Sunday, August 9, 2015

More Bios

Still writing bios.  Still deep in thought.  More than halfway there.

I've got my head into the story of my third charge, Maegan ("the princess") from Georgia, and I just realized that all four of the Colondar models that I'm writing up are stage IV cancer survivors.  None of them are completely in remission and three of them are actively fighting.

I'd be lying if it hasn't taken a little bit of a toll.  Don't get me wrong, their stories are inspirational, but when you see such good people still fighting a battle where there's some uncertainly in the outcome, it can bring you down a bit.

That might be some of the reason why these bios are taking a little longer for me to write this year.  I need to clear my head and come up for air every now and then.  I need a break between writing the individual bios.  I know that was certainly the case when I interviewed each of them in Tennessee.  After an intense two hour interview where both me and the model would up crying at some point, I needed some time to clear my head and process.

OK.  Back to it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bio Writing

Colon Camp was almost two months and I'm still banging away on these Colondar bios.  They're done soon and I need to bang these puppies out, but they simply can't be rushed.  This writing is so unlike anything else I do.  I don't know what the bio is going to be about until I've started writing it for awhile, and I'm often changing not insignificant things until the very end.

I feel these bios write themselves.  I spend some time soaking up all of the information about each model I have -- their application, the long bio that they provide, their application photos, and my interview notes (which can be quite a few pages, especially if we have an interview that went over two hours).  Often I'll read through a bit of their own personal blog and their Facebook pages to learn a bit more about them.

And then once I have all of that information, I sit and let it all percolate.  Many of these bios are smart cookies and/or eloquent writers, and the bios that they provide with their application would be just fine for telling their story in a widely-distributed publication, with only minor tweaks.

So what's my role then?

Good question.

The bio that each model provides is usually typical a description of events that happened to them in chronological order.  That's exactly what we ask of them, but what we want to appear in the Colondar is more of a story.  Something that's a little shorter than what they typically provide (there's no room to tell the world everything about each model that we would love to tell).  We want their story to be something positive, inspiring and/or uplifting; something unique to them; and (at least for the bios I write) to be a bit informative about CRC awareness.

I just banged out my first one, which took quite a while to get done, which leaves only 3 left.  I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, which is definitely an albatross around my neck on this task, but I keep working on the stories until they're done.  And the stories tell me when they're done.

To borrow the Ernest & Julio Gallo tagline, "I will deliver no bio before it's time."

The writer deep in thought.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Colondar 2016 Photo Shoot -- Back at "Colon Camp"

June 3, 2015

Quiet morning in rural Tennessee on the back deck of The Five Star Lodge, the location again for this year’s Colander photo shoot.  Nothing but me and a cup of coffee, with a bunch of birds (mostly woodpeckers) as background noise.

Quiet morning.

So good to be back.  Walking into the lodge yesterday just felt so much like coming home, like I had left last year’s photo shoot just yesterday.  These people are like family to me.  I was telling some of my Portland friends last week that I could see myself coming back for just a few years as a writer since it *is* a week of vacation I have to burn to come here, and I think it’d be fair to give another person a chance to be a writer and have the opportunity to come back to “colon camp” and contribute to the Colander.  There are more than a few good writers in the Colander family.

But after walking in the door last night … I think it may be awhile before I give this up.  Being a writer for the Colander is my lone serious volunteer activity, and I enjoy giving back to this very worthy cause, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get anything personally out of this for me.

The last six months have been pretty busy/hectic/stressful for me, with work and training, and this is a welcome break.  A year ago I had just started piecing some aspects of my life back together, and was frayed at the edges.  This year, I’m in such a better place, I’m happy with where my life is and where my life is heading, but still, there’s much for me to take away from this trip.

Being around another group of amazing survivors (it’s unfortunate we only get to pick 12 — there’s so many other that deserve to be here), along with survivors I’ve gotten to know from previous years just, for lack of a better word, centers me.  It restores my perspective on what’s important in life, and inspires me to be a better person and life a better life.  To not focus on the small things in everyday “real life” that seem so important at the time and take up your entire field of view, and to step back, blink a few times, take in the bigger picture, and see how the small things are just that — small things.

So, it may be a little while before I give this up. 

Last night was the calm before the storm.  Just a dozen or so of us catching up before we get down to business.  Good times.  Today we finish getting things ready for the models.  They show up en masse this afternoon and then we get down to it.  In the end, this is all about raising colorectal cancer awareness by putting together the Colandar for 2016, which is put together from scratch, which means there is some serious work to do.

As a writer, I’m responsible for writing the stories for four of the models this year.  I think I only get 700-800 words for each one, which doesn’t sound like a lot (and you’re right — it isn’t), but for me it’s difficult writing.  Technical writing can flow out of me like nobody’s business, and legal writing is starting to come to me after doing it for eight years, but this kind of writing.  It’s hard.  I can get there, and I’m usually pretty happy with the final product, but it takes time.  My brain just isn’t naturally wired for this kind of creative, fluid story telling.  Makes me appreciate those who write for a living.

