Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lance Armstrong. Is he really doping?

Lance Armstrong after his seventh TDF Win!!
Last Week Lance Armstrong finished his last international competition as a cyclist.  The Tour Down Under is an intense 470-mile race that runs through southern Australia.  It’s also where he made his return to competition, three years ago.  He finished in 67th place.  It makes you think, you mean 66 people finished before the supreme athlete who won seven Tour de Frances? A feat that no other human has ever accomplished.  Come on now, just the fact that he is still competing with people almost half his age is impressive.  He is still the juggernaut that he has always been in cycling.  He deals with the same thing we all deal with, if we’re lucky, aging.

I’m not commenting on his outstanding career as a cyclist today. Nor am I commenting on all the amazing accomplishments he has achieved.  Take a look for yourself on what he and his organization, Livestrong, have done for cancer research, prevention and cure. ( Today we are going to talk about the dead horse that people keep beating.  That’s right, ‘the doping scandal’ has started up again.

Let me start by saying, Lance has never tested positive for any type of performance enhancing drugs.  However, several people claim they have firsthand knowledge of his use.  Who are these people? Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former teammate of Armstrong’s, who has had an axe to grind with Armstrong for years.   Floyd Landis, a TDF winner who had his own title stripped from him for doping, another former teammate of Armstrong’s who now openly admits he was doping.  It’s just a case of someone lying, but who is it?  Even Sports Illustrated is getting in on the witch hunt as they reported that initial screenings of some tests in the 90’s showed excessive testosterone levels.  However, if I recall correctly the ‘B’ tests, which are taken at the same time as the original (A) tests as a backup, came up negative.  That’s why they have a ‘B’ test to disprove (or prove) positive ‘A’ results.  The SI reporter claims, as she was writing this story that she asked Armstrong for some information about this for two weeks and he never got back to her.  Finally, his lawyer responded.  Frankly, I would do the same thing, he has been bothered by this for years and come out innocent every time, why even give them the time of day?  Right, and by the way, Armstrong’s lawyer responded by sending the SI reporter documents with information that helps prove Armstrong’s innocence.  Those documents were never used in the SI report.  If you are going to report on a subject, do it with all the information available, or don’t do it at all.

The other thing that brings the intensity of this round of allegations up is that Armstrong and Landis were teammates on a cycling team sponsored by the U.S. Postal service, essentially making them government employees.  If things go the wrong way for Lance charges could come up against him that deal with defrauding the U.S. Government.   What are we missing here people?  If that is the case, wouldn’t Landis and all his other teammates need to have the same charges brought up against them?  After all the claim is that the whole team was doping, under Armstrong’s leadership.   There are even claims that in the 2004 TDF the team bus driver faked bus troubles on a remote road so the team could have time to undergo blood transfusions out of the public eye.  Really?  Wouldn’t that be the most watched team in the whole TDF?  This was the New York Yankees or the LA Lakers of the cycling world.

If you look at the extensive tests and results throughout the years, why would you even go after him again?  Why is there a certain group of people that think he is guilty?  Are they such bitter people that seeing some else succeed so much drives them to take him down?  On the other hand, a lot of the people that claim he was doping were at one time very close to him.  Maybe they know something we don’t.  I want to believe that doping was not how Armstrong had such a successful cycling career.  I can say with certainty that there is one man who knows for sure.  

There have been tests done on his body on why he is so good.  His lungs have an incredible ability to take in and use oxygen more efficiently than anyone else that have ever been tested.  Team that up with his other physical conditioning and his mental drive to succeed and I think we have an innocent cyclist.  Let’s think about all he’s accomplished outside of cycling.  When he was twenty five he had testicular cancer in such an advanced stage that his doctors gave him less than a forty percent chance of living.  I would say it takes some faith and drive to make it through that. For those that don’t know, that was before he even won one TDF yet.   Maybe he had this type of obsessive drive before or maybe it was formed in his fight against cancer.  Whenever he got it, he also used it in his professional cycling career.  I believe that is how he won the seven TDFs, not by doping.

