Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Whitney!

We are really excited to be sharing Whitney Paulsen’s success story.  Whitney started out with us not really knowing how much time she could commit to herself and working out.  But what she ended up doing was scheduling out her workouts and her time with us and made some amazing progress with both her body and her mind.

In Whitney’s words:

“Working out 3 to 4 days a week has helped my self-esteem and body image.  The team and members at Epic have helped me feel good about myself and I am so grateful for the love and support.”

 

 

If you are ready for a kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Check out more information on the New Year New You Challenge!

 

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Marylynne

We are so excited to share Marylynne’s story!  Marylynne has become a daily visitor to our gym over the last 2 years, and it has been amazing being a part of her journey!  As you will read below, Marylynne used to always use the number on her scale to measure her progress just about every day, and this would lead her to have either a “good” day or a “bad” day.  We were able to shift her mindset from just the number on the scale to other things she could measure, like how she felt physically, how her clothes fit (especially her jeans!) as well as being able to control her cravings.

In Marylynne’s words:

“At first it was really hard to not use my scale, I weighed most every day.  After a few weeks, I didn’t even think about the scale which was great!  The scale tended to either start my day off good or bad depending on that number.  I found that being on the D2S program, kept me on track, even on a fun trip.  I went to New York for 10 days while in the program.  Typically, believe it or not, I usually could gain 5 lbs. in one week in New York.  What I’m saying is, I would go crazy on food, not so much with this trip.”

If you are ready for a kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Check out more information on the New Year New You Challenge!

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Audrey!

We are so excited to share Audrey’s success story, not only over the past couple of months, but more of her journey over the last year!  Audrey is an amazing example of what hard work and dedication to getting 1% closer to your “ideal” you really means.

Here was Audrey when she first started at the gym last February, 2017 and the transformation she made in her first 6 weeks with us!

During this time, she lost 6.5″ in her waist and 4″ in her hips, with a total of 18.8 pounds of fat loss!   These results were nothing short of amazing, but she didn’t stop there.   She kept working harder and harder at the gym, making her fitness and nutrition a priority.  Here is an awesome example of what a day looks like for Audrey in the gym:

In just the past 8 weeks, she dropped another 2 sizes and now fits into her size 5 jeans, down from a size 18 just under 1 year ago!  Here are some of the highlights:

“I really enjoyed the accountability meetings and learned a lot of great information, and it was a great morale boost as well with all the other members there. I also feel like I have been able to push myself more both inside and out of the gym. This is due to the fact that I started to really change my diet and meal plans and increased my protein intake, which is way more satisfying!  I am so excited that I was able to fit into my size 5 jeans, from a size 18 a year ago! I never thought in my life that this would have been possible.

Thank you so much, Audrey for showing us all that any goal can be accomplished if we put our mind to it and work on getting 1% better every day.

Are you ready to get 1% better every day?  Can you imagine what that would look like for you over the next year?   If you are ready for a  kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Apply Now for the New Year New You Challenge!

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Dan!

We are so excited to share Dan Bailey’s story!  Dan is one of the most positive people in the gym, and we absolutely love seeing his progress in the gym.  Since starting with us, Dan has lost almost 40 pounds and has got rid of so many of his aches and pains.  During our most recent challenge, Dan not only dropped 2 sizes but also got back into a rhythm of working out!

In Dan’s words:

“The one thing I can say was a real positive for me was my workouts.  I got way back into being at the gym consistently.  The accountability meetings were great, and kept me on track with my nutrition.”

If you are ready for a kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Apply Now for the New Year New You Challenge!

4 Core Nutritional Principles for Fat Loss

When looking at the science of nutrition for fat loss and what it takes to actually see results time and again, we have nailed it down to these 4 nutritional principles making the biggest impact for our clients and their goals of losing fat and feeling great! All of these principles are pretty simple, but not easy to put into action without setting up some rules for yourself (which I go over in detail below).  But before I share these important principles, first a little research on the topic of how large our plate size has grown.

