Having recovered from partial knee (patellofemoral) replacement surgery 11 months ago, I was excited to be back racing earlier this month and celebrating Men’s Health Month and National Cancer Survivors Month at IRONMAN® 70.3® Hawaii!
As a 40-year endurance athlete, I had completed every race I started. Even at my worst, I had a reputation of not giving up. That changed last Saturday as I did not finish (DNF). My first DNF! This race was humbling in every way possible.
As I have learned, there are no guarantees when it comes to your health. Starting with a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2015 and continuing with heart disease in 2017, I have become a staunch advocate for regular checkups and being proactive with your health. For men, this includes the annual PSA test. Being an 8-year prostate cancer survivor, I know I owe those years to early detection.
With a 6-year history of significant coronary artery disease (5 stents), my annual nuclear stress test in April revealed arrhythmia during peak exercise (near my maximum heart rate). Fortunately, a subsequent heart catheterization revealed no new obstructive disease or progression. The cause of the arrhythmia is still unknown, and I am under the care of a cardiac electrophysiologist.
Even though the arrhythmia weighed heavily on my mind, I made the decision to go ahead with this race. I would monitor my heart rate closely, making sure that it did not reach my maximum heart rate (151).
“It takes wisdom and courage to truly honor your body and your limits – at any age, but especially after some past health challenges.”
Becky Campbell, Prostate Cancer Foundation
I learned at the completion of the bike leg that I did not make the cutoff time. Even though the decision was made for me, I was seriously contemplating dropping out. The high winds, heat and hills really challenged me and elevated my heart rate. I knew things were not right. I listened to my body and took a long view of things and will race another day.
Lesson learned: at the end of the day, listening to your body is the only competition that really matters.
This race was a platform for me to create more awareness and visibility for Men’s Health Month and National Cancer Survivors Month – leveraging the power of sport to make a difference.
About the blogger @TomHulsey
As a survivor of 3 life threatening illnesses, Tom is passionate about utilizing his life experiences to fuel positive changes and impact the health of our world. He spoke recently at the Patient Perspectives Program at the American Urological Association’s Annual Meeting and was the recipient of the 2023 Jan Klodner Service Above Self Award.
Tom is a consumer reviewer and mentor for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, research advocate and Patient & Family Advisory Council member at the UT Southwestern Harold E. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and serves on the boards at Mary Crowley Cancer Research and the North Texas Prostate Cancer Coalition. He served on the ZERO Prostate Cancer board for 6 years.
Tom is a two-time author; detailing his journey, how mindset is key, and lessons learned. All book sale proceeds are being donated to philanthropic organizations that are making a positive impact on humankind. All June sales are being donated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). www.tomhulsey.com