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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What one learns and Second Chances...

In the past few weeks I have learned a good bit about myself.

With some after thought I guess I have learned more about myself, people in general and our relationships when I have been injured.

In early September 2011 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Tonsillar Cancer which is HPV P16 driven.   If you are going to get Tonsillar cancer, pray it is HPV P16 driven.  (more on second chances in a minute)

Up first was a "radical neck dissection" to remove the tumors.  I was pulling 5.10 a week after surgery so how "radical" can it be?   Now Radiation and Chemo follow.  I'll be fine in the end.   A little worse for the wear and tear may be but pounds lighter and seconds faster.  It won't hurt my climbing in the long run is my guess at this point.  I will come out of this even healthier and more fit than I have been in a long time.   But not a fitness and weight loss program I would recommend either.

So I get a second chance.  A cancer they can cure.  And a new lease on life with a rebuilt body after loosing 25% of my body mass from chemo and rad.

We all make promises.  Some you intend to keep and others you know you will unlikely be able to keep. Most of us do what we can and with some effort more than we might have thought possible until pushed.

I had first intended to keep my health issues quiet.  But as I realised there wasn't an easily accessed body of knowledge on how to get through this I started asking for beta from any of my friends (and their friends) that might have some insight into a this particular cancer and treatment that would eventually strip me of 25% of my body mass.  It all seemed pretty damn scary at the beginning.  A little less so now even after dropping 20# in the first six days of treatment.   And my friends pulled through for me.  Thank you, THANK YOU!

To pay back that debt I will eventually start a new blog documenting this entire experience in detail so it will hopefully be a little less scary for the next guy. 

Ten days  ago I was unsure if I would ever be able to walk again let alone climb.  The initial chemo shattered me physically and mentally in a short 6 days.  Not something I easily admit to, but there it is.
Water boarding?  Shit, try Cysplatinum.

I, like many who ride a bike, often wonder if Lance did drugs to win those Tours.  I don't need to wonder any more.   Lance did weeks of  Csyplantium.  I'm only required to do a few days.  Lance has been required to suffer more than most can ask to endure.   I suspect that is how he won Tours.  Chemo drugs may have taught him the secrets of suffering but no one in their right mind wants the education.  

My friends, family and and our extended climbing family have been the BEST.  People have reached out to help and support me, some I hardly know.   But I "know" them now.  It means a lot to me and I am more than grateful.  When you can't move and someone offers a helping hand they are a more than human...more than a kind soul.  How anyone does this by themselves hopefully I'll never have to know, thankfully.

Like climbing we seldom do anything alone.  And there is a time when we are all alone and a required to dig deep and run it out.  That comes as well.  But we never get their by ourselves.  Some one helped us get to that.

I rushed to get the shell review done before all this started.  I was happy with the end result. It was one more off the tick list of "to dos".   I have a huge assortment of gear review projects currently in the works.  But they are going to have to wait till I can write (without chemo brain) and get outside again.  Those sorts of things will be on hold for a bit as I get through this.  Future plans?  Cham and maybe the Kahiltna again this spring.    I am antzy to this over and get to THAT future.   But for now I am living cancer.  It will be my way of life for a short time.  The experience will enhance me, not define me.

I learned (again) to never take a day for granted.  Never forget you have friends.  Take care of them, even when you don't have the time.  And be thankful every day above ground. Use those days wisely!   2nd chances are a wonderful thing :)


sujay said...

phymGet well, you are an inspiration.
Your going away will leave a lot of us floundering. We will probably never meet but through your writing you have guided many of us and helped us do things better.
'God Bless' you.

Dane said...

Sujay, thank you. I'm not going any where soon. Just going to be writing less for a few weeks. I still plan on being here and active as I can. I'm not done by a long shot yet!

Ian said...

Dane, I'm glad you're going to pull through. I saw your interview yesterday and it was touching. You have my best wishes.

Carlos Buhler said...