In 2012, a report by Koert Van Ittersum and Brian Wansink in the Journal of Consumer Research concluded that the average plate size for Americans had grown 23% between the years of 1900 and 2012, from 9.6 inches to 11.8 inches!  When doing the math, this increase in plate size encourages an individual to consume just 50 more calories per day. Therefore, that person would put on an extra five pounds of weight each year. Multiply that over just 10 years, and that is 50 pounds of weight gain!

But using smaller plates is just one of the 4 core principles. A Twinkie on a small plate is still just a Twinkie, and this is not the only answer!  Here are all 4 principles to consider when starting a new nutrition plan:

1.  Use Smaller Plates

Using smaller plates will start a chain reaction. When you use a smaller plate, you end up with smaller portions, which in turn means you take in fewer calories (maybe even up to 50 calories less per meal!) which will start to lead to fat loss.  So we just recommend to put your large “dinner” plates in storage, and use your smaller salad plates when eating your meals, especially dinner.

2.  Serve Sequentially

When you eat all the nutrient dense foods on your plate FIRST that are rich in vitamins and minerals- like those yummy vegetables and lean proteins it will start to satisfy your hunger and you will become fuller faster.  When you move on to your next part of your plate – maybe those simple carbohydrates like the mac and cheese or pasta – you will automatically eat less.  By just changing the sequencing your meals and eating your vegetables and lean proteins first, you will bring more nutritional balance to your diet automatically, and eat less of the not-so-healthy-stuff!

 How about some yummy vegetables to start off my first course!

3.  Remove The Temptations!

Remove all those temptations from your home.  We are all driven by things being super convenient.  If you’re like most people, when there is a bag of chips or candy on the kitchen counter, it will call your name out and you will eat it!  If you don’t have any junk food in your house, chances are you probably won’t make a special trip out to the grocery store just to buy it.  You will just eat all the healthy stuff you stocked up on instead.

If these were on my kitchen counter, they would be gone in 60 seconds!

When it comes to the workplace, where we spend most of our time this can get a little tricky.  Co-workers always want to share sweet treats, and you can’t say no because that would be rude, right?  This is where we recommend scheduling out your “splurges”.  When you schedule this out ahead of time, you won’t feel as guilty and you won’t slip up nearly as often either.  So, when you know you have a party to go to, or maybe dinner out with dessert, place this on your calendar and know you will be ok to go a little “off” your regular nutritional plan.

4.  Enforce a Rhythm

This is probably one of the most important principles!  If you wait until you are hungry to eat, you have waited too long and you WILL binge eat and stuff yourself! Then what will undeniably happen is you will eat too much and you will go from starving to stuffed over and over again! This is obviously a bad cycle, and something we can do very easily by just not planning ahead a little bit.  Think of your fuel in your body like your gas tank.   What would happen if we constantly ran on an “empty” tank?  Eventually, our engine would give out!  We want to keep your “tank” at least 1/4 to 1/2 full so we never feel starved.

We no longer want these peaks and valleys in food consumption.  Instead, we recommend you eat regularly throughout the day (most research points to anywhere between 3- 5 meals a day) so that you never get to the point of feeling like you are going to die of starvation.  Without all of those peaks and valleys, you will actually eat less throughout the day, and feel a whole lot better!

We hope this 4 principles can help you towards your goals of fueling for better health.  If you are looking for more accountability with your nutrition and fitness, our New Year New You Program is currently open for new members!  If you are ready to make more changes in 42 days than you ever have in the past, this program is definitely for you.  Apply below for more information!

Apply Now for the New Year New You Challenge!

 

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Debbie!

We are super excited to be able to share Debbie’s story.  Debbie has been a prime example of what staying dedicated and on a fitness schedule truly means when the primary goal is fat loss.  Debbie had so many reasons of “Why” she was ready to make a change, and her why was so powerful that it lead her to some amazing action and results in just 8 short weeks!

