Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Big Climb. Life Changing

Arrived back home Monday from Seattle. Feeling energized, happy and strong.  Back to work yesterday. Lab work this morning. Chemo Thursday.  Operating on steroids Friday. Friday would be a good day to ride my bike to work.  And that is my week. Welcome to myeloma maintenance. I'll take it.

The Big Climb was amazing. The entire event from the moment we arrived in the building lobby was moving, touching, emotional, happy, exciting and life changing. Seriously.  I left feeling more at peace, more calm, more happy and more satisfied than I've been in ages. And I'm talking about even before my diagnosis. 

Team Goldman raised $2,746. This is way more than we/I ever expected.  People's generosity and support is truly uplifting.  The weather was perfect. A little cool, but sunny and not a drop of rain.  We got to spend some good quality time with my niece Destiny, her fiancee Justin and my nephew Zach.  All really great kids. Although, they're grown up now, so instead I'll say they are all great  people. Color me a proud uncle.  Those three live in Portland and were part of Team Goldman.  We also had Leslie and Matt Arms. Matt Arms and I had been doing some stair training for the past few weeks.
Instead of writing a long rambling, incongruous post, I am going to try a timeline (minus times) of what we did and what we experienced. Oh, I'm sure it will still be rambling and I'll go off on tangents, but at least this post will have some sembelance of order to it. So let's get on with it:

Saturday, before the crack of dawn: Wake up and pack. We meant to pack Friday night, but we took Gracie to Matt and Rich's house Friday night (Note that Matt was already in Seattle, so really just Rich watched the pup) and by the time we got home, we were tuckered out. So Saturday morning pack. It was a short trip, so there wasn't much to take.

We took off from Long Beach Airport on Jet Blue.  I think this is the first time I've flown Jet Blue to anywhere besides Las Vegas.  Well, now that I think about it, I have flown them to Oakland.  The Vegas flight is so fast and easy. And so exciting getting off the plane in Vegas. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. I better make it back there in the fall. Seattle is about a 2 hour 15 minute flight. They have direct tv in every seat, so both Leslie and I watched some funny dog videos on Animal Planet.

Saturday, day time:  Matt Arms met us at the airport and we drove into the city from Sea-Tac Airport.  We at lunch at a place in Pioneer Square.  Destiny and Justin drove up from Portland and met us there. We ate, had a beer (I know, it surpresses bone marrow & blood production). Matt took us on a driving tour of West Seattle which has amazing views of the entire city. It was clear and beautiful.

From there we went to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, for a stadium tour. I love stadiums!  The Mariners until last season had a player named Ichiro Suziki. After Greg Luzinski, he's my favorite all time player. He was traded to the Yankees last season and I'm a bit torn if I can or should root for the Yankees with Ichiro on the team.  That's a tough one. The tour was great, got a see a whole lot of stuff and we had this funny, fired up, older woman as our guide.  As I listened to her, I thought about the one minute shout out I'd be giving the next day.  And I made a mental note to self to exude that kind of energy. 

After the tour, we checked in at our hotel and parted ways with Matt. He went to his sister's for her birthday dinner and celebration.  The remaining four of us (Zach didn't arrive until Sunday morning. Straight from watching baseball spring training games in Arizona with his dad) (Coincidentally my brother was in Arizona at the same time for spring training) had dinner at the hotel and called it a night at maybe 8 pm. Tuckered out.  I did have a little scare in the hotel restroom. I washed my hands and decided to take a fade away jump shot with the paper towels into trash can. I heard a little clink when the shot went in, but I didn't think anything of it.  But when I left the restroom, I realized my wedding band was no longer on my finger. Oh shit, that ring better be in the trash can. I called Leslie and asked her to send Justin to the bathroom. I wanted him to watch the door, while I dumped the trash can onto the floor.  I found the ring pretty quickly. But too close a call. I've been losing things lately, but losing the wedding band would be a bad deal.

Sunday morning: Me, Leslie, Destiny and Justin had breakfast at the hotel. I tested out the Go Pro hi definition video camera I bought for the climb.  I got a chest mount and a head strap. At breakfast I tried out the head strap. Recorded the whole breakfast. I'm sure folks in the buffet line appreciated some guy with a camera strapped to his head.

