Coach Mike Mead

February 2009

Life From The Sidelines

In my November 2008 column, I announced that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was a little sobering, considering that as a runner I thought I was immune to such conditions.

The weeks following the diagnosis, I read books and visited web sites on the subject and consulted with several prostate cancer survivors who shared their experiences. After much deliberation, I decided after Thanksgiving that I would elect for the surgery which was scheduled for January 12.

The one thing I had going for me was my health. As a runner of more than 35 years, my body was in excellent shape to endure surgery. You have to understand this about me; I had not spent a night in a hospital as a patient since being born, so this was all new to me. Twice during my life, I had to have stitches for some minor accidents; the last time was during my college years. I needed about a half dozen stitches to close up a gash on my chin from tripping over a steeplechase barrier during a home meet during my days at West Georgia. I won the race, went to the ER to get stitched up and was back to the track to run the 5,000m later that same day.

Prior to this entire experience, I was never fond of needles. This so-called fear prevented me from donating blood and getting annual flu shots. But during the past year, I became a human pin cushion and overcame my fears. In preparing for surgery, I had to make a couple of blood donations to my self. The experience was such that once I have recovered from my surgery, I will become a regular blood donor.

Heading into the surgery, I decided I’d get in as much running and core strength training I could do. This was complicated a little by my travels during December that had me away from home for about half the month. I felt that by getting in a solid base, I would be able to get through the surgery and heal up quicker. I also adjusted my diet to include more fruits and vegetables, shied away from red meat and dairy products (substituting, for example, vanilla soy milk with cereal for breakfast) and drank more water and less sweet tea.

In the weeks heading into the surgery, I tried to maintain a positive attitude and treat the whole thing as some sort of adventure. I did not dread it, but at times I wondered if I was doing the right thing since I was not experiencing any difficulties or noticing any side effects from the cancer. I finally concluded that by delaying the surgery could lead to complications and misery down the road.

I also had a tremendous support network of family, friends, church and co-workers who did a lot of praying on my behalf. The prayers were followed up with phone calls, cards and personal visits. I pretty much had everything covered!

The day before surgery, I got in my last run – an 8-miler – and than went on the prescribed liquid diet and laxatives that are required before surgery. Then around 10:30 p.m. the night before surgery, I had my last gulp of water. It would be more than 48 hours before I was allowed to drink and more than three days before I was allowed to eat anything.

I truly believe that my years of running prepared me physically and mentally for the surgery while my faith gave me a solid foundation. I showed up at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 12. My pastor, Shari Rates, even came by before 6 a.m. to offer a prayer before my pending surgery!

I could not tell you what happened from about 8 a.m. to 12 noon that day. I recall slowly “waking up” around 12 noon in post-op and by 1 p.m. was wheeled into a room. I came out of surgery feeling a little sore from where I was cut open, but the pain medicine did its work. I never felt doped up, but rather clear-headed. Within an hour or two of settling in my room, I was on the phone calling various family, friends and co-workers to let them know all was well!

The nurses had me up walking the next day and it was Wednesday before I was allowed to eat. No soreness, no fever, no dizziness. I hardly used the pain button to self-medicate. Following surgery, I spent less than three days in the hospital since I opted for the more traditional surgery over the new robotic-type.

The surgery went well, but took a few minutes longer than expected. Basically, the entire prostate was removed and the “plumbing” was slightly reworked. The doctor said that there was more cancer in the prostate than first indicated and it appeared contained, but cancer was near the left wall of the prostate where it was initially detected. The curious thing that the doctor noted was he found scare tissue along the left side of the prostate. My thinking is that my body was fighting off the cancer.

As of this writing, I am doing great! I have to have a follow-up blood test this month to be certain that the cancer is gone, otherwise I may require a little radiation treatment to be sure it’s completely gone.

I have been taking it easy at home during the weeks following surgery, spending time watching a lot of TV, but also reading, keeping up e-mail correspondence and doing a little writing like this column. By March, I should be back on the comeback trail regarding my running.

I’m enjoying the time off from running and have not been as fidgety as I thought I might be by not running. I firmly believe that my running experiences have provided me with a rather easy time battling this cancer. I cannot guarantee that it will be the same with any future complications or challenges I may face, but it surely doesn’t hurt.