By Buck Rogers
When I woke up from a 40-minute operation to remove a lymph node from my neck, my Ear, Nose & Throat surgeon approached me with another doctor and said, “I’d like you to meet your oncologist.” My life instantly changed; I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
After about six weeks of being scared, wondering how much time was left, trying to figure out what to tell our kids and our parents, my wife and I decided that the only choice was to fight as hard as we could. I started by running up and down Village Street in Medway, Mass., barely getting a mile before feeling winded. But the thought of doing nothing was even more frightening, so I kept running.
Luckily we found Dana-Farber, and Eric Jacobsen, MD, a world-class leukemia doctor who advised us to watch and wait for the leukemia to get more aggressive before we treat it. Relieved to be in Dana-Farber’s hands, my wife and I set a course to make me the very worst host for cancer that I could be. That meant changing my diet and my lifestyle. My my metabolism switched from carb burner to fat burner. Goodbye sugar and carbs, hello healthy fat and protein!
My lifestyle change meant getting in the best physical shape of my life. There was a battle of a lifetime on the horizon, coming straight at me, winner takes all, and I better get prepared. It was time to “Sharpen the Sword.” I had no time to lose.
I found a local no frills, old-fashioned iron-and-sweat gym full of cement stones, huge truck tires, sledge hammers, dragging sleds, and a group of motivated men and women who came there to challenge themselves. The gym is led by its owner, Jason Shea, a highly educated, elite fitness trainer with a proven track record of developing world class athletes and a knowledge of how to get the human body tough and resilient. He told me, “Don’t be afraid to get strong.”
My wife, Diane, and I joined the gym’s military style, adult boot camps three times a week and saw tremendous results in conditioning, but even more important, a change in our hearts. The act of doing more than you believe you can do breeds confidence, a willingness to set the bar even higher. So we continued for a year and a half until my cancer turned aggressive. I struggled through boot camp with only half of the normal red cells and finally started 36 chemotherapy treatments at Dana-Farber.
The Rituxan Fludarabine therapy wiped out my leukemia in four days but I continued on with the full chemo regime for six months. I went straight from my infusion chair to boot camp and ended up with the best possible result: No Evidence of Disease (NED).
After five beautiful years of full remission, the leukemia is back, and another battle looms. It is time to ramp up the physical conditioning I want to be even more physically fit, emotionally stronger, and have a will that is unbeatable. I will put myself under the most physical stress I can possibly find, training my will not to give up, sharpening my sword for battle, and steeling my resolve.