Friday, September 12, 2014

6 years later...

Just wanted to check in and report that I am still cancer free 6 years after my surgery! If you were just diagnosed and found this blog please know that there is hope for you! I am still going strong, I finished the Spartan obstacle racing "Trifecta" this year finishing a Spartan Beast distance (13+) miles, 30 obstacles) in the mountains of Monterey, CA back in June. Blessings to ALL!

Friday, April 12, 2013

5 Years later...

I can't believe its been 5 years since my diagnosis. Time really does fly by. A lot of positive things have happened since my diagnosis but the best thing is my latest PSA test came back >0% which means I have officially survived 5 years and the chances of recurrence have decreased. I have actually been released by my attending urologist back to a normal annual PSA test from my local physician. I am feeling great these days and I am still running, exercising and I am training to participate in my first Ironman 70.3 Relay in May. I am riding the bike leg of the relay and am really looking forward to getting a taste of the Ironman races. I am also signing up a the Goofy Marathon and a Half for January 2014 which is running a Half Marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday. I really love challenges and this is my next step! Hopefully this site continues to give others hope as I will never forget the day I was diagnosed. It was the darkest day of my life, but reflecting over the past 5 years it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I just regret that it took this life changing event for me to live life without fear and do things I never dreamed I could do or accomplish. God bless you all in whever you are with your journey and always keep the faith! Darren

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Still going STRONG!!

It's been a a while since I posted so I just wanted to give you a quick update. It's been a little over 4 years since my surgery and I am still CANCER FREE!! I still have a few minor issues from the surgery, but nothing that can't be managed. I am still very happy with my decision to have surgery! Since I haven't updated the blog since last year I wanted to let you know that I did complete the 2011 New York City Marathon and completed a sprint triathlon over the summer. I am also training to run two half marathons to close out the 2012. Life is very good and I am blessed everyday!! NEVER GIVE UP!! Darren

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finding a Cure!

1 in 6 American men will be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer this year—More than 32,000men will die from this disease this year alone.

As you can see from my blog, on May 29th, 2008 I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer at age 41. It has been an incredible journey, but after 3+ years I am cancer free! Because I am so blessed I want to make a difference in the lives of others affected by this disease and those who need education about the importance of proactive screening. It’s my mission to continue raising awareness and funds to find a cure for this disease. It’s also an honor to be a part of Team Winter to help raise awareness and funds to find a cure for Prostate Cancer through the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

On November 6th, I will be running in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon to help in the fight against this disease. I have chosen another marathon because that's what it will take to win the battle against Prostate Cancer! The team at the Prostate Cancer Foundation runs a marathon everyday to try and find a cure and I want to join them in their quest.

I am deep into my training for this event and am inspired by the support you have shown me in the past and would appreciate your support once again as I run 26.2 miles for a cure. Thank you for supporting me in my journey and thank you for supporting the Prostate Cancer Foundation with your kind and generous (tax deductable) donation. Together we can make a difference in this world and look forward to carrying you on my shoulders to the finish line!

Click the link below (or cut and paste into your browser) to make a donation:
http://athletes.kintera.org/teamwinter2010/darrenritch
God Bless you ALL!
Darren

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New York City Marathon

Just wanted to give a quick progress report. I went to the doctor last week for my annual physical and ALL is good! I have lost 16lbs since March, blood pressure/pulse rate was great and doctor gave me clearance to run in the NYC Marathon!!

There are only 60 days left to the Marathon and my training is right on schedule. With my pre-race plan, I have been training for 17 weeks and have a little over 8 weeks left. I feel great and am really enjoying the process.

LOOKOUT NYC, I am so blessed!
Darren

Friday, May 27, 2011

3 Years Later...Life is a blessing!

I am only a few days from my 3 year anniversary of my diagnosis of PC Cancer and want to share my progress with everyone. As you read in my last post, I ran a marathon in January and continue to run and exercise to help me stay in shape. I will also be running in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon in November. I am so exited about this race, it will be epic!

Just 3 years ago, my life seemed like it was over. It was still the darkest day in my life to hear those words, you have cancer. You don't know how to act or what to say when you find out, you feel trapped and uncertainty of your future and you think about your family and how important it is to love on them everyday. I thank God for my faith during that time. I knew God was still in control which comforted me. You don't always understand why bad things happen, but knowing him allows you to know that everything will be okay.

So you ask, how are you 3 years later? I can honestly answer that I am doing very well and am in the best shape of my life. I have very little side effects from the surgery, my last PSA a few months ago was untraceable and I am a 3 year survivor! My incontinence is virtually healed, only very slight leakage when running long distances, and the ED is much better and am happy with the outcome. I am 34lbs lighter than 3 years ago and have completed 22 endurance races in that timeframe.

I feel very blessed to have caught my cancer early and thankful for all the positive things that have happened to change my life for the better. I know it's not always the same outcome for others and I continue to pray for you during your journey. I promise to continue to use my platform to educate others, promote awareness for proactive screening and raise money for research.

Life is so short, love your family and friends everyday, bless others and Dream BIG! Don't wait until tomorrow to do the things you have always dreamed about for tomorrow may never come.

I dedicate this post to my son Tyler and my wife of 20 years, Peggy, they are the Loves of my life!

God Bless!
Darren

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marathon Man

It's hard to believe that I just started running 2 years ago and now on January 9th, 2011 I completed the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, FL. I committed early and trained 5 months for the marathon, however it was far from easy. Since this was my first marathon and it was Disney, I planned on enjoying myself and not worry about a time goal. I am so glad I had that I had this attitude for this race because it was a very long day.

It was in the 40's on race morning and excitement was in the air. It was magical and I couldn't wait to take on the challenge. After the gun went off I set out on my journey with confidence. I was running my goal pace and feeling strong through the first 12 miles. I kept telling myself, take one mile at a time and I was executing my race plan to perfection. That is until 12.5 miles into the race, adversity struck.

I was almost at the half marathon split and I got a leg cramp in my left hamstring. I had to stop and stretch it out for a few minutes and then continued on. I made it to 13 miles and another cramp hit. I stopped at the medical tent and had the staff stretch my leg out and after a few minutes I was on my way. The cramps continued the next 5 miles, and they were now in both legs. It was so painful at times and I was becoming frustrated. Then as the race moved on I became worried that I wasn't going to finish. Every time I would go up a hill the cramps would return and I would continue to battle them the remainder of the race.

At mile 19 I developed a very sharp pain in my right knee. As I am standing on the side of the road stretching out cramps in both legs I could barely stand on my right leg because of my knee. At this point God stepped in and sent an angel to help me get past this point. A young lady was walking by with a large bag of ice wrapped on her right knee looked at me bent over on the side of the road and said, "come on, come on, let's go, right now!" I did not even flinch and got up and started walking with her. She was from Connecticut and was really worried about her knee. We encouraged each other and decided to stop on the medical tent at mile 20 to get our knees wrapped. I never saw her again, but I credit her with helping me get through a critical part of the race and pray that she made it to the finish.

I only had 6.2 miles left, but was now walking and trying to run with cramps in both legs and a tightly wrapped right knee that was hurting. I even got cramps under the knee wrapping at some points. At this point the race became about surviving mile to mile. I would jog and walk as fast as I could and then when I couldn't bear the cramps I would stop and try and stretch. I made it to the medical tent at mile 22 and had severe cramps at this point. The staff laid me on a flat lounge chair and was stretching my leg and if I moved the wrong way my other leg would start and one time I fell off the chair because the pain caused by both charlie horses was so severe I couldn't sit still. Once they were under control I drank 2 full bottles of powerade and kept going.

At this point I took out my phone and texted my wife and son and told them I was on trouble and would not be at the finish line near the time I had estimated. They began to text me encouraging words and it helped so much. I also had an inspiration cloth that I tied to my race belt that had names of family and friends affected by cancer and I did not want to let them down. At times I would hold that cloth and pray for strength to finish. Along the way it was encouraging to run/jog/walk/limp through the Disney parks as by standers would call my name and yell encouraging words. One guy even said to me that he was at this point last year and he knew how I felt and he knew I could make it.

