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Cancer Survivor Climbs Kilimangaro or Grok goes back to Africa

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  • Cancer Survivor Climbs Kilimangaro or Grok goes back to Africa

    Hello to anyone who might be out there,

    I'm 48, not of the generation who routinely blog and tweet about the minutia of their lives. In fact this is the first time I have ever done anything like this. So bear with me.

    Three and a half years ago, summer 07, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. All the MDs kept telling me, "Don't worry, we caught it early. There will only be a little scar." Two failed attempts to get it all out later using a lumpectomy procedure, it turned out that the kind of tumor I had was a particularly fast growing and invasive nasty bugger. The third operation was a full mastectomy. Then there was the reconstructive work. And then there was the chemo. I won't bore you with all the gory details. Suffice it to say that my torso looks like I've done battle with samurai swordsmen.

    You have probably heard many sad cancer stories and that is not what this is supposed to be about. This is, for me, about the road back to health after something as physically and emotionally devastating as this.

    All of the medically enforced inactivity of operation after operation took its toll in weight gain. I topped out at a size 16 and 210lbs. I'm 5'10" but that is still way too big. This is after a lifetime of having been in reasonably good shape, an avid surfer, hiker, kayaker, etc. Of course the weight gain had a psychological component to it too. It's the feeling of, "f*ck it, I've got cancer. I'm going to finish the pizza if I want to. Putting on a few pounds is the least of my problems." Also, they have really improved the chemo drugs so you don't actually do much puking, you just feel like you want to puke constantly and the only thing that will calm down the massive acidity of this poison in your stomach is straight carbs like plain mashed potatoes or wonder bread.

    So that was rock bottom about a year and a half ago. Peach fuzz on my head. Glad to be alive but feeling like crap. Since then, my hair has grown back in and I'm feeling pretty good. I've had three years in a row of clean scans. (Yay! They finally got it all out!) I've managed to lose 30lbs so far, down to 180 and a size 12. I did this before I found the PB plan on just a general low carb diet and lots of walking with my dog.

    Now I'm aiming for something higher than just pretty good. About 19,500 feet higher. Namely the summit of Mount Kilimangaro in Tanzania Africa. I have the trip all booked for August 2011.

    In preparation for this climb, the first thing I need is about 30 less pounds of me to haul up the mountain. So, I'm aiming for 150lbs and a size 8.

    I have been eating on the PB plan for about a week now and really loving it. I was already off grains and other starches, the only difference with going primal is being off dairy and soy. I think the soy was giving me some gas/bloating "issues" which are now gone and the dairy, while I'm not lactose intolerant, was giving me a mild but chronic case of stuffed up sinuses, not really bothersome except at night. I think I'm sleeping better without it.

    The free form style of PB also works for me. I hate being told to eat exactly two ounces of avocado at exactly 5pm. I just don't do structure like that well.

    The PB fitness plan really appeals to me with its focus on functional fitness. This week I have rediscovered the joy I used to feel in running sprints down the beach as a kid. Today I installed a pull up bar suspended from the trellis over my terrace. (I made it myself with Home Depot parts.) Since I booked the Kilimangaro trip, I have worked my way up from hikes of about 5 miles to hikes of about 10 miles. (My dog is loving all the extra "hunting trips", that's what he thinks they are.)

    This is what inspired me to start writing and make my journey public. Given that I don't do structure well, it would be all too easy to let myself slide and not really follow through on my goals and let next August slip up on me without really making any changes. This is my way of being accountable to myself even if nobody ever reads this post.

    I have gotten back to where I'm not disgusted to look at myself naked in the mirror, but, like I said, I am aiming not just for good enough but for awesome.

    So, I guess people like to list their menu and exercise for the day:

    B: 3 eggs with a whole 5oz box of spinach all stirred up with a bit of coconut oil

    too busy for lunch

    D: A swordfish steak sauteed in cajun seasoning with a side of what I call Primal Mash. That's a mix of steamed mashed cauliflower and parsnips seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon and coconut oil.

    Now it's 8:30 at night and I have no desire for a snack at all.

    Exercise for the day was getting my pull up bar put up (up and down ladders, crawling out on the trellis work with power tools, hefting a ten foot length of 2x6 lumber etc.) I'm going to consider it my first Lift Heavy Things day.

    Thanks to anyone who has read this much. Although I want this to be about the future and not the past, I have no problem talking about what I went through. If anyone has comments/questions or their own stories to share I would be honored and happy to answer.

    Goodnight all


  • #2

    congratulations on your recovery and your goals!

    i didn't do kili when i was in africa, for a variety of reasons (mostly, didn't trust my companions), so you are doing what i plan to do someday! awesome! you'll also be there during the wildebeast migration which is *awesome*. i hope you have a great trip.

    no doubt the 30 lbs will sail off. have fun!


    • #3've been through a lot. Good on you for grabbing life by the balls getting back into the swing of things.

