How to Train/Exercise Without a Stomach

A fellow stomachless friend reached out to me asking me about how I got back into training. So – I wanted to share how it worked for me. Keep in mind that everyone’s recovery is different. I would encourage you not to get frustrated, go slow, and stay patient.

I had my total gastrectomy on Jan 6th and ran my first mile Feb 16th and finished 4th in a Sprint Triathlon May 20th.  It’s also worth mentioning, through over 10 events, I scored my 2nd best time.

I sound “braggy”…. But – the reason I share this is because I remember early January feeling much doubt and not sure if I would ever run again. So, I share this to provide hope that you can still live a fantastic exciting life without a stomach.

Please don’t take this as gospel – meaning – this isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different. Go slow and listen to your body. When in doubt, take a day off and rest. Also – please note that recovery is much more intense post opp. Example – I used to work out 6 days a week. Now – I can currently work out 3 days a week or so.

After about two weeks after the surgery, I started walking a mile or so every other day. Then, I would walk a mile, two days in a row, followed by a day off. Then 1.5 miles, or 2 miles. I would then increase the speed of my walks. I would build up to about an 18min/mile pace, then 16min mile pace, then 14 min mile pace. I would walk slow for a mile, then speed up to 14min mile pace (feels like your speed walking) and I would do that for a mile or so, then slow back down to normal walking pace. After you do that for a few weeks, you should feel like you either need to keep doing it, or you feel like it’s too easy and you’re ready for a jog. Make sure you warm up well – then job for a few minutes. Feel your body. If it hurts, go back to walking, if it doesn’t, keep jogging for a mile or so. They key is to take it easy and don’t overdo it. Your body will respond very well if you lightly train and take recovery days seriously. I kept it that way and in no time – I was up to running 4 miles (April 3rd). My pace is much slower, but it feels so amazing to go out and run knowing everything we have been through.

Swimming was a bit uncomfortable for some time. Since I had open surgery, the healing takes a while. It wasn’t until April 20th that I was able to swim 1,500 meters without pain. It’s still tight when I first start swimming, but it feels fine after a few minutes of warm up.

Nutrition during training:

I struggled with drinking water early on. Strangely enough, once my heart rate goes up and I sweat a bit – I can drink much more easily. I don’t even really think about it when I drink while training. Same is true with my sugar drinks while training. They have not given me issues assuming I “need” them due to hard effort. While you introduce “nutrition” on your longer sessions, be cautious and don’t overdo it. Perhaps sip on your drink one day at home to ensure it will sit well.  Your body will also change quickly.  Example: I used to drink Gatorade G2 the first few weeks after surgery.  Now – it can’t drink it as it makes me run to the bathroom. Not sure what changed – but it’s a no go. Gatorade Endurance gives me no issues, but I only drink it during training sessions.

My goal is to do a full Ironman in the next couple of years. Stay tuned for more details during the journey! If you have questions – message me on Twitter https://twitter.com/GoWithoutYoGut

5/20/2018 – Seventeen Weeks Post Total Gastrectomy

Hey Ya’ll. I just finished a Sprint Triathlon. I came in 4th out of 26 in my age group. Crazy – I posted my 2nd fastest time! That means, I beat out 9 other Triathlons where I had my stomach.  I’m beyond happy with the race as I gave hard effort the entire time. I’m looking forward to completing a few more of these and further increase my fitness.  I’m toying with the idea of doing a full Ironman in the next few years. Stay tuned!

10/21/2017 Ironman 70.3 Wilmington, NC 2017

We have a rough draft of who is staying with us in the hospital/hotel for recovery, and who will be keeping the kiddos.  We have great support from family and friends. Also, work has been a huge blessing as I’m able to take short-term disability for the 6-8 weeks (hopefully) of recovery.  Getting the endoscopy scheduled around the holidays has been a challenge. Still working on that. Some places are booked two months out. It’s crazy.

Ironman 70.3 Wilmington 10/21/2017:

The Ironman 70.3 in Wilmington NC was absolutely amazing.  It was a tough race, but an incredible experience. I had been training for most of the year and it all ended with a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run. My time was 5 hours and 37 minutes. I was 52 out of 100 in my age group. Certainly nothing incredible from a time standpoint, but I was very happy to enjoy the race and complete it without issues. The weather was amazing, the crowd and volunteers were perfect.  The Ironman brand knows how to put on a great race. It will not be my last, but it will be my last with a stomach.

