Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fresh Start to 2009

While some of the BIG names in the sport of cycling are making their "comeback" during the 2009 season (most notably the ToC), I feel as though I am making my own personal comeback in 2009. No I did not take any performance enhancing drugs, nor did I implement any sort of blood transfusion that resulted in a suspension.
My "comeback" is a result of a health issue that limited me to only two events during the 2008 season. In 2008 I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. After visiting my doctor in June for what appeared to be a small lump underneath my left ear, I was told it was nothing to worry about and to just come back in a month if it hasn't gone away. Well sure enough it do not go away, it actually started to get a little bigger. So...after giving some blood samples to my doctor to be evaluated, I received a call from a local Endocrinologist office insisting that I get in to see them asap. Being a little alarmed, I scheduled the appointment later that afternoon. To sum it up I gave more blood samples, had an ultrasound performed, and finally a biopsy. Whoa! Things started to get a little scary now. What I thought was going to be a routine visit turned out to be a 2 hour session.
I returned to the Endocrinologist's office in two weeks to get the results from all the tests. The answer I heard nearly brought tears to my eyes. "You have Thyroid Cancer" were the exact words from his mouth, and that it was spreading into my lymph nodes. Not having any clue about thyroid cancer or knowing what the consequences would be, I began to educate myself as much as possible on this type of cancer. Does this sound familiar?
I decided to get a 2nd opinion from a doctor at OHSU (Oregon Health Science University) in Portland, OR. Again, I gave several blood samples and an ultrasound an another biopsy (this is something that is not very pleasant-they numb the area and then stick a large needle in the tumor, however, you can still feel that damn needle). After a couple days I was told that it may not be cancerous but because the tumor had completely surrounded my thyroid I would need to have surgery to remove the tumor. At that time they would know 100% if it was cancerous or not. Too many if's to allow me to be relieved. My surgery was completed on December 4th, 2008 and 1 week later I was notified and told that the tumor was benign. Phew! This was the best Christmas gift I could have received and a huge relief not only for me but my wife, family, and friends.
Although I did not have cancer, I did have an underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid which would require taking a certain medication to balance my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels in my blood. TSH levels can help determine whether hypothyroidism is due to a damaged thyroid gland or some other cause (such as a problem with the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus). The most noticeable symptoms I had were low levels of energy, mood swings, and lack of motivation. Imagine trying to compete at your best with these symptoms.
With this off my shoulder and getting my TSH levels back to where they need to be I am looking forward to the 2009 "comeback" season. I will be riding for the Pure Energy-ProAir/HFA Team and focusing on 100-mile mountain bike events as well as one or two mountain bike stage races.

If you've been generous enough to read this far, I would like to wish you a Happy Valentines Day!