Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back from vacation

Hey gang,

Sorry for not posting for awhile, but I've been busy. Our firm has gotten a large influx of work of late (a good thing) and with me being "done" with cancer, they've welcomed another set of hands at the oars. Plus, I was working an extra bit to clear my plate for a little post-cancer getaway to Hawaii (Kauai, Maui). I've been wanting to get back to Hawaii since my first trip there in 2006 and I set it up as a post-treatment treat for myself to look forward to as I was going through treatment. It's always tough to get away from work for ten days at a time (I mean, tough in that there's always work that needs to be done, not tough in the sense that it's hard to stomach ten days in Hawaii - hardly!), but both me and my co-workers knew that I needed it. Just some time away from everything to reflect on things and restore my spirits and my soul before jumping back in to real life. A good bookend to cancer treatment.

And it was a great trip. I went by myself, and when I travel solo I usually have a pretty full agenda. I'm not a sit-on-the-beach-and-drink-fruity-drinks person. I like to be *doing* stuff. So, I set up an action-filled agenda, but knew in the back of my mind it was pretty ambitious and would allow myself the flexibility to just chill and relax if that's what my mind and body wanted. The first part of the trip was a four day backpacking trip along the Kalalau Trail on Kauai with the goal of spending three nights on the Kalalau Beach. This beach is pretty legendary among the trekking/backpacking crowd and it didn't disappoint. The beauty and scenery both along the trail and at the beach were just mesmerizing. You can google it yourself to see what I'm talking about. I took about a gazillion photos but have yet to go through them.

Anyways, the time spent on the beach was perfect. I just chilled, kept to myself for the most part, and read my book (Anticancer: A New Way of Life - highly recommend it to all cancer survivors/patients). There was a strong temptation to stay longer than my permit allowed (indeed, various people on the beach claimed to have been there for a month, a year, and even longer - there are plenty of fruit trees in the valley, and the "locals" fish, catch river prawns and kill feral goats and pigs for meat/protein), but I had limited food and wasn't about to go native. Maybe next time.

Anyways, after the hike, I was pretty pooped and spent the rest of the trip just chilling. No additional hikes or anything. Just taking in the sights, spending time on the beach, driving the road to Hana on Maui in a rented VW Westfalia camper van, and just relaxing. At times, I found myself feeling rushed when I felt I was running behind my "schedule" for the day. Fortunately, I just recognized this feeling, reminded myself what the purpose of this trip was, and just let it go. Hopefully I can keep that attitude now that I'm back on the mainland. Too often, I can find myself running from place to place during my free time because I have "things to do," which seem important at time, but in retrospect, when the weekend is over, you wonder where all the time went, and why you didn't spend more of it hanging out and having fun with friends, and doing the activities that I enjoy doing. I came back from the islands with a nice reservoir of "Zen" to draw upon when I feel life getting hectic and whatnot, and I hope to have the pool last as long as possible. I know it won't last long, but it's a nice thing to have, if at least for just a little while.

I mentioned above about being "done" with cancer. I don't think one is every really "done" with cancer after having had to endure a battle with it. For many survivors, myself included, there's the fear/concern/whatever that the cancer is lurking somewhere in the background, bidding it's time. It's like cancer broke into your house and totally trashed the place, and after you've cleaned up the mess, repaired all the damage, put new locks on the doors and windows, got a home security system, you're still concerned that cancer is still casing your joint, waiting for the right time to break in again, or, worse, that it's still in the house, hiding in the attic or something, just waiting ...

So, I feel I need to be vigilant in keeping cancer at bay by adopting a healthier lifestyle. And, that Anticancer book I mentioned is a great resource. It's the book that I spent reading during my entire trip, and now that I'm back I hope to really adopt many of anticancer habits laid about by the author. We'll see how that goes. I think that book is an important book.

The need for vigilance is a real one. I've mentioned the odds of recurrence before (the five year survival and morbidity rate is about 1 in 3), and although I'm a relatively young and healthy guy, there are many reminders that I'm not immune to this coming back. One woman, whose blog I've mentioned before ("I'm Sorry for Cursing" - a great blog, she's a great writer) and who was diagnosed a few months ahead of me (stage III rectal as well), recently learned that her cancer had spread to her lungs. It was very difficult to learn about this, especially knowing first hand what she went through (pretty much the same regiment that I did - chemo/radiation + surgery (APR) + more chemo) and that I've been following her progress for about a year now. She's getting a second opinion and seems to be keeping her spirits up, but I can't fathom what she's going through. She has a tough road ahead with chemo being the likely course of treatment and I so wish her the best.

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The Get Your Rear in Gear 5K run is coming to Milwaukee (Oct. 15), Austin (Oct. 9) and PORTLAND (July 5) in 2011! (http://www.getyourrearingear.com/events/) I'm happy to see the event is making it's way to Portland. I had thought of spearheading the effort to make it happen here for 2013, but looks like another group has beaten me to it and taken up the reins. While I'd love to do all three, that's not going to happen. The Portland one, yeah, I'm all in, and the Milwaukee one is the same weekend as the Livestrong Challenge weekend in Austin, TX, which I'd like to attend. The idea of rallying the troops back in SE Wisconsin to join me for a 5K fun run to raise colorectal cancer awareness would be great fun. We'll see what happens. I'd be fun to make a quick trip back to Wisconsin in the fall - always a great time to visit. But don't let my absence be a barrier for anyone in these cities from participating. Get your rear in gear!

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Okay, back to enjoying the weekend ...