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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.