Running, Walking and Prostate Cancer: A Personal Journey - Chi Running

Running, Walking and Prostate Cancer: A Personal Journey

Posted by Keith McConnell on Thu Aug 4th, 2011, 8 comments

I’d like to share a personal experience I have had in recent months related to my health and fitness and, as you might expect from a Chi Running and Chi Walking Instructor, running and walking played a key role during this journey.

At the beginning of this year I was, as far as I knew, in excellent health and was doing my typical fitness and recreational sport activities; running, walking, tennis, ice hockey, cycling, etc. Little did I know that in the preceding months, the beginnings of cancer were taking hold deep inside of me, in my prostate gland (PG), to be exact. An elevated PSA score (the screening that may identify the existence of prostate cancer) had led me to have a PG biopsy which had confirmed that I had prostate cancer. What a shock!

After doing considerable research about the prostate gland, prostate cancer and the various treatments for it, I took a deep breath as I concluded that this kind of cancer is very treatable when identified early as mine had been. I soon decided to have robotic surgery to remove the PG totally; other options, such as radiation and the “wait and watch” approach did not appeal to me. I wanted a decisive and clean procedure and surgery seemed to be the treatment that provided that degree of certainty.

In preparing for the surgery, I followed a principle central to the Chi Running technique and the Chi Walking technique, namely to set up the proper conditions for energy to flow, for balance and awareness, and for movement to occur with relaxation and ease while working with the forces and the environment in which we live. In terms of my surgery prep, that translated to increasing the strength of my immune system, enhancing my healing capacity and improving my fitness level and overall physical, mental and emotional balance. In support of these intentions, I continued with my usual physical fitness routines and the overall support I always get from my life partner, Kathy, and I added acupuncture, body work, nutritional and herbal supplements, infra red sauna heat, a prostate cancer support group, and meditation and awareness focusing. I tried to get as ready as possible for the self-inflicted “invasion” I was about to experience in the interests of my long term health and well being.

My final time running before the surgery was one of my favorites, a hilly, 20 K trail run above Eugene that had a relay component such that I could share the run with Kathy as a team we aptly named the “Swift Young K’s.” (FYI: we finished first in the 120 year, combined ages category!). As I was running and walking, I felt the freedom and flow that goes with such a run but I was also aware that there was some nervousness in the back of my mind about the surgery that was now only a few days in the future. Body Scans and Chi Running and Chi Walking focuses were particularly helpful that day as they gave me something other than surgery to think about.

And the day arrived and, before I knew it, the surgery was over – efficient and painless and, in what seemed like an instant, I had awakened in my hospital room. My recovery had begun, and  healing now became my primary life focus. After a day or so of discomfort and limited movement, I was soon walking comfortably and frequently while applying good Chi Walking technique to my delicate physical condition; movement was important to getting all my different systems back to normal functioning.

Within two weeks of surgery, I completed a 5K walk as part of the annual Prost8K event put on by the Oregon Urology Institute to raise funds to provide free PSA screenings to the community. I was not trying to be a “hero” by walking a 5K so soon after surgery, I really just felt energized and healthy enough to do it and, fortunately, my experience validated that self-assessment. I was excited and relieved to be out in the world again and happy that I had come through the surgery well enough to be there.

Getting to be a runner again took a little longer but it still was only about 5 weeks post-surgery when we completed running a 5K in Missoula, Montana while pushing a carriage carrying our 9 month old grandson, Cormac (his first race ever!). After that, I really felt like I was back. Now it was a matter of supporting some deeper healing and trusting in another central tenet of Chi Living, the principle of Gradual Progress - patience and small steps -  and I am glad to report that this next phase of recovery and healing is well under way.

P.S. 1 in 6 men eventually get prostate cancer; men over 40 should include a PSA screening in their medical exams – it could save your life; it did mine!


  • gradual progress,
  • prostate cancer,
  • surgery,
  • rehab

8 CommentsLeave a comment below

Alan Welsheimer Aug 7th, 2011 10:27pm

Thanks Keith for sharing your experience.  I am a 71 year old man and have pondered about what I would do if I found myself having to make the same decision as you have.  Now, I believe you’ve made me see the light and just take the damned thing out.  There are so many options for dealing with this gland and none are as sure as removal.  Also, I’ve been back on a running program after reading Chi Running and am trying to use the method but am somewhat flummoxed about pelvic swivel.  Have advice?  Sincerely, Alan

Had a similar experience, made the same decision, robotic surgery done at Kaiser in Falls church, VA by a Doc from Georgetown that guided the robot from across the room.  Woke up took a three days, elevated, flat on my back for chance of bleeding, forth day woke up and walked a route that took me over the hills (35 degree), through the forest, next to a creek. Walked for a hour or more as time and fitness allowed.

Keith McConnell - blog author Aug 16th, 2011 03:09pm

Thanks for your comments. As you now know, there are lots of us out there and each decision is unique and difficult.
Re. the “pelvic swivel” or “pelvic rotation” as we call it, it is a challenging thing to learn from the book so I’d suggest a workshop or at least the DVD. Imagine your core (the needle surrounded by cotton) is the spindle of a washing machine and you are rotating your pelvis around that spindle/core column Try it and hold your arms to the side to keep your upper body still.

Keith and Tim,
Congratulations on your continuing recovery. I also had robotic surgery to remove my prostate at about the same time as Keith.  I recently started running again after almost a year off due to another medical issue.  It feels great to be back out there.  Like you say, gradual progress is the key now.  I wish you continued success.

Keith McConnell - blog author Sep 22nd, 2011 09:33am

Thanks, John - I’ll bet it’s invigorating and lots of fun to be back into running gear(s). I just ran my first Half Marathon (Run to the Rock, Plymouth, MA) since the surgery - I felt strong and was very happy to get to the “Rock” at the end. No doubt, Chi running form assisted in the quality and speed of my recovery.
Enjoy! Keith

Red Gilliland Dec 14th, 2011 03:44pm

Thanks all for sharing. I’m not normally a blogger, but this hits home for me. I was diagnosed 10 years ago this month at age 52. Elected to have surgury although it was more radical than today’s robotic surgury. My decision was the right one for me. Still running, crossfitting and even playing soccer with the grandkids. Maybe I’ll see some of you at the Prost8K next year or a Chi running clinic. I’ve been considering giving both a try smile

I hope you’re all continuing to do well in your recovery and will be enjoying the holidays with family and friends.
I’ve continued to make progress with my running, finally becoming comfortable with all Chi Running focuses.  I did a half marathon on Thanksgiving, 6 months after my surgery.  I was surprised that I didn’t hurt or ache that day or the days after.  It was an emotional experience for my wife and I. 
Maybe on to a marathon.

Keith McConnell - blog author Dec 20th, 2011 07:01pm

Nice to see how Chi Running has assisted some of us PC surgery “graduates” to get moving well again. Like John, above, I bounced back to do Half Marathons 4 and then 5 months after surgery. At the second one, Humboldt Redwoods, I experimented with the new Chi Walk-Run approach (see the chi Living Walk-Run blogs). Enjoy the Holidays!

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