Friday, November 28, 2014

Living Bigger with Colostomy

One last post for today before I log off.

I believe I've mentioned Paul Riome before.  He's an ostomate from Canada who has lived his life to the fullest over getting a colostomy -- he's climbed mountains and trekked through Nepal since getting an ostomy, among other things.  I haven't been to Paul's blog in awhile, but I went to it today and read through a presentation he gave as part of receiving a "Great Comeback" award from Convatec.  There were words on one slide that I wanted to share:
I traded Rectal Cancer for a permanent colostomy. 
It was a good trade.

My colostomy was one of the best things to happen to me in my life.
I am alive, and living is everything.

Certainly the cancer and colostomy hurt me,
but it has made me a stronger and better person.

It gave me a greater appreciation for life, and made me focus on the important things.
I feel (mostly) the same way.  (It's still tough for me to say that getting a colostomy was one of the best things to happen in my life, because there's times when it still sucks. But when you put it in the context of it being something that kept you alive, how can you say that it isn't one of the best things to happen in your life?)

If you want to check out Paul's blog, you can find it here:

Awestomy / Awestomates

A friend of mine that I met at this year's Colondar photo shoot, Scott Zilverberg, is a prolific Instagram-er, and he will pretty much follow anyone.  He's a gym addict and came across another ostomate who recently competed in a bikini competition.  I think she's from Sydney.  Her Instagram user name is "_kaitb".  Check her out.

There's another guy out there who has already competed in men's physique competitions (he's competing at the national level now).  His Instagram ID is ngu_fitness1.  He's in great shape.

So, after finding these two folks, I thought it'd be cool if we could all do a show together at some point and what our team name would be.  I was thinking "Awestomy" or "Awestomates".  I Googled that to see if someone had already thought of that.  And, as I had already learned from being an intellectual property attorney, whatever I can think of, somebody else has likely already thought of it.

Sure enough.


They do have some funny t-shirts, though.  "Cool stoma, bro", "Oklastoma!", "Papa's got a brand new bag".

Still, I think I need to do some work to promote the hashtags "awestomates" and "awestomy".


Earlier this week my trainer told me that a regular at the gym who is there when I am in the mornings commented on my progress since I got serious about training back in May, and that my progress inspired/motivated him. I don't know the guy, but this totally made my day.

So, I wanted to pay this forward.

Yesterday being Thanksgiving, I want to say thanks to all of those who have inspired me over the past few years (I'd love to name names, but since I'd leave people out, I'll paint with broad strokes): everyone in the Colondar family (not just my fellow models, but all of those who volunteer countless hours of their time for the cause of raising colorectal cancer awareness); all of the other cancer warriors I have met (in personal or virtually) along the way who have had to dance with the dragon, whatever color wrist band you may wear; those who have battled back from other illnesses and setbacks (both minor and major) to return to normal day-to-day living and enjoying the activities they love; those I see in the gym who bring it every damn day (many of whom whose names I do not know) and bust their ass to work toward their goals, competitors and non-competitors alike (I see your progress and know the sacrifices you make both in and out of the gym); parents (married and single) who do their best to be good role models and provide for their kids; those who give back to the community and serve others, either through what they do as their profession or on their own times as volunteers; those who kept reaching for and ultimately achieving their dreams after suffering (sometimes heartbreaking) setbacks; those who have gotten their own business off the ground after years of planning and hard work; and those who unfailingly take the time to nurture and support their friends when they need it.

You all inspire me to be a better friend, family member, athlete and human being.


Hey gang, it's been too long since I've posted.  I've had lots to say, almost too much, and rather then just write it out as it comes, I've let it build to the point where everything I want to say and report what's been happening in my life since the spring is too much to put into one post.  So, I'll let it trickle out bit by bit, without making any terrible attempt to tie everything together.

Here goes.

I've done a few things to take control of my life, since, back in the spring, I felt some things had slipped away from me.  One of those things was my health.  I'd like to think I'm an active, in-shape guy, but if I take an honest look at the past twenty years of my life, I'd say I've spent more time out of shape than in shape.

When I'm busy or stressed, good eating and exercising are always the first two things to go out the window.  And if I'm down or depressed about things (like being out of shape), it's very difficult to get the motivation to get out of that rut and start exercising again, especially when you've let yourself go to the point where the road to getting back to decent shape is such a long one.  And earlier this year, I was all of the above -- busy, stressed and down about things.