I’m throwing my hat to the ‘innocent’ side.  I believe that Lance Armstrong did not take performance enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career.  What does anyone else think?  Do some research, post some comments on what you find.

What do you think?  Is Lance Armstrong the subject of unfair allegations year after year, or is he pulling off the biggest doping cover up in the history of sports?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Answer

Alright people, I’ve kept you waiting long enough.  I don’t like dragging things out.  After these many days of waiting (it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve started this blog) I’m going to comment on what the space between means to me and where the inspiration came from.  I’ve read many great comments on it, everything from Buber or Kierkegaard to Dave Matthews, “that moment of consciousness when you become ‘aware’”, “the space between my cancer diagnosis and cure”, “the moments between waking and sleeping and the conscious/unconscious shift into reality”, comparison to the importance of the space between the logs of a fire where oxygen is needed to fuel that fire, “the wisdom of life’s experiences that can open our eyes”.  All these are very thought provoking comments.   I’ve thought more than a minute on each of these. I’ve realized you guys are deep.  I’m going to have to dig deep into my mind to keep a crowd like this entertained and coming back. 

As one reader stated, and I agree... To this day I’m still singing the “Space Between” song by Dave Matthews.  It’s been stuck in my head since I started this blog.  It’s a great song but I may consider changing the name of the blog to see if helps get that song out of my head. 

As I’ve stated several times throughout my blog, including my ‘About’ section, the ‘Space Between’ for me can be anywhere I’m at where my brain has a down moment.  It is like an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment.  You aren’t thinking of anything in particular and a thought pops into your head.  A lot of times it’s a profound thought, sometimes though not so profound. 

I liken this to something I learned while studying Jeet Kune Do. <SIDEBAR> Jeet Kune Do is the style of Marital Arts the legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee developed.  He developed this devastating style after realizing that all the traditional styles of martial arts were not working for him.  Jeet Kune Do, compared to some of these more traditional styles, is very direct in its approach.  Every movement has deliberate meaning.  It has economy of motion because no movement is wasted.  However, I digress into the subject for another day’s post.<END SIDEBAR>  Why did I even bring Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do up?  Because one thing I learned in my JKD training was to never stop for a moment.  Better put “in emptiness, punch”.  Basically, for martial arts it means don’t dance around, don’t hesitate, don’t do anything but act.  There is no down time in a fight or match.  If you’re arms are staying still then punch.  “In Emptiness Punch”.  That’s how you get results.  I got to thinking about this one day, is that what happens when these thoughts pop into my head, but with the mental and not physical?  Restated: “In Emptiness Think.”   I may not consciously be doing it but the thoughts do pop into my head in emptiness.  I’m sure it happens to all of us, right?

I hope you’ve been enjoying reading this blog as much as I’ve been enjoying writing it.  I agree with what one of my readers told me offline.  Even as our technology continues to evolve making it theoretically easier to communicate with each other, a lot of people are becoming increasingly isolated.  Open dialog promotes people’s understanding, awareness and tolerance of each other.  You can’t hope to save the world with words alone but it’s a great start.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is Michael Douglas truly doing well or is he just acting?

As of the time of this post the full interview with Michael Douglas is not on the internet.  If it becomes available I will post it here.  Take a look at the seven minute teaser if you missed the full interview and come back to see my comments.

This whole story is one I can sink my teeth into.  Besides the fact that I’ve always liked him as an actor and person,  the Michael Douglas cancer story and mine have many parallels.  I’ve kept tabs on it and was excited to see the recent interview with Matt Lauer that was aired on Sunday, January 23rd 2010 at 7:00 on Dateline.   Michael and I have a lot of similarities, we both had neck cancer, we had the same treatment regime and, to date, similar results.  Not to mention we are both good looking Hollywood Superstars.  Did I stretch our similarities a little bit?  I may not be a Hollywood Superstar, but I think I’m destined for that, just as soon as I change my career from I.T. to acting.  Was Michael’s experience similar to mine?  Is he doing as well as he seems?  

