It was back in 2005 that Steve Farmer suddenly felt ill. His belly swelled to an alarming size, and the symptoms quickly led to a diagnosis of a failing liver.
He wasn’t an alcoholic. What he learned, was that he’d been living his adult life with Hepatitis C, for perhaps 25 years.
Ten and a half years later, Farmer is going to the World Transplant Games (in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Aug. 23 to 30) for the first time, and is scheduled to do the Self Transcendence Triathlon on Aug. 2 at Elk Lake.
“[Looking back] I was tired at times but I chalked that up to being tired,” said Farmer, who co-owns Associated Sheet Metal in the Keating industrial area. “And I learned a lot. Hep C gets a stigma around it that’s really untrue, it’s mostly everyday people who have it. A lot are baby boomers, which is why it’s so important for baby boomers to get checked.”
With a liver functioning at 10 per cent, Farmer was put on the list for a transplant. It took a year to get, and then another three years to recover fully.
“Once your transplant takes then you can begin the 72-week Interferon [Hep C] drug treatment, which is brutal, like having chemotherapy. Awful flu symptoms go on and on.”
Following that Farmer spent six years volunteering with Hep C B.C., a non-profit organization, including time as president.
“I really wanted to help build awareness and get the word out about Hep C.”
Eager to live a healthier lifestyle after the recovery, Farmer gravitated to triathlon, and it has been an outlet.
“It’s social, and it gives you a goal, same as the World Transplant Games. Once I have that on my calendar, it motivates me. I wasn’t sure about triathlon until I started with Tri Stars, who are so welcoming for all levels.”
He’s competed in the ‘virtual triathlon’ of the Canadian Transplant Games three times, in 2006, 2012 and 2014. The 400-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5km run are broken into separate events. By completing all three, you qualify for the triathlon event, which the 57-year-old won for his age bracket (50 to 59) at the last two games.
The distances are nearly the same as the sprint distance of triathlon, with the addition of 350m in the swim portion. He’ll make the Self Transcendence his fifth sprint triathlon on Aug. 2.
While reports surfaced earlier this year that 2015 may be the final Self Transcendence Triathlon and Duathlon in Victoria, race director Sumitra McMurchy says that’s not true. There is no decision at this time and a formal announcement will be made following the Aug. 2 event, she said.
“The Self-Transcendence always aimed to encourage participation of people at all levels, encouraging them to reach a little beyond what they have achieved in the past,” she said.
New this year is an option for participants to wear a wetsuit in water up to 28 C, whereas the previous TriBC ruling banned wetsuits for 22 C and over. However, anyone who chooses to wear a wetsuit in 22 C or more loses eligibility for medals, placements or other awards.
In in addition to the Olympic (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run) and sprint distances, the Self Transcendence also features a duathlon (5k run, 40k bike, 10k run) and a youth triathlon category. Relay teams may also compete in the Olympic distance.
For Farmer, the race is a warmup for the World Transplant Games, where he is excited to cross paths with 1,500 people that have also experienced life-saving organ transplants.
July 28 is World Hepatitis Day (worldhepatitisday.org).
For more information on the Self Transcendence triathlon visit victoriatriathlon.com.