Deer Lake, Michigan.
The Bad, the Good, and the Ugly. Part 2
If you missed part 1, go here.
If you need to know the bad part of my fitness while on hormone treatments for prostate cancer, just go back and read, The Man in the Mirror. I pretty much cover all the bad aspects of trying to exercise right now and what Lupron and Xtandi have done to my body. No real need to rehash all that.
When I first started to realize that it was getting harder and harder to do any strenuous exercise, my son Travis noticed my frustration and came up with a brilliant yet simple fix. “Why don’t you just walk?”
At first I rebelled against this idea. Me? Walk? I’m a runner. I’m a biker. I’m not a walker. Walking immediately conjured up visions of old people shuffling around the mall, heading down the various corridors while avoiding people heading into Foot Locker or stopping to get an Orange Julius. I’m not old enough to be a full time walker. I was walking Zoey everyday to get her ya-yas out, but after that it was time for a run or a bike ride. Walking? Too boring.
But as time went by it was becoming increasingly evident that I needed to do something. I was sitting around way to much, my blood pressure was on its way up, and as much as I tried to convince myself that I was eventually gonna get back on that horse and start running or biking again, it just wasn’t happening.
So I started walking. And I was right. It was pretty boring. As I took Zoey for longer and longer walks, I needed something to occupy my mind besides just wondering if she was going to poop in the next yard and if I remembered to bring a bag to pick it up. But, in my quest to make my walks more interesting, I have discovered four things that have made my walks a blessing to me, and an unexpected gift from my cancer treatments.
When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader. I read everything. Fiction, non fiction, historical fiction, historical non fiction, and lots of biographies. All that reading has helped me sound a lot smarter than I actually am. But recently I had stopped reading books and I’m not really sure why. I think I just got caught up in finding articles on the internet and reading the news in little bite size chunks. Books were not on my reading list for quite awhile.
But then my son Jeff and my friend Linda Krombeen turned me on to the idea of audio books. Linda works for the Kent District Library and she told me about an app for my iPhone called Overdrive. I could download audio books for free through the library. Well, being a good Dutch guy, the free part caught my attention. I started downloading books for my walks with Zoey. It made a huge difference. I could walk farther because I wasn’t bored, and I felt like I was learning stuff again. I just recently finished a book called Red Platoon, a true story about a combat outpost in Afghanistan that gets attacked by the Taliban. It was written by Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha. I highly recommend it.
It took me a little while to get used to someone reading a book to me. The comprehension part takes a little while to get the hang of. But now, after listening to around 50 books in the last year and a half, it’s a snap.
General Meade, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
I have kind of a love/hate relationship with podcasts. I am sports guy, so I tend to gravitate towards sports podcasts. Some are pretty good, some are not. I listen to Bill Simmons because I like his takes on football, but sometimes his NBA stuff is a little too inside basketball for me. I steer away from politics, because all that does is piss me off, which is not the kind of mood I’m looking for when I’m walking my dog. I have recently discovered some true crime stories, which are well produced and can be very entertaining.
Ever since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, music has become a bigger and bigger part of my life. It has been instrumental in getting me to relax, and also it let’s me slow down and think. When I started writing this blog, I would pick a Pandora station and just let it play for hours while I came up with some incredibly insightful crap to write down and share with the world. When I go for a walk and just want to think, I listen to a playlist that I have compiled of all of my favorite music from Apple Music.
I went away from music for a long time not really because of music, but because of radio. I work in a factory, and a radio playing somewhere is kind of a constant sound. The majority of people that I have worked with over the years have been around my same age, which meant there was a lot of classic rock radio being played. I don’t know how much classic rock radio you’ve listened to in your life, but I’ve been listening to about 30 years of that drivel. And here’s the thing. Classic rock radio is still pretty much playing the same songs they were 30 years ago. I never need to hear Stairway to Heaven again in my life. Or Dream On. Or Turn the Page. You get the idea. You know when you know your music has gone from relevant music to elevator music? When you hear Every Rose Has It’s Thorn in a grocery store.
And another thing about radio. It’s not just the classic rock stations. Every genre has about 100 songs they play all the time. If you listen to country, you will hear a song from 10 years ago still being played everyday. Holly listens to Christian contemporary radio because she’s a way better Christian than I am. We’ll be driving somewhere and a song will come up on her station and she will quickly jab the button to change the station proclaiming that she is really sick of that particular song. I sometimes listen to a station at work that plays hits from the 80s, 90s, 2000s and now. That is literally 4 decades of possible music to play. You know what I hear everyday? Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. NOBODY EVER NEEDS TO HEAR THAT SONG AGAIN!
Anyway, I really like Pandora, but was frustrated that sometimes I heard the same songs on that too. And then I tried Apple Music.
Apple Music has been a godsend for me for 2 reasons. It lets me find new artists that I have never heard before and it also lets me go back and hear songs that classic rock radio never plays. Remember how awesome J. Geils was? Classic rock radio only plays Centerfold, which frankly, sucks. With Apple, you can go back and hear stuff from Blow your Face Out, or Love Stinks. I realize that your music tastes could be dramatically different than mine, but I think most people would agree hearing the same stuff over and over again gets a little tiresome.
My musical tastes are pretty eclectic. New stuff, old stuff, rock, pop, blues, country, I love a little of everything. The only music I don’t really listen to is rap. I just don’t get it. It’s probably the only “get off my lawn” old guy reaction I have to any music. With one notable exception.
I went through 38 sessions of radiation treatments over an eight week period back in 2011. Here’s how this worked. I would show up at the nuclear medicine department down in the basement at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. I would lie down on a table with my pants down to my knees. The table slid into a tube that would take pictures for a CT scan. After about 5 minutes, a technician would come into the room, make a few adjustments to the machine, and then retreat behind the safety of the glass. And then the radiation would start. The whole procedure took about 15 minutes.
When the radiation started, there would be this sound. Thump thump thump thump. Every time I heard it, Eminem’s Lose Yourself would get in my head. The machine sounded just like the first few bars of that song. But that’s not the reason I like the song. The reason I like it is for this line:
“Success is my only motherfuckin option, failure is not”
That line made Lose Yourself my fight song that helped me get through radiation treatments.
I don’t consider myself any kind of expert photographer, but sometimes when I go on one of my walks I see something that just says “Take a picture.” That is hard to do that when you are running or riding a bike. I have interspersed this blog with pictures I have taken over the last 2 years of my walks. There is one from a hike in Colorado. There is one from a vacation up in Boyne Falls, Michigan. There is one from the Lake Michigan shoreline. There is even an early morning shot of General Meade overlooking the battlefield in Gettysburg. But the majority of the photos I have taken are from local parks or just walking in my neighborhood. And these photos are just another part of the unexpected gift that cancer has given me that has made me slow down, listen to a great book, or listen to a great song.
And everybody knows that the best gift you can receive is an unexpected gift.
Here’s the ugly.
Even with all the walking, my body is looking more and more like a big bag of milk.
But you know what? Who cares. Today, I’m going to focus on the good. I’m going to keep learning, I’m going to keep singing, and I’m going to keep living.
And I’m definitely going to keep writing.
Thanks for reading.