Debbie talks more about her “Why” here:

I was starting to feel like being overweight was getting in the way of living life the way I wanted to.  I couldn’t keep up with my girlfriends when mountain biking.  My rock climbing harness didn’t fit.  I had started taking the elevator instead of climbing the stairs at work, and it felt like I was starting to waddle when I walked!  I felt awful about myself!  Looking back, it has been a great 8 weeks.  The accountability meetings and food journal helped me get good eating habits back, and getting up to go to the gym started feeling normal.”

If you are ready for a kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Apply Now for the New Year New You Challenge!

 

 

 

 

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Kandi!

We are so excited to be sharing Kandi’s story and what she was able to achieve recently!  Recently, Kandi showed so much will and determination and has gotten to a place she hasn’t been in years.

Here are some of the highlights from her recent participation in our  “Drop 2 Sizes” program:

“I have started to notice how strong I am getting and tone I am getting in places.  To be honest when I tried on my pants after 8 weeks I was anxious.  But when they were on I felt sooo good.  I have not been this size in 10 years!  Thank you Epic you are changing my life every day!”

 

If you are ready for a kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Apply Now for the New Year New You Challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Charlene!

Charlene has had some pretty amazing things happen to her over the past year, but her amazing results during our most recent Drop 2 Sizes Challenge has to be the highlight of the year!

Here were some of the highlights from Charlene:

“Tracking what I eat daily has been a huge thing for me in my transformation as well as using a mission statement to help me keep my focus and remember why I am making these changes.  I’m excited to be the smallest I’ve been in almost 30 years but most important I am down from a size 26/28 to a 14/16 in 18 months.  I am enjoying improved health, smaller sizes and more energy and ability to do things I want to do.”

If you are looking for a kickstart to get you moving in the right direction with your fitness, nutrition and mindset, check out our upcoming 2018 New Year New You Challenge!  This challenge is selling out fast, and you can apply below to see if you would be a great fit for this 42 day challenge in the New Year!  Also, you will have a chance at winning a grand prize of $3,000!

Apply Now for the New Year New You Challenge!

I have cancer, and I choose to fight – part 2

In part one of this blog, I discussed in detail everything leading up to being diagnosed with Leukemia.  There was a lot of amazing feedback from part one, and I want to thank everyone who reached out, as it meant so much to me and my family.  If you haven’t read part 1 yet, start here.

The main reason I wanted to share my story is because I feel like it can help someone that may be in my shoes, or have a family or friend that is dealing with something similar to what I have dealt with.  Part 2 will go into detail on what happened after I was initially diagnosed with cancer, along with my journey with cancer over the past two years.

Friday November 13th, 2015

The next call I needed to make was to my parents.

I called my Dad first.  Since I hadn’t been to my first Oncology appointment yet, I didn’t want to spend too much time playing the guessing game with him.  I knew he would have a lot of questions for me which I wouldn’t have answers to.  That was ok.

I can remember my Dad telling me something to the effect of, “You know you can’t die before I do, that would be just wrong!  This might be a big uphill battle for you, but I didn’t raise a quitter, and you have never quit or given up at anything.”

He was right, I don’t remember the last time I ever quit or gave up.  At anything.

Back in high school almost 20 years ago I was benched my entire junior year during basketball.  This was one of the toughest times in my athletic life, and this had a big impact in my future endeavors.  Basketball was an early love of mine, and I truly thought I would play in college, thought I would have a late growth spurt, something to at least have the excuse to keep going.  But none of that would happen.  I could have quit basketball, and all sports for that matter but I didn’t.  I made a decision after that year of “riding the pine” to compete in an individual sport that I had more control in – Track and Field.

My dad was the one that reminded me that the first person to cross the finish line and the furthest throw marks the winner.  Nothing subjective about that.  He had experience throwing the discus and competed in college, so I thought why not?  So, between my Junior and Senior year in high school I went “all in.”  I ended up strength training 6 days a week and gaining 30 pounds of muscle and I completely changed my body for my new sport.

