Sometimes is seems life really wants to test us. How resilient can we be? How many times can we get kicked to the curb only to get back up and push on. Apparently I am in for another test. To say that the past few years have had a few bumps in the road would be an understatement.
This past fall I was forced out of a job / passion I had been lucky enough to enjoy for the past 12 years. New Athletic Director and at the end of last fall, my college coaching career was over. Sad for sure but to be honest, it was time for a change and I am looking forward to life without the grind that is (and the grind I loved), collegiate coaching.
I wish that was the biggest hurdle I have to face this year but sadly it is not even close. I have been dealing with pretty severe joint pain since last summer. I had been passing it off as “old age” and maybe some residual scar tissue from a June meniscus surgery.
Here I am in February and the pain has now moved to being almost hobbling. Most days I struggle to get in and out of my car. Hand rails for stairs are a necessity. Taking my pups for a 200 yard walk is daunting as I struggle to get back to the house.
Multiple doctor visits over 6 + months to my primary care and orthopedic surgeon have produced nothing but more questions. Why do I feel more like 98 than 58? Lyme Disease may very well be the culprit.
I tested positive for 2 out of the 5 necessary markers in the Western Blot test to be considered “positive ” for Lyme. So I guess I am “kind of sick”, but not really?
My orthopedic surgeon tried everything in his bag of tricks and came up empty. My primary care went the standard route of antibiotics for 21 days to treat the possible Lyme. Nothing has worked and the pain is much worse and my mobility is more limited every day.
I have been researching Lyme and it is very clear that it is a misunderstood and mis-diagnosed disease. I went to see an ND (Naturopathic Doctor) that specializes in Lyme and I am hoping he will provide some answers.
A week in on new antibiotics and not much change. I understand it is going to take time. If I do have Lyme, it has been hiding and burrowing for quite some time. Based on my research and conversations with people that have first hand knowledge, the road ahead may be a rocky one.
One year plus one day ago I was coming out of surgery and hoping that they got it all. After 3 scans and 3 trips to BWH, I am cancer free! Still have many follow ups to Boston to make sure things stay clean. That is the good news. The other side of the coin is that I still am not nearly as mobile as I hoped 12 months post surgery. There is atrophy in the muscles of my left thigh and I need to sort out how I can reverse that trend. I am trying different things to increase stability and strength and eventually, I will get back to pre-surgery form.
I was really hoping to be back to 100% at this point but I really have nothing to complain about as the alternative (cancer coming back) is far worse. I will continue to look for ways to get stronger. One goal was to be able to run the fitness test with my college team this fall but it would take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen. I will continue to work towards that goal over the next 30 days but realistically I will be aiming for making some turns on the white stuff this winter!
Kathy and I really enjoyed walking a lot last spring and summer with treks to Starbucks or Market Basket. It was a good distraction and we enjoyed the time together. Spring 2016 is here and today we made the 5 mile round trip to Market Basket (MB). I was limping a bit right out of the driveway and feared it may be a difficult walk. The pace was pretty slow to start but steady nonetheless.
We made it to MB and got a few things that we needed for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. We filled up our backpacks and headed back towards home. As we got passed the half way mark of the return trip I realized, via my Strava App, we were on a faster pace than the outbound portion of the trip. The 5th mile ended up being the fastest by over a minute which was really encouraging.
I have been a bit impatient (alright, more than a bit) as far as my lack of mobility goes since the surgery. Today was a step forward for sure. While the left quad is still tight and the knee a bit sore due to compensating for missing quad muscle, I was able to not only get thru the 5 miles but get stronger as the walk went on.
Ended the night with a great dinner and some time in the back yard around the fire pit.
Today as an emotional one to say the least. A year ago today I was in VA at the Jefferson Cup Tournament, as I was today.
That Saturday morning, one year ago, I was ready to spend the day watching soccer games looking for that next great player to bring into our program at Saint Anselm.
I got up that morning, took a shower and put on my soccer shorts when I noticed a mass in my left thigh. I thought it was strange but did not think it was anything to worry about so I spent the day as planned.
As I have detailed in my blog, it turned out to be a sarcoma tumor and my journey began.
The journey has now come full circle with my return trip to the Jeferson Cup in VA.
I am now cancer free even though I have 4 more years of scans and MRI’s to make that official. Being back in Virginia at the Jefferson Cup this weekend was a bag of mixed emotions.
Bottom line, I am still here and in better health than ever! This blog has been very beneficial for me and I hope others may benefit from my experience.
My father was born on this day, March 21st, in Cambridge, MA. Today would have been his 99th birthday. That seems like such a large number but it is what it is.
We lost him 35 years ago to Mesothelioma and I still miss him every day. While I miss him and wish so badly he could have seen my kids grow up and met my better half, I also thank him every day for all he gave me.
I was only 23 when he passed and unknown to me at the time, he had already left his mark on me. His moral values, love of the outdoors and his passion for teaching (coaching) among many other great qualities he possessed, run deep through every part of my soul. I am a better version of him. That may sound a bit vain but I think every good father wants his children to be better versions of him. I know that is the case with me, 100%.
I was not an easy child to raise and I have always been regretful of what a handful I was as a teen. That being said, it was a necessary part of the process in my personal evolution. I made mistakes, lots of mistakes, and eventually I started to learn from them. I have come to realize, especially over the past year, that the journey is what is important. It is not about reaching a specific point in our lives but rather all about how we got there. All those experiences, people and places are what form you over time. Never a completed project, rather always a work in progress that hopefully gets clearer as time passes.
So thanks Dad for giving me so much more than you every thought you did. Even though it has been 35 years, I am still learning from you and I am forever grateful.
I hit a bit of a milestone last weekend as Kathy and I took a long walk to enjoy the very unwinter like weather on Sunday. We headed down to Starbucks which is 2 miles from home. The weather was a bit chilly but chilly compared to a spring day not a February day. We kept a decent pace (for me it was decent but slow for Kathy) of about 18 minutes per mile. The last time I attempted a long walk I was in the mid 20’s per mile so this was progress!
Several factors weighed in that made the walk a success. First, I did not have to stop several times on the way to Starbucks to stretch as I did on the last long attempted walk. Also there was little to no discomfort in my thigh and I actually felt as close to “normal” as I have since surgery.
I did get a reality check when I tried to jog across the street and my left leg just would not cooperate. A fast walk was the best I could muster. Declines are still a challenge as the lack of muscle in my quad makes it difficult to be stable walking downhill.
All in all, it was a good step (excuse the pun) forward. 4 miles overall and we kept a decent pace of 18 minutes per mile. Still holding out hope for a day of skiing but my lack of ability to handle the slopes may be a moot point as mother nature decided to take a vacation from winter this year. There is not one part of my yard that has any snow left on it and the ski areas are struggling with the unseasonably warm weather. Last year the snow it was measured in feet and this year, nothing.
The MRI and CT scans both came back clean. Great news but not unexpected. Dr Ferrone was great as usual. I asked about the continued discomfort in my thigh and lack of mobility. Short answer is he took a lot of muscle with the tumor. While it will fill in some, the reality is I may never get back to 100%.
As long as I don’t have pain, I can push myself to get stronger. That will be the plan moving forward. Spend more time in the weight room, walk more miles and be as active as possible. Still have the goal of at least one day of skiing this winter.