The Lungevity Foundation posted my Guest Blog on their website today. Here is the text from it:
It’s mid March, 2011, as I sit down to write this. My 60th birthday is in three weeks. It’s a birthday celebration that didn’t seem too certain when I was diagnosed with lung cancer forty months ago. But I was in a small minority of lung cancer patients who are diagnosed early, and have remained cancer free since my surgery in December, 2007.
The biopsy from my surgery found one cancerous lymph node, so my diagnosis became stage 2. I completed three rounds of chemotherapy in April, 2008. I don’t yet know if I’m cured, but at least I’ve had thee plus years of good health since my diagnosis and surgery. Hopefully, early diagnosis will soon become a lot more common, and a majority of lung cancer patients will enjoy at least a few cancer free years after treatment, just like I have. For those lucky enough to experience that, I say this: don’t set limits on what you can do. Challenge yourself to see what you can achieve, and how good a quality of life you can have after cancer.
I was already a long distance cyclist before my diagnosis. I even did a 200k ride two weeks before my surgery. So, challenging myself to see what I could do was already something I was familiar with. Setting out to see if you can do a 200k (125 miles) or 300k (187 miles) randonneuring ride on a bicycle is pretty scary at first. The natural thought is that it’s just impossible for an ordinary person to ride that far on a bicycle. But, with good training, and building up to longer distances, it turns out that it’s not nearly as tough as you thought.
But like everyone who’s diagnosed with lung cancer and scheduled to have part of a lung removed, I wondered what it would be like afterward. Research had already told me that the body cannot regenerate lost lung tissue, and that chronic fatigue was a common symptom of too much lost lung function. My lung function was good enough that I wasn’t worried about chronic fatigue after surgery, but would I still have the stamina to do a 200k ride? Would I still be able to average over 120 miles a week on a bike, like I did in 2007? My mindset was that I would challenge myself and find out.
Before the end of May in 2008, six weeks after I finished chemotherapy, I did a 100 mile ride, and in early June, I did a 200k. So yes, long distance riding was still possible after lung cancer. In the time since those two rides, I’ve done 51 more rides of 100 miles or more.
In 2010, my riding focus changed from long distance riding to commuting to work on my bike. But even with the majority of my 2010 miles on a heavier commuting bike, and holding down a full time job all year, I still managed over 7,500 miles ridden for the year, an average of over 140 miles a week.
What do I hope to accomplish next on a bike? At my current pace, by the end of this coming June, I will have ridden 24,900 miles since my diagnosis. Does that number sound familiar? It’s the circumference of the earth. If I reach that milestone, I will have ridden around the world since my lung cancer diagnosis.
Can I do it? I think I can. But, things like that are only possible if you challenge yourself, rather than arbitrarily deciding what you CAN’T do.
In other words, don’t set limits!