Did you see it?  Good.  Right off the bat I’ve got to say, he looks great.  The timing of his cancer discovery and treatments run about one year after mine.  I understand the place he is in right now.  When Matt Lauer asks him “How he feels now?”  His response is about how he feels about his cancer, he is relieved the tumor is gone and talks about his follow up visits.  Later in the interview he talks about how he is working out and getting healthy again.  He seems to be doing well.  What he probably does not realize (or maybe he does), is that he is going to feel even better in the months to come.  The physical and mental decline is pretty quick with this treatment regime.  Within a couple months you go from feeling normal (depending on your cancer) to feeling like last night’s leftovers heated in a microwave.  On the healing side, when treatments are done you think you are feeling better within a couple of months and that’s going to be the best you feel.  You are just grateful that you are making improvements.   However, to build up all the muscle, stamina and mental prowess takes time.  My doctors told me I should wait a year or more before I really determine how well I’m going to feel.  Now, at thirteen months out of treatment, I feel like a new man compared to two months out of treatment.  At that time thought I felt great.  We will see Michael continue to feel better.  My thoughts are that when he really starts feeling better he is going to want people to know and show his face a lot more.  Maybe even another movie.  Apparently he has those plans in the works, as he is going to play Liberace in a movie about the famous entertainer’s life.  Not a part without lots of singing.  

It disturbs me that he had to experience what he calls the “macabre enjoyment of watching me go down”, by the paparazzi.  It’s like they wanted to see and record his decline.  Hopefully, they can redeem themselves by recording his rise from the ashes as well!!  That’s one aspect I’ve never had to go through, the photographers. I wonder if being in the spotlight like that helps the healing process because you want to prove that you are doing better or if it makes you want to hide more.

Another part of his process that I could relate to is the level of support from his wife and kids.  I know it sounds weird to say that.  After all, families are supposed to support each other in bad times.  But when you actually experience it happening to you, it humbles you.  I think he got that point across pretty well during his interview.  I loved to hear how he handled the kids, they actually went to see some of his radiation treatments, as did mine.  Sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the truth about the treatments.  Children are very literal and appreciate the strait talk. 

He touched on how hard it is to go through something like this but never went into detail about it.  Most people probably don’t want to hear that.  I did though.  For one, I would be able to relate on a personal level.  I also think it would be doing a good service for other people that are going to have this type (and any type) of cancer.
Michael has been presented with an opportunity to be a spokesman for something that he probably never thought about before.  He can use his celebrity to really bring awareness to cancer.  He can be a poster boy for showing the positive that can come from this terrible disease.  Lastly, his public profile can bring hope to many who have yet to travel the same tough road that he had to go down.

I can say I’m overjoyed that Michael Douglas is doing as well as it seems.  I wish he and his family continued healing and success.   Even though he didn’t elaborate too much during his interview, I am certain that he thinks about all the people that aren’t as fortunate as he and I.

I’m curious what your thoughts are.  Were you a Michael Douglas fan before this?  Are you now?  Did his experience change that view?  Or maybe you just don’t care about this. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Someone I Love is Sick - Book Review

