Rope-A-Dope

One definition of “Rope-a-Dope” is “a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring, ineffective punches.” Back before I was too young to question the wisdom of grown adults trying to knock one another out, I loved boxing. And I loved Muhammad Ali (I was just young enough not to ever know him as Cassius Clay).


I vaguely remember the lead-up to the “Rumble in the Jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, a man with devastating punching power (long before he started selling grills on QVC). Ali was never a massive physical presence, but he was a physical specimen. Truly one of the greatest boxers ever, he came up with the “rope-a-dope” as a strategy to take the other guy’s best shot, let him punch himself out, and then overcome him with a combination of finesse and power. It was a brilliant strategy that helped propel Ali through one of the greatest and most successful periods in boxing history.


In a weird sort of way, fighting cancer for a cancer patient is a lot like employing the rope-a-dope. For the last nine years, I have been doing things to try to understand what the opponent (i.e., cancer) is going to do next and in turn, what I am going to do to offset it.

The first step was surgery. The thinking at the time was that surgery might… might… deal a devastating blow to a prostate cancer that already seemed to be more progressed than it should have been at my age. Surgery did not prevail, but I had a period where the impacts on my active lifestyle was minimal. All things being equal and despite it all, I felt like I had won round one.


But then my PSA started to rise, potentially indicating an increase in disease volume. Four months after surgery, I began a series of 33 radiation treatments that were expected to knock prostate cancer to the mat. It didn’t. I lost round two.


For the next six years, I began a series of “hormone” therapies that deprive a man’s body of testosterone, one of the main fuels that prostate cancer uses to survive and thrive. There were ebbs and flows… relatively quick declines in PSA followed by relatively quick increases in PSA. For rounds 3-10, I had a plan, and it was working pretty well. Until it wasn’t any more.


Now I am doing chemo, which appears to be working well. My PSA has dropped from 31 to 13, which is a good sign. Ironically enough, the accumulation of dead cancer cells can contribute to blood clots, which I experienced on a superficial basis this past weekend. It seems to always be something.


Cancer always seems to have an answer, but so do I and so do my doctors. The rope-a-dope is not a cure, but it’s working. Survive and advance. Outlast and outperform. Envision your outcome and work towards it.


Until next time,


Steve