Shifting Gears

I had a beautiful day today. It feels like a dream, now that I am looking back at it. Technicolor if you will, thanks to the occasional showers that have made San Diego’s hillsides vivid with green. In the unbelievable array of episodes that have flavored my life for that last few years, it is a wonder that I can tell what is real in all of this surreal.
I know today was so real, and so unbelievable, that I cannot stop smiling. I have the most wonderful secret, and I cannot stop smiling because I am about to tell the world…
I finally learned how to properly shift the gears on my bike.

It was Tyler’s idea to ride today. ‘Long weekend, you can get two riding days out of it at least’. Ughh. I was only mentally prepared for one. I thought it over..Wait, ride with Ty? We can actually go on a ride together? He is feeling good enough to want to ride with me? This sounded too good to be true. Before I knew it, we were on the road, 60 degrees, partly sunny skies, who could ask for anything more?

I told Tyler I was having some difficulty climbing up hills and I’d like to get much faster. He asked me how my shifting was. ‘Fine, I shift when I need to’. Tyler never believes me, at least never my first answer, or he reads between the lines. I love this about him. He rode in front and instructed me via hand signals, ‘Anticipate the hill, and when I give you the sign, shift in that way.’ Easy enough. I followed his hand signals, ‘Ty, this is way too easy, you’re making the pedaling too easy, I feel like amateur hour back here’. I followed him anyways. Tyler is a fast hill climber, I figured there be something valuable in this lesson.

We rode. And rode. And rode. Lots of hills. Small hills. Steep hills. Long hills. Hills that seemed to ride straight to the sky. Beautiful, stunning, secret roads with hills, lush green landscapes of hills, twisty turning hills. You name it, we rode it and it felt good. Really good in fact. Smooth, effortless, and tauntingly challenging, how I deep down always knew riding should feel. He continued with the hand signals. If I missed his signals, my legs would burn instantly. By the end of the ride, I got the hang of it. Tyler just made something really hard for me, a lot less hard. “Anticipate the change, prepare when you can, don’t be afraid to take it easy’.

I was taking ‘the climbs’ too hard. I saw something tough in front of me, and instead of backing off, and letting things ease up, I switched to my hardest gear. I felt like I was doing my best, or attacking the problem, if I was going full steam ahead. So what happens? Burn out. I’d lose steam before the peak, by this time it can be too late to shift down. It leaves a lot less in the tank for the next hill to tackle. Too much pride. Who cares who sees what gear you are pedaling in? Life’s about to throw more hills in your path than you will know what to do with; anticipate the change, prepare when you can, don’t be afraid to take it easy.

So there is our secret. The lesson behind our beautiful day. I hope it translates.

Tyler is doing beyond amazingly. The prayers are working, and I am so grateful for each and every one of your well wishes. He is soaking them up and dominating this portion of treatment.


Get Well, FAST!

Jake's Racecar

Hoping for a speedy recovery

Greetings from the kitchen table, stocked with steel-cut oats, fresh fruit, a splash of coffee, and my ever-present companion, Jar of Peanut Butter.

Round 2A is in the rear view mirror (pause for applause)!

A quick update for everyone: I was hospitalized from Feb. 1st through 5th for what was our third round of inpatient chemo treatment, or the second round of the “A” cycle of my Hyper CVAD regimen.  Everything went as smoothly as we could have hoped and I made it home in time to catch the Superbowl from the comfort of my own couch.  God Bless America.  Monitoring my cell counts will be especially important over the next few days, but so far, so good.  No fevers, and no Dumb and Dumber re-enactments (knock on wood).

Get better fast

Words of encouragement from my friend Jake. Thanks buddy!

I was feeling well enough to jump on my bike for a quick ride on Sunday before the game, but have noticed a drop in energy over the past 24 hours.  I probably won’t get back out on the road again until my counts return to normal, but it’s gray outside and the rain is coming, so movies on the couch sounds alright for now.

My buddy Jake Harris, has been keeping me motivated with his original artwork throughout this process, so I thought I would share.  Solid advice from Jake, I’d say.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be back at it for round 2B on or around Feb. 22nd–but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  Speedy recovery, one day at a time.

Lots of love,

Treatment Update: Day 50

An anecdote:
   I started training on my bike yesterday for a charity ride I want to do in April. Tyler is my coach/trainer/voice of reason. It was a bit difficult for me to make the decision to train without Ty, my only known riding partner. He convinced me I could do it and he would help me- from home, hospital bed, couch, cancer center, wherever he may be.
  Imagine my surprise when I arrive at Tyler’s place to have lunch with him after my ride, to find him doing crunches on his floor in full spandex… I thought he was going to do a little light workout around his block. You don’t need spandex for that.
  Tyler rode his road bike yesterday (and today), down and back one of San Diego’s most infamous hills… probably longer and harder than I even rode. He shocked my socks off.

