Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just an Ounce at a Time

It’s been three months and a day since I ran / walked the Country Music Half Marathon. I’ve been pretty sedentary, for me, since then. Now sedentary as I define it means walking around town at lunch, walking thousands of steps at work each day, and climbing about 20 - 30 floors on the stairs at work every day instead of using the elevator. I’ve done some hiking, as you can see on my hiking blog, and I try to do an hour of water aerobics once or twice a week. So it is not as if I have been a total couch potato. But it also has meant not getting out and running and walking 4-6 miles before work, and sleeping in on Saturdays instead of getting out with Team in Training and putting in another 8 – 13 miles.

Partly it has been laziness. It is very easy each night to say “I won’t get up tomorrow and run but I will the day after,” then repeat that the next night. It is tough getting up early and missing out on sleep. Without having to do that, maybe I would stay up a little later reading or working on the computer, and then realize that I would only get 6 hours of sleep if I got up and run, so I would just defer it.

And partly has been the foot pain, which just kept getting a little worse. I thought by resting the foot more it would go away, but it never did. The cortisone shot actually made it worse for a couple of weeks but now it feels better, so it is time to try some miles again.

I’ve noticed my weight creeping up. My pants and shorts are all feeling a bit tighter. I don’t own a scale but there are scales downtown in the banks. Every time I would get on one my weight would be just a little higher since stopping intense training. Not good, because from January to April I lost 11 pounds by working out so much and was pretty close to my ideal weight. I noted the other day that I have gained 6 pounds of that back since the race on April 25. That translates to only about an ounce a day on average for three months, but it adds up.

So enough is enough! Since I will be a fashion model for a night in less than 3 weeks, I want to be in good shape for that. Therefore, my goal is to lose at least 3 of those pounds in that time so I will look pretty good strutting down that runway! Yesterday, I got up and walked and ran four miles, running about 20 minutes of it. That is probably only the 5th time I have run since the race! It made my right knee a little sore, so this morning I walked 4 miles but didn’t run. Hopefully if I can keep doing this and watch the snacks, some of those extra pounds will come off by the time I strut my stuff in the fashion show!

Later today, I am going to hit the elliptical machine for 40 minutes or so, and the weight room. We fashion models have to stay in shape! :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Vote for My Best Post!

I've been updating this blog for about a year now, once I got done back-posting all of my Arizona Marathon information. So I thought it would be fun to do another poll, in part to see how many people actually read my blog, about what my best post is. Here are the ones I think are the best. What do you think? I'm leaving the poll open until August 15.

Relentless - In my view, this poem pretty well summarizes my feelings about why I do Team in Training.

Look! There's One of Leukemia Society People - seeing a young girl in Nashville two days before the race reminded me once again how important this mission is.

I'll Take the Fifth - How Beethoven's Fifth Symphomy helped get me through chemo seven years ago

The Little Red Devil and the Little White Angel - My debate of whether to do a full or half marathon this season was joined by two little beings

The Attack Ad - John McCain and Barack Obama weren't the only two slinging mud last fall!

Something Else - if you vote for this, please comment and tell me which one you liked best that was not one of the above choices.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Something Totally Different

If I asked anyone who knows me to use 10 adjectives to describe me, I am not sure what words they would select. But I am certain that these words would not be included: stylish, fashionable, hip, chic, or trendy. I am comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt, or running shorts, running shoes, and a dry-fit running shirt – with my TNT racing cap, of course. Maybe a pair of hiking boots, with hiking pants, a dry-fit hiking shirt, and my Tilly hat would fit the bill in the right circumstances. But fashionable? Stylish? Hip? Nope, not even remotely me.

So that is why my participation as a model in a fashion show in a few weeks is so far out of my comfort zone. But this is not just any fashion show – it is “Cure by Design”, and the cause is to raise money for the American Cancer Society. And every one of the models – some 45 or so of us – is a cancer survivor.

