Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Other Cyclist with Cancer

The other day pedaldork, one of my favorite commenter's wrote,

"Spence, At one time I admired Lance Armstrong for the way he took on cancer.
I must say though, you have now taken his place. I never thought someone I have
never met could make such a difference in the lives of others. You're definitely
making a difference in mine. I'm looking forward to riding with you in the near
future. Keep fightin' and writin'. God Bless"

I have to say that was a huge compliment that went straight to my head. It is also not the first time that I have been compared to Lance Armstrong. I've got to say that I have terribly mixed feelings about Lance and I thought I would try to hash them out today. A few months ago Elden, AKA Fatty over at Fat Cyclist made what I thought was a great point. He said in a nutshell that he is no fool, which any of us who read his blog know, and that it is pretty clear that Lance either has absurdly super human powers or he was cheating by using EPO Human Growth Hormone and god knows what else when he won 7 Tours de France in a row. There is no solid evidence to support that except for this. Every single competitor that was on the podium with him and most of the competitors in the top 10 have all been either busted for doping or have been implicated in doping scandals. Now Armstrong pretty much rode circles around those other racers who we now know were doped to the gills. That just seems too unlikely that Armstrong was not doping.

Elden went on to say that none of that matters to him as his wife Susan is battling cancer. The amount of help that the Lance Armstrong Foundation has given to his family overrides any ill feelings he may have toward Lance as a racer and representative of the cycling community. I would like to at this point to echo that sentiment. The LAF has been instrumental to my recovery in many ways, in particular by providing the Lotsahelpinhands website tool that allows us to schedule and match all of my families needs with all of our volunteers.

I still feel the need to say more about the subject. First of all there is more damming evidence against Armstrong. A number of his team members from back in the days of US Postal Service have come forth and admitted to doping and talked about a culture of doping on the team. Armstrong has lashed out at any accuser with lawsuits and threats and reprisals. And on a more personal level, Lance left Sheryl Crowe about two weeks before she announced publicly that she had breast cancer.

As a fan of professional road racing I have to acknowledge that the sport has come a long way in the last couple of years and seems to be making great progress at confronting the problem of doping head on. More so than any other professional sport. I am very proud of teams like Slipstream Chipotle and CSC that are trying hard to confront the doping problem head on. But I fear that there is another shoe to drop in the doping wars. That shoe is the eventual discovery that Armstrong was doping all through the seven years that he won the TDF. I fear what will happen to the sport that I love when that happens.

I have never met Lance Armstrong but I have read most of his books as well as a couple of books about him. From what I have read I am a very different person than him. First off I am a puddin'. Even if I had the physical attributes that it would take to win the Tour De France, I certainly don't have the attitude. I enjoy life too much to devote 100% of it towards a single goal. As a parent I could never spend the months away from my children that he did to win those races. It would just be too much for me.

But as a cancer survivor I understand the urge to fight. With everything that I have. I will use any and every drug that the doctors suggest to fight this disease. I will do everything in my power to win against this evil infection and show it that I am tougher than it. In sporting, there is a limit to what someone will do to win when you cross a certain limit, you are cheating. But when it comes to cancer, there is no cheating. There is only winning. I must win. The only other choice is death. So I will do whatever I have to do to win. I will feel done with the cancer battle not when the doctor tells me that I am in remission; but when I have regained my pre-cancer level of fitness. I anticipate that will take a couple of years from now. So at what point am I cheating, if I am still using medical enhancements to reach that goal?

I am a 41 year old man with the judgement and wisdom of someone that has lived that long. I will be very very tempted to use whatever I can to get back to that level of fitness. When Lance battled cancer he was in his 20's and doping was at its peak in pro-cycling. Cycling was also his ticket out of a hardscrabble existence in the forgotten backwoods of Texas. It is widely known that many of the performance enhancing drugs that cyclist use to boost their blood are the very same drugs that cancer patients use for the same end. The temptation must have been very very strong for him.