I kept on battling the cramps and was in a fight to finish one mile at a time. I was worried about being caught by the end of the race and being taken off the course and I would muster all I had in my to keep moving as fast as possible. When I got to mile 25 I could envision crossing the finish line and having that medal placed around my neck. When I got to 25.5 miles I got really sever cramps in both legs and I had to stop and keep stretching as precious time passed by. I was almost at the breaking point but I took a deep breath and walked with cramps twitching in both legs.

I was so relieved when I made it to mile 26. That was a beautiful sign and I felt tears welling up in my eyes because the battle was almost won. I reached deep down inside and decided to run out the final .2 miles with cramps in all my leg muscles in both legs. When I crossed the finish line all the pain was gone in an instant. I could barely walk, but I had won the battle and beat the odds. Not one time during the race did I ever think about giving up! Out of the 18,000 people that had started only 13,500 finished and I was in that finishing group. It was so great to be reunited with Peggy and Tyler as they so patiently waited for me at the finish, my biggest cheerleaders in life there celebrating this accomplishment with me.

I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here to attempt a marathon and the strength to finish. Facing prostate cancer 2.5 years ago was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it gave me the strength and mental toughness I needed to finish this fight. I am now a Marathon man!

Thank you for all your support during my training and thank you for helping me raise $2,595 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation through Team Winter and Athletes for a Cure.

Life is an incredible journey, don't wait until life happens, go make it happen for you!

God Bless You!
Darren

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ready to Go!

A lot has happened since my last update, so I thought I would catch you up. First, I spent some time in physical therapy at Shand's PT at University of Florida a few months ago for the slight incontinence when running caused by my surgery last December. It went very well and I had a an awesome PT named Vickie. It helped a lot and after lot's of kagals, cutting out caffeine, I am doing much better, not sure I will ever be 100%, but I refuse to let it be a negative. Also, I recently went to my local family doctor for my annual physical and he gave me a clean bill of health. I was also able to go off blood pressure medicine altogether. I had already cut it in half this past year and now I have eliminated it!! As you probably can tell, I was pumped!

I had a great chance to test all the physical therapy in my training for the half marathon as I ran 200 miles in 12 weeks to prepare. On the evening of October 2nd I surpassed another milestone in my life by completing my first half marathon at the inaugural Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Orlando, FL. It's just another wall that was torn down as I live the life of a cancer survivor. Since it was my first I really tried to enjoy the atmosphere and Disney did a great job providing entertainment all along the course. I finished the race in 2 hours 39 minutes and proudly accepted my finisher's medal.

Now its off to tear down the next wall by conquering a full marathon. My training continues and I am excited about the opportunity to wear my Team Winter jersey representing Athletes for a Cure and raising money and awareness for Prostate Cancer, I am READY TO GO!!!

God Bless You!
Darren

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Let's run a MARATHON to STOMP out Prostate Cancer!

As you may have read in my last post I am doing a half-marathon in October and have also committed to doing my first marathon in January at the Disney Marathon in Orlando, FL. Before my cancer I wouldn't have ever even thought about doing a marathon, but cancer has changed my life and I want to continue to give back in some way. It seems a little scary to think about it, but I am committed to raising money for through Team Winter & Athletes for a Cure for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. I have helped raise over $6,000 in the past few years but want to raise the bar by raising $5,000 for my training and efforts in running this marathon. With your help we can do this together, so I will train and run the marathon if you will find it in your heart to make a small tax deductable donation to help me STOMP out Prostate Cancer one step at a time!

If you would like to make a donation please visit personal donation page at:
http://athletes.kintera.org/teamwinter2010/darrenritch

If you would like more information on what the Prostate Cancer Foundation is all about then visit there web site at www.pcf.org

You can follow my training progress on www.strands.com by clicking the "follow my training" button in the right column of my blog.

Thanks for all your support!

God Bless You!
Darren

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2nd Anniversary Update - My Son's Perspective

On May 29th, 2010 it will be the 2nd Anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Its a bitter sweet anniversary becuase its a reminder of the darkest day of my life and on the flip side so much good has come out of my experience. I have met so many great people through my blog and I am in the best shape of my life. I thank God for everyday and have much better clarity on what is important in life.

From a health perspective my BP is normal and pulse has dropped into the high 60's in a relaxed state. My stress level is very low and am really enjoying life. I haven't fully recovered from the incontinence caused by my surgery in December. I am going through physical therapy which has helped and I only have slight leakage when I am running. My PT seams to think I will recover once we are done. The ED has not healed but has not been a problem with the use of medications, etc and a loving wife.

As you know from my previous blog entries that I signed up for a Half Marathon in October, but I have have made the decision to do my first full Marathon in January 2011 at Disney in Orlando. This is a huge committment on my part especially since I have only been a runner for 1.8 years, but I want to do this to create awareness for Prostate Cancer and will be racing for "Team Winter" (www.teamwinter.org). I also want to do this for myself as a tribute to surviving cancer and in the memory of friends and family we have lost to cancer especially for my mother-in-law who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2000 and my father-in-law who lost his battle with cancer in 2003.

My 12 year old son was recently tasked with writing a personal narrative paper for school and he decided to write about his thoughts when I was diagnosed through today. (He was 10 when I was diagnosed). I wanted to share in his words the paper he wrote as it gives you insight of what your family is going through when you are diagnosed with cancer.

Personal Narrative by: Tyler Ritch

Summer 2008. Many would just say, "I remember then! I broke my knee then!" or, "That summer I found $2,000", but that's not how I remember it.

My father went on as a nice man, he carried a little weight, and had a good job. But during 2008's summer he developed prostate cancer. It made him a little less confident and me very anxious.

I didn't know what to expect. I had just lived on, being my normal self. I had some concern, but I knew my father's fate was in the hand's of God. I also knew that my dad was a believer, so if anything went wrong I would once see him again, far away in heaven.

My father, on the other hand, had tiny sparks of confidence. He sort of secretly felt scared, I could see right through him. We as a family prayed for him, especially when he went to surgery.

My very own dad had to go through surgery on June 30th, 2008. His surgeon had experience and could control a robot's arm to carry through the surgery. I always pictured in my head a surgeon reading a manual to robot arm controls and sipping a frosty cold diet coke. That was me trying to be humorous, but I still felt scared. So, we just waited until he came home.

My mom went to Shand's to pick up my father. When he walked in the house (climbed actually) I held all of my emotion back. I said a small hello and just left him. I should have hugged him slower becuase he was in pain.

Later he showed me stitches on his stomach. He expalined that his surgeon took out my father's prostate and luckily the cancer was confined inside of it. He made it through safely, but by a year another problem arose.

After his surgery, he worked an effort to lose weight. He ran, biked and swam a whole triathlon, ran a five kilometer race and one duathlon. But when he went to his doctor's for a checkup, something was wrong with his remains of his prostate area. There was a kind of material from those stitches inside his body. I felt like I was going through the problem all over again.

I actually felt more emotion becuase I was older and more mature. I prayed along with my mom, but I thought that the second time isn't the best time. So I just lived on again with a huge anchor of feelings.

My father survived his second trial when his surgeon blasted his material with a lazer of some sort. He was finally okay.

And so I finally had the ability to feel relief when my father came home okay. I felt glad to see that he lost all his extra weight and ran many more races, adventure races, another triathlon and a 10 kilometer race. He now had so much confidence, he had so much wisdom and many explanations to all my problems. I really think he changed after his two surgeries, becuase he had so much more reason and considerance, it taught me that you shouldn't have to learn to be a good person by almost dying, you should already learn to be nice and considerate to others.

Obviously I was very touched when I read his words. Its so easy to get caught up in the diagnosis/treatment and lose sight of how your family is feeling during the trial. I am so glad he shared this with me, I love him with all my heart and appreciate his support through all this, he has been a trooper!

