WMA’s Rex Harvey details his ‘bump in the road’ — colon cancer

Rex (shown far left in 2008) is a stalwart of Games Committee, overseeing nationals.

Hall of Famer Rex Harvey was missing from North Carolina nationals, where he would have been a member of the green-shirted Games Committee. I knew why. Rex, our decathlon great and USATF/WMA go-to official, had been diagnosed with colon cancer. The good news is that he’s leveraging his incredible sense of humor. On Tuesday, he sent me email with “Bump in the road” in the subject line. He wrote: “So far, I have had no mental problems facing this. It is what it is and instead of wasting energy worrying about it, I would rather use that energy to deal with it. Possibly I am too dumb to worry.” He gave me permission to share a chronology that he prepared for a friend in Arizona.

Rex refills water jump at 2008 Spokane nationals. As a top official, he does what needs to be done, and will do the same with cancer.

Here’s how Rex describes the last six weeks:

June 11: Saw my Preventative Medicine Doctor for treatment on my left foot calcium deposit, I casually mentioned a non-painful abdominal lump and she palpitated it and recommended that it be checked out.

June 14: Had to wear black pants to Referee IAAF Diamond League meet at Randall’s Island, NY. The only black pants I had available were very tight on me. That irritated the lump in my abdomen spasming the whole area and telling me definitely that something was wrong. I had suspected something before as early as March, maybe a small pulled muscle, but not enough to check it out.

June 16: Earliest possible appointment with my General Practitioner and she gave me a CBC blood work and a referral for CAT Scan.

June 17: CAT Scan revealing very enlarged appendix, etc.

June 20: earliest possible Colonoscopy showing normal but for mucus plugged appendix inlet and one small non-malignant polyp.

June 26: Earliest possible appointment with Surgeon where he described what he planned to do based on the CAT scan and the colonoscopy.

July 1: Earliest possible surgery at University Hospitals, Seidman Cancer Center, Cleveland, OH. 9.5 hour surgery. 10.5-inch incision from sternum to pubic bone. Removed enlarged appendix (actually it had grown into a massive tumor 3.5 inches in diameter attached to abdominal wall. Removed about 12 inches of colon. Removed about 5 inches of small intestine. Removed fatty layer of the abdomen including 18 lymph nodes and related blood vessels. Scraped mucus off of other areas like surface between liver and diaphragm. Re-attached small intestine to colon. Finished the surgery with 2 hours of heated chemotherapy bath of my entire abdominal area (called Hi Pec).

Several days and nights of a lot of pain. About as bad as running a hard 400 meter, but continuous, not just for a minute or two.

July 7: Discharged from hospital. Lost 13 pounds. (Back up to 7 lost right now).

July 16: Appointment with surgeon with pathology results. Appendix tumor was classified PT4A. All 18 lymph nodes showed no cancer. General blood test for cancer cells was negative. Basically pretty good news.

Coming up:

July 23: Appointment with oncologist. Probably will prescribe 6 months of chemotherapy treating every two weeks. This to kill off any micro-sized cancer cells that may be floating around. If I understand it correctly, is more of a preventative measure than a treatment. They do it because I can stand it and it just might help.

This is all occurring as I try to retire from engineering work in Cleveland on 31 Aug 2014 and permanently move to Arizona. That may change depending on insurance coverage, etc. Also, whether the chemo will be in Ohio or in Arizona is also up in the air.

Thank you for your concern and positive thoughts and there are many, many others pulling for me to also thank. I am touched and helped along by all of your genuine concern.

Rex is one of our good guys — and belongs to the world as well.

It’s a crying shame that he wasn’t elected WMA president in 2009 (losing by a single vote in an election that saw fraudulent voting by Oceania delegates.)

But it’s a blessing that Rex doesn’t have to herd WMA cats at a time he’s battling cancer.

Please join me in sending positive get-well vibes to our dear friend.

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July 22, 2014

35 Responses

  1. Peter Crombie - July 22, 2014

    Best wishes to you Rex. We’ll all be thinking of you during this difficult time.

  2. Rita Hanscom - July 22, 2014

    Rex! Get this done and stay positive! I missed seeing you at Nationals.
    And why on earth would you want to move to Arizona? –just kidding, fellow Arizonans, I used to be one, back when the rest of the country thought we rode horses everywhere.
    Retirement in Arizona will be glorious, Rex. Hot, but glorious. And make sure you get a brown horse. It fits in better with all the other ones in the parking lot. Thinking about you, my friend.

