And on to the next 12 weeks we go

To be clear from the beginning, blood test and scan were both good news! Blood test shows everything completely back to normal (including liver enzymes) and the scan shows all as stable from the last scan. Again, I’ll have more detail once they do the over-read for the trial, but the net result is everything is great. 

So that’s it then. First 12 week cycle without any treatment at all and all remains stable. It’s strange, while yes I am very excited and happy, what I am experiencing most is just plain relief. The build up over the last few days has hit me I think, added to not the greatest nights sleep over past couple days, and I am feeing this “let down” almost. Mentally worn out for sure, but don’t mistake that at all for a lack of happiness. It’s just been a crazy few days of thinking about this in ways that I hadn’t really in a long time. I talk to people about it every so often and I’m actually happy to do it. I’m honored they care enough to ask and want to know, and for some reason I’m able to just let it go immediately after. It’s like that’s just my past that I am sharing, but in reality it’s my life. Cancer will likely come after me again and again I will be ready. 
For now though, I celebrate the victories along the way. I celebrate getting that much more time with my family, living my life, and getting to coach some incredible swimmers at USC and Rose Bowl. 
I also want to thank all of you for your incredible support. As one of my swimmers put it, cancer messed with the wrong hombre here, and I couldn’t agree more. Not just because of who I am or how I hate to lose though, but more in that the TEAM I have behind me is absolutely phenomenal. I still cannot believe all of the support I have received in the past and continue to now, and I just want to once again sincerely thank all of you for your love and support along this journey. 
Cheers to yet another stable scan and to all of YOU that help give me the strength to FIGHT ON! 

Life flies by… 

Well, apparently life flies by pretty fast. I had the wrong meet as my reference point (NCAA instead of Pac 12’s), so what I thought had been 8 weeks was really 11. 😬 So that makes this week Scan week. 😳 Many thanks to my incredible TEAM of doctors, I went from not knowing to having a blood test, scans and Dr appointment all within an hour. 

On the positive side, I found a way around a week or more of anxiety. If you don’t know when it is until 2 days before, you don’t worry about it nearly as much. 😊 (yes, I like emojis if you can see them) 

But I am within those days now. I’ve been having a non-stop conversation of thought in my head. Questions, followed by my “answers”. I seem to have a pretty good answer to every concern so far, but the one that remains isn’t really a question, so there really isn’t an “answer” to be given. It’s the fact that we just don’t know. I truly believe that I am still good at this point, but I also know there’s a chance. All of the feelings and symptoms I remember from before were from a pretty advanced stage. My guess is that since this treatment has worked so well for me and gotten rid of the majority of locations it had spread, that I won’t feel any symptoms before it shows up on the scan. Because of my read on it, I tend to put a little more worry about the results. I’ve imagined the situation in my head many times. If the time is to come that the scan reveals growth, hearing the news, and all while still feeling great and on a regular schedule. Which is an idea, I think I am going to plan how I hear that news now, just so I am in control of something in that process. 
So now I sit in the waiting room to get my first blood test done in like 11 weeks, and wait for my scan tomorrow. Now is when the mind spins, and just as well as I was able to put it out of my mind during the previous 11 weeks, I am now not able to get it off my mind. I work to relax, it’s been a great time to be back on a schedule of swimming, but the end result doesn’t have it off my mind at all. Positive thing is that it’s only a couple days of this and then we get the results. 
As K puts it, it’s just feedback. If it’s time for the next step of the journey, then that’s the way it goes. And if cancer thinks that I am going to give in, it doesn’t know me very well. And, thanks to the incredible researchers, developers, and everyone involved in fighting cancer, we have more possibilities than ever before to fight this thing. While I would much rather avoid it, just as I have said before, I will fight for every day I get to live my life and love my family. 
Thanks for “listening” to my state of mind, and I’ll be in touch in a couple days. 

An update on life 

I am starting this blog as I sit here in the car, in the parking lot of where the CIF Championships are being held. I’ve sat here many times, but this year is different. This is Trenton’s final CIF! I cannot believe it. For those that know me well, you know that while it means a tremendous amount to me, that I am not overly sentimental about life’s milestones. So it’s not that at all, but what a strange feeling to have the “lasts” start to come towards us before Trenton heads off to start that next path of his journey. In the end it comes down to just being happy and feeling blessed to be here to see it. 