My physical conditioning after cancer treatment has been a series of ups and downs.  Soon after I completed my treatment, I was determined to get back into shape and picked a goal of doing something I had never done before -- do a 100 mile bike ride.  And that was great.  I was motivated to show cancer who was boss, and I hit my goal in June 2011 when I did the Denver Century ride.  I followed that up with the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver then Party, a 200 mile ride over two days) and another century ride, but then I let things slide since I didn't have a next goal lined up.

The next spring, in 2012, was when I was picked to be in the Colondar.  Having your picture taken for a calendar is a tremendous motivator for getting in shape, so I got a trainer and got back into decent shape for that.
[I think it's a sad commentary on my perspective on my own health that I had to have something like having my picture taken for a calendar to light a fire under my ass to get back in shape after I had gone through having had cancer.  Cancer!  Shouldn't having a life-threatening disease inspire and motivate me every day to stay in shape?  Apparently not.  I needed something like a calendar photo shoot to get me motivated.]
But again, after the photo shoot, with no goal lined up for me, I once again let things go.  And that's how things went for the next year or so.

In the fall of 2013, with me still in my post-cancer drift, knowing that I needed a goal to inspire me to get back into shape and with the five year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis a year and a half away, I started thinking of what kind of physical goal I could set for myself that was truly beyond what I thought I was capable of doing.  Two things came to mind -- competing in a men's physique competition (If you don't now what it is, Google it -- I've always had a bit of a fascination about bodybuilding, to be honest) or competing in an Ironman triathlon (I've always enjoyed endurance events and had been toying around with trying some multi-sport events for quite awhile.  Problem is I ultimately injure myself whenever I try to get back into running, and I've never really taken to swimming in my life).  I knew that either one would take serious dedication and determination, but that was the point.  The challenge had to be hard.  Something outside of my comfort zone.  Something where I could fail.

So even though I had some ideas on what I wanted to do athletically for my five year cancerversary goal, I didn't do much about it last fall and this spring, even though I had started dating a woman who was training hard to compete in her own bodybuilding competition.  You'd think that dating someone who was living the bodybuilding lifestyle would inspire me to take it up, but it didn't.  I toyed around with it, and talked some talk, but when it came down to actually getting my ass to the gym and putting in the work I always came up with lame excuses.  I was still drifting, unsure of my future in Portland, and unsure of where the relationship that I was in was heading.

Eventually, spring rolled around and things weren't going well for me, physically or professionally.  I had thrown out my back for the umpteeth time and was hobbling around for quite awhile.  One morning, when I was feeling particularly heavy and decided I got up the courage to step on the scale and see how bad things had gotten, I weighed 252 pounds.  I had broken the 1/8th-of-a-ton barrier.

"Ugh.  I disgust myself."

For me, that was it.  That was going to be my rock bottom and I was going to dig out from there.  Mentally, I prepared myself for that wherever I was going to end up, it was going to be a long road.  And no matter where I was going to go, the first thing I had to do was get my back to fully heal.

And so it began.

In early March, after a few visits to the chiropractor and doing a lot of core strengthening exercises and stretching, my back felt strong enough to try and run.  My first few runs were pathetic.  18 minutes was all my lungs, legs and back would allow.  Two days later I was able to go 19 minutes, but I doubled over at the end, clutching my knees and sucking for air.  I couldn't believe how out of shape I had gotten so quickly.

"You turn 45 in a few months, Doug.  Welcome to Middle Age."

In years past when I would (try) to run regularly, I'd scoff at running anything less than 30-35 minutes of running as not being worth my time, and not being worthy of a workout. 

I started running three times per week, increasing my runs by no more than one minute or one-tenth of a mile.  At the end of April, two months later, I had lost about 10 pounds and was up to three miles or so with runs.  My core was feeling stronger with all of the rehab exercises I had been doing, my legs were starting to feel stronger, and my lungs had adjusted to the cardio volume.

Once I had this fitness base, I decided to start pursuing a 5-year cancer treatment goal. I began cycling regularly and I got a trainer so that I would have someone to motivate me and hold me accountable when it came to lifting.

I got to my trainer when I was about 240# and over the next three months he whipped me into shape.  The hour or so when you're in the gym is important, but it's the other 23 hours during the day that make or break fitness success.  My trainer is a magician with diet, and he gave me a high-protein diet that was able to fuel my training (lifting, running and cycling), and allow me to lean out while keeping the muscle I was building up.

I was able to get to my goal of losing 40# before my 45th birthday.  Here's the progress photos.  I'm pretty damn pleased.

