The World According to Cb...

The World According to Cb...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Different Kind of 40th Celebration

Flash back to August 2010.  After eight months on the road, myriad excuses for not exercising regularly or eating right, day after day and night after night of restaurant food and I am now looking at myself shirtless in the bathroom mirror.  “Well, there you have it.  I’m 47 years old, 252 lbs, and a former athlete,” I said to myself, patting my protruding belly, knowing that my usable closet was down to one pair of large jeans, several dress pants with “expandable waists,” and my always faithful warm up pants.  I’d had a good run and I was done.

My life came further crashing down a month later as my marriage ended suddenly and I had another hernia operation thanks to an old cancer operation some 14 years ago.  “Great, now I’m all alone, situationally depressed, and fat,” I thought.  But the reality was I wasn’t alone, and I was far from done.  Several key friends came to my literal rescue, and one of the chief ones was David.  In addition to great counsel he insisted that during this time I must get back into a regular form of fitness regimen.  Eating right, cutting back on the booze, working out 5-6 times a week (weights / walking / running) and getting at least 7 hours of sleep were not an option, they were mandatory.  David would check in on me sometimes 2-3 times a day to make sure I was doing what I needed to do.  And things started to change, and people noticed.

As I climbed out of the mental pit that is divorce, the physical side came along for the ride, too.  10 lbs gone in 6 weeks lead to 20 lbs total 6 weeks later, and while the holidays now loomed ahead I was determined not to falter, at least too much.  By Jan 1 I hadn’t really made any more real progress, but I hadn’t ballooned back up, either.  I continued the march and my mid February had dropped another 10 lbs and was staying steady at 222 lbs, but then came the dreaded plateau.

From 252 to 212...

I wasn’t uncomfortable here, but I had set a personal goal of dropping 50 total lbs, and 30 was simply not enough.  At the beginning of March I got another big physical surprise as the hernia operation I’d had back in September had complications resulting in three separate procedures, the last one a few weeks ago the biggest of all, and walking was the only form of exercise allowed.  But a funny thing happened on the way in / out of the OR: my girlfriend Kristi got me eating frequently as a “pescetarian” – essentially a veggie who also east fish / eggs – and despite very little exercise, the weight started coming off again…

Flash back to a week ago and I stepped on the scale, and 211.6 lbs came up on the dial.  Another 10 lbs was gone, a 40th celebration I never really thought possible.  I have a “new” wardrobe, too.  Actually it’s the old clothes I thought I’d never fit in again, but trust me they’re pretty new to me… and I’m still not done.  I made it back into the gym today for the first time and have been hitting the trail here in Austin once again.  At 48, my days as a competitive athlete may well indeed be behind me, but the athlete within just needed to shed some of his shell to come back out.  The secret?  Consistency and support.  So thanks, David, I literally couldn’t have done it without you and the road ahead is now very different than what I’d expected.  Make it happen – ciao for now – Cb…

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thoughts on Osama's Death

Like millions of others around the world I was glued to the TV last night as the word spread about the demise of Osama Bin Laden.  But as the news spread and the jubilant celebration kicked off around the White House, Ground Zero, and Times Square, I found myself not feeling the same way as those partying the night away did…

I flashed back to where I was on 9/11 – and I know we all remember that day all too well – out in the north Florida woods on the Eglin AFB test range with my Combat Training Team partner Jon Saleska.  We were setting up booby traps for an exercise later that day with USAF Special Ops Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen, some of the folks who would eventually be first in when the real fighting began.  We immediately were recalled to base and I have a vivid memory of us driving back in, sharing a set of ear buds listening to a pocket FM radio as the horror unfolded...

I also recalled Oli Bennett, my ex-wife’s cousin, who just happened to have business in the World Trade Center that fateful day and was visiting when the planes struck.  Like thousands around him, he didn’t make it out alive...  I’ve since met his wonderful parents on several occasions and personally witnessed the everlasting damage that day, that attack, did to their psyche.  Nothing will ever completely heal that loss; not time, and certainly not the death of this despicable man.

