Race Sherpa Rises

Race Sherpa Rises

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Gift


Yesterday, Rose signed us up for an Infant Massage class at Aditi Yoga. She also scheduled a massage for herself following the class. I was a little concerned that 3 hours in a row would be a lot for a 12 day old baby, but Rose figured she could time Taylor’s feeding well enough to buy her some solid massage time on the table.

The plan was for me to put Taylor in the wrap (or stroller) and walk around with her for 90 minutes (or as many minutes as she would allow). I decided to go with the wrap, but because it was really warm outside, and the air quality was still poor due to the smoke from the fires in B.C., I chose to do all of my walking in the yoga studio. It was midday, and there were no classes, so it seemed like a good option. Besides, it was way bigger than our small living room, where I usually do my indoor walking with her.

On my second trip around the room I really started to settle in. The room, and energy held within it, was the perfect setting to turn it all in to a walking meditation; something that I hadn’t done in years.


I have spent many, many hours of my life in studios and in rooms like this. Yoga, meditation, martial arts, qigong, satsang, movement classes, etc.. It has been awhile, however, and on my second trip around the room, some inner bell sounded and it all came rushing back.

I grew up “solidly Lutheran,” where religion and living a “spiritual life” were a large part of my upbringing. Like many, I had more questions than my particular belief system could answer, so I started seeking out other sources of information. I don’t know how many hundreds of books I own, but at least half of them are on the topics of early Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism (I don’t love that term, by the way), Sufism, Native American religions, and the like.

In-depth study typically involves both reading and practice, and for me, much of that practice took place in rooms much like the one I was currently walking in.

About 25 minutes in to walking big circles around the room, being mindful of each and every step, a deep sense fell over me as I slowly paced around with my baby daughter. A reminder.

“This is all a gift.”

All of it. Not just the surviving of cancer, and the birth of my daughter less than two years later, but all of it. Everything.

The ups, the downs, the freedom, the opportunities, and even the anxiety and crushing tediousness of daily life with a newborn.

It is funny how easy it is to get caught up in everything in our lives, especially our hopes and desires, and overlook the profoundness of such a simple thing; that regardless of our circumstances, the fact that we are alive and conscious is a pretty incredible and precious thing.

Whether you choose to define this in spiritual terms or in statistical terms is up to you. The fact remains that being here is absurdly unique. We are on this planet for a short time and then we are gone; shorter than a flash of lightening, relative to the history of “live-ness.”

I don’t know that this deep understanding needs to soften our desires, even though some religions seem to suggest so. If anything, I say let it enhance those desires, but with less anxiety and more gratitude. Let it be the ground that you stand on as you reach for everything that you want. You are starting from a place of “gift.”

Tonight, there is a good chance that my daughter will cry, and that I will get caught up in that crying. In that moment, it is not likely that I will be able to hold on to the thought of this being a unique and precious life, but if I can, if only for a few seconds, how much richer might my life be?




Friday, July 21, 2017

Dragging the Pivot Foot; NED, Pulmonology, and a Baby Makes Three

I was a bit shocked to see that my last post was back in November, because in my mind, I have written hundreds of posts since then.

It seems like every time I was sufficiently motivated to sit down and start typing I found a reason to wait a little longer in order to include more relevant information; I will wait until after my cancer follow-up appointment, I will wait until after my next pulmonology appointment, I will wait until after I drink one more cup of coffee, etc.

If you wait enough times, you never get around to writing. Which seems obvious, on one hand, but deceptively enlightening as well.

The downside to letting so much time and so many details pass before writing about them is that you end up losing a great number of them along the way. Or perhaps one could argue that that is an upside, for you, the reader, to not have to be subjected to the minutiae of it all, even though it is sometimes in those details where the meat (and entertainment) of an issue lies.

At the same time, I am rapidly approaching a day by which I HAVE to have this posted, because after that, the world turns upside down. So let's just skip all of the witty, creative filler and get right to the heart of things.


N.E.D. (yeah, you know me)

That's right. I had my 18 month follow up with Dr. Foster on May 5th and my MRI and lab work show that I am still cancer-free. This cannot be taken too lightly. While I don't write about it a lot, I am super thankful for the result.

I started this blog as the result of my cancer diagnosis, and writing about the experience has given me an opportunity to not only pay more attention to the deeper aspects of life, but it has also allowed me to share my insights and opinions with all of you. One of the unintended by-products of this is that a number of people who are confronting this same type of cancer and/or surgery have reached out to me for advice and support.