      Killi huh? I've got a deposit with a tour company to climb it also! I booked my trip over a year ago...and had set a date of this past October. Some things came up, where financially and kids wise, it wasn't right the time. I pulled my date, but still have the deposit with the company. I'm not sure when I will do it, but it will be in the next 2 years...hopefully sooner than later.

      What company did you book with? I did a ton of research on that trip. I was obsessed with it. I still have a picture on my wall...right above my work phone, and I look at it every day. I can't wait to do it.

      Good luck in your journey!


      • #4
        Welcome....great that you've emerged from that awful year and its aftermath with renewed energy to live fully and healthier. That's going to be quite a photo on the top of that mountain!

        Zone diet on and off for several years....worked, but too much focus on exact meal composition
        Primal since July 2010...skinniest I've ever been and the least stressed about food


        • #5
          Zoebird, thanks for the kind words and yes I am looking forward to the wildebeast.

          Beagleman, My tour company is called Real Life Adventure Travel. They have a stateside office in Moraga, CA. They do Kili climbs, safaris and trips to Zanzibar. I'm doing one of each for about a month total.

          Liz, I wonder if Mark could get me a Grok logo for my parka. I'm, sure not going to be wearing a tee shirt up there in the snow. Maybe a "Grok On" banner to hang from the Kili summit sign. That would make a good picture for the website. I so know what you mean about being able to relax and not stress about exact grams of this, ounces of that, GI tables, etc. Just eat. What a concept!

          My day was strenuous. I did a ten mile hike with almost 3000 feet of elevation gain according to my friend's iPhone app. I lost my footing at one point and came down hard right on my tailbone which is going to be sore for a day or two. I think I'll take it easy tomorrow.

          B: 2 hard boiled eggs, blender shake made with acai berry puree, a scoop of hemp protein powder, unsweetened chocolate almond milk, a heaping spoon full of coconut oil, and a splash of pomegranate juice for sweetness.

          L: lettuce/lox rollups, granny Smith apple, hard boiled egg,

          trail snacks : mix of pine nuts and gogi berries

          I don't even feel like eating tonight. This is what I love about PB. Nobody is telling you that thou shalt eat five times a day or the world will end. If you don't feel like eating, don't eat.

          The hike was beautiful today. There is a place here in San Diego called Mission Trails park that is like a primal oasis in the middle of a large SoCal city. From the top peaks you can get a panoramic view 360 degrees. My hiking buddy is a photography buff and so he gets some really good shots.

          Well, Grok is badly in need of a long shower and about ten hours sleep.

          Goodnight all



          • #6
            Originally posted by Paleobird View Post
            Liz, I wonder if Mark could get me a Grok logo for my parka.
            I bet he would! Or if not, a seamstress could embroider one on for you if you gave her a template to go from.

            Welcome, and glad you are shiny and healthy again. I think this PB is a great way to heal from any kind of trauma. Good on ya!

            Have fun on the forums. It is very rare to find anyone here that is not super supportive and positive! In fact, i have never forummed or blogged or anything before, but MDA is so great that I decided to give it a shot, and I love it...

            ~ Ex-Herbivore Goes Carnivore: Jazmin's PB Journal ~


            • #7
              Hello all,

              This is a rest and recuperation day. I have a seriously sore tailbone from my hiking slip-up yesterday. Sitting down is not too painful but getting up and down is. Yikes! Didn't sleep well last night despite two Advil PMs. The problem about a tailbone injury is that you can't ace wrap it or put it in a cast. You just have to wait for it to heal.

              On a more positive note. I'm down 4 lbs to 176.

              Looking through my posts, I realized that I have neglected the liquid parts of my diet. My faves are:

              1) Wheatgrass juice. I jumpstart my morning with 4oz first thing every day.
              2) Acai berry shakes. I found an unsweetened frozen berry puree (Sambazon brand) Add almond or hemp milk plus some protein powder and a spoonful of cococnut oil. Yumm. I have one of these when I don't have time for eggs and such for breakfast.
              3) Almond milk. The Blue Diamond people make this unsweetened in both vanilla and chocolate.
              4) Hemp milk (yeah, I know you have probably tried some that tasted like old gym socks but I found a brand that is not just palatable but actually yummy. It is called Tempt and my local Henry's and Whole Foods carry it.)
              5) Pomegranate juice. Massively high in sugar but also lots of antioxidants. I only use a splash for sweetening smoothies.
              6) Rooibos Tea from Africa. I can't rave about this stuff enough. It is amazing. It has way more antioxidants than green tea with no diuretic effect and zero caffeine. It also has a robust enough flavor to keep a reformed coffee drinker like me satisfied (unlike more fluffy herbal teas). I discovered Rooibos while on vacation in S. Africa. I started coming down with a cold likely caught on the plane on the way over. A local suggested this remedy and, a day and half and several pots of Rooibos later, my cold was gone, baby, gone! I have been drinking it ever since and haven't had so much as a sniffle. I make a big pot of this in the morning and sip on it all day long. There is an online place called The Tea Spot which has good quality Rooibos at reasonable prices. All my local stores wanted to sell me Rooibos with flavors added like orange peel and lavender flowers. I think it tastes great just as it came off the African bush.
              7) Pinot noir or a S. African Pinotage. I consider two or three glasses a week to be my resveratrol treatment. With a square or two of dark chocolate, this is my self indulgent "cheat" favorite late in the evening.

