Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Porcupine Rim Trail

Two weekends I go I went to Moab, UT home of the delicate arch in Arches National Park.  I have a picture of it in a previous post when I headed there for thanksgiving.  This time we were in town to do some mountain biking/hiking/running.  We arrived Friday afternoon and were able to get in a short mountain bike ride before it got dark out.  Since I'm not very skilled I did the slickrock practice loop, and let me say that it let me realize that I shouldn't bike any of the other slickrock trails.  Riding slickrock is very strange, the entire trail is on rock that's marked with paint and it's amazing how much your tires grip the rock.  On the downside no matter where you fall, you will be falling on smooth rock at the best and jagged rock if you aren't so lucky.  Another down side to camping in Moab is that sand gets everywhere.  You can't enjoy any food without having the added crunchiness of sand.

 Saturday the decision was made to do the Porcupine Rim Trail which is a point to point trail that started less than a mile from where we were camping. The trail starts at about 5830 and climbs over the first 4 miles to 6800ft. After that you descend the rim to the Colorado river and it ends at about 4000 feet. The overall trail length was about 14.4 miles. It took me awhile to decide if I should do the trail or not but in the end I told myself if it didn't feel good running it that I could just turn it into a hike. I took it easy up the climb and mixed running with walking. The view from the top was amazing and I wish I had taken a picture there but didnt so I stole one from Nathan, to the left.

After that the trail descended and I did take a few pictures from one side of the rim maybe a mile into the descent.  I also wish I would have had some pictures of the end where you are running 10 feet from the edge of the rim and it is following the Colorado River, very pretty.  But at that point I was just trying to finish the run so I didn't stop to take any pictures.  In the end it took me just under 3 hours to do the trail and considering it was my longest run this year and my second run since surgery I was pleasantly surprised.  To make it even better the rest of our group was on mountain bikes and started the trail maybe 20 mintues after me and finished maybe 10 minutes before me.  They caught me right before the single track about 2 hours in which is where they took that lovely picture of me at the start of the post.

An example of why I don't ride slickrock.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to Running

Stitches came out last Thursday and for a few days I had a pretty sweet Frankenstein scar.  The first two pictures below are from the day the stitches were removed.  In the second picture you can also see where my deck drains were.  Also you can notice what looked like a double/triple chin as after the neck drains came out the swelling increased by a lot.  The line goes up to being level with my ear line and as can be seen by the photo taken today in a few months it shouldn't be very noticeable at all.

8 days post surgery
8 days post surgery
2 weeks after surgery

  Unfortunately it's hard to take a picture of my tongue but I can now answer how much of it they took out since I have a copy of my pathology report which states the sample "is an oriented elliptical portion of tissue, 2.5cm anterior to posterior, 1.8cm medial to lateral, and 1.2cm in thickness."  So from front to back that's about 1" front to back, .7" left to right, and about .5" thick.  In a different section it mentioned that the depth of invasion was 4mm and that all surgical margins were negative for carcinoma and clear by at least 5mm.  The swelling has gone down a lot on my neck and tongue and I am to a point where most people can't notice anything about my speech.  My tongue is still healing and feels strange/numb but I'm getting used to it.

Well it's been exactly 2 weeks since surgery so I was able to go for my first run today.  This past weekend I really got the itch to run as the weather was sunny and warm.  I made the most of it by going for a hike and a mountain bike ride in Sedona.  I had asked if I was allowed to bike after surgery and they said once I was home from the hospital that would be fine, but I'm pretty sure they probably didn't mean mountain biking in Sedona, oh well.  Due to the fact that I haven't ridden my mountain bike in about 5 months and that I just came out of the hospital I was more weenie than normal on the ride.  Sedona also has some pretty technical trails so on the one I ended up doing a lot of hike a biking.  Tight turns were also an issue as I still can't completely turn my head from right to left so that was also interesting.