It has been an unexpected gift to be able to provide this service to others, and I owe a lot to a great number of people. I owe a lot to Dr. Foster and Nebraska Medicine for the incredible care I received there. I owe a lot to all of those people who showered me with love and support throughout my surgery and recovery, especially Rose and my family. I also owe a lot to all of the people who helped make me who I am today, because much of who I am and how I look at the world is a function of my life experiences, and the impact that other people have on our lives via those experiences often goes under-appreciated (if not unnoticed).

This isn't to discount all of the work I have done as well, it is just to acknowledge the multitude of variables that go in to creating "our lives." We say "our" because we are the only ones who have a first person perspective and experience of it all, but it is still deeply intertwined with (and as a result of) all of those around us.


PULMONOLOGY

My mysterious breathing issue remains. Unfortunately.

For months I have been wanting to share all of the frustrating stories. Stories like doctors telling me that my breathing issue is just due to the fact that I am 50 years old, or telling me it is asthma, even though no steroidal inhaler or albuterol seem to improve the situation. Stories like me fighting my way through a cardio pulmonary exercise test, struggling, at what feels to be about 60-70% of my normal capacity, only to be told that I "did better than predicted" based on "average 50 year old males in the U.S." (duh). Stories like one doctor explaining how things "just got harder for him when he was in his 50s, too" (by the way, he also said he uses a steroidal inhaler and albuterol every day).

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to do two things: 1) I needed to go a little deeper in to the woo-woo and investigate all possible mental/emotional/spiritual avenues, and 2) I needed to take a break from specialists and give inquisitive students a chance.

The student path has been fun. There is a Naturopathic medical school in the Seattle area called Bastyr. They run a community clinic staffed with students and attending NDs. I decided I was going to go in and challenge them. I told Rose, "I want this case to keep them awake at night."

The first appointment did not disappoint, as they were captivated by my case. Later that night, after I was already in bed, I heard my phone ring. It was probably around 11:30pm or so. Concerned it might be something serious I looked at my phone and it said No Caller ID, so I just put it back down and went back to bed. In the morning I saw that whoever called had left a message. Guess who? One of the student doctors, calling about something regarding my case. It gave me a big smile.

I have had a couple of appointments with them so far. Any big revelations? No, not yet, but they continue to be intrigued and they find new avenues to try.

As for investigating deeper mental/emotional/spiritual issues, well, we all have plenty of areas to pursue there. I have been a deeply reflective and contemplative person for most of my life, so it is pretty easy for me to dig through the past, looking for unresolved things. And yet, being trained in hypnotherapy, I know that we all have blind spots.

Trying to discover our blind spots is about as tricky as it gets. You can try hypnotherapy or some other non-cognitive technique, but sometimes, if you are really paying attention, you might be able to notice little aberrations. Things that, when taken by themselves, are easy to look over, but when taken with a bunch of other random observations, may start to point in a similar direction.

I have recently discovered a few of these peculiarities. They may not indicate anything at all, but they may be guideposts to a path I can't quite make out through the darkness. My goal is to just start writing everything down, in some organized way, to see if something pieces together.(And don't worry, I won't do it here in the blog.)

There is no denying that our genetic makeup and our exposure to environmental elements play some role in the things that happen to us. But I have become more and more fascinated by those aspects that are a result of our thoughts and emotions. You don't have to get all New Agey to prove this. We already know that our thoughts and emotions affect numerous aspects of our chemistry and physiology. We like to pretend we understand this by using phrases like "mind-body," but I don't think that most of us realize just how powerful this influence can be.

My gut feeling is that this is a "wounded healer" situation for me. Not only is it something I need to work through to resolve my physical issue, but I expect that the meaning that arises out of the search, and the result, will propel me in to the next orbit of my own personal evolution.

And speaking of....


AND BABY MAKES THREE

Just how long has it been since my last post? Well, I know that it has been at least nine months ago, because when last I wrote, Rose was not pregnant. And our due date is this week. How could I have not written for nine months???

More importantly...holy cow! Life is about to change.

Upside down, inside out, and all of that other stuff. It is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. And yet, our plans are to keep moving forward on the path that we started three years ago; Rose wants to continue to pursue being an athlete in the OCR/ninja sports world, I want to continue to pursue my own business endeavors, and, I will continue being the Race Sherpa.

