This post is very different. It’s not about touring on a bike. It’s about a message for many who read this biking blog, particularly men. This post is about prostate cancer. I was diagnosed in January 2016, at the age of 50. Like everyone who gets this diagnosis, I was shocked. In addition to thinking that happened to other people, I prided myself on being fit. The maps below show some of the cycling I’d done, before being diagnosed. (By the way, there’s no evidence to support the folklore that cycling causes prostate cancer.)
My story is showing up here and now because I signed up for a 100 mile bike ride called Chainbreaker that raises money for cancer research. After signing up, I decided to “come out” about my cancer. Many people learned about it for the first time, since I’m using social media for fund raising. When I tell people, they usually want to learn more, which leads to this description.
I’ll start by giving a link that describes the prostate, since many don’t know about it. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men, so I have to add, or scream, that men over 45 must talk with your doctor about prostate testing! Ignoring it is a serious risk, even for men who are very fit.
Back to a calmer tone, I didn’t take prostate exams seriously, years ago. Like most guys, I was working, cycling, traveling, and more. That led to skipping the exam sometimes. In January 2016, my doctor found a lump. The next step was a biopsy, where 12 samples are taken from the prostate. A shock went up my backside after each sample was taken. After each shock, I counted up by 1. I have never been so happy to count to 12.
Unfortunately, the samples showed cancer in my prostate, so it was surgically removed. They used robotic-assisted surgery, which is kinda cool, but the experience was still strange. The day before surgery, I went for a long bike ride, on one of my favorite routes in St. Paul. The next day, after surgery, I could barely walk 10 yards.
About 8 weeks after surgery, I cycled about 50 miles, near Lake Minnetonka. I don’t want to sound like a gung-ho guy. I still worried and cried, since it takes a while to learn if surgery removed all the cancer. During the first year, my voice usually broke when I told people about my “change in health.” I have slowly been able to say it clearly, and I use the “c-word” more often.
Three months after surgery, I had a blood test to see if the cancer was removed with my prostate. Unfortunately, it had spread. We’re currently figuring out a long-term treatment plan. My current treatment stops by body from producing testosterone, which will keep things under control for a while. I’ll learn more when I see my doctor again.
I almost started another blog that focused on my cancer story. Maybe I’ll do that someday, but for now, I’m describing it here, in my favorite blog. Most of us have heard the phrase, “Cancer won’t define me.” or some version of it. I intensely feel that phrase now. Cancer will be a small part of my life. I insist on that.
Of course, treatments will affect me, but I want to spend my time thinking and feeling about being a cyclist, skier, brother, uncle, boyfriend, friend, and all the rest. There are so many other parts of life to think about, write about, and enjoy. My brother taught me that when he lost his sight at age 26 and kept on laughing, learning, and living. I wrote a book about him, and when times have gotten tough for me, I’ve thought about him and what the author says in that book.
I have very few symptoms right now and expect to live a fairly normal life. I’ll enjoy the good times more, and when I have treatments, I’ll stick to them, feel a little sick, and look forward to good times coming back. All this has made me appreciate those good times even more—like my bike, family, girlfriend, and other friends. They’ve given me more time, support, and love than I could have hoped for. Considering all that, I want to add that the picture here is during a normal day of cycling, where my health was a small part of the conversation.
This blog shows how I enjoy a challenge, especially writing and cycling. Currently, I’m excited about the Chainbreaker ride. It allows me to enjoy a 100 mile cycle ride and fight back, by raising money for cancer research. Please consider making a donation for my ride or sharing my story and request with others.