Sunday, 22 February 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

The last couple of months have been an absolute whirl wind. Appointments, interviews, photo shoots, charity hockey games and all the while training.

The charity hockey game was absolutely amazing. 40 players took shifts and played for 250 hours. More importantly they raised $1.1 million for the Cross Cancer Institute for some vital equipment. Dr. Brent Saik did the first World's Longest Hockey Game to honor his father who passed away from Cancer. Shortly after that his wife passed away from cancer and his mission was clear. He was going to help everyone he could in his fight against cancer. This most recent game was the 5th edition and each time it gets better. I referee in my spare time and was honored to referee the final shift of the record setting game, mostly because it gave me the opportunity to the thank the men and woman who took 10 days out of their lives to help people like me.

Hugging Brent Saik

This is all really fun but my hope is that from all of this exposure my message doesn't get lost. You need to pay attention to your body and get your regular check ups. The ability for them to cure cancer in the early stages is absolutely amazing. BUT, they have to find it. Don't be afraid to stand up to your doctor. Insist on getting a scope. You don't have to be passive in your care. Too often we just take the opinion of the first person and just accept it. 

I've mentioned before that I religiously listen to the Adam Carolla show. A daily podcast that is hilarious but also has some amazing insights. Adam's side kick Bald Bryan is living with a brain stem tumor and his book Shrinkage details his entire fight against cancer. In his book, one of the things he mentioned was visualization, which I do anyway, but also talking to your cancer. I really liked this idea. I told my cancer out loud, "Thank you cancer, you've shown me what's truly important in life and given me the opportunity to talk to people and help them. But you can go now." This felt great but the guy sitting next to me on the bus seemed freaked out (I kid I kid). 

Kim and I have taken a holistic approach to beating this stupid disease and I really feel like it's working. Of course I'm getting the chemotherapy, but I'm also taking natural supplements, doing yoga with Kim and meditating at night. This has allowed me to make cancer a part of my life rather than what my life is all about. 

The greatest opportunity I'm getting is one I've created myself. The #cancercanthackett tour this summer is going to be an amazing opportunity to reach tens of thousands of people. I've picked 8 races (possibly 9) across Canada that I will be setting up a booth and talking to people about screening and prevention but more importantly, I think, showing them that cancer doesn't have to change who you are. 

I'm so happy to have sponsors on board as well. XTERRA are sponsoring me with wetsuits and swim suits, Sugoi is doing custom clothing, Hoka One One is supplying my shoes and Coloplast is providing cash to make it all happen. The best thing about these sponsors is that I used all of these companies' products anyway. They've just decided that my project is important enough to support it.  

My training is finally getting back on track. I had a bit of a tough time getting back into running. I realized afterward that I had been going too fast and burning out quickly which made me angry and got me down. I decided to slow down and my minutes went way up.    I'm really kind of starting over but that's ok. Finishing an Ironman now is a whe new challenge. I'm not sure how many people actively on chemo have completed one, but I'm not one to pay attention to averages or stats anyway. If I was I wouldn't have done a half marathon at 300 pounds or an Ironman at 285 pounds. 

Kim and I are really in a good place now. We've gotten to a place where we can openly talk about all of the possibilities and we're totally at peace with where we stand. 

I'm hoping you'll continue to follow along and more importantly, getting your check ups! 


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Living with a Colostomy - There's Better Options!

Without question the hardest part of this entire journey has been my colostomy. It requires constant maintenance and I’m almost always concerned about some aspect of it. Is it sealed? Is it showing? Do I have extra supplies? This problem is compounded as an athlete as the extra sweat and movement means my average wear time is even less than the usual colostomate. 

I was lamenting this to a friend who had been through stage 3 colon cancer just the year before and he asked what colostomy supplies I was using. I showed him and he told me he had something for me. He had had his ileostomy reversed but still had some supplies kicking around so he told me to give them a try. I immediately noticed a few very distinct differences between what I was using and what he was showing me.  

My colostomy supplies were an ugly beige medical looking product and the flanges were a hard plastic and monstrous. This other product was a much more attractive fabric, the flanges were bendable and a much smaller size.  