This was the best move I could have made because it turned into a Division I College Track scholarship, a great education, and a chance to compete at the highest level internationally in the sport of Bobsled for 6 seasons.  It all started at age 17.  If I hadn’t made that one move my junior year of high school, this path would have never come.  Did I quit basketball?  No, I don’t feel like I quit.  I feel like I transformed as an athlete and as a person.

Fast forward to almost 4 years ago to my life as a father and a business owner.  I was coaching and training full time, and now turning other people into their best selves was my top priority.  As the business grew, so did some of the problems.  I was realizing that renting space out of another facility, while trying to run my own business model, had its own set of challenges.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the owner of this large gym forced me to leave – this was two days before Christmas.  Professionally, this was one of the hardest moments in my career.  But instead of quitting I opened up my own space in the matter of three days.  What I learned is that we are always going to run into situations that are beyond our control, but how we choose to react to those situations is what matters most.

My Dad was right, I never quit at anything.

Ok, back to my next phone call to my Mom.  My mom, about 2 years prior to my diagnosis, had her own very traumatic event.  She had a serious stroke and almost died.  It caused her to be legally blind, but besides that her brain has fully recovered.  As I told her what was going on, I assured her that what she had gone through was way worse than what I was about to enter in to.  My mom is a very emotional person, so I knew she would take this very hard.  And she did.  She is also someone that will worry herself to death.  I mainly wanted to reassure her that Leukemia wouldn’t be the thing to take me off this earth.  I promised to give her weekly updates on my condition after each appointment, and I did.

I remember the first appointment with my Oncologist very clearly.  It honestly felt like I was in the wrong doctor’s office.  Everyone in the waiting room was either in a wheelchair or over the age of 75.  My wife, Amy was with me and we saw very quickly that I was an outlier.

Getting called back to my first visit, and now being on about my 50th visit to a hospital in almost 2 years, I realized that not a lot changes with each visit.  It always starts with the nurses taking my vitals, then a blood draw to check my liver enzyme levels and white blood cell count, among many other blood markers.

I have never been a fan of needles, so I asked the nurse if I could lie down, since I would more than likely pass out if I was sitting up in a chair.  Even after 50+ blood draws, this is still what happens to this day!  I guess you could say I have gotten used to the routine now and so have all the nurses.

Once you get your blood drawn, it’s a long 20-30 minute wait in the doctor’s office to see your results and for the doctor to go over it all with you.  After my first lab tests, it was clear that they needed to do additional tests – a bone marrow biopsy – to see how progressed the Leukemia was and to see if it was in the bone marrow.  If it was, that would give the doctor a good idea how progressed my cancer was.

My next visit was to have the bone marrow biopsy, nothing I recommend ever having done if you don’t need to!  Remember, I said I wasn’t a fan of needles.  Not to go into too much detail, for those of you that are like me, but this felt more like a drill than a needle, since they need to extract a “core” sample from my bone – the posterior superior iliac spine, or that bony part of the back of your hip.  They numb you up real good, then get after it.  Needless to say I was pretty sore for about 3-5 days after the procedure.

The results came back and the LGL Leukemia cells were not only in my liver, but also in the bone marrow.  The doctor tried to explain to me how rare this was to have it in the liver – so rare he said I was only one of 40 cases known in the United States in the last 10 years.

It made me feel like I won the lottery, the cancer lottery!  He said the most important thing was to lower my liver enzymes, since I was living at 10-12 times the normal levels, and this could cause damage and scarring of the liver, to even liver failure.

I started treatment right away.  Performing any type of infusion based chemotherapy was risky, and because the cancer cells had manifested in my liver, they went with giving me an oral chemotherapy drug.  The drug was a catch 22 though…it was used to treat blood cancers but it could also cause liver problems.  But the doctor assured me that we would run blood work every week for the first 6 weeks to make sure that didn’t happen, since the goal was to kill the LGL cells in the liver and not the liver itself.