Race Sherpa with a Baby Bjorn.

This little girl will love us or hate us for all of the travel and racing that lies ahead, but it is such a great life, and a great community, how can we not introduce her to this world and these people?

So as you can imagine, Race Sherpa Rises is about to make a giant pivot. A pivot in to parenthood.

A number of people have suggested that I update my blog to make it a bit more, uummm, visually appealing. I think that is a great, and needed, suggestion. So hopefully, as we move forward, we can make all of this look pretty and add lots and lots of photos. Oh, and remember that you can follow the Race Sherpa Rises Instagram account as well! There are always plenty of photos over there. :)


Oh, as for dragging the pivot foot...

To me, dragging the pivot foot is a hesitation or uncertainty. When you plant your pivot foot you are committing; whether that commitment was the result of something proactive or reactive doesn't matter much the moment after you do it. What matters is what you do next. You shoot, you pass, or, if you still have your dribble, you determine which direction you want to go and you go there. Either way, it is a powerful moment that demands action.

There is no dragging, no hesitancy. We pivot on this spot and we start out on the direction of our next choice.

And very, very soon, we do it as a family of three.





Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Confidence Suck and the Conservation of Causes

In most of my posts I have accentuated the positive. Of course, there has been negatives present all along, but why dwell on them longer than necessary? (I have a personal method for determining "necessary," but that will have to wait for other time; probably in my 2017 Free Rein Resilience material).

For all of you who have grown tired of my on-going optimism, you will be happy to know that this post is a little different. I am not promising that I won't end on a positive note, but the bulk of the post will be about "the great suck."

If you have tuned in along the way, even if just for a little bit, you know that my breathing issue has been on the front line of this journey. Now, one year post cancer surgery, my entire attention has turned towards the issue. And since no one seems to be closer to any answers I continue to pursue many possibilities at the same time.


A BRIEF REVIEW

My pulmonologist continues to remain perplexed. He has seen the abnormal, asthma-like numbers on my PFTs (thankfully) so he knows there is something going on other than just "trying to keep up with my 34 year old professional athlete wife" (his words). Two different steroidal inhalers haven't made a difference, so I am currently on a 12 day prednisone trial. Today is day 6.

I also continue various forms of bodywork because my perception is, and always has been, that something is "stuck," and that my breathing is getting "pinched off" some how. It may be a strange thing to say, but it seems as if changing my body position (bent over, lying on my side, etc) affects the "depth" of my breath. I also have this sensation that if I could just crack my back in just the right place I would be able to breathe again. I can't really explain the feeling any better than that. It is worth remembering, of course, that even though I have had this "stuck" feeling years before my surgery, I did have a mucinous tumor surgically removed from underneath my diaphragm (as well as from other areas), so there is a lot of physical trauma to consider.

I have also reconnected with my doctor to pursue the potential mold/mycotoxin issue. I know that this is outside of the medical "norm," but frankly, the medical norm doesn't seem to have any answers for me right now. And what I do know, for sure, is that I noticed my breathing issue not long after a big mold exposure. It is interesting to me that potential mycotoxin issues are shrugged off so quickly by most MDs when mycotoxin-related problems have been demonstrated in livestock, and researchers actually use a mycotoxin (alfatoxin) to cause liver tumors in rats. I suppose the assumption is that a healthy and robust immune system handles these issues just fine. And while that might be true for most, the research I have been doing seems to indicate that it might not always work very well for everyone.

My labs definitely show some abnormalities. My non-ceruloplasmin bound copper is very high. Also, my TGF-Beta 1 is extremely elevated (3500 is upper limit of normal; mine was 9500), and my MSH is pretty low. Are these due to mold/mycotoxins? Hard to say. They aren't specific markers, but they do fit in to a mycotoxin exposure profile. Technically, it is just called CIRS (Chronic Inflammation Response Syndrome). There is a protocol to follow, however, so as soon as my prednisone trial is over I will start it up to see what happens. [It was interesting to me that my Vitamin D was low, even though I spent almost every day outside in sunny Colorado this summer, and it was a little shocking to see that my B12 was low as well.]

