Cancer and Fitness: Ken’s Story
By Kendall E., a 2014 Dare to Lose participant
I was that healthy guy running at life full speed. I seemed to always be able to maintain my weight, keep myself fit & stay strong. This was so very important, as my life literally depended on it. My chosen profession was Law Enforcement. I loved my career, my life & my family. Then, one June day in 2008, my life changed forever. My cell phone rang, I answered, it was my doctor. He said, “hey Ken, sorry to have to tell you this, but you have cancer.” Instinctively, my manners were in place, I thanked him and ended the call. Then the words he said replayed in my mind. I stood stunned in a parking lot motionless except for the tears that unconsciously fell from my eyes.
The following month, I was in the hospital to have lung surgery to remove the large lobe of my left lung. This was quite a shock, as I was never a smoker, had no family history of lung cancer that I was aware of & lived a pretty healthy life. After all, I was 47 years old, have two beautiful daughters (7 & 12) and looked forward to watching them grow into fine young women. The staying healthy & fit really paid off, I had a stress test to see if I could withstand the trauma of the forthcoming surgery. I passed that part easily. The surgery went as planned. Then the challenges arose. Next step: Chemotherapy. After that, I was on my way to restoring my life, minus most of my left lung.
I was at my final “3 month” checkup at my oncologist in June of 2010, looking forward to have more of my time and less “Dr. Time.” Then my doctor said, “Ken, some bad news, you cancer has spread to your lymph nodes in your chest, your now a stage IV cancer patient.” Here I go again…Chemotherapy & radiation treatments this time around. Did it & was going to plan to manage myself for the best life I can have now.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012, I’m at my last 3 month visit again (sound familiar?) I had my doctor say something to me that I still can’t believe he sad; He pushed his chair away from the small work area in the exam room and said “Ken, there’s nothing more I can do for you, I’m sorry.” I sat silent for about 5 seconds while those words repeated in my brain. I thought, what did he just say? I was stunned. I got up, left the office. Went to my car, thought a moment and picked up my iPhone. I searched for MD Anderson Cancer Center. I called Houston & talked with the staff at MD Anderson. They made an appointment for me to see an Oncologist there. I made the trip in August of 2012. Once again, I was going to undergo Chemotherapy. This time was going to be really hard; I was prescribed to of the most potent Chemo drugs out there. It was a rough, it was painful, it was depressing but I was alive. All of the supplementary drugs to keep me “normal” during Chemo had their side effects too. I gained weight at an alarming rate. My 6’4 frame was now bearing 253 pounds of mass. I felt bad, looked worse, overweight & bald too. All of the hair on my body was gone. I just existed at this point. Chemo was holding me on the edge of death. In January 2013, I completed the grueling chemo regimen. I was ready to regain my life, my strength & my confidence.
I was sitting on my sofa one late February day in 2013. My dog was half asleep in the warm sun passing through the window that morning. I thought to myself, “it’s time.” It’s time to rebuild myself. I had to start someplace. I got up from the sofa & put on my coat. I grabbed my dogs leash and told her “let’s go for a walk.” I walked 15 minutes that day; I was exhausted in that short endeavor. The next day, I did it again, & again. The next week I could go 20 minutes, then came 30, then 45 and by mid-March, I was walking an hour at a time! I wanted more. I say a slight drop in weight… This was encouraging! In April, I visited Miramont Lifestyle Fitness in Fort Collins. This was my Gym before all the cancer stuff side tracked me. I eventually got involved in one on one training. This was the boost my body needed. I was weight training twice a week & getting cardio in 2 to 3 times in a week. I was seeing big changes. I corrected my “normal” eating habits for actual food that was good for me & helped my body, not harm it. I was even starting to recognize that guy in the mirror again. By July, I felt confident to go to the pool in swim trunks & not feel so self-conscious anymore.
Things moved along into the fall. I now had moved my cancer care to University of Colorado-Anschutz in Aurora (Colorado). What a wonderful team of doctors & care givers I now had caring for me & managing my life medically. I had a good idea of how I wanted to keep fit now. My doctor & I agreed that dropping my weight to about 200 pounds would but me right in a healthy range & keep my body fighting. I personally wanted to strip off the body fat to reach a personal goal I had in my mind’s eye. I started at 26% body fat… was a goal of 8-10 percent attainable? Yes! Like everything else, If I set my mind to it, I can reach it. So the journey began. My doctors were all saying that I was incredibly healthy for a man with stage IV cancer, “Just keep doing what you’re doing Ken.” That was the resounding message from each of my doctors. I was eligible for a clinical trial for an experimental cancer drug my oncologist was excited to tell me about. The Fall held promise, as this new drug looked very good to treat my rare type of cancer. Then came the delays with the trial, one thing after another seemed to block my participation. I had already signed to 28 pages of consent to participate, so I was ready & willing to go. Meanwhile, my cancer was showing signs of increased activity on the PET scans. The cancer had moved to my muscles, one in my shoulder & one in my leg.
Dateline: 2014. Here I am waiting for the clinical trial to enroll me & get started to a great outcome. Not quite yet… Yet another delay, this time the FDA had suspended the trial so dosing adjustments could be made. My doctor said I didn’t have time to wait any longer. He was worried that if I didn’t act, the cancer could “run” on me and we would be way behind (and may not catch up). It was decided to start radiation again for the tumor in my leg. Surgery was recommended to remove the tumor in my shoulder. In March, I completed the radiation therapy & had the surgery to remove the tumor. March 18, 2014 I had my follow up visits. My doctors were pleased with what they saw so far from my treatments & surgery. Next check is in June.
I always look for the positive in all things in my life. I surround myself with positive thought, positive people & set a positive environment around me. I am grateful for the many blessings I’ve received. The wonderful friends & family that support me make all the difference to me. My faith is strong! God has a plan for me.
I will set my sites on a healthy life. I will be happy in my future, I will achieve my dreams!
I continue to be strong trough great friendships & partnerships. My current health is where it is through people who believe in me & believing in myself and my family. I am a participant in this year’s “Dare to Lose” competition. I am so lucky to be part of this wonderful program! My friends at Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, Linda Smith (a true friend), Jenna Hayes (all your hard work), Ethan Townsend (your understanding & guidance), Tim Anderson (pushing me further than I thought I could achieve) & the wonderful staff who do so much for so many every day. Of course, Cliff Buchholz, who made Miramont Lifestyle Fitness a reality. Cliff, you are a blessing…to so many. Thank you. I am truly blessed to know you all. My friends at TRI 102 Radio & 99.9 The Point Radio. I have a new friend in Paul Wozinak at TRI 102, Paul, you’re like the energizer Bunny, and you keep going & going & going… and an inspiration to me.
See you at the next workout!