This Is Why - Russ Baxter
I really hate cancer. I was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix (mucinous adenocarcinoma) on September 30, 2008 during a “routine” colon resection. I woke up in the recovery room after my surgery only to be informed by my surgeon that I had a rare “one in a million” cancer. Needless to say, not a great day. At the time, because of the rarity of the cancer, there was relatively little research and an ongoing debate about the “standard of care” for this disease. Some in the medical community thought at the time that the surgery I was planning to pursue was experimental at best. As a side note, just google HIPEC (hypothermic interperitonial chemotherapy) for the gruesome details but it is known in the appendix cancer community by the acronym MOAS, the Mother of All Surgeries; enough said. I have undergone HIPEC three times in the last ten years combined with a 6 month treatment of chemotherapy and yet the cancer remains; behaving itself for now, but it will never be completely gone and the remaining tumors are growing over time.
I am also a cyclist, having ridden and raced for the better part of the last 45 years. I’ve ridden as much as possible during the last ten years with depressingly long breaks as I recovered from surgery or fended off the effects of chemo. I have to say, cycling, in many ways gave me reason to live (after my loving wife and children, my extended family, my valued colleagues and good friends). When I am on a bike, I am not a cancer patient; I’m a cyclist, I’m a racer, I’m fit and I’m happy.
I’ve been lucky in life. Nearly 30 years of marriage to my wonderful wife, two great sons and a career in public service that has allowed me at times to serve at the highest levels of state government by appointments from three Governors. I love the life I’ve led and continue to look optimistically toward what remains an uncertain future.
As with any journey, there are twists and turns. Most recently, just days after competing in the Charm City Cyclocross races in Baltimore, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and am undergoing treatment now. I refuse to give in. I am still riding, still racing, still in love with life and still hating cancer.
I am sure all cancer patients at times dwell on what might be a difficult future. During those times I remember the words of 2-time Tour de France Champion, Laurent Fignon, who said before his death from cancer, “I don’t fear death, I just don’t want it to happen.”