God Bless You!
Darren

Thursday, February 18, 2010

1.8 Months After Surgery - PSA Results

More good news! I received the results of my PSA last week and the cancer was untraceable, >0.1%. Its been 1.8 months since my surgery and I am so pumped! I went to my urologist for a follow-up from my December surgery and PSA results last week as well. Obviously I was glad about my PSA, but I am still having a slight problem with incontinence since my last surgery. Its not too bad as I am okay until I start to run or exercise. My doctor is sending me for physical therapy to see if we can get things back to normal. I will post my progress as I go through PT. As far as my male function, things have really improved since the last surgery and am really encouraged with the success. On a personal note I ran in the Valentines Day 5k off-road race at the Silver River State Park a few weeks ago and finished in 3rd place in my age group and brought home a trophy! It was a lot of fun and am currently training for my first 10k off-road running event in late March. I also have committed to train for my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) in October and will use this as my fundraising event so stay tuned for details on how you can help. I am so thankful for all the blessings I have received and all the great people I have met through this life changing event.

God Bless!
Darren

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Post Surgery Update - "The Clamps"

Just wanted to give a quick update after my recent surgery on 12/10. The surgery was at the Shand's surgery center was an outpatient surgery to go into my urethra tube and remove was was thought to be a sucher that did not dissolve from my original prostatectomy. The surgery was a littl more involved as the doctor found that 2 plastic clamps used in separating the nerve bundles during my original surgery did not fall away like they were supposed to in post healing and actually were protruding into my urethra tube causing a restriction and also gathering particles from the urine as it passed. Once I was done with the surgery I found out I had to wear the catheter for 5 days instead of overnight. I was given an antibiotic and pain medicine and sent on my way. Its been 2 weeks since the surgery and I can tell a huge difference, the stream is much faster and no more sensitivity. All in all it was a success and I am ready for 2010!

Happy Holidays!
Darren

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My 1.5 Year Post Surgery Update

It is hard to believe that its been one and a half years since my surgery. Time flies by so fast these days. I wanted to provide an update on how I am doing post surgery with surgery side effects and overall general health.

First, my general health is really good. I did 3 5k races, 1 triathlon and 1 duathlon in 2009. I had never done any running events in my life so this should tell you how I am feeling physically. I can run 4 miles right now in less than 40 minutes and am currently training to do an Adventure Race (Trekking, Mountain Biking, Canoeing) in January. I am also planning road cycling and mountain biking races next year in addition to completing a 10k race.

Second, I want to address my surgery side effects. I never fully recovered from the ED issues caused by the surgery and require medication to help in this area. I assume at this point this may not return to full function and will continue praying about the situation. I thank God for an understanding wife and it has not become an issue in our marriage. In fact, our marriage is stronger than ever. As far as incontinence, that has been fine for a long time, however I developed an issue of of having to go to the restroom over 10 times per day and late at night 2-3 times. I thought this would go away since I no longer have a prostate so I visited Dr Parraketil last week at Shand's and he ran a scope in my urethra and found that one of the clamps/sutures used to repair the urethra during the surgery had not dissolved and was protruding into my urethra tube. A stone has formed over the suture and has created a blockage. I will be having surgery in December to have the stone and suture removed. Its a delicate 2 hour outpatient surgery that requires me to be under general anesthesia and wear a catheter a few days afterwards. I wanted to post this in case other folks that have had surgery developed these symptoms.

I do appreciate the emails from around the world and appreciate your encouragement. So as for me 1.5 years post surgery? I am doing GREAT, I am so thankful for everyday, God has given me a second chance and I don't want to blow it.

As far as you, I will continue to pray for each of you that God will comfort you during this season in your life and that you will live everyday like its your last and do something you never thought you could do!

God Bless You!
Darren

Sunday, July 19, 2009

This is NOT Goodbye

In my last post I stated that it would be my last but I have a few more things to say and decided to make this my last post on this blog. I have been inspired over the past few weeks with the effort of Lance Armstrong in the Tour De France. I just finished his book "Lance Armstrong, Its not about the bike" and went through a wave of emotion as I read about his battle with cancer and his courageous return to cycling. The work his foundation is doing for cancer and cancer awareness is incredible and wanted to acknowledge the inspiration it has given me to continue my journey through endurance sports for my cause. I am unable to compete in a triathlon for the remainder of this year due to my elbow injury but I am training for a duathlon and a 10k race by end of 09', and will be training for 2 half-marathons in the 1st qtr of 2010. You can follow my weekly training on my blog or follow me on twitter for my personal/training updates as well. I continue to race for all those affected by cancer, especially prostate cancer and all the families affected by this disease. I also race to create awareness for proactive prostate cancer screening beginning at age 40. If you are 40 years old you should receive a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) as part of your annual physical, its 10 seconds that could save your life.

Thanks again for all your support, and if you just found out that you have prostate cancer, I hope this information brings you comfort. I pray that God will bless you and your family through this journey. Please feel free to email me with any questions or just to tell me your story. I want to bless you in anyway that I can.

Don't forget to look to the left side of the blog and scroll down and follow me on Twitter.

God Bless You ALL, LIVESTRONG, Life is Good!

This is not goodbye,
Darren Ritch
Who do you race for?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Its Been a Year to Remember"

On June 30th I celebrated (yes celebrated) the 1 year anniversary of my surgery to remove prostate cancer from my body. As you have read its been a crazy ride and I thank God for the best possible outcome. I am a new man as a result of this experience. I won't say its been a total cake walk, its mentally tough to hear the words that you have cancer and having major surgery was not easy and I am still dealing with some of side effects. I continue to pray for healing and have faith that it will happen. Its still better than having cancer in my body. In the years to come I will continue my work in creating awareness for the disease and continue racing for the cause.

I want to thank everyone for their support and tell everyone who reads this blog for the first time to "Keep the Faith". This will be my last post on this blog, I am so thankful I did the blog and hope it helped some folks along the way and hope it continues to help others as they search for answers. I will continue to answer emails that come to me from the blog and enjoy hearing from others.

May God Bless You all!
Darren Ritch
Prostate Cancer Survivor and advocate

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One year Anniversary - A Message of Hope

Well, on May 29th it will be the 1st anniversary of my diagnosis of prostate cancer. Its been an unbelievable year, high and lows, many tears along with fears, but all in all I have a lot to be thankful for. I have met so many people that have inspired me and lost some people to this disease that I admired. I finally know how fragile and precious life is really is and am thankful for all my blessings. As far as my health after surgery 11 months ago, I only have issue with my male function that is taking longer to recover and went to the doctor this past week and am working with them on a therapy strategy that will help in recovery. I will continue to have patience and prayer in this area. I thank God for a great loving and supportive wife, son & family, without them it would have been really tough. I am also thankful for the many great people I met over the past year, from my Doctors and Surgeons at Shands Urology Center, to my friends Scott and Greta at Athletes for a Cure, and personal trainer Amber Toole (She helped me accomplish athletic things I never thought I could do), Dave and Kara Deschenes (Dave is my new Triathlon Coach and fellow PC survivor), and Brett Troia (My captain of Team Procure Triathlon team, and fellow PC survivor, http://bretttroia.blogspot.com/) and The Vinecki family (Team Winter), Michael's courageous battle with a rare form of PC and his daughters inspiring story of raising over $100k for prostate cancer research to honor her dad by participating in triathlons at age 9 were so inspiring. There are too many others to list, but I do appreciate you ALL!


So that brings me to the health positives over the past year. I will bullet this out.


