Relentless Mettle – My Cancer, My Rules

My latest book, Relentless Mettle – My Cancer, My Rules is available for purchase via all major retail distribution channels and networks.


Including the following:


Publisher Direct

Apple iBooks

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook

Kobo

Paperback is also available at major retail channels such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I didn’t write another book because I have this insatiable desire to be an author. I wrote this book for a couple of very simple reasons. For starters, writing has always been very therapeutic for me. This exercise was no different. More importantly, I wanted to tell my story in a way that would give other patients hope, and perhaps remove some of the fear and uncertainty associated with a cancer diagnosis. If one person reads my book and it eases their mind and makes their journey into the unknown a little better, I’ve accomplished my goal. 20% of all sales royalties will be donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


Here is your excerpt of the day:

“Diagnosis is scary. Disease is scary. Treatments are scary. And our own mortality is the scariest of all. But there truly is safety in numbers. There are a number of excellent patient resource groups and services that are available and I encourage you to ask your doctor for a good listing of resources and educational materials. Visit only recommended and approved websites, and please, under no circumstances, should you take off on a wild Google search mission to try to become an expert on your disease. I made that mistake.”

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Successful TriRock Philly for TNT

Last weekend I had the privilege of watching a couple of dozen of our Team in Training athletes cross the finish line of the 2016 TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon. These guys worked hard all season to prepare for Philly. In total, our team raised $104,000 to aid the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission to fight blood cancers. I also had the opportunity to emcee their inspiration dinner on Saturday night, which is always a moving experience.

I also feel it’s important to show some love to two other athletes whose races didn’t go exactly according to plan. We had one participant on Saturday and one on Sunday who were forced to end their days early due to various reasons. While the unfortunate “DNF” can be a difficult pill to swallow, it needs to be kept in perspective. First of all… stuff happens. It happens to all of us, all of the time. You weren’t the first to DNF, you won’t be the last. You worked and trained hard to get to race day so not being able to celebrate your finish stings. I get that. But understand that a DNF doesn’t measure your character, commitment, ability, dedication, or mettle in any way. A DNF simply translates to – not THIS day. You own tomorrow. And you will have your way with tomorrow.

You are still very much a part of this community. Be proud of yourself for having the courage to commit and get to the start line. Be proud of yourself for all of the work you put into this season. Be proud of yourself for the impact you have in the blood cancer community. Be proud of yourself because everyone else is proud of you – especially your coaches and we will see you TOMORROW.

Posted in charity, leukemia & lymphoma society, motivation, racing, survivor, team in training, triathlon | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Team & Training Chat with NBC10 Philadelphia

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with NBC10’s Vai Sikahema on my relationship with the TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon as an athlete, a coach, and a survivor. Michael Sneed of title sponsor Johnson & Johnson joined me as well. Here is the link to the segment: NBC10 Philly

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For This Triathlete and DCMH Cancer Patient, It’s More Than a Race

Coaching, after a leukemia diagnosis, is an even greater reward

DREXEL HILL, Pa. – Steve Brown is at the top of his game. He has spent the last few decades as an endurance athlete, competing at the highest levels in the long-distance swim-bike-run as a triathlete. He is a 12-time ironman. A 26-mile marathon is simply part of his training. But as a triathlon coach, he gravitates toward the reticent runners; among them he finds his greatest rewards.

Brown became a triathlon coach for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training in 2006, the year he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a slow-growing cancer. He was not going to let the disease slow him down – in fact, often he would jog home from chemotherapy treatment. Instead, he decided to add to his mantra: “Train – Endure – Achieve” would now include “Matter.”

“I made a few important decisions right away,” Brown says. “I vowed to remain fit and continue the active lifestyle that I loved, including endurance racing. I would be vocal and visible and live this diagnosis publicly, to lend a voice to the need for cancer research funding. And, since I knew Team In Training well, I decided to get involved as a coach. It gives me the opportunity to take it to heart, to race for my own cause while helping others get across that finish line. It’s very rewarding.”

His doctor, Stephen Shore, M.D., Delaware County Memorial Hospital medical oncologist, understood his need to remain an athlete. He advised Brown to listen to his body, and rest when he felt tired.

