It was one year ago that I told you about Carlos and his cancer diagnosis. Many of you responded to “You Have to Fight” and the follow-up columns about him, “The One Word to Ignore” and “Out There: Never Stop Fighting” with an outpouring of support for him.
For weeks, I’ve been working on a one-year update for you. It’s been difficult to write — every time I sit down, I’m filled with tears, laughter, and pride for my best friend.
Recently, Carlos was asked to give a speech about his experience as a cancer fighter. As soon as I read it, I threw all of my drafts for this article away. No one can tell the story better than he can.
I am not here for pleasant conversation.
I write to you about things that happen to people — bad people and good people. Things that make some cry, and question life’s fairness and God’s existence. But it’s OK, because I know I am in good company. Many of you have likely gone through hell and back. I know, like you, how it feels being in pain, scared, hopeless, helpless, defeated, cheated, and alone.
But I also know we are made of some tough stuff. Every one of us is equipped to climb over obstacles. We are all made to fight and never give up.
One year ago
I was what people call “super-fit.” My sport makes regular people cry in pain just watching it on TV! Ironman consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running 26.2 miles, a full marathon, in less than 16 hours. I have done this 13 times in races across the United States and Europe.
I was in the midst of training for yet another Ironman last April when I suddenly got sick. It wasn’t a gradual, progressive illness. One day I rode my bike for 6 hours, and the next I had emergency surgery. In an instant, everything changed.
One year ago, I was told that I had Stage IV colon cancer, the most advanced stage of cancer.
The tumors in my colon had metastasized to the lymph nodes and to the liver. With luck and chemotherapy every oncologist said I could live another year, but the odds of survival beyond that were slim. Liver surgery is an option for some with my cancer, but I was not a candidate for it, as I had too many tumors.
The doctors didn’t say it outright, but I could tell what they were thinking: Start writing your will.