My greatest joy (okay, you can scratch what I said about not being emotional as my eyes tear up now 😉 right now is the man I see him become. I want so badly through all he has battled this year for him to just crush it, but what makes me most proud is I know he’s going to be just fine. He’ll have his feelings without a doubt, but he understands the journey and process better than I ever did. Injuries that kept him out of the water for longer than he had to train and of course an illness that kept him out of school early in the week are hurdles he acknowledges but doesn’t let stand in his way and I am so very proud of how he has handled it all. So, I guess it’s time to go watch and see what happens… 

As the local newspaper put it, Trenton had a bittersweet ending to his high school career. He stood up in the 200 IM and won in commanding fashion, even posting a best time by a second and a half. Once again though, the record wasn’t meant to be, as he missed the CIF record by .4 seconds. Then he came back in the fly and posted what I believe is his second fastest time ever (just .3 off his best), which is a fantastic swim for where he is right now. The only bummer for him was that he ended up second and won’t get the record he had missed by .3 seconds the year before. 

As I told him yesterday, I could not be more proud of my son. As his dad and one of his coaches, the swims were great, but what he does to make those possible, even in the face of challenges, is what makes me the most proud. It also makes me that much more sure of the exciting times he has ahead. I’m not quite sure Cal truly understands what they have coming in with Trenton yet, but that’s part of what Trenton is excited about overall. He knows he’s going in with work to do and spots to earn, and again, I love seeing the drive and belief that not only is it possible, it will happen. 

I love you buddy and in case I don’t say it enough, I am very proud of you and the man you have become. 

As for my health, all is good. I believe it’s been about 8 weeks now since being off of treatments and what a crazy 8 weeks it has been. Slowing down is not exactly how I would explain it at all, but it’s been an exciting time overall. 

So let’s see a quick recap. Immediately after my last doctors visit I had my first time back in deck at NCAA’s in 20 years, and that was a blast. The men stood up and competed all meet long and fought hard for a 6th place finish after a couple unfortunate bumps along the road (.04 too fast on a relay exchange and .05 out of finals in the one relay that didn’t make top 8, .09 and the meet is entirely different). They showed what it means to be Trojans and I hope they are ready to build off of that for next season. 

One day back home and then it was off to China for me. I had an opportunity to go back to a club team that K and I had done a clinic for back when I had back pains but no idea what it was at that point. K didn’t feel like it was the best time for both of us to be gone, so I made this journey on my own. It was a great trip and clinic, and so great to see and meet new friends along my journey. Now they’ve already invited us back to do a “traveling clinic” up to a resort town in the mountains. That sounds pretty good to me. 🙂 

During that trip we launched our swim-a-thon at Rose Bowl, and if you know much about that for us, K and I lead it as our one fundraiser of the year, and this becomes a very busy time. We wrapped that up a week ago with an incredible event, and always means so much to me to see all of our families come together. Straight from that to the SCS Banquet to celebrate our national top 10 and SCS/NAG record breakers, which happened to be Trenton’s first invite. If I haven’t mentioned before and you aren’t aware, there is this thing called “Trenton time” and it has this amazing ability to slow down any process, but then, seemingly like he flipped a switch it (Enter almost anything from eating dinner, to doing chores, to focusing on his swimming, to being potty trained) and not only does something start building, he just gets it done. His swimming has very much followed Trenton time, but since it’s his journey to take, we were okay with that.

Then straight down to a college coaches conference with the SC staff and that was a great experience as well. We did this behavioral test called DISC and it really amazed me and seemed to hit me pretty much spot on. For anyone that has done it, I am an S as my top one and C in a close second. Yes, both on the introverted side of things, and both covering points I like and things see as the potential negatives of my behaviors. If we do the long version, I’m sure I’ll be talking about this more, but it really hit me both in terms of learning about myself and how to best interact with others. Then it was back home for a night and then straight out to watch the CIF meets. 

Yes, it’s been pretty busy I would say, and because of that has left me largely unfocused on battle I am fighting otherwise. It’s not surprising for me at all though, as I have a pretty good ability of putting things out of my mind completely. That is when I don’t have anything that needs to be done for it, but that time is running out now. It’s time for a doctors visit just to follow up and my first scan since coming off treatment. You can probably guess that you’ll see some blog posts that week. As good as I may be at times at letting things go, I am going to need some help getting through that week or so of scanxiety and feeling every little twinge like it was all coming back. 
But that’s for another time, as we aren’t there yet and I’m not ready to start worrying. I want to live life, learn along the way what exactly I want and what means most to me, and in the end, just love being here. Recently in the swimming world we are learning much too often that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. While some of us are told how much time we have left (incorrect as they may have been), all of us need to remember to enjoy this life that is given to us each and every day. If I can offer some advice, if you ever go through a day without stopping to appreciate your life or at least some tiny piece of it, then you are missing the point. Remember to “stop and smell the roses” along your path to success. There are still roses along the path of the most ambitious, and you can recognize them without taking anything away from your drive. Just be aware and have fun. And if anyone is reading this and truly can’t find those happy moments in any given day, find someone to help you (I’m happy to do it if you need someone), decide what it is that is missing, and start moving towards that vision. Even taking that first step gives you something to be happy about, in fact making any step (forward or backwards) in an effort to reach that vision should be something that makes you smile. That vision and knowing you are on the journey towards it will give you those moments in your day to treasure, if you keep your eyes open for them. 