  3. Jeff Davison - July 22, 2014

    Rex our prayers to you.

  4. Tommy Aunan - July 22, 2014

    Rex best wishes and prayers from me!

  5. Peter L. Taylor - July 22, 2014

    Before meeting Rex for the first time I had heard he was a very good guy. My information was a bit understated; he’s a great guy who looks out for the athletes and will never lord it over other people.

    Here’s wishing you the best, Rex.

  6. John Seto - July 22, 2014

    Rex,

    I would expect nothing less from you. We are all with and behind you. I pray for your speedy and quick recovery. Please call if you need anything.

  7. Grant Lamothe - July 22, 2014

    Rex: You can beat this -our thoughts and prayers are with you. The very best regards, Grant L.

  8. Nolan Shaheed - July 22, 2014

    Best wishes to you Rex and good luck in the near future. I know what you are going through and believe me, it could be a lot worse. I’m sure you will have a full recovery and the next time I see you, you will be able to run a 400m and tell me which pain is REALLY worse.

  9. Roger Pierce - July 23, 2014

    Rex,
    You are Masters Track…You have personally given so much to all of us, athletically and professionally.
    But more than that, you are an incredibly kind and likable person.
    My heart and wishes for restored health go out to you my friend. So sorry to hear what you have been through. If anyone can defeat this problem…I am certain it is you.
    Know that you have many folks pulling for you…in this country and others from all over the World.. You are the Best of the Best…we want you with us.. Fight hard and be strong..and anything we can do….please don’t hesitate to ask.

  10. Joseph Burleson - July 23, 2014

    Rex, we are all pulling for you to make a strong return to full health. You are one of the world’s treasures, having inspired and assisted so many masters athletes in so many ways that are impossible to numerate. I admire you so very much and wish to see you at feeling better ASAP.

  11. MICHAEL DE JESUS - July 23, 2014

    BLESS YOU, DURING THIS ROUGH PATCH OF ROAD.

  12. Kenneth Effler - July 23, 2014

    Rex, the thoughts and prayers of the masters track and field community are with you, and especially those of the multi-eventers. We’re all hoping for a full recovery.

  13. Milan Jamrich - July 23, 2014

    To consider:

    http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/tx/university-of-texas-md-anderson-cancer-center-6741945

    Good luck,
    Milan

  14. Liz Palmer - July 23, 2014

    All the best to you, Rex.

  15. Ken stone - July 23, 2014

    I neglected to mention that fellow decathlete Bill Murray stepped in for Rex on the Games Committee, which entailed him talking nonstop for 4 days on a wallkie-talkie putting out fires. Billy’s work behind the scenes was essential to making the meet a success. He made sure the hurdles were on the right marks, for example, Crucial details.

  16. David E. Ortman (M61), Seattle, WA - July 24, 2014

    I first “ran” into Rex at the 1992 National Masters outdoor meet in Spokane while watching him win the M45 Pent and thinking, hey, no pole vault, maybe I should try that event. I’ve enjoyed all subsequent meetings with Rex and even though he’s retired from competition I hope to see him and obtain more inspiration at future meets. All the best.

  17. bob doran - July 24, 2014

    any one thats competed in 150 plus decathlons ,can certainly beat this.! best wishes ,rex

  18. Robert Baker - July 24, 2014

    Rex, so sorry to hear this. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Best of luck. I worked at a large clinic and hospital for over 30 years and spent a great deal of time studying various medical and alternative treatments for many illnesses. I suggest taking a look at Never Fear Cancer Again by Raymond Francis.

  19. Kay Glynn - July 24, 2014

    Rex, as the guru of combined events, I am sure that you approach your life and health as you would a competition. You quickly and quietly assess the new situation–You attack each set of circumstances to the best of your ability–You do a quick evaluation of your performance in that area–You move on to the next step.
    I am filled with confidence that you will get enough points to reach your final goal of good health and that you will be able to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done! Go for the gold!

  20. Karla Del Grande - July 24, 2014

    I echo all these words of support. Rex, I wish you all the best and know that you will tackle this race with your best effort and training, to get over this bump in the road. Your positive attitude will serve you well. Thanks for all that you’ve done for Masters track and field.