He told me they were a Coloplast product, SenSura Mio , and I went home and changed my flange to try it out. I was immediately impressed. I decided to test it out by riding my bike and the difference was instantaneous. In triathlon you ride a great deal of time bent over your handle bars which means your stomach area is folded. My old flanges made this uncomfortable as they were solid and dug into me. The SenSura Mio flanges allowed movement and made my riding so much more bearable. The addition of the adhesive strips on the outside of the flange gave me extra security to do things like swim, run and just live my regular life. 

Another benefit of SenSura Mio I’ve noticed over the other product I was using is that the flange is clear. This means that you don’t have any doubt when you’ve lost your seal. The other product was like a bandage so you were always inspecting and guessing whether or not it was still working and sometimes it was too late.  

While having a colostomy is not the greatest thing that’s ever happened, Coloplast helps make me feel as normal as possible. As a young man it can be embarrassing to have a colostomy and having you pouch hang out of your shirt can be mortifying. Coloplast SenSura Mio pouches don’t look medical though. The silk-like fabric accidentally hanging out of your shirt, while not the best look, doesn’t look like a medical product.  

If you require colostomy products I strongly encourage you to click here and try a sample. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Spreading the Word

Now that my new reality is setting in I'm excited to enter into the next adventure. Being out of the classroom means that I have time to devote to spreading the word about cancer screening and prevention.

I am writing this blog as more of an advertisement than a blog so I apologize for that but I really want to get out and start talking to people about the importance of screening for various cancers. I was foolish and did not get my regular check ups and ignored some signs that may have been able to prevent my cancer from spreading.

As a teacher I'm an experienced public speaker and my presentations to different groups have received incredible feedback. I manage to weave comedy into some pretty heavy topics and this breaks down people's walls and allows the more important message to come through.
This summer I will be exhibiting at a number of endurance races across Canada spreading this message. I chose these races because typically this population is not the one to get their screening done. It is a self-selected group of healthy people and thus they don't get secondary illnesses that would lead to an "accidental" cancer discovery.

This #cancercanthackett tour is backed by the Alberta Cancer foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society and promises to reach tens of thousands of people. 
If you want me to come and speak to your group or attend your race please contact me through my website.

Additionally, I am looking for sponsors for the tour. All sponsors will get their logo on my uniform, website,  print media ,and banners.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Kim's take on living with a celebrity

My wife has been my rock throughout this experience. Many of you have wondered how she is coping. Here is her reply (enjoy!):

For those of you who may have missed the memo, I'm married to a superstar.  Colin got air time on 3 different tv channels for two different news stories in a single day.  He's had photo shoots and speaking engagements.  He's going to be on the cover of a magazine.  He has a cross Canada tour planned for this summer, and he has sponsors.

Many people have asked how I'm handling his recent forced retirement from the 8:30am to 3:30pm world and his evolving career as a celebrity.  I have to admit that it isn't easy.

Like any celebrity, Colin dictates his own hours.  As he's explained to me, Twitter is a large part of how he manages his publicity, so he often works on that in to the wee hours of the morning.  Like any assistant, I have to work around him.  Working around him involves picking my clothes up off the floor in our bedroom in the dark so I can walk the kids to school in the morning without waking Colin up, and carefully vacuuming around and underneath his recliner while he develops his mental stamina in Clash of Clans.

Like any accomplished celebrity, Colin has strict dietary requirements.  I'm certain he wouldn't be able to tell you how many of which supplement he takes at what time.  Since I'm his assistant, he expects me to hand him a mitt full of pills twice a day.  Out of consideration for my needs (since he understands that at times I am busy with four short people whom I also assist on a minute to minute basis), he will on occasion accept a sealed container full of pills as delivered by one of three subcontractors I have to call in.  One of those subcontractors is cognizant of the fact that the highly trained celebrity living in this home requires a daily protein shake, so for the last two weeks that has been sitting beside Colin's recliner when we leave for school in the morning so that when he rolls out of bed he doesn't have to venture to the pantry.  He can go directly to his chair and work on the aforementioned mental stamina building.  Another one of the subcontractors is aware of the fact that her father has to drink his beet/kale/carrot/ginger/blueberry/greens juice daily, so to Colin's glee she remembers to take one of those to him every single day.  Finally, the third contractor makes certain to remove her father's beverage containers so she has something to put in the dishwasher.  Although she is a subcontractor, I am somehow still her assistant and she keeps me employed by helping with the dishes. 