I can’t believe that I wasn’t supposed to be here for all of this, but I am so thankful to God and everyone who played a part of getting me to where I am now. It’s surreal to think about like that, but then it all hits me when I get to see Trenton become this incredible person, Kristine be in a better place than in years and only getting started, and our family being closer and tighter than ever. Even in the pain of losing our family dog, I can see so much more clear just how amazing life can be. One of the best things to remember is to cherish life. It’s easy to get caught up in things, so on this Mother’s Day, take time to not only recognize Mom, but to take a moment, recognize just how much you have, and enjoy your life. 

The start of a new path…

Well, while looking back it started 2 weeks ago, today marked an official start on a new path, and all happening just hours away from being a part of my first NCAA team as a coach, even though I’ll be watching this one from home getting the men ready to rock next week. It’s been quite a day, and I’m looking forward to an exciting finish as our Trojan Women kick off the 2017 NCAA Championship with the 800 Free Relay. Life is good! 

So as of today, I am off of treatment, will be seeing the doctor once a month instead of every 2 weeks, and getting scans every 12 weeks. My liver enzymes had gone down overall, so even though slightly elevated, those looked good as well. 

It’s left me at a bit of a loss of how to feel. I mean, overall I feel great, but I am talking more about my thoughts. I’m not upset at all, I do know that. I don’t know that I’m excited though either, as this decision wasn’t as clear a decision as being given the NED notice. So it’s just looking to the future, continue following my process, and keep my hope stronger than ever. 

Likely I’ll have a great 6-7 weeks and an “exciting” 2 weeks of a whole different scanxiety level, but we don’t know what we don’t try. I might be stronger than we even know and not need the treatment to stay stable, which sounds pretty good to me. It’s also comforting to know that at least through the first scan I can get immediately back on treatments if they are needed. 

So here’s to an exciting step forward! A different path along the same journey I talked about 2 years ago of kicking cancers butt! 

Deep breaths, positive thoughts, and bright futures. Thanks all. 

I believe. 

I am strong. 

I am ready. 

I will WIN! 

Well, that was quite a distraction

It seems like since I wrote the last blog and left for Pac 12’s, that my treatment, or lack of treatment as it turned out, hasn’t crossed my mind at all. I guess it’s true what they say, timing is everything. If I had to miss a treatment, leaving for Pac 12’s the very next morning proved to be the best distraction I could imagine. So I hope you don’t mind if I geek out about swimming a bit here.

This meet not only brought back some cool memories of my time on this team, but more reminded me what I absolutely love about college swimming. Anyone who knows my coaching at all knows that I am all about TEAM. And college swimming is the ultimate version. I have worked very hard for 14 years to make our club the best TEAM that I possibly could, but nothing I have ever experienced quite matches the coming together as a team as college swimming has the potential to do. The environment just feeds a group to come together and strive for success.

Now to have the opportunity to experience it as a coach for the first time was absolutely incredible. This team has a pretty impressive culture of diversity in so many different ways. I don’t just mean only in culture, I mean in anything and everything possible. There is a welcoming to this team that is impressive to say the least, and that has extended to coaches as well, as I have experienced. So it’s an honor and a privilege to be coaching them as Trojans.

Our Trojans represented well as we knew they could. They stood up race after race and put it all on the line. They got better and better throughout the season and they are poised to continue that trajectory as we head into NCAA’s (Women’s in 2 weeks and Men’s in 3 weeks). The work put in all season yielded some exciting results, and that is always fun. I can’t wait to move on to the most exciting meet I’ve ever experienced, NCAA Championships.

