Giving thanks…

Just a note on this Thanksgiving Day to share my gratitude for TEAMjeff and every person, prayer, and positive thought that is a part of it.

While this year has been rough for all, I hope that each of you can take a moment to reflect on the things you are grateful for in your lives. Those things that truly mean the most to you in life, and take a moment to appreciate and be grateful for being you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Being strong…

The adjective strong has been on my mind quite a bit recently. It’s actually quite a diverse word by meaning, although rarely difficult to understand the context. It’s also been in my mantra that started nearly 6 years ago now, but I’m still working to understand exactly what it means to be strong, especially as you go through something like a cancer journey.

I think most of us probably go first to the physical strength. I may have had that at points in my life, but I definitely don’t have it now. In no particular order now, sometimes strength will be defined by one’s resilience or grit. The ability to fight through whatever it is that lies in front of you. Definitely a strength, without a doubt, but what about when strengths tear you down when used incorrectly? My drive to push through tough times is exactly what left me with no physical strength at all and in the hospital for 2 weeks straight. Adding on, maybe it’s the mental strength to deal with life. Or the intensity in which we live our lives. Defining strength is both easy and difficult at the same time.

I’m going to keep this a little shorter today, but wanted to share what I believe to be the greatest strength we need. It’s ironic actually that strong 💪🏼 will always have a sense of force or power defined in it to me, but the greatest strength I have had to find is the strength to ask for help or the strength to do nothing. Actually it’s more like the strength I am still learning to develop. When we are at our weakest points, we don’t show strength always by “pushing through” but instead sometimes by understanding that what may be the hardest to do is what you need, and that’s just to take care of yourself.

We must learn when to push and when to rest. We need to understand that sometimes the strongest you will ever be is when you feel the weakest you have ever been. It’s the times that you can’t (or more accurately shouldn’t) do anything, that you show your true strength.

I hope that few of you ever find yourself in positions like that, but even more I hope that you know that it’s not always the action that makes you strong, it’s the decision. It’s your decision to never give up in the toughest of times that mean the most, even if the “actions” you must take to change things may have to wait. Or in my case, maybe the best “action” I can take at times is inaction.

Growing up in the sporting world, strength has always been defined as that pure physical strength or the mental strength to push through pain and handle stress. At least in my mind. And as a coach now, I get to see that side of things all the time. The Dors are showing off a tremendous amount of strength as a TEAM as I write this actually. But while I may not have swum at quite the same level, I’d have to tell you that is the easy strength.

True strength to me is never giving up on yourself. It’s not about an individual accomplishment or fight that needs to be won, but rather about the individual committed to living their life and finding what happiness means to them. It’s accepting the results in front of you (doesn’t matter what they are) and finding a way to your happiness. It’s remembering that the strongest you will ever truly be, is when you feel your absolute weakest.

Wherever you are in life, take the steps you need to take in order to find the happiness (yes, even in middle of heartache) you deserve in life. Thanks for reading. 🙏🏼😊 #TEAMjeff

Overall a good day for treatment #3

Today was treatment #3 and all in all a good day. It turned out after such a busy weekend that I needed Monday off the pool deck and then Tuesday is actually out off day, but luckily was able to get some good work done at home instead and clear a bit of my todo list.

Treatment today started early, but then got off to a bit of a slow start, possible with a question of going, although it never really got to me as a question. My first step every time I go in is they need to run a blood text to see if my body is ready to handle treatment. One of the tests showed all looking great, but the other showed my white blood cells were low. The Doctor still thought I was good to go, although it looks like I may have to add some shots into my regimen for the white blood cells, but then again, just add it to the list of doing what it takes to kick some butt!