Finally, I have not completely ruled out "dark and sinister forces." I suppose I may as well keep all options open at this point. Perhaps a shaman will be my next consult. :)


THE CONFIDENCE SUCK

While I do not solely self-identify as an athlete/physical person, it has always been a very large part of my life, as well as my career for the last thirteen years. The limitations that I have in my athletic life due to this breathing issue are significant. Fortunately, one could say that they are not "significant" in regard to my "normal, every day life."

Except that, well, MY own personal, normal, every day life involves a higher level of performance due to my career, so it circles back to "yes, it does affects my normal, every day life." Being so intimately tied in to how I make a living and generate revenue makes the experience feel that much more oppressive.

It is frustrating, it sucks, and it starts to grind down on my self-confidence.

Not my self-confidence as a all-around person, or of what I know or how I act in the world. Fortunately, those aspects of my self-identity seem relatively immune (thus far). But it grinds down on my self-confidence as a trainer and a coach. Obviously, my knowledge isn't less now than it was 3-4 years ago, but I have always had an intuitive-kinesthetic style to my training/teaching. I not only like to sense and feel things out (internally) as I move throughout a session with a client, but I try to maintain a solid practical feeling in my body in general. And the fact is, I cannot maintain much of that right now. Either my breathlessness prohibits me from doing the things that would give me access to that body-sense, or, even more sadly, the expectation of the breathlessness reduces my desire and willingness to even attempt those things.

Interestingly, age, in general, does this as well. I can't lift as much weight or box jump as high or run as fast as I could ten years ago, but that never created the same confidence void that I feel now. Truth be told, it has been an interesting study in how things like this affect both our bodies and our minds. I bow to the experience as a teacher, but it frustrates the shit out of me as well, and makes me want to punch the teacher in the face. :)

Frustration experienced long enough usually wears down in to a valley of sadness. I suppose I experience that from time to time, but for the most part I am fired up to find a solution. Residing in a state of sadness would certainly not be unreasonable, given everything, but it is not going to help me get the answers that I seek. And that is why I always encourage the idea of finding gratitude in the moment, acknowledging any vulnerability or negativity that needs to be acknowledge, and pushing forward with a positive mindset. It is not an either/or kind of thing; it is holding all three simultaneously. Or at least holding all three as close together as you can manage.

At any rate, the point is, yes, it sucks, and the experience definitely takes the wind out of my sails from time to time.

I am not the kind of person that thinks that "everything happens for a particular reason," at least from a metaphysical standpoint. But I do think that every experience provides an opportunity to learn, whether you think the experience was divinely inspired or the product of a series of "random" events. As for "meaning," well, I think we find and create meaning as we see fit. With all of the filters and biases that are coded in to the software of our brain's operating system, it seems highly likely that we will always fall short of finding "Ultimate Truth and Meaning" in the events of our lives. But meaning aside, I would always like you to think about causes.


THE CONSERVATION OF CAUSES

Most people are familiar with the Conservation of Energy, at least by name. Well, the Conservation of Causes has very little in common with the Conservation of Energy, but I hope that momentarily linking the two ideas here, plus the catchy alliteration, will serve as a mental device that will provide you quick recall of the concept.

And the concept behind The Conservation of Causes is this: "everything has a cause."

As you go about life you are going to hear a lot people tell you "well, just because."

"Well, you are getting older..."

"Well, you/it are/is just too (insert adjective here)..."

"Well, these things just happen..."

But things don't "just happen." We might not always know WHY things happen, and we might not be able to PREVENT things from happening, but the concept of "things just happen" is not only incorrect, it is very disempowering. The "things happening" are the effects of causes.

I want you to embrace the idea that things have causes because I want you to understand that as long as things have causes, you have the POTENTIAL to maybe do something about it. Obviously, there are a lot of things you are not, ever, going to be able to change. Things (some terrible) happen to people every day due to things they have no control over. But having no control does not mean that there wasn't a cause.

I also think it is important to not automatically confuse "cause" with fault or blame, or to think that it is inherently embedded with any particular higher meaning (remember, meaning is largely self-created). You can assess the WHYs after you discover the HOWs.

This is all a round-about way to say that if something isn't the way you want it to be, see if there is a cause that you can change. My breathing issue has a cause. I don't know for sure what the cause is, and I don't know for sure if I can change it, but I know that I have the power to keep searching for an answer. Even if you have something going on that you deem to be due to "just getting older," well, what does "just getting older" mean? It means there are certain physiological changes happening in the body. What are those changes? And are there some that you can affect by doing things differently?

