Race Sherpa Rises

Race Sherpa Rises

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.


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. :)


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.


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 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.


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. :)


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.


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. :)


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...


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!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Eight Week Recap - In Three Parts

I ran across this recently and wanted to share:

"Before I had cancer, I knew I was going to die, I just didn't know when. After I was diagnosed with cancer, I knew I was going to die, I just didn't know when."

Before my diagnosis last June, I was fully acquainted and comfortable with the idea of "we aren't guaranteed any time and we could die any day." After my diagnosis, I realized that my understanding of that was purely conceptual. That is, I knew it, intellectually, but I did not have a visceral understanding of it.

My understanding is deeper now, and all I can say is: in the midst of your normal every day life, the one that hypnotizes and numbs you with its familiarity and struggles, try to find a moment to really FEEL the truth of your vulnerability and impermanence. It might scare you to consider it, but if you can let the fear go, the true sweetness of being alive will be your reward.
- Posted on Facebook, 1/24/16

I have mentioned before the trade-off one makes when writing about experiences within, or close to, the moment of their occurrence, versus writing about them later. The upside of writing about them in retrospect is the meaning that one can add to the narrative of the experience, due to further reflection.

But there would appear to be a diminishing return. That is, at some point, many of the interesting insights and nuances that one could provide by writing about an event after thoughtful reflection can also get lost in the continual forward movement of more and more Life.

Eventually, the subtleties get overwhelmed by more events, and more processing, until the language of (or the interest in) the previous insights dissolve in to an faint shadow of their former selves.

I fear that seems to be the case here; that my negligence in waiting this long to write reduces the potential for meaningful insight and instead becomes more of a mechanical recitation of facts.

And yet, I feel it is important to cover at least some small amount of all of the ground traversed in the last two months before moving on to current events.



I could list a number of reasons for why it has been eight to nine weeks since I last posted, but if I had to be honest with myself, I believe I could sum it up in one word: restlessness.

The interesting thing about this restlessness is that both surgeons, Dr. Ong in Seattle and Dr. Foster in Omaha, told me that the primary symptom I would experience post-surgery would be fatigue. In reality, it was the opposite.

I was restless. Restless on the verge of anxiousness.

It is possible that if I had been able to do my normal workouts, I might have actually experienced the fatigue they were talking about. But as it was, there were zero moments during the day when I felt like I had to lie down or take a nap. In fact, more often than not, I headed out the door for more walks. And while I did spend large chunks of time on the computer, I couldn't cultivate the mental stillness I needed to write.

It is a shame, really, because there are a number of things worth mentioning that I will distill in to a few words for now but that I would have expounded on in greater detail at the time they happened. But seeing as how there is no way to go back and do it over, I will just proceed forward.

My last appointment with Dr. Foster was on Friday, December 18th. He was pleased with how everything was looking and he removed my last drain tube, even though it was putting out more peritoneal sweat than he would have liked. At some point you just hope the body re-absorbs it, he said, but then went on to describe what I should look out for in case the fluid started to accumulate in my abdomen.

My biggest concern was that this could happen while I was back in Seattle, and while I could obviously seek out doctors there, my medical support system was in Omaha.

The moment I woke up the next morning, I knew something was off. Before I even opened my eyes I noticed that my last few dreamy moments were really negative. Definitely not normal for me. And the instant I sat up I felt an uneasy tension in my breathing.

As the morning went on, it was clear that something was stirring. I was feeling anxious. And emotional.

It was not uncommon for me to walk continuously throughout my parent's house, as that is how I did my daily walking during my recovery. But that morning, I was pacing. And I could tell. I also kept putting food in my mouth even though I wasn't hungry.

All tale-tell signs, of something, but I didn't know what to do about it. I am always sensitive to anything that feels like it restricts my breathing, but there was more going on; more that I could not identify. We were leaving to go back to Seattle that day, and while I was excited to get back, I was not very psyched about what I was experiencing. I was just doing what I could to hold everything together.

But that strategy would not work as well on the plane.

If you know my personality, it would not be difficult to guess that I am not the type to be prone to anxiety, but "anxiety" is the only way I can explain what I felt on the plane ride home. It was bad.

Everything felt restricting. I had to take my binder off, and I was constantly tugging on my clothing anywhere it seemed even the slightest bit tight, which felt like pretty much everywhere. I got so warm that I started sweating.

Every ten or fifteen minutes I would catch my spinning thoughts and think "Dude, c'mon...this is all in your head. You can pull it together." And occasionally, I would succeed. I would start to feel calm, and I would cool off to the point of having to wrap my jacket around myself. And all would be good until the cycle started over again.

Needless to say, it was not a short three hour flight, and I was very happy to get off the plane. Our friends picked us up from the airport, and I felt pretty normal for the rest of the night.

In reflecting back, it is possible that all of these feelings didn't start on the last day in Omaha. I think there was always an underlying "restlessness" that I felt, but I was always able to distract myself and shake it off. For some odd reason, this restlessness feeling seemed to increase right before I ate and right before I went to bed.

Being back in Seattle wasn't easy at first, because Rose flew out of town the very next morning for a photo shoot in Los Angeles. We both agreed that this was the right thing for her to do, but it did leave me at home on my own.

Normally, being the introvert that I am, I love those days of just hanging out by myself. But these were not normal days nor normal circumstances.