With a little bit of a slow start on even getting the port to flow well and then evaluating the blood results, the treatment then went nice and smooth from there. As I have said, I truly feel better than I have in a long time, really even good, except for the impact of treatments. So then in a very nice TEAMjeff effort my Doctor just called tonight because he wanted to share the positive news of my blood markers coming WAY down over the last 4 weeks. These aren’t definitive of what is going on, but they do seem to show some very positive things going on right now. I won’t bother you with the exact markers, but one went from over 1538 to now being 105, and the other going from 29.9 to 6.7. I’ll take those results any day. 😎

Then I was also able to talk to the Doctor and get an idea in timeline going forward. It looks like I’ll have treatment #4 in two weeks, my next scan in 3 weeks, and then we’ll start talking to surgeons at that point and possibly a PET scan to get a full picture before they possibly go in by January. A break from treatment for recovery, but then going another 2 months or so of treatment to be sure we get everything. If all goes well, I’m only getting stronger from there. 💪🏼🤙🏼

Now it’s time to rest up and let my body do it’s thing. Thank you all for your continued support, you keep me strong!

The update that got away…

After way too long, I’m finally sitting down to post an update. It’s been a long week and the updates just got pushed off until tomorrow, hence the one that got away, but I’m also expected my journaling to get carried away as well. With that in mind, I’ll start with a quick, general update for those looking for that. I am feeling better and better as I go. Now, the side effects of the treatments are a little bit of a different story, but again, really not too bad. So I continue to march on, have my down days, but really just looking to get into some sort of schedule if that proves possible. Your main takeaway though is that even taking all things into consideration, I have days that I feel normal, which is to say pretty good actually, and I have to take that as a good sign.

So, for those continuing on with me 😉, I’m sorry if anyone was concerned on my lack of posts. It wasn’t anything really bad by any means, just more me fighting against myself in this whole process of rest and taking care of yourself first, combined with some fatigue from the treatments themselves. I think in the end I really wanted to get into some sort of schedule. I knew I would need some rest after treatment, figured maybe a few days, then I could start back on deck and have a solid week and a half before the next treatment. Well, as good of plans as I thought they might have been, they didn’t quite pan out that way.

I found myself slowly going down this path that I did not want to go down. It started with me taking my planned rest, okay, I thought I would be ready. Then came the first decision that I wasn’t and needed to rest more. Tough, but I have learned at least enough to get through the first step in this process without much impact on me. But then came the next workout and the next decision I needed rest. Okay, I’m just not that easy on myself and the thoughts start to creep in. “Just push through it, you’ll be fine.” “It’s not like you “can’t” do it, it’s just probably not the best idea to go in.” It’s those type of thoughts that creep in first. But I made the right decision and rested. To make this a little shorter, I always made the decision to rest or leave if I was wrong on my decision, that wasn’t an issue. My issues just come from my internal battles. So then it was workout after workout that while at least I am back to a place I can consistently write them, I wanted to see them, but I was just too worn down.

After a while you then start to question yourself too. “Are you really that worn out or are you just being lazy now?” “Seems like this laying around doing nothing could be something you are getting a little too comfortable with now.” It’s ingrained in me to push through, to be tough, to fight. I mean, it’s part of the reason I can stand here today and why I have every expectation to be standing here 10 years from now and beyond. It’s a resilience and grit that won’t allow for anything else, except I do need those other things at times. I do need to rest and recover. I do need to fail, stumble from my own expectations even if no one else’s, in order to continue moving forward, but boy does it make for a very long week.

But after a while I did start to feel better. Able to get back on deck at workout, and even got to be at my first swim meet in over 8 months this weekend. It’s amazing how things can come around at such needed times, and this was one of those. The meet wasn’t about results though. It was just fun to be back on deck at a competition. It was fun to see where at least this small group of swimmers were in racing and get excited about what we can do next to make them better. The ability to slow down a bit and have a chat with the small group about swimming, goals, etc. Then to get to see my fellow coaches and friends, it was a good timing indeed.

I am just so blessed when it all comes down to it though. The support I receive I still can’t believe. My college roommate (we’re talking Sr year roommates, when you know two things, first they both wanted to save money, but you also know each other pretty well and respect each other a lot), his wife (actually I believe more his wife’s business, check it out on Instagram: thesucculentchicks ) and the Irvine Novaquatics organized an amazing fundraiser for TEAMjeff. Thank you all so much.