Point of story. Don’t underestimate Tyler.
He is in serious Warrior mode. In other words, he’s being Tyler.

And now…
Ty will be admited to the hospital for round 2A tomorrow. He has gained 10 lbs in the last week, 5 lbs in the last 3 days! Liver enzymes are near normal, so its full steam ahead. In the words of Ty’s main nurse Ursula – ‘He is looking real handsome’ 😉 and he is, cheeks full of color, sass in his voice, he is ready for action!

Scratching the Itch

Long Chicken

You know you want me.

Just a quick update for everyone:

It’s been a good week.  Since my release from the hospital on Friday, I’ve felt progressively stronger each day.  My latest labs (drawn this morning) are looking good, as I’m within the normal range on the majority of key categories in my blood panel–red and white cell count, platelets, absolute neutrophils, etc.  My liver enzymes are elevated (likely as a result of the most recent round of treatment) but have been steadily trending downward.  I’m confident we’ll be back to normal by my next scheduled blood-draw on Monday. If that is indeed the case, and all of my other numbers continue to look good, I believe that we’ll get rolling on round 2A sometime in the middle of next week.

In the mean time, I’m enjoying some days of feeling good, eating well, and spending time with family.  My parents traded places this week, Mom headed back to Nebraska and Dad here to San Diego.  Murt gets a temporary break from my sass and sarcasm and Daddy Wags steps into the heat of the anti-cancer kitchen.  Leigh spent the week with me last week during the toughest stretch we’ve hit on this journey thus far.  It’s truly a full-time job cooking and caring for me, especially during my rough patches.  I couldn’t do it without my family, who I love beyond words, and to whom I can’t adequately express my gratitude.

One more quick thing that I just have to get off my chest. I mentioned in a recent post that I have been craving some junk food…true confessions time, and I know Leigh is gonna read this, so I’m just busted.  I snuck out on Sunday for an original chicken sandwich from Burger King!  When I was about ten years old (Leigh would’ve been eight) we used to make my Dad drive us through Burger King (or Amigos) after piano lessons.  I’d order a “long chicken sandwich” or chicken soft tacos every time.  For those wondering it was just as good as I remember.  No regrets!

Final note on the nutrition side.  It’s normal to lose weight during chemotherapy.  Treatment speeds up metabolism, which in my case is already pretty high to begin with.  During times when food tastes good, like this week, I’ve been working hard to take in a lot of healthy (minus my BK breakdown!) high quality calories.  I’m happy to share that I gained five pounds between Monday to today!  I’m working towards a goal of gaining at least five more pounds before my next weigh-in on Monday.  Gain ten pounds this week.  How’s that for a new year’s resolution?  Anyone working to move their weight in the opposite direction can feel free to live vicariously through me.

And, fair warning, I still haven’t satisfied my California Burrito craving, so if it comes down to Sunday night and I’m still short a few calories, it’s going down!


The World’s Strongest Man

Clay and Ty

Team Tyler meets Team Treska

If one is lucky enough to meet Clay Treska, as I was on Tuesday, it won’t take you long to notice his physical strength.  And if you’re lucky enough to spend some time with him, to hear him speak, to share his story, and his outlook on life, one quickly comes to the realization that his strength goes far beyond the physical.  If mental and spiritual muscles could be flexed, his would be bursting at the seams.

A framed picture of Clay hangs in the infusion center at the Moore’s Cancer center, where I go twice a week for blood work and occasional outpatient treatments.  Before I had the opportunity to meet him, I saw this picture, and stopped and stared in amazement.  On the left of the frame is Clay, weakened and bed-ridden.  On the right is a seemingly different person, muscles bulging, competing in the Kona Ironman World Championships.  For those that don’t know, Kona is the big one.

To call his story an inspiration would be perhaps the world’s biggest understatement. His cancer came back. They told him there was nothing they could do. They used words like ‘terminal’. They made hospice arrangements.

With a nothing to lose attitude, and a fighting spirit, he went out on a limb, emailing Lance Armstrong’s oncologist.  To his surprise, he got a response.  There was a new combination stem-cell/chemotherapy treatment in development that just might be worth a shot.  He was admitted to UCSD’s clinical trials program, and began treatment immediately. The rest of the story (and it is still unfolding) is described in detail on Clay’s website, in a variety of media and youtube videos.

If you have a few minutes, I would encourage you to check out his site. This particular clip doesn’t cover the entire story, but I thought it was worth sharing and happens to feature my primary oncologist, Dr. Peter Curtin, who was Clay’s doctor as well:

To Clay: Thanks for being the person you are, and for reminding us all of the opportunity that exists in every challenge.


P.S. I have to thank the love of my life Natasha Moshirian for secretly setting up this visit.  When Clay walked in and introduced himself, I think my jaw hit the floor.  Thanks Tash!

Treatment Update: M-I-Z-Z-O-U Thank You!

