Showing posts with the label Side Effects

Are You Starting The Cancer Triathlon? The mental challenge may be the toughest part so draw on your past…

A few years before I was diagnosed with colon cancer, I started doing triathlons.  I’d worked my way up to the 70.3 distance and was training for the full Ironman when I found out I’d be sidelined for a year of treatment. It seemed obvious that being in good physical condition as I headed into this would be an advantage but what surprised me was how much the triathlon experience also helped me mentally .   My stage-3 diagnosis qualified me for the full cancer experience: Radiation, Surgery, and Chemo.  As my treatment progressed, I discovered that the three phases of it were much like the three stages of a triathlon.  The triathlon is a swim, a bike ride, and a run.  At the Ironman distance, it’s a 2.4 mile swim; a 112 mile bike; and a 26.2 mile marathon. Physically both cancer treatment and a triathlon are challenging, but in very different ways. The stronger similarity is the mental cycle you go through…the little breaks between phases, the ups & downs along the way, and the

Is This a Bad Day or a Good Day?

I used to be able to get my body to do what I want.  All the basic functionality you expect with the equipment you're issued at birth plus a slow marathon or triathlon every so often. Now that my body is failing me and a walk up the stairs can leave me breathless, it's frustrating.   Kind of like this lifetime deal I've had with my body is being broken.  Or, more accurately, it's being broken earlier than I expected it would. When I compare how I feel some days to how I expected to feel at this age, it can seem like a bad day. But then I wondered: What if I were a paraplegic?  Wouldn't simply being able to stand-up in the morning make it a great day?   And that got me thinking about Steve Gleason the Saints player who has ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s disease and is now completely paralyzed.  Wouldn't something that I take for granted -  just being able to speak directly to my family - be his greatest day in years? It may be obvious and I'm just catching up, but i

Who Turned-up the Gravity?

When my doctor told me that the end is in sight, I asked him what it will be like.  Then I held my breath hoping he would not say “Weeks of babbling nonsense, complete incontinence, and horrible pain”. There may be some of that coming but what he told me I’d feel most acutely is “tired”. Well that doesn’t sound too bad, I thought.  And it still doesn’t but I am getting a clearer sense of what he meant.  Turns out there are levels of ‘tired’ that you don’t know about.   First there’s the everyday tired we all know.  The kind where you need a good night’s sleep or maybe even a nap to recover. Then there is the ‘totally beat’ tired.  It’s probably what Med students feel after 36 hours on-call.  I experienced it once when I did an Ironman.  After 140.6 miles of swim, bike, and run my tank was completely empty.  That kind of tired takes a little longer to recover from. Next is ‘fatigue’.  It builds up when your activity level and rest time are out of balance for a long time.  Sing

Why Are There No Positive Side Effects?

Once you start cancer treatment you spend a lot of time talking about side effects. Whether it’s surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy your doctor will begin by telling you all of the unintended consequences that may happen and then you will spend months in follow-ups telling the nurses about all of the side effects that do happen. I get it…there’s a lot of cutting going on, radiation flying, and powerful drugs coursing through you.  Shit's gonna happen. The variety of side effects is amazing.  Over 10 years I’ve had just about every one you could imagine.  Oh, except hair loss…the chemo drugs used for colon cancer do not typically cause hair loss.  That would have been great except I’m mostly bald anyway, So here’s what I don’t understand: With all of the powerful cutting, radiation, and drugs causing these random events in your body, why are none of those side effects positive? Like why does your doctor never say: “This chemo may give you diarrhea and cause your scalp to bl