Thursday, September 6, 2012


Photo:  August, 2001. 3 days post-competition, Gulf Shores, Alabama (with Logan as an 8-year-old munchkin).

In the event you are wondering--Is this for real? Is this an un-retouched photograph?--I would point you to my newly-published memoir at (No Gut, No Glory).  But it is true:  I use-ta look like this.  Well, for a short period of time anyway. You know what I look like now (or maybe you don't) but it ain't pretty. 

When this photograph was taken in August of 2001, I was about 3 days post-competition and had, in the span of 72 hours, gained back nearly 10 pounds--primarily from an insatiable appetite for Snickers bars and Almond Joys.  I can recall, at one point, sitting in the car outside of the Walmart in Gulf Shores, AL and, while Becky and the kids shopped for beachwear, polishing off four Almond Joy candy bars and wondering if I would be making a pig of myself if I ate four more.  My six pack of abs was rapidly disappearing.  But since I had not eaten in four months, I had the sugar-cravings of a housefly.

What my memoir doesn't relate, however, is that just weeks after my foray into the underworld of competitive bodybuilding, Becky was diagnosed with breast cancer.  By year's end I had read all of the books, worried myself back up to a lilly-white and unshaven 230 pounds, and written an arsenal of personal essays about breast cancer from a husband's perspective.

One of my essays (The Stigmata and the Breast) was awarded a nice cash prize by the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church, and another received an award from Bell South, Inc. and was widely used in their employee-education health screenings.  And then CURE magazine accepted yet another memoir for publication (my experiences of helping Becky through her surgery and recovery).  The magazine even sent a photographer to our home.  This photograph is still one of our favorites as a couple--and I will always be grateful to CURE magazine for capturing our moment of grace and healing. 

All of this to say that I can't downplay the role that my competitive bodybuilding excursion played in my fortitude and resiliency through my wife's cancer diagnosis.  I had already endured months of physical pain, sleepless nights, strict diet, focus on the inner-workings of the human body, and the grit and determination needed to gain fifty pounds of muscle (a decade of training) before losing forty pounds of fat (four months of training). From the beginning I knew that all would be well and that I could stand strong.  I wasn't going to lose Becky and I knew it.  To hell with cancer.

Reflecting back on those days now, I can see that I was writing my passions.  I turned fitness articles into cancer-related or support-related reflections.  I could honestly speak to themes like dedication, gut-wrenching pain and recovery, dieting for health and wholeness.  I just went through it a second time (and in another form) when I helped Becky through her cancer.

Ah . . . and I've got some cancer-related poems too.  Lots of 'em, in fact.  And a few that are, after all these years, slated for publication in the next year.  I'm grateful to these new friends, these editors, who want to make them available to a wider public.  

But for now . . . I'm just a slow old man who still hoists and slings black iron (almost daily), but who is not beyond the binge-eating lusts of his younger donut days.  I still have my beautiful, energetic wife.  And I know she loves me, due in no small part, because she allows me to write this blog.  Though, of course, she never reads it.  But why would she?  She's lived it.     


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