Now, all that said, here’s what I love about college swimming the most, and I can feel it now like I did then. It’s that nagging question in the back of my head, with an excitement and drive that is hard to describe, “how can I be better for this TEAM?” It’s that drive to do more for this TEAM. That itch that feels so good to scratch. That motivation to reach higher and be the absolute best. To take our Trojans to the top. How can I be the best assistant coach for these women and men is my task now and it’s honor to be back a part of these Trojans. My hope is that those who’s season is over feel half the motivation I do for next season. If that is the case then we are in for big things next year and I can’t wait to get back to work.

But first things first, it’s on to the next meets and seeing our women and then our men represent our Trojan Family well. Trust me when I tell you they should already make all our Trojan family proud, as the part that should make you proud has already been done. The hard work is in!

I love coaching. My 14 years of club coaching and almost year now of college coaching has been a blessing that is hard to describe fully. They say do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Yes, I think I live that, especially now, but it needs to be clear that it only means that the tremendous amount of work you put in is all part of the process that you love doing. And that’s the key right there, love the work you do, through the ups and the downs.

So what a week of memories and exciting races. And I think I may have posted this previously, but given the theme of Pac 12’s, I thought I’d share one of my memories from 20 years ago: I was reminded of this today when one of our swimmers suggested I bring back the hair. Haha, don’t think Kristine would go for the length. 😉

Needless to say, it was obviously a very great distraction for me and ignited a motivation that I hadn’t quite felt since being in that water 20 years ago. Pretty cool feeling. Thanks all for letting me share. I hope you all find that passion and of course, Fight On!

An interesting time… an update

Well, it’s the first change/update/disruption to my process in a long time, but the jury is still out whether it’s a bad thing or not. I’ll start with the good news though just to get that out of the way and put any possible worries to rest. Last week was a test week like I haven’t seen in two years. First was the normal 12 week CT scan. Thankfully it once again showed everything was stable and good. So in the end it is a time to celebrate.

Add to that, we re-did the brain MRI to make sure it had not metastasized there. Once again, my brain scan came out completely “normal”. Trenton may argue the completely “normal” part, but that’s what they say. 😉 Anyway, that was also a great thing to hear. So as you can see, it really is a time to celebrate and keep living life well.

There’s one hitch that is just creating thought as much as anything else at this time. At my last treatment it was seen that a couple of my liver enzymes were slightly elevated. We did the treatment, but decided to track it to be sure. So last week was another blood test, and it once again showed levels that were again slightly raised, more this time. At that point it wasn’t enough to do anything, so we waited until treatment day today. K and I went in this morning for another blood test and to see what the next step was for me.

As it turns out, I am going to be skipping my first treatment since this all started over two years ago. I’m going to skip the treatment portion of my process this round. It’s a potential side effect of my treatment and needs to be monitored more before we restart anything. So we take this one off and wait to see what happens next time I go in and we run the blood test in two weeks.

Here’s the thing, given that this is a trial and I am one of a small number that have gone this far on it, we don’t know exactly what I need to benefit from it. Does my body need to have it every two weeks? Or maybe at some point my body sees those cancer cells as bad and doesn’t need this treatment anymore. Not until the treatment itself was to stop working for some reason anyway. Or there’s another theory that since the cancer is actually gone in my body, maybe my body doesn’t need the treatment anymore and it’s causing problems because it’s not needed? In the end, we just don’t know, but there’s plenty of scenario’s that this isn’t a big deal at all and I am otherwise in great health.

But talk about a rattling event. I have equated my battle with cancer as a fight many different times. I’ve talked about winning rounds along the way and immediately moving on to the next one. I even just recently explained in a talk I gave how you receive the news of having cancer. It’s kind of like you are just walking along having no idea you are in a fight and cancer giving you a huge gut shot before you even had a thought it was coming. Just as I started to come to terms with what just happened, then came the head shot (in the stage 4 diagnosis) that very nearly knocked me out, and had me losing hope that it was even possible for me to fight. I was lucky to have a crew in my corner that got me up, give me my hope back, and had me deciding to never give up hope again. That team didn’t come immediately though, in fact it took about 4 doctor visits to find “hope” and 6-7 different doctor visits to find my team and plan. I can totally understand how some never decide to get up in order to get out of the first round, it’s a rough couple of shots you take and normally not much hope given to help get through them. So back to today, it’s hard to figure out just what this is in this metaphor. I’m not down by any means. I’m not hurt at this point either. I just imagine it’s one of those hits that you think is going to hurt a lot, but instead just kind of refocuses you and leaves you almost more clear-headed. If you played football, one of those tackles on you that seems like you are going down, only to find it bounces you to a new hole and you are off and running. Or, getting away from the sports metaphors, just that life event that doesn’t seem like it’s good, but in the end is really the best thing for you and refocuses you on what’s important to you.

