Thursday, January 1, 2004

My Newest Favorite Color - Yellow

© 2004 By Dr. Tim Maggs

One year ago, while chatting with my favorite 3 year old on the planet, Timmy Maggs, jr., he told me his favorite color was blue. I looked at him with a little amazement, and said, “T, I don’t even know what my favorite color is. How do you know yours”? Without hesitation, Timmy said, “It’s orange”. Oookay.

Early on in this year’s Tour de France, caught my interest. After all, I’d read Lance’s 2 books, It’s Not About the Bike and Every Second Counts. Both electrified my internal juices, as here was a human being who went right to the edge. I can’t imagine anyone getting closer……..and coming back.

When his surgeon, an elderly, bow-tied fellow, was asked what he told Lance after getting all test results back, “I told Lance he had a 20% chance to live. Actually, he had a 0% chance, but I had to give him some hope”.


And, here we had Lance Armstrong once again riding in the Tour de France. It was almost surreal, maybe even unreal, like 1 plus 1 = 7. Just didn’t make sense. Now, as Lance tries for not 1, not 2, not 3, 4, or 5 victories, but number 6, he stands up in front of the world and asks for something. Not for him, not for his profit. He asks for donations to the very industry that brought him back from death row, the American Cancer Society.

Let me say right here, I’ve been a tad skeptical of the ACS for most of my life. I just can’t get by the fact that so many Americans lead very unhealthy lives, and most marketing done out there is about unhealthy foods, unhealthy lifestyles, and then all the different drugs, surgeries and radiations that can rid you of reminders that you’re doing the wrong thing. So, for 25 years, I’ve ignored all requests by the ACS.

But, when was advertised during the Tour, I couldn’t connect soon enough. I couldn’t order enough yellow bracelets fast enough to show and proclaim my support for Lance. My personal feelings for the ACS were insignificant, irrelevant. There was nowhere in my mind that my feelings could even begin to entertain having an opinion on this thing. Lance had returned from his journey, had come back and was on the verge of doing something no other human being had ever done, and I was now being asked to either support it or turn the channel.

Multiple times, I went online to order 100 bracelets for friends and patients, but it just wouldn’t go through. I tried and tried, but it didn’t happen. Universal law states that human beings want more of what they can’t have, and this law proved truer than true here. After repeated failures, I accepted the fact I would try tomorrow.

As my family arrived home that evening from a brief shopping trip, my oldest son John walked in and said, “Dad, I bought this for you”. I couldn’t believe it when he pulled out of his bag a yellow bracelet. At that moment in time, the most important thing on my mind was being given to me by my oldest son, an act that gave exponential meaning to me. I’ve got a mountain bike I was given 15 years ago by a friend for helping him, and I’ve got a mandolin given to me by my father for my 50th birthday, and these two gifts are virtually my only “real” possessions in my life. Now, I have a yellow bracelet from my son.

Life truly is a crapshoot. None of us know from one second to the next what’s coming down our road. All of us wish we could design our future, create the perfect scenario, but that’s not how it happens. Later today, tomorrow, and the rest of life is nothing more than a wish.

Here’s what I now know from the trials and tribulations that I’ve gone through in my life. I’ve never been to the edge like Lance has. I’ve never experienced the pain of losing a child. I’ve never been told I’ll never walk again. I have gone through some rough spots, but none you can’t come back from. Yet, those rough spots have been my gift. I’ve learned more from them than from any of my successes.

Lance has been consistently challenged by many for his drug use. The problem here is that his critics overlooked the resolve a person develops when they’ve been so down and out, there’s no where else to go. Some of the media ignores the depths, they only look at what might sell. Pathetic. But, knowing that life is such a relative experience, having nothing gives you a fire in your belly, an energy that can’t be measured by any medical tests. It doesn’t make sense to the masses who haven’t been there. However, in my own way, I’ve been there, and without a doubt, Lance has been there. So, when he powered up L’Alp d'Huez, and passed Ivan Basso, this wasn’t drugs in action, this was life in action. This was a person who’s been to the bottom of life, and given another chance. This was the life everyone should beg for, but most fear. Lance handled this year’s Tour the same way he handled his cancer, one pedal at a time.