“Maintaining some regularity of your normal life is critical to tolerating cancer treatment holistically,” Shore says. “Steve Brown did this extremely well during his treatment. He would get chemo, then run home. He would do two miles instead of 10, and that’s OK.” Shore also notes that Brown and his wife Mary Grace, a nurse, work well with Brown’s medical team to manage symptoms and determine when specialized therapy may be needed. “He uses our patient portal effectively and is in constant communication with us to keep the lines of communication open all the time,” Shore says. “We pay attention to and respond to him in a timely fashion.”

The cancer did return in 2012, and again in 2013, but today Brown is in remission, facing cancer by his rules.

Brown still trains and enters endurance races – he has completed 12 ironman triathlons, 26 marathons and countless other events of varying distances. With Team In Training, he focuses on the new athletes who join with tremendous commitment to the cause, but little experience in endurance sports. “My favorite ones are the tentative ones, because they need the most help. I’ve celebrated their finishes more than my own,” Brown says. At the end of each triathlon is a long run, and the last mile is the hardest. Coach Brown will run that mile about 13 times, back and forth, checking on his teammates and encouraging them to the finish. “It’s the most rewarding part of the race,” he says.

The coach’s team is now in training for TriRock Philadelphia, June 25 & 26. Teammates choose either the sprint distance triathlon on Saturday (.5 mile swim, 15.7 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run) or the Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday (.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and a 6.2 mile run). There are 32 people on the entire Leukemia & Lymphoma Society team; together they have raised $53,000 for cancer research and patient services. Millions are raised each year by LLS Team In Training runners, cyclists and triathletes, turning ‘someday’ into ‘today’ for patients like Steve Brown.

“We have a dynamic relationship,” Shore says. “I learn a lot from him, and hopefully he is learning a lot from me. He’s very inspirational.”

Learn more about Crozer-Keystone’s cancer services at crozerkeystone.org/Cancer. To learn more about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, visit LLS.org. For more information on Steve Brown, visit remissionman.com.

About Crozer-Keystone Health System

Established in 1990, Crozer-Keystone Health System is the largest employer and provider of healthcare services in Delaware County. The health system comprises five hospitals as well as a network of primary care, specialty practices, outpatient locations and the Healthplex Sports Club. Call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit crozerkeystone.org for more information.

About Team in Training

Team In Training (TNT) is the flagship fundraising campaign of LLS and the world’s largest and most successful charity sports endurance training program. Since its inception in 1988, when a team of 38 runners trained together for the New York City Marathon and raised $320,000, TNT has raised more than $1.4 billion, trained more than 600,000 people and helped LLS invest more than $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough cancer treatments that are saving lives today.  To join the team, call 800-482-TEAM or visit www.teamintraining.org.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org.  Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

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DVR & Media Alert

On Tuesday June 21st I will be interviewed by Vai Sikahema of NBC10 News (NBC Philadelphia) on my experiences with leukemia and coaching with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. The segment will be part of their 11 AM news broadcast and we should air at 11:45 AM. Check it out!

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Bill Hauser’s Race to 50K

On Friday, June 10th I had the honor of supporting, guiding, leading, following, feeding, and enjoying the company of my buddy Bill Hauser along with a motley crew of friends and supports as Bill ran 34 miles to raise funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

This trek was part of Bill’s quest for the coveted title of LLS’s Man of the Year; an honor he was awarded Friday night at the Grand Finale celebration.

Congrats to all of the candidates and their teams who worked very hard during this campaign. But a standing ovation goes out to Bill and Diane Apa Hauser for pulling all of the pieces together and catapulting Bill to the winner’s circle by raising an incredible $100K for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Bill ran not only for his survivor son Matthew but for all who have been touched by blood cancers and urged others to do their part. It was a great day. Thanks for all of the donations and support throughout the day and the 10 week campaign.

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Philedelphia Agenda Radio Interview

In March I did an interview for the radio show, Philadelphia Agenda. Katie Friend of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society joined me and we chatted about the Society and its programs, survivorship, and Big Climb Philly.

Click HERE to listen.

