Friday, August 31, 2007

My Submission for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon

When I signed up for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon in May, we could write an entry about why the event was meaningful to us. This is what I wrote, in May 2007, and they put part of this with my photo in the official race program.

Five years ago this month, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. After six months of chemo, including potentially serious lung damage, I went into remission and was cancer free. I was extremely lucky in many ways, not the least of which was that the lung damage, which could have been fatal, was apparently healed.

My experience surviving cancer made me realize a lot of things, including the importance of medical technology. I swore when I was ill that I would use my experience to help others some day. I learned about Team in Training and in 2005 signed up to walk the Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, my first event ever other than a 10K a few months before. Then in 2006, I walked the Rock N Roll in San Diego for the same cause - that race was four years and one day after starting chemo. I am not a great runner, but am a fast walker and enjoy being out there, trying to make a difference. I am not fund raising for this race, but will later in the year for TNT, probably for PF Chang’s in Arizona to celebrate five years in remission the end of this year.

I have wanted to do the Virginia Beach half-marathon for a couple of years. This year especially, now being a five year cancer survivor, I am trying to do a number of events to celebrate surviving lymphoma and chemotherapy, and having good health again, and I really wanted to add this race to this list. Also, I have many friends from TNT doing it. I want to do this race to honor and inspire anyone with cancer. I especially honor three patient honorees from our Richmond team: Nicki, Ed, and Emma. Also, my sister Ann currently has breast cancer, and I want to do anything that I can do to encourage and inspire her to get better.

If, as a cancer survivor who is now also a two-time marathoner, I can in some way inspire someone else who is currently ill to keep their chin up, fight to get better, stay positive, and maybe someday be motivated to do something to make a difference in the world, then I can ask for no better outcome from my experience.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Message to the Fall Team

In addition to being a TNT participant, I am also a team Patient Honoree, someone who has survived a blood cancer and helps provide some inspiration (hopefully) to make those training for marathons, 100 mile bike races, and triathlons realize that every day, people facing cancer go through even tougher routines. As such, I like to write messages for the teams from time to time, and here is one that I wrote for the team preceeding mine, the 2007 fall team.

August 30, 2007 message to Fall Rock ‘N’ Roll Virginia Beach Team

Hi Rock N Rollers! Have a great race Sunday. If my foot heals by then I hope to see you in the race. If it is still too sore, look for me cheering you on, probably at the McDonalds near Birdneck. If you see me then wave, because everyone goes by so fast and in such a crowd that it is hard to pick people out.

I hope that you feel proud of all that you have accomplished. Even though a lot of people now survive cancer, there are plenty of others who don’t and your hard work will continue to improve the odds. And even the ones who are lucky like me and survive find that the treatment is no picnic. Five years ago in this exact week I was in the hospital feeling just awful, I think the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. It turns out that bleomycin, one of the chemo drugs, was damaging my lungs. Had I continued with that drug, I likely would have had irreversible and possibly lethal, pulmonary damage. I was so lucky to not only survive cancer but also bleomycin, and to have recovered most if not all of my lung function. Wouldn’t it be great if future anti-cancer drugs would go right to the offending cells, and leave the rest of the patient’s body alone? From what I learn, this is becoming more and more likely, and you are helping to make this possible too.

Keep up the great work, and have a great time at the Beach!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Waiting for the Cavalry

Update and Fund Raising Message of August 27, 2007

Hi again,

Here I am, about seven weeks into my efforts to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while training for the P.F. Chang’s Arizona Marathon in January. I wanted to give an update about how things are going.

My training update is a rare one for me – inactivity! I’ve essentially been a couch potato for two weeks since getting careless and having a chunk cut out of my heel by our storm door. Although not getting up at 4:45 to train is kind of nice, I generally hate the inactivity and can’t wait to be back out there, especially with the Rock ‘N’ Roll half-marathon this weekend.

As far as fund-raising is going, I again thank the 45 people who have joined my “Cancer Kickin’ Team” by making a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. These generous people have donated over $2,100, representing nearly 14% of my goal. You can get detailed information about what I am doing and make a donation if you so choose by going to my TNT web page:

I appreciate donations of any amount, and will gladly add the name of someone you want to honor with your donation to my web page and race singlet.

If you listen to Public Radio at all, you may occasionally hear commentary by Leroy Sievers, who has stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his lungs and to his spine and brain. He also has an extraordinary blog that I have subscribed to, which he updates every weekday. His entries often strike a chord with me, even though my personal situation five years ago was nowhere as desperate as his is. Here is an entry that Mr. Sievers wrote last summer that I really liked:

• Waiting for the Cavalry
Posted: 25 Jul 2006 05:35 AM CDT
“Wait for the cavalry. They should be here any minute. Or month. Or year. That's sort of the advice that many cancer patients are given. Just hang on as long as you can. People are working on this. There should be a breakthrough any day now. There have been tremendous advances in the treatment of cancer. And new research offers new hope. So doctors will tell you to just try to hang on, try to live as long as you can and maybe the cavalry will get here in time. It's sort of amazing that with all of the money, time and knowledge that has been poured into the war on cancer, that there still isn't a cure. How could that be? Is it really that tough? Apparently so...”

