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Senior Olympian weightlifter wins
gold medals after cancer surgeries.
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March 1 • 2012
eff Ellis has won five gold
medals in weightlifting in the
Michigan Senior Olympics
and broken the record for his age group
That's very impres-
sive. And quite
the 52-year-old West
has achieved most of
that while suffering
from colon cancer
and recovering from
two complicated sur-
Ellis hopes his story convinces those
who haven't to start undergoing a
regular colonoscopy. A colonoscopy he
underwent in December 2009 led to
the discovery of a carcinoid tumor, and
later, four lesions.
He underwent J-Pouch surger-
ies in April 2010 and July 2010 at
the Cleveland Clinic. His colon was
removed, and the bottom portion of his
small intestine taken out and formed
into a pouch to replace his colon, allow-
ing him to lead a normal life.
He was given a clean bill of health in
December, and he said he no longer has
to worry about the colitis he had when
he was 2.
A colonoscopy was a regular part of
his physical exams, he said, because
those with colitis have a 40 percent
chance of getting colon cancer. But he
said everyone at risk for colon cancer
needs the test.
"Get a colonoscopy when you see
your doctor:' he said. "Its a minor
inconvenience that can save your life. I'd
trade an evening of discomfort for an
extra 20, 30 or 40 years of being around.
I had no idea that I had cancer. I had no
symptoms, and I was feeling great."
Ellis was a champion weightlifter
at Michigan State University. But he
put down the barbells shortly after he
graduated and began his career as a
certified public accountant.
Then he turned 50 and learned about
the Michigan Senior Olympics and its
weightlifting event, the bench press.
He's won the gold medal in the 50-54
age group in each competition he's
The dates of the competitions are
June 2009, January 2010, January 2011,
May 2011 and January 2012. Notice he's
won four gold medals since his cancer
"I've looked at fighting cancer and
my recovery as a challenge," he said.
He was back at work six days after his
first surgery and doing elliptical train-
ing three weeks after the surgery. Six
weeks after his second surgery, he was
lifting weights. Seven months after the
surgery, he won a gold medal.
He set a state record of 295 pounds in
May 2011, and he broke his own record
with a 300-pound effort in January. He
doesn't think the record book is closed.
"I feel I can add 10 more pounds to
the record:' he said, looking forward
to the next Senior Olympics in July in
Ellis has stayed in good physical
shape for many years, which certainly
played a role in the quick recovery
from his surgeries. He's 5-feet-10 and
says he's weighed between 195 and 200
pounds the past 20 years.
Now that he's put nearly two years
between himself and his second sur-
gery, he's working out six or seven days
a week at Lifetime Fitness in Commerce
Township. He normally lifts weights two
days and does cardiovascular work the
Ellis' son, Josh Ellis, was a star foot-
ball player and track athlete at Walled
Lake Western High School and a school
Josh turned down offers from
Division II and Division III schools to
be strictly a student at Michigan State,
and he's now a junior with plans to
become an accountant.
Jeff and Lori Ellis' other child is
Michelle Ellis, an MSU grad. She was a
soccer player at W.L. Western. ❑
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