That being said, with all that writing ahead, I need to review the applications of the models that I’ll be writing for.  Take some advantage of this quiet time.

Getting' the place all dressed up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Intestinal Blockages. Surgery in my future?

Been too long since I've posted.

Been slammed with my two jobs of late -- my job job (been working weekends to some extent since early December) and my gym job (training for a series of men's physique shows (lots of lifting, cardio, food prep, posing practice, etc. etc.)).  I finished the last of the three physique shows I signed up for two weekends ago, and now I'm in the middle of a two week vacation.  Finally have some free time to catch up on blogging, among other things.

The plan for my vacation was/is Bend, Vegas and Nashville, an eclectic mix of destinations.  Bend was where the last competition was, Vegas was where I wanted to spend a few days poolside (Caesar's Palace) just to unplug, rest and people watch, and Nashville (just outside Nashville, rather) is where the 2016 Colondar photo shoot is being held (I'm returning as a staff writer again).

(Vegas didn't suck)

The competition in Bend was great, and this being the last of my three shows, I celebrated by indulging (more than) a bit in some good (and some bad) food.  I was a bit glutenous and within 48 hours of the competition I drove myself to the ER because of intense abdominal pain, which I knew was going to be diagnosed as a blockage.

Sure enough, the ER CT scan came back as showing a blockage in my small intestine.  My third one since October.  The nurse practitioner started throwing words like "surgery" around, and I said that wasn't gonna happen in Bend.  The only person that I'll let do surgery on me is my GI surgeon at the Oregon Clinc -- Dr. Mark Whiteford.

I felt the blockage work itself out shortly after they got some dilaudid and IV fluids in me, but they still admitted me so that they could watch me go through the standard protocol to make sure I was OK before they release me back into the wild.  Liquid diet, then solid diet, then make sure things are passing through me OK.  Soooooo, two of my three vacation days  in Bend were spent at the St. Charles hospital instead of the nice-ish room I had splurged on to celebrate being done with my competitions.

After my 2nd blockage, I made a deal with my GI surgeon -- if I got another blockage, that I'd have surgery then.  The working theory is that adhesions (scar tissue) from my cancer surgery in 2010 is obstructing a loop in my small intestine.  I don't know why this has suddenly decided to pop up four and a half years from my surgery, but it has, and maybe now it's time to deal with it.

I find myself trying to justify waiting for a fourth blockage before having surgery.  Which is stupid.  These blockages are very painful, unpredictable and disruptive to my life.  I've already spent a week in the hospital during these three blockages.

I could try to live with this predisposition, but I think the only thing that would only work would be me staying on my super clean fitness diet.  Why?  Because each time I've had a blockage, it's been because I've gone off diet -- either with a cheat meal (planned or unplanned) or a refeed.  And those are totally allowed in any clean dieting, so to stay on clean diet with no cheats or refers is pretty unrealistic.

Plus, I'm not always going to be in a position where I can control my diet 100%.  What about when I'm traveling?  And if I'm traveling internationally (big trip coming up next year) or if I'm a few days into a backpacking trip when a blockage hits, I may not have top notch medical facilities nearby, or I may not be able to make it to them.  Blockages are serious stuff, and if that happens, I could be in trouble.

So, I'm afraid I'm likely going to have to bite the bullet and get this done.


As frustrating as it may be to have to sit out from the gym for a few months while I heal.  I'm sure that going through the abdominal wall is going to sideline me for a good spell.

Double dammit.

I see my GI surgeon next Tuesday.  Will give an update then.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Morning Thoughts

I wish I had more time on the weekends to lounge around so that I could write all the things that I want to write.  With being in the hospital for a good portion of the week, the start-of-year crush at work (I thought I was going to break after the end-of-year crush!), and the training that I'm doing, there hasn't been much free time.  But, I wanted to spend a few minutes this morning before I try and make a dent in the work pile to share some thoughts.


A dear friend of mine who I met in the colorectal cancer community and is a part of the Colondar family is in the last stages of her battle.  She is universally loved and admired by everyone in the colorectal community and has been waging her war against cancer for a few years now.  Since being diagnoses with a Stage IV recurrence, the battle has been tough.  I'll never forget how my post-surgery Stage III chemo made me feel and how I counted down the days until I was done, but the prospect of "never-ending" chemo, what many Stage IV cancer warriors have to endure .... I don't wish that on anyone.  Never-ending chemo is more likely to break your spirit, your will, than it is to break your body.  After jumping from one drug to the next as each loses its potency, and enduring debilitating side effects for several years, I've seen a couple of Stage IV fighters finally lay down their shield and say, "Enough is enough.  I'm done.  I'm done fighting."  It's terrible words to hear because of the unspoken implications, but people understand and respect the decision.