Well, cancer is a very tough foe, both personally for those who have it, and for those doctors and researchers trying to find a cure. This latter group is the cavalry. That is where you all come in – if you make a donation, you are helping to keep the “cavalry” supplied with the things they need to ride to the rescue. But instead of horses, saddles, guns, and sabers, your generous donations are used to provide the things that medical researchers need, and things that can help support patients and their families through the ordeal.

I was really, really lucky. I did not need the cavalry. People back in the 1970’s and 1980’s saw to that by developing effective, if pretty awful, treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma. In my case, if I could survive the chemo, which I almost did not, I had an 80% chance of living at least five years. I cannot tell you the incredible joy and gratitude that I felt in May 2002 when I learned that I had Hodgkin lymphoma, and not some tough-as-nails non-Hodgkin type. I felt like I had won the lottery! But so many others are not as lucky as I was and are hanging on by their fingernails for the cavalry to arrive. Every dollar each of us in Team in Training raises gets us that much closer to a cure. So if you would like to help, or have already, thanks again – I appreciate it, and many who will never know you will thank you as well.

Best wishes, and thanks.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Couch Potato

August 26, 2007. I hate being a couch potato! I am still waiting for the cut on my heel to finish healing. Instead of training, I used some of my spare time to read the last two Harry Potter books. But with a half marathon coming up in a week, getting in some miles would benefit me more than the reading. However, if I could have found a healing spell in one of the books, then that would have been a great surprise. No luck, so this thing just needs to heal the old fashioned way. I finally went to a doctor, who told me that Mary was right – I should have gone to an emergency room immediately and gotten stitches. It is too late now for stitches, and she told me that this is one of the slowest parts of the body to heal, since the flesh is very thin -only about an eighth of an inch covers the Achilles tendon - and the blood supply is not great.

Other than some weights and some eliptical workouts wearing my open heeled Crocs, I am out of action. With the open wound, even using the pool is out. Normally I do water aerobics once or twice a week, so I miss that. I am in good enough shape that I can finish the half-marathon, but I am wondering for the first time if this injury will heal in time for the race, which is only about a week in the future.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Freak Injury

August 18, 2007. It feels so strange and uncomfortable to be inactive. On August 12, I was coming in the front door with my arms full and no shoes on, and the storm door snapped shut on my heel. I got a nasty and painful cut on my right heel, nearly through to the Achilles tendon, and it's been all I can do this week to wear a shoe, much less put in miles. Mary suggested that I go to clinic that is open Sunday's and have it stitched, but being male, I didn't. It is starting to look like - big surprise - she was right.

It is still very painful today, and I am guessing that I need at least one more week to heal. So this morning, I went out as a cheerleader for the team, but without the pom-poms or megaphone. For this week, that is the best that I could do, but I really hope to be more active this coming week, and definitely the week after with the Rock 'N Roll half-marathon in Virginia Beach coming up!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Winter Team Forms

August 11, 2007. We had our team kick-off this past Wednesday, and it was a good way to get things stated. Then today, we had our first training as a team - four miles, although I went out with a few of the team who are also doing the Virginia Beach half marathon in three weeks and did six more miles together. It was about 10 degrees cooler than the past few days, which worked for me, even though getting up at 4:45 on a Saturday would not normally be on my schedule without TNT. I feel in great shape for the half marathon of 13.1 miles in a few weeks and think it will be a lot of fun. I want to take a minute and acknowledge and thank the dedicated efforts of some key people, without which TNT Richmond's winter team would not be a success: my coaches Michal and Sarah, my mentor Theresa, our mentor captain Heather, and the LLS staff person assigned to our team, Amber.

Here is a photo of the Richmond TNT winter marathon team, training for the Walt Disney Marathon and the PF Chang's Arizona Marathon:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Questions and Answers About Team in Training

NOTE: this was my fund raising and update message of August 6, 2007

I like to send out periodic updates about how I am doing with Team in Training as I prepare for the Arizona marathon in January. In this one, I discuss some questions I get about Team in Training and cancer.

First, thanks to the 26 people who have joined my “Cancer Kickin’ Team” by making a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You can get detailed information about what I am doing and make a donation if you so choose by going to my TNT web page:

I appreciate donations of any amount, and will gladly add the name of someone you want to honor with your donation to my web page and race singlet.

Now, to those questions that I sometimes get asked.

