Wednesday, 30 April 2014

My Toughest Event - Master Swimmer Barry Young talks about his battle with Melanoma

First Signs

2009 started out as a really good year.  I turned 70 in January and immediately got stuck into breaking some records in the new age group. At the World Masters Games in Sydney I broke four world records and although FINA refused to recognize records broken at those games – even though they were swum under FINA rules – it was a sign of things to come.  By the end of that year I had broken 13 world records and held every long course New Zealand Masters record in every stroke in my age group.

The first signs of the bad news came in December 2009 when I noticed that an old mole on my left thigh had changed colour at the edges. That’s all it did, it just became slightly reddish around the edges.  It grew no bigger, it did not change shape nor did it become thicker. The mole itself was about 5mm in diameter – quite small - about the same diameter as the eraser on the end of a pencil.

I made an appointment to see my G.P. and he immediately cut the mole out and sent it off for a biopsy. The results were bad.  It was a melanoma.  There are two ways of “grading” the seriousness of a melanoma mole, one is by giving it a number on the Clark scale of 1 to 5 – mine was a 4.  The other is to measure the depth the melanoma extends below the skin surface – mine was 1.9 mm deep.  The higher your Clark number and the deeper the melanoma, the worse your prognosis is and the harder it is to win the battle against the disease.  They can also get some idea of just how rapidly the cancer cells are dividing (multiplying) by identifying newly divided cells.  This is known as the Mitotic count – mine was 23. Typical counts were 5 or 6 and I was told mine was “off the scale”! Not good.

My G.P. sent me off to see a Surgical Oncologist at the Melanoma Unit and he decided, as a precaution, to remove an even larger area of flesh from around the original mole site – a wide area excision.  This involved an overnight stay in hospital in January 2010 and left me with a 17 cm. scar extending from my left knee towards my groin.  My wound healed well and I was soon back to my daily training sessions.  The follow-up visit to the surgeon went well so I just assumed I had had a close shave and resumed my life - with no changes to my diet, work-load or exercise regime.  I assumed that all the cancer cells had been removed and that I had nothing to worry about.  I was told nothing different.

In September 2010, with the help of NZ Masters Swimming and the North Shore Masters Swimming Club, Suzanne and I flew to Dallas, Texas for my induction into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame. It was a great honour for me and for NZ Masters Swimming to be the first Kiwi swimmer to be inducted. Danyon Loader is in the open section – the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Round Two

In July 2012, almost exactly two and a half years after that last operation, I noticed a small lump in the Lymph node in my left groin.  I visited the surgeon who took a sample with a needle and sent it off for a biopsy.  Bad news again.  The melanoma was back and had spread to that lymph node and possibly beyond.  The next step was to have a whole body Pet CT scan to see how far the cancer had spread.   To do the scan I was given an injection of radio-active sugar.  Cancer cells love sugar and the scanner detects the “hot spots” in the body where the sugar accumulates.  The scan showed three tumours on my left side: one in the thigh, one in the groin and one inside my pelvic cavity.  The tumour in my pelvic cavity had spread out of the lymph node into the surrounding area. The scan also showed inflammation in my liver and lungs but fortunately further scans showed no tumours there.

On the 18 September 2012 I was operated on to remove the three tumours and my lymph system was removed on that side. My new half-meter long scar was impressive.  It extended from my lower chest to my left knee.  This time I was in hospital for a week and my recovery was a lot slower.  It was two months before I could walk and swim properly.

I was advised by the surgeon and a radiation oncologist to begin radiation treatment as soon as possible after the operation, in an attempt to kill off any remaining cancer cells. So, in mid November daily doses of radiation began. These continued for six weeks until Christmas by which time the radiation burns on my torso and leg made walking difficult and swimming impossible because of the risk of infection.

Healing

At one of my post-operative checkups, I asked my surgeon what I could do to help prevent the cancer from returning for a second time. “Nothing – just go and lead a healthy life.”  he said.  I was not comfortable with this advice.  My lifestyle was already about as healthy as it could be.  I have never smoked or drank and thought I was one of the healthiest seventy year olds on the planet. But I now felt that there must be some way I could make some contribution towards my own future health.  So I went to see another specialist and asked him the same question. His reply was even more emphatic! “There is nothing you can do to change the progression of your disease – except that, on the negative side, you should not smoke or drink alcohol.”

