Letters to the editor
Once again we have to begin by thanking everyone for your support through prayers, thoughts, actions, and gifts. It makes us feel so special and proud to have you all as our friends, family, and supporters. You have made it a little easier to get up every day and face the challenges of the day, so thank you.
Lisa and I have become more creatures of habit lately. Yoga class on Mondays, treatment in Denver on Wednesdays, acupuncture on Thursdays, and church on Sundays. In between I’ve been working as much as I can as things begin to get busy for my company at this time of year and in between Lisa and I find time to laugh, talk, enjoy time together, and try to keep Badger from barking. If you remember, I set some goals last time, and lately I’ve felt really good most of the time so Lisa has set some goals of her own for me. Like make the bed, walk the dog, pick up the trash that doesn’t make it into the trash can when you are shooting three pointers from the living room to the kitchen. So as they say, the more life changes the more it stays the same.
You all can remember the famous lyric from the movie the Sound of Music, “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, until you find your dream.” As cheesy as some of you might think this movie was, this lyric can serve as a great motto.
Myself, like most of you, love living in the mountains. And all of my life I’ve enjoyed challenges and really enjoyed climbing up hills and mountains. When I was younger my role model was the football great Walter Payton. He was the epitome of being a great player and took on the nickname “Sweetness” because he was humble, he had class, he worked extra hard to be great as he didn’t have all the gifts that some others had, and was oh so smooth on the field. Hence the nickname “Sweetness.” If you don’t know of his accomplishments, he is the current career record holder for rushing yards and until last Sunday held the record for most all-purpose yards, which was broken by Jerry Rice. His rushing record will most likely be broken by Emmit Smith (both Jerry and Emmitt are classy players). He set all these records while playing on a mostly bad Chicago Bears team. He never complained and only worked harder and finally won a Super Bowl in 1985.
One of the things that his teammates and others remembered about him is how he trained. “The hill,” as it became to be known, was a steep hill in his back yard that rose sharply up 92 feet in elevation (which doesn’t seem like much here), but it was steep and featured loose rocks and sand. He would run up this hill sometimes as many as 20 times per session. Teammates would often join him and could not believe how hard it was to make it up once, let alone 20 times.
Walter’s tenacious training regiment and overwhelming desire made him not only one of the greatest players of all time, but one of the most durable players of all time. In 13 seasons he only missed one game.
Unfortunately, Walter Payton was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer in a very advanced stage and was taken by the disease in 1999. Even though he is no longer with us, I continue to be inspired by the way he dedicated himself to his sport, how classy of a person he was, and how he fought until the end.
His family started the Walter Payton Cancer Fund in June of 2000 to provide cancer patients and their families dignity, healing, and genuine hope for a cure through the support of the world’s most innovative and promising clinical research for cancer. For more information go to http://www.walterpaytoncancerfund.org.
Recently, I climbed a hill of my own. Over a week ago, on Sept. 21, a great friend, Meggen Bernstein, got about 30 people together to help me ride up Vail Pass. Climbing hills on my bike has always been something that I’ve enjoyed doing and have been good at. I just put it in gear, start pumping my legs, and breathing. It clears my head and I feel great.
After everything that has happened this summer, I wasn’t sure if I could make it.
A note about lung cancer is that you hardly ever hear about fund-raisers for it. There is never a “race for the cure” because most people have had a lung removed or have a diminished capacity, and sometimes can barely walk, let alone run. Some of the stories I have read are about some people with lung cancer have overcome that and run marathons.
With that in mind, I was determined to make it to the top, even if I had to walk the whole way. I was so impressed with everyone that showed up to drag me up the mountain. Everyone had a little sign on their back that said “C’mon Eef,” “Eef wait for us,” or “you can do it.” With that kind of encouragement, I knew I would have all the help I needed.
As we were riding up, I felt like I was in the Tour de France and riding in the Peleton, as I’ve never ridden with so many people around me. I felt like they were pulling me up.
Many people hung back to talk to me as we were riding up, which was hard to do as I felt a little out of breath most of the time. We stopped about halfway up to make sure we have everybody and to take a break and when we left from there, I led the way.
The steepest climb is as you go under the highway and parallel I-70 for a while. I didn’t know if I could make it up this steep grade, and put my bike in its lowest gear and tried to breathe as much as I could. At nearly 10,000 feet, oxygen was few and far between. There were a couple of times when I said to myself “I can’t breathe and I need to stop,” but somehow I kept pedaling and found my breath and kept going. After that I knew I was going to make it.