Likewise, you can start planting new "causes" today that will bloom in to new "effects" in the future. I have a saying on the back of my business card that I always like to refer to:

"What can you do today that your future self will thank you for?"


The ebb and flow of Life is inherently composed of ups and down. The Confidence Suck that I experience is off-set by an equal and opposite energy of desire and will to excel and to thrive. The amount of time that I spend on either side is frequently determined by my state of mind. Just keep moving. Keep moving forward.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Year Later: An Update and a Pursuit

It has been almost a year since I had what some call the Mother of All Surgeries (MOAS). Whether it truly deserves that title or not, its extensiveness and seriousness cannot be argued.

I have certainly written a lot about the weeks and months that followed my surgery on 11/10/15. It seemed only fair that I update everyone on the situation since then.

THE GOOD NEWS

The good news is that after two CT scans and one MRI, everything looks great. The oncology surgeon is very happy. Tumor labs are back down to "normal" levels and the rest of my routine labs look good. Instead of having scans every three months I can now wait six months.

I am so grateful for such a positive outcome. Dr. Foster and the rest of the staff at Nebraska Medicine were amazing, and I really appreciate all of the support that both Rose and I got from everyone, via phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages/posts, etc...

Of course, with something like this, it is never really "over." I will have to continue to keep my eye on it, and hope that it doesn't come back. But for now, I celebrate the life that I have in front of me.


THE MYSTERIOUS PART

With the cancer variable set aside, I continue to investigate my breathing/fatigue/low strength issues. I think I have mentioned before that I suspect a number of things, and I am guessing that, in time, we will find that there are a number of different variables at play. In the spring, my pulmonary function tests revealed a surprising asthma type thing happening. I have never had any type of asthma issue before, so it stands out as highly unusual. I also still experience what feels to be some physical restriction in my diaphragm (and other respiration related muscles).

My pulmonologist is extremely perplexed by the situation. He deems it a "very interesting case." After trying two different steroidal inhalers, neither of which seemed to improve my condition, his next step is to put me on a prednisone trial. My N.D., who is helping me investigate a potential mold/mycotoxin/other issue, just reported that my labs seem to indicate that there is something going on (high TGF-Beta 1, low MSH, low B12, high non-ceruloplasmin bound copper, plus others).

So I will follow through with those two plans and see if something makes a difference.

As for the restriction that I feel, I know that being hyper tuned in to what I am experiencing might lead me to believe that there is something happening that isn't really happening. But as someone who has spent so so many years paying attention to my breath (via sports and pranayama and martial arts, etc) I feel confident that there is some structural piece to this as well. Whether it involves a psoas-diaphragm tie in, or some organ/fascial positioning, what I know is that different body positions allow me to get a different quality of breath. I have been saying for years that I can't get my normal inhale, that something feels pinched off, especially when I am standing up. Given that, it makes sense that I notice it even more when I am running; not just because my need for oxygen is higher but because of the position my body is in.

And whatever may be true with that, it is probably even more so now that I have had major abdominal surgery.

Sooooo....the search continues. In the meantime, I am happy that I am able to get out there and run and hike and lift and all of that. I just do it slower and with a higher heart rate than normal. :)


THE PURSUIT

Throughout the last seventeen months, so many people have written to me, telling me how inspirational my positive mindset and optimism has been to them. I know that there are others who seem to be nauseated by it, or who think it is not genuine.

But their opinions are really a reflection of their own lives and their own states of mind, not mine. I could care less about what they think because I fall asleep every night with the peace of knowing what is in my heart.

Being human means we all experience the highs and lows of the human experience; and that includes a very wide range of emotions. Of course it is not always possible to be "happy" all the time. To think so is a bit naive. There are plenty of things in life that might cause us to feel unhappy, and we are entitled to the full richness and expression of that feeling.

The question, however, always remains, "How do you want to feel?" You really have a good deal of choice in the matter.

So my parting thought is this: There are those in life who, for whatever reason, like to linger in and relish unhappiness and fear and anger and resentment. That is their (and all of our) right to do so. But many of those people also like to use their own darkness to diminish or extinguish the light of others.

If you are not one of those people; if you are someone who experiences those aspects of life but then makes a conscious choice to rise out of it and move onward with the most positive mindset you can manage; ignore those who would try to bring you down or get you to shine less brightly.
Their judgements are about them, not you.