1. I lost 31lbs
2. Was able to lower cholesterol to 178 from 220 and stopped medication
3. Was able to cut blood pressure medication in half, and looks like I will be able to stop altogether
4. Full recovery of incontinence after surgery (side effect of surgery)
5. Trained and ran first 5k race of my life and then ran a second 5k
6. Trained and completed first Triathlon of my life (Swim, Bike, Run)
7. Currently training for Sprint Triathlon and Olympic Triathlon (I must be nuts)
8. A renewed outlook on life
9. CANCER FREE

Wow, after listing this out its hard to believe how blessed I was through this trial the past year. I just want to communicate a message of hope for those who are reading this blog for the first time. When you first hear those words "You have Prostate Cancer", its seems like its the end, but in reality its just the beginning of a new life. I don't want to paint a rosy picture of this because its a tough road to go through treatment and some will not win their fight, but you have to stay positive and educated of your situation and make the best of it. Always remember its harder on your family than it is on you because they love you so much and don't have any control over the situation. So spend every ounce of energy and time with the ones you love, because life is precious and short, no matter if you have cancer or not you should give them a hug and kiss EVERYDAY and tell them how much you love them.

I pray for you all each day and wish you the very BEST in your journey, God Bless You!

Life is Good

Darren

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Climb

In less than one month it will be the one year anniversary of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was the 1 in 6 men who will be diagnosed with PC. As I look back in reflection it was an unbelievable year. I am truly blessed because we caught the cancer early and I am cancer free. I have a 95-99% of non-recurrence in the next 5 years and most folks I have talked to that had surgery have gone many years beyond without recurrence. It was definitely a year of highs and lows but through it all God was with me. It has also been a blessing to have such a GREAT family and friends, always encouraging through it all. I also have so many great new friends as a result, from the survivors I have talked/blogged with, folks from Athletes from a Cure and everyone I met through them as well. We also lost friends and folks to this disease and we have to keep fighting for a cure. I personally got a second chance on life, a wake up call on my health. Its still hard to believe that I ran a 5k race and a triathlon and will continue to race for the cause and awareness for proactive screening. (If you would like to follow my training progress and race schedule please go to my new blog; http://www.athleticsaftercancer.blogspot.com/ for the latest updates)

I have been looking for the words to describe this past year and recently I heard a song by Mylie Cyrus called "The Climb" that was as close to what I would say about my life over the past 11 months. I captured the words below because they are so good. I am sure this applies in a lot of peoples lives, but if you are just beginning the journey of being diagnosed with prostate cancer this is a good anthem for you as you begin your journey. May God bless you in your climb!

"THE CLIMB"....

I can almost see it
That dream I'm dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying"You'll never reach it"
Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking
But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb
The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometime may knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, got to be strong
Just keep pushing on'Cause there's always going to be another Mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Call me a Triathlete!

That right! Less than 11 months ago I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer at age 41 and was out of shape, but in less than 10 months since my robotic radical prostatectomy surgery I am now an official "Triathlete". That's right, in the 10 months since my surgery I trained very hard and lost 27lbs pre-surgery, ran a 5k race and completed a super sprint Triathlon. If you would have told me that pre-diagnosis that I would have accomplished those things, I would have told you to talk to the hand! I even went for my 9 month check-up with Dr Parekattil a few days before the race and he said I was doing so well that I only had to see him once a year for a check up and PSA test. I feel FABULOUS! Thanks to all those folks who donated to the Athletes for a Cure/Prostate Cancer Foundation in support of my triathlon. I raised $2850, which far exceeded my goal and my team around about $3500 total for the event. That was totally awesome. God bless you all! Life is Good!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

9 Month PSA Results

I am so relieved today because I just found out my 9 month (since my surgery) PSA came back undetectable, less than zero! I don't know why I was so nervous about the results from this time, its still an emotional thing. I guess I'm still human after all. Also, my first triathlon is in 2.5 weeks and I exceeded my fundraising goal of $2500. Thanks for all the incredible support! Its so nice to be able to blog about good news! For all the folks following my blog and the first timers I want you to NEVER GIVE IN! Embrace your family and friends, appreciate the little things in life, and do something you never thought you would do in your lifetime. Don't focus on the negative, when you peel back all the layers in life, we truly have a lot to be thankful for. We may not understand why things happen sometimes but we have to make the best with what we have been dealt. I trust God has a plan and even though I don't understand why some things happen, I do know that he cares for us. John 3:16. God Bless you ALL! Life is Good!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

9 Month Update

I can't believe that on March 30th it will be the 9 month anniversary of my surgery. It seems like a lifetime ago because of all the incredible things I have had the opportunity to do and fantastic people I have met as a result of my cancer. We have lost some very important folks in that time frame which keeps things in perspective. I will continue my work as an advocate and evangelist for prostate cancer awareness. Proactive screening is so important and I cannot stress how important a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) is beginning at age 40 with your annual physical.

I wanted to give everyone an update on my progress before I leave for vacation. Physically I am in the best shape of my life. Since my surgery I have lost 25lbs, can run 3.1 miles with ease and train 6 days a week (Swimming, Cycling, Running, Weight Training & Karate). My blood pressure had been 105/68 for a month. I will be getting my 6th month PSA test in a few weeks and will post the results. My incontinence is 99.98% better, I rarely have issues. My other male function has been slow to return, but is making progress. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Most other guys I talk with said it took a good year to totally heal so I am being patient. My wife and son have been so great through all this and I am really blessed to have them. God has really blessed my this past 9 months, its been an incredible experience, with highs and lows. I do appreciate all the emails, facebook post and tweets from twitter (see my daily twitter updates on the left column of this blog), you all have been great and I appreciate you helping me spread the word! Life is Good!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Michael Vinecki - Passing of a True Hero

It is with great sadness to inform you that on Thursday March 12th Michael Vinecki has passed on. He was a hero to me because we were around the same age and to see his courage through all of this was amazing. I met Michael and his family (I have Winter's autograph on my hat) last year at the Athletes for a Cure Triathlon and was truly inspired by his story and what his family has done in creating awareness and raising money for prostate cancer research. I was so inspired that I got off the couch after my surgery and ran a 5k race and am training for my first triathlon in April and have raised over $6k of money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He will truly be missed by a lot of people but left behind a wonderful legacy that will help save lives into the future and beyond. Please join me in praying for his family through this difficult time and that he will keep his hand on them as they continue this journey we call life. I promise to keep fighting for the cause in Michael's memory and will "Never Give In".

Here are the arrangements:

Visitation: Michael will be shown at his home on Wednesday March 18, 2009
Address: 514 Camp Ten Road
Gaylord, MI
Time: 3pm-8pm
Visitation will also preceed the Funeral Service at Gaylord St. Mary Cathedral
Date: Thursday, March 19, 2009
Time: 2pm-4pm

Funeral Service at Gaylord St. Mary Cathedral
Date: Thursday, March 19, 2009
Time: 4pm
In lieu of Flowers, a college fund has been established for the Vinecki children through Northwestern Bank. Please contact the Funeral Home for any further details at
989-732-1770

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Join me in "Making a Difference"

Well it's been almost 8 months since my surgery and I am doing very well. From a health standpoint, my incontinence is 99% better and my male functions are making significant progress and I am very pleased with how I feel. I seriously am in the best shape of my life, as you saw I ran my first 5k a few weeks back and am also running in another on March 22nd. If you have read my blog you know that I am training to do my first Triathlon. It will be a super sprint triathlon and its called the St Anthony's Meek and Mighty and will be on April 25th in St Petersburg, FL. I have decided to raise money for the Athletes for a Cure/Prostate Cancer Foundation and registered myself as an athlete so I can raise money for prostate cancer research. I personally had a great outcome with my situation, but others are going through rough times. Because my outcome was so good I want to give back and do something that will help others now and into the future. I am asking each of you to help out with the cause. Every donation counts no matter if its $1 or $10,000 it all goes toward research to fight this disease. Please join me in the fight and together we can make a difference. I again am humbled by all the wonderful post and emails of encouragement and thank you all for you consideration.