People are unique, we all experience life in different ways. Having cancer is for anyone a major life experience. Each cancer patient has a different way of reacting to the challenge. My belief is that the world is a safe place and that good will come from this experience. That belief has already gotten me a long way through the experience. I have an incredible support group the likes of which I doubt anyone has ever had. And I have already been given so many gifts. The result is that no matter how I am feeling, I wake each day with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that gets me through each day. I do see getting through cancer as a battle but not in the sense that you might think. I see it as a battle of attitude. It is so very important to me that my attitude stay positive, that I continue to value the things that are important to me, that I continue to see the world as a safe place and that I continue to care about the welfare of my family and community. If cancer takes that away from me then I will lose the battle. I don't want to make a judgement about how anyone else chooses to deal with cancer but I think that attitude is quite different than the way that Lance chose to fight cancer.

When I am back on the bike, I will proudly ride in LAF events and will raise money for the LAF. I will work on my own to support my community in hopes of giving back what I have received. I take comparisons of myself and Lance Armstrong as compliments, after all he is the poster boy for beating cancer. With that said, I see myself as a very different person than Lance. I see my attitude toward life as very different than Lance. I see my battle with cancer as being very different than Lance's. I just want to get through this with as much panache as possible, to share the experience with as many people as possible in hopes that others will learn and grow from it. When I am done, I want to give back as much goodness as I have received through the process.
I don't really know if any of this makes any sense but, there it is.
Thanks for reading

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get Out There

Yesterday was perfect. One of those spring days that makes the Lotus Coloma valley simply one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. Mount Murphy is blanketed with California poppies and there are wildflowers out everywhere you look. The Live Oaks and Black Oaks are budding out new leaves that glow in an almost fluorescent green. The air temperature was about 75; perfect riding temperature and the river was up to about 2500 cfs which is a perfect play level. If you live in the valley you know what I mean. If you don't please disregard everything you've read. All there are here is angry hillbillies and trash heaps. It is a desolate wasteland that is much too far from the shopping malls and Starbucks and there is never "anything happening."

It seems not so long ago that a day like this would be all I would need for an excuse to get out and enjoy. Somewhere along the way things like paying mortgages and health care bills, meeting deadlines and closing deals became more important. Now I see the error in my way. The fact is that we are all living on a finite schedule and at the end I am going to measure our life not in the things that I have acquired or the amount of money I have made but in the experiences I have had and the differences I have made in other peoples lives. I can not make a difference in someone else's life unless I am centered. The way that I get centered is to enjoy perfect moments. Days like yesterday and today are so conducive that perfect moment that there should be NO excuse not to get out and enjoy them.

You may be reading this right now and thinking yeah sounds good but I a have got to do XYZ thing or else blah blah blah. Well you may be right but I would encourage you to ask yourself what will really happen if you take the day or the afternoon or morning off? I mean really what would happen? There is someone willing to watch your kids or do a trade with you. Your clients will either not know or understand that you need to take some time for "personal issues." Your work will not bust you for taking a sick day. I can guarantee that all that crap that you are working on will still be there when you get back and the only difference is that you will be refreshed and ready to go to work instead of surfing over to the puddin' cyclist to see what I am rambling about what you watch the clock tick down til quitting time.

So call your friends, make a plan and get out and enjoy. While you still can. Go race each other up prospector before sunset. Go paddle chili bar and hike up and sit in the poppies and feel the warmth soak into your cold body. Go for a hike with the kids and the dogs at Cronin Ranch. Go up the hill for one last slush session at Sierra at Tahoe. Go take the boat out on the lake for an early season ski session. Go out and whack the ball. Sit under your favorite oak tree, contemplate and meditate. Run the Monroe Ridge trail. Go ahead, I give you permission. Your spouse will understand. The people around you will appreciate it because you will mellow out a bit and god knows you need it.

Do this and I promise you this, you will be happier and better for it, and you will feel better than those who choose not to do it.

Report back here and tell me what you did.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Transcending the Beatdown

What the Bleep. I posted this a couple of days ago. I know it was up because I got some comments on it but blogger put it back in my "drafts" bucket and took it off the blog. So here it is again. My apologies.

Hi there. Feels like I haven’t been able to get as many posts out lately as I want. I told myself yesterday, “self, no posts until you finish your taxes.” Well, I made a good sized dent in them yesterday so I decided today was a good day for a post.

