Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Four Marathons and Seven Years Ago...

Four marathons and seven years ago, I started chemotherapy. OK, OK, I know that really it was three marathons, one half marathon, and seven years ago, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

On June 3, 2002, I got up early, ate a breakfast of oatmeal, and – fearful that my oatmeal would end up all over an oncology nurse in a few hours – went in for my first chemotherapy. It was a daunting experience, and I had a lot of trepidation and fear about the whole thing, but I also knew that it had to be done. The alternative would be a slow and pretty awful death from lymphoma. I learned that day that chemo will not make you sick the first day you get it, so cleaning up half-digested oatmeal was never an issue. Later in the week, after going in each day that week for more chemo, I felt sicker and sicker, so it was more of a concern. But as it turned out through six months of chemo, I never threw up in the chemo room. In a neighbor’s yard once, but that is a different story.

I got four drugs that day in my brand new portocath, which had been installed only the previous Thursday, so that area of my chest was still very sore from the surgery. The first drug, Adriomycin, is a beautiful red color and I came to nickname it “Jonestown Cool Aide” for its awful side effects. I’ve heard other people call it “The Red Devil”. One of the interesting and rather funny side effects is that you urinate orange or pink for a few hours as your kidneys work desperately and unsuccessfully to get this poison out of your blood stream. The other drugs, Bleomycin, Vinbastine, and Dicarbazine are all clear like water, and all very toxic. I have blogged before about Vinblastine, which is a true miracle drug. Bleomycin caused lung damage later and came fairly close to killing me. But all four of them saved my life.

Now, I am a seven year survivor and a four time TNT marathoner. OK, OK, three time marathoner, one time half-marathoner! Geez! Seven years ago, I never would have envisioned getting to this point, and am very grateful for it. I had never done a marathon, or even really given it a thought. I had never fundraised. Now I have done both, multiple times, meeting many truly incredible and amazing people along the way. As people in the past helped make a difference in my life, helped me to survive, I am trying to do something to make a positive difference in the lives of others now and in the future. And to increase their odds of survival.

If you read this and are a TNT alumni or are currently doing Team in Training, Light the Night, or something similar, then you are making a difference, too. I thank you for this, in a sincere and heartfelt manner. Like thousands and thousands of others, I am living proof that we can go through something like cancer and its pretty awful treatments, and come out even stronger than we went in. Even strong enough and lucky enough to do a marathon.

Maybe this time next year, or close to it, my topic will be “Three Marathons, One Half Marathon, One Triathlon, and Eight Years Ago.” What would Abraham Lincoln think? But for now, I will just rejoice in being a seven year survivor, and be glad that the most toxic thing I am likely to ingest on this seven year anniversary of my first chemo is a beer or a glass of wine, if that.


Kristi Hope said...

Art, you should definitely have a beer or a glass of wine! We don't typically celebrate chemo, but we can celebrate the fact that it allowed you to complete four TNT events!

TNTcoach Ken said...

How many marathons? LOL........Dude, the world is a better place because of you. Congrats!

Racn4acure said...

Coach Ken, I'm biased but, you know, I strongly agree with that statement! :)

Kristi - exactly so, plus it is a good way to remember going from being so ill to being strong and healthy - just older - and feeling gratitude for that.

Anonymous said...


I love your story and hope to be a seven year survivor too. For now I am 3 half marathons and five years out from that first chemo day 4/29/04.
Barbara B.

Racn4acure said...

Go Barbara Go! Congratulations on five years and three half marathons! That is great. The five year mark is HUGE! Wishing you all the best! Art