I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I played three sports as a kid, attended college on a soccer scholarship, and hung on the fringe of a pro career but never quite broke through. I grew up healthy and happy and remained that way as an adult.
In the mid 1980s I discovered the world of multisport racing and was instantly hooked. My life got even better as a result of racing and the connections I made in the multisport community.
I gradually built my racing portfolio. Starting as many people do with shorter races, I worked my way up to marathons and then to ironman distance triathlons. I foolishly once told my wife that I only needed to do one marathon and one ironman just to get them out of my system. I miscalculated because that was 26 marathons and 12 Ironmans ago.
In 2006 the bottom fell out as I found myself seated in front of an oncologist, listening to him explain everything I needed to know about chronic lymphocytic leukemia and the subsequent chemo I would need. He further reminded me that this was a chronic form of cancer, which means it won’t really go away; it would just need to be managed with the hope that it lies dormant.
One of the things I did very early on in my diagnosis was to remain in control of the things that I could control. That meant two things – both of which supported my love of triathlon and enabled the cancer to be a catalyst to my lifestyle as well as my healing process. My diagnosis and multisport racing and training were joined at the hip right out of the gate.
The first was to remain in motion. Movement was and is my chocolate and I didn’t want that to be taken away from me. So I moved. I ran home from chemo treatments, and I continued to train on my stronger days, and the weeks in between treatment. Some days weren’t pretty. But I was in motion.
The second thing I did was to sign on as a triathlon coach with The leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. It was and remains one of the most rewarding things I could have done. It gives me a platform to give something back to a sport that I love, to a group of folks who are raising funds and awareness for my very own blood cancer. It is a good marriage. And since 2006 I have been coaching incredible people who also want to make a difference in the cancer world.
As I progressed through treatment, things started to happen. Good things. I started to respond favorably to chemo. The combination of all of the above created the perfect cancer crushing environment. Five months after my initial diagnosis I was safely in remission and was back to racing sprint triathlons. Seven months post diagnosis; I crossed the finish line of another ultra distance triathlon.
I remained safely in remission from 2006 to 2012 and continued to build and foster the relationship between my cancer, my personal racing, and the coaching I was doing with Team in Training. Through that time my life was filled with periodic blood draws, CT scans, check ups and follows up maintenance treatment, and yes – racing.
Remember, this is a chronic disease and in 2012, I experienced my 1st relapse of the disease. Additional chemo was needed but by then my doc was a little more comfortable with my lifestyle so he let me plan and schedule chemo around my racing calendar. I worked through my chemo and again landed safely in remission and closed another chapter of my blood cancer story, until a year later, when I relapse yet again.
As I had done in the past, and as I will continue to do, I worked through treatment and used my racing, training, and coaching as weapons in the fight. I again reached remission.
Throughout my journey I chose to be a voice. Sometimes a loud and annoying one but I chose to live this very publicly because I wanted to bring this whole diagnosis and treatment process out of the basement and make it less scary and less dark.
In 2015 I released my fifth book to help tell the story. I didn’t write another book because I have this insatiable desire to call myself an author. I wrote this book for a couple of very simple reasons. For starters, writing has always been very therapeutic for me. This exercise was no different. More importantly, I wanted to tell my story in a way that would give other patients hope, and perhaps remove some of the fear and uncertainty associated with a cancer diagnosis. If one person reads my book and it eases their mind and makes their journey into the unknown a little better, I’ve accomplished my goal.
Yours in health and in sport,