 

 

10/18/2017 – Pre Ironman 70.3

Life and circumstances are changing quickly. Since last week, we spoke to arguably the best surgeon who specialized with HDGC (Sam Yoon from Sloan Kettering in NYC). Thankfully, the hospital is in-network so I was able to book an appointment directly with his office. Thus, I have an appointment for a prophylactic total gastrectomy for Jan 6th, 2018. That’s 80 days away. Which doesn’t seem very far from now. I have to get an upper endoscopy in November and I’m praying the results are negative and Dr. Yoon can proceed as planned.

I felt really good after speaking with Dr. Yoon. As of last week, he has conducted 51 HDGC prophylactic total gastrectomies and countless TG’s from cancer patients.  His results are very good and his name is referenced in nearly every HDGC documentation/medical guidelines I have reviewed.

People keep asking me, “how are you doing”?  However, I’m struggling to find emotions for this whole thing. I’m more in reaction mode as I feel I don’t have a choice other than to have my stomach removed. Thus, I have to take steps in the right direction.  I literally can’t imagine how I’m going to feel when I get in NYC and lay on the operation table. I have anxiety just thinking about it.

I also didn’t understand how expensive this whole thing will be. Airfare and hotel alone will be more than $3,500. It will also max out my deductible ($10,000) and who knows what else.  Again, I don’t have a choice.

On a different note, I’m competing in my first Ironman 70.3 event this weekend in Wilmington NC. It should be awesome and I’m sure I’ll have to push through some uncomfortable feelings to finish the race with a respectable time. (1.2M swim, 56M bike, 13.1M run). I’m going up with several friends from church.

Thanks for reading. This is going to be an interesting next few months.

 

10/8/2017 – Kiawah Island Triathlon

I just finished an Olympic distance triathlon at Kiawah Island, SC. My time was about 9 min slower than my goal but the waters (ocean swim) were super rough which made the swim very hard for me (motion sickness). The bike part was great and I improved from last year. The run was brutal as the heat was 90ish degrees with 95% humidity. So, the heat index was 101. I just couldn’t run fast without feeling like I was going to pass out.

Last week was bizarre. That is the only way I know how to explain it. I felt a strange peace about the genetic testing so when the Genetic Counselor (GC) told me I tested positive for CDH1 Gene Mutation, I didn’t know what to say.  I also had been telling my wife, Melissa, to not read up on CDH1 Gene Mutation as the information out there was scary and we didn’t need to rush into knowing anything until we found out if I was positive/negative. I thought that was a good plan, but maybe not. Now she is playing catch up but seems to be in great spirits.

We have an appointment with the surgical oncologist on Wednesday, which I’m happy I didn’t have to wait long. I did learn through a connection that he does have at least one experience with HDGC and CDH1 Gene Mutation. That is important as I start this journey because HDGC is not common so I want to get advice from those who have seen it the most.

If you want to learn more about HDGC and my CDH1 Gene Mutation, you can learn more at the page called “Learn about HDGC” at the top right of this website.

Thanks for reading,

 

10/4/2017 – Learned I have the CDH1 Gene Mutation

10/4/2017 – Learned I have the CDH1 Gene Mutation
I learned I’m a carrier of the CDH1 Gene Mutation. Learn more here: https://www.nostomachforcancer.org/about/hereditary-diffuse-gastric-cancer The same exact gene mutation that killed two of Mom’s cousins and that Mom and my Uncle have.  It’s most likely the same thing that killed my other Uncle in 1990, but we will never know for sure. All the things point to it though (rare cancer, undetectable until very late, etc).
I’m still processing everything and because there isn’t a super strong history of early onset, I don’t know if anything will change in the short term. I’m going to try and figure out how to eat much more healthy to prevent any cancer growth in my body. (Update – I now know this is pointless based on the type of disease. A healthy diet doesn’t prevent cancer from forming based on the gene mutation).
My biggest concern, and as I feared, my wife is very upset.  She is sad and concerned. I totally understand. I feel kind of emotionless at this point. She mentioned the kids (we have three), and how they might be impacted. I get it. It’s a lot to take in. I’m just trying to take one step at a time. The next step is to meet with the local surgical oncologist and listen to his recommendations. I wonder if he has ever seen this before? I’m going to try to do some research and figure out who has the most research out there. I need to figure out how to be there for her.
Listen, I want to be cautious and safe but I’m feeling really good at 32. I’m about to finish a half-ironman which does require a good amount of fitness (1.2m swim, 56m bike, and 13.1m run). I’m not saying that I’m immune or anything, but because my family history seems to show onset in the 60’s in most cases, I don’t believe I have to make drastic changes in my life just yet. (Update – I now know this is inaccurate and the CDH1 Gene Mutation is different for everyone. There is no pattern with onset age, but – the gene mutation is creating cancerous cells. I just don’t know how many or how much).