Almost, again and again

It's no secret that I'm a huge, lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan. I've lived my whole life in Southern California and the obvious question is “why?”. The reasons are many, but to summarize: it’s meant to be.

Hospitalized during the football lockdown

When I was diagnosed in May 2011, the NFL was in a lockdown. People weren’t sure there would be a season. I spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. I’d watch that fuzzy hospital tv, hoping the lockdown would end. I was truly worried that I was going to die without seeing the Vikings win a Super Bowl.

Still waiting for my team to win

It's now been over 11 years later and I’m still alive and still waiting on the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. They’ve come close over the years, but just can’t quite “close the deal” as my friend David likes to say in response to many things.

Their almost being there resonates with me. I feel like I’ve almost been there myself many times in many circumstances.  I try to use almost closing the deal to motivate me to try again. I might have had to rethink certain goals, but I don’t like that feeling of falling just short.

Falling just short of goals

An example: Back in the 1990s, my brother convinced me to do century bike ride with him. 100 miles on a bike. I wasn’t really a cyclist at the time, I was more of a runner, but I naively felt like it’d be no problem. Well, it almost was no problem. I made it 98 miles until cramps and heat exhaustion got the best of me. But instead of the ride being a onetime thing, I vowed to train harder and smarter and conquer century rides. For the next few years, my brother and I did a dozen or so rides, and I/we finished all of them.

Training didn't help

A few years ago, I applied for and was chosen to be a team member on a myeloma fundraising climb up Mt Kilimanjaro. Training would be an entire year leading up to the climb. I was doing great with my training, but I started to get weaker and more tired as the climb got closer. My entire body was hurting and I was popping Tylenol all day long, every day.

I mentioned this to my doctor and he said all my labs looked fine and perhaps I needed a short break from training. We tried that, with no luck. Eventually, just 3 months before the climb, we determined that I had relapsed, I had become refractory to my then current treatment, it was no longer working. So, as we do with myeloma, I started a new treatment. It’s the same treatment I’m on to this day.

On a new treatment

After one cycle of my new treatment, I started to feel better and got the ok to still go on the trip. I’d be joining several other myeloma patients, plus caregivers.

On day 1 of the climb, I realized I might have made a big mistake, that I wasn’t ready for the effort. It was definitely too close to my relapse and starting new treatment. But with help from the team, I trudged on, for 7 days. I made it to the day/night of summitting. We hiked all day, slept for a few hours, then started the last, hardest part at midnight.

Didn't make it to the summit

I hiked with the team for an hour or so. Step by step, very slowly. At which point my body said it had enough. It wanted to stop. I could barely move. We were at 16,000 feet, so the guides, to be safe, quickly led me back down the mountain, in case I had elevation sickness. I had raised a fair amount of money for myeloma research, and afterwards I felt really guilty and heartbroken for letting everyone down. I still feel this way, and it’s a difficult topic for me.

Thinking about what I can do

As I have gotten older and gotten farther along living with myeloma and have continuously taken various drug regimens to keep the disease at bay, I can realistically say that climbing a mountain isn’t in my future. But I have put a lot of thought into what I can do, to mentally rectify that incomplete task.

I hadn’t quite decided what I would do, but I was beginning to train for a yet to be determined multi day thru-hike. I was walking/hiking a lot. Some days I was putting on 14 miles in a day. And then, 3 months ago, my back went out. It’s still out. I’ve been doing physical therapy. I thought I was getting better. But it turns out, the max I can walk right now is 2 miles and then the pain sets in.

I had already given up running some years ago, due to bad knees. But now is hiking out? That’s a bummer. But I'm thinking it’s time to get back on my bike. I recently read Ramae’s post about her electric bike. I thought, I need one.

Time to recognize my limitations

It could be time for me to listen to my body and to acknowledge my limitations. I guess it’s ok. I’ll make it work. I’ve got to adjust my goals. I’ve done it before and I’m almost there.

By the way, the Vikings have started this season in wonderful fashion. I’m trying to temper my excitement though. They’ll do their best and we’ll see how things work out for them. And I’ll do the same, I’m going to do my best and I’ll see where I end up.

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