Then just some of the messages that I’ve received recently have just meant so much. Again along the lines of timing is everything, but messages reminding me to rest, to take care of myself, to give myself a break, things I know I should know but helps so much to hear others say it as well. Thank you all and thank you for those wearing the TEAMjeff bracelets.

And finally, today, on the day the Condors start their Championship run, they posted a very cool video on social media supporting TEAMjeff and my mantra. Talk about the waterworks now. I do seem to be more emotional during treatments, but what a cool thing to see. It’s such this bittersweet ride for me if I am completely honest. I’m so bummed to have missed this opportunity to be there with them and be a part of everything going on, but then it’s so great to see all of their smiling faces, see them crushing races, and being so happy for all of them. Then to get this amazing support when then have business to take care of is just so cool. They are a special group of people. Go Dors!

I’ll let you in on one more of my bad mental habits and sometimes trips me up. It’s the idea that I still can’t believe the support I receive along the way. Take for instance the haircut I mentioned a while back. Well turns out he wouldn’t accept payment because he wanted to be a part of supporting TEAMjeff. All of this just pushes me over the emotional edge (in a very good way), but then also makes me feel almost this pressure. This idea that I have all of this support behind me, of course I better get this done. I know that’s crazy and not what the support is there for at all, but just one of those things I get to work on improving for myself.

Hopefully you can tell now that I am feeling pretty good again. Even after a full Friday and a couple sessions Saturday at the US Open and then following that up with a race day early today, I am feeling really good. In fast feeling reinvigorated a bit after seeing some racing again live and in person. Just in time to get ready for treatment again this coming Wednesday, and I get to start this roller coaster all over again. This time I am ready though. I’m ready to take what comes and do what I can, when I can.

Thank you all for your support, you really do mean so much in this long journey.

Treatment #2

Today was my second treatment and all had gone great so far. Still a couple days of an at home pump to go and very likely some good rest, but feeling really good otherwise.

Nothing major to report, as we are in our “work” phase, but always great to see my Doctor and have him say he doesn’t see any reason no to be optimistic. Now, to understand, he’s not normally pessimistic at all, but in my experience both times now, he is a bit tentative until he feels good about the direction. Today’s meeting, for instance, much more upbeat that the first ones. I’m stronger, got weight back on, and really feeling pretty good all things consider. Things are looking up my friends. 😊

Even got the room with a view today! 😎 A little hazy for sure, but really the beauty is what you find sometimes. So it was a nice place to be and see the beauty in life.

Thanks all for your incredible support. I am so very blessed on so many levels and can only hope to express my gratitude effectively.

#TEAMjeff

Rest allows for bounce backs

Well, that was quite a weekend. Okay, it’s not going to sound like anything big for most of you, but for me it was quite a weekend.

Saturday morning I made my second trip back to the pool deck, again just to catch about an hour of each of the groups workouts, and have an opportunity to check in with the coaches a bit as well. Tried out my new voice amplifier a bit as well, in hopes of eve being able to lead a workout again soon, and that worked great. So a couple hours on deck, similar to Wednesday, but really felt pretty good the rest of the day as well. It’s actually amazing what an impact (good or bad) your shoes make just standing on a concrete deck for a couple hours.

After feeling as strong as I did, and with the bonus of an extra hour sleep, I was hoping to not only make the early morning Sunday workout, but also lead it. So Saturday turned in to just basically resting and taking care of myself, but it payed off.

Led my first workout in a while today, and it was a blast. We mixed things up a bit and played some games during our sets, but what great energy it brings to be on deck leading the group again. Then it was back home to rest up some more, and we had some friends coming over, something else that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Such a great visit with Joe and Amy, thank you both for making the trip up. A nice little socially distanced, backyard hang out, so much fun. And I had to share some pics. The first one is such a cool idea, his team spelled out hope in the water and put some real work into it, and my favorite part is my buddy jumping in on the E with a bucket, just to find a way to make it work. Solutions over excuses, I love it.

One of the coolest, most original HOPE signs… so cool
And as a sign of the times, we have the masked version…
And the hold your breath version…

The just finished the day alternating between resting and looking over National Group plans for the next couple months. As I wrap up the weekend with this blog, I can’t help but think how much better I feel, how quickly things can swing, and how important it is to stay positive and keep your hope always, so that they can swing quickly.

