At the age of 37, Jeff Kleman was in the best shape of his life. He stood 5'10" tall and weighed 175lbs and was considered an elite athlete. In recent years, he had done triathlons and marathons, and had biked over 100-mile trips. But things were about to change.
Jeff had entered an adventure race—six hours of running, biking, canoeing and orienteering on a co-ed team of four. After completing the race, a bit of blood appeared in his urine. His doctor confirmed that it wasn’t uncommon for elite athletes to push their bodies hard enough to produce blood in their urine.
Thankfully, that answer wasn't good enough for Jeff’s wife. They visited an urologist who confirmed that Jeff had bladder cancer. “I was healthier than 99% of the people I know,” Jeff thought. "This will be my next challenge; I'm just gonna add 'cancer survivor' to my list of accomplishments.”
This will be my next challenge; I'm just gonna add 'cancer survivor' to my list of accomplishments.
After cancer surgery, things were fine for a while. But the cancer came back…not once but three times. Doctors began a series of aggressive cancer treatments, which damaged his bladder in the process. His bladder was so severely damaged that it was no longer expanding, and it was releasing small—and painful—shards of calcification into Jeff’s body. The only option was to remove it.
“I just wanted my life back.” Jeff said, “Losing my bladder had to be better than my current situation.”
But complications prevented the surgery…complications so serious that doctors doubted Jeff would survive the surgery. It would take more than a year of treatment before his body would be strong enough.
So Jeff tried to return to a “normal” life. It wasn’t easy, and there were many challenges. He remembers thinking, "Tomorrow is gonna be worse, so today is the better of the two. I should be thankful for today."
A year later, Jeff was back in surgery for bladder removal. The surgery was successful, and at 149lbs, Jeff began what is typically a long, slow recovery process. But never one to give up, Jeff was back at work in only six weeks … half of the normal recovery time.
“I ate better, walked regularly and focused on finding my ‘new normal,’” Jeff says. “Biking and running came back into my life. I returned to the basketball court and started lifting weights again. The life I had known was coming back. Slowly, I conquered each challenge: sleeping on all sides, swimming and picking up my children. The fear of leaks and problems faded.
Today, after almost a year of recovery, Jeff is back to normal weight, speed and strength. “I'm glad to leave those nightmares in the past,” he says. “I look forward to a bright future.”
Biking and running came back into my life. I returned to the basketball court and started lifting weights again. The life I had known was coming back.
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