After reaching this "lean-out" goal, I decided to go for it and commit to competing in a men's physique competition.  (I hurt myself running, so this decision was easily made for me.  No Ironman.)  So, right now, I'm trying to bulk up and add as much size (muscle) to me as I can, and then when Jan. 1 rolls around, we start cutting for the show, which is May 1.  Here's my current progress.  I'm around 225-230# right now.

So, that's where I am with my health right now.  Sometimes it seems like my life revolves around work, lifting at the gym, doing cardio, and meal prep.  But I'm enjoying the process.  Looking forward to facing this challenge and getting up on stage.  Here's the poster for the show I'm doing:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Today's Memorial Day.  Whereas last year I was lounging on the beach on SoCal with some great friends, this year it kinda of snuck up on me and I didn't make any plans.  So, a quiet, lazy Memorial Day this year for me.  Right now, just drinking coffee with a fire roaring in the fireplace.

I apologize for being silent.  A lot has been happening in my life and a mega-post brewing in my head.  I hope to post something soon.  I've been waiting for some events and thoughts to gel, and for a solid block of time to put everything down.  I'm heading to Nashville for the Colondar 2015 photo shoot next week and I hope that the flight there will give me a nice quiet block of time to get everything down.  My recent posts probably haven't haven't been the brightest of posts, but the next one will be different.  Things are very good in my life right now.

In the mean time, I want to share a post from Nathan Bond of "Team Bond".  I'm sure I've mentioned Nate before in my blog, but he was supposed to be with me in the 2013 Colondar (we had the same diagnosis - stage 3 rectal cancer) but had to stay home to support and help his wife, Elisa, who was suffering a metastatic breast cancer recurrence.  It's a heartbreaking story -- a young couple with a young daughter both receiving diagnoses of cancer at roughly the same time.  Elisa lost her battle earlier this year.  Their story received some media coverage and has touched people the world over.  I share this post because Nate has taken the best stab yet in describing how cancer impacts those close to someone who loses their battle.

I guess one reason I'm sharing this is with some screening, at least for colorectacal cancer, we'll never hear fewer stories like.  Get screened, folks.

Here's a link to a Today show episode describing their story:

Here's a link to the Team Bond Facebook page:

And here's Nate's post:

It has been very difficult for me to sit down and write an update on how Sadie and I have been doing. I have started several times and just like the hundreds of Thank you cards that I have not written the inertia is getting hard to get past. It is still such a raw and painful place to go, but at the same time there is so much joy with Sadie and so much gratitude for all of the amazing outpouring of support and love and sympathy.
I think one of the first things I have to say is thank you. Thank you to everyone who was able to come to see Elisa off and share their love and pain. Thank you to everyone who texted me several times a day to make sure I am eating (I still don’t have much drive to eat but at least it is a habit again). Thank you so much to all of the amazingly generous donations to The Sadie Education Fund (the trust for her has been set up and the money is safely secured and ear marked for education only!) Thank you for all of the beautiful cards and emails that I have gotten.
I have so much to be grateful for in this life, and you have all helped me see more of that for several years now.
I guess on to how we are. Mostly, I am not sure what to do these days about a lot of things. For one, I am not sure if I should continue to post on the blog. On the one hand it feels sacred to me and that no one should touch it, and on the other I feel as though I have some strange responsibility to keep it up. To continue the openness of this journey that Elisa and I started on and so many people shared with us. I am just unsure what I will do as I am with everything else - except Sadie. I feel as though parts of my organs are missing. I mean this figuratively since I am literally walking around without part of my organs from my tumor removal surgery. Nothing feels right in my body, mind or soul. I have no idea if that will ever change. I imagine it won't and just like how having cancer physically and psychologically changes you, you just adjust to a new normal.
The reasons why I am considering continuing with the blog are fairly simple. The first reason is that I feel like Elisa will be coming to correct all my grammar and spelling as soon as I finish writing and part of me hopes that will come true (I will do my best my love). The other and more sane reason is that so many people have written and told Elisa and I, that our being open about our cancer and the trials and love that it brought to us has helped people in some way. So many many people have said this, that no matter how unbelievable it stills seems to me, it must be true. And so I suppose then that it might help others if I continue to talk honestly about what this journey, which is continuing, is like. This loss, this gapping wound that has been torn into the heart of so many people who loved Elisa, is part of that journey. Cancer doesn't stop its vicious ravaging of your heart when someone dies from it. In fact, it spread to the hearts of hundreds more I think. One of the feelings I have had through all of this, especially towards the end as everything became more painful, more difficult and less likely for a positive outcome, was that I should not look away. It was so important not to miss any moment of being in life with Elisa and to do this I had to be completely present. For me that means that you have to be willing to hurt right along with and long after the person you love is hurting. Not to deny what was happening, not to allow false hopes or dreams to cloud my eyes so that I could see her completely and be with her completely for every minute that I was blessed to have with her. So perhaps if I can stand it, or if anyone can stand reading it, I may write about what this process is like, for me and Sadie. I don't really know.
I continue to be amazed, as Elisa and I were from the very start, at the incredible compassion, love and generosity of thousands of friends and strangers alike. It is so heartwarming and reassuring to me that when I look at Sadie and think about the world that she is living in and the pain that she will be unfolding for a lifetime, that I know she is so immensely loved by so many, and cheered on by so many from all around the world. Thank you all so very much for that, for the solace I take in that is quite great. I am also amazed at the strength and emotional insight that Sadie processes. She is able to say when she is upset and sad about mommy. She is able to have real, (short) conversations about her feelings. She has dealt with it with a bravery that she does not even realize she has yet. Another beautiful quality handed down to her from Elisa.
She will stop in the middle of playing with me and ask a question like “Will mommy die again?” or make a statement like “I have dark hair and you have dark hair and when mommy had hair her hair was dark”. And after a short discussion she goes back to happily playing. She is able to process in her own way and at her own pace and for that I am so grateful, and a bit jealous. I often feel like someone else holds the remote to my brain and changes the channel at really inappropriate times. Whereas Sadie clearly is her own broadcasting network.
We spend a lot of time together, we help keep each other strong and feeling safe I think. She certainly keeps me focused on what is important and beautiful in this world, and we still smile and laugh a lot, together.
That is all I can write for now. I hope to be able to be a strong as Elisa was and to keep sharing this journey. Thank you again for all of your love and support and also for your understanding and patience if you are waiting for a Thank you card - they are coming…..soonish.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I ran 2.5 miles this morning.  No great shakes, and in the past I'd scoff at running such a short distance, but today's run was my first run in my fourth week of running since hurting my back in February.  So, 2.5 miles is big stinking deal to me right now.  Every run I'm feeling a little bit stronger, which only tells me out of shape I was running-wise a month ago.  I really haven't run steadily in such a long time.  Yet, it's the best exercise I've found for getting into shape.  (Started running with my heart monitor.  My heart rate averages 155 bpm, which is way higher than the 125 bpm I average when cycling.)  And today, I didn't want the run to end.  I was feeling it -- got into a groove, and just wanted to keep on running.  Every single one of my prior attempts at running steadily in life have ended due to injury, usually overuse.  I hope that doesn't happen this time.  I really don't.  I'm trying to be so careful, stretching and doing core strengthening exercises like crazy.  I just want to get to the point where I can put on the shoes, plug in the earbuds and just run until I feel like I don't want to run anymore, no matter how long that is.  I wanna be Forrest Gump.

A photo from my run.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Just got done reading the biographies of the folks who will be featured in the 2015 Colondar and who I'll be meeting at the upcoming photo shoot in June.  The folks at The Colon Club did a good job with this bunch.  These models' stories are as inspirational and moving as any other year's models.  Their stories are important reminders about life -- how fragile it is, what to cherish in it and how to live it.  Timely reminders for me given what I've gone through the past few months.

I had planned to spend the rest of the day catching up on work as my work plate overfloweth, but after reading all of those stories the LAST thing I want to do is hunker down and read through a bunch of patent applications.  Especially when it's such a beautiful spring day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bittersweet symphony

I've hit a bit of turbulence the past few weeks (months, actually) in my life and I think things are finally settling down a bit.  Work-wise, the new job responsibilities I was given at the start of the year got a bit overwhelming at times.  I was totally thrown into the deep end.  Learn as you go.  Sink or swim.  Plenty of self-doubt about my abilities and whether I even wanted to do this, but I think I've righted the ship.  Still, some challenging times ahead.  And yes, still better than private practice.

On the personal side of life, it looks like my most recent attempt at a romantic relationship has run its course.  I'm bummed.  I'm sad, really.  I really gave this one a shot.  I met a woman, dug her chili (big time), had high hopes, and despite my best attempts, it's not there.  I know this happens, but when it's the same outcome over and over and over, you start blaming yourself and beating yourself up, which isn't a terribly productive exercise, and it makes you more and more reluctant to throw your hat in the ring again.