Team Tyler Mizzou

Bald head, Mizzou shorts

Belated happy new year to everyone, and greetings from Room 356 West at Thornton Hospital.  I’m back for round 1B of my Hyper CVAD regimen.  If all goes to plan we’ll get started on chemo this afternoon and I’ll be here for a 4-5 day stay-cation.  Here’s hoping all goes to plan.

I have a lot to be thankful for as 2012 begins, and a lot of thank you notes to write as I pass the time here for the next few days.  Your greeting cards, text messages, emails, words of encouragement, and all around kindness and generosity are helping me to stay positive.  For that, I am grateful.

And I’m feeling love and support, not only from my friends and family, but from people who don’t even know me!  Let me elaborate… Continue reading

Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from “Team Tyler: the Iowa-based Contingent.”

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I alone, a member of “Team Tyler: the Iowa-based contingent” who goes by Aaron, take full responsibility for the content of this post.  Mind you, I said “responsibility,” not “credit.”  No additional members of “Team Tyler:  the Iowa-based Contingent,” either currently or formerly residing in the state, are individually or collectively responsible for words and/or phrase choices, their likely interpretation by possible readers, effective or less than effective grammatical usage or overall appropriateness of the following post.

You see, this week is Caucus week in Iowa, which, pardon the declaration of the obvious, is quite political.  In reference to said issue of a decidedly political nature, I intend to go no further into political discussions that shall not aid the direct advancement of our greater discussions and purpose on this site.  I will applaud this site, however, for what I believe all will concur to be its overarching, unified bi-partisan message of support, uttered so eloquently in its URL:  “Go Team Tyler!” Continue reading

Treatment Update: Day 15

Happy Holidays from the Wagners and the Moshirians

Hello Everyone! I hope that Santa was good to everyone and you all had a day filled with love and smiles.

I just got some great news from Ty and figured an update was due.

Tyler’s Day 15 cell count is great, and will not need any sort of transfusion and can begin his next round of chemo as scheduled.

It has definitely been a week of ups and downs. Last Friday, I witnessed Tyler after his chemo dose into the cerebral spinal fluid, this was probably the hardest day so far to watch, as the injection is delivered via a lumbar puncture, aka “spinal tap”. There’s a reason for the parody heavy metal group with the same name, this procedure is heavy, and leaves your brain pressure feeling heavy. All things considered, my man took it like a champ. Seriously, Tyler is a beast.

More good news – if we back track a few weeks to how we all got here, Tyler was experiencing difficulty breathing – caused by ‘Massi’, the tumor that was living in his chest. It was so bad that the pressure of the mass was hindering him from laying on his back or left side. After first round of chemo – No breathing issues! Survey says…Massi is shrinking. Wooo HOOO!

I would like to thank the GG’s for the awesome bracelets sent for Tyler’s Gals here in SD. We had a fantastic Christmas. It was ‘Our First Christmas’ together, we had great food, great laughs, and we were able to celebrate with both our families. It was a very special Christmas for both of us.

Santa brought Tyler a new set up so he can keep riding during chemo. He got a new track bike, a stationary trainer, and all the accessories he could possibly need to ride wherever and whenever his heart desires. In fact, the nurses gave the ok to bring his bike and trainer into the cancer wing! 

The rebel

A clenched power fist, Tom? On the holidays?? Are we at a Rage Against the Machine show,  ready to start an Occupy San Diego protest? Didn’t your mom ever tell you ‘no politics at the dinner table?’ Ok, guilty as charged — but if you’ll indulge me off the bat, I promise that somewhere here lies the makings of what more learned men might call ‘a point’.

Shoot, I’m losing my audience already…(why did I have that red bull and vodka and shot of espresso before I started typing??). Ok, I need a quote….ahh, a rabbit out of a hat; this one ought to do just fine:

But he who dedicates himself to the duration of his life, to the house he builds, to the dignity of mankind, dedicates himself to the earth and reaps from it the harvest that sows its seed and sustains the world again and again.

(Boom — now I’ve got my game face on). The beautiful and quite apt words above are from Albert Camus’ appropriately titled essay, ‘The Rebel’. In that work, and in much of his life’s thinking, Camus dedicated himself to the overarching proposition that, despite man’s sometimes befuddling existence, and the often cumbersome predicaments put in his place, there is only one option at the end of the day: to rebel. You might rightly ask: Rebel against what, and for what purpose? Camus had his own litany of responses, both political and metaphysical in nature, but the takeaway of it is that in spite of much of the pain, frustration, and loss that living provides for us, this life simultaneously provides us the ability to rebel against those bumps in the road in order that all that is beautiful, sublime, and ineffable around us might again be revealed. It is a constant process, politically, socially, and personally, but by rebelling against those conditions that bring us tribulation, we can nonetheless reassert our humanity — and as an extension — know love. Continue reading