Yes, I won but recovery was slow.

Free of my cancer treatments, I thought I could just run quickly from the darkness of the cave into the bright light of regained health, but my recovery was much longer than a short run – it was a long and difficult uphill climb.

This story is about my cancer recovery. I wanted to be more than just a positive statistic for cancer recovery, I wanted to reclaim my active and energetic life. Along the way, I discovered alternative therapies that benefited both my activity level and my total well-being.

In the beginning, the simplest things were hard – just getting through the day was exhausting – showering, dressing, trying to eat, and walk in the yard – even visiting with family and friends, normally a high point for me, was now tiring.

My throat was slow to open up and I continued to need my feeding tube. When I could finally eat – scrambled eggs, pudding, and other soft foods were all I could swallow. The doctors said the feeding tube needed to stay until I could gain and then manage a healthy weight on my own.

We have 10,000+ taste buds on our tongue, I learned. Radiation had burned all of mine off. There was no saliva in my mouth and my throat was closed with inflamed scar tissue. Nothing tasted right – nothing tasted good.

Cancer had slowed down both my body and my mind, which turned out to be a good opportunity for me to grow in new ways. I moved into a quiet place, a happy place, where I could listen and be present.

I was open to explore alternative health treatments – to explore ways of healing I had never considered before. When I think about Charlie, my friend with the same cancer but homeless, I am reminded of how fortunate I was to have both the financial ability and the time to explore different ways of healing, rather than just sitting – waiting – hoping for success.

A fellow survivor told me about Acupuncture and what it had done for him – helping him open his throat and improving both swallowing and saliva supply. The twice weekly treatments worked – I appreciated being able to eat more and not have a dry mouth. I still use acupuncture once a month and have been treated for running injuries and sinus congestion.

Pilates was part of my week before cancer and is an important part of the week after cancer.
Pilates was part of my week before cancer and is an important part of the week after cancer.

I had just started Pilates when the cancer was diagnosed and I got back on the Reformer as soon as possible, even with my feeding tube in place. It felt so good to be active again. Pilates can provide an intense workout and insures longer, non-bulky, muscle tone.

My progress was gaining speed. Soon, I added swimming, cycling and running to my week and I started getting deep tissue massage sessions, which helped break up scar tissue and adhesions and helped me recover faster from my new active lifestyle. Things I had only laughed at before – or not even known about – now started to have interest. I had never slowed down long enough to listen to their benefits. My pre-cancer self had viewed all of the alternative stuff as ‘hippie’ workouts, not suited for real men.

My Fitness Journey – Click for larger images.

There is more to life than boot camp and crossfit training. You don’t have to hurt to win in the race to be healthy – explore, move, stay active – that’s life after all – and breathe!

I wish I had developed these new routines sooner, but it is never too late and you are never too old to get started now.

My wife and I had practiced yoga for strength many years before, but I had never paid attention to yogic philosophy. Sanskrit words like Namasté meant nothing to me. I had no idea about chakras. Yoga as a practice was a new concept. When I returned to yoga it was with a new presence – in my quiet and happy place. Today, my view of yoga is more of an opportunity for total wellness – of connection.

Of course I had heard the word meditation – sitting alone in a room for twenty minutes – I had been doing that for years with My Unifying Principles but always with me being in charge, not being still and letting thoughts come to me – not surrendering.

Eknath EaswaranThen a new friend introduced me to the work of Eknath Easwaran . Our discussions opened up a whole new world for me.

I now find meditation, and my mantra, to be powerful friends that comfort me through my days and nights – not just for a few minutes in the morning. You will often see Easwaran quotes in my writing.

Tai Chi came into my life at the same time as meditation. I think of Tai Chi as meditation in motion – a mental, spiritual and physical experience all wrapped in one.

Tai Chi and Qigong have been around for thousands of years. China recently tried to out-law them in public places until they saw government healthcare cost skyrocket – they are again practiced openly.

I want to continue to enjoy swimming, cycling and running for many more years, but it is the alternatives that are more interesting and also more suited to a wider range of ages. They combine the mental, spiritual and physical in a healing model that creates a complete presence – like Ayurvedic Medicine. I now know that Ayurveda is the world’s oldest holistic healing system developed many years ago in India. More recently, Western medicine is starting to pay attention to the holistic approach, and that is good.

Indeed, wellness is holistic.

It has been five years since my last radiation treatment and I feel younger and more alive than 20-25 years ago. I still see my doctors often, and hope they agree.

I pray for the day when the “Charlies” recover, as I did, once their “feeding tube is out.” I will be grateful – always.

Have you done any of these activities or alternative forms of treatment? Have you gotten good results?

Do you believe that, as wonderful as Western Medicine is, there are secrets still to be discovered – and that these secrets have been with us all along – not hidden in a lab test tube somewhere?

What is your exercise routine? Is it varied – do you enjoy it?

As always, the conversation starts here.