When I crossed the finish line at the recent Destin 50 Ultra Marathon (Feb. 2015), I felt strong, determined and exhilarated. It was my first ultra marathon of 50 miles and I crushed it. However, the rush of feelings that I was experiencing had very little to do with completing my first 50 mile race. When they put the medal around my neck and I put the thumbs up, it was an affirmation of a greater goal that I made for myself three months before. A goal that meant life and death.
If you don’t take immediate action, this cancer will kill you! That’s what my aggravated urologist said in response to my arguing with him to delay immediate hormone and radiation treatments.
In early October 2014, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. My response was one of annoyance. I wasn’t concerned about my mortality or if my faith and beliefs were shaken, but simple annoyance. It wasn’t a form of denial either. You see, I had less than three weeks before the OCR World Championships and I was focused on placing, if not winning, my age 45-49 category. Hell, I was running with a truck tire dragging behind me for months in prep for it.
As I was driving home from the doctor’s, I asked the questions that come when facing the abyss of a life threatening disease. Questions about God, destiny, philosophy, relationships, positive thinking, and worldly viewpoints, they all flooded my mind.
My answers flashed as quickly as the reflectors on the highway:
- I’m good with God
- Everything happens for a reason
- What doesn’t kill you makes you tougher
- This is my ultimate death race and I must tackle it like any other obstacle challenge
- Channel your annoyance into focus and take it on full throttle
- Don’t take cancer lying down
- Be strong for your children
I’ve known Patrick as a Death Racer, Spartan consultant, and friend. His fight against prostate cancer and recent completion of his first 50 mile marathon proves that one man with courage can achieve anything. Patrick and I met years ago at one of our events and have become friends since. He was once the youngest Republican mayor in America, so clearly a sign of a fire inside that has not stopped burning!
JOURNEY WITHIN A JOURNEY
So now began the journey to fight and defeat my prostate cancer. The first big decision I made was not announcing it to the world and even members of my own family. Outside my immediate family, maybe 10-12 people I told over the course of the next several months. (There were a lot of World’s Toughest Mudder friends wondering why I didn’t go to Las Vegas – now you know)
I had my reasons. First, some people need that extra social media support on Facebook. Honestly, I don’t desire that type of attention by counting “Likes.” I’ve learned that most people don’t want to be reminded of their own mortality and that some actually become distant. Along those lines, I had my communications practice to think of. I couldn’t risk clients and prospective clients, in good nature saying, “We will let Patrick have time to heal so we won’t assign him new projects.”
First thing I received was immediate hormone treatment. Prostate cancer cells feed off of testosterone. Man, did I have a lot it.
My testosterone helped me succeed at the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder. Also, I called upon it at the Summer Death Race, where I went 60 hours into the race, with no sleep, which was just a few months before I was diagnosed.
So no more testosterone. After the nurse gave me the hormone blocker shot, I joked, “I guess now I will have to tap into my Amazon woman to continue working out and getting my badass on.”
I’m fortunate to know many OCR/extreme endurance women who can beat out most men in races, so I was fine with channeling my inner warrior princess.
Next was 45 intensive radiation treatments, Monday through Friday. I began my treatments just before Thanksgiving and ended it a few weeks ago, February 2nd. My radiation treatment would take less than 20 minutes a day. So I was able to conduct my business meetings and even travel outside the state for client work.
The pain I experienced from my radiation side effects was manageable. Extreme endurance racing has its advantages. Endurance athletes have a higher degree of pain thresholds that we’re constantly trying to push, going beyond our comfort zones.
Extreme endurance athletes like Patrick understand life and death, because they’re willing to push themselves beyond their limits mentally, physically, and emotionally. I recently learned that Patrick beat cancer and then I heard that he was going to toe the line for a 50 mile ultra marathon. The guy just beat cancer and days later he’s running his first ultra?! Thanks for inspiring us Patrick. We’re proud to have you as member of The Endurance Society.
Andy Weinberg, Founder of The Endurance Society
THE CANCER CENTER
It didn’t take long for the crew at the Capital Regional Cancer Center to realize that I wasn’t your typical cancer patient. I showed up in workout clothes nearly every morning. That’s because, I went to the gym before and many times right after treatment. I wasn’t going to let up just because I had cancer trying to slow me down. That would just be an excuse.
Countless people have countless excuses, but athletes like Patrick show us that all you need is one reason to persevere. It was great to see Patrick in the Destin 50 rocking it on the beach in his first ultra. May others be inspired by Patrick’s example in overcoming their excuses.
Sean Blanton, Founder of Run Bum Tours (Georgia Death Race)
On one particular day, the radiation machine was temporarily down for maintenance. It was raining outside and I was late for my work out. So, I began to do upward to nearly 100 burpees on the lobby floor followed by planks, pushups and sit ups. It got to the point that the crew and the doctors came out counting off. It was fun.
SUPPORTING MY FELLOW MAN
Let me be clear, CANCER SUCKS!!! Nothing is good about it, but you must make the most of the hand you are dealt. I would see many sad or painful faces coming and going at the cancer center. I struck up conversations with other patients. I was told by staff that some of the patients never laughed or talked much until I engaged them.
One day, I met J.T. while waiting for my treatment. We discussed our mutual treatments for prostate cancer and agreed that our conversation was very helpful and that more men should be included so we decided to form a support group, which I’m currently developing.
GET SHARP & BOLD
In many ways, my fight against cancer has made me a stronger and a more inspired man. That’s a gift and I consider it a blessing. I have codified my code in life in the acronym G.E.T. S.H.A.R.P. & B.O.L.D. which I affirm every day. Look for a future blog on what it means and its application in my personal, professional, spiritual and endurance paths.
I did my last radiation on Monday, February 2, 2015. My goal over the course of the radiation was to do my first ultra 50 mile marathon – the Destin 50 Beach Ultra – right after I completed it. I had signed up for it last fall before my diagnosis and wasn’t going to miss it.
The race was less than 2 weeks after my last radiation. I had trained some for it. Ran a few days a week, my longest being 15 miles.
So on Feb. 15, I started my 50 mile run at 5am in the morning. The first 30 miles was no sweat. Low tide, no tourists and cool temps made for a comfortable run. The afternoon was a different story. High tide, heat, powdered sand and then darkness. So the last 12 miles, I turned up the speed and tapped into what was left in the tank.
The last 5 miles, I had a police escort leading me in the dark along the beach. This saved me from serious injury due to children digging holes in the sand and erosion. My new friend Keith, a Sheriff’s Deputy, was my guide in the dark shining the lights from his pickup truck. We had a good series of conversations. I told him that my first ultra was more than just a race, but a punctuation in defeating my cancer.
Thanks Keith for the help, brother.
I was determined to not only kick cancer’s butt, but to become stronger as a result of it! I succeeded on both fronts. I’m thankful and I learned that keeping this fight to myself was a disservice to others who are facing their own journey in their fights against cancer.
So I’ve decided to share my private fight and victory so that others can know that there’s hope despite a deadly diagnosis. I’ve known too many fighters who have defied the odds. You want them in your corner and in the trenches.
In short, cancer doesn’t mean your life has to change for the worst. I was determined to demonstrate that with cancer you can continue to grow and achieve in life.
My prognosis is great. For a guy who lives in the moment as much as one can, that’s all I need to know.
Fighting cancer was my ultimate death race and I won every battle and won the war.
Many thanks to those who prayed and showed their support. You know who you are. I’m a blessed man and I’m thankful to the Big Guy Upstairs. Now back to the day-to-day that makes life worth living. Thank you.