Sure, it certainly helps the healing process to some capacity.  And I took great satisfaction that it was American forces, boots on the ground and not some drone in sky, that literally pulled the triggers and made the kill shot.  My friends and colleagues who I’ve trained side by side with for many years literally live for opportunities like this to make a difference and take down the bad guys.  So bravo to them! – and I hope that despite the inherent secretive nature of Special Ops and their quiet professionalism we’ll one day get to recognize these true American heroes.

So the news of Osama’s passing is not exactly a day of rampant celebration in my world. Rather it’s a time to sit back with a satisfied smile, knowing that the message has been sent out to Al Quaida and our other enemies: if you mess with the bull, you’re gonna get the horns.  Damn straight.

Ciao for now – Cb…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

R and R

My initial thought was to apologize for not updating this blog more (and how many times have we read that on other blogs?) but the reality is that I haven’t had much to say because I’m actually doing what I’m supposed to be: not much.  Now I know that by most folks standards that would not include a road trip to and from New Orleans this past weekend, but Kristi and Tim can vouch for the fact that I was a relatively good boy in the Big Easy, with lots of rest and recovery all the while still supporting our great LIVESTRONG friends at the Tour de Lis.

Rest and pain management have become my main missions since the surgery 10 days ago.  I have NO desire to ever have ab surgery again, so when the doc says do this (take Vicodin and rest) and don’t do that (anything else), that would be me.  I’m just now getting to a place where walking for exercise is finally a possibility, and that just blows my mind as 5 weeks ago I was in the gym / on the trail 5-6 days a week.  Thank God Kristi is a very healthy eater so despite essentially little-to-no exercise for me since we first met I’ve managed to maintain and possibly even lose a little weight during this process.

I’ve also become a fervent believer in naps, not that I was opposed to them before this experience, rather I simply didn’t have time or the need.  Now I’ve become King of the Car Nap, because it’s either grab a quick 30 in the HQ parking lot or pull a George Castanza desk nap, and I don’t think my colleagues would be very supportive of that…

So that’s the word, or lack thereof, from Camp Chris these days.  Hopefully I’ll have more to report in the coming days, but until then, ciao for now – ZZZZZzzzzzz….

Monday, April 04, 2011

Core Principles

I said it the last time I had a big ab operation back in 1996, and it’s been quite the reminder this past weekend: you never know how much you use your core muscles until someone – preferably a surgeon – cuts them open.  So keep that core fit, my friends, ‘cause here’s a list of things that come to mind that are either very difficult these days, all the way to damn near impossible:

Blowing my nose
Getting into / out of: cars, chairs, couches, bed
Sitting for any length of time
Going to the bathroom
Taking a shower
Walking up / down stairs
Any form of exercise other than walking is verboten!
Lifting.  Anything.
Reaching for something
Sleeping in any position other than on your back
Concentrating, due to lack of sleep

Zzzzzzzzzzzz… ciao for now – Cb…

PS - pretty horrified by doing a Google search for clip art here and typed in "stomach surgery"...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Entering into the Unknown

Fear: a feeling of distress, apprehension, or alarm caused by impending danger, pain, etc.

This time tomorrow, God willing and a steady surgeon’s hand, I’ll be in the recovery room here at a local hospital enjoying the after effects of some heavy sedation.  I told y’all about Operation #5 recently, and while the perspective I gained from that hasn’t changed, Kristi has noted that it seems I’m approaching this in a different tone.

I’m not concerned about the actual surgery.  As things go it’s basically yet another complete hernia operation, out with the old (mesh) and in with the new (mesh 2.0).  But it has been disconcerting that my doc has told me that of the five operations, the cancer surgery being the worst, this one will be the second worst (OK, he used “2nd biggest” but his message was clear – potato, potahto).  And then there’s the whole having a mini shop vac attached literally at the hip with a tube in me for 2-3 weeks.  Yes, I know it’s for my own good in the long run, but what the hell is that, and what’s it going to be like?

Because that’s what’s weirding me out – the unknown.  Will I be able to function in normal life during this time frame?  Attend class, go to work, go for long walks on the beach at sunset, or play the violin?  The answer is probably yes to all, save for the fact that there isn’t a beach in Austin nor do I know how to play said violin…  but I don’t know about the other stuff yet.

