Race Sherpa Rises

Race Sherpa Rises

Friday, July 17, 2015


There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe," said the farmer.

It seems as if people often interpret "dispassion" as emotional vacancy. But is it? I guess I distinguish the two as expressing versus experiencing. You can have the experience of an emotion and still choose how you express it.

The conscious choice of expressing an emotion involves more pieces of information than just the thought/event that generated the emotion in the first place. In the case of the old Taoist farmer, it would seem that his life experience allowed (or cursed) him with a sense of context and perspective that "moderated" his response to the things that were currently happening in his life.

Would you say that he didn't experience joy or sadness? Or rather that he was just aware of how life worked, and kept from getting too caught up in the drama of the ups and downs?


One of my friends, who has been following this journey via my blog suggested that it could be useful to others if I wrote about the Fear.

I concur. I think it's important for people to see the whole realm of human emotion. The thing is, up to that point, I hadn't really experienced much fear. And I didn't want to write it about from a conceptual "what if" perspective. I wanted it to be palpable.

When I woke up last Monday morning, I finally started to feel a hint of anxiety about the appointment I had with the surgeon that afternoon. I knew that we were going to get a much clearer picture about what was going on. You might remember that for most of the last couple of months, I have been 100% aware of what the options COULD BE, but I was still holding out for the better options. I believe my line was "I will remain in a positive, upbeat mood until there is a reason to not be."

I knew that this appointment was going to collapse the probability wave on my Schrodinger's cat.

I am pretty good at dissipating the energy of emotions like anxiety, anger, fear, etc...but I know what anxiety feels like. Meaning, I know where I feel it in my body, and I know how it can rob me of the desire to "do things." I had planned on doing about 45 minutes on the incline trainer, and I was aware that that small whisper of anxiety, generated from the fear of what might be true, left me feeling weak and uninspired.

I decided that regardless of the outcome of the appointment, there was probably no scenario that existed that was going to benefit from me NOT doing that workout, so in one brief moment of inspiration, I changed and got myself to the incline trainer.

It wasn't the best workout I have ever had, but the work was put in, and I felt better about that.

Interestingly, while in the waiting room, I was calm again. Calm with inevitability, I suppose. There was very little I was going to do at that point that was going to change the outcome, so I just took in the experience of a sunny afternoon, hanging out with Rose.

So, according to Dr. Evan Ong (via his now famous dry erase board drawings):

Translation: His visualizations during the laparoscopy, plus the biopsy results, indicate that I don't have "cancer." Instead I have DPAM.

Disseminated Peritoneal Adenomucinosis.

If you look back at the "whiteboard of possibilities" from my first appointment with Dr. Ong, you will see DPAM listed as one of the options. (Oddly, as "bad" as it is, it's one of the best possibilities written on that board.)

What? You've never heard of DPAM?? Weird.

Maybe it's because less than .06% of the US population has it. (I was really hoping this would at least make me "one in a million," but the math doesn't work out. Still...I am pretty special, in the larger scheme of things.)

Here is a little help for those playing along at home:

You might notice a few things, like, for instance, it looks like it really sucks. I would tend to agree with that assessment. I suppose the next thing that might stick out to many people is the treatment. The thing is, I had already researched the treatment options, so that was not new to me.

What stood out to me was this line:

"There are no known genetic, familial or environmental risk factors associated with the disease."

I don't know how the pie chart breaks down for you, but for me, I am left with one unaccounted for slice: "an act of God."

In other words, God and I have a lot of talking to do. Preferably over coffee, and perhaps even with a nice pastry. (It's not like it's going to hurt at this point.)

So....the GOOD:

Not Cancer! Good thing. Sweet.

Of the things listed on Dr. Ong's white board of possibilities, probably one of the "best" options. Sweet.


Incurable. Boo. (Treatable, though, so...)

The surgery is an intensive 10-16 hour endeavor, involving debulking of the effected tissues, removal of organs (or parts of organs) that are effected, and a heated intra-abdominal chemotherapy treatment called HIPEC. They basically pour it in, slosh it around to get to all of those hard to reach areas, let it sit and "cook" for 90 minutes, then take it out.

7-10 days in the hospital, 3-4 months recovery. Hopefully enough remaining internal parts that I can still be active and poop normally.


Rose and I have this little "joke" about how bad something can be yet still be "better than cancer." It's crazy how your perspective changes. About everything, really.

Because this disease process has been going on for some time now (years), and because it is a slowly growing thing, Dr. Ong has given us permission to postpone the surgery until mid-October, after Rose's OCR season. This will give us a chance to go ahead with our plan of moving to altitude for the months of August and September. The only condition that we have is that if I get symptoms, or if a CT at the end of August shows things getting worse, then I come back to Seattle and do the surgery as soon as I can.