I was especially inspired by Franz Fuchsberger, who pulled up his two daughters in a little trailer, and Ian Anderson, who rode his “Townie” bike with three gears at the front of the pack all the way up. At the top Shawna Smith had a victory celebration planned, which included champagne, which made me feel like a champion.
When it comes to climbing hills and being a champion, I think everyone probably knows Lance Armstrong’s story. We’ve all watched him the last four years take over the race when he hit the mountain stages of the race. Where other racers tire, he only seems to get stronger going up some insane mountains in the Alps. In his book he said he was asked what was harder, winning the tour (arguably the most difficult race in the world) or beating cancer? He said winning the tour was nothing compared to winning the battle against cancer. It wasn’t even close.
Lance has become the most successful American cyclist in Tour de France history and is nearing being the best of all time at the event ever. But the claim that he is the most proud of is that he is the only cancer survivor to ever win the Tour de France, ever! Ever!
Lance has continued to be a spokesperson for cancer awareness, participating in clinical trials, and cancer survivors, if you’re interested in the Lance Armstrong Foundation, go to http://www.laf.org.
I have been fortunate all of my life to be successful. I was a good student and athlete in high school, I did well in college, I started my own business (with help from my partner Hayden) when I was 29, and recently married the love of my life. There have been times in my life where I’ve set goals to achieve or looked for my next challenge. I think I’ve found it, right now it’s to beat cancer. After I do that, most everything will seem pretty easy.
I know that climbing the big mountain to beat cancer isn’t going to be easy. Every day I have to wake up and say to the disease “not today, I’m not going to let you get the best of me.” Even though sometimes I’m a little scared, tired, achy or uncertain, I have to keep fighting and keep punching away at the disease.
I’ve found the importance of prayer and the support and comfort of our church. The support and love that Lisa gives me is absolutely my dose of sunshine each day. I’ve talked to my family and relatives more than ever. I’ve changed my diet to be more balanced and complemented by supplements. Lisa and I have been going to Yoga classes each week and feel great because of it and plan to do it more often (thank you, Ceil, for going with us). We’ve gone to see traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and had acupuncture done and have felt it’s benefits and learned from its approach to the human body.
No matter how bad or sad I feel sometimes, I find a way to end up feeling positive and just won’t accept defeat. By doing all of this and continuing to seek out anything that might help, like alternative cures (thank you Kelly Ladyga) I’m not giving up.
When I told my doctor last week that I rode up Vail Pass on my bike, and played not one round of golf (thank you John Garnsey for Red Sky Ranch) and another the next day (thank you Marty Suarez at Beaver Creek) and that I’ve really never felt better, you should have seen the look on his face.
He was surprised, but said, “You’re doing great and you have nothing to be worried about” after he examined me. Even though it will be another couple of weeks before we have another CT scan to reveal progress, I believe what Dr. Hirsch told me! When I said that I really never felt better, I wasn’t making it up. No it wasn’t every day in the last three weeks, but there was about a week where I can’t remember feeling better. It was at that time that I felt really alive with an acute sense and awareness of the life running through my body. I felt healthy, energetic, and appreciative of another great day.
As of last Wednesday, Sept. 25, I received my second chemotherapy treatment of Carboplatin and Taxol. I also received the clinical trial drug C-225 on the same day. My normal treatment schedule is C-225 every week and chemo and C-225 every third week. I have been monitoring my blood counts every week to see if they get low. Most cancer patients get extremely low counts after between their 10-14th day after chemo. The counts that they monitor the most are red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin and neutrophil. All my counts were smack dab in the middle of the range they are supposed to be in. In fact, every category of the 20 that they look at were neither high nor low, but right in the range. The nurse told me that my counts were fantastic. I only hope that this will continue, and I really feel that everything that we’re doing is working!
In the meantime, I’ll keep going with the regiment that I’m on. Diet, supplements, exercise, prayer, support, positive vibes and the wonders of science. I can taste the champagne at the top already!
Thank you all so much for being in our corner and rooting for us all the way. You have made Lisa and I feel special and very loved. Until next time.
“Climb every mountain (challenge), ford every stream (learn), follow every rainbow (love), till you find your dream (beat cancer).”
P.S. We made a modern version of Climb Every Mountain for Vail Associates if anyone would ever like to see it.
Lisa and Eef Efraimson