Thank you all for being on this journey with me. I don’t just share the ups, so you’ll experience some of the “downs” as well, but what I hope most is that you can take something to help you in some way.

Now we head into treatment week. Wednesday’s are the day for both, so I am expecting a wiped out end of the week, but we’ll just do some coaching on Monday, rest up on Tuesday, and see what treatment has in store of me this week. Thanks again TEAMjeff, I hope you all had a very Happy Halloween and a great weekend.

Down days are the worst….

Today is just one of those days. Not where things are going wrong or that there’s anything in particular that is wrong, but just one of those down days. Of course my journey may very well have those come up a little more often than under normal circumstances, but it’s just the same reminder that you may need to slow down and take care of yourself a bit more in the process.

Today is just one of those days where things are catching up a bit. It’s been a great week of seeing Trenton and then being able to get back on deck, at least a little bit, but it seems to have come crashing down today. Again, nothing “wrong” per se, just so tired and unable to really focus on much.

And that’s when the mind (my mind at least), starts messing with you. Those little worries (or maybe big sometimes), those missed opportunities, the feelings of not doing enough, or just all the things you’d love to get done. The mind doesn’t seem to want to focus, so instead jumps from thing to thing, and when I am worn out like today, it tends to sway towards the negative side of things. So, then I decide that it’s not going to happen today for workout because I know I need to rest and continue recovery, but of course, even that is a decision that ways on my mind at these times.

This blog is one of those more therapy blogs for me than anything else, but I do believe it’s okay to go through the down days. I personally need to learn how to manage them a bit better, but the downs are just as much a part of life as the ups.To beat ourselves up for down days is treating ourselves with no respect at all. We need to understand that ups and downs will always come, and that you may not always understand exactly why you feel down at times. That’s OK. What can’t be okay is allowing yourself to dwell in that negative space, like that is your life. Live your life with hope and optimism, even when all you feel is the opposite. You are being tested for that better tomorrow, and you are strong enough to get through.

So, I rest up today. I do what I can to calm my mind, I sleep, I hydrate, and I give myself a break for not being able to do quite everything I want to get done. Then I get up tomorrow ready for a new day!

TEAMjeff, or course, continues to get me through and give me strength, but sometimes the timing just seems too perfect. As I go through my “down day” here, I get a video message from through social media from what looks like the entire DC Tridents of the ISL. Thank you so much for your support and thinking of me over there. I am so very bummed that I couldn’t be there and is actually one of those “negative” thoughts of missed opportunities, etc., but it means so much to have that support from other teams as well.

Thank you all for your support along the way. While today may have been a day of needed rest, we are making great progress forward, getting stronger and stronger, and ready to BEAT CANCER!

Oct 29th Update

Just a quick update these days. It was a great weekend to have our family of 3 all together, as Trenton came down to visit. It’s not like we do anything but hang out, but what a great feeling it is just to have him around.

Otherwise I am feeling better and better each day. Dare I even say getting back to some semblance of normal. The surgeries and procedures are healing up nicely and I’m feeling stronger and stronger through each day.

Then today marked my first day back on the pool deck! Always great to be on deck and see the smiling faces of our swimmers in the water and our coaches leading them.

Oct 23rd Update

This is most likely to be a short one, as it seems every time I get my computer out to do something, I end falling asleep with it on my lap. In fact, that would be most of my past couple days. After treatment on Wednesday, I actually felt pretty good overall and just took it easy. Thursday I ended up being able to get my first haircut in 8 months (thank you so much Leah and wow, I could get used to this at home, outdoor set up for haircuts 😉 ), then hung out for a bit still feeling pretty good, and then the afternoon hit.

The “before”:

And the “after”: (now we are really getting ready go…)

From Thursday afternoon through now, I think I have slept the majority of the time. Took a quick trip to the Burbank office of UCLA Oncology (which makes the disconnecting of the 48hr chemo pump SOOOO much easier), but otherwise back to bed and getting rest. Luckily, so far that’s the worst of it. I am feeling pretty good overall otherwise.

