Five-Eighteen X Twelve

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Below is a story from Team LIVESTRONG Challenge Mentor and Advocate, Steve Bartolucci. Steve will be participating in the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Davis. Want to join him? Visit www.livestrong.org/DavisChallenge today. Can’t make it to California but want to get involved? Visit www.teamlivestrong.org for a listing of walks, runs, tris and rides.

I’m amazed to see that title. It was 12 years ago, on May 18, 2000, when I looked at an X-Ray in my GP’s office that contained a shadowy mass the size of a cycling water bottle. Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), this unwelcome parasite provoked the “End of The Innocence,” at the age of 49.

My cancer journey was punctuated by a friend giving me “It’s Not About The Bike” right when I began “de-bulking” chemotherapy late June of that year. I discovered the Tour de France, and used both as the spark of inspiration to make me a Warrior & Survivor, and NOT A VICTIM.

Active Lymphoma was a part of my life, at one level or another, from 2000 through July of 2008, when Zevalin finally knocked me into remission. Being “NED” with NHL, is always a fragile condition, looking over your shoulder for that eventual, inevitable relapse. Remain Vigilant was the watch-phrase.

Meanwhile, LIVESTRONG became a significant part of my life, beginning with the Tour of Hope in 2003, as my bike riding for health & wellness became more than a weekend-warrior hobby. Never thought I’d wear out a set of road bike tires! Bicycling a few thousand miles a year became the new norm, as my motorcycle was relegated to the role of running to UCLA for treatment, scans & follow-ups.

Since 2003, I’ve raised over $150,000 for LIVESTRONG via family, friends and other supporters. I’ve participated in as many Team LIVESTRONG events as geographically possible; Ride for The Roses in Austin 8 years and counting, and Team LIVESTRONG Mentor for the past 5 years. LIVESTRONG Leader for several years as well, just trying to provide the same inspiration to those newly-diagnosed as when I began this New Life.

But, just as what was foretold, I approach my 12th Cancerversary not closing-in on 4 years cancer-free, but with a new NHL recurrence, first detected in early March. We were doing very well, with my membership in “Club NED” fully in place for 3 years. All was silent, until I found an olive-pit-sized node in my groin. It took some time to get the calendar aligned, but a PET/CT at UCLA on May 1 confirmed activity “consistent with recurrence of disease.”

So what is this really all about? Well, for me, it’s about being a Survivor, EVERY DAY! Every day is LIVESTRONG Day for me, because as I’ve just learned, you never know when you have to gear-up for battle. You need to remain fit, mentally & physically, and have that “Attitude Is Everything” approach to what you’ve been through and what lies ahead.

Not to be cavalier or glib about this, but I’ve been “blessed” with a cancer that my body (and mind) can coexist with. I live and ride in tribute to those who have a much tougher path than I, and I’ve lost too many friends along the way. NHL is in fact moving toward being treated as a “chronic disease,” as treatment options expand, and survival rates improve. However, it does relapse, it can become aggressive, and people still die from it.

As Lance said in a Q&A during March’s LIVESTRONG Leader Assembly, “I respect it,” and that’s exactly what is required. I’ve had enough long hours riding my bike to explore end-of-life scenarios in my mind, and getting to being a 12-year Survivor, even with this latest episode, is a goal I was not sure of achieving.

I am Steve Bartolucci, a SURVIVOR, not a Victim

7 thoughts on “Five-Eighteen X Twelve”

  1. Jody Schoger says:

    YOU RULE, Steve. I can think of no better example of awesome survivorship. Thanks for sharing your courage and hope DAILY. I’m a fan.

  2. Scott Joy says:

    Wishing you good things by the dozen!

  3. Forgottenduo says:

    You are such an awesome inspiration – thank you!

  4. Patrick Chatfield says:

    Steve – very good family friend and longtime LIVESTRONG colleague (both as mentor and leader!) – I admire your positive disposition and attitude. Yes, attitude is everything. We’re all in this together with you! Let’s kick some cancer ass and see you in Austin in October!

  5. Phyllis says:

    Just another chapter in the Book of Bartolucci…with many more chapters to follow! You are just warming up my friend and I know that the Book won’t me completed for a looooooooooooong time!

  6. Stevebourke says:

    I too am an NHL survivor and feel lucky to have found Steve Bartolucci through Livestrong and CCC. He inspires me to stand up and fight back. He shows me how to handle adversity with courge, class and a sense of humor.

  7. Tracey says:

    I am a 11 month survivor and just did I triathlon! I am not letting cancer get in my way of living my life. I think that you are a strong man and you are so right about having a positive frame of mind, it really helps.

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