My dear friend recently made this decision.


You all know that I'm training for a physique competition.  Yes, it can seem to be an incredibly shallow and vain pursuit -- spending all of that time in the gym, doing cardio, and dieting just to get your body into a particular physical condition.  And you know all know why I'm doing it -- as a challenge to myself to commemorate five years being clean.  To do push myself to do something I've never thought I was capable of.

But another part of it is to do it because I CAN do it.  I feel obligated to push myself physically while I still have my health.  (Yes, I do feel like "healthy" is a conditional state.  You never know when it's going to be taken from you.)  I feel obligated to what I do for those who can't because they lost or are waging an ongoing battle with cancer, or have another condition that prevents them from physically active.  There have been  times in the gym over the past nine months when I'm really feeling it, when the blood is pumping, when my t-shirt is full of sweat, when the lactic acid is burning, and when I want to quit but push myself to go just a little bit further, that I get overcome with emotion and lose it a bit.  I've literally had my face in my towel, sobbing for a few seconds between sets, because I think of how fortunate I am to still be here, to still be able to put my body through its paces and feel like that. 


That was more than a few minutes.  I have more to say, but need to get back at it.  That's all for now.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Five Years Clean!!

Got my milestone five year scan and blood test results back this week, and ... all clean!  That's right, I made it to the all-important five year mark.  I wasn't really worried about the tests coming back showing something (first time I didn't have any scanxiety) since every scan, scope and test since the end of treatment has come back clean.  Still, I'm pretty damn happy.  According to my oncologist, making it to the 5 yr mark means that there's only a TWO% change of recurrence.  So, it's safe to say that whatever is going to take me out eventually is NOT going to be a recurrence of my rectal cancer.  

And that's a wonderful thing.

It's hard to believe that it's been FIVE years since I got my diagnosis.  The five years have just flown by.  Recovery has been a long road and I've come to realize that my cancer journey is a never-ending one.  Even though I've "beaten" cancer and adjusted to daily living with an ostomy, every year I discover new ways in how it impacts my life and that I still have adjusting to do.

For example, since starting on my bodybuilding journey last May, I've had THREE intestinal blockages.  Blockages, for those who have not had the privilege, are NOT FUN!  They're exactly what they sound like -- blockages in the intestines that prevent any food from getting through.  Mine is apparently the result of adhesions (scar tissue) in my abdomen that are a result of my cancer surger in 2010.  And, every once in a while, a kink in my small bowel gets caught up on an adhesion, preventing food from getting through.  And when my body is trying to push food through the GI tract and it can't, it's like knives.  I can consider myself a guy who can tolerate a fair amount of pain, but this?  The past two times in the ER, I've been reduced to a writhing mass on a gurney begging for whatever pain medicine they'll give me.

I got out of the hospital just this morning after recovering from my latest blockage episode.  I don't know why I started suffering blockages over 4 years after surgery, but I have.  The last two blockages resulted in trips to the ER and hospital stays.  CT scans that were done during ER triage show the blockages are occurring in the same place and my surgeon is recommended surgery to go in there and clear the adhesion.  And I'm with him.  I simply do NOT want to go through the past 2 1/2 days ever again.

We talked about diet and how to prevent this.  I mean, 99% of the time, my meals are going through just fine ... why I get a blockage when I do is just chance, I guess ... maybe I just chew my meals better?.  I don't know what to do ...

So, I'm planning on having abdominal surgery some time in June / July to have these blockages taken care once and for all.  (But I can't help but wonder -- wouldn't this surgery just create more scar tissue that could lead to more blockages????)

This latest blockage couldn't have occurred at a worse time.  I'm prepping for my first men's physique competition on May 1st, and I've been focusing on training hard and eating clean.  Lying in pain in a hospital room taking in only saline solution and electorlytes in an IV for several days is a big set back on my progress.  But, I'm still 14 weeks out from the competition, so hopefully I can recover.  Even more importantly, I need to stay blockage free until my shows in May.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2016 Colondar

Know someone who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer under 50?  The Colon Club is now accepting applications for the 2016 Colondar.  Here's the blurb from the Colon Club web site:

Diagnosed with colorectal cancer under 50? Apply for The Colon Club's 2016 Colondar 2.0! Share your journey to help raise awareness and provide hope and support to other survivors.

The Colondar is now... Colondar 2.0! An annual magazine that features extreme layouts of young adult survivors, their scars and stories and articles about obstacles that young adults living with CRC face, such as infertility, dating, sex, genetics, body image and ostomy. This unique colon magazine provides unparalleled support to survivors and their families, colorectal cancer awareness and education. Knowledge is power and Colondar 2.0 is changing the perception of colorectal cancer!

Now accepting applications for 2016 Colondar 2.0:


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.