So now I rest and let me body go to work. I’ve tried to learn over the years of when to push and when to rest, and this one I have down. This is the time for my body to push itself, I need to otherwise give it the rest it needs to keep going. My body needs to go to work against the cancer and start taking names, and for it to do that, I just need to make sure I focus on the other parts of the process. Sleep and rest being a key one. Nutrition and hydration also both crucial pieces.

A very nice article was written as well and thought I’d share that here if you can zoom in to read it. 😊

As always, I can’t thank you all for being my support during this time. #TEAMjeff #kickcancersbutt #wegotthis

Big day today! (Oct 21st)

Alright, I don’t want to bore you with too many details today, but instead mainly try to leave you with how I am feeling and let you know the battle has officially begun and I am on the offensive now. 😊 Today was treatment day. Barring any issues with blood tests or the new port, we knew that chemo at least would be ready. We had found a way to have Opdivo approved for treatment, but given that was only last Thursday I believe, I wasn’t holding out hope. Apparently, if you remove the insurance piece, things can move a lot faster, who would have ever thought? :-/

After an easy drive (okay, ride for me), I was there and received that wonderful news early on, we were going to be able to do both chemo and immuno today. Now we were really going to work. The day is relatively easy. Check in, find my chair for the day, blood test (okay, much easier through the port btw,no doubt will be some hassles and has been some discomfort, but I am not upset about not needing to be stuck with needles every two weeks), and if all good, the treatment starts. 30 min infusion on the immuno, a flush to make sure we get it all, a 2 hours chemo infusion, a push chemo infusion, my pump (48 hour chemo infusion), and I am out of there. A quick 4 and half hours later and I am headed home. I’ve had swimming workouts as a swimmer and a coach that have felt longer, haha.

K picked up lunch and I only mention that because it was some of the best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had and that’s one on my favorite breakfasts. Thanks Jeff K for the restaurant rec so long ago. Then we just got home around 1:15 or so and I just took the afternoon to rest. Didn’t end up sleeping, but a nice afternoon of rest and recovery. Texted with T for a while and getting to chat swimming a bit. Wrote some workouts, cleared some email, and just relaxed.

I am keeping an open and prepared mind for what I will need to battle through as I go, but so far so good. And I mean really. Nearly passed out in the chair after the immuno, but then we kind of want that body reaction (jump starting the immune response). I just put stuff down and rested a bit. Then started to feel better, dare I even say stronger. I got a good amount of work done, etc, but that’s not my point, here’s my point.

I feel like the competitive juices are flowing. I am in the fight and ready to go! I hated being pushed back a week to 10 days, but I can tell you I think I was in a much better physical condition to handle it all today than I was before. Even, or maybe even especially, mentally I am better now that I would have been without last Monday. Good luck… bad luck…. We’ll see… (but it doesn’t let the insurance company off the hook for poor patient care IMHO.)

So we fight, and I feel ready. No doubt I will have my ups and downs, but I AM READY TO FIGHT! I feel kind of like walking into that mid-season championship meet where maybe you aren’t really “rested” per se, but yes, you are expected to step up and be fast. For me going into these meets were always this sense of I hope I can do this. I guess we’ll see what happens. And then I’d walk into that indoor pool ( most dramatic piece for me was the smell, coming from outdoor all year, walking into an indoor environment and smelling the chlorine, still doesn’t something to this day, or seeing a comp pool set up could also work), and my mindset would immediately change. It would go from that “it is what it is” attitude, to “alright, now it’s time to get down to business” and a smile would come across my face. I love that feeling, and today feels strangely very similar.

So I smile and know it’s really time to take care of business now. With the hard work I have put in, the even harder work I am willing to do if needed, and the TEAM I have behind me, cancer doesn’t stand a chance. It may have been it’s best bet to try to use myself against myself and allow me to bury myself before I even knew what was going on, but rest assured, that plan failed! 😉

I BELIEVE!

I am STRONG!

I am READY!

And I will WIN!

Thanks TEAMjeff and let’s do this!