I recently wrote this for the Columbia Triathlon Association’s newsletter so I thought I would share it here as well.
Many people know that 5 years ago I adopted the name “RemissionMan”. Some people know some of the story of the name’s origin, but only a select few know the full details of that story. Since that name was given to me by my friend, Columbia Triathlon Association kingpin Rob Vigorito, I feel it is time to share more of the details here on this forum.
In February of 2006 I received a leukemia diagnosis which caught me more than a little off guard, considering the fact that I was the picture of health and had been racing endurance sports since the 1980s. Nevertheless, a blood test revealed an extremely elevated white cell count which warranted a battery of scans probes, x-rays, and biopsies between February 17th – February 26th 2006. (Those dates will be forever embedded in my psyche). And during my follow up appointment with an oncologist that I had known for all of one week, I received my official diagnosis on February 26th. “What? Wait, I’m Steve Brown, you surely have the wrong chart in front of you. I just need an antibiotic and I can be on my way”. Or so I hoped. Unfortunately, the chart was correct. I had leukemia.
The good news was that there was a successful treatment protocol out there for my type of leukemia. The bad news was that I was sitting in an oncologist’s office talking about leukemia, chemotherapy, and monoclonal antibody treatments. But we all put on our big boy pants, mapped out the plan, explained it all to the family and friends and went into treatment armed and ready to battle. I also “negotiated” with my oncologist to allow me to continue to train around my treatments, to include running home after chemo on days that I felt up to it. It may not have been an easy negotiation, but it was a necessary one so that I could remain somewhat in control in a seemingly uncontrollable situation of the things I loved to do.
One of the very next conversations that I had was with Columbia’s Rob Vigorito, or as he is known across the universe, “Vigo”. I reached out to Vigo for a few reasons. Vigo always understood what the sport of triathlon really means on all levels. I knew he would be a good contact for me as an athlete, a person, and even a patient given his connections with The University of Maryland’s School of Medicine. And I was right on all counts. As I went through my chemotherapy treatments, I continued to consult and update Vigo with my treatments, progress, etc. On a personal level, he became a trusted ally and through his network of experts, Vigo was also able to help me validate some of the trends that I saw with my blood work and the various reaction to my treatments that I was experiencing.
And that folks, is where the bad news ends. I saw almost immediate results and responded very favorably to my treatment. Sure I had a couple of speed bumps along the way and some days were better than others. But the bottom line is that I was somewhat of a poster child for all of the things that can go right through this process. By May I had hit remission. By the end of June I was through with treatment. And in July I was back to racing sprint triathlons.
I already had the 2006 ChesapeakeMan on my calendar for September (in fact I have raced every ChesapeakeMan since it’s launch in 2004) but I didn’t know how quickly I could get back to iron distance form following my treatments. I had extensive and promising discussions about Chessyman with my doctor and was pleasantly surprised when my fitness level rebounded back to where Chessyman looked like a reality. Vigo and I talked about this in great length as well and his words of encouragement to me went something like this. “Steve, if your results are good and your doctor gives you the green light, and if you FEEL like you can race Chessyman, you WILL not only race Chessyman, but you will finish Chessyman – and I will be there to escort you across the finish of another ironman, this time as REMISSIONMAN.
And in true storybook ending fashion, I raced Chessyman. And I celebrated every inch of that 140.6 mile course. And true to his words, Rob Vigorito was there to bring RemissionMan across the finish line.
Today, I remain in full remission and that entire chapter of my life remains a blip in my rear view mirror. But the support that I received from Vigo, and for that matter the entire triathlon community will always be remembered, and treasured.