Colin the celebrity also has certain upkeep requirements.  Although I washed Colin's clothing before he reached his celebrity status, I am now required to double wash everything because he exudes chemicals from every pore.   As his assistant, I relish nothing more than double the laundry.  I also have the privilege of injecting things in to Colin and removing a fairly large needle from Colin's chest every other week.  I know some of his fans might crave that level of intimacy.  Depending on how things go financially with his new career as a superstar, we may be making a pay per view video of pump removal some time in the near future.

So there you have it folks.  This is how I am coping with living with a superstar. I don't have a problem riding Colin's coattails though.  While he was reffing I got to meet Janne Niinimaa at the World's Longest Hockey Game in support of The Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

I'm Back Baby, Part II

The next part of my rebirth, if you will, is a trip to San Francisco to do some training.  It sucks trying to train for an endurance sport almost exclusively indoors but in Canada your choices are limited. So every now and then I like to get away to train.

I had a funny moment at the airport as I entered the U.S. Customs area. The dutiful guard asked why I was going to San Francisco and I told him I was swimming from Alcatraz. He thought I was being a smart ass and so he started to grill me. I realized right away that he could really mess up my travel plans so I whipped out my phone and showed him the confirmation email of my crossing time and he half sheepishly told me to have fun and let me go. 

The first leg from Edmonton to Denver was wonderfully uneventful and we landed a little late but with plenty of time to spare so I hustled up to the United lounge and had a glass of red wine and some snackers. I boarded my flight to San Francisco and was to delighted to find that although I had a middle seat my seat mates were both very slender. Boom! Awesome. Or so I thought.

I hadn't noticed right away but the person at the window was actually the rare domesticated bare-footed chick. The main feature of this species is that it's not enough to have bare feet. You have to hook your toes on the pocket of the seat back in front of you. The most prominent feature of the feet is a series of blisters on the top of the toes that make other passengers cringe. 

I got to SFO and found my way to my luggage. FIRST BAG OFF THE PLANE! This reminded me of my time with the Golden Bears. On flights we would all put a dollar in a hat and the first bag off the plane would take it all. Then everyone else would throw your gear around the airport but hey, can't win 'em all.

I woke up Friday with nothing to do. I remember a professor in University saying "the freedom to do anything is great, but the freedom to do nothing is divine." I never really understood what this meant until I was a real grown up. Having absolutely zero responsibilities for a day was incredibly freeing and I felt light. I made my way down the street to a nice little diner on the wharf and had French toast and eggs. As I sat there the light drizzle turn into a full on storm. Fortunately, when you don't have any plans they can't be ruined so I just decided to drive around. If you've never driven in San Francisco you need to do it once. The hills are absolutely hilarious and terrifying at the same time. Some are so steep that when you hit the apex and start to descend you just have to trust there's no one on the other side because you can't see where you're going.

The storm never let up and, in fact, I got an email from the company that was running the Alcatraz crossing that there was a Coast Guard warning for the bay the next morning. Awesome. Basically, they were going to take us out there and then hope it was safe enough to make the swim. Okay, not super excited about that. However, when I woke up Saturday morning I opened the curtains and was delighted to find that the sun was shining and there was no wind. I used google maps to get directions to the meeting point for the swim and started laughing. It said 2 minutes walking. It was essentially right outside of my hotel. I made my way down to the meeting point, signed my waiver and off we went. It was great because there were only 10 of us swimming so there was very little prep time needed. This is unlike the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon where there are a couple thousand participants and it takes over an hour to get going.

We jumped in and the water was just as cold as I remembered. I wanted to complain but as it happens there was a 12 year old girl swimming with us with NO WET SUIT! I found out afterwards this girl speaks 3 languages and just finished climbing a mountain in Chile. Jeepers! An interesting thing I found out was that they only sort of know what the water is going to do. They originally told us to aim for the old fort because they expected a flood tide. This would push us left and so that aiming point would take us safely into the harbour. Well, it turns out we had a slack tide so as we got closer to shore the kayak pilots had to herd us and navigate us further over into the opening to this really cool harbour. They've essentially created an open water swimming pool. Picture a horse shoe of pier that goes out about 100 meters with an opening into the ocean. As I entered this horse shoe I had a "you gotta be kidding me" moment. I was swimming along and BANG, bounced my head off of something. I looked up to see an equally confused 50-something year old man staring back at me. I had managed to swim into another person in the middle of the friggin' ocean. We laughed it off and I made my way to shore.