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men. Men are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than women are to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Athletes for a Cure, a program of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, is a new fundraising and awareness program to assist individual athletes in their quest to raise money for better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research with a simple, yet urgent goal: to find better treatments and a cure for recurrent prostate cancer.I would appreciate your support and ask you click on this link http://athletes.kintera.org/other/darrenritch?faf=1&e=2193461926 to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Prostate Cancer Foundation .
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Some email systems do not support the use of links and therefore this link may not appear to work. If so, copy and paste the following into your browser: http://athletes.kintera.org/other/darrenritch?faf=1&e=2193461926
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Thank you again for your support!

Your Friend,
Darren

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mission Accomplished!



Its eleven thirty am on Sunday February 11th and I am writing to tell you that today I have accomplished what seemed to me many weeks ago to be a task that I would never complete in my lifetime. On a very cold and chilly morning (30 degrees), I got up at 5:15am to eat some breakfast in preparation for my first 5k race. It was cold in the house and I could have easily laid back down under those warm covers but all I could think about is completing my goal in finishing a 5k race. Peggy and Tyler got up and we drove over to the hobby lobby parking lot and met up with my trainer Amber Toole and my brother Chad at 6:45am. As you read in past blog posts Amber has been my trainer and we trained together for this race. We arrived at the race start line around 6:55am and I felt really bad for Peggy, Tyler and my brother Chad for having to stand in 30 degree weather to support me in the race. My wife and son have been my rock through my training and it was so comforting to know they were there to cheer me on. I was also glad my brother Chad and sister-in-law Linda were there to support me as well. How could I fail with all the loving support. Amber and the rest of us warmed up for about 10 minutes and they called 5 minutes to race start. I was a little concerned because I never trained in weather below 50 degrees and it was 30. I was a little nervous and very excited waiting for the race start. The gun finally sounded and I waved to my family (with the video cameras) as I ran by and we were off. I think the freezing weather numbed my lungs because it never bothered me during the race. Amber and I stayed together during the entire race and it really helped me to have her encouragement. Another surprise was the number of steep hills throughout the race, I had not trained on hills this size and it was a little intimidating at first. Once I made it through the first big hill I began to gain confidence and we continued on the path. Along the way I had to slow the pace slightly to catch my breath but keep pushing on. When we saw the finish line with 2 tenths of a mile left I felt a rush of emotion and when we came around the corner and headed toward the finish line I felt an exhilarating rush of accomplishment run through my body. It was an unbelievable since of accomplishment capped off with a big hug from Peggy and Tyler. I was so thankful for that great hug and became emotional thinking back about everything we have been through together as a family this past 7 months. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with Peggy and Tyler, I couldn't made it through all of this without them.

My goal was to finish the race and I finished in 32:09. That was a personal best throughout my training times. I ran this race to show cancer that it would not defeat me and I also ran for my wife Peggy and son Tyler because they were always there for me and finally I dedicated and ran for everyone who has been affected by prostate cancer, whether you are a survivor, had a family member affected, or have just been diagnosed.

Thanks again for ALL the post and emails of encouragement. I want to leave you with this message. "Your only limits in life are what you say you can't do"

-Darren

Video of my big finish:


video


My Trainer Amber:




Start Line at the Ocala Marathon 5k:





Monday, January 26, 2009

My First 5k Race "Dedicated to You"!

I am currently in a training class for work in Houston, TX and finishing my training for the race in the evenings. I am running my first official 5k race on Sunday (Feb 1st). If you have read my blog up until this point you will know that I have never ran an official race in my life. I just wanted everyone who has read my blog, emailed me and posted comments, whether you have been diagnosed, or had a loved one diagnosed with prostate cancer or had a close friend diagnosed, or lost someone to prostate cancer, I am dedicating my first race to you. I will be praying for each of you the morning of the race and run each step for each of you. Each of you are my source of inspiration and I love each of you and thank God that you came into my life. If I could step into your shoes to ease the pain I would. This is the only way I know to give back by running each step for you. Thank you again for all the inspiration you give me each day and hope that I can give each of you a glimmer of hope and help you realize that life is too short and you have to cherish every second you have on this earth. I am living life without boundaries and it is so liberating! Stay tuned for my next post next week along with pictures and hopefully a video. Take care and I will see you on the back side of my first official 5k race! Life is Good!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

6 Month Update: Happy New Year!

I cannot believe its been six months since my surgery. It seems so long ago. Even though it was one of the darkest moments of my life when I found out about the cancer, it has really changed my life in such a positive way. First, I wouldn't have started this blog and met people from all over the world. I truly appreciate all the emails/posts of encouragement that I have received and also continue to pray for those who have just been diagnosed. You all have helped in my recovery along with great family support. I know I sound repetitive but I really do appreciate everyone. Second, I wouldn't have met the great folks at Athletes for a Cure (Prostate Cancer Foundation). Scott (Executive Director), Greta, Ryan and Bobbi have been so supportive in my efforts to do my first Triathlon. I was so inspired when we volunteered at the 1st annual Athletes for a Cure Triathlon at Walt Disney World in September that it changed my life and now I can run 3 miles now without a problem. Also, Santa brought me my new road bike so I could train for my first Triathlon in April. In fact the day after Christmas I ran 2.5 miles then biked for 4 miles. Before now, I had never ran more than 50 feet without passing out.

I will be registering my Triathlon to raise money for the Athletes for a Cure (Prostate Cancer Foundation) and post that information in the coming weeks. I would appreciate your support and look forward to completing my first Triathlon and raising money for the cause.

As far as my progress in 6 months, I am feeling great (as you can tell). I have minimal issues with incontinence which means I am 99.5% back to normal. My male functions continue to show signs of improvement which is good at the 6 month mark. I have so much more energy now and feel great about life! I really appreciate all my blessings. I am really looking forward to 2009 and continuing to raise awareness and money for Prostate Cancer and Prostate Cancer research.

Please keep those emails and posts coming!

Happy New Year!
Darren

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 "The Year I Started Living"

I wanted to give you an update on my progress before the holidays. First, I am on cloud nine tonight because my trainer, Amber Toole and myself ran 3.4 miles (34:29) this evening. Prior to that the longest distance I have run in my training was 2.7 miles last week. This means I completed the first 5k+ of my life!!! If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would have ran that far I would have told you that you were crazy! My first official 5k race is February 1st at the Ocala Marathon - 5k. I am very excited to complete my first goal of finishing my first official 5k race. I am feeling really well and functions continue to make slight improvement and I have asked Santa for a new bike for Christmas that I will use to complete in my first Triathlon in April, I have tried my best to be a good boy this year!

To everyone following my progress or reading this for the first time, I wanted to wish you a Happy and Safe Holiday Season! Make sure you take the time out of the hustle and bustle to remember the real reason for Christmas. I pray that God will bless each of you who were just diagnosed with Prostate Cancer along with your family, those who are going through a treatment process, all the survivors, and all the families who have lost someone to this disease. I think about you often and promise that I will do all I can to help in this fight!

I am closing the book on 2008, what a year it was for me. I will always remember this season in my life. It was the year I thought my life was over, but it turned out to be the year I started living! I am looking forward to a GREAT 2009, lets go raise some money to fight this disease! Happy New Year!

Keep the Faith, Life is Good!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

5 Month Update "Hero's of Prostate Cancer"

Well the month of November has come to a close and its been 5 months since my surgery. It seems so long ago but I have definitely not forgotten. My family and writing this blog has been a huge source of strength for me. Receiving emails from people around the world, meeting the faces of Prostate Cancer and meeting hero's like Winter Vinecki and Team Winter who are doing such an incredible job raising money for research and creating awareness for this disease. Winter Vinecki (who I wrote about in my previous blogs) has won the 2008 Web MD Health Hero Award. That is an incredible honor and I wanted to congratulate her on the job she is doing, being a 9 year old and taking on this challenge is incredible. Michael her father has been in a tough battle with Prostate Cancer for a while now and I know Winter and the support of his wife and children along with the outpouring of support from people around the world have been a source of strength for him. I personally will continue to pray for him and his family as he continues forward. To read about "Michael's Journey" look at my blog list and click on the "Michael's Journey" link.

