“Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?” Everyone who gets cancer asks these questions – I sure as hell did – and I still do late some nights when I am feeling sorry for myself. I suspect many people, regardless of their faith or beliefs wonder if they are being punished for something they’ve done, or not done; that they are “paying for their sins”… I’m just going to call bullshit on that one up front and move on to reality, OK?… Other people blame cancer on a bad lifestyle: maybe they are fat, maybe they drink too much, maybe they smoke…All these things are considered contributing factors to cancer. Another main factor is age. Many cancers – especially colon cancer – are considered an “old persons disease”.
I am none of those things. I show none of the normal risk indicators for cancer. Not only am I healthy, but I am beyond what my Cancer Center calls healthy. I come from a very specialized and fit background, I have trained in CrossFit* for the last three years and was a member of a fantastic gym in New York (Crossfit NYC!!) where I regularly trained like a maniac (hell, I have a 23 round Cindy! or at least, I did…), I ran with an elite running team (NYC Endurance!!). I eat a diet consisting almost entirely of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts with some olive oil thrown in for good measure (and for those CFers reading this, I was even Zone/Paleo for about six months!), I don’t smoke – never have – and I am NOT old!
So, what did I do to deserve this? It appears the answer to that questions is nothing… and everything.
Cancer just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how well you eat, how hard you train, or how much fish oil and vitamin D you take it just doesn’t make a difference. You never really know why cancer happens to you, it just does. What really matters is what you do about it.
You are now pondering what that is… If living super healthy and eating right didn’t prevent the cancer, why bother? Why keep it up? Why not just eat whatever you want and screw fitness if you get cancer anyway?
I asked myself those very same questions. At first I didn’t realize how lucky I was. I felt betrayed that after all my hard work and healthy living I still got cancer. Then I received an email from a friend. I only remember one line of it: “This is why you train”. That was when I realized how fortunate I was and what had saved my life.
Being fit – being crossfit – may not have kept me from getting cancer, but it saved my life once already and will do it again. When my large intestine ruptured this past August I was inches away from death. My wife was convinced I was going to die while we were waiting for the ambulance. My mother, a nurse, wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the hospital. The doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room weren’t sure I was going to make it to surgery… After surgery, they kept me in a step-down room for five days. Normally you are there a half-day. They thought I still might die… It was my intense level of health and fitness that saved me. As far as I am concerned it was CrossFit that saved me. I was healthier and stronger than your average human and that is why I survived.
CrossFit believes you should train for the unknown and the unknowable. You can’t get any more unknown and unknowable than this. It is that same level of fitness, not just the physical, but also the mental toughness that is going to carry me through chemotherapy. CrossFit has taught me to be tough, to keep moving, to keep going in the face of pain and adversity.
Sounds impressive, no? You haven’t heard the best part yet. Sure, fitness and health saved me. But I didn’t get them by myself. It was the people I trained with, my friends in the “Morning Posse” of the 0700 class at Crossfit NYC who drove me to be better at everything I did. It was the running crew of NYC Endurance (many of the same people) who pushed me to do things I didn’t like and to work harder. Little did they know that as they were challenging me and competing with me to see who could be faster and stronger that all this training was going to save my life. Truly, I owe much of my being alive today to them. Thank you… You know who you are.
Strength, endurance and the will to fight are one thing, but the real reward of Crossfit for me has been the community – it has been friends – beyond the gym. When this all began last August, the first people to call and offer assistance were those same friends: coaches and training partners. They’ve been there for me the whole time: calling, e-mailing, checking in, sending books, making connections and just BEING THERE. Hell, two of them made the trip from New York up to Canada just to visit for a long weekend and hang out as emotional support. You can’t buy that.
As I said, this is a war and these are my frontline troops. Without them I would be nowhere. We trained together for this war and they have been by my side the whole time. That, is the true reward.
Being fit and healthy may not have prevented me from getting cancer, but it has given me so much more and it will fuel my fight to win the war so that one day soon I will be back in the “box” training with the “Morning Posse” and challenging those friends to keep up with me…
*for anyone who does not know what CrossFit is, clearly you have not been reading my Facebook posts for the last few years! Start training now! Check out my friends at:
This is it. Post #1 The first day of the New Year and the first day of the New War.
I have a couple resolutions: the first is to fight like my hair is on fire…because it is. Second is to win the war with the cancer that is attacking me and to put that fire out.
The backstory is long. Here is the short version: I suffered a ruptured large intestine, August 2010. It came out of nowhere, no previous symptoms, no warning and no one knew why. I almost died, had emergency surgery, was left with a temporary colostomy and was Ill for some time. Then, the pathology came back and we discovered that colon cancer had caused the rupture. In some strange twist, it had not spread throughout my bowel, or grown a huge tumor, but had instead punched through the intestinal wall. The original prognosis seemed good: by all the tests currently available, I was cancer free. Chemotherapy was recommended to help in preventing recurrence. The idea of chemo with all the side effects was terrifying. The benefits did not seem to justify the risks as a preventative measure, so I decided not to do chemo.
On December 9th, 2010 I went in for the colostomy reversal. I came out of the surgery with a colosomy still in place… The surgeon had discovered more cancer growing on the scar tissue from the original surgery. Rather than remove it and expose more healthy tissue, he took a sample and left the rest in place. All of a sudden chemo was no longer an optional choice…
So, here I am on the first day of a new year, preparing myself for war. Battle plans are being drawn, preparations are being made, soldiers recruited. The first battle will begin on the first day of chemo – I still don’t know when that battle will be, but the war is already underway.