So, I walked. A lot. Outside and inside. On the first day that that I hit eight miles walking (according to my iPhone app) I am pretty certain that almost half of those miles came from walking inside the house. I would walk a figure eight pattern between two open rooms or just walk around from room to room.

Walking was the only real activity I was allowed to do, so I did a lot of it.

I also experienced a certain amount of vulnerability when I was walking around outside. It was difficult to explain to people, but when I wrote about it on Facebook a number of women commented that they felt the same way when they were out in public while 8-9 months pregnant, or while walking around with their infant. It is a question of "what am I capable of if something comes up or goes wrong?"

The irony of this feeling, of course, is that even in my current state I was probably stronger and fitter than many of the people who were also out walking around. We evaluate situations based on our own baselines more than how our situation compares to others. It provided me with some interesting insight in to how we perceive our "diminished self," whether it be from injury, medical issue, or age/frailty.

The pre-bed restlessness seemed to increase when I was alone, so I would turn on the TV and watch it until it was much later than my normal bed time. Basically, I would create a situation of exhaustion. Despite this pre-bed restlessness, I never had problems falling asleep once I actually lied down and closed my eyes.

Within a week or two, things started to normalize a bit. I joined a gym that was about a mile and a half away. I walked there every day, did a few light weight exercises, and then did some easy cardio on the treadmill or the stepmill. Eventually, I was able to ramp my cardio up to an intensity that allowed me to sweat and breathe hard. Not only did this do wonders for my soul (sweat salvation), but it helped relieve some of the pent-up restlessness.

I have thought a lot about the origins of that restlessness. I am guessing it was the product of a number of things. While one could say that being able to be physically active again allowed me to "burn off" all of that excess energy, one could also argue that that same physical activity allowed me to cover up and ignore a deeper restlessness. I don't really know for sure which one is more true. I am still processing it all, and I imagine the answer will lie somewhere in the middle.


In all of my years as a "healthy person," I was always very aware of people who were currently dealing with, or had previously dealt with, serious medical issues. My father had a heart valve surgery when he was seventeen years old, and my mother had breast cancer twice, so even in my own immediate family there were plenty of reminders.

I also worked in a level one trauma center for three and a half years. So between my personal experiences, and everything I saw at work, I had more than enough data to be aware of what misfortunes were possible in life, to be compassionate and empathetic towards those dealing with medical or traumatic issues, and to be grateful for my own good health.

But never once did I feel GUILTY about being in good health.

How interesting, then, that it was only after I had this rare cancer, and a seemingly successful surgery and recovery, that I harbored my first feelings of guilt. Similar to when soldiers come home from the war, knowing that some of their buddies didn't make it, or like when people survive accidents when others died, I experienced my first sensation of guilt just weeks after my surgery.

I had friends who were going through very unpleasant cancer surgeries and IV chemo, and I saw people posting not so great things on the Facebook PMP page. It was not lost on me that my surgery had gone well and that my recovery was speeding along. I couldn't help but feel a slight pang of "survivors guilt."

I have been spending some time thinking about this feeling of guilt; wondering what lies at the root of it all. Is there an underlying belief of personal unworthiness? Is it a function of one's world view; ideas about fairness or lack of fairness? Or, might it just be based in fear, confronting what could still be the real possibility that things could still turn in a bad way?

While I am a hypnotherapist, and I love learning about how we create and form beliefs, I haven't spent much time thinking about survivor's guilt, per se. But having now dipped my toe in to the stream, and felt it first-hand, I am fascinated by it. Of equal interest to me is what my own attitude and outlook has played in all of this, if any. In other words, what do we and don't we have the ability to affect? I imagine that this will be high up on my list of things to research this year.


At the end of the day, my recovery is going well. I go to the gym 5 to 7 days a week. I am increasing the intensity and the volume of my cardio workouts and I am slowly starting to increase my strength training. I fear I am only going to be able to do something like two pull-ups (when I finally try), but, it is all a journey, I suppose. :) I have also been able to run, outside, twice. I huge step forward for me.

I have mentioned a number of times throughout this blog that I thought my breathing issue was unrelated to my medical issue. I still believe that to be the case, as I continue to experience the same issue that I experienced prior to my surgery. It is possible that the bulky mass of the mucinous tumors were restricting my diaphragm before, and now it is restricted by swelling or post-surgery adhesions. But intuitively, I keep thinking that somehow, in some way, this restriction I am sensing is related to the position of my spine.

What do I mean by that? I'm not sure, exactly. Only that I think I can find a way to resolve the issue by concentrating on position and posture. I am open to the fact that there could be a psychological/emotional aspect at play as well. I have certainly heard enough stories to not rule anything like that out. But for the time being, the focus is my back.

There are many things that are being left out of this post, but at some point, you have to just cut it off and start anew. That is how I am feeling internally...in how I look at my life, and at life in general...so I am applying it to my blog as well.

Not every experience or lesson needs to be shared. In some ways, having this post hang over my head for the last two months has been holding me back, in the sense that I have been trying to keep the ideas and concepts alive long enough to share. The most important thing is that I have integrated the insights and learning in to my own life along the way. The "me" of today is different than the me of eight weeks ago (or even the me of eight days ago).

My focus now is on what my focus has always been on; moving forward. I have not been one to cling on to the past, and there is certainly no reason to start that now.

Giddy up!