So shine on, and help be a light to others.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Road Warrior, NED, Chasing After Breath, and Free Rein Resilience

I am pretty sure that months ago, when I last wrote, I mentioned I was going to blog more often and with shorter posts.

Oops...

In the last few months my "posting" was primarily done via the Race Sherpa Rises Instagram and Facebook pages. Being on the road and traveling around lent itself more to photos and short text that could be composed on my phone rather than typing out lengthy pieces on my laptop. So I went with what was easiest.


Since the end of April I have been a Road Warrior; putting in 9000 (driving) miles in about three months time. And that does not include the flights I have taken (and there have been many).

One of those road trips was back to Omaha for a follow-up post-op MRI and an appointment with my oncology surgeon. The MRI revealed what every cancer patient longs to hear; NED. No evidence of disease. So great news!

On the other hand, I still have that breathing issue that has been dogging me since late 2012. In May, I had some pulmonary function tests done and the numbers seemed to indicate that I have some type of asthma thing going on. I have never been prone to asthma, so I am, yet again, suspicious of the mold I found in our house in 2013 and the air quality of the building I worked in from 2012 to 2015. I have tried two different steroidal inhalers and neither one seems to have made much improvement. I had a Chest CT this morning in Seattle. Given the cancer I found last year, I needed to make sure there wasn't something going on in my chest as well. (No results yet.)

So for now, I keep chasing after the breath that I so long for. I still run pretty much every day, just not as far or as fast as I otherwise would.


I am hoping to make more frequent posts in the next few months, but I will also be turning my attention to a project that has been on my mind for a long, long time.

I created Free Rein Athletics a number of years ago with a grandiose vision. So grandiose, in fact, that it sputtered along as I tried to distill the broad objective in to something that was tangible and manageable. Being a business of one person, and being caught up in other jobs and projects, it has taken me awhile to start building out the vision.

Getting cancer last year, and seeing all of the coaches out there putting together programs for OCR, convinced me to flip-flop the order in which I released things. Instead of adding to the "uber functional" fitness protocols that are already out there, I am starting with the mind and building outwards. Many people have asked me how I stayed so positive throughout my ordeal, so I decided to build it out like an instruction manual.

The result is Free Rein Resilience, and the goal is to coach people to develop greater physical and mental freedom, power, and resiliency.

The Free Rein website is still under construction but if you would like to stay in the loop, like the Free Rein Athletics Facebook page for further announcements.

Relative to past posts, this one was pretty brief. So I got that part right. :)


ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD!

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Pivot Point; to New Beginnings and Grand Adventures

I started this blog in May of 2015 to document my path through my PMP diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. To say whether that documentation was, in the end, written for you or for me is still not clear.

What is clear to me, however, is that now, a year later, it is time to pivot and chart out on a new trajectory.

Despite my insistence upon "not living the narrative of the disease," this blog, for the most part, still existed within the context of disease. And while my message may have been about living life and staying positive, the dark shadow of cancer was always there, cast on the ground, following closely behind.

I suppose one could say that it was precisely the contrast against that dark shadow that made the words seem so bright.

But there are other ways to build contrast beyond grappling with the dark. One way is to try to shine brighter than the light around you. It seems as if the human condition is predisposed to default to "normalcy;" a kind of sleep-walking through the relative highs and lows that exist within one standard deviation of life's mean. (And here you thought you would never need to know statistics...)

So if we tend to live most of our lives in the "dusk" of consciousness, there is a way to build contrast, and to shine out brightly, without needing the threat of so much darkness.

That is the New Beginning of this blog; living Life, not against the backdrop of Cancer, but against the backdrop of our normal default patterns.

I will be writing about what this looks like for me, but what does it look like for you? In what ways can you rise out of your ordinary patterns, even if just for a moment, to feel the full radiance of Life?

THAT, in my mind, is the ultimate Grand Adventure.

But, Rose and I are about to embark on another adventure as well. On Thursday we leave on a grand road trip. The first stop will be the Montana Spartan Race; then on to Boise, where we will fly to OK City (and back) for American Ninja Warrior; then we will continue on to our temporary summer home of Woodland Park, Colorado.

Where are we going after that? Well, you will have to follow along! Race Sherpa Rises is now set up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and yes, even Snapchat (did I seriously sign up for SnapChat?). We have a van, we have some sponsors, and we have the courage and the desire to make this an epic year.