First the update, and then the fund stuff: I discontinued the radiation treatment on Monday. The pain that I experienced over the weekend was almost certainly from inflation caused by the radiation treatment. The spot that they were working on is on my left clavicle. There is a big old tumor there and it was getting inflamed from the radiation. That in turn was pushing on the nerves that run down the clavicle and causing intense pain. The radiation oncologist response was,” just take a bunch of non-steroidal anti inflammatory.” That just shows he doesn’t know me very well… I cannot take N.s.a.i.d’s due to my kidney problems. So it was a pretty easy decision to bag the treatments all together. That means I don’t have to make the 1hour one way commute down to Roseville all week and all next week and I am glad to have the time back. Bummer that it isn’t going to work for me but at least it was just a side treatment designed to just treat the pain in my clavicle in the first place. It was not a primary treatment. I’ll be fine without it.

So my week has been pretty good since then. I am taking long naps in the afternoons. Waking up at 10 AM and going to bed at 10 PM. Mostly I have been feeling good.

Matt Barnes came over today to be Spencer spotter while the c/h, kids, granny and gramps hiked the Monroe ridge trail. It was great hanging out with Matt. We did a lot of talking about the stuff that is important to us and how pursuing your passion is such an important part of being a happy person.

That reminded me that I’ve been wanting to write about that for some time. It seems to me that one of the things that defines us as humans is what we do for our spirits. The fact that almost each and every one of us has something that we do on a regular basis that helps us transcend the weekly beat down of life. For me it was cycling. Throwing my leg over the bike and putting in miles was the thing that I did to keep my head straight amidst all the noise and distraction of the demands of life. It gave me joy and a sense of freedom. It also gave me a sense of limitlessness in that I could go farther and farther on the bike and was only limited by my own body and how long I would hold up. When I was on my bike there was just me, the bike, the road, and my friends. No work, no family problems, no stress. That was my passion.

Almost everyone I know has something that they pursue as their passion. Religious folks go to church on Sunday, surfers look for the perfect wave, skiers spend their lives looking for the ultimate powder day and the list goes on. It seems to me that the healthiest people both of mind and body are the ones that have a passion and devote a good part of their lives to pursuing that passion. It also seems to me that the opposite is true. People that don’t have a developed sense of passion pursuit tend to be the grumpiest most out of shape people around. It seems to me that most substance abusers are lacking a passion. I don’t know if one is the symptom of the other but they do seem to go hand in hand.

Another thing that I have noticed is that like attracts like. I firmly believe that a big part of the reason that I have so many friends old and new coming out of the woodwork to support me through this is because I have spent my whole life in pursuit of my passions. At time is has been climbing, sailing, surfing, kayaking, rafting, etc. Each of those pursuits has put me in the company of other folks that were equally as passionate about those activities. From that common passion long term bonds of friendship have developed and from there, community has grown.
Right now when I am the most hammered, I have the least to be passionate about. I can’t really do anything. It is a pretty big effort on most days to sit at the computer and write a bog post, but its what I’ve got for now. Consequently I feel pretty ripped off. I spend a lot of my time fantasizing about what I am going to do when I get done with this. I feel like I have got pay myself back for months of missing out on the part of life that to me makes it worth living. I am not sure how that is going to take shape but I do know that I am going to have to pay myself back.

So I have a question for you dear readers. What is it that you do to transcend the weekly beatdown. Please leave your answer in the comments. Please note, if you have had trouble leaving comments in the past, I have made it easier. You should not have to sign up for a blogger account you should be able to do it pretty easily and I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Out of the Cave for the Moment

It has truly been the worst week yet. It started with Nausea that I wrote about. We got that more or less under control with prilosec and so I have been feeling less like barfing all the time. I started radiation treatment on the tumor on my clavicle on Thursday. On Thursday night I noticed an increased level of pain in the clavicle but thought not much of it. On Friday I went for my next radiation treatment and everything went just fine. I woke up on Saturday in an incredible amount of pain. It is hard to describe the pain but it felt like a broken bone x10.

Daughter one and two had both come down with symptoms of strep throat so the chickenhawk took them down the hill to kaiser for diagnosis. While they were out my pain started to really build. Granny was with me and doing her best to take care of me but all I could do was lay there and moan. They came home with antibiotics and the C/H clicked into taking care of me mode. She called doctor KT who made yet another house call. She sat by my bedside and kept giving me more and more liquid morphine until the pain got to a bearable level. Finally I felt good enough to watch Fight Club on the little DVD player. What a great movie. The whole day yesterday is a blur. I just remember being in pain and watching the movie and that is about it. I did do lot of fantasizing about riding my mountain bike and sailing in the Sea of Cortez. I think the pain is related to the radiation treatment so I am going to talk with the doc about discontinuing it.