After getting back to the hotel I showered up and planned out the rest of my day. I decided to do something I've always wanted to do and that was to walk the Golden Gate Bridge. I made my way to the Sausalito end of the bridge, threw in my headphones and just started walking.

1% Man
I'm writing this portion of the blog from the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge. I've taken Adam Carolla's advice and put on some headphones and just started walking. This cleared my head and filled me with endorphins. The GGB is 1.7 miles each direction so 3.4 miles in total and its a great chance to do some thinking. 

Behind me (if you can see past that giant dome) is the swim I completed just this morning and I got to thinking. When I was first diagnosed we looked up how likely I was to get this stupid disease and I'm a 1%er. That meant to Kim and I that the stats don't apply. I've done things in my life that most people will never come close to in their life so why should I look at other people's cancer stories? How many people do Ironman at 285 pounds? Me. How many people go sub 12 hours at 250 pounds? Sat in a burning building? Taken down by a police K9? Have the best wife in the world? (Boom! Brownie points. Although writing that probably negates them. Damn.) I'm a unique dude and I'll show people there's hope.

COLOSTOMY UPDATE: The bathrooms at the Golden Gate Bridge were out of toilet paper. But I don't need toilet paper. Who wins now world?

Sunday was supposed to be half marathon day. However, on Saturday night I realized that my sock choice the day before was not stellar as I had gotten some nice blisters on the bottom of two toes which were incredibly painful. Also, I started to develop a gnarly cough which left me wheezing and hcking. Beautiful hey? So when my alarm went off Sunday morning and it was once again POURING rain I shut off the button and tucked myself back into bed. I need to be at the Cross Cancer Institute tomorrow afternoon for my blood tests and I don't want to be too sick to my next round of chemo.

I turned on the TV and realized what I had been subjected to for the past three days. US TV news is all about fear. Russia, China and Iran are all conspiring to destroy the world, ISIS and Boka Haram are going to cotinue randomly attacking innocent people, Republicans and Democrats are conspiring against one another to destroy the free world. It had all been subtle but I longed for the Canadian news I was used to. I can assure you that we do, in fact, hear bad stories on the news but it is not the constant barrage of negativity I experienced on the trip. The other really depressing thing about American TV is that they appear to LOVE basketball. I can get down with the occasional game but no less than 5 different channels were showing NCAA basketball. Most of these games were one-sided drubbings which were hardly worth watching. I also can't figure out why people go absolutely bananas over a slam dunk.  Now an alley oop or a guy getting posterized (a guy jumps over you and dunks) are pretty cool, but most often it's a 7'1" tall dude jumping 4.5" off the ground and throwing a ball through the rim. Then this gets put in the top 10 plays for the night. Are you out of your friggin' minds?!? Imagine if Canadian sports highlights conisisted of Sidney Crosby carefully sliding a puck into an empty net while his teammates swung towels around in the air and chest bumped each other. Weirdos.

This would have been bad enough but the absolute worst thing I saw on TV down here was a bowler. This guy, whose last name is Weber, is just absolutely infuriating. He wears dark sunglasses and yells to the crowd after his throws. After the 8th frame he did the "discount double check" thing where he pretended to be wearing a championship wrestling belt. But the coup de gras was after he won the quarter-final match. He held his black-gloved fist in the air, then went to a knee and slammed his fist into the floor and roared. I was pissed. I couldn't believe this guy. I was so mad in fact I actually took my shoes back off, I had planned to go out, and watched the semi-final to see him lose. When he did I actually threw a fist pump in the air. I immediately realized the absurdity of it all but in those moments it was so nice to be normal. Or, as normal as I can be cheering against a weirdo bowling.

