Thursday, March 8, 2012

One Year… Four to Go…

I’ve been thinking about this post; whether I should post it; what to discuss and many other issues related to it for some time now. I’ve hesitated to specifically post on this topic for any number of reasons. After spending the better part of the past year looking for resources on these issues and the lifestyle I have decided to go ahead and describe some of the things I’ve been thinking about, experiencing and what I’ve learned.

In February 2011 I was an active (ultrarunner), 46 year old, weighed 70 kilos, married, employed, and father of two. I had undergone two stress tests and multiple blood and PSA samples related to my work and periodic health assessments. On 12 February I completed the 2011 81KM Brocken-Challenge setting a personal best finishing in 10:29. Physically I felt great and was on top of my game!

On 14 February 2011 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Following surgery on 21 FEB I was awarded a T2N0M0 cancer staging. My oncology board determined that we would not purse chemo or radiation therapy. So how did I get there?

As I’ve read, many runners experience “runner’s trots”, or the need to vacate while running. I got into serious running in 2007. Prior to then I had been a relatively active person, but not a marathoner. Physically I had undergone two hemorrhoidectomies in 2006 and 2007. Recovery from both was extremely long and painful. I linked my need to vacate while running back to both of these procedures.

In October 2010 I noticed some blood in a stool I had while running a 30KM training run. I chalked this blood up to training, diet and hemorrhoids. While training I watched for additional blood and found none until November. At Thanksgiving we were on a ski trip in Sölden, Austria and I observed blood in my stools each morning. Yes, this made me a bit nervous, but I didn’t say anything to my wife and decided to see our medical staff when we got back to town. The next week I followed up with our medical staff who again chalked this blood up to hemorrhoids. I didn’t have an exam at the time; I only described what was going on and started using hemorrhoid suppositories. The medical staff told me to come back if the suppositories didn’t help. During December and January the bleeding would come and go, my stools were frequently pencil then; at other times I experienced stools that were very loose and full of mucous. Still thinking this was all related to hemorrhoids I made an appointment with a gastrointestinal doctor for 14 February following the Brocken-Challenge.

You might imagine the shock, fear and even anger I felt after being told that I had colon cancer. For myself there were a lot of questions – “How?” “Why?” “What next…?” “You’re not supposed to have these illnesses at 46.” “Besides, I’m an ultrarunner!” And… “This is going to ruin my annual race plan!” “I really don’t want to deal with this…”
On the 18th of February I checked into the hospital and got ready to get whatever was inside me removed. On 21 February I underwent laparoscopic colorectal surgery. Not long after waking up from surgery one of my first questions was, “how long is this crap and the associated pain going to last; when do I get to leave this damn hospital?” Time seemed to stand still while in the hospital; I felt imprisoned. It was cold and sunny outside – perfect weather for running and training for the next event.

The doctors and nursing staff were great and encouraged me to get out of bed and start walking around. My head told me that doing so was wrong and the pain and discomfort of walking around with a pain pump and catheter were a pain in the ass. Each day however, found me getting physically stronger and dying to get the hell out of the hospital. My desire to get out was so great that I started a pysop on the medical staff. I made certain they saw me walking the floors; I sang, spoke with everyone all the time and asked to leave every time I could find a nurse or doctor.

On the 28th of February the medical staff finally decided to let the nut case that I had become out of the hospital. I headed out to continue my recovery and the pursuit of a cure at home. I spent almost two weeks at home taking it easy, learning to eat and develop a normal approach to stools. During these two weeks I went on walks at least three times a day, took multiple naps and set my sights on running again. At week three I started working half days again. I felt I had to get out of the house and get back into the swing of things.

Based on my surgery in February I had to cancel running in the Saaletal Marathon 2011. I set the Grand Raid Dentelles Ventoux in May 2011 as my next objective and test race. I started training for the Grand Raid the last week in March with a five kilometer run that was physically miserable based on post surgical pain. During this run I set my sights on gaining back what my colon cancer had stolen from me – My health!

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