I hate the end of the day the most. It seems like that is the time of day when I focus the most on my plight. People always give me great feedback about my positive attitude and I do feel like I am mostly positive but when it is time to go to bed I often just feel terrible. My body has been hijacked and I'm only a small bit of the way through the battle to get it back. Sometimes I just cant believe that I have to keep going through this. It is a really long and hard battle and there aren't really any breaks just weird semi-comatose sleep that is hard to wake up from. So last night I broke down and cried again before I went to sleep.

I woke this morning and the sun was out and the pain had subsided. I am completely exhausted to the point where I am having trouble keeping my eyes open to write this post. At least there is a lull in the battle right now. That's all I've got for now. I'll try to write something witty and insightful next time.
Thanks to everyone who is helping in so many ways.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Since getting out of the big house life has been a bit more difficult than usual. I have been experiencing a lot of nausea. I am not sure what it is coming from. I am on so many drugs that the side effects all collide or cancel each other out or add up to more than they should. It is pretty crazy. At times the nausea has been so bad that all I can do is sit there and try to keep it together. Blogging has been pretty far from my mind.

Yesterday Robin and Barbara went down to the Folsom pharmacy and picked up a prescription of prilosec an anti-nausea drug. Since I've got that on board I am feeling lots better and am able to eat again. the Chickenhawk and I just came home from breakfast at the Coloma Club. For anyone that knows the Coloma Club, they are rolling their eyes right now or possibly pointing their finger down their throat. But I am here to tell you it was great to have food brought to us, what we asked for when we wanted it and to just sit and talk. The Coloma Club is a yucky place but sometimes it just hits the spot.

Spring has sprung in the Coloma Lotus valley. It is my favorite time of year to be here. Coloma is an incredibly beautiful place. We are in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The elevation at the floor of the valley is only 750 feet but the mountains that create the canyon rise 2000 feet above the valley. Out the window of my family room is a view of Mount Murphy the biggest most prominent hill in the valley. It burned last summer and has been black ever since. Now it has turned green and the south facing flank of it has got California poppies blanketing it. All of the hills have turned the green of fresh new grass. In a few months that grass will dry out and the hills will be a dusky blond but for now it is shimmering emerald green. The buckeyes are all leafing out in a brilliant green and there are lots of trees blossoming in white flowers all over.

The C/H was running on the Monroe ridge trail yesterday the opposite side of the valley from Mt. Murphy. She said the ridge was blanketed with shooting stars.

The day time temperatures are running in the high 60's or low 70's and it has been sunny to partly cloudy. It is absolutely perfect bike riding weather. If you are not doing anything, I suggest you get in your car, drive here and ride your face off. You will not regret it.

My in laws, Charlie and Nancy stopped by yesterday on their way back home to Bend OR. They had taken a short break after being here for the better part of February. They stayed in a local campground in their palatial RV. They did were really great at stepping in and helping to run our house as the Share the Care group was getting on its feet. They figured out the routine beautifully and wrangled the kids really well. They did most of the grocery shopping and tons of house repairs that we couldn't get to. Their help was so incredibly key I really am grateful for that.

My Mom and her hubby Chuck are here now and are getting into the swing of things. My Mom, we call her Granny was a nurse for her whole working life. She just recently retired. She has been really great at taking care of me while I am down and in need. That takes a load off the C/H who has been working so hard and is constantly struggling with burn out.

Speaking of that, I am really struggling to figure out how I can help the C/H with burn out. She is the hardest worker I know. She will keep going and going until she pops. She is a sprinter not a marathoner. She does not have an easy time asking for help or accepting help or even realizing that she needs it. She just gets angry. At everything. I feel so bad about that. I am usually the one who talks her down, tells her that everything is going to be all right but I am not doing a very good job at that right now. I mean when you look at me and here me telling you everything is going to be all right it has got to be kind of a joke really. There is another example of the insults of cancer, another thing that I have to come to terms with. I cant take care of my spouse the way I used to. It is so fucked.

We are in the second week of Share the Care and it is really working well. At the initial meeting that we had, I mentioned that there were about 100 people that had expressed interest in helping out in various ways. Our coordinator Adrienne has scheduled weekly captains for the next several months. The job of the captains is to schedule the weeks' events; meals, rides to the doctor, kids to and from school etc. As a result there are still about 90 volunteers that have yet to be called on. If you are one of those folks, rest assured, we want your help it is just a matter of getting to calling on people to get them scheduled. We really truly appreciate all the help and offers of help. Please be patient with our process.