Clearly, the medical profession did not believe that lifestyle (diet, exercise, state of mind) had any effect on the control or prevention of cancer.  I was amazed. I felt helpless.  It sounded as though I should simply carry on as before and wait for the cancer to return again, or at best, hope that it stayed away.

At that time I knew very little about cancer as a disease so I set about reading everything I could get my hands on in an attempt to better understand just what I was dealing with.  I was determined to do everything I could to prevent the melanoma from taking hold again.

The Gawler Foundation

Fortunately, at about this time I was introduced to a young mother who was the daughter of family friends. She had melanoma – also originating from a mole on her left thigh – and had managed to prevent it from coming back, in part, by completely changing her lifestyle.  She had been cancer free for sixteen years.  She gave us several books to read and suggested that my wife and I attend an eleven day live-in course at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley just outside Melbourne.  

Attending that course was one of the best things I have ever done.  It was quite literally life changing. For eleven days the 26 attendees – made up of cancer patients like myself, their partners and caregivers - were taught everything we needed to know about our disease and what we could do to help conquer it.  The people at the Gawler Foundation were amazing.  We were shown how to prepare and cook the plant-based meals we ate every day. We were shown how to meditate - how to relax our minds and bodies.  We were taken on regular bush walks through the beautiful grounds and we were taught Qi Gong (pronounced “chi gung”), an ancient Chinese breathing exercise. We were never given false hope, nor were we promised a miraculous cure. What we were given was a clear set of guidelines aimed at keeping us as healthy as possible so as to give each of us the best possible chance of remaining alive.  But perhaps the greatest gift I received from that course was the companionship and encouragement of the other participants. 

We learned that cancer cells love refined sugar and salt.  Cancers are anaerobic – they don’t need or like oxygen. Cancers like an acidic body and they like inflammation. Meat is acidic as it decomposes and passes through the intestines. With a few simple lifestyle changes, you can make your body an uninviting place for cancers to grow or develop.  Everyone has some cancer cells in their body so you also need to keep your immune system in tip-top shape so that it can deal with any cancer cells which it comes across.  The Gawler course taught us how to do all of this.  At no time did the Gawler Foundation suggest that these changes to lifestyle should be made instead of medical treatment. They are all changes you can make to complement the normal treatments. It all made such good sense to my wife Suzanne and I, and that was reason enough for us to give it a go.   

On our return to New Zealand we adopted the Gawler diet and lifestyle completely.  It is not easy to make a plant based, whole foods diet taste good.  Suzanne spent weeks researching and trying out various herbs, spices and vegetables.  My job was to eat everything she prepared for me.

I think the greatest triumph of the Gawler course is not so much the end result, but that it gives cancer patients the knowledge and skills needed to take control of their lives again. 

Round Three

In December 2013, four years after the removal of the mole and just over a year after my last operation, I
went for an eyesight test for my driving licence renewal. This revealed that I had lost some peripheral vision in my right eye.  I passed the test but was advised to have an MRI scan of my brain.  Two brain tumours showed up on the scan.  The melanoma was back – big time!  A whole body Pet CT scan showed the two brain tumours and, in addition, another three tumours in my back and torso.

The larger of the two brain tumours was surgically removed in Auckland City Hospital on New Years eve 2014 and I was discharged on 4 January. The surgeon and hospital staff all commented on my rapid recovery and healing and said it was due to my swimming fitness.  Six weeks later, at the annual Cambridge long course meet I broke five New Zealand records in my new 75 – 79 year age group and was beginning to feel good again.
The smaller brain tumour was deeper in the brain and was dealt with by a series of ten radiation sessions.  The radiation oncologist advised me to keep swimming throughout all of this, so every day I would swim 3.5km in the sea along the line of yellow buoys at the Takapuna beach.  I was told not to swim alone because of the risk of a brain seizure so every day one or more (some days all) of my swimming buddies would accompany me.  These master swimmers: Robert Redford, Russell Jones, Janusz Kordonski and Ian Gunthorpe represented the true spirit of masters swimming in the way they supported and encouraged me through the last four years. My son Chris swam with me whenever he could do so, so I was pretty much guaranteed a companion every day.