So while I am upbeat about the process and the rare opportunity to enjoy some classic hospital food, there’s that fear of the unknown that keeps popping up like a prairie dog, wanting to know what’s what and to get it the hell over with.  I’ll have plenty of answers around this time tomorrow, but until then, it’s still an interesting trip into the unknown zone.  Ciao for now, see you after the recovery room! – Cb…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Let's Talk About It

I don’t have a lot of rules in life these days, just seems to get in the way of the general enjoyment of things.  But one thing that I do feel really strongly about seems to be more and more prevalent within our social structure: not talking about things that really matter.  This has really become personally highlighted as talking is such an important part of the relationship I’m in these days that it’s just glaring when I see it otherwise.

In this age of email, texts, and social media I think we’ve forgotten that so much of communication is non-verbal, and so often what is written leaves much to interpretation.  Now if you’re in flirt mode with your sig other, no worries.  At the worst your incredible level of passion may be downplayed a little, with little room for error or faux pas.  But when the discussion turns to things of a more serious nature that’s when I call in The Big Rule:

You have to have actual discussions
 – very preferably in person -
with a phone call as a last resort.

In recent times I’ve seen relationships break up, controversial subjects debated, and critical personal issues relayed over said emails, texts, blogs, and notes, and the result is almost guaranteed that it’s not going to be what is desired by either party.  Add in that many times the problem lies as much with the sender’s ability to effectively broadcast their message as much as how it’s received by the reader, and the recipe for disaster is set at 350F, bake for 20 minutes, and serve piping pissed off.  (Add in a late night and some booze for added pizzazz.)

Why do we do this?  I think two main things – convenience and avoidance.  No one wants to have these difficult discussions, so why not take the easy way out?  (Not that I’m a fan or anything, but THE best example I know of this is Sex and the City’s infamous “Break Up by Post It Note” scene)  And how much more convenient can it be than to just whip out the old blackberry and thumb something prosaic?  No need for sweaty palms and pits when 160 characters of text will “accurately" get that message across…

So here’s my simple solution: if it’s positive and fun, communicate any damn way you want to.  But if the subject is really important, take out as many barriers as you can, meet in a neutral place, and talk it out face-to-face.  Step away from the technology…  You may not like the answer or the situation, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Monday, March 21, 2011

Round 5: Perspective

Not the best of news I was hoping for… After 4 abdominal ops, 1 for cancer back in the day and 3 for subsequent related hernias, another op is on the schedule in a a couple of weeks.  To reiterate: It is NOT cancer, but is a result of the old cancer treatment… and I’ve been told to expect it to be “bigger” than ones previous.  Great.

In a nutshell my body doesn’t really like the composite mesh used to reinforce the herniated muscle wall and an infection has set in.  Not life threatening, but definitely annoying and in need of treatment, that treatment being the entire removal of said mesh and a new biological one inserted.  So far I’m all good with it, walk in, limp out, same day- been there, wanna see the scars?

Then my doc told me that in order to speed healing / get the best result I would have to spend the night in the hospital (not a fan) and that for 2-3 weeks would use a “Wound Vac” - what’s that, you say?  So did I.  As I understand it, it’s a fanny pack sized device that keeps draining fluids from the area 24/7.  More importantly it can speed up the healing process by as much as 50%.  So if you need your floor mats cleaned or drapes dusted, I’m your guy.  And I don’t know why this is all bothering me so much, but it is.

And then I got an email from my great friend Sally:

I have a dear friend whose mother has just been diagnosed this week with breast cancer and they are at a loss as to the best rec’s for docs.

So after visiting my doc and getting my news this morning, I spent some time compiling a list of trusted resources for them.  And then it hit me: I’m going to be fine, guaranteed, by April 22 or so.  Yes, I’m going to be sore and inconvenienced, but that’s about it.  These people are in the fight of their lives and don’t even know who to turn to, let alone their outcome.  What the hell am I complaining about?

It was some perspective I needed and will recall whenever I start feeling a little sorry for myself.  And maybe I’ll finally get that tummy tuck as a bonus – 5th time’s a charm, right?  Ciao for now – Cb…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Celebration of All Things Irish

Being of English descent (Essex, Class of ’62) one might think celebrating St. Patrick’s Day would not necessarily be in my nature.  One would be wrong… but it’s not just the idea of finding a reason to wear a ridiculously large green hat while quaffing a cerveza or three that appeals to me.  Like anything else in life, it was having a real experience with the Irish a couple of years ago that has me all in.