I understand that there will be a work party weekend coming up on the 28th or 29th. Stay tuned for more info about that.

So, all in all, I am feeling better than I have for the last few days which I can say were the worst so far. I am catching up with phone calls and stuff that I need to do like taxes and selling my truck. I feel like I have fallen out of touch with a lot of folks that are very important to me but I know you all understand that I am doing what I can while taking care of myself first. I have been dreaming lots about what I am going to do and where I am going to go when I am done with this. I really want to go sailing, somewhere tropical, with the kids. I want to go to Disney land with the girls. I want to form a community assitance group called Loco Care to take care of people in the community that need help. I am dreaming of doing something big on the bike, not sure yet but possibly RAAM with a Velo Loco team possibly 2010.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated

Hey There,
It is 7:30 on Saturday night. The C/H just got daughter one to bed. Daughter two is a at a school event. I got back this morning from the Kaiser Hilton. On Thursday evening I was running a low grade fever. We were told by the oncologist to go straight to the ER if I ran a fever so that is what we did. Seth and Noey from next door came over and watched the kids until Mrs. Thomas could get here to spend the night. The C/H drove me down to the ER and they admitted us right away. It was all a haze to me since I took my Thalidomide when we got there and proceeded to fall fast asleep. Ignorance is bliss.

Woke up on Friday feeling just peachy but they didn't want to turn me loose until I pooped. I spent the day taking increasingly more powerful laxatives with the hope of going home to be with the family. Around four in the afternoon it was starting to look doubtful. So David dropped what he was doing to come down and relieve the chickenhawk.

It was funny in a pathetic sort of way. Each time the nurse would bring out the bigger laxative guns they would make a big deal about how I was bound to poop really soon. But I kept exceeding expectations. The last desperate try was a mineral oil enema at about 7 PM. I figured that would blast me out, but by 9:30 still no action. So we bivouaced for the night.

In the AM David scurried over to Starbucks and got me a Venti drip. While he was gone the nurse brought me some prune juice. The combo did the trick and we were on the road by about 9. I spent all day sleeping. I think I'll add prune juice to my morning routine.

I am home, on a new course of antibiotics and feeling a bit tired but no worse for wear and tear. Thanks to David Seth and Barbara for the last minute coverage.

Granny arrives on Monday. I am looking forward to seeing her, Chuck and their new dog Sophie.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cold Hard Facts: I Do Requests

In my last post I put it out there. If there is info that you want I want to provide it. My good friend Beth who moved to Napa a couple of years ago with her hubby Marco and beautiful daughter has requested to know what is really up. What the diagnosis and prognosis is. I imagine there are a few readers wondering the same thing. Honestly I am not paying much attention to long-term prognosis. I intend to set new records in that department so I don't want to even know what normal is.

Here is what I know: I have multiple myeloma and am in stage 2a. The goal is to get to where I no longer have any syptoms of multiple myeloma. I started taking thalidomide and dexamethazone (sp?) last Monday. The oncologist says I will continue with that for 3-4 months with the idea of getting my blood and bone marrow as cleaned up as possible. Once we have got to a plateau in terms of improvement of blood numbers, then I will go for a Bone Marrow (stem cell) transplant.

That BMT will be Autologis which means I will receive my own bone marrow that will be harvested from me, cleaned up and put back into me. That process will take 4-6 weeks of being in the hospital at Stanford. In order to put the bone marrow back into my body the doctors have to basically turn off my immunity so that I will not reject the new bone marrow. I will be in complete isolation for a couple of weeks while that happens. It is likely that will take place in July and August. So I wont be going to the death ride this year. I wonder how much of the Tour I'll be able to watch... I will be pretty weak and worn out after that happens so i will probably take another month or two of recovery before I am back and functioning well.

Also in the mean time: the spot that has been giving me the most pain lately is my left clavicle. I have a large hideous tumor on it and the bone is just plain coming apart. This makes it painful to carry anything. To sit up for any period of time and my back neck are reshaping around it so I am just plain in a lot of pain over this. Massage from Heather and sitting in the Hot tub have been a key in combating this.