I am really grateful that we have those 90 days. I think it's important for Rose to get some altitude training in, and, it gives me a chance to research all of the woo-woo options. I don't buy a small kitchen appliance without researching it on-line for 3-4 days, can you imagine the research project I have ahead of me now?!? As for the woo-woo, let's save that for the next post. It makes more sense if you have context. :)

As for my final thoughts, I guess my Facebook post on 7/14/15 sums it up best:

"Statistics would say that most of my Facebook friends who are reading this post right now have had, do have, or will have some type of major medical issue in their life. So all I can say to you is what I have said before:

Go on a rampage of appreciation, and keep perspective around the troubles and stresses of your daily life. If you can make your inner space large enough to hold both your stress and your gratitude, most of your days will be full of happiness.

Giddy up!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Subtle Art of Not Wanting Things to be Other Than They Are

People who know me are usually surprised to find out that when I was younger, I used to stress out about a lot of things. It's true. I would say that I didn't start to unwind that stress mentality until I was in my mid to late 20's.

I attribute this to many things, many of which I will share as this blog progresses. The point is, along the way, I started collecting (and using) tools to put in my "psychological toolbox." I sometimes call this my "spiritual toolbox" because the things that allow for the maturation of the adult personality correspond highly to those things that allow for the evolution of the soul. If those words don't work for you and/or rub you the wrong way, don't get caught up on it. Choose whatever words make sense to you.

In examining all of the tools in the toolbox, "not wanting things to be other than they are" is definitely a power tool. It is immensely powerful and effective, but it can also be used in an incorrect way.

"Not wanting things to be other than they are" does NOT mean "accepting your lot." It does NOT mean "this is what God/fate/etc has in store for you so you should just sit there and take it."

If you are in an unfulfilling job, or in a bad/abusive relationship, or experiencing a serious medical condition, or whatever, by all means, do what you can do to change it!! Summon and apply your will. That is part of what it means to be human.


What about in the meantime? If I have an unsatisfactory job, and I am actively trying to change it, should I moan and lament every day until it finally changes? How much of my life would I waste, waiting for the exact life conditions to match up to my demands and expectations, before I allow myself to be happy?

What if you can't work out, or run, as much or as intensely as you would like? Are you going to choose unhappiness until you can?

What if you could just find happiness and contentment right now? Could you hold that mental space and still look for a job? Could you hold that mental space while not working out or running? Do you see how it can be as easy as making a choice, in the moment?

"Not wanting things to be other than they are" is the negatively expressed way of describing the Buddhist idea that suffering is a result of wanting things to be other than they are.

Do you see the nuance? It doesn't mean you have to force yourself to be happy with unpleasant things. It means don't add to the unpleasant experience by piling on your own negative cogitation. Pain is a part of life. Suffering is mostly self-created. It is primarily a product of our thinking; the constant rumination of negative thoughts, driven by our desire for things to be other than they are, right now.

Sometimes, when I bring this idea up to people, I receive a lot of resistance. They push back, saying "Well, I WANT to be angry, or afraid, or anxious, or whatever. Those are human feelings, and I think we should allow ourselves to experience them. I don't think we are suppose to be happy all of the time."

I agree! The point is, to CHOOSE it. If you CHOOSE to be angry, or sad, or fearful, or anxious, you are expressing what you are entitled to. As I said before, summon and apply your will. That is part of what it means to be human.

But understand that if you choose it, you are also the one responsible for how you feel. You loose the right to blame it on others, or on external circumstances.

I hope that point makes sense. You don't have to be happy in every moment. I am encouraging you, instead, to be conscious and make choices in every moment. Be in charge of your thoughts, don't let your thoughts be in charge of you. Of course, of course...it's going to happen. Probably over and over and over. But the better you get at noticing it, stopping it, and applying your own volition to how you want to be, the less often your neurotic thoughts will drag you through the mud.

It is interesting to me that there is still another, deeper, level of resistance that I run across from time to time. Some people will bring up extreme examples: cases of living in a war zone, cases of living with famine, cases of experiences of extreme violence and trauma.

My first thought is: what is the source of their own resistance that they evoke extreme examples, that they themselves have probably never experienced? (And probably never will experience.) It seems like a mental/emotional parry. A way of sidestepping the difficult business of doing internal work.

And by the way, I imagine that we all do this, in one way or another. When you feel the inner resistance rushing out of you, you will know that you have another opportunity; an opportunity to ask "What is the source of my resistance?" To me, there are constant opportunities to find out what makes us tick. (Another one I like to use is any time I find myself judging someone's behavior, I turn it around and ask myself "When do I behave like that?" Not only does it allow me to have more empathy for the other person, but it gives me the opportunity to modify my own behavior in the future.)

This is all a journey. I am certainly not a master; only a student. I don't write as a teacher, from a position of superiority. I write only as a peer, who is sharing their experience. We all have things to share with each other!

