Training October 12, 2011

Friends and Family,

First, about the hair. Gone. Pffft. It started falling out, so I asked Genevieve to shave my head completely. Since I was leaving a trail of hair that Hansel and Gretel could follow, she agreed. My apologies to the guys in the office who sit behind me, who probably wish they were wearing sunglasses to cope with the glare off my glow-in-the-dark, never-seen-daylight white head. We had some sun last weekend at Eagle Crest, so now baldness looks a little more like a fashion statement and a little less like a cancer patient. I'm a lot less self-conscious now that I'm not wearing a neon sign that says, "Ask me about cancer." I can choose who I tell! And the good part, as I told Genevieve, is that hair falling out is a sign that the chemo is doing its job.

Two friends called this weekend and said that they were concerned about "bothering" me, but decided to risk a call anyway. For me, there is nothing better than having friends reach out. All contact is welcome and appreciated! This is where the energy to fight comes from!

Both friends were surprised to find out I'm still working. Although my energy is down a little, it hasn't proven to be that hard. The chemo cycle is every three weeks. The chemo stays in my system and does its cancer-killing work, and its wear and tear on my body, in the first three or four days. I have enough steroids in my system during that time to prevent nausea and to keep up my energy, so there's only a couple days that I feel less than full speed. However, even with the benefit of all those steroids in my system, I've given up all hope of having a career in pro basketball. If only I was a foot taller. And 30 years younger. And had talent.

The two and a half weeks after that are the time needed for my body to recover. During that time, bone marrow production shuts down and takes awhile to restart. Bone marrow is where the blood cells are produced. Since the bone marrow stops working, about 12 days after chemo, my infection-fighting white blood cells reach their low point. I'm at my most vulnerable for picking up any bugs from people at that point, and have less ability to fight the bugs I get. This year, the timing means that Thanksgiving will be spent giving thanks for the good fortune I now have with new treatment options, but away from all the potential germs of our extended families. I'll miss being with the family. However, my nurse pointed out the positive: It increases my chances of having more Thanksgivings. Point taken!

I have a theory about surviving cancer. You have to be in good enough shape to go through treatments that add cumulative wear and tear on your body. It could be chemo, radiation or surgery. After the first course of treatment is complete, there will likely be the need for another of some kind, and maybe another after that. People sometimes aren't in good enough shape, so they don't get that next treatment. By the time they recover enough to handle treatment, the cancer has advanced too far to treat. The trick is to be in good enough shape to handle anything that they throw at your body.

That's why I'm still going to the gym four days a week, and climbing the seven flights of stairs up to my office twice a day, and getting extra sleep, and doing everything I can to keep my weight on. I'm in training to handle cancer treatment. Five years ago, the advice I got (and ignored!) was to "rest a lot". This time, my oncologist agrees with me completely. It's similar to how doctors used to tell people to rest after surgery, and now they get them up and moving as soon as possible.

The other part of this approach is that "training" to be in shape for treatment is one place where I can take charge. Beyond that, it's attitude. I look forward to each new chemo session, because I know that the chemo is attacking the cancer again. The impact on my body is a casualty of war needed to win the bigger battle. I also visualize the cancer shrinking like a prune, and withering under the heat of a blow torch. For me, these steps beat being passive. I'm sure other people have their own approaches, but this is what works for me.

Wishing the best for you and your loved ones.