When a friend asked, “What’s that band for”?, I answered, “For Lance Armstong’s Cancer Fund”. He responded, “You buy into the Cancer Research”? I said, “No, but I buy into Lance”. He responded, “Yeah, but he’s a druggy”. I responded, “Yeah, but I don’t judge”. The questioning stopped, as it should have.

Yellow, my newest, favorite color. Have a great month!

The Life of a Patient

© June 2004
By Dr. Tim Maggs

It was just about one year ago, July 1, 2003, that both Kobe Bryant and I spent the day on an operating table having our torn meniscus in our knees operated on. For me, it was the first time I'd ever been admitted into a hospital. For Kobe, it was the hangover from a night gone bad. Probably the only day Kobe Bryant wished he was Tim Maggs.

But, that's not the point. The point is, I was a patient for a day, and boy I loved it. I was so unfamiliar with being "the issue". My aches and whoas were everyone elses' concern for this one day, and I just couldn't enjoy it enough. "Can I get you a glass of juice?". "Are you comfortable enough?". Foreign territory for me.

I clearly remember laying on the operating table on this virgin voyage, and the surgeon saying, "just pretend you're winning Boston". I laughed, told him I'd already used that dream to get me to this point, and that was it. Lights out. For about 3 hours. When I awoke, I was somewhere with a bunch of people busily running around. I felt like a hunk of ground beef thawing on the counter. Now, don't think I'm complaining. I was still laying down, which is unnatural for me in my life, and still feeling pretty good, as a result of whatever they gave me.

As I began thawing a little quicker, all of a sudden, they were forced to have to deal with me. "Are you okay? Can I get you anything?". I still can't believe that somewhere between walking into the hospital that morning and this nurse asking me these questions, someone cut open my knee and cut out the "bad guy", beginning my recovery back to freedom. Wow, this wasn't bad. I used to feel for those people going through surgery. Forget that. I'm going to be looking for reasons to get under that knife. But, getting a little ahead of myself, I still hadn't come down from the drugs, and the 6 weeks of no running hadn't even begun. So, I decided to slow down before asking about my second surgery.

Colonoscopy Time

I love my brother-in-law, Dr. Peter Purcell. The only down side to Pete is, he wants everyone to get a colonoscopy. Pete's a gastro-guy. Well, I must have forgotten my enjoyable trip through knee surgery as I cancelled at least 3 appointments for my first colonoscopy. Let me tell you, the heat was on me to get one, from family to friends. Once you hit 50, it's a lot easier to just give it up and sign on the dotted line.

So, May 13, I walked into the hospital under entirely different circumstances. My thoughts immediately went back to Kobe. I wondered, if Kobe were going through a colonoscopy today, I can guarantee you he wouldn't have been charged with anything last night, except loitering---on his toilet. He never would have bothered anyone else. My smile was probably a little out of place for the average guy getting his first scope, but I also thought of my prior night, with my 4 year old getting everyone worked up, my 10 month old screaming wildly, and Trudy and my older boys just doing damage control while I sat helplessly preparing for my scope. For those who haven't taken this trip yet, don't let anyone tell you how bad it is. It's really a breeze.

I can still remember after one of my Boston finishes, my running partner Doug Griset and I shared sink and toilet for at least an hour. The prep for this scope involved no one else. The toilet was all mine. Most runners have been well beyond "the night before a colonoscopy".

The next day, I was right back into being the patient. "Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?". The good stuff just didn't end. As they had me robed, on my side looking at the monitor to witness that I had a colon, Pete walked in and said, "Welcome to my world". He was so happy I was there, as he's been such a part of my world for years. I don't know if I said it or thought it, but "Pete, be kind" were words that flashed through my brain.

As I awoke about an hour later, realizing I got to watch nothing on that monitor, word came back to me that everything was perfect. No problems. I don't know if that good feeling I was experiencing was the fact I was healthy or the fact I was the patient. I didn't care. Both were good as far as I was concerned.

And, when Pete told me, "We won't need to see you again for another 5 years", I wondered if it was time to consider a vasectomy. Oh well..I'll keep you posted.

My final note, all kidding aside, is to get your colonoscopy sooner rather than later. Knowledge is power. Until then, have a great month.