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My Regards to Broad Street

On May 1st 2016 I ran in the 37th annual Broad Street 10 Miler in Philadelphia in the pouring rain. I first fell in love with Broad Street in the early 1990s when it was a fraction of what it is today. “Back then” the Philadelphia running and triathlon markets were not yet over saturated and it was a time when you could leisurely stroll into Memorial Hall (now the Please Touch Museum)  the day before the race, park for free, register for the race, and do a little shopping from some grassroots vendors.  The same low key process also held true for the Philadelphia Distance Classic (now the Rock and Roll Half Marathon) and the Philadelphia Marathon. “Back then” our races weren’t corporately owned with slick marketing agendas and high priced entrance fees. They were just local, home grown races. And the races were about the races and nothing more.

Boy have times changed. And not just in Philly, but everywhere. Now we fight for slots, and pay an incredible amount in fees for the exact same product. We spend massive amounts of money on shiny things at expos that we may never use. We’ve become more obsessed with acquiring finisher clothing and tattoos and “stuff” than the race itself. Somewhere along the line we must have stopped being runners (or triathletes) and simply became customers.  Our community turned into a market, our races turned into products. But I digress… back to Broad Street.

I hadn’t raced Broad Street in a few years but had the opportunity to race it again this year so I jumped on it. Now almost 40,000 runners strong, our beloved Broad Street was forced into a lottery system a few years ago to try to fairly accommodate the rising number of applicants. While the number of runners has skyrocketed, and the number of port-o-johns at Central High School has increased, I don’t think the existing overall race infrastructure can adequately support that many runners. I’m not being critical of anyone involved with the event and I’m certainly not being at all critical of the many volunteers who put in countless hours to support this event. I also don’t have the answers to some of the problems. But as an athlete, and as a guy who has worked and volunteered at a number of events, I saw some things yesterday that could definitely be improved upon.

For starters, you can’t start a corral on a side street that completely blocks the exit of the high school stadium where folks are gathering to warm up. This created a little chaos as everyone who was stuck in the stadium grounds was gridlocked in and forced to leave with a different corral. It could have been a real problem had there been any kind of medical emergency requiring staff to get in or out of the Central High grounds. Fortunately people were cordial and polite and were generally ok sharing personal space.

Secondly, Broad Street needs to better organize how finishers are “processed” once they cross the finish line. I understand there needs to be a fair amount of walking to get to a clear area for people to get their medals, heat sheets, post-race nutrition, etc. But none of that was very well organized. We all just followed each other in a slow walk to “somewhere” but I saw no signage directing people specifically where to go for what. Remember, runners are pretty dumb after they cross the finish line and need directions to be very clear and dummied down. At one point, two different volunteers gave us opposite directions to the post-race processing area. As a result, I missed the heat sheet distribution completely and was pretty cold once I finished. Luckily I found a relatively clean one that had been discarded so I snatched it up to seal in some body heat.

Also, many runners were of the understanding that there would be shuttle buses taking people from the Navy Yard finish area to the stadium parking lots and Broad Street subway lines. That’s all well and good in theory but nobody knew which buses where which. A number of us followed the directions of one volunteer which did lead us to some buses, but none of them were running. We all assumed it would be faster to just make the trek back to the cars the same way we had gotten that far – on foot. On a nice day, that’s not a bad walk. But yesterday wasn’t a nice day.

Now, on a positive note, the Broad Street 10 Miler is iconic in Philadelphia. Runner’s World Magazine calls it one of the fastest 10 milers in the country. It is extremely popular and has become a must do race for many people. Once the gun goes off, the (slightly downhill) scamper down Philadelphia’s most legendary street is a thrill. The volunteers who came out to help us in yesterday’s rain were world class and their efforts should be applauded. This is Broad Street. This is Philadelphia. This race is rich in history and tradition.

But if you are going to grow a race to 40,000 participants, you need to grow the infrastructure proportionally. If you can’t expand the infrastructure, you need to substantially reduce the number of runners. Given the size of this race, you can’t help but compare it to the NYC marathon. Both races draw comparable numbers. But you can be a non-English speaking foreigner and run the NYC marathon without a question where you need to be and when you need to be there – both pre and post-race.  Let’s make some needed improvements and changes and keep Broad Street the great race that it is. Or can be.  And again, my hat is off to all athletes, supporters, staff, volunteers, and spectators who braved the elements yesterday.

