The next time it seems too difficult to get out of bed and hit the gym, consider that Newporter Joe Caruso, who suffers from stage-four lung cancer, might already be there training for his next athletic event.
Caruso continues to compete in events that even the most athletically elite would consider a challenge, in spite of his body’s painful battle with non-small lung cancer and the exhausting and debilitating side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
His next race is the Amica Triathlon that will be held in Newport this Saturday.
He admitted that training has been more difficult than usual for the upcoming race, since his latest challenge has been to fight the cancer that has recently spread to his brain.
“Brain radiation leaves you so tired. Not tired, exhausted. You can’t even get out of bed. For every one day of treatment, it takes two or three days to gain back your energy,” Caruso said.
He completed the radiation in July and has entered into new rounds of chemotherapy, which Caruso said is also debilitating to his body, and makes training for athletic events seemingly impossible.
On Tuesday, just one the day after a chemotherapy treatment, Caruso went to the gym to ride the stationary bike.
“It felt like I had ridden a hundred miles,” he said. He said that despite the physical obstacles, he knows he will be able to complete the 16.1 mile bike ride on Saturday.
To mentally break through exhaustion, back pain and nausea, Caruso says he focuses on breathing in fresh air and out with the cancer cells.
“It’s about having a strong body and strong mind,” he said. When it is often a struggle to get down the stairs, he said exercise might seem impossible, but the goal of competing in an event will force him to the gym.
Caruso said acupuncture and chiropractic therapy have provided relief to his back pain, which have helped him stay active.
As an avid surfer and runner, Caruso first experienced the pain in 2009, and went to see a physical therapist for treatment.
“I was always exhausted, but I figured I had three kids, I was supposed to be exhausted,” he said.
Like many Americans with limited insurance, he was hesitant to jump into further tests until he was in so much pain that he could barely walk. At that point, his physical therapist said he needed to get an MRI.
Shortly after, he received the call that changed his family’s life forever; the pain was caused by several tumors in his back, which were likely malignant.
Now, two years later, Caruso is in stage-four terminal cancer, but said that he is grateful the time he's had. Despite the crippling side-effects of the treatments, they continue to prolong his life.
“I’m so grateful to be able to walk around, smell, see,” he said. “I am so humbled by the financial and emotional help of the community.”.
Caruso urged people who have been diagnosed with cancer not to give up on life. He said that although lung cancer tends to spread fast, many cancers are not what the once were.
“Although it’s a scary journey, it’s not the end of the world,” he said.
Caruso will do the triathlon on Saturday as a relay, accompanied by Kathy Lewis who will swim the half-mile and Mitch Turner who will run the 5K.
Patch wishes Caruso luck with the race on Saturday!