Today, we have something very special for you guys to read. As you know, in December, we are hosting a competition and fundraiser for Jerks 4 Jewels, a non-profit that promotes and supports the awareness and treatment of testicular and prostate health issues (including cancer).
A little over a year ago, one of our own, Mike Larkin (most commonly referred to as “Larkin” or “Damnit Mike”) was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This was an understandably shocking and terrifying discovery, especially at the ripe old age of 33 at the time of diagnosis. It’s also a hard thing to share - a lot of emotions come with a cancer diagnosis of any kind, never mind that you’re now being told that something that dictates your basic biology, that helps create your identity, is part of the problem. It’s similar for women who are told they have breast, ovarian or cervical cancer.
We start by thanking Mike for being willing to share. Cancer sucks and talking about it somehow becomes an admission of something really really scary and difficult, which as Mike will say below, is okay. We doubly appreciate his urging not to be ashamed to talk about testicular health awareness. Jerks 4 Jewels would echo his sentiments that vigilance and awareness are the first line of defense. The moral of the story is this: make sure you're getting regular check-ups and that you do regular self-checks, guys and gals!
Meanwhile, enjoy this interview. Larkin has a special talent for making the awful a little more palatable through humor and sharp wit. Finally, if you enjoy this, click the link to his blog below where he shares his full story.
Let’s start off with you sharing a little bit about yourself. Name, age, what do you do for work and for fun?
Mike Larkin, 34 (the "sweet spot" of TC Demographics). I design software for a Healthcare company, for fun I like climbing, CF, board games, general degenerate behaviors.
How did you find CrossFit? How long have you been a part of Kingfield?
A friend of mine introduced me to Danny. Man, how long have I been a part of Kingfield? 3 or 4 years?
Diving into your story here, share with us when and how you found out that you had testicular cancer? How did you feel when you first found out?
Without trying to sound too vulgar (I cover this in my blog so whatever), my testicle hit my hand one morning in the shower like a lead weight which seemed, obviously, very odd. Now, granted, my nephew had "accidentally" punched me in that same testicle recently so I assumed it was that.
After I went into my doctor and they referred me to an ultrasound, it got a little more serious. Honestly? I was confused originally. It didn't make sense to me. I remember saying "How is this possible? I'm not 60 years old". As it turns out, 33 happens to be the median age of diagnosis.
I was sort of forced into coming to terms with it quickly though. Since it can be very aggressive, the process of going from diagnosis to surgery and then into treatment is very fast. I had about 48 - 72 hours from diagnosis to get everything figured out prior to surgery.
Even though I was diagnosed Stage III, my prognosis was very good. Telling my first few family members was rough, not ashamed to say I cried. It was most difficult because cancer is almost as scary and confusing to people that care about you as it is for you.
Q: Were there any signs or indicators prior to you learning you had cancer?
In retrospect and after learning more, there were. For some time (and I stopped coming to Kingfield for months) I was tired a lot, generally out of it. I chalked it up to something like depression at the time, but looking back, it was likely the cancer. One of the common threads seems to be general malaise and fatigue, sometimes weight loss. I was experiencing a lot of that but didn't connect any dots because why would you? Right up until the diagnosis, I don't think I was willing to believe it was cancer.
Q: What was treatment like? How long? What was required (recommended)?
Let me put this in CF terms: 3 x 3 Week Rounds of BEP for Time. BEP stands for Bleomycin, Etoposide and Cisplatin, it's a very common prescription. Each 3 round consisted of 5 days on week 1 sitting in a chair for 6 - 7 hours with a constant drip of chemo drugs, steroids or fluids.
The next two weeks was just a single treatment of about 2 hours once a week. After the first week, they give you a white cell booster to help with immunity. One great feature for that is that it makes your bone marrow swell, but since it has nowhere to go, your bones hurt. Bones hurting is super fun.
Luckily, you can head a lot of the side effects off with tylenol and allergy meds. Which always sounds funny to me because you'd think there would be more to it. Nope, just plenty of fluids, try to make sure you eat and pop a tylenol/benedryl for most symptom side effects.
Generally speaking, I got off light on the side effect front. I've heard some horror stories but other than my bones screaming for 48 hours or so, I was just generally very tired. So very, very tired.
Q: What’s your current prognosis?
I'm currently in remission and onto my six month follow up path. This is expected to continue.
Q: How did CrossFit play a role, if at all, in this entire narrative?
The community was super supportive and it was nice to be able to drop by and talk about what was going on and recovery. I tried to come back (maybe a little early) after treatment and got knocked on my ass. It can be difficult to come to terms with building yourself back up. I'm looking forward to getting back into the routine and Kingfield has always, always been a great cheerleader.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add as it pertains to your story? Any advice?
I blogged about a lot of it (www.platinumaddiction.com) so there's probably more there in terms of advice. I would summarize advice into a couple items, other than the last item, I think a lot of this can be generalized to any cancer or many health conditions:
1) Check yourself. I likely could have caught this earlier had I known the demographics for diagnosis (Dead Pool has a good primer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsdD1MJXOpk);
2) Don't hide from it, don't be embarrassed by it, run straight at it and own it. There's no time to pussyfoot around, a mantra I used throughout the whole process was "There is a process for this, they've seen this before. If something changes, there is a new process, they've seen this before";
3) Let the village help you, don't be ashamed or bashful about telling people or asking for help. There is tons and tons of data on the power of social support when it comes to health outcomes;
4) Over-communicate with your care providers, they've become exceptionally good at treatment in this area and especially when it comes to mitigating side effects;
5) Make ball jokes. No one can tell you not to make ball jokes now.
Strength - Bench Press - 15 minutes to work on sets of 10 at RPE 5
The focus of today is tempo and position. Athletes will work for 15 minutes building and completing 3 sets of 10 at RPE 5. Athletes should follow the RPE guidelines, as the tempo will illicit the pump everyone is chasing :)
Metcon - 3 Rounds For Effort:
10 Bar over burpees
4 Sandbag to shoulder @ moderate **
0:60 second Max Calories **
- Rest 2 to 3 minutes between rounds -
15 minute time cap!!
**SANDBAG TO SHOULDER: Athletes should choose a weight that will allow them to maintain technique and form. They should pause for 1 full second with the bag on their shoulder.