I had a few hours to kill before my flight so I headed to Westfield Centre in downtown San Francisco as I had tried to buy the kids some things at the wharf but it was mostly overpriced crap. I knew I would find something better at the mall. I phoned home and asked Cambrey (2 1/2 year old) what I should get her. She told me she wanted a purple present. She is so sweet, all she wanted was something purple. Knowing the next answers I asked her what to get Calliah. She said Calliah needed a pink present and, of course, Kelland needed a blue present. The absolutely heart-melter was when she cautioned me that the baby needed a big present because, "baby can choke on little things." I'm so incredibly proud of how Kim is raising our children. Despite the occasional scrap, the kids love each other beyond belief and are some of the most thoughtful and sweet little people I've ever met. Granted, I'm more than a little biased.

I couldn't find anything for the baby and I knew this would not sit well with the other kids. I would be subjected to a barrage of "why didn't you get baby something? Where's the baby's present?" I did what every other bad father does and hit up the Hudson News at the airport and bought the first thing I saw. 

I did see something in Chinatown that made me chuckle. Is it just me or does this sound like China's greatest Super Spy?

The San Francisco to Vancouver leg of the flight was great. I had a window seat and was upgraded to United's Economy Plus so I had more leg room, but even better there was no one seated in the middle seat so I had two arm rests and the middle table tray became my side table. Booyah!

I made my way into the Air Canada lounge at Vancouver International; had some snacks, a glass of red wine and 
watched the planes taxi in and out for a couple of hours. When the time came I made my way to the gate and when they made the first boarding call I jumped on it. I had used my final upgrade credits to get a business class ticket. I got on the plane early and basked in the disapproving looks of the people walking past me. "How did HE get up there?" If they knew I got a free upgrade it would all make sense to them but I won't give them the satisfaction. As we landed in Edmonton I looked out the window and realized there was a LOT more snow than when I left. 

I usually park in the valet area but there was such a good deal in self park I took it. Such a dummy. I got into my frozen van and waited for it to heat up so I could get home and hug my wife, kiss my kids and tell them it was all going to be ok. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

I'm Back Baby Part I

Life is finally getting back to normal and I couldn't be happier. The last 3 months I feel like I have been living someone else's life. Sitting around the house, playing Xbox and staying up until all hours of the night watching Netflix. The boredom almost overwhelming, I have bouts of panic, depression and outright rage. 

But as it happens, on February 4th, World Cancer Day I hit the reset button on my life. I had been put on to an amazing man from my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. Steve Csorba is an amazing local artist and a member of the November Project Tribe. The November Project is a really cool phenomenon that started in Boston with 2 students wanting to workout with groups rather than alone. They starting sending out messages over social media announcing a location and people slowly started growing up in bigger numbers. 

This project has now started to spread and it arrived in Edmonton when Andrew Ference was traded from the Boston Bruins to the Edmonton Oilers. Andrew is a committed member of the tribe and under his leadership it has exploded. One of my good friends, Connor, who regularly attends the workouts told me about this amazing guy in a Fuck Cancer tshirt that had been kicking the shit out of cancer. This guy is Steve. 

I had sent Steve a quick message about my situation on Twitter. He got back to me almost immediately and helped put me at ease. He didn't tell me anything out of this world but getting kind words from a person that has kept cancer at bay for over a decade was really powerful. I occasionally would fire him a note when I felt nervous and he would quell me. Finally, I decided I needed to meet him and I asked him to meet me for lunch. 

He gave me a selection of 5 really hip places, none of which I had ever eaten at, but they all sounded great. We agreed  upon Remedy. A really neat cafe that serves chai tea and eastern food. Kim and I were never really into small cafés and since we've had children, a quick bowl of pasta at Boston Pizza has masqueraded as cuisine so this was a neat experience. 

I arrived and saw Steve already seated at a table. I made my order and sat down to join him. This man is incredibly impressive and I did not want to waste a minute of his time so I had mentally prepared a list of questions I wanted to ask him. We started to chat casually about life in general but then I steered the conversation towards cancer. Steve took it in stride and explained what he had been through in the past decade. I won't get into the details as it's his story but please believe me when I say it's incredibly invasive and scary. 

I looked at him as he happily discussed the worst moments of his life and was in awe. Every time he spoke I was filled with a little more hope. This guy had been to the absolute bottom of the well, and now he was seemingly on top of the mountain. 