Let’s not forget why we race. It’s not for the medal. It’s not for bragging rights. We race to dig deep and tap into an inner strength we aren’t sure is even there. We race to feel good. We race to push internal limits and boundaries. We race to find ourselves.

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The (Bright) View from the Bottom

What a difference a year makes. I’ve started this post several times in the last few months but just couldn’t find it in me to finish it. For whatever reason, and perhaps it’s all just part of the healing process, I feel like it’s finally the right time to share. I need to get this out of my head. And for me, life events never feel fully complete until I put pen to paper. For the purposes of this post, I’m sticking to the high level points but here are the low lights of why my response last year was “it’s been a challenging year” when asked how things are going.

Twelve months ago I was seemingly at an all-time emotional low; which correlated to an all-time physical low as well. A series of events took place that made me question everything in this world.  Very few things were right and I struggled to find the silver linings and to find the patience and clarity needed to navigate the darkness.

Last year I lost three parents in a span of two months. The period of time between April and June was filled with hospital and intensive care stays, rehab and nursing home visits, hospice care, family meetings, uncertainty, difficult decisions, and ultimately funeral planning. While this was happening, our daughter’s marriage was unraveling 3,000 miles away when her wife decided that she no longer liked the life that she signed up for and wanted to move on to something & someone else. We couldn’t fix all of the things that had broken in our lives and that paralyzed us.

My wife and I would come home from work (or that day’s hospital visit) and literally sit on the couch and stare at the walls just waiting for the phone to ring with some kind of an update from someone. Which was never good. We couldn’t even find the strength to turn on the TV or pour a glass of wine. We felt hollow and empty. We were tired of crying, tired of worrying, tired of questioning, and tired of being tired.

Intellectually, I knew the path to better emotional health was through physical activity, but even that became a struggle which just further exacerbated the problems. When I did get a chance to work out, positive thoughts and endorphins were quickly replaced with worry and hurry to be somewhere or do something. During this time it was easy to forget that I even have cancer. At times of reflection I found myself recalling that I am also living with chronic cancer almost as an afterthought. “Oh yeah… and then there’s THAT”, the voice in my head would echo.

My father in law passed first in April, and he was followed shortly by my mother in law in May. When we then received the news that my mom had developed an infection and abscess on her abdomen requiring anesthesia and surgery, I wasn’t hopeful. The combination of a 90 year old woman with an infection, requiring surgery and an extended hospital stay was not a favorable formula. We lost her in June. Fortunately, I was able to say all of the things one would hope to say to a parent before they passed.

We all pulled together and tried to be whatever we could for one another while respecting everyone’s individual grieving process. And by pulling together as a family unit, we were able to navigate our daughter’s safe passage back home where she and our two grandchildren stayed with us for a couple of months while she got her feet back underneath her. We were extremely thankful that they were home and now had to provide whatever emotional support we could in the rebuilding process.

I remember taking a walk one day at work and looking up at a beautiful blue sky and trying to understand, “why us?”, “why me?” I felt like an outsider looking in on someone else’s life. The weather was calm and still that day and I think at that very moment something was answered. It was dim, and brief, but a sense of calm did come over me and for the first time I started to feel like there may be a way out of the dark clouds. But I knew it would take time. I started to practice what I preach in terms of celebrating the small incremental victories in life. Even if that translated to a self-talk that sounded like “you know, this afternoon didn’t completely suck”.  Brick by brick, things started to fall into place. They were new bricks and it was to be a new normal. But the long, slow, gradual process had begun.

The family is still repairing their hearts. Sure there are voids but we are finding our way to a better physical, mental, and emotional place. The pain comes and goes and certain things will always be a struggle. But the love is starting to win out over the loss. I feel better emotionally and physically. Movement once again has restorative qualities and is a conductor of inner peace and mental clarity.  It was an extremely challenging period of time but it didn’t kill me. So by virtue of one of the most overused clichés known to man, it must have made me stronger. Or…. made me something.