In 2009 LIVESTRONG hosted its first ever Global Cancer Summit in Dublin.  That even in itself was a huge success, bringing together over 500 people from 65 different countries.  But for me I also got the amazing opportunity to first cover the Tour of Ireland pro bike race, literally going from Dublin to the southernmost areas of Ireland, and getting to experience true Irish hospitality along the way.

As it is with any country, the scenery can be amazing but it’s the people that make the difference.  I was blessed to have great friends like Pat and Darach McQuaid along the way, who despite their very busy schedules making the race happen made sure my colleague Allison and I got to experience all that the countryside had to offer.  A real life highlight was also getting to ride with, and later get to know, Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche, one of only two men to ever win the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the World Championship in the same year! (1987 – the other being of course the man, the myth, the living legend, Eddy Merckx in 1974).  Stephen has also faced his own family’s battle with cancer as one of his son’s had leukemia and he now does great work for the cause in his home country.

Following the race wrap we headed back to Dublin for our main event.  It’s hard not to fall in love with Dublin, it’s such a walkable city and everywhere we went the people asked the same question, “Are you having a good time here?”  This was a combination question, actually.  Part was in general interest for our well being, but the other is definitely an effort by the population to get the tourist industry back on track following a huge bubble burst of the Irish economy, along with many other countries as well, of course.

Everywhere we went we were welcome with open arms and usually a really good pint of beer.  One amazing memory for me was being able to fulfill a deathbed promise to my brother Robin… Guinness beer was definitely his favorite, and he had one day hoped to have one in the factory in Dublin.  As fate would have it, one of our big dinners was in fact there, and after all the usual festivities a large group of us got together, hoisted a well poured Guinness to his honor, and closed out a truly memorable evening.

As we were wrapping things up from the event, Darach came over to me, winked, and said, “Do you want to know the impact of the Irish?  Consider this: in America you have over 300 million people, and while you’re 4th of July holiday is a good one, it’s not really celebrated much outside of the USA.  But in Ireland we have a little over 4 million people, and our national holiday is celebrated all over the world!”

I’ll be celebrating with them as well, big green hat and all.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You Play, You Pay

The 2011 South by Southwest festival – “SXSW” in its better branded mode – is in full swing here in Austin.  The Interactive portion just wrapped up with around 20,000 geeks, nerds, techies, and social media icons (real and imagined) having descended on our fair city.  The film portion continues on, and the main event, the music festival, goes full on starting right…. about…. now!

It’s been an interesting thing to watch how locals – myself included – have started to really embrace SXSW.  Admittedly there was more than a little animosity at the thought of thousands of out of towners rolling into and taking over our downtown area for the better part of two weeks.  Yeah, we get the economic impact, especially in recent hard times.  But we also get the traffic grief, lines and more lines for everything, and just the general feeling that it’s not “our”town as opposed to when ACL Festival rolls in later in the year.

But times they are a’changin’ and I see many locals out and about, enjoying the panels, trade shows, movies and now of course the music.  The explosion of free events outside of the official ones has definitely given the locals and attendees things to do outside of the official gigs that often involve standing in line for hours, hoping you’ll get in to the venue (Note: I do NOT do this. Ever. I’d rather go somewhere else and not stand in line…)

And that brings me to the point of this little ditty: you play, you pay.  Some fortunate folks take vacation during SXSW, while most locals just decide to suck it up and make it happen, night and day.  One of the few times Austin isn’t jamming this week is between 730-10am, the downtown area only missing a few tumbleweeds before the ghosts of the night before start lurking for their Starbuck’s fix.

But I think that’s fair, and won’t accept anyone’s excuse that they tore it up the night before and then couldn’t perform the following morning (or afternoon, as it may be).  Simply put, you play, you pay.  Im looking forward to playing for sure as SXSW rolls on.  Ciao for now – Xb…

About Me

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Austin, TX, United States
A proud single dad, strong cancer survivor, and a guy who loves his bike, red wine, family and friends - the order is dependent on my mood...