In the month of November I turned 42 and was especially thankful during the Thanksgiving holiday this year. We spent time with my family in the smoky mountains and I was thankful we could all be together for another year. I have a lot to be thankful for overall in my life, my incontinence in about 98% better now and I am showing encouraging signs of recovery of my male functions. I have to again stress patience here, the doctor says the average recovery is about 24 months to 48 months. Thank you all again for your support and "Keep the Faith" Life is Good!

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Training Milestone

I just had to post a training milestone that I have never accomplished in my life. If you have read through my blog you know that I am training for a 5k race in February, the first of my life, and also a sprint triathlon in the April time frame. I was inspired to do this to help in my healing and to also let others know that you can come through this and do anything you want to if you have a positive attitude. I have never been in good shape in fact I don't think I have even ran a mile since elementary school. Well this morning I ran 2 miles non stop in 24 minutes 40 seconds. I have been using the program "Couch to a 5k" to help get me to this point. Sorry for my excitement, but if you told me 20 weeks ago that I would have reached this milestone then I would have told you that you were crazy. Keep the faith, Life is Good!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

20 Week Update - "Make A Difference"

I have mixed emotions about the 20 week anniversary since my surgery. First, It seems so surreal, I feel like I was dreaming and It actually didn't happen but when I look in the mirror I have a few little reminders that keep it fresh in my mind. I like to be reminded because it has really defined me as a person and given me the strong will to help others affected by prostate cancer. I am touched by the emails I have received since I created the blog and by the youth of the people affected. It confirms to me that this is not an "older persons" disease. The more of us who come forward the more lives we can save. We truly can band together and make a difference in this world. If you are reading this blog and were diagnosed or if your a survivor I challenge you to step up and make a difference. There are so many ways you can help in the fight. The are many great organizations that you can participate in such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Athletes for a Cure. I am training for a triathlon in the first quarter next year but I am also going to run a 5k race in the Ocala Marathon in February. I am going to register it with Athletes for a Cure and raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. You can read more on the great things the foundation is doing and already done to help find a cure at their web site, http://www.pcf.org/ . I will post information on how to make a donation for my 5k once I register. Also, I met one of the folks in person that I met through my blog this past weekend. He is a super nice guy and was about 6 weeks behind me from his surgery. He is doing very well and will be running a 5k race in a few weeks. It felt so good to see how well he looked and appreciated him making the effort to meet up with me. Meeting great people like this confirms to me that the fight is worth the effort. I am very blessed to be here today and thank God for the opportunity to live life to its fullness. Please join me and lets "Make A Difference" together.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

17 Week Update "Life is Normal"

Well, its been 17 weeks since my surgery and life is getting as close to normal as it can get. My incontinence is just about gone and it seems like it was years ago since the surgery. I am feeling better now than I have ever felt in my life. Life at work is back to normal, I have been on business trips to Atlanta, GA, Denver CO and Washington DC in the past 4 weeks and had no issues. I am in my 4th week of training for a sprint triathlon in the first quarter of 2009 and doing very well. My endurance increases each week and I am really enjoying the workouts. I start training in the pool tomorrow and will be adding the bike in the next few weeks. My wife and I hosted a Halloween pirate theme party at our house last weekend and had about 30 people over. I decorated the house with a pirate theme and everyone dressed up as pirates. We had a blast and everyone looked great. I carried the pirate theme over and created a haunted pirate graveyard in most of the downstairs for the trick or treaters on Halloween night. We did one last year and it was great. My son and I had a blast together creating the props and I was impressed with his creativity. My wife and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on October 19th. We didn't do much, just all hung out together as a family. We are doing our anniversary celebration this weekend by attending the Florida vs Georgia football game in Jacksonville, FL and then staying in St Augustine, FL a few nights afterwards. St Augustine is one of my favorite cities in Florida. As you can see my life is back to normal. For those of you around the world that are reading my blog and communicating with me, I want you to know that being diagnosed is not the end of the world. You have so many choices now that can save your life. I thank God everyday for another opportunity to breathe and for the renewed perspective on life. Whether you have just been diagnosed or your going through your treatment I want you to know that I care about each of you and know what your going through. Don't be afraid to share your story. The more of us who speak up about this disease the more awareness we create and the more lives we can save. Hang in there, Life really is good! And for those of you who haven't been proactive in your screening now is the time to make that appointment. It could save your life!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Conquer Prostate Cancer "The Book"

I wanted to share with everyone a book that was released on October 16th named "Conquer Prostate Cancer" by Rabbi Ed Weinsberg with Dr. Robert Carey and Dr. David Cauder. Rabbi Ed found my blog several weeks ago and asked if he could use my blog as bonus material when you order his book. I gladly volunteered my blog so that it may touch others to infinity and beyond. The book is an account of Rabbi Ed and his wife's experience with Prostate Cancer and the options he chose as a treatment. His Doctor even has an account in the book as well. I must say that once I started reading this book I could not put it down. It touched me through and through and I wish I had a book like this when I first found out that I had prostate cancer. It does a great job of laying out treatment options and side effects. Rabbi Ed did a wonderful job and I appreciate him being so open and honest with his own personal story it truly touched me. I do not receive any proceeds for using my blog with the book and highly recommend it if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Life is Good!

Here are some important links:

Conquer Prostate Cancer - the book
http://conquerprostatecancernow.typepad.com/lp/
Direct link to the book's page on Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982012101/?tag=conqproscan00-20
Conquer Prostate Cancer Now -- the blog
http://www.ConquerProstateCancerNow.com

Thursday, October 9, 2008

15 Week Update - The Checkups

Its hard to believe that next Monday it will be 15 weeks since my surgery. It has gone by so fast and some days it doesn't feel like it even happened. In my 14th week I had to follow-up doctor appointments. These are the first since I had the catheter removed 12 weeks ago. The first appointment was with my family physician. She is the PA (Physicians Assistant) in the office and is very smart. She went over the results of my blood test with me, which turned out to be great. My cholesterol, triglycerides numbers were are in the normal range and my health overall is better than it was before I had surgery. She even gave me permission to train for a 3k run and sprint triathlon. I left with a big smile on my face! My second appointment was with my surgeon, Dr. Parekettil. He was very pleased with my progress and gave me some new medications to try for my male functions while they are healing. He reminded me that it takes patience in this area as the healing process continues. My incontinence is just about gone (97% normal) and I am close to being back to normal. He also said my PSA was untraceable which was again confirmation that I am cancer-free. Thank God! Before I left he also gave me permission to train for my events as well and said I didn't have to come back and see him for 6 months. That was great news considering they usually make you come back every 3 months for the first year. I am now off to train for a 3k run and then on the the sprint triathlon. I have been training for a few weeks now and am getting stronger. I have really enjoyed the training and feel better physically than I have most of my life. My message to everyone is to never give up, have faith and be positive because we have so much to be thankful for. Life is Good!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

12 Week Update - Athletes for a Cure Triathlon

Its hard to believe that 12 weeks have passed since my surgery, it seems like years ago. I am doing very well now and traveled to Atlanta last week on business. That was my first trip since my surgery and it was great seeing some of my team and the folks I have worked with for years in Atlanta. The support was overwhelming and I am so thankful for my team and all the folks at work that gave me encouragement while I was there. I am traveling to Denver, CO next week and look forward to seeing the remainder of the team while I am there. My incontinence is nearly gone and I am using less that one pad per day. Staying persistent with my kegal exercises has helped improve my results dramatically. My male functions are improving and I am ahead of schedule. Prayer and patience is the key here.

