About 33 weeks ago, I was on top of the world. I had everything going in my life;
-An amazing and beautiful wife
-An ever growing group of friends
-A supportive and loving family
-The best job in the world
-A fitness community that pushed me to be in the best shape of my life
I literally acknowledged all this in my mind numerous times that week and thought to myself “I am crushing life.”
Fast forward 2 days and I find myself in the Emergency room with stomach pain. My wife Natalie left work to be by my side, not knowing that this was not just something minor that could be treated with some pain medicine or antibiotics.
Natalie and I can remember that night in the ER like it was 3 minutes ago. All the nurses, doctors, technicians telling us that I seemed to be in optimal health. From the EKG, to the ultra sound, to the blood test, to the CT scan, to the ER doctor coming in the room with alligator tears in his eyes and telling us that the CT scan showed “masses” in my stomach and liver…
Natalie and I looked at each other, tears welling, squeezing each other’s hands and telling each other it would be ok. At the time, I still didn’t believe that this could be Cancer. “Not me, I’m the person that has never checked ‘yes’ on a box in the doctor’s office. Someone who was currently training for his first full marathon, lives healthy, plays hard, and just a month prior, completed his first triathlon.”
The following weeks involved a lot of doctor’s appointments, tests, scans, and worst of all, a lot of the unknown. I still felt as healthy as ever, weekend long runs with my friends/training group, going to November Project, even when I couldn’t work out because I had just had a liver biopsy, I was just as happy taking pictures.
Finally about a month after my trip to the ER, the results were definitive. I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, called a Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST). I had tumors the size of golf balls on my stomach and on my liver, in addition to three smaller tumors on my liver. I knew eventually there would be a surgery to remove these tumors, but first we would try to shrink them with a pill form of Chemo .
This is where for a lot of people “the carpet gets pulled out from under them.” I had lots of moments of weakness, fearing the worst. But this is where I realized, November Project could very well save my life. I was in the best physical shape of my life and there is no doubt that is because of November Project. (Ask LP of the best decision ever made in the history of Open Bar.) I also had the biggest and best support system thanks to November Project and of course family and friends.
For months Natalie and I ran alongside you and you probably had no idea that we were dealing with such a serious situation. That is exactly how we wanted it to be at the time. We fed off your energy, your positivity, your competitiveness, and your support. We went to Park City and San Francisco for the North Face races, we raced everything just like we would have if this had never happened. We decided that we would fight this with fitness and health, and it would not hold us back from living our lives. We kept the news to close family and friends for quite a while, although knowing the entire time that when we were ready to share our situation, the support from the November Project community would be more support than any two people could ever ask for.
When it came time to have surgery, we decided it was time to share our situation with the Tribe. The outpouring of support was more than we could have ever asked for. We were brought to tears 100 times as friends wrote “Jeff G” on their arms while racing the San Diego half. We received letters, cards, gift baskets, gift cards, sweets, books, the signed surf board and the picture of the Tribe that Ashleigh let me borrow so we knew the Tribe was behind us even when we couldn’t be there. I have even found the support of fellow tribe members who are cancer survivors who help me out along the way. Thank You all for the support!!
As I write this, I am over six weeks post-surgery. I had 55% of my liver removed, 1/3 of my stomach removed as well as my gall bladder taken out. I am currently cancer free and hope to stay that way. I try not to miss coming to November Project even though I can’t do anything more than walk or take pictures. November Project has been part of my routine on Mondays and Wednesdays for almost 2 and ½ years. Just showing up is a sense of normalcy for me. Thanks to November Project and all of you, I am not only still “Crushing life” but I am crushing cancer as well.
I can’t wait to be running alongside all of you again soon.
Now way less important words from me:
- Monday at Crown Point Play ground 629am
- Pop up work out this Sunday April 24th 9am at the finish line of La Jolla Half
- The birthday flash had a few moons too… look carefully
- Today was good.
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