Thursday, 13 November 2014

Ok guys grab a knee. Let's talk health.

I didn't really realize what I'd been training so hard for all of these years. Somehow I'd convinced myself that Ironman was going to be the be all and end all test of my health and conditioning. That all changed last Wednesday when I was registered in the toughest endurance race of my life against my will. Beating Stage 4 cancer.

Here's the problem, cancer, or any other disease was not on my radar in the slightest. I don't go for annual checkups, I don't regularly check my body for weirds lumps and bumps and I definitely don't examine my poop. Why? Because if I do they might find out something was wrong and that's scary. That's where we need to pull our heads out of our asses and get a camera or a finger up there.

My suspicion is that in our male world, having a finger or device shoved up your pooper is embarassing and emasculating. We've all made the jokes about trying to find your dignity up there or whether they're using a whole fist. But the truth of the matter is that 1) They give you some pretty fantastic sedation so you're either out of it completely or in a state where you just don't care. 2) The professionals in the offices are so amazing that you are treated like a human being and it is not the least bit awkward. This is where I would implore you guys to just get it done. Plus, afterwards, you'll cut some of the biggest farts you've ever experienced. That, paired with the fact that you're high on meds makes for one of the funniest things you'll ever experience.
This is the first key to beating an illness: EARLY DETECTION.
Check for lumps and bumps, monitor your overall health and look for changes to your skin and other areas of your body. There are a huge number of things that can be caught on a simple battery of tests that aren't hugely invasive or time consuming. Inspect your testicles for odd bumps or other abnormalities (PLEASE NOTE: If you're reading on the bus, don't do this now. Make a note or reminder in your phone and do it at home.) HOW TO INSPECT YOUR TESTICLES
By doing your annual checkup you get baselines that can be monitored year to year for abnormalities. This is coming from a guy that has done none of this but deeply wishes he had. I've seen what can happen if you ignore the signs. My dad convinced himself he was having bad heart burn and dropped dead of a heart attack. Not smart, stubborn, tough, but not smart.

The next key in my mind is: HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.
I don't think this comes as a surprise but living well helps to fight off as much as possible but I think more importantly in my case, I'm starting from a very strong base when it comes to beating cancer. For those that don't know, my typical training days for Ironman triathlon range anywhere from 2-5 hours of training. This has trained my body to recover quickly, but more importantly to know how far down I can beat myself and still be able to come back for more. As I write this, I am 6 days out of surgery and am feeling almost fully mobile. I attibute this to my body's familiarity with being exhausted and damaged and having to repair itself.

Taken 1 week before my surgery, post 1700 stairs

Additionally, my muscles and organs have great vascularization (blood flow) so when the time comes for them to repair, there are a bunch of nutrient carrying vessels attached and ready to work. My heart and lungs are ready for surgeries that can be very hard on them and my diet is pretty good meaning that my cells are ready to fight.

My final piece of the puzzle is STAY POSITIVE.
We've all heard of the power of positive thinking but I really believe there is something to it. I don't know if it's related to endorphins or cortisol or what but I think that staying positive can be a hugely important factor. When you fail to do it yourself that's when you need to have a support group there to pick you up. I've already run into this once. My first day home, four days after surgery, I was laying on the couch and my gorgeous wife Kim needed me to help with something. I was not feeling up to it and told her I didn't want to help. I finished with, "c'mon, I've got cancer." Without missing a beat Kim said, "You don't have that much cancer, get up!" I was so stunned I started laughing and did what I was told. I guess that well is dry. I need my mother-in-law to come home from Mexico and keep my wife away from me, she's mean.

My wife: Circa 3 days ago
The outpouring of love and support from my friends, loved ones, former students, fellow hockey referees and triathletes is ridiculous to the point of almost being embarrasing. My mom's boss even gave her time off to help me get around and deal with what needs to be taken care of. Part of this amazing support has been people I've never met in my entire life calling me to share their own stories and give me hope and answer questions that only someone who's gone through it before can answer. I know that I've got a lot of work ahead of me. Some serious chemotherapy, a couple good-sized chunks of liver to be removed. But, like that motto I've adopted for triathlon, "I will run, with endurance, the race that is set before me."

I will continue to update my blog and I will be brutally honest in my experiences going forward. 



  1. Note from the wife: His diet was 'pretty good' before. But I GUARANTEE you that his diet will be excellent once we get this colostomy healing stuff figured out. Feeding him white bread is giving me heart palpitations.

  2. Optimism is as good a drug as any. Stay well and know your race crew is bigger than any you ever imagined!

  3. Colin, you shouldn't be surprised by the love and support you're receiving-you reap what you sow!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I hope that this whole situation will some day be a "story" you can share with your youngest daughter....perhaps after crossing the finish line at Kona.

  4. hi! the story is just awesome and the straight talk about the health is just very fine! read more here