Race Sherpa Rises

Race Sherpa Rises

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!