The best advice Steve gave me was to not think about beating the cancer. Rather, he told me to control what I can and that is getting my body and mind healthy. This was almost all the cancer talk; I didn't need to hear any more. After this we talked about how he stays healthy and makes the world a better place. I listened intently and realized I'd found someone that has found the keys to happiness. 

We started talking about my #cancercanthackett tour plans and he was all in. He had some thoughts for the Alberta Cancer Foundation about a prevention and screening campaign that aligned very well with my plans. I began getting pumped up and truly excited about what we might be able to do together. After 90 minutes we said our goodbyes and I immediately phoned Kim and told her I was going to change the world with this guy.

That night I got to continue my return to form by refereeing my first hockey game in over 3 months. I picked up my linesmen and we headed off to Vegreville, Alberta. Home of the worst biggest Easter egg.

As we bombed down the highway we listened to old school gangster rap and I lamented the fact that these 2 had just been born when I was listening to Snoop and Dre and acting like a bad ass. We arrived at the arena just in time for warmup and I got right into my routine. Before I knew it I was out taking a coue of warmup laps and dropping the pick at centre ice. 

I got into the game right away as there was an easy tripping call 22 seconds in and a power play goal 30 seconds after that. This was a perfect game to return to as it was one sided on the score board and really rough so I had to manage the game very carefully. When it was all said and done I had tossed a half dozen players and called around 100 penalty minutes. 

I had known the Vegreville coach for a long time as he was originally from Edmonton so before the game when he had asked why it had been so long since 
he had seen me I told him about my situation. After the game every member of the Vegreville Rangers came by and shook my hand and wished me well. This was very touching.

After the game we quickly showered and hustled down the road to 7-11 to get chicken. This might sound awful but Vegreville 7-11 chicken is delicious and a tradition of the road trip. BUT, you have to beat the visiting team there or sow times it's all gone and you drive home sad and hungry. Luckily we made it and had our pick. 

We cruise home blasting Uptown Funk and just chatting. This was the best night I'd had in months because for 4 hours I wasn't a Cancer patient or an out of work teacher. I was just one of the guys doing our thing. 

Stay tuned for Part II, San Fran Training Trip

Monday, 2 February 2015

Every Time a Door Closes a New One Opens

This has been a tough week for me. I thought I would be returning to work with the exception of every 2nd Monday and Tuesday. In my heart of hearts I didn't think this plan would get rejected but I was shocked to find out this morning that my school and schoold district could not support my return to work plan.

I'm not sure everyone completely understands teachers. It is not your usual job. It is a  job that is a part of what your are. The connections and differences you make in the lives of young people are powerful. I think that's why I'm taking this rejection so hard.
Leaving that meeting I've never felt more like a person with cancer. Alone, tired and seemingly useless. I walked in the front door of my house and just crashed into my recliner.
Then the phone rang. You may or may not have read about my plan to go to races across Canada and speak to people about screening and prevention of cancer in younger athletic populations. I'm calling it the #cancercanthackett tour and it's quite a passion of mine. The phone call was from clothing supplier Sugoi. They are impressed by my venture and have agreed to do custom clothing for my tour. Additionally, they are going to use their race sponsor status to get me in to Ironman Arizona. The race I was supposed to do in November that sold out before it even went online for registration.
After hanging up the phone I went onto Twitter and the first story that popped up was the tale of Teri Griege. Her book Powered by Hope is exactly what I needed to be reminded of. She's a stage IV cancer survivor since 2009 and competed at Kona. She overcame my exact diagnosis and is still spreading hope.

I'm not a religious person but I am spiritual and the fact that this phone call and tweet came when I've been at my absolute lowest speak to me that this is certainly not the end. Rather, it's a new beginning. It's going to mean a disruption to our family situation but not one that we can't deal with. I'll get to spend more time with my children and Kim will be given a push to get an Ed degree and take steps toward going back to work.

My Dad was the absolute best example of what can be accomplished if you just roll with the punches and I'm so glad I was shown how to deal with these situations by him. Like Dad always said, "life's not fair" and  "there is no sense getting upset over that which you have no control." I could throw a fit (I did a little bit in the van) and be bummed out but it won't get me anywhere. Instead, I'm going to focus on my other positive outlets and go from there.