This past weekend Peggy and I traveled to Orlando, FL to volunteer at the "Athletes for a Cure Triathlon" (Prostate Cancer Foundation) at Walt Disney World, Fort Wilderness. First, let me say how awesome it was to have Peggy with my for support. She has been my rock through this experience and I really appreciate her. She is my best friend and I love her with all my heart! It was great weather for the event and we met a lot a great people. As you have read in my previous blogs, Lori and Michael Bredemeier were to compete in the triathlon to raise money and awareness for this disease. Due to an injury Lori was unable to compete in the event so she made Michael go at it alone. He did a great job finishing the event and I am not sure how he was still standing after the 1 mile swim, 28 mile bike ride and 6.2 mile run. I really appreciate Michael and Lori taking donations for the foundation in support of me. I wish there were more people like them in this world. I also want to thank once again all those people who donated money to the foundation in my honor. It means a lot and will go for a great cause. We met some really inspiring people this weekend. There was a man who was 64 years old who has survived 6 different types of cancer including prostate cancer 2 years ago that completed the triathlon. What an inspiration he was. There was also 9 year old Winter Vinecki, (pictured below) her father Michael was diagnosed with a rare form of prostate cancer at age 40 and was heading in for his 9th surgery after the event. I had a chance to meet him over the weekend and all I can remember is his upbeat attitude and constant smiling, he was a true inspiration. His wife also competed and completed the triathlon as well. His daughter Winter raised over $31,000 of the $100,000 raised from the event to for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Winter competed in the children's duathlon on Saturday and competed and completed the Triathlon on Sunday. She is an amazing kid. I also met several other guys who were in there late 30's and early 40's that are survivors. These guys had robotic surgery like me and it was great to hear that all of their functions are now normal. We all have the same goal: How can we change the face of this disease? It's not an "older man" disease anymore. This weekend was so inspiring, talking to the survivors and seeing all the athletes compete. I was truly touched and have committed to competing in a sprint Triathlon next year so I can raise money as well. I will leave you with one assignment, take time today to hug your family members and tell them how much you love them, Life is Good!

Pictures from the Event:



Michael & Lori Bredemeier


Michael just completed the triathlon, their team raised $3,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation









Winter Vinecki (9years old)

She raised over $31,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and completed the childrens duathlon and triathlon (1 mile swim, 28 bike, 6.2 run), amazing!








Athletes for a Cure Booth

The Volunteer Crew (Left to Right)
Emily, Bobbi (event coordinator), Peggy (wife) and Jan (fellow AT&T employee)

Darren, not seen...taking the picture

Also not pictured is Ryan Link, he was the Project Manager (Athletes for a Cure) for the event and I appreciate his support, the event was great!




Darren (Me) and Lori Bredemeier


Lori is my fellow co-worker who helped raise money in support of me when she found out I was diagnosed.


We are patiently waiting for Michael to finish the event.

Monday, September 8, 2008

PSA Results

I received great news today, my PSA test was less than 0.1 which confirms that I am cancer free (AWESOME) after my surgery. I thank God for each day and especially today. I will continue my close screening in the next 3 months and in the coming years, but I am thankful for my healing. It has been an incredible journey but I am a much stronger person as a result. My continued mission is to help others who may have just found out they have this disease and also educate men on the importance of proactive screening, because it could save your life!

My wife and I will be in Orlando, FL in two weeks volunteering at the "Athletes for a Cure" Triathlon (Prostate Cancer Foundation) Event. I will be taking pictures and will blog my experience. It's great to see the athletes working hard to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. If you would like to help in the fight against Prostate Cancer, please go to the link below. Your help is greatly appreciated! I am seriously considering training for this event for next year..."If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right"...Henry Ford

Keep the faith and don't ever give up!

http://AFACTri.kintera.org/loriandmichael

Sunday, September 7, 2008

10 Week Update - "First PSA, Ocala Magazine"

Its hard to believe it but tomorrow will be 10 weeks since my surgery. I am a little nervous for Monday to come because I should get the results of my first PSA test since my surgery. I do feel very confident that the results will come back negative especially since I got a good report on the final pathology report, but there is something about waiting for that first confirmation. Its like having a small monkey on your back, its not to heavy but you can feel it there. I'm thankful I am on the backside of this journey and look forward to a long life ahead. I will post the results as soon as I find out. Thanks again for all emails, thoughts, and prayers, I am truly blessed to have such great support, it has been a source of strength for me throughout this journey.

I also wanted everyone to know that the September issue of "Ocala Magazine" has printed an article on my blog. The article turned out great and they also included some other great information as well. If you would like to view the article online go to www.ocalamagazine.com and click on "This Months Features" and scroll down to "Pulse". Please share with others, its my mission to educate others about proactive screening for early detection.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

9 Week Update "Life is Good"

It's hard to believe that 9 weeks have passed since my surgery. In fact, it doesn't seem like I went through the surgery and all the stress associated with prostate cancer. My life is almost completely normal at this point. I am exercising on a regular basis without any pain (other than sore muscles) and I am back to work full force and have 4 business trips out of state scheduled in September and October. I have also been having some fun. I hired a fishing guide (Captain Rick Muldrow, out of Yankeetown, FL) about 3 weeks ago and my son and I went saltwater fishing on the flats in Crystal River (Gulf of Mexico). We had a blast and caught about 30 + fish in 4 hours and Tyler caught the biggest fish of the day, a 24" 5lb Red Fish (Shown in picture with Captain Rick), but I caught the most fish and we also caught 4 sting rays. We took the motorhome (we have a permanent RV spot in the Gator RV tailgating lot) up to Gainesville, FL and tailgated at the first Gator football game last weekend and I made it to the end of the 1st quarter and watched the rest of the game from the air conditioned RV. My son sat with me at the game and it was too hot for him so we left. The weekend before, my wife and I went on a trip to Orlando to relax and have some fun. As you can see my life is back to normal, and I am getting better control over my incontinence. I have been doing my kegal exercises (to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles) 30 minutes a day every day and I am only using 1.5 depend guards a day now. On this pace I think I will be close to having full control of the incontinence by the end of October. On the male functions, I am on schedule but this will take time. It could take up to a year to be completely healed, so again, great family support, patience, positive attitude and faith will take me through as it has through my first 9 weeks, "Life is Good".

Monday, August 11, 2008

6 Week Update

Its been 6 weeks since my surgery and wanted to provide an update. I am doing great and am back in full swing at work. I am still walking 2-3 miles 5 times a week with no problems and plan on walking further in the coming weeks. I took a working vacation last week and went to Georgia to see family and drove the motor home over 800 miles without any issues. It was great seeing family we hadn't seen in a while. As far as my incontinence, I still have about 80% control and see a tiny improvement each week. I am only using 3 pads per day. I have an appointment with a local physical therapist next week to work on the pelvic floor muscles so I can make sure I am using the correct technique to strengthen my muscles. The healing process should speed up once I strengthen those muscles. For the male function I am ahead of schedule and am being patient with the healing process. I am feeling very good physically at this point and actually started back with our personal trainer, Amber Toole, today. It was great working out and I think Amber gave me a little break since it was the first time since my surgery. It was very encouraging to make it through the 1 hour workout without any issues. Amber is a great personal trainer and a great person and I really appreciated her support. (Check out her web site http://www.thetrainingtoole.com/ ). I am even considering training (with Ambers help) for next years "Athletes for a Cure Triathlon" at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL to support the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Not sure if I have it in me, but I am motivated for the cause. Without my faith and my great support of my wife and family, I don't think I would be this far along in my recovery. Its great to get up every morning and hear the birds sing and see the sun shining. I have a lot to be thankful for!