After the first 6 weeks my enzymes started to drop ever so slightly, then there was a bit of a leveling off.  I still had higher levels than normal, so I continued to take the medication.  After about month 4, my enzymes spiked again very high.  So high the doctor was really concerned and took me off the oral chemo.

At my next appointment, in August of 2016, the primary oncologist I had been seeing for almost a year now told me he wasn’t confident he could help me.  This was a big surprise to me in a lot of ways.  First, I have never been to a doctor that has been so honest to let me know and actually say, “Hey, I am really stumped here, I am going to refer you to another doctor.”  Usually, you as the patient need to go out to get second opinions for a condition.  This is not initiated by the doctor but by your own inclination to just have another opinion.  I didn’t need to do that, he did that for me, which was very refreshing.  Secondly, this really got me thinking:

“Well, this cancer specialist has no idea what to do next with me.  What will the next doctor do?  Will they even be able to help me?”

Fast forward to September 2016 when I had my first appointment with my new oncologist at The Huntsman Cancer Institute.  When I walked in the doors, there was a completely different feel.  The level of compassion and care seemed to be very high.  I learned at my first appointment that I would have three nurses I could call 24/7 – three!  That was in addition to my doctor.

I also learned that based on my symptoms and my most recent bloodwork, I may not even have Leukemia at all.  They were fearful that I may have a serious stage of Lymphoma, or T-cell Lymphoma.  They scheduled me the very next day for a PET scan (positron emission tomography). This is an imaging test that allows the doctor to check for Lymphoma, or any other disease in the body. The scan uses a special glucose dye that has radioactive tracers. These tracers are injected into a vein in your arm. Your organs and tissues then absorb the tracer.  The cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, which can help determine how fast the cells are growing.

After my Huntsman appointment, I had to Google this new turn of events, even though my doctor said not to jump to conclusions.  An important part of figuring out a condition is also figuring out what it isn’t.  As I searched, I learned very quickly that “T-Cell Lymphoma” is far more serious than “T-Cell LGL Leukemia” or what I was initially diagnosed with.  If I had in-fact had Lymphoma and not Leukemia, that meant I would be at a Stage IV cancer and admitted to Huntsman for chemotherapy and potentially a stem cell transplant.

I should not have looked it up.

My wife and I arrived at 6am the next morning for my PET scan which wasn’t until 8am.  They took me back around 6:30am and prepped me.  I sat in a “quiet room” for up to an hour and a half to allow the die to get into my body.  I had to fast that morning and when I stood up to go to the bathroom I remember almost passing out.  As my wife knows, I need my breakfast!

The PET scan came back negative for any Lymphoma.  What a relief!!!  So now we’re back to T-Cell LGL Leukemia but I still had symptoms that were unusual even for that.  So more tests.  A second liver biopsy and a second bone marrow biopsy confirmed the cancer did manifest in my liver (very rare for LGLL- or Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia) and the cells found in the bone marrow showed involvement like what was in my liver.  Which still pointed to LGLL but the doctor said the presentation was weird since my blood counts were otherwise pretty darn normal.  So getting my liver enzymes down still remained their biggest concern.

The line of treatment the doctor wanted to put me on was a “long term oral chemotherapy.”  The drug, Cyclophosphamide, had many side effects.  Besides mild and severe nausea and fatigue, there were potential birth defects that would occur – that wasn’t an issue for Amy and me, since we weren’t planning on any more kids.  The other part was I couldn’t be on this oral chemo treatment for more than one year.  The goal – decrease liver enzymes and keep white blood cells and other cancer markers high enough to stay on the medication and in one year’s time be in some sort of “remission.”

All that remission means is that the cancer isn’t kicking your ass anymore, not that you are “cancer free.”  With Leukemia or blood cancers in general, you’re never “cancer free.”  They can always come back and sometimes be worse than before.

In any case, I started this new line of treatment in October 2016 and go in monthly for my check-ups.  At first, there were not very big changes in the lowering of my liver enzymes.  But by March of 2017 my levels started to drop pretty drastically and the doctor was very happy with my bloodwork every time we met.