Zach arrived from the airport. Matt Arms came back to the hotel at noon and we all headed over to the building for the climb. Our start time for climbing was 3, but we wanted to get there early and park, check things out and all that.

Sunday afternoon: Immediately walking into the lobby of the building, the energy and excitement was embracing and powerful. We checked in, got our numbers, and got our t shirts. And here is where the emotion hit. We all got Big Climb t shirts.  But I also got a second shirt. A survivor shirt. Holy shit, I'm a survivor. So weird.  I hadn't really thought of myself in that way. But that's me, I'm a survivor. That made me a little teary eyed.  I talked it out and got fired up again.  The whole team did a brief video for the LLS stating why we there. Fun. We had a snack and it was time to go.  I turned on the Go Pro and was ready. 

The event had actually started at 8 that morning. 6,000 people do the climb and countless numbers were there for support and to volunteer/work the event.  Starting times are staggered into groups of about 50 or so people. We started at 3.  I was asked a week ago to give a shout out to my starting group. It was only to last about a minute, but all morning I practiced what I was going to say. I also thought about our tour guide and her energy. I was locked in. I've also mentioned before that I'm not a public speaking fan.  So you wonder why I'd agree to this. Well, I did and surprisingly I wasn't nervous at all.  For the shout out, I stood on a podium, microphone in hand. I told folks that I had done the climb 6 years earlier, just for fun. Then I was diagnosed with a blood cancer and now I'm doing it for a reason. I introduced Team Goldman and thanked everyone for being there.  I ended it all with an exuberant "I am so fricking happy to be here!"  I was seriously fired up. And the funny thing is, I liked it. No nerves, no babbling, no nothing. Afterwards I got a few high five from some strangers.   I'm almost as proud of myself for doing that as I am for doing the climb. Hard to explain but it was liberating.  I do believe I'm over my fear of microphones.  I can shout excitedly to anybody.  That amazingly is thanks to the myeloma in a curious sort of way.

And the climb started.  The five of us stuck together all the way.  We stopped once at the 60th floor for a quick breather, but that was it. I was sweaty and huffing and puffing, but I made it to the top.  No one else on my Team was even breathing hard. Destiny was ready to do it again.  We went up the 73rd floor , took in the view, had some water and made our way back down on the elevator.  They have you stop at the 40th floor and you go through a gauntlet of cheerleaders. So cool.  Then it was back down to lobby and meet up with Leslie. They don't let folks wait for climbers at the top.

Our Time was 22 minutes. I'm surprised. I was expecting at least 30 minutes. When I did the climb 6 years ago, it took 13 minutes.  We saw some guy in the morning who had done it in 7 minutes. What the heck?  That's sprinting up 70 flights of stairs.

From there, it was back to the hotel, clean up and off to dinner along the water at Lake Union.  Great views and great food.  We got so lucky with the weather, and what is so cool about Seattle is that the Space Needle looks over the entire city and almost anywhere you are, you catch a glimpse of it. After dinner, Destiny, Justin and Zach had to drive back 3 hours to Portland. It was Sunday night and all three had to work Monday morning. Matt went back to his sisters and we went to our room and crashed.

Monday morning: Matt picked us up around 8 and it was off the airport. The three of us were on the same flight back. I thought about how back in the day I loved to have a drink at an airport before I got on my flight. It relaxes me for a flight and lets me people watch.  That was the old Matt. I can't really do that now. It's not that I wouldn't like to, it's that I can't . What with the myeloma and kidneys and all that. The new Matt goes to airport gift shops and shops for a gift for his oncologist and his staff.

Monday afternoon:  Landed, drove Matt home, picked up Gracie and went home. That was the weekend.  I filmed the entire climb and some pre/post stuff.  I need to edit it down and add our team's theme song.  Hopefully,  I can do that in the next couple of days.  And as I said, it was a great and life changing weekend.

Thanks again to so many people for the support.  It means a lot and goes a long way.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Matt,

    Congratulations on your successful climb. From your description, it was obviously a wonderful experience. I'm happy for you and am pleased and proud to have supported your effort.

    Best regards,



Berenson Oncology Success Rate

 Some reading about my myeloma specialist's success rate. A press release and an article from Targeted Oncology.