One of the scariest things to handle when I was diagnosed with cancer was how to tell my children.  I have two kids, my son Avery is nine and my daughter Gracie is seven.  When I was diagnosed they were six and eight (almost).  Even before we accepted that I had cancer I was thinking about the kids.  How would I tell them?  How much would we let them know?  Do we feed them the information piece by piece or do we tell them all at once?  This wasn’t something we could hide, but we needed serious help.  Enter a book called 'Someone I Love is Sick’ written by Kathleen McCue, MA, LSW, CCLS…  I’m going to write about this book and how it eased one small, but very important, aspect of our whole cancer experience.
When Dana and I started having kids we decided that she would stay at home while they were young and raise them.  That just seemed to work the best for us.  What this meant is that I was the sole financial provider for the family.  Not a problem, as long as I could keep working.  Enter cancer.  As a typical man I was devastated that I couldn’t actively provide the things I needed for my family.  Remember men, by definition,  are the fix it guys We don’t need no stinkin’ help because we can do it all ourselves.  I had a reality check, which created another motto of mine.  ‘Don’t be afraid to accept help when needed and always give help when you are in the position.’   The help we got in talking to the kids was in the form of ‘Someone I Love is Sick’ by Kathleen McCue.
We are lucky enough to live by a great Cancer Center in Cleveland Ohio called the Gathering Place.   They help families of people that are touched by cancer.  You can find out more about my experience with them in a future post.  In the meantime, give them a look at  Anyway, we got involved in going up there through a friend of ours, Meghan,  who had cancer the year before I did.  Meghan also introduced us to this book.  She used it to tell her kids about her cancer.  To make the circle complete we find out that the author of this book, Kathleen also works at the Gathering Place. 

Let’s just start out with the mechanics of this book.  It’s very simple reading geared toward children.  It is in a binder form so you can customize the book to fit your situation.  You start with a stack of pages and only use what is applicable to your situation.  In our case it was me (the Dad in the book) who had cancer, so we took out all the pages that had anything to do with the Mom having cancer.  I was going to go through chemo and radiation so we included those pages in the book.  You get the idea.  Once customized it was time to read it to our kids, and hopefully get the conversation started about how this was going to change our lives.  Our help was here.
One night at dinner we read the book to the kids.  It was very understandable to them and had pictures in it as well.  We actually were preparing the kids on how to deal with this.  We even had a laugh, one of the pages was about ‘why Mommy is always on the phone now that Daddy has cancer’.  The kids made the comment that she was always on the phone anyway, so nothing there would be different.  More importantly than a laugh was the ability that this book has to bring out conversations with young kids.  The kids were asking questions that we wouldn’t even have thought of because our minds were in a different place.  Questions like ‘Did I cause this?’ and ‘Can I catch it from you?’. 
In writing this book, Kathleen expertly handles how to approach this sensitive  subject with the most important people in your lives, your kids. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs help on how to break devastating news like this to your kids.  Just remember, keep positive, it’s just as scary for them as it is for you.  Maybe more so.
Kathleen also wrote the book How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness.
Has anyone else had to deal with telling their kids some difficult news?  How did you handle it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Two Faces of Cancer and Nutrition

I’d like to start out by thanking everyone that commented on my first post.  I appreciate your attention and time.  ‘The Space Between’ contest is still on for a bit.  Any other thoughts on that title are welcome.
The other day I started using Picasa.  It’s a photo editing tool from Google.  You can do a lot of fun stuff with your digital pictures.  You can organize, label, make collages, make web albums for sharing and many other fun features that I’m sure I’m not even aware of yet.  The first time I used it, I noticed it was scanning my computer for images to group into folders.  One of the cool things it does when it finds pictures is scan all the faces on those pictures, then it groups them in a special place for you to label.  It’s pretty cool to see a grouping of pictures of one person’s face.  The different expressions they have, how they may change over time and so on.  So I was looking at the face pictures of me and two of them were side by side.  One was pre-cancer and one was post-cancer.  There was quite a difference.  The obvious loss of weight made me think  about my struggle to get and keep good nutrients in my body while I was going through Chemo and Radiation.  First have a look at the pictures.