My family sends tons of positive thoughts to you and your family. I know this won't keep you down very long. And when you come back strong and healthy I probably won't be able to keep up with you any longer! Carlos

Jay said...

Dane, thanks for all your work on this site. I start every (work) day checking in here to get my alpine fix. Good luck getting through this process. It sounds like you have the right attitude and you'll come through it not just physically healthier but mentally stronger too. Good luck with it all.

Dan Miller said...

I strongly suspect you'll get over on this one just as you have on any number of other things in your life. 'Rigorous attitude' and all that old BS can accomplish a ton.

Do take care, a number of us are thinking about you and your recovery.

Happy Trails,

Dan Miller


Best of luck sir. And thanks for a super blog.

Travis said...

Your blog has been exactly the thing I needed since I moved to the PNW to answer the questions and techniques I have had as a young alpinist. Thank you.

Good luck and kick it's ass.


David Willsie said...

I suspect you know that you have a lot of people you've never met pulling for you and wishing you the best. I'm one of them. Like Lance says - learn everything you can, trust the docs and ride it out. We'll all be thinking of you.

James said...

Dane, I've learned a ton for your blog and have appreciated every post. You're in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you, kudos for opening up about this, as know that you've got one more reader pulling for you.

Hock said...

I had a bout with a different kind of cancer five years ago, keep your spirits up and know that you'll be back it the mountains sooner. Thinking of you, and maybe we'll meet in Cham next Spring!


Jimmy Hef said...

Yup, best wishes as well. The good energy you continuously put out (partners, friends, loved ones, this blog, etc) will come back in spades when you need it most.

Jon Rhoderick said...

Your words have guided me through my formative years of climbing, this is neither the first or last time I will thank you for your wisdom. The biggest lesson climbing has taught me is that every moment in life is learning experiance, there is always an opportunity to find purpose in all emotions life creates.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery,

Anonymous said...


I found your blog by accident when I was reviewing a gear tread on gravsport's ice page. After discovering your blog, I have become a frequent visitor. I always enjoy your gear reviews. I even purchased your first and second generation CT hammers for my Nomics, something I felt was missing from the Nomic to make it a good alpine ice tool.

It sound like everything is going to turn OK for you with your health issue. Being an "older" climber also, you have been an inspiration to me and a reminder that I am not the only "older" climber out there still trying to climb hard!


Anonymous said...

Wow, scary! I’m glad you have a positive attitude and will drive through this. Thank you for the enlightenment and the TV report! Thanks for the GREAT blog, keep it up. Please enjoy every day, stay healthy, and live long (climbing of course)!

Anonymous said...

Dane, glad you’re through the worst bit, being told you have cancer.

Everything else just flows from there. Treatment plans etc.

I had a Lance Armstrong tumour in a bollock and secondary in the Lymphatic system in my back bigger than a clenched fist back in 2002.

I lost two stone in the first week on cysplatinum, not that at the time I really had two stone to lose.

Great write up, just look for your family, it hits them just as hard, in fact possibly harder as they end up doing the run around.

Don't worry about fitness, once the treatment wears off, it'll all come back.

It's good to talk about it, show everyone who hasn't had the big 'C' that it isn't the end of the world, just the start of a new chapter.

I get all the best jokes now, just to wind guys up, ie 'not having the bollocks to make a move'....'grow some balls and make the move'....etc
You could try 'mountaineering/engineering, a cut-throat business etc' or 'tear in the eye, lump in the throat ha haaa!' I'm sure you will find some good puns and one liners to use.

Anyway, great blog, be well.

Timmy 'One Bollock'

Jas said...

I just emailed you last month and now I'm flabbergasted at your charitable nature in replying to me, given your distracting conditions. Push through it, ... like climbing it's possibly more "mental." Your blog is a regular read for me, thank you. Keep it up.
Jas P.

Jared Withrow said...


I've been reading your stuff for a long time now and I have to say... I owe you. My dear mother went through one of the most nasty breast cancers out there and I saw the toll it took on her. I'm praying for the best and looking forward to seeing you 'back at base'.