              Since I am pretty much stuck in this chair today (my rear actually huts less sitting up than lying down), I will probably post some more later. Anybody ever messed up their tailbone? Any tips?



              • #8
                Welcome, Robin! I'm definitely going to be following your story. You've lived a full life in the time I barely got mine off the ground.
                Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, steak in one hand, chocolate in the other, yelling "Holy F***, What a Ride!"
                My Latest Journal


                • #9
                  some pics of then and now

                  the cue ball..jpgPetite robe roug&#10.jpgwoman's best fre&#105.jpg

                  The cue ball pic was spring 08. The red dress one was just a few weeks ago. The wolf cub is the reason I made it through sane. Also the world's greatest personal trainer.
                  Last edited by Paleobird; 12-05-2010, 02:38 PM.


                  • #10
                    Owwww, the tailbone! When I was about 25, I fell from a height of about four feet directly on my tailbone. The bruise stretched down the backs of my thighs, up across my ribs, and around to my belly. It was really incredible, actually. I am so disappointed I didn't think to take a picture. Anyway, I was told there was nothing to do for it but to take it easy. And certainly to keep moving just a bit, as much as you can, because you don't want those tiny ligaments in the pelvis to stiffen and shorten, leading to lower back problems later in life. So ... mild twists/stretches when you can, sit on an ice pack when you can, walk gently when you can.

                    You are f*ing gorgeous, BTW! And that red dress is stunning!
                    Hope you feel better soon....
                    ~ Ex-Herbivore Goes Carnivore: Jazmin's PB Journal ~


                    • #11
                      Yikes! Sounds like you had a much worse case of tailbone bonking than I have. I took your advice an got up and did some stretches and twists and that helped a lot. Something at the base of my spine went "Click" as I was twisting and suddenly the pain was much less. I've still got the muscle soreness but I think I got things re-aligned.

                      Thank you for the compliments. That really cheered me up.



                      • #12
                        This has been a weird day. The only thing getting a workout is my fingers on the keyboard.
                        I just kind of snacked all day, not really meals. Didn't have any appetite.
                        Acai protein shake
                        goji berries
                        pine nuts
                        bag of Flax Snax (they're a mix of flax and sesame seeds pressed into little wafers and baked I found at Henry's, wouldn't really recommend them)

                        The rear end is feeling a lot better than this time yesterday however. Then I could barely get up the stairs. Now I'm just sore. Another Advil PM night for me. Yes, I hate to take pain killers but sometimes they are necessary.

                        Tomorrow can't help but get better.

                        Goodnight all



                        • #13
                 you know which route up Kilimanjaro you are taking? I had postponed my trip there....and it kills me. In the past week, I read that you were going, and the topic came up with a co-worker who asked me when I was going. My problem is that it's big bucks...and I have other big trips planned with family. I'm likely going to Qatar this time next year to see my inlaws who are working there for 3 years. I have started looking into going there for a few days, fly down to Tanzania from there to do the climb, then back up for a week...while wife and kids stay in Qatar with her family.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Paleobird View Post
                            Yikes! Sounds like you had a much worse case of tailbone bonking than I have. I took your advice an got up and did some stretches and twists and that helped a lot. Something at the base of my spine went "Click" as I was twisting and suddenly the pain was much less. I've still got the muscle soreness but I think I got things re-aligned.

                            Thank you for the compliments. That really cheered me up.

                            You got it! Glad the twisting and turning helped a little. It seems counterintuitive, but it really helps. ~Click~ ~Snap~
                            ~ Ex-Herbivore Goes Carnivore: Jazmin's PB Journal ~


                            • #15
                              Hey Beagleman,
                              BTW, your dog is adorable but then I'm sure you knew that.

                              About the Kili climb. I'm doing the Rongai route on the way up and the Marangu route on the way down. That way I get five days up and two going down.
                              For those who haven't researched Kilimangaro as thoroughly as Beagleman, the fastest way to climb it is the main tourist route (Marangu) affectionately known as "The Coco Cola Route" because there are established bunk houses along the way where they will sell you a Coke. The price goes up with the altitude and westerners' desperation for some caffeine and sugar. This route is 3 days up and 2 days down but it has the lowest success rate of actually getting to the top because people try to push too much altitude too fast and end up with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and have to get carried down. AMS is nothing to screw around with. In its milder form, it presents as headaches, dizziness, confusion but if it gets severe it can cause embolisms in your lungs or in your brain that can kill you.

                              The way I'm doing the climb gives me five days on the way up including one do absolutely nothing and just let the old bod acclimate to the altitude day.