Joe Marksteiner, a 22-year Air Force veteran and former gymnast, won a title at the 2013 World Powerlifting Championships at the age of 60. This year, now at 65, he will be traveling to Mongolia to compete again. He competes alongside his wife Cathy who has won her own fair share of trophies. The two have been together for four decades and they’ve been training together 4-5 times a week, every week since their marriage.
Marksteiner’s physical strength is clear, but his mental strength is just as, if not more impressive.
Joe’s Health Journey
In 2017 Joe noticed some weird symptoms. His skin would flush red for unknown reasons and he was having some gastrointestinal issues. Joe first tried to control things on his own. He adjusted his diet and tried to manage the symptoms. But as an athlete he knew his body well and he knew something was off. He decided to consult a professional.
He was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors which were found on his liver and his bowel. The tumors ranged in size from softballs to golf balls. It was scary news for Joe and his wife, especially because they had endured the loss of their own daughter years ago from lymphoma.
But the couple attacked the diagnosis with everything they had. They knew they had options, and they were going to do everything in their power to choose health.
We really wanted to be educated and participate in the medical decisions, you can’t make informed decisions if you’re not educated.” – Cathy
The couple went to the UK Markey Cancer Center to see Dr. Lowell Anthony who specializes in neuroendocrine tumors.
Joe’s treatment included octreotide that he self-injected, chemotherapy (including oral), and the embolizations of the right and left lobe of his liver. He’s also had surgery to remove the primary tumor which was located on his small intestine (three feet had to be removed in total), 14 lymph nodes, and his gallbladder.
The surgery’s success can be attributed at least in part to Joe’s compliance and diligence with his self-care instructions. All forms of exercise were off-limits during recovery, and the powerlifter was told to not pick up more than 5 pounds.
When he was allowed to start moderate exercise again, he started small with some pushups during commercials as he watched TV. Slowly but surely, Joe got his strength back. Miraculously, just 6 months after his major surgery, he and Cathy were on their way to the USA Powerlifting Open Nationals. There they both earned their bids to compete in World Championships in Mongolia.
Joe is a testament to the importance of patient compliance and to the overall value of physical exercise and dietary health for the recovery process. While he says he’s not completely back to his old self yet, he’s making steady gains and he attributes his dedication to health as one of the main driving factors to his progress.
That said, his journey is not quite over. When he comes home from world championships he must undergo another procedure to continue shrinking the tumors on his liver, and for the rest of his life he will have to do octreotide injections. However, he has a goal to eventually be off the oral chemotheraphy completely, and in the meantime he’s not planning on stopping lifting.
Will Joe take home another title in Mongolia? Stay tuned to find out how this patient warrior does at world championships!
Read Joe’s full diagnosis and treatment story here.