So, what have I learned from my experience so far and more importantly, what can I pass on to you readers to prevent you from repeating my journey?  Swimmers are prone to skin cancers simply because we spend a lot of time in the sun and because we live in New Zealand, the melanoma capital of the world.  We all need to be particularly careful to cover up as much as possible when out and about, wear a good sun block and have your skin checked regularly.  Like most cancers, if you can catch it early, there is a good chance you can beat it.

Next week-end is the King of the Bays race from Milford to Takapuna.  It is also the NZ Masters Open Water Champs.  These days I am never sure whether my next event is also going to be my last,  so you can be sure that I will be giving it my best shot.

April 2014


Barry completed the King of the Bays in 47.59 and finished 2nd in his age group.  Well done Barry you are an inspiration to us all!

Winner of the Swim T3 $50 voucher - Tell Us Who These Abs belong to







Thanks to all of you who entered this competition and also for your delightful comments.









The correct answer is:

1. Natalie Coughlin
2. Michael Fred Phelps
3. Dara Torres
4. Ian Thorpe

And the winner of the Swim T3 voucher is:

Claire Hobson

Congratulations!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Most Common Swimming Mistake - Swimming Flat

We have now covered 5 of The Most Common Swimming Mistakes:

The Weak Leg Kick
Doing Only Fitness Training and No Technique Work
Poor Breathing Technique
Incorrect Head Position
Short Stroke

Today the focus is on another common mistake many swimmers make, Swimming Flat. This is a result of poor body
rotation. For a good swimming technique, the shoulders, torso and hips should all roll together as one which means you kick slightly on the side as you rotate.

Tips to Improve Your Body Rotation:

  • Breathe Bilaterally:  Most unilateral breathers have poor rotation to the non-breathing side
  • Slow Down:  If you feel you are wrestling with the water when you swim slow you stroke down to give yourself time to learn to rotate correctly.  Once you have learnt to lengthen your stroke, you can speed things up again.
  • Don't Over Rotate:  Your rotation should be between 45°and 65°.  If you over rotate you can cause a dead spot in your stroke.
  • Practice the 6-Kick Switch Drill. This clip from Go Swim is an excellent explanation of the drill.




Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Tell Us Who These Abs belong to and Go into the Draw to Win a Swim T3 voucher



We have had heaps of entries for this so if you want to be in for a chance to win a Swim T3 $50 voucher, then tell us to which famous swimmers these Abs belong. Hints can be found at the bottom of the page. Competition closes 30 April.

How To Enter

1. Leave a comment with the answers in the comment box below
    or
2. Email the answers to masterscrawl@gmail.com
    or
3.  Leave a comment on our facebook post

Hints

photo 1 - First woman to swim the 100m backstroke (LC) under 1min
photo 2 - His middle name is Fred
photo 3 - At 40 she was the oldest swimmer to ever earn a place on the US Olympic swim team
photo 4 - Most successful athlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics

Focus on Breastroke - Videos to Improve your Breastroke: Stroke, Positioning, Kick and Breathing

These are great videos from speedo.com to improve your Breastroke technique.

Improve your Stroke:


Improve your positioning:


Improve your kick:


Improve your breathing:


Swim Set of the Week - Freestyle and Breastroke, Mostly





 3200
 2200
 Warm-up:Choice
Drill
Kick 
no board
Pull


300
200
100


200
100
100
 Freestyle
Swim timed
rest 1" between sets
time and compare to 1st

200
4 X (4x50 
on :40)
200
 

200
2 X (4x50 
on :60)
200
 Breaststroke
Kick
Drill
 with one dolphin kick
Swim
 with dolphin movement

 200
200
8x50 
on :50
 

200
200
6x50 
on :70
 IM
Swim


4x125 100IM+25 stroke
 

4x100
 Swim-down
Swim 
Choice (count strokes)
 100
 100

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Focus on Backstroke - Videos to Help Improve Your Stroke, Positioning, Kick and Breathing Techniques

Here are some great videos from www.speedo.com to improve your backstroke technique.  The first video shows how to improve your stroke technique and become faster and more efficient in the water. The second video shows how you can improve your positioning by reducing drag and saving energy.  The third video shows how to improve your kick and increase your speed and propulsion.  The fourth video shows how to improve your breathing.