Running went pretty well, I went for a total of 22 minutes my legs felt a bit uncoordinated.  I felt a lot of tightness in my neck and left shoulder where it was hard to really keep my upper body relaxed but no real pain to speak of just discomfort.  I think with some more stretching of my neck and a bit more time for the remaining swelling to go away that the tightness shouldn't be an issue anymore.  All in all I'm glad that everything seems to be returning to normal.  The strangest part is still the numbness on my neck and ear from the dissection and more and more it's the strange feelings/spasms that shoot up and down that side of my neck as the nerve endings reconnect.

The start of a good weekend starts tomorrow night with some St.Patty's day celebrating and will be followed with a trip to Moab that should be filled with lots of mountain biking, running, and napping on the red rocks.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cancer, huh?

Some of you have probably heard already and some of you maybe not.  But as I live in a small town now everyone out here pretty much knew after I had told about 5 people as I guess news like that spreads like wildfire in a smaller town.  With that came a lot of akward interactions as after a few people heard I could just see the dread in their face.  I stopped telling people after awhile as it just got to be a bit much for me to handle.

The quick version is that the week after the Ironman I noticed a sore under my tongue and assumed it was a canker sore, although to this point I had never had one so was prob not in a position to be determining that.  It didn't go away so it was mid January when I called the dentist to get it looked at and have my teeth cleaned.  A week later I was getting it biopsied by an oral surgeon and 3 days later I got the call.  The call where the doctor told me I had cancer and needed to call x, y, z people asap along with lots of other info that I just didn't absorbed.  That was Feb 3rd and the rest of that day was a blur as I spent it calling doctors to get appointments.  In the end the diagnosis was well differentiated squamous cell carcinoma on the left-posterolateral tongue.  In terms of staging T1N0M0, stage 1.  While I noticed the sore after the ironman the reality is the cancer cells were multiplying there for awhile before I noticed them and I noticed them about as early as you can notice something like this so my doing the ironman did not cause cancer ...

After a few visits to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix I was set for surgery March 2 to have a partial glossectomy (removal of tumor and some margins from the tongue), and neck dissection on the left side of my neck in case the cancer had spread.  Now I really didn't want to have surgery I mean there are risks with every surgery but as the doctor said it's really that small risk versus death.  So some how I was supposed to be less anxious about the surgery because if there were any complications as long as they weren't death I would be better off, I did not like that mentality.  Except for comparing my odds to death I really liked my doctor and I realize he was trying to make me less nervous but saying slurred speech, uneven smile, shoulder twitch, or death just wasn't making things better in my head.

I'm now just short of a week post surgery and as they say I did well.  I still don't understand why doctors say that as I did nothing except sign a consent form.  My doctor did great, surgery was 2-3 hours and went smoothly, they took out part of my tongue and for the most part I'm talking normally and it's still somewhat swollen.  The lymph nodes came out and there was no nerve damage associated with that.  Post surgery was rough as I had what I would call a migraine (felt like someone was driving a railroad spike into my left eyesocket), nausea from the anesthesia and morphine they were giving me.  There was a lot of dry heaving (thankfully not vomit as with my tongue as swollen as it was I feel it would have just gotten stuck in my throat) and all around misery for a few hours.  Once I was switched to percocet things got much better.  It wasn't till Sunday afternoon that I was released from the hospital so I was going insane as it was so boring there and I was able to walk around freely as they were just waiting for my neck drains to slow down.

My neck/face are still pretty swollen, I can't move my head freely so it's always stiff/sore.  In another week I should be able to run so all things considered I feel very lucky.  Lucky to have caught this so early, have a great doctor, and a great support team.  Thanks to everyone for the care packages, flowers, and good thoughts they were very helpful in this not so fun time in my life.  Hopefully the worst of it is behind me and the next 5 years of checkups will go without a hitch.  Just remember sometimes cancer strikes for no reason so if something seems odd go get it checked out by a doctor.   (if you want some pictures of my hospital stay, neck drains, etc, nathan has some posted on his blog)

In other news, looks like Ryan Hall will be talking to our team run flagstaff tomorrow night to answer questions and sign copies of his new book.  Any questions I should ask him?