Below is a (true) story I wrote for Bodybuidling.com a while ago. I wanted to reprint it here because of so much feedback I have been getting from my biography here at the Workout Lab. I have not edited this piece at all (it’s in three parts) – so here it is, questionable writing style and all!
“Bring your shoulder around…flex those deltoids…keep the abs tight.” It was late on Thursday night June 2nd 2005 and my workout partners were critiquing my posing after hours at my workplace. It had seemed like an eternity and yesterday at the same time that I was in the middle of chemotherapy treatments just last year at this exact time.
This night one year ago I would have been preparing for my next chemo treatment – getting ready to feel weak and sick to my stomach for the umpteenth time. But tonight I was flexing, prepping for my next show; the 2005 Musclemania Superbody in Miami Florida.
January 2004: After coming home from Afghanistan with the Air National Guard I was ready to go, motivated, excited, and eager to get back into serious training again. Being overseas was a unique experience and one I will never forget, but it was time to get ready to compete again. Just prior to being shipped over I had competed in two shows: the New Orleans show and the Texas Musclemania one week prior to being shipped out. People thought I was crazy for dieting that close to leaving for who knows how long, but I won the novice division and felt great. So with a win and Afghanistan behind me it was time to go to work.
Thursday, February 19th 2004: I was driving to work after recovery from a procedure I had undergone to remove and biopsy a lymph node on my neck. I thought nothing of it. As a matter of fact I had one removed before and it was benign. It was just another speed bump, or so I thought. I got a phone call form my general practitioner saying that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, an immune system cancer (which my brother had in the past and twice with my father). I was shocked and numb. I thought it should have skipped me somehow, or they had the results mixed up with someone else, or that he read the report wrong. I did not know what to do! Do I turn around and go home? Do I go to work and stay in the routine? Or do I just pull over and collect my thoughts? Right then I remembered what my Dad told me when he went through cancer: “Stay in a routine.” It was the best advice for my mind and body.
Saturday, August 21st 2004: “First place: Thayer Hill!” My friend had just won the Musclemania Delta Junior title. Well over six months into chemotherapy when I am supposed to be weaker than ever and barely able to move from the treatment I had received just the day before I was filled will adrenaline! I should have been home in bed resting, attempting to eat and hydrate my body from the toxins that had been shoved in my veins. But, NO! I would not have missed this night. My two great friends Thayer (Tyson we call him) and Carey were competing. I had to see them; I had to be surrounded by my favorite sport. It had been too long. It was a great night.
Tuesday, August 24th 2004: My birthday. I had made thirty and still on chemo. My original goal was to be done with treatment before my birthday. The reports came back that I needed a few more cycles of treatment. Surprisingly I stood up and thought to myself, “If we are going to beat it, let’s beat it for good.” So I set my new goal for my holidays to be cancer free. Looking back I feel very lucky to have made it to thirty. My Dad, again, made a great point when I first started treatment: “It was good that you came back from Afghanistan when you did so we would be able to beat this thing in time.” It was great to see thirty indeed.
October 15, 2004: My very last treatment. What a ride! It’s over! I bought a few eatable gifts for the nursing staff, which I could not stomach. With half of my hair missing, my G.I. tract messed up, and very little appetite, nothing seemed appetizing except for the privilege to walk out of that clinic on chemo for the last time. My friends, family, everyone at the National Guard unit, and coworkers helped me walk out that door that day whether they knew it or not. Heck, even Lou Zwick from Musclemania called periodically to check up on me. All of those doctor appointments, emergency room visits, hospital stays, and late nights – it seemed like a long and endless road but it was finally over.
Over the next few months it was back to the gym with a goal: to come back better than before, not to give into the cancer story. What I mean is, I could have easily given cancer as the excuse for all of my shortcomings. If I was tired one day and did not feel like training I could very well blame chemo. But the fact of the matter was that I was as healthy as an ox; and eating like one too. I gained an average of five pounds per week. Before treatment I was 235 and after I had gone down to about 195-198. My strength was doubling each week as well.
Weak points would be no more. I made a promise to myself: I will never be tired again! I had been tired for most of 2004 and I was tired of being tired! I had so much pent up emotion and drive during treatment it was all coming out now. Training was six days per week, no less! Heavy, hard, and strong.
Back to the start June 2005: So there I was, getting ready for my first show in almost two years. Will my body be able to go through the dieting and rigors of contest prep? Will I be better conditioned, bigger, more symmetrical? All I could do was find out for myself.
To be continued…