The Road Back: Fighting Solves Everything

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When you use the words “fighting solves everything” people often misinterpret what you mean. Fighting is not just about physical altercations, fighting is ultimately about the spirit. When I was hit with the news that I had el Cancer, I knew that “fighting solves everything” would take on a whole new meaning for me. 

I have been on the road back from fighting el Cancer and as I type these words, I have just celebrated an anniversary, though not the one you might imagine. Most cancer survivors celebrate the day that they were given the “all clear, cancer in remission” diagnosis. The anniversary I just marked was the first day I was able to get back into the gym and continue fighting. I fought cancer, but I also fought depression and I fought gravity.  

Professor Paul, back in gym after cancer treatment, relearning the correct form

Fighting Gravity

When I received my cancer diagnosis, I had been actively training and engaging in the Barbell Logic strength training program for over two years. I was 51 years old and demonstrably stronger than I had been at any time during my life. This fact was due to a few good friends; James Yeager who introduced me to Matt Reynolds, and Matt Reynolds who put Graham Schallar on my case and made him my day to day coach.

The day I received the phone call that I did not want to get, I went downstairs to my personal gym. When I set up under the barbell to squat, I said to myself “this is not for ego, this is to keep you alive”. That is how I approached my strength training up until the time that the cancer treatment put me in the hospital. I was fighting gravity with all the mental and physical fortitude that I had and all three of the aforementioned men were in my corner.

I am proud to report that I hit a personal record, PR, for the overhead press, after two weeks of daily radiation treatment. For the curious, I was able to push 165 pounds over my head. When I started Barbell Logic training in January of 2017, my press workout was 75 pounds, 3×5.  

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The Long Road Back

The cancer treatment, direct radiation oncology, five times a week, caused me to lose the ability to eat, then drink, and put me in more physical pain than I would have ever imagined I would experience. Despite my misgivings about it, I ended up with a feeding tube in my stomach and I lost 50 pounds in two months. I know, that’s a hell of a diet, but I don’t recommend it.

On July 15, 2019, I told myself that it was time to get back into the gym. I had a feeding tube in my stomach, but I could drink water and other liquids, slowly. My 6’1” frame was down to 195 pounds, from my previous weight of 245. The recovery had taken a hard toll on my body and I was sleeping about 12 hours a day, I was also still on narcotic pain medicine. 

That day, July 15, I squatted an empty barbell, benched an empty barbell, and deadlift a whopping 65 pounds. I had to reteach my body to perform the lifts correctly. Matt and Graham were there for me, making small corrections and offering encouragement. It was extremely frustrating to be working with an empty bar after working so hard to gain genuine strength.
However, my friends admonished me not to judge where I was by where I had been. 

Celebrating an Anniversary

Exactly one year and one day later, July 16, 2020, I celebrated my road back anniversary by undergoing a “volume” training day in my personal gym. I squatted 245, 5×3, benched 185, 5×3, and deadlifted 255, 3×3. No, those are not Olympic records, but for me those were all PR’s. They were personal records for my road back. 

It has not been easy, life has thrown many obstacles at my feet, but I have dedicated myself to getting back to where I was before el Cancer came knocking on my door. I went through another round of linear progression and now I have moved to the intermediate training program. My heavy squat days are now over 270 pounds and my heavy deadlift training is at 300 plus. When I compare those numbers to an empty 45 pound barbell, it makes me feel a bit emotional. 

During recovery, there were some hard days, days when I wondered if I would ever get back to where I once was physically. Now, I approach my training sessions with relish, knowing that I am gaining a bit more, day by day, week by week. 

One year later, Professor Paul on the road back

Fighting Solves Everything

I share this story with you not to be braggadocious or arrogant, I share it because I know that it is my responsibility to set the example. My story is one that can be emulated. James reminded me that I had the responsibility to lead by example and to provide a road map for others who were or would be dealing with their own el Cancer or other personal hardship. 

In the book, Fighting Solves Everything: Destroying Cancer with Faith, Nutrition, and Science I laid it all out. I had many good people in my corner during my fight, too many to name here. Life’s not fair. The rain falls upon the just and the unjust. Crisis and hardship do not create character, they reveal it.

My message to you is this, you do not have to submit to fate or circumstance. You do not have to surrender yourself to medical experts or statistics. Fighting is not just physical confrontation, it is a spirit that either lives within you or does not. My suggestion to you is that you embrace that fighting spirit and rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do not go gently into that good night.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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