Putting money in the (health) bank: a powerful reminder

 In Featured, Uncategorized

Earlier this week, Coach Isaac wrote a great post about making your workouts a priority even when you’re busy – how often you should train to keep your health up to par with your life’s demands. Last night, my cousin Josh, who runs a fitness studio near Des Moines, IA, posted a personal story that serves as a strong testimony to why making the time to workout is such a necessary investment. (Spoiler alert: he says the only way he’s going to be able to conquer this crisis is because he’s made his health a priority for years.) We’ve all heard the stats; we all know that exercise drastically lowers our risk of almost every major disease, but sometimes it takes a personal anecdote for that head knowledge to become heart knowledge, something tangible we can pack in our pocket on the way to the gym when we need a little extra push out the door.

Take a few minutes to read – maybe you have a friend who needs your encouragement to start making that investment, or maybe you’ve been needing a little extra weight on your “why” lately. Besides being a captivating health story to read, Josh’s story also serves as a good reminder for us all.

“I got hit with the big “C” word yesterday. Yep, cancer. Testicular cancer to be exact.

This type of cancer is more common than you might think in guys my age. The good news is that it is highly curable (95%+), so the odds are definitely in my favor.

I have some tests to do yet. Hopefully they come back OK and the cancer hasn’t spread. Either way, I have surgery on Monday. Hopefully that’s it and I move on. If not, we’ll figure out where the path takes us. Either way I’m out of strenuous exercise or lifting for at least 6 weeks. That’s tough to do when you own three gyms.

I’m not nervous or scared. Honestly this all seems like a little inconvenience compared to what I went through 7 years ago.  I had a mystery illness that sidelined me for basically the entire month of May in 2011. I was doing yard work, and I started to feel ill. At first, I just thought it was a nasty late spring flu bug or something. After a couple of days of high fevers, I went to urgent care and they diagnosed me with pneumonia and prescribed a bunch of really expensive medicines. I didn’t have pneumonia. Eventually I ended up in the ER. They were about ready to discharge me with more meds when I fainted. My resting heart rate was around 120 (my normal is around 55). My fever was 105. I had no energy. I was in major pain. The doc made the right call to send me upstairs to figure out what was going on. Some of the top docs in Des Moines, Mayo and other places around the country spent a week trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me because I didn’t fit nicely into the playbook.

They installed new software on their MRI machine for me. They called a radiologist back in from his vacation for me. Ultimately, the surgeon came in and said, “We don’t really know what it is, but I’m willing to go in and explore.” Those words weren’t very comforting.

My surgeon cut open the right side of my chest, deflated my lung and started to look around. He found all sorts of calcified lymph nodes in my chest cavity, up against my heart and encircling my esophagus. He basically spent a few hours chiseling lymph nodes out of my chest and repairing areas around my heart and esophagus.

Afterwards, they moved me to ICU for a while. Then I went back upstairs to recover for a few more days. After two weeks in the hospital, they sent me home to recover. I spent the next few months on a crazy cocktail of drugs to try to kill off whatever it was that had invaded my body. The working theory is that I had histoplasmosis and it just affected me differently than the average person. Histo is found in organic soil, so it’s all over Iowa. Sometimes it’s called farmer’s lung. Most people get it in their lungs and they think it’s just a cold. Not me. They never conclusively figured out what it was…so we just keep operating on this theory.

I’ve recovered from that just fine and have no ongoing issues other than a numb right side by my rib cage because of the surgery. I can live with that.

That was a time mired in complete uncertainty. They found one case in a medical journal that was somewhat similar to mine. One. So now I’m a star in medical journals. I hope my experience has saved someone or will save someone. My surgeon told me that he firmly believes that I am alive because I was in good shape going into this ordeal. I took care of my body, so I was able to sustain a resting heart rate of 120 and get through the surgery.

So relative to that, testicular cancer seems kind of mundane and easy. Lots of people have had it. There is a clear, defined path to treat it. And the vast majority of people are cured.

Whenever we have a new group of people start at Farrells [my gym], I tell my story of my near death experience. I tell them that they need to put health points in the bank because they never know when they will need to make a withdrawal. If you don’t take care of your body it’s a lot like living on credit cards. At some point, you won’t be able to pay the bill and the debt collectors are going to come knocking.

I share this with you not because I want your thoughts and prayers (though they truly are appreciated), but because I want you to share this with others around you. This post is public, so share away.

You never know when you will need to make a withdrawal to fund your health.What if I hadn’t been healthy enough to have surgery 7 years ago? More than likely I would be dead. Chances are good that you’ll have to make a withdrawal at some point in your life.

I’m healthy, active and have a good mindset going into the treatment for this. And I have no doubt that I will beat it. Fortunately I’ve put points in the bank and I can make a trip to the ATM.

But there are lots of people out there who don’t exercise. Who don’t eat right. Who beat up their bodies. And maybe it doesn’t affect them today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. I certainly didn’t expect to be dealing with this a few weeks ago.

Whether you know it or not, you all have a profound impact on this world. It’s not selfish to work out or spend time taking care of yourself. It’s selfless. It improves your chances drastically of being there for the people who love you.

I have a beautiful wife and three wonderful boys at home. And I’ll fight like hell again to be there for them.

So, please share this with your networks. If you’re already banking your health points I commend you. Keep doing it and don’t stop. If you aren’t, please take some action.

But whatever you do or wherever you choose to do it, find something that you enjoy to stay active. Take an interest in what you put in your body. Seek out experts in health and fitness to help coach you. Bank your health points now. You never know when you need to make a trip to ATM.

I’m going to go kick cancer’s ass. What are you going to do? – Josh Riessen”


— In Health, Coach Emily

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