 A picture is worth a thousand words, right?  The cancer I had was in a tonsil.  The standard course of treatment for this type of cancer is Chemotherapy and Radiation, at least at the Cleveland Clinic where I was treated.  People react differently to the different treatments.  For me the chemotherapy made me throw up and the radiation (which was aimed at my neck) made a wreck of my entire mouth and neck.  Not only couldn’t I chew or swallow because of the radiation, but the chemo made me throw up anything I did take in. 
The first thing Dana and I noticed when we walked in the radiation station is that a lot of patients who had been there a while had to use feeding tubes.  That first day I said to Dana, one of my goals during  these treatments  is to stay away from the feeding tube.  Well I didn’t need a feeding tube, but looking back in retrospect, it was more a mental challenge for me to stay away from the feeding tube than anything else.  I mean, I got to the point where most of my nutrition was from cans of high-calorie liquid anyway.  Having a tube may have been the logical choice to get the food in but keeping away from it may have mentally helped me get through the treatments.
Radiation and chemo destroy good cells along with cancer cells.  Let’s think about what someone’s body is going through in a time like this.  The body is fighting off the cancer cells as it is trying to repair the healthy cells that are getting damaged from the treatment.  Your body expends a lot of energy to accomplish this almost conflicting goal. Fight and Save, Fight and Save. Good nutrition is necessary for the body to create the energy to accomplish all it had to do.  I had to consciously remind myself of this throughout my treatments.  Even with all this effort to get nutrition in my body, I was losing weight at an alarming rate.  If I had to endure another few weeks of treatment, I’m not sure I could have kept up the nutrition part without the help of a feeding tube.
Besides the obvious advantage of getting rid of the cancer I did have a few other good things happen as a result of the treatments.  I am more aware and can appreciate good nutrition.  Every day I pack my lunch for work, the main part of it is fruits and vegetables.  It’s the same with my breakfast.  I’m more aware of what we give to our kids to eat too.  Convenience is nice but rarely the healthiest choice.  We cook at home almost all nights.  Lastly, I got off my blood pressure medicine.  Probably because the weight drop, but it’s like I’ve been given a second chance to keep my body healthy.  I’m not going to waste that chance.
Think of nutrition like your financial emergency fund.  You don’t know when you’ll need it so build up while you can.  You don’t know when you are going to put your body though the ringer, so keep it healthy now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ready, Set, Go...

Why are you here?  I can tell you why because something interested you or maybe you are a friend or family and feel obligated or possibly you just like the pretty background picture.  Whatever your reason Thanks for visiting my blog.  I’ve been working on getting this up for a few weeks now and after drowning in every little detail of the look and feel , I came up for air and decided it’s time to just do it. Of course I had some prompting from my wife Dana to stop being so obsessive about the little details too. So here it is…

My name is John Dzurko, I was born in 1968.  That makes me forty two as of today.  As mentioned above I have a wife named Dana.  I also have two kids, a boy who is nine and a girl who is seven.  You’ll be hearing more about all of them in future postings.  Go to the ‘About Me’ page to find out more details on me and my family.

I recently had a life changing experience.  I got in a fight.  It was the fight of my life with a big, toughie named Cancer.  I’m about thirteen months out of treatment now and everything is clear and doctors expect it to be clear forever.  Let’s hope they are right.  My gut tells me they are.  Anyway, I’m still finding how it changed my life.  I thought it might be fun and cleansing to write.  I’m going to write about cancer, I sure am. 

I’m going to write about a lot of things.  I have a lot of thoughts that want to come out.  This will be a good forum for it.  I’m going to write about my life, family and activities.  I’m also going to share my observations and opinions on all aspects of life as I see it.  Be prepared, it should be a fun ride.

This is definitly a work in progress and will be improving as time goes by.   I'll be adding pictures, movies, podcasts.  I'm planning on having guest bloggers.  Hey, if anyone has a subject you want to hear about or a guest you would like to hear from, let me know.  If you want to write here too, don't be shy, just let me know and we'll work it out.  We are going to have a blast. 

You will be able to leave comments on all my posts.  I encourage feedback, especially feedback that spurs conversation.  Spirited conversation is great, but I am reserving the right to drop comments.  Don’t worry, I won’t drop comments if you don’t agree with me. I do reserve the right to drop comments that are malicious or personal attacks on me, my family or anyone else that may be commenting.  Keep it spirited, but respectful.

How about the title, “The Space Between”?  Does anyone know where my initial inspiration to use that phrase was from?  Why don’t you leave a comment about why I was inspired to name my blog “The Space Between”.  I won’t leave you hanging for too long.  I’ll give an answer in a future posting.