Next medical update coming soon. Until then, try watching those thoughts swirling around in your head, and choose the mental inner space that you want! :)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lappy Roppy Scoppy to the Belly; and an unfortunate timing

As I sit out here on my deck, with three incision wounds in my belly, I think, "I didn't choose the Thug Life..."

Oh wait. That's probably a stretch. My deck does look out over Lake Washington, after all...

Maybe it's more accurate to say, "I didn't choose the Pseudomyxoma peritonei Life. The Pseudomyxoma peritonei Life chose me."

And I THINK that is true.

That is, I THINK PMP is what we are talking about here (but maybe not!!), and I THINK I didn't do something to bring it upon myself. But I can't be sure.

At any rate, what I CAN be sure of is that I DO have three incision/puncture wounds in my belly. And I laugh now at how much I underestimated the effects of getting a laparoscopy. But not really, you know, an actual LAUGH, because that would hurt so much right now. I mean "laugh" in more of a figurative way.

Yeah, maybe they let you go home the same day as the procedure, but that doesn't mean you're going to have a peachy time of it. Trust me.

At any rate, I am dealing with it, and it is getting a little bit better every day. I can tell you this...to all of those fitness people out there who say "you use your core for everything," you have no idea just how true that is.

I didn't talk to the surgeon afterwards. He did talk to Rose and my mother, however. I know bits and pieces of the conversation, and let's just say that it's better to not bring it all up right now. It's not fun stuff. BUT...we are waiting for the biopsy results. And when those come back, we will have most of the answers that we need to move forward. Until then, I am not going to dwell on anything other than the positive. There is really no sense in doing otherwise. Sure, you can take the time to do the planning needed for the not so positive paths forward, but there is no use dwelling on them. Too much Life happening right here, right now.

That reminds me. I want to share a story. It's a love story. In four chapters.

A (Tainted) Love Story, in Four Chapters

Chapter One

Belly: Ow.
Oxycodone: What's wrong?
Belly: I hurt.
Oxycodone: Here, take me.
Belly: Ahhh, that's better. I love you.
Oxycodone: I love you, too.

Chapter Two

Belly: Ow.
Oxycodone: What's wrong?
Belly: I hurt.
Oxycodone: Here, take me.
Belly: Ahhh, that's better. I love you.
Oxycodone: I love you, too.

Chapter Three

Belly: Ow.
Oxycodone: What's wrong?
Belly: I hurt.
Oxycodone: Here, take me.
Belly: Ahhh, that's better. I love you.
Oxycodone: I love you, too.

Chapter Four

Belly: Oxy, thank you for being in my life, but...
Oxycodone: What is it?
Belly: Well, ever since you've come in to my life, I've noticed that I haven't been able to poop.
Oxycodone: Oh, yeah. That's me.
Belly: Oh. Well. Will you please let me poop?
Oxycodone: Sorry. I can't do that.
Belly: Uuum, well, I love you and all, but, I really need to poop.
Oxycodone: Sorry, that's not how it works.
Belly: Well, it's just that I really really need to poop.
Oxycodone: Then you need to give me something for it.
Belly: Please. Anything. Just name it.
Oxycodone: Prune juice.
Belly: Ok, sure. How much do you need?
Oxycodone: How much can you drink?

The end


When I look back over the last few years, there is something that really bums me out. Rose and I have never really been able to train hard together. About the time I was gearing up more and more with trail running, Rose was trying to make the Olympic Trials in the 1500m (2012) and USATF Nationals in the 800m (2013). So while my training involved time on the trails and in the hills, Rose's training involved long flat miles and time on the track.

In the late summer of 2013, right when I started having my breathing and strength issues, Rose left the track for the world of Spartan Races. Ever since then, she has been training in a way more like I would have LOVED to have been training...had I been able to do so. As I geared down to figure out what was wrong, and scaled back to the levels my body could handle, Rose's training took off. It has been exciting to watch, but as a lifelong athlete, it has also been difficult at times.

This laparoscopy has made this especially obvious, as I can barely do anything right now, let alone hard training. If I need a larger surgery in the near future, this will be exponentially more true.

In the end, it's just Life. That's how things go sometimes. But in the vein of transparency, I thought that I would share that it is something that gets me down from time to time. It's not so much jealousy, by the way. It's really more about the "training together" piece. I may be 48 years old, but at 100% health, I know that there are still some areas where I can push her. And there are plenty of areas where she can push me. [Spoiler alert: I'm probably not going to be getting a lot better at those things as time goes on! :)]

That said, and I've mentioned this many times over, I love being her Sherpa. It is an honor, and I am so proud of what she has accomplished.

Here is what the Sherpa knows that you may not....Rose is not at the very top of her game yet. She has really never 100% put all of the pieces together.

The Rise of Rose is just beginning.