His first contact with the Beth Wright Center was not as a beneficiary of services, but rather as a benefactor. An avid cyclist, he participated for many years in the Center’s annual fundraising event, Ride for Life. In fact, he not only joined in the ride, he challenged himself to ride hard and often finished first among the 50-mile riders.
“I don’t know what it is about cycling,” he says, “but it’s a feeling of freedom, and it’s a rhythmic thing, and it’s an efficient means of transportation and it’s challenging going up hills and it’s thrilling coming down hills…It’s just you and the bike…”
He cycled in the very first Ride for Life in 2005 and he took great pleasure in doing the Ride each year, but then, as cancer hit close to home, his experience of the ride shifted. “The Ride for Life was my introduction to the Center,” he says. “And then my mom passed away from cancer and it was kind of an emotional thing to do that ride; I felt like somehow that was helping something.”
Because he was such an active person, a triathlete who was an avid participant in a variety of individual sports, his own cancer diagnosis took him completely by surprise. “I felt like swimming, hiking, cycling and whatever were keeping me healthy. I felt like I was taking good care of myself, ” he says. But in the winter of 2013, at the age 65 he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Despite his long relationship with the Center through Ride for Life, when he was diagnosed, he didn’t immediately turn to the Center for help.
“I didn’t go to Beth Wright right away. It was such a whirlwind of events,” he says, who at first was told the tumor in his colon was benign, but then after more testing, learned that the tumor was actually cancerous and that it had metastasized.
“That was terrible news,”. “They started giving me a real wallop of drugs.”
His situation was complicated when, shortly after beginning treatment, he met his partner of 22 years for a hike in Blue Hill. Just a few minutes into the hike, he fell to the ground and went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, an EMT and his wife happened to be nearby on the trail. They had a cell phone to call 9-1-1 and the EMT did CPR until help arrived. Lietz was flown by helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center.
“There was a lot of stuff that happened and I almost didn’t have time to contact the Beth Wright Center,” says Lietz. “But, eventually, I did.”
He feels fortunate that he has not had to lean on the Beth Wright Center for financial assistance, despite not having any health insurance when he was diagnosed.
“I’m not the sort of person who wants to have people take care of me, but it’s great to just have that center available,. “Whenever I’ve talked to people down there, they’ve just been very helpful. It’s pretty comforting to know that there are people out there who will support you and will help.”
He has attended several meetings at the Beth Wright Center, including a support group of cancer survivors, and a series of talks about nutrition. “Those were really informative.”
Because vigorous exercise and being very active both at work and at play were such important parts of maintaining his physical and mental well-being, His big challenge has been to find a way to cope with stress that works for the needs his body has now. “It’s the most difficult thing for me, wanting to be able to go out and do all the active stuff that I always used to do and I’m just not able to. It’s the biggest challenge of all.”
Both yoga and reflexology have proven beneficial.
“The yoga that is being sponsored by Beth Wright [at The Blue Hill Center for Yoga] has been a help and even the reflexology [at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital]–that’s been good, all these things sort of help, but there’s nothing for me that’s quite like doing a hard physical activity and feeling the joy and feeling so alive after doing it; being exhausted and feeling good about it. It’s difficult.”
He says he would definitely suggest to anyone with cancer that they get in touch with the Beth Wright Center. “There’s quite a lot that’s happening there, in terms of both activities and support,” he says.
If he had it to do over again, he would’ve gotten in touch immediately. “But…it was such a difficult thing for me to go from being the one supporting them, and then to be the one needing support from Beth Wright. I’m still having a problem with that. It’s definitely a tremendous resource; I think we’re lucky to have this resource here.”