On top of it all, I threw out my back in a big way in early February and have been slowly regaining the ability to exercise again.

Anyways, with work and personal stressors abating, I feel I've regained some control of my life.  When things were getting rough, I just wanted to quit.  Everything.  Give up on the job, the relationship, Portland.  Everything.  Just cash in my chips, let loose the moorings, and go.  Travel.  Explore.  See the world and have some adventures.  Consequences be damned.  The easy way out. 

But now, I'm motivated to meet these challenges head on.  I've already mentioned how things are getting better at work.  I really think I can pull it off.  Once I get everything set up, I'll be able to run my own show the way I want to run it.  It could be a very good gig.

Physically, I put on even more weight the past few moths.  Ugh.  I feel like a fat slob.  Exercise and good eating habits are always the first two things to go for me when things get busy and stressful.  It's amazing I let this happen, considering I was dating one of the fittest and health conscious people I have ever met.  But I did. The back has healed up a bit and I've been biking and running again.  I've cleaned up some of my bad eating habits and am motivated to get back into some semblance of shape over the remainder of the year.

And mentally, I've decided to start seeing a therapist again.  First appointment is next Monday.  I'm so tired of relationships not working out.  To me, it's clearly a "Doug" thing ("it's not you it's me" truly applies to me) and hopefully a therapist can help me out.  They've been helpful in the past.

So, I have my challenges laid out before me.  Work.  Physical.  Personal.  And none of these are small challenges.  They're each going to take a lot of work and commitment on my part to come out ahead.

I came across this NYT article last week about Stuart Scott, the ESPN anchor who continues to battle cancer and is fighting the good fightt:  It's a good read and contained this powerful and chilling photo.

I've been thinking a lot about that slogan on his t-shirt -- EVERYDAY I FIGHT.  I'm no longer fighting cancer, but I still need to fight everyday to regain my physical health, to stay balanced, to work out some personal issues that are holding me back, to put things in place in my life that will allow me to live the remainder of my life the way I want to live it.  And it is a fight.  That's how I have to view it.  A fight.

Everyday I fight. 
Every. Single. Day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Other People Matter

I said in my last post I could write at length about each of the bits of life advice I've been contemplating of late, "other people matter" being one of them.  I just Googled it.  Plenty's already been written.


Threw out my back (for the umpteeth time -- old college injury) in a big way about a month ago.  It was terribly painful and I've been working on recovery.  Lots of stretching.  Lots of core exercising.  Lots of all the things that people are supposed to do before exercising that I used to laugh at when I was in my 20s.  Got back to running just this week and things are holding up.  18 mins on Sunday.  19 minutes on Tuesday.  20 minutes tonight.  Feels like I'm running six minute miles when I'm going, I'm working so hard, but when I look at my smartphone, I'm lucky if I'm running 10 minute miles.  Gotta start somewhere.  It's been awhile since I've ran regularly.  One step at a time.  Patience.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


It's Sunday night -- the end of a weekend spent logging some much needed "Doug time".  Both my work and personal lives have been busy and stressful of late, and I needed a weekend of solitude to just escape the stimulus of everyday living and to give myself the time to do some thinking.  A good friend of mine, her family has a cozy little cabin on Forest Service land around Mt. Hood and I went there to get away.  Friday night was books and Scotch in front of a fireplace, Saturday was snowboarding at Mt. Hood Meadows, Saturday night was more reading and whisky, and Sunday was snowshoeing up the White River valley.

I'm perfectly comfortable with me as my only company at times and I didn't miss having people around for one second this weekend.  In fact, going to Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort, which was just seething was people, was a bit of a bummer.  I wanted some physical activity to get the blood pumping this weekend, and thought I'd buy a lift ticket to get snowboard as a treat to myself, but there was just so many people on the hill that the long lines to get on the lift were a downer.  I had some fun moments zipping down the hill and testing out my incredibly limited boarding skills, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

Sunday was another story.  It was just tremendous.  Staying at the cabin, I was already on the mountain when I woke up, which put me way ahead of the Portland hordes that were driving their way up.  That means I got to the White River sno-park early, with only one other party gearing up as I entered the lot.  I passed them quickly on the trail and as soon as they were out of earshot, I felt I had the entire mountain to myself.  The weather was amazing.  Clear skies, not too cold.  And the mountain was showing off a billowy gown of white from the recent snow dump we've had the past few days.  Postcard perfect.