Amber Toole and Me after the workout












Friday, July 25, 2008

10 seconds that could save your life

This message is for all the guys out there who are afraid to get a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) as part of their annual physical beginning at age 40. I was one of those guys. My family physician asked me in my annual physical at age 40 if I wanted a DRE and I told him that I would have my urologist do it. I knew that it wouldn't happen because I was not comfortable with a doctor doing the procedure. Since my diagnosis, I have heard this recurring theme from men everywhere. Well obviously I have changed my mind because of my situation. Luckily I was having other symptoms that sent me to the urologist and he performed the DRE as part of the diagnostics. I had no choice to say no. The rest is history. I am now an advocate for the DRE because it was 10 seconds that saved my life. That's right, it only lasted 10 seconds and it was a little uncomfortable, but it's the way they discovered my prostate cancer. (You actually need a biopsy to confirm). The PSA blood test was within normal range and if I had only done the PSA I would still have the cancer in my body today instead of being cured. If I didn't have other issues that caused me to go to the urologist, and followed the American Cancer Society guidelines, which recommend a PSA and DRE at age 50 if you have no prior family history of prostate cancer, I would have given the cancer 9 more years to advance. Finding it at this early age gave me plenty of options rather than waiting. There is some controversy around radical treatment options for prostate cancer, some people say you should wait (watchful waiting) because this type of cancer is slow growing and it could take many years for it to grow. I personally chose the radical prostatectomy (removal) because I could not take the mental anguish of knowing I have cancer in my body. I felt like I didn't want to give the cancer an opportunity to grow and possibly spread outside the prostate. Nobody could guarantee that it wouldn't if I waited. I am also young enough to recover from surgery quicker and have a higher chance of a quicker recovery from the side effects of the surgery. In fact I am seeing a big improvement in my side effects already and it's not quite been 4 weeks since the surgery. I do want to say that every situation is different and you should consult your physician for all your options. In closing I am hoping that all men who read this will understand the importance of getting a physical each year especially starting at age 40 and make sure you include a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) as part of your physical, it's 10 seconds that could save your life.

Here are the screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org

The American Cancer Society believes that doctors should offer the PSA blood test and DRE (digital rectal exam) yearly, beginning at age 50 to men who do not have any major medical problems and can be expected to live at least 10 more years. Men at high risk should begin testing at age 45. Men at high risk include African American men and men who have a close relative (father, brother, or son) who had prostate cancer before age 65.
Men at even higher risk (because they have several close relatives with prostate cancer at an early age) could begin testing at age 40. Depending on the results of the first tests, they might not need more testing until age 45.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

3 Week Update

Well tomorrow will be 3 weeks since my surgery and I wanted to provide an update on how I am feeling. I have had the catheter out since last Tuesday and yesterday I have finally started to feel normal with limited pain. The tightness from the surgery is 98% gone and I am able to walk about 2 miles comfortably. When the catheter came out I didn't have much control of the incontinence which was expected but a little unnerving for a few days as I was adjusting but I am seeing a slight improvement as each day passes. When I coach people at work I always tell folks that you have to have patience with everything you are doing including your goals and I am now getting to practice what I preach. My goal is to get total control over my incontinence quickly but realize that I need to be patient and do what the doctors tell me and trust in God. Other than that I am trying to get back to a normal life, I have started driving a little and start back to work on Monday. It will be nice to get back to a daily routine.

I also wanted to post a picture of me (less 13lbs post-surgery), my surgeon and ARNP. We took this picture last Tuesday. I want to say that my experience at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida was incredible. Through the entire process I had a great experience from people who cared in every department I came in contact and the process ran like a finally tuned machine. I would recommend Shands Urology to everyone. I especially want to thank my doctor and surgeon, Dr. Sijo J. Parekattil, M.D (pictured on the right below). His bed side manner was incredible and I appreciate all the time he took to explain everything to me in detail and terms I could understand, and really appreciate his skill in surgery (I am healing very well!). I am very impressed with him. I could not have been in better hands. I also wanted to thank the ARNP/Robotics Clinics Coordinator, Lisa Meyer. (pictured on the left below) Her compassion, availability and bed side manner are equally impressive and Peggy and I appreciate everything she has done for us during this entire process. Until next time...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Small Setback and Great News!

I made it back from my Tuesday appointment and had a small setback and also received some great news from the final pathology report. First, I had a cystography done at the radiology department to see if I had any leaks from the surgery. (Meaning where they reconnected the uretha tube after removing the prostate) I basically laid down on a flat table while they put the scanner over my abdomen. Then they used my foli catheter to inject some type of contrast into my bladder. They did this until my bladder filled up while watching the monitor for leaks. Unfortunately they found a small leak during the test. This was a small setback because I was not allowed to have the catheter removed until I was healed. I was so looking forward to having it removed today. The doctor said I had to wear it another week. That was a real downer because of the discomfort it has caused. I was also there to talk with the doctor about my final pathology report. This is the final dissection of the entire prostate after its removed to determine the extent of the cancer along with final staging. I soon forgot about the minor setback as the doctor told us that the final report showed no signs of cancer outside of the prostate which meant that I was considered cancer free, a true survivor. When Peggy and I heard these words we both grinned at each other from ear to ear, but of course Peggy wanted the documented proof before we left the office. We both thanked God and nothing else mattered at this point. All those prayers were answered and I am so thankful. Its so hard to describe how this felt thinking back on all the emotional highs and lows we have been through over the past few months, but I have a renewed outlook on life and appreciate every moment. Its a subtle reminder of how short and precious life truly is.

I wanted to post the actual verbiage from the final pathology report for those of you who might be going through this as a comparative:

Gleason Score: 3+3 = 6
Tumor involves the right posterior lobe
Percent of prostate gland involved by tumor = <5%>
Extraprostatic extension: Absent
Margins: Specimens margins free of tumor
Angiolymphatic invasion: Absent
Seminal vesicle invasion: Absent
Pathologic staging: pT2a NX MX
pT2a: Organ confined, Unilateral, involving one-half of 1 lobe or less

To get more information please go to the following links:

Information on Gleason Score:
http://www.phoenix5.org/glossary/Gleason_Score.html

Information on Stages/Staging of Prostate Cancer:
http://www.phoenix5.org/staging.html

In the coming weeks I will be going to appointments that include removal of the catheter, and then rehab appointments for incontinence and male sexual function. These updates will not be as detailed, but I will post along with my first PSA test at my 3 months appointment. This is important in follow-up monitoring. Thanks again for all the thoughts and prayers over the past few months, it has been uplifting to know how many people care and appreciate each of you!

Thanks!
Darren

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Week After

Okay its been a week since my surgery and it really wasn't what I expected. Time stood still and the toll of the week has begun to show. I've lost 13lbs which is great but would have liked to lose it on my own terms. I am also looking a little pale. I will be back at the beach when this is over working to fix that!. I have been wearing a catheter for the week and hope it will come out in my Tuesday appointment. This is the source of a lot of pain (bladder spasms), and its affecting my sleep along with the tightness in my abdomen and can only lay one way which is uncomfortable. I haven't slept much the entire week and have moved all over the house looking for a comfortable spot to rest. I am taking so many meds that we have kept the local drug store in business for the remainder of the year. I have 1 antibiotic, 1 anti bladder spasm, 2 stool softeners, and 1 pain killer. Its funny the side effects from some meds counter the other meds, its a delicate balance. I have been doing good walking this week. I have made it down the block several times. It's actually funny because I was too tired to change my catheter bag (to a leg bag to hide) so when I was walking, Peggy would come along and put my bag into a beach bag and walk along side of me. Not sure what the neighbors thought about it, but it was a good "funniest home video" moment. Also I wanted to note ALL the great love and support from my family and friends during the past week. During this week we had my work (leadership team) send a ham from Heavenly Ham and gift certificates from a local ice cream shop, my parents also made homemade vegetable soup and one of my neighbors made home made chicken and dumplings. Doesn't seem like I could lose 13 pounds with all this great cooking, but I had to pace myself and was able to eat a little of each. It really helped Peggy not to have to worry about cooking during this week, she has had her hands full with me and Tyler. I also wanted to say how thankful I am for Peggy and Tyler. Peggy has been so great helping me and has not complained at all. Tyler has also been helping me get around and has made things easier. Thanks again for all the prayers, it has really helped me in this difficult time and its very comforting to know that the prayers are coming from all over the country! Even though this was a tough week I really am starting to feel better and look forward to getting back to normal. I have an appointment on Tuesday to get a "Cystogram" which is basically to see if my urethra tube is healing after the surgery to determine if I can have the catheter removed. I will also get the results of my final pathology report which is the final staging of the cancer. I am praying for great results and will let you know...