  21. George Mathews - July 24, 2014

    Rex, I know you will win this race. Keep up the great outlook. Hope to see you in AZ this winter.
    Best, George

  22. Bob Osterhoudt - July 24, 2014

    Rex, If masters track and field can be fairly said to have a singular face and a singular heart, it is yours. You were an epic athlete; you have always been a great man — an athlete’s athlete, an athlete’s official and administrator, the sport’s foremost ambassador, its integrity’s leading defender. Your legendary competence, your remarkably generous spirit, and your abundant kindness toward everyone are peerless. Like numerous others, I could not be pulling harder for you if I were pulling for myself. I am very sorry for your illness and for your suffering. I beg you to get entirely well soon.
    All the very best,
    Bob Osterhoudt

  23. Peter L. Taylor - July 24, 2014

    That’s a wonderful tribute, Bob. Many people know Rex only as an official and administrator; they don’t know he was a great athlete. But Rex is humble and won’t go on and on about how terrific he was in track and field.

    Similarly, as an official or member of the games committee, Rex has been the athlete’s friend, not some forbidding presence with a stiff persona or a barely concealed anger, as is the case with officials/referees in some other sports, even in track and field occasionally.

    In my opinion, an appreciation of Rex’s humility and kindness is basic to understanding why so many people like him.

    All the best to Rex Harvey.

  24. Stefan Waltermann - July 25, 2014

    I know I’m being selfish here: We cannot afford to lose the man; Rex is one of those very special guys in this world. Reading his chronology, the attitude of a true multi-eventer comes through. We always have to shake off one bad event and look forward with optimism to better times. Luckily, they are just around the corner.

  25. Steve Kemp - July 25, 2014

    Words cannot convey what a humble, genuine, talented, caring and hard working man that Rex is. I believe his World Record for most total decathlon points and most total decathlons completed in an entire track career still is standing. This is much bigger than that though and I know thousands of us who know and love Rex are pulling for him with all our might. I look forward to seeing you again healthy Rex.

  26. Lydia Woods - July 25, 2014

    Dear Rex, Nationals weren’t the same without you…Peace and Blessing all my prays for you!

  27. Bob Walters - July 25, 2014

    Rex is an awesome guy who has earned all the accolades expressed! While putting on a track meet many years ago that was far bigger than I should have attempted, Rex was there from beginning to end shepherding me through the process. Rex is a servant leader who will overcome this latest challenge to resume his role at the forefront of Masters Track!

  28. Jack Karbens - July 25, 2014

    When decathlon point systems were being changed, I called Rex for help in verifying correct points for events in Hawaii. He would take the time to take down raw performances, do the calculations and report results back to me. His support helped us stage multi-events regularly, including Bryan Clay’s first decathlon. Rex’s influence is global and timeless. Stay strong, Rex.

  29. Chris Huffins - July 27, 2014

    Rex,
    You have been a HERO of mine for a very long time!! I am honored to say that I know you and I want you to know that you are an inspiration to me in ALL things that I do! I already know that you will beat this and prosper going forward bc anyone who can slay the unbeatable beast that is the Decathlon, can and will dominate all things! I love you and I can’t wait to see you,
    Huff

  30. Bridget Cushen - July 27, 2014

    My dear Rex, I am devastated, but I know you, analytical, meticulous, always get it right as I am sure you are now planning, stage by stage, to overcome this bump in the road. The whole world of Masters athletics are right behind you. Anything we can do on his side of the Atlantic?

  31. Margit Jungmann - July 29, 2014

    Dear Rex, this is – I think- the biggest challenge you ever had. I feel with you. Stay strong. All the best for you and hope to see you at the next international championship.
    Margit

  32. Suzy Hess Wojcik - August 2, 2014

    Best wishes for an early recovery to one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met for masters track and field.

  33. Lesley Richardson - August 7, 2014

    Hi Rex, so sorry to hear that you have been unwell, I have only just read about it. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope to see you soon.

  34. john mayor - August 18, 2014

    hay Rex , hope you are feeling better, I wish you a quick recovery and look forward to seeing you at the next big championships.
    all the very best from over the pond

    get well soon

    John

  35. Erja Koskela - August 27, 2014

    Big greetings and hugs from Finland! Strong man – we all know that!

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