About a mile and a half from the parking lot, the trail hits a morraine wall and if you want to keep going, you have to go straight up.  There were a few tracks from one or two other early risers and from snowshoers from the day before, so I felt good about the avalance concerns and headed up.  Once I gained the morraine ridge, the already fantastic views opened up further.  I could see the upper lifts of the Timberline ski resort to the northwest and Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington to the south.  And with me forging new tracks in the new snow, with all the conifers covered in snow -- it was just perfect.  I couldn't have been more content.  Even though it was over 6,000' up and many miles away, I felt like I could keep going to the summit if I wanted to.

It's been a long time since I had woken up early to head up the side of a real mountain in the middle of winter, and gearing up and putting on the sunscreen took me back to when I was really into mountaineering and did this kind of thing more often.  That was back when I first moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1998 and got into mountaineering.  (I left in 2003 to move back to Wisconsin to spend more time with family and eventually go to law school.) But when I was living in Washington I really spent a lot of time in nature.  In the mountains.  And I miss that.  One of the best periods of my life was the 9 months of so when I was working part time for Intel and working remotely from Wisconsin.  I finally had all of the free time that I had longed for so I could pursue the outdoor adventures I wanted to.   I hiked the Wonderland Trail (the trail around Mt. Rainier).  I even organized an expedition to climb Denali.  It's amazing to think that this May it'll have been TEN YEARS since that Denali trip.

I don't need to necessarily take up mountaineering again, but I do realize after this weekend that I need to make it a priority to spend more time outdoors.  I want to recapture a bit of that old Doug.  I've been letting some real life practicalities weigh me down and I've been making excuses for not getting out amongst it.  I finally have a job that allows me more work/life balance than what I had at my private law firm, and I need to take full advantage of it.  This job does not give me all the time that I need to go off and do the adventures that I REALLY want to do, but that's another issue.  I've worked so hard to get where I am profesionally, but I think some changes need to be made to get me where I want to be lifewise  Some changes that may require me to give up some of what I've worked so hard to get.

Anyways, I could write tens of thousands of words about everything that's on my mind and the kinds of things I was thinking about this weekend, and just scratch the surface.  But, for whatever reason, I feel its worth sharing some of the advice that I've gotten over the past 25 years of my life that I find myself keep coming back to over and over again in the years since being diagnosed, including this weekend.  Again, each one of these I could write on at length, but I'll just put them out there and leave it at that.

1.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.
2.  Happiness comes from within.
3.  Other people matter.
4.  The most powerful thing in the world is love.
5.  A person builds a life.


Another quick topic.  Chapters.

If I were write a book abut my life, it's very clear what the chapters would be.  It hasn't always been clear to me at the time when one chapter has ended and another has started, but looking back, it's clear when the page turned to a new phase of my life. 

So, here's how I see the chapters of my life:

1.  Growing up -- Everything up through finish High School.
2.  College, Part 1 -- My first two years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
3.  Virginia -- My internship at IBM in Manassas, Virginia during my junior year of college.  It was only six months, but it was my first exposure to the "real world."  Eye opening.
4.  College, Part 2 -- Finishing my undergraduate degree, two internships with IBM in Rochester, MN.  Getting my Masters Degree.
5.  Austin -- My first "real" job, with Motorola.  Made many life-long friends during this time.
6.  Intel -- Moving to the Pacific Northwest to work for Intel.  (There was no way I was ever going to stay in Texas -- I knew that going into my Motorola job)  Finding my birth family.  Moving back home to Wisconsin.
7.  Law School -- Back in Madison for three years.
8.  World Tour -- Spent three and half months traveling around the world.
9.  Law firm, Pt. I -- Start of my legal career as a patent attorney.
10. Cancer -- The diagnosis and treatment part of cancer.
11. Post Cancer / Law firm Pt. II -- The remainder of my time in private practice.
12.  Post Cancer / Back at Intel -- Making a significant work/life change to a job situation that is sustainable.  Where I am now.

Not sure how long of a chapter this last chapter will be.  It could easily take me to retirement or it could take me to next spring, at which point I quit my job for adventures unknown.  I think about this latter scenario a lot.  I like my job, I find it challenging, and it pays very well, but 45 is looking me square in the face, and there's things I want to do with my life that I don't want to put off much longer.  Tomorrow is promised to nobody and, 5, 10, 15, or 20 years from now I don't want to find myself in a situation where I can't do the things that I want to do.  I don't want to have any regrets.