eat most things with my fried throat and back
of my mouth. Bigger yet I think is the amount of sleep I get.  I now
need 8 full hours and generally more is better.  It is getting better
but that is the one common denominator...lots of sleep. Lots of sleep.

I've ridden my road bikes back into reasonably good shape and because I am
so much lighter I am running again.  Climbing is way more fun and not
nearly as hard.  But I lost a LOT of muscle mass as well.  More than I
cared to admit.  So I need to be lighter because I am not nearly as
strong.   At least for me the mental stress or lack of it
(running/swimming/biking) all stuff I have done since I was a kid have
really helped.  Chemo fried my brain a little as well.  My memory isn't as
good, I can't concentrate as well for long periods of time and I get
stressed much, much easier.  Hard to get wound up for the hard leads now as
well.  Possible but really different now.  I literally flip some kind of
mental switch on leads now.  Very weird. How you must suffer for a serious 
workout schedule was beyond me until just recently (last month or so. You know, the really hard hammering, gonna puke kind of workouts and long days?  I am just barely starting to get there now where I use to gobble those days up like
candy.

I hope that helps some.  I don't know anyone who has been through Cancer
of any type that is reasonably fit or climbs let alone rides a bike.  Lots
of women in the Tri scene but breast cancer is so different than what I
had.  Every cancer is so different and the treatments just as different.
None of them fun by any means or suppose to do anything besides kill the 
cancer.  What it does to the rest of your body is anyone's guess is my 
take on it.

My suggestion is just give yourself some time.  Took me a couple of 
months before I could even face the possibility of having to go back 
and start over. (Cancer or fitness)  Then one day I woke up strong enough
to think I was going to be "OK".  My wife ( the real hero here) has a 
saying, "fake it till you make it".  Which is what I did till one day I 
wasn't faking it.  Then I started to get stronger even though it was months later.  Today I feel pretty puny after the CT scan and am faking
it again.  But that too will pass eventually." 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pain....

I got to thinking about this over the weekend.  I have never been terrified of pain.  Through a broken back (crusted vertebrae actually) , a number of broken legs, dislocated shoulder, too many broken fingers and toes to count and the various soft tissue injuries none of them had really slowed me down much.  None really all that noticeable as they healed up in various forms of 100%.

But this chemo/rad thing was different.  Not likely I could have dealt with it any better without the time I have spent suffering while climbing.  The exhaustion, the pain of cold or heat and dehydration all helped I think.  But it was the bike rides and various runs I have really felt pain.  Likely nothing even close to child birth but enough pain for me....that is for certain.

I read some where that if a woman could remember the pain of child birth she would never have sex again.  I think it is much the same for climbers.  If we could only remember how bad it really was we would never go back.

Then there are the bike rides and runs.   I have a lactate producing and projectile vomit induced hill climb I do on my bike.  Been riding it off and on for 7 years now and it is never easy.  In '07 and '08 I would ride it sometimes twice in a row.  Easy enough as it takes between 25 to 30 minutes at a casual pace.   And even at a casual pace it still hurts.  Last time I rode it seriously was 9/08.  Then as a measure of my fitness I began again in April '12.

Ramp the pace up to the 20 minute mark on this climb and it simply hurts.  I use to like that "hurt".  In fact I was addicted to it and wanted it everyday even when it was trashing my knees from the slow cadence back in '08.  Then with chemo I learned what pain really was.  I ground my teeth so hard they broke and didn't talk for days at a time.  I can barely remember now just how bad it really was.

My resting hear rate is now 10 beats higher than it was pre cancer.  And hitting my old "easy" working heart rate of 175 difficult, but not impossible now.   The upper LTH limit in the low 180s...even harder and more painful.  My maximum heat rates of 192 on the bike and 194 on the run I have yet to see again.
Not sure I ever will again.  The mid 180s is nasty enough right now.  I don't like the pain.  In fact I REALLY don't like the pain.  Hitting anything in the 180s simply hurts too much and I am finding myself shying away from those kinds of work outs...the same ones I use to really love.  

I am not sure I will ever again be able to deal with the pain associated with the high heart rate numbers.  Without those same high heart rate numbers I will not excel at my chosen activities.  Interesting delima.

  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hard not to be touched



If you have been around Cancer or had it this will touch you.   Sadly, I wonder how many of these kids survive the ordeal.