Next week I will start radiation on that tumor with the hope of killing that particularly bad spot. I have high hopes that the bone will start to re-grow and start doing its job again but it is possible that it wont and I'll have to talk to the orthopedic surgeon about what to do about that.

Collateral Damage: Another thing that I do know is that the problems with my hip are not cancer casued. I have avascular necrosis of my left femoral head. That means there is a dime sized chunk of bone on the tip of my femur that is dead and not likely to repair itself once my bone marrow is funtioning properly. It is too soon to tell what exaclty will be done about this but I am thinking it will be a hip replacement surgery. Basically what Floyd Landis did. I'll get a metal femur head and they'll clean out the joint and put me back together so I can start training soon.

Outlook One of the things that we have learned is that survivor statistics for MM are mostly wrong and out of date since so much has been discovered about treatment and diagnosis in the last five years. They say that it is incurable but the reality is that plenty of people go years and years with out showing symptoms. That sounds like cured to me.
Moreover, I am a very unusual MM patient. I am not over 70 and black. I am at the very young range and I am much more healthy than most who get it. That is to my advantage. For example most older folks who are diagnosed with MM do not get BMTs because the risk benefit does not work well for them. My treatment is as aggressive as it gets and I am standing up for it really well thus far. Frankly, I can take a lot more punishment than I've got so far.

I try not to pay attention to the survivorship numbers because I just plain don't feel like they apply to me. I am too out of the box to start with. I plan on setting new records.
Honestly though, I have moved my mental life expectancy up. I have always envisioned growing old with the chickenhawk. I really thought that 80 or more would be how long I go. Now I don't think that. I do think it is realistic that I'll be around pissing everyone off for another 20 years or so. But who knows... No one knows. I can tell you when I am cancer free, I am unlikely to go back to the track of working full time til I am 65 and then retiring to enjoy my golden years. I want to take more of my life NOW to savor those golden moments NOW. I want to teach my girls to sail. I want to ride and paddle with my buddies. I want to enjoy sunsets. I want to serve my fellow man that I might pay back a little of what I have received through this miracle.

Any other questions from readers. Drop 'em in the comments. Thanks for that one Beth. It was good to write about it.
Thanks for reading

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Of Team Work and Bike Racing

A disclaimer. I am a puddin'. I have never toed the start line in a road bike race. I have dabbled in cyclocross, mountain bike races, and time trials, but I have never raced on the road. I am, however, a huge fan of road bike racing. I love to read about it on the net and to watch it when it comes on TV.

This blog started as a cyclist's blog. A place for me to reflect on my life as a cyclist. Obviously that is not how things developed. But my life always seems to work out such that the experiences that lead up to any given point prepare me well for the next big challenge. For example, what I have learned about bike racing has really prepared me for the challenges I face in fighting cancer. If you have an understanding of road racing skip the next two paragraphs, if you think that road racing is an individual sport and have no idea that it is truly a team sport, read on.

The first thing that you have to understand to grasp cycling as a team sport is drafting. In order to go fast on a bike one must overcome the resistance of the air that one is moving through. The faster you go the more effort it takes to speed up or maintain speed. However, if you ride right behind another rider the wind resistance is decreased by 15 -20% and if you ride behind a group of riders it is like being pulled along by some magic strings that make flats seem like downhills and uphills seem like flats. Hence the term, to pull; which means ride at the front of the group and do the difficult work of setting the pace and breaking the wind.

Next bear in mind that bike racing is about endurance. It is one thing to race for 10 or 15 minutes and then see who has the speed and power to get across the line first. That is really too easy. Most pro bike races are upwards of 100 miles. The idea is to wear the riders down, cut into their reserves, make them suffer, and then see who has been able to manage their bodies and their attitudes well enough to get across the line first. Usually before the start of a race the team decides who has the best chance of winning today and that rider becomes the "protected rider" for the race. Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France is a good example of a protected rider. He got this honor because he was most likely to be the strongest rider at the moments of the race that would decide the outcome of the 2,000 plus mile sufferfest. As a protected rider his teammates would look after his many needs during the race. They allow him to ride in the best spot in the peloton. Certain members of the team are given the role of domestique which means they bring the protected rider food, water and clothing as needed in addition to pulling as needed. Domestiques can also serve as enforcers. Bike races are not friendly rides through the park. They are often more like a street fight at 20- 30 miles per hour. Having a tough, fearless rider at your side can be a good way to keep out of unwanted trouble.

