10 Lessons I’ve Learned On Cancer Mountain … And “Orange Power” Needed For Ukraine

Hi friends,

In good conscience I can’t give you an update on my steady cancer care here in California before first acknowledging what’s happening to the cancer community under attack in Europe. As I’m treated here with every advantage one can have, thousands of Ukrainian cancer patients have lost everything they depend on; their homes, hospitals, cancer centers, supporting medical professionals, and access to life-saving medicines. They desperately need help, as will neighboring countries taking in survivors. It’s a heartbreaking horror with no clear endpoint in sight.

The global cancer community has mobilized quickly to provide help. American Cancer Society (ACS) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have teamed up – in unprecedented fashion – with other leading cancer organizations to provide support for Ukrainian cancer patients and their families. This article provides details. Please give it a look, share far and wide, and help if you can.
How You Can Help Ukrainian Cancer Patients At ‘Grave Risk’
Survivornet.com – March 10, 2022

I can tell you Cancer Mountain is already dangerous enough and scary enough without having to deal with the life-threatening forces of war. Let’s do whatever we can to help all our Ukrainian cancer sisters and brothers. They really need all the supportive ‘Orange Power’ we can muster worldwide on their behalf. – MC


We did a big interview and video shoot out here in Petaluma last week with Conquer Cancer Foundation. It was a very unique and special opportunity to share some of the hope you’ve all given us through your unwavering support. 

Now that the crew has packed up and rolled down the road, I’ve been thinking about all the key thoughts I wanted to convey. I confess; I’m not entirely sure what’s going to be the finished product. What can I say? Chemo brain fog is a real thing. At the very least, I can assure you it will be beautiful. I know that because of two things – we shot it outside on Petaluma’s west side and Mady is in it.

To cover my bases on the message content, I put together this list. I hope there’s something here that helps you and your team.

10 Lessons Learned In My 1600+ Days On Cancer Mountain

  1. You don’t want to be here!
    Get educated and get screened
    Please trust me on this one. You can take some very simple steps right now to prevent yourself and your family from crashing on cancer mountain like I did. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you and your family. Set a plan for screenings and get them done on time! No cheating. This can save your life and keep you and your family out of a world of hurt. *The new screening age for Colorectal Cancer is 45!
  2. All of us can help accelerate life-saving cancer research.
    And we all should!
    Breakthroughs save lives. In the famous words of SNL’s Dr. Weknowdis, “We know dis.” Seriously, it’s a proven fact. Right now, millions of healthcare professionals worldwide are working on breakthroughs to cure ALL types of cancer. They need our support to keep advancing the decades of great work that’s brought us to this new era of cancer treatment. So go find a great organization and get behind them with your volunteer hours and financial support. The lives you help save may be right within our own family and personal circle. I welcome you to join me and Team Crafty in supporting the Conquer Cancer Foundation.
  3. You are a cancer survivor from the day you are diagnosed.
    That’s Day 1 forward.
    True. One does not need to be declared cancer-free to be regarded as a survivor. The National Cancer Institute defines a survivor as “One who remains alive and continues to function during and after overcoming a serious hardship or life-threatening disease. In cancer, a person is considered to be a survivor from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.” I know I personally draw a lot of mental and emotional horsepower out of this information. It means that I’m a survivor right now. I have been since Nov 2017 and I will be until I’m hit by that steamroller or I’m eaten by that shark.
  4. You are not alone.
    There is help all around you