How many days will it take you to do the marathon? A lady on a trolley asked me this last year in San Diego, and my answer was that I would be very disappointed if I didn’t finish the same day. A world-class male distance runner can run 26.2 miles in 2 and 15 minutes or less. This means that the winner of a marathon is finishing about the same time as I am getting out of the first porta-potty line. The top 10 males finishers in Boston in 2007 were all under 2:18:07, meaning they averaged a mile every five and quarter minutes. For me to even qualify in the Boston Marathon, I would need to complete a marathon in less than three hours and 45 minutes. Being a generous guy, I am going to let someone have my spot in Boston next year. My goal is to do the Arizona marathon in five hours 55 minutes and 55 seconds or less. The winner of the race will have time to shower up, watch a movie, and have a few beers before I get done.

Which is harder, fund raising or marathon training? Believe it or not, fund raising is, because it is out of my control while training is mostly in my control. If I put in the sacrifices to train, don’t get hurt, and am very determined on race day, I will finish the marathon. With fund raising, I can do everything in my power but whether I succeed or not is mostly up to lots of people deciding whether or not to donate. Plus, it often feels uncomfortable asking people for money, even though it is not for me. On the other hand, I never have to get up at 4AM to fund raise.

Which is harder, chemotherapy, fund raising or marathon training? Duh!

If I want to donate but don’t want to use the web page, how can I do a check? Simply make a check out to “Leukemia and Lymphoma Society”, or even just LLS, and get in touch with me via e-mail, and I’ll make arrangements to get it.

Did you lose your hair during chemotherapy? Yes, just about all of it. But thank goodness, one special area still had plenty of hair – my ears! I could look at myself in the mirror and see hardly any head hair, and very thin eyelashes and eyebrows, but my ears looked like a small rain forest was growing in them. Every day, I would give thanks that I had not lost my ear hair. If that had ever happened, I don’t think I would have had the courage to go on, and would have crawled up in a ball in a corner, sobbing and whimpering. A man can only take so much, and losing my ear hair would have pushed me over the edge.

I get asked to donate to a lot of charities. Why should I pick this one? If you are like me, you get several charitable solicitations every week. We donate to a wide variety of these throughout the year. But you can’t give to them all, so how to choose? One criteria might be “does the solicitor have a personal commitment to their cause?” Anyone doing fund raising for a cause by way of an endurance event, be it a marathon, long bike ride, or triathlon certainly does. We put our heart and soul into this (not to say our legs and feet)! In addition to many “ordinary” charities, we regularly donate to many folks doing endurance events or even short walks for good causes. I hope you will consider my cause as well, if you have not already made a donation. You can donate online or with a check, and all donations are 100% tax deductible:

What does LLS do with the money? The mission of LLS is to cure blood cancers, and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. The LLS has programs in three major areas: (1) donations to cancer research ($61 million annually in support of over 200 researchers) (2) patient services, and (3) advocacy. For more information go to LLS is a very highly rated charity, but any charity has to spend some money that does not go directly to their mission. In the case of LLS, about 25% of their revenues goes to administrative and fund-ra ising expenses, and about 75% goes to their mission.

Why do you keep doing this? I participate in TNT for a lot of reasons: to make a difference, to raise money for a great cause, for the camaraderie of the team, and to continue to improve my conditioning. But I also wanted to make a personal statement that cancer patients can survive and be strong. If, as a cancer survivor who is now also a two-time marathoner and going for three, I can in some way inspire someone else who is currently ill to keep their chin up, fight to get better, stay positive, and maybe someday be motivated to do something to make a difference in the world, then I can ask for no better outcome fr om my experience.

I really appreciate your time to read my message. Thanks for your interest and support. Training is starting to get underway in earnest, and I will continue with periodic updates as my efforts progress.
Enjoy the day!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fall Team Training

August 4, 2007. I went out with the TNT fall team today (the winter team hasn’t officially started training yet) and did 10 miles. They are a great bunch of people, and it is wonderful that they are active participants in the fight against blood cancers. With the Virginia Beach half marathon just four weeks away, it was good to get in some training. I am really looking forward to the Rock ‘N’ Roll half in Virginia Beach. It is one of several events that I am doing this year to celebrate being a five year cancer survivor.

Some of the others are / were: the Monument Avenue Ukrops 10K last spring; my annual hike to Rip Rap Hollow in Shenandoah National Park; hiking in New Hampshire; hiking to the North Carolina border and back from Back Bay Wildlife Refuge; and the culmination being the 2008 PF Chang's Arizona Marathon!

Here I am in the 58 (F) degree swimming hole at Rip Rap Hollow this past July. I try to do this hike every summer. In 2003, it was my first hike of over a mile or two since surviving cancer, and it always reminds me of being healthy enough to hike again, and how grateful I am for that. On this trail over the past few years, I've seen bear twice, a timber rattler - nearly stepped on him - and a box turtle. It is a beautiful 9.6 mile hike in Shenandoah National Park, the only downside being that the last 3 miles are all uphill while climbing out of the stream valley. So by the time you hike out of there, all hot and sweaty, the cool dip in Rip Rap Hollow is a distant memory.