So the teammates of Lance Armstrong hardly ever become household names and the mainstream hardly ever knows that riders like Lance can never get the fame and fortune without a team that is completely dedicated, who commit complete self sacrifice to their captain's success. . Also, each team member supports the protected rider in the way that they are best suited to do so. A big heavy sprinter is no good for helping a protected rider get over a climb. But he can usually pull though flat sections of road for miles and miles. The domestiques are truly the unsung hero's of the race.

I've said it before in this blog and I will say it again; I have an awesome team. I doubt I could get through this without the help of so many people. First and foremost is the chickenhawk who is putting so much aside to help me, but also lots of other folks. I will keep writing about specific members my support group but today I wanted to write about my feelings toward the team.

It is great to me that everyone that is stepping up is able to contribute in a way that feels meaningful to them and best suits their skills. I have massage therapists, moms who make meals, guys who come over and install hot tubs, or do other "blue jobs." Many just come over to stay close to me, help me through moments of pain, bring me food and water and give encouragement by listening and talking about life. Others take me to doctors appointments. I have also received some awesome art from the kids in the community. I also have a financial committee forming who will help with fundraising and planning for bridging the gap in our financial situation.

I have often listened to, or read, the post-race winners' interviews. It is not uncommon for a winner to say that he put in the final winning effort out of a desire to deliver a win for the team after they have given so much support during the race. These are the riders that I think have true panache. I am really starting to understand that sentiment. I have been given so much support by so many people that I have an overwhelming desire to do my very best, to reach deep into my suitcase of courage and deliver nothing short of a win.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Finding the Path

This is a trail that I have never been down. I have read stories and talked to others that have been here but the bottom line is that the cancer journey is a unique for each individual and family that goes down it. Last night Jen gave the chickenhawk and I something to help us on our way.

Jen and Randy were up in Whistler B.C. for a ski trip while we were in the diagnosis phase. We are really close with them but chose not to tell them about what was going on because we did not want to impact their trip. While Jen was up there she was consistently drawn to a set of earrings that are little inukshuks. She wasn't sure who she was buying them for but she bought them and brought them home. When she got home, of course we gave her the news about the cancer. She knew then that the inukshuks were for the chickenhawk and I.

The inukshuk is a significant symbol four us. Click this link to learn about the inukshuk. Here is a quote from that site.

The Inukshuk (pronounced IN-OOK-SHOOK) meaning "in the image of man", are magnificent lifelike figures of stone which were erected by the Inuit people and are unique to the Canadian Arctic. Standing along Canada's most northern shores, they endure as eternal symbols of leadership, encouraging the importance of friendship and reminding us of our dependence upon one another. In the Baffin region of Canada's Arctic, the traditional meaning of an Inukshuk was to act as a compass or guide for a safe journey. The Inukshuk, like ancient trackers, helped guide people seeking their way through the wilderness. An Inukshuk on land with two arms and legs means there is a valley. At the end of this valley, you will be able to go in two directions. Today, this serves as a reminder that we always have a choice in the direction we choose to take in our lives. Erected to make the way easier and safer for those who follow, an Inukshuk represents safety and nourishment, trust and reassurance. The Inukshuk guided people across the frozen tundra and gave them hope in barren places to handle hardships they encountered. These primitive, stone images showed the way ahead... pointing you in the direction you wanted to go. Had they been able to speak, I am certain they would have said... "Here is the road. It is safe. You can meet the demands that this path holds. You can reach your goals and attain your vision of where you want to be."

Jen took the two earrings and separated them into individual necklaces for both of us. A very thoughtful gift.

I am doing mostly OK I am very tired most of the time. It is a side effect of the thalidomide. I am experiencing a lot of pain. My left clavicle seems to be losing structural integrity. My back and shoulder are reshaping around the noodley bone and it is quite painful. My attitude is still good but I am just plain sleepy most of the time.

I know that many of you are wanting to know as much as you can about what is going on. If you have questions for me, please leave them in the comments section of this post and I will either answer them in the comments or in my next post.

Tommy came over this morning and hung out with me while the family went out. It was great to hang with him.

I also want to say thanks to Randy for coming over last week and hanging a new door on the girls room. There he is in the dark after a long day at work, helping a buddy out. I truly am a lucky guy.

Thanks for reading.