    The day you’re told you have cancer might well be the shittiest day of your life. That’s certainly a slam dunk statement for those of us who’ve been told we have colorectal cancer. It doesn’t get any shittier than that! If your experience is anything like mine … your world goes dark, you feel alone, and just about everything in your life gets immediately turned upside down, reordered and reprioritized. It took me about 2 weeks to start seeing anything through all the darkness, fear and despair. As I did, I was truly amazed by all the healthcare pros (aka angels on earth), family, friends, fellow patients and survivors who came forward to help me get started on my path. When your initial shock and fog starts to clear, be sure to ask others for help and direction. The key thing to know is the cancer community is full of people who’ve been on or know your path and they are ready to help you. Your doctors are a great starting point for what’s available to you. Beyond them, I have found resources like ASCO’s Cancer.net site are invaluable help for learning and navigating everything about cancer A-to-Z. That one in particular is a really great resource for you, your family and your caregivers.
  5. It’s important to stay engaged and connected with others.
    This is a tough one for many people. But it’s key to your own and your family’s mental health. Do whatever it takes to fight the urges to crawl under a blanket, disconnect from the world and suffer in silence. That’s no good for you or your loved ones. Surviving on this nasty hill is easier for you and your family when you handle it as a team. If not for yourself, do it for your loved ones. They are experiencing all the ups and downs of this awful trail right along with you.
  6. Set goals for things big and small and near and far
    If you’ve ever had any experience with the power of goal-setting or visualizing success, like in sports, business, or fitness training, trust me when I tell you that’s invaluable for you on cancer mountain. Also, I’ve learned over 4 years and 4+ months in this nasty place that it’s good to think of your time here like a marathon, not a sprint. So, it really helps to visualize success, set pacing and milestones, build routines, count, measure, and goal-set anything and everything you can. Celebrate the goals you hit and reset the ones you miss. Like #5, setting goals and tracking progress packs great mental health benefits for you – and your team.
  7. Stay active and fit.
    Keep moving!
    The American Cancer Society puts it this way:
    Research shows that for most people exercise is safe and helpful before, during, and after cancer treatment … It can: 
    • Help your body and brain work better
    • Reduce feeling tired (fatigue)
    • Help lessen depression and anxiety
    • Might help you sleep better
    • Keep or improve your physical ability to get things done
    • Improve your muscle strength, bone health and range of motion
    • Strengthen your immune system
    • Increase your appetite
    • Help you get to and maintain a healthy weight
    • May help with breast cancer-related lymphedema (and does not increase risk)
    • Decrease the chance that some types of cancer will come back
    • Improve your quality of life
    • Reduce treatment side effects 

So now you know where that motivation and determination come from for my cycling.  When I was first diagnosed, I asked my doctors if I could keep riding my bike through treatment. I honestly did not expect to hear them say “Yes! We really encouraged that. As long as you feel you can, keep doing it. That will really help your treatments.” I took that and ran – or should I say rolled. I encourage you to figure out what you can keep doing through your treatments (with your doc’s approval, of course) and get out there – regularly!

  1. Be grateful and know that gratitude is medicine.
    I know this is true because I read it on the wall at University of California, San Francisco, Helen Diller Cancer Center. Seriously, it is true and it has been proven over and over in multiple studies. Here’s one from December 2021 from UM & UCSF.  I know there is something to be thankful for even on my your worst days. It can be really small … start there and build your gratitude list. For example, if you are able to read this, walk under your own power, or if you are simply ‘on the right side of the grass today’ as the old expression goes, be grateful for that. 
  2. You are stronger than you’ll ever know.
    As I write this today, I’ve been on cancer mountain for over 1600 days. That’s 4 years and 4 months or 227 weeks. In that time I’ve been through 54 rounds of chemo, 25 rounds of radiation, 11 months with an ileostomy, 4 surgeries, and 1 immunotherapy clinical trial. People ask me how I’ve gotten to this point and honestly it’s unbelievable to me too. I know I have a great support team, incredible doctors, and access to great healthcare. Those are certainly my key foundation blocks. In addition those great advantages, I believe there is a little bit of superhero power that lives in each of us. You never really know it is there until you really need it. But when you do, trust me, it really responds. Mine started as a little glow (orange, of course) that’s just gotten stronger and stronger as others have encouraged and supported me all along my long path. Granted there are days I don’t want to get out from under the blankets, but those are greatly outnumbered by the days when I feel like I can walk through a wall, climb a mountain, or most realistically, ride a bike. You may have doubts about your own strength. I know I did and I often do. But take each day, each procedure, and each treatment at a time. Pace yourself. Give yourself breaks and rest whenever you need them. Above all, trust yourself. Know that you really are stronger and more resilient than you’ll ever know. There is a deep strength in you that will come out when you really need it and when you call for it.
  3. There’s Always Hope
    We have entered a new era in cancer care. There have been incredible advances in the past 5-10 years and breakthroughs are happening everyday all around the world. Closer to home, if you need proof, just consider the Team Crafty story. We continue to use the cancer-fighting tools of chemo, radiation and surgery to keep my cancer at bay while waiting for new breakthroughs. We keep rollin’. I hope that you can too. Amazing things are possible when we support each other, our healthcare heroes, and cancer research. 

Okay, cut! That’s a wrap.
Thanks for all your support!

Call your doctor today about that appointment you’ve been pushing off.
It can save your life!
And, thanks to everyone supporting our March fundraiser for cancer research.
We’re almost to goal! We keep rollin’!

Published by Mark Crafts

I am a Stage IV cancer survivor with a very hopeful and amazing story. Surgery, chemo, radiation … I’ve have been through it all during 44+ months of treatment. Now, I am a UCSF clinical trial patient loaded with “Terminator” T-cells which may provide a major breakthrough for colorectal, colon, liver, lung, and head & neck cancers. Amazing things are always possible!

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