We hope you tune in and join us on the adventure!!


A final thought: the other day I wrote out "cancer survivor" and started thinking about the fact that we have all survived something, right? Very few of us have gotten this far in life without having to deal with numerous trails and tribulations. So, in essence, we are all in the same boat. Get out there and Giddy Up!!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Social Complications of a Speedy Recovery; and the Start of Something New

If you have been following the journey thus far, it doesn't take astute observation to notice that the time between blog posts has greatly increased. This is primarily a function of being in "giddy up and go recovery mode," but it is also due to the fact that we have so much going on right now. Every day has been full of a multitude of things. And there is a lot to wrap up in Seattle before we take the Race Sherpa/Running Rosie show on the road. But more on that in a bit... (if you want to go right to that part, page down to the last section now!)

Back to recovery.

I am so grateful for how well my recovery has been going. My strength has been coming back, and eating and pooping appear to be back to normal. Unfortunately, my breathing has not been so cooperative.

My experience is that the breathing issues that I have right now are the exact same as those that I experienced in 2013/2014. I have mentioned a few times in this blog that I have never been convinced that my breathing issue was related to my cancer issue. Dr. Foster thought that given the amount of mucinous tumor that I had under my diaphragm, it could easily account for the breathing difficulty I was having. And I suppose that now the same could be said for scarring and adhesions in those same areas. So, it is still possible that the two are related.

And yet...

I am just not convinced. I continue to think the bulk of the problem is due to something else.

My intuition keeps whispering two things to me: 1) posture/structure, and b) back/spine. What that means, or how they could play in to it all, I have no idea. What I do know is that the quality of my breathing seems to change, based on my body position. So who knows, really. I just hope that I can get to the bottom of it all, as it not only affects my daily life (unless I am very focused on something else, I am aware of it on almost each and every breath), but it really puts a damper on my fitness/performance life!

On the other hand, it feels a bit petty to complain about it given where I just came from. I have friends who are in the process of dying and/or going through cancer (or other serious illness) right now. I also belong to a Facebook page composed of people who have what I have/had. Every day I read the posts that pop up in my newsfeed. Some of the people who write are still disease free many years after having the same surgery and HIPEC treatment that I had. Many others have had numerous surgeries and/or continue to deal with chemotherapy treatments and complications from the surgery. A number of them have died.

So every day, in addition to taking in the magnificent beauty around me, I have a constant reminder of how close death and disease really are.

When I was walking to the gym the other day, soaking in the beautiful Seattle spring day, I started reflecting on the things that keep people from being able to fully embrace the wonder and beauty around them. I am sure that it is a combination of many reasons, but three came to mind in that moment:

1) We are pre-occupied with other thoughts, and therefore our attention and focus are turned inward.
2) It is the nature of the mind to "ignore" the familiar in order to focus on the unfamiliar and/or potentially threatening.
3) We assume that we will be able to pay attention to it all the next day, or the day after.

It is interesting how quickly (1) and (2) fall to the wayside if you truly understand that (3) isn't necessarily true. Sure, it is probably statistically true that you will survive the night and wake up again the next morning to do it all over again. And that is partly why we make the assumption and go with it. We consciously or unconsciously understand the odds, and ignore them or set them aside in order to immerse our faces back in to the soup bowl of daily life.

It also keeps us from freaking out every single day.

But on the distribution curve, those improbable events aren't just data points on a graph but real people; each one representing a life very much like your own. And when you speak to those people, many of them share the same insight; don't take it for granted. ANY of it. If you can find even just a few moments of your day to snap out of that self-spun trance to take the reality of everything in, you might just find yourself not only looking at the world, and your life, differently; you might find that you want to change course and live your life differently as well.

I feel as if I came to this conclusion way back when I was 25 years old. And yet, it is human nature to get pulled back in, over and over; hopefully to an orbit that is a little further out than the one you were in the time before. The less gravity there is, the smaller the event required to jolt you free again. Sometimes, despite what you have learned (numerous times) before, it takes another big event to rocket you back out in to the open space of context and perspective; where you are able to, once again, focus, re-evaluate, and orient the ship of your life, pointing it in the desired direction.


Interestingly, there is an aspect of recovering well that I did not anticipate. I have called it the "social implications of a speedy recovery." While most people are genuinely happy that I am way in front of the healing curve, I can tell that there is a small subset of that group that are raising their eyebrows, and wondering why I (since I am doing so well) am not " getting back to normal life."