Anyway, in the end, I am just refocused on being on top of my process, taking care of myself, and most of all, living my incredible life. My “jobs” aren’t that at all. They are passions that I can’t believe I have the fortune of doing together. I spent a weekend watching one meet on a computer, coaching a group of swimmers that I get to travel with this week, and seeing nearly 200 Rose Bowl swimmers compete at a meet hosted by our TEAM. And now I am preparing to leave tomorrow morning for Pac 12’s, and my first time back as part of USC since my senior year where I have the fun memories of winning both my first individual Pac 12 title and being a part of a record breaking relay as well. It’s time to head back as a coach, and in knowing what the women’s team accomplished last week and the training these men have put in, we are in for a fun week of racing. All of that, and I have the piece of mind of working towards putting my family in the best position possible if anything does happen in the future. I am a very lucky man and I count my blessings every day, you can be sure.

So we continue on. We live our lives with hope for a better tomorrow. Seeing the positive side of everything that is dealt us. And most of all, I hope we remember to love life for all that it offers us and that we remember to enjoy it along the way.

Theme songs to my life right now 

While I don’t have much musical talent myself, music has always been meaningful to me. Whether it was Eye of the Tiger when I was swimming or Wind Beneath My Wings as I said goodbye to my mom, I seem to find songs that resonate with me at times and can listen to those songs over and over again. 
Currently I have four songs that mean a lot to me and are my escape or my reminder, whenever I need one. I’ll tell you now, if you don’t like country, then you may not like my theme songs much. 

The first is “I’m Alive” by Kenny Chesney. This is clearly a song that fits for my life and my current journey. I think I’ve mentioned this song before, but as you’ll see from some of the lyrics below, it’s just a perfect fit for me. Remembering to focus on what we have and enjoy life. 

I’m Alive – Kenny Chesney 

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard. 

Everybody’s got their share of battle scars. 

As for me I’d like to thank my lucky stars, 

That I’m alive and well. 

It’d be easy to add of all the pain.

And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames. 

Dwell on the wreckage, as it smolders in the rain, 

But not me, I’m alive. 

And today you know that’s good enough for me

Breathing in and out’s a blessing can’t you see.

Today’s the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m alive and well. Yeah, I’m alive and well. 
The second song I absolutely love, but may hit a little to close for some. I’m going to be fighting for a long time, but it’s the idea that sticks with me. It’s about Kristine and a reminder to be the best husband I can be. That while I work hard to say I love you all the time, I also need to remember to show it more. 

Kristine, you are my rock. I cannot imagine going through this with anyone that doesn’t know me quite like you do. You are the love of my life. We’ve taken what life has thrown at us and crushed it. And we only get stronger as we go. I don’t show you quite like I should, but “all I need in this life is your crazy love”. Thank you for everything, I love you. 

Die a Happy Man – Thomas Rhett 

– If all I got is your hand in my hand, baby I could die a happy man. 

– And I know that I can’t ever tell you enough that all I need in this life is your crazy love. 

The third one is another incredible song. Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw is exactly what I hope for Trenton. He’s my pride and joy, and continues to impress me how he remains his own man, handles hurdles with unbelievable understanding, and commits himself fully to his goals. 

If I can be a father who leads by these hopes and can teach my son to live life in this manner, I am a lucky man. Thank you Trenton for the man that you are and I can’t wait to see those “dreams you are dreaming come to you.” 

Humble and Kind – Tim McGraw 

Hold the door, say please, say thank you

Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie.

I know you got mountains to climb but always stay humble and kind. 

When the dreams your dreaming come to you

When the work you put in is realized

Let yourself feel the pride but always stay humble and kind. 

The final song is a newer add, but seems to complete my life. Coach by Kenny Chesney is a reminder of what I hope I can accomplish. The song itself is about football I believe, but the idea rings true and I only hope to make that type of lasting impact. 

Being a coach to me is more than times and places. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very competitive person and believe it’s a great piece of sports, but it’s the lasting impact you leave with swimmers that make the real difference. I was given the opportunity to feel this from some of my former swimmers during my journey and this songs helps me remember those gifts and the real reason I coach. 

Coach – Kenny Chesney 

For all your time and your heart and your soul

You deserve a lot more than a toast

So here’s to you and thanks again

We love you and we’ll hold you in 

Our hearts there with the things that matter most

We’ll never forget you Coach 

Just thought I’d share a little more of my life right now and maybe some of these songs will connect with you as well.