Mike’s Surf Coast Century Assault – The Comeback Story
Mike is 57, lives in Melton Victoria and married with 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren. His life was about family, running, work and the motor sport club and was pretty healthy until his diagnosis with bladder cancer in December 2016.
Priorities have changed a little in the past couple of years with family becoming number one, ‘Living life for them and me, is what’s most important now’. Michael spends more time now with his family, plans more holidays (to NZ, SA, WA to name a few), helps his club prepare for events, enjoys time with running friends and is focusing on improving his fitness – which hopefully will assist with fending off any recurrence of cancer – including some incredible endurance challenges.
Mike has a renewed focus on enjoying what life has to offer, including good food, coffee and wine. He has found being part of an ongoing bladder cancer trial has also opened up a new avenue of interest, and opportunities to make a difference, like raising funds for ANZUP in support of the work they do to improve outcomes.
In 2016 Mike ran his first marathon and a few months later stepped up to a 50km ultramarathon at the Surf Coast Century. After Mike finished the 50km, the inevitable discussion about next year occurred.
“So 100km next year Mike?” suggested his cousin Sean.
“Not bloody likely” was Mike’s retort!
Fast forward a few hours and some of their 100km event mates are starting to finish.
“So if you do it I’ll do it with you Mick”
“You know what Sean; I reckon it’s doable”
And with that Mike and Sean had decided they’d toe the line together in September 2017 to tackle the Surf Coast Century.
In January 2017 Mike was diagnosed with metastatic bladder cancer and by February 2017 had started chemotherapy to try to arrest the progress of the disease.
Sean and Mike were still discussing plans for the September assault, not really knowing what would be possible after 6 cycles of treatment over 4 months.
Initially, running was possible for Mike a few times a week but by late March and into April, running became brisk walking, however the cumulative effects of chemotherapy reduced the frequency of walking to occasional days out and the odd parkrun.
The April start date for the Surf Coast Century 100 (SCC100) training plan came and went and no semblance of Ultramarathon fitness existed for Mike. Chemotherapy finished in late June 2017 and SCC100 2017 rolled around in September. Mike tagged along and supported the crew from Melbourne City Runners (MRC).
“So Mike, you here next year and what are you running?” was uttered by more than one MCR member.
So here we are, 2018, and the answer was, yes, Mike will be there. Mike’s standard answer to “which event” has been, “the hundred, well that’s plan A, but there’s a plan B and C” … but there’s really only ever been one plan.
And he did! On Saturday 15 September Mike’s adventures in Ultra Running reached new heights with his first 100km trail run, where he tackled sand, mountains, water, trails, darkness and many other things with his cousin Sean.
Mike completed the Surf Coast Century and raised an incredible $3,177.81 for ANZUP Cancer Trials Group.
Q: How did you find out you had bladder cancer?
A: After passing blood and clots prior to Christmas 2016, I was referred, by my GP, to a Urologist who performed a cystoscopy. The tumour in my bladder was clearly identifiable to him as cancer and a subsequent transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT) and histology of the tumour he had removed confirmed high grade urothelial cancer.
Q: What information did you look at when you were trying to decide what to do?
A: I used online resources from Cancer Council Australia and other reputable cancer agencies and hospitals, from both here and overseas. Mostly I took advice from my oncologist and urologist. I also sought a 2nd opinion from another urologist.
Q: What were your first thoughts about going on a trial?
A: We had discussed the possibility of trials at the first consultation with my oncologist but there was nothing available for me. I had also read about treatment options, including trials, in the online resources I consulted prior to that visit and during my treatment. There was always discussion about accessing trials if they became available and I was eligible. I had no hesitation when my oncologist suggested there was a maintenance trial available to me after my treatment was completed.
Q: What has your experience of the trial been like?
A: My experience has been entirely positive, even though I am on arm B of a randomised trial and not receiving the drug, the standard of monitoring and care is as it would be on the arm receiving the drug. That can’t be bad, at least in my mind. I have a wonderful rapport with the trial team at Ballarat and look forward to seeing them every 4 weeks, with this passion for the work they do to move cancer treatment forward and an appreciation and support they show for participants in the trials.
Q: What advice would you give other people in a similar situation?
A: I would suggest that you discuss the availability of a trial with your treating doctor and if they suggest that one is available, be open to find out more and if there is one suitable for you and your circumstances, go for it.
Q: How did you hear about ANZUP Cancer Trials Group?
A: The Clinical Trials Coordinator at Ballarat Oncology and Haematology, Rosemary, provided a copy of ‘A little below the belt’ magazine for me to read. I was impressed with what I read, and I viewed online after reading, about ANZUP and decided that it was an organisation I’d like to assist.
Q: Wow, just wow! Please tell us how you tackled 100km ultra marathon? It must have been a physically and mentally challenging adventure for you?
A: With much encouragement from friends and family! It was of course very challenging both physically and mentally. Not comparable to anything else I’ve done, including chemotherapy, which was an entirely different type of challenge.
Physically; I probably started to really struggle around 40km, we had some really slippery tracks to contend with about then. We got through to the 50km checkpoint though and seeing our support crew and family lifted my spirits and spurred me on to the next point. Coming to the 70km checkpoint I had decided that I’d pull out as I’d had enough and really didn’t think I could go on, it was dark by now and at times, with just a head torch it was like walking in a tunnel. This was the start of the mental challenge, without a doubt the bigger of the two challenges, because it’s easier to give in to your mind than your body. Our support crew chief came into the course to meet us and walked and talked me through to 70km. A vegan cheese toastie (amazing!) and some banter with the support crew at the 70km aid station lifted my spirits again and off we marched to the next checkpoint and made that just before cut off. Onwards again, with fresh shoes and socks.
I was a little distraught at the next checkpoint though as I thought we’d missed the cut off time. Turns out our crew chief was just encouraging us to get there with time to spare by telling us an earlier due time than the actual due time! I swore a little, or maybe a lot, when I found out.
From 70km onwards there was really no question in mind about finishing, after the crew chief pep talk, it was always going to happen. He’d reminded of what I’d come through to get there since my diagnosis and this experience was really just a walk in the park in comparison. After that, I just decided I wasn’t going to give in to the mental demons and it was onwards to the finish.
Q: What was the highlight of the Surf Coast Century Assault?
A: Without a doubt the finish, not just because I’d made it, but because so many people were there to greet me at the finish. It was 4:00am and my wonderful family and friends were there for me and my daughter was the first to greet me as I crossed the line, which was very emotional.
Q: Any future challenges on the horizon for you. A 200km ultra marathon?
A: Ha-ha! Not at the moment, I’ve recovered really well from the 100, but haven’t set any goals for another event, yet. Maybe a few half marathons and a trail marathon? I’ve always got my eye on the running calendar so I’m sure something will pique my interest in the New Year. Anything less than 100km wouldn’t seem like a challenge though would it?