My symptoms of fatigue (mainly as a side-effect from the medication) started to get much better as I hired and coached more of my staff to take over a lot of my duties at the gym.  This allowed me to take better care of myself – sleep, nutrition, and time with my family – all of which helped me in my treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

(Roman, 3 and Dean, 4 are my top priority in my life!)

In the middle of May 2017, at one of my check-ups, I asked the doctor if I could train pretty hard again for what was going to be a summer Bobsled Combine – I figured this could be my last opportunity to show my sons what I did as a competitive athlete – and for me to get excited about training for something again.  She said yes, as long as I listened to my body and didn’t overdo anything stress wise.

The day after that appointment, I planned out a 3 month training plan to prepare for an August Bobsled Combine – which included sprinting up to 45 meters, a broad jump and a shotput toss.  These were all things I had done in the past, and things I was confident I could train for and do well.

The training has been going great, I feel stronger and faster than ever – even 10 years ago – and now at the end of July, I am in a position to be ready for the combine.

My liver enzymes are almost at normal levels, just barely 1.5 to 2 times the normal levels.  The doctors and nurses suspect I will be able to get off this medication at the one year mark, or by October.  Then they will start to track where I am at every month, then hopefully every 3 months as things look better and better.  Per my doctor, this would look like a form of remission for me.

Moral of this story:

I haven’t allowed my condition to stop me from pursuing the things in life that I love.  I love competing.  I love helping people.  I love helping my staff to realize their goals in life and in their career.  I love my wife.  I love my kids.  I will never stop fighting.  I will never quit.  I know that one day my condition could get worse but I choose not to focus or worry about that right now.  I decided almost 2 years ago when I was diagnosed, the best day of my life was this one.  Now, when people ask me, “How’s your day going?” I say, “Best day of my life!”

This quote sums it up for me and I am striving to do this daily.

 “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

 ~Emerson

I have cancer, and I choose to fight

My name is Ben Fogel and I am a blood cancer survivor – and still fighting!

I don’t feel much different than many other people I’ve talked with that have survived cancer, and didn’t ever feel I had a story to share.

Then a good friend told me very recently, “You are being selfish by not sharing your story.  What if one person heard your story and it changed their life, would it be a story worth sharing?”

Now that really motivated me to write this piece, and he showed me in those two sentences how selfish I was being.  I want to show people that cancer is NOT always a death sentence, and with the right attitude and approach you can overcome anything life throws at you, including but not limited to cancer.

Now, has it been a tough road?

Yes, of course it has.

Did I want to quit on several occasions, whether it was the nasty medication or treatments I was on?

Yes, but my attitude changed drastically when I realized my “Why.”   Why was I alive and what in fact was my true purpose?

I very quickly came to understand that my “Why” for me was to fight to stay alive and strong for my wife and kids.  I realized that if I just gave up, my two sons wouldn’t have a father to throw a baseball to.  I realized that if I just gave up, they wouldn’t have their Dad watching their first baseball game.  I realized if I just gave up, they wouldn’t have me to look up to anymore, to ask questions to anymore.  I realized that if I just gave up, that would be the most selfish thing to do to my family, my wife, my kids and my parents.  This was now my “Why” in life.  To make sure I live to see all these moments.

My father was such an influential figure in my life, I looked up to him like he was indestructible.  That’s what I want my boys to see in me.  That’s why I didn’t quit, I have fought and I am still fighting.

Now, if my story can help one person turn their life around, I did a good service.  What I realized facing a pretty traumatic event in my life is that it all starts with one thing, and that is the attitude you bring to that situation.  You have the internal power to change your circumstances, wherever you may be struggling in life.  This is how I was able to overcome my struggle.

This is my story.

It was mid-summer, 2015, and everything in my life was going amazingly well.  I was in my second year of opening a new business and in the “grind” phase working pretty long hours, and my wife Amy and I were also busy raising our 2 boys – Dean at almost 3 years old, and Roman at 18 months old.   To say we were in the thick of it would have been an understatement.