Let me tell you why, if you don't know.

Physical recovery is one thing; psychological recovery is quite another. Not that I have residual psychological or emotional "issues" from everything that has happened, but rather the experience cemented even more firmly the thoughts I had about life before all of this started.

At times I think that "normal life" is part of the problem. At least for me. I can't speak to what is true for you. Nor can I conclusively define what "normal life" is, because it changes based on the decisions that I make. Technically, the next set of fixed patterns and beliefs become "the new normal." Despite all of that, I have my own "working definition" that I am using here.

As things are right now, I don't think I am a "F*ck Cancer" kind of person. I say that because I frequently wonder what part of my disease I could have be responsible for. You don't have to frame it as "blame," but rather "ownership." Could I have been living in a way that played a contribution, however small, in to this diagnosis?

When considered from that viewpoint, suddenly "getting back to normal life" makes one pause, and reflect, and wonder about what changes one wants to make in one's life going forward. So not just gaining the perspective that I described above, and choosing to live with less certainty and more gratitude, but embracing the idea that we are, in some part, responsible for the lives we are creating.

Again, I am speaking for me and my current experience. I am not projecting this on to anyone else. I don't know what is or isn't true for another person. What I do know is what events were true in my life before this all happened.

I imagine if I had a young child who had cancer I might be all "F*ck Cancer," too. A child hasn't had much time, in thoughts or behaviors, to bring such a thing upon themselves. It is a shitty deal. But adults? I don't know. I am sure we could find plenty of examples where we could (seemingly) absolve a person completely for having anything to do with their medical condition. I 100% believe that. But I just don't know that that is true in every single case. And so, putting myself "at cause," even if just a little bit, gives me pause in how I want to move forward.

Sometimes there are financial imperatives or social obligations that require one to "get back to normal life," regardless of what one would LIKE to do. Definitely true. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. But I have been afforded a small window of opportunity, and I am taking the best advantage of it that I can. I don't want to be one of the stories where I resume my life as it was and then the disease returns. I want to shed all of the crap; to leave behind everything that could have played a part in that situation; and start anew in the best way that I can right now. And if it still comes back, after all of those changes, then I can be more at peace with my part in it all.

Before ending, I need to state one more time: if you have or have had a serious disease or condition, I am not saying that you brought it on yourself. I think that can be a bogus blame-game that can create a lot of harm. I already know that there are some people who will get immediately defensive about what I have written here. All I am suggesting is that, SOMETIMES, and in SOME CASES, our thoughts, our lifestyle habits, our stress compromised immune systems, our decisions about how we spend our time, etc might play a part in it all. In some cases, a CRUCIAL part. And when I consider those thoughts and behaviors in relation to how I was living my own life, it shows me areas where I want to change course.

That's it. Got it??? Good. :)

Now to the the last section...


***** IF YOU PAGED DOWN TO GET TO THE LAST SECTION, START HERE *****

It has been almost a year since I started this blog. I hoped to capture a slice of my life and my perspective as I confronted my cancer diagnosis and the road that was in front of me. Now, that road continues forward, but I travel it with a slightly different mindset.

So, in terms of The Start of Something New, there are a number of things to mention.

First off, Rose and I are preparing for our road trip back to Colorado for the summer. I am looking forward to some more Rocky Mountain time, and I hope to have some on-line training options available for those who are interested (more on that soon). We might have a special announcement to make regarding our trip, but we have to wait for more certainty before doing so. So stay tuned!

Secondly, the tone of this blog and the frequency of posts are about to change. It is time for the "RISES" part of Race Sherpa Rises. Same philosophical tone, but more about living, and hopefully, much more humor. :) Also, shorter but more frequent posts. To complement that, I am going to change my cover photo to represent that attitude shift. The message of my current cover photo remains, but the focus is now different.

Lastly, I will be posting across all social media platforms during our road trip and throughout our adventures during the season. If you are following my personal Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, thank you!! But most of this new content will only be posted on the Race Sherpa Rises pages (I will have some duplication, but not a lot).

Soooooooo....that means if you want to follow the journey, you have to like the RSR pages!!

They are:

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/racesherparises/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/RaceSherpaRises
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/racesherparises/


I want to thank you all for following, and for providing all of the support that you have along the way.

This is just the beginning of the journey.

Giddy up!