If there is a lesson or message to be found here it is to never stop believing in whatever it is that you believe in. The events of the world may not always seem fair but good finds a way to gravitate towards good. So, stay the course. Life can be one hell of an ultra-marathon. There will be good miles and there will be bad miles. There will be miles where you feel like you are being carried at lightning speed and there will be miles that leave you in a fetal position on the side of the road. Get up and keep moving. There are plenty of good miles ahead. And nobody said this stuff was supposed to be easy. But it is rewarding, if you allow it be.

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(My) 10 Universal Truths

  1. Everyone has choices.
  2. All choices have consequences (choose wisely).
  3. Life and everything in it is cyclical (buckle up, hold on, brace yourself and enjoy the ride).
  4. Proper perspective + positivity = happiness.
  5. The world really can be changed one person at a time.
  6. That world is a better place when I am in motion.
  7. The size of your footprint is far more important than the sound of your footsteps.
  8. There is some “thing” in this world for everybody to enjoy and master.
  9. Trying something new that scares the hell out of you, will make you a more fulfilled and satisfied person.
  10. We will never know enough, never love enough, and never care enough to ever allow ourselves to stop.

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Drafts Before the NFL Draft Talk

On April 23rd, I spoke at a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man / Woman of the Year fundraising event in support of my good friend and Woman of the Year Candidate Cathy Peduzzi. The hall was filled with several Philadelphia Eagle players, alumni, coaches, staff, and media. It was a real treat for me to hang out with that crew and to be able to speak and share my story and experiences with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Team in Training. The key points of my comments went something like this -

My involvement with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society began 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia. The truth is that this disease has created more opportunities than it has taken away – and – opened more doors than it has closed.

I was a healthy and active kid and adult with ZERO health issues or concerns. After many years multisport racing, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia on February 24th 2006.

That required 4 immediate week-long rounds of chemotherapy as well as follow up treatment for 1 week every 6 months for 2 years. And even then at best the goal was to manage it and keep it off the radar.

I made some key decisions immediately following my diagnosis. These decisions allowed me to keep this in perspective and keep me in the driver’s seat. First, I signed on as a triathlon coach with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program where I get to feed my insatiable appetite for the sport while helping others attain their goals. That decision gave my disease a purpose. Next, I made the commitment to be vocal and open with my experience with the hope that others may benefit. And third, I vowed to never let go of my passions of running, racing and training. Even if it means scheduling chemo treatments around the race calendar or running home from treatment.

I was lucky and reached remission. But this is a chronic cancer and one that I need to monitor regularly with blood draws, checkups, and CT scans. I’ve had a few speedbumps through the years but I continue to respond well whenever treatment is needed.

I am a poster child for all of the things that can go right with a cancer diagnosis. today I remain in complete remission. I have treatment drugs that work and the future looks bright for my disease. Very bright.

People often ask me about the current state of my health. Recently, I have boiled my response down to a few brief words – “I’m not dying and I’m not contagious. So, I’M GREAT”

I owe much of that to the work being done at LLS as they have provided funding for 1 of my drugs and continue to fund some of what’s in the pipeline that will help me and those like me in the future. Simply put – my future is brighter because of the work LLS is doing and because of the support of people like you.

So while I’m proud of the fact that I have completed 26 marathons, an ultra-marathon in South Africa, 12 full  ironman triathlons, and countless other events over 30 years of racing, I’m more proud of the fact that I’ve weathered 46 rounds of chemotherapy.

I’m more proud of the many athletes I’ve been able to coach through the Team in Training program.

I’m more proud of the fact that I can live and enjoy a happy and active life with my wife of almost 30 years, our 2 daughters, and 2 our grandchildren.

I’m more proud of the fact that I still have decades of racing ahead of me.

And I’m more proud of the fact that I have been able to be a voice and have been able to mentor many other patients and their families as they reconcile what it means to be diagnosed.

At the center of all of that is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In 2010 I had the honor and privilege of being LLS’s Man of The Year so I’m very happy to support Cathy in her Woman of the Year campaign efforts.

Thanks for being here tonight. And thanks for supporting such a wonderful organization.

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