The gym was growing steadily and because I had many systems in place, it allowed me a little free time away from the gym.  More time to spend with my family and do more with my own training.

I decided I wanted something to train for again, so I came up with the idea to take 8-12 weeks to train for a Bobsled combine that was coming up that July.  This test included sprinting, jumping and throwing – all things I was used to performing from previously competing in the sport about 10 years prior, from 2003-2009 on the US National and World Cup Team.

I started my first four-week training block with lots of time on the track sprinting, as well as a lot of heavy lifting to prepare myself for the Bobsled combine.  About 3-4 weeks into my training plan, I wasn’t feeling very well – always fatigued and very low energy.  I just blamed it on the new workouts along with some longer than normal hours working at the gym.

Then it got worse.

I decided to get a sports physical, since I would need one anyway to compete in the combine.  The results came back with some abnormal blood tests – extremely elevated liver enzymes and a low white blood cell count.  Now two years prior to this, I had a physical flagged for high enzymes, but never this high.  My doctor was concerned that I may have an infection of some kind, or maybe even Hepatitis.  So he tested for Hepatitis and ruled that out.  At this point, we decided that I needed to return to the care of the GI specialist from years prior to find out what was going on.

From early Fall through late October the specialist and his team saw me regularly with really no answers on what my condition may have been.  By this time, I had stopped my training and taken additional time off work since my symptoms were not getting any better.

They were actually getting worse.

Friday, November 6th 2015

After multiple visits with my GI doctor for blood samples, two ultrasounds to check the size of the liver and spleen (both enlarged) I am here.  I am getting my second liver biopsy in the past 3 years.  The one from a few years back was more precautionary since I had barely elevated liver enzymes and the doctor at the time was pretty aggressive in the tests back then.  It showed “Mild, non-specific inflammation.”

What the hell does that mean?

It may have just meant that they didn’t get a good enough core sample to test back then.   But it was clear that my liver enzymes have been running high for some time now, and nobody could figure out why.

In any case, here I am again to rule out any liver disease or issues with the liver.  The procedure of a liver biopsy takes a lot longer then you expect.  You are literally in the hospital for half the day, when the actual procedure takes 5-10 minutes to perform.  They have to ensure that there is no internal bleeding from the site post biopsy, and make sure vitals are good for up to 4 hours after the procedure.  All went well, and after we got there around 7am, we were able to leave the hospital by 1pm.

The doctors tell you not to lift anything over 20 pounds for about a week, and for me that was going to be hard.  I mean, I own a damn gym and my youngest son weighs 30 pounds.  I did my best, was pretty sore around the site for a few days, but was ok.

Friday November 13th, 2015

I was doing the wife a favor and took her car in for an oil change, waiting in the waiting room when I got “The Call.”  It was my GI specialist who performed my procedure from the week before and who has been performing every test known to man to figure out what is going on with my liver.

Now, it was rare that I ever got a call from the doctor directly – it was usually his assistant/nurse practitioner that I would hear from.  So, the conversation went something like this, “Ben, we got the liver biopsy results back.  I want to make sure you are sitting down before I tell you this…but the biopsy results came back with suspicious T-cell Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia (LGLL).  This is a form of cancer that affects the blood, and I can’t help you with this, but I can get you in touch with an Oncologist and someone who can hopefully give you some answers.”

My first reaction was “Wait?  LGLL?  What the hell is that?” and when I started to Google it, I learned that it is very rare (about 1 in 10,000,000 diagnosed with a blood cancer get this form of Leukemia) and it has just barely been researched since the first diagnosis in 1994.

I wasn’t sure what to do, say, or even who to call.  The first person I called was obviously my wife.  Her reaction was one of disbelief, sadness, and wanting more answers.  After the longest hug ever when I finally got home,  we looked forward to my first doctor appointment with a cancer specialist.

Look out for part 2 of this blog. We will resume with all of the fun that ensued when I started my journey with cancer and all the treatments and care and where all the fighting truly began.