Improve your stroke technique



Improve your positioning,  reduce drag and save energy



Improve your kick, speed and propulsion



Improve your breathing




Swim Set of the Week - Lots of Backstroke


 Workout 
3300 
2200 
Warm-up
Swim Free
Drills
 IM
Swim
 Choice

400
200
100


300
200
100
Freestyle
Swim
Rest 40 secs. between sets of 6x25;
30 secs.between 4x25


6x25 on :20
6x25 
on :20
6x25 
on :20
6x25 
on :20


4x25 on :30
4x25 
on :30
4x25 on :30
4x25 on :30
Backstroke
Swim
Kick
Drill
Swim

Pull
 Easy

200
200
100
8x50 
on :60
8x25 
on :35
100

100
4x25
100
4x50 
on :75
4x25 
on :45
100
IM
Kick (no back!)
Pull
Swim

300
200
100

150
100
100
Swim-down
Swim Free:count strokes

8x25

6x25

What Every Swimmer Should be Eating

According to avidsports.com every swimmer should be eating these top ten power foods.


Beans: These are packed with protein and antioxidants.

Unsweetened dark chocolate: Everything in moderation!

Red Delicious and Granny Smith Apples:  These help fight against free radicals

Prunes: These have the ability to destroy age, but you need to eat at least half a cup a day. Recipe for Plum-Good Peanutter Bars

Pomegranate juice: Remember to dilute it 50:50 with water if it is undiluted to avoid a sugar high.

Artichokes: When boiled or cooked in healthy recipes, artichokes are highly nutritious. Recipe ideas for Artchokes

Pears: Pears contain pectin, which helps remove any harmful metals in the body.

Pecans and walnuts: These balance moods and increase energy.

Berries: Cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are all rich in antioxidants.

Sweet Potatoes:  These are rich with beta carotene, which helps promote endurance.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Important Information for the NZMS Open Water Champs - 12 April 2014

The NZMS Open Water Champs will be run in conjunction with the State King of the Bays Swim on 12 April.  If you'd like to participate you'll need to swim this race non-wetsuit in order to comply with FINA rules.

So, if you'd like to change your entry from wetsuit to non-wetsuit please let Lauren know ASAP by emailing her on lauren@quantumevents.co.nz and also please inform Mike Bodger (NZMS Secretary) of your intention to participate by emailing him on m.bodger@xtra.co.nz

9 Open Water Race Day Tips

As we are quickly approaching the NZMS Open Water Champs on 12 April, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this.   You've done all you can in preparation for the swim so here are a few Race Day tips!


9 Race Day Tips

1. If your event is early, make sure you have packed your bag the night before and are good to go in the morning.  This helps to avoid any unnecessary stress of having to look for towels, togs, caps and goggles.

2. The size of your breakfast will depend on what time your race is. If you have 2 – 3 hours prior to a race you could eat a big breakfast otherwise keep it light.

3. If your race is early in the morning, it helps to have a quick warm not hot shower, to wake up your muscles. But make sure you don’t shower more than 3 minutes otherwise, you’ll feel lazy and drained.

4. Arriving at the event venue at least 45 minutes prior to your race will ease a lot of pressure. This will give you enough time to register and ensure you get in a proper warm-up irrespective of whether or not you decide to warm-up on dry land or in the water.

5. Check the temp of the water to see whether or not you can tolerate it! Because other swimmers are in the water does not mean you will be able to tolerate it. Every swimmer has a different body make-up! If you are comfortable, then it is definitely a good idea to get in and do a warm-up. If it is an early morning race it may take a bit longer to get all the kinks out, so make sure you feel loose, alert and ready after your warm-up.

6. If the event allows wetsuits and you are planning to wear one, make sure you warm-up in it, to get a feel for swimming with it. (not applicable to those participating in the NZMS Open Water Champs)

7. If you do decide to warm-up in the water, make sure you keep warm so that your muscles don’t become tight again, cancelling out your warm-up.

8. If the water is too cold for you, then you are probably better off doing a dry land warm-up instead, with a few basic stretches and pulse–quickening movements such as arms swings and possibly a light 1 minute jog.

9. Remember to enjoy yourself and have fun!

Swim T3 $50 Voucher Winner - Like and Subscribe Competition

The winner of the Swim T3 $50 voucher is:

Ian MacDonald

Congratulations!