My friend, teammate, and fellow survivor Nicki was in this last year and told me it was a lot of fun. So after thinking about it for a week or so, I decided why not? It is for a good cause, and will be something totally different for me. I volunteered, and was chosen as a model. I will be modeling a very stylish thong! Ha, ha – just kidding about that. The goal of this show is to bring in paying spectators, not drive them away screaming in horror! ;)

Anyhow, we had our introductory meeting tonight at the ACS building, and I think it will be a lot of fun. I actually have to go for a fitting in a couple of weeks, then on the 14th of August we will all be spending the afternoon practicing walking down the runway as models, and getting dressed for the show, which will then go on all evening.

It felt amazing to look around this room and realize that all of the participants are cancer survivors. Most of us looked pretty good, I must say, given what we went through. There were kids, young men and women, and people older than me. The organizer told us that some of the models are 20 year survivors, and others just got diagnosed two months ago. I chatted with a few of them and heard some amazing stories. A young woman who survived ovarian, uterine, and liver cancer all in her 20’s, and went on to have two children. A 19 year old who had chronic myelogenous leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant – from her sister – last August, and a woman of about 50 something who had the same thing 7 years ago. A 17 year old girl who had kidney and lung cancer at age 5. A breast cancer survivor. A prostate cancer survivor who joked with a pretty young woman about going out for a drink after his fitting – “It was a joke, I had prostate cancer and can’t do anything!” A fellow Hodgkin lymphoma survivor who like me, does First Connection for LLS, and unlike me, still suffers from "chemo brain".

I’ll blog again about this after the show on the 14th, but I really think that this will be fun. And different. And although I am never going to be a stylish person – it is just not me – I will be for one evening!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shooting For the Moon

Forty years ago today, the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed in my life occurred: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their giant leap for mankind to the lunar surface. Just days before that, on my 18th birthday, Apollo 11 blasted off from its launch pad as we all held our breath – a birthday I will always remember. Even now, I often look up at the moon in wonder, marveling that we walked - in my lifetime - on this object a quarter of a million miles out in space. And we did it at a time when most calculations were done with slide rules, and with primitive on-board computers you would barely trust to do a simple spreadsheet or organize your recipes now.

I have thought many times since having cancer that if we can get to the moon in 1969, why can’t we have cured cancer by 2009? Is it that much harder than getting to the moon, harder than rocket science? Apparently so. I guess this is true in part because there is no single disease called “cancer”. There are so many different types, each with its own biology. Each type must be decoded and understood to beat it. As I recall, what we refer to as non-Hodgkin lymphoma is actually more than 20 different diseases. And there are four distinct types of Hodgkin lymphoma. And that is just for what most people consider to be just two major forms of blood cancers. Lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer – each of these has multiple forms of illness, biologically similar but entirely different at the same time.

Of course, we have made much progress. In 1969, most forms of cancer were looked upon as a death sentence. Many people in my parents generation would not even say the word, calling it the “Big C”, as if uttering the name gave it some special power – kind of like the kids at Hogwarts referring to Lord Voldemort as “He Who Shall Not be Named” in fearful hushed voices. Now, there are more than 10 million cancer survivors in the USA alone.

If I had gotten my Hodgkin lymphoma as an 18 year old the day of the moon shot, my chances of surviving for five years would have been about 40% or even less. When I was diagnosed in 2002 with Stage 3 HL, my odds of living for five more years were about 80%, and someone with stage one of this illness would have better than a 9 in 10 chance of living five years. So with individual cancers, we have made some fantastic progress. I, for one, have benefited tremendously from this.

What will it take to cure the remaining cancers? I wish I knew. But perhaps it will take as massive a commitment as we made to get to the moon – a goal that seemed impossible other than in science fiction when President Kennedy threw down the gauntlet in 1962. But we did it – and not just in my lifetime but 40 years ago! If we made the same commitment today, it is hard not to imagine all cancers being curable within the next 40 years. What a huge difference that would make to so many millions of people and their families! It is obviously very hard, not at all easy, to cure cancer, but when have we shied away from great goals because they were difficult?

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win …” President John F. Kennedy 12 September 1962

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Original Approach from Wellsphere

This is the email I received in mid-July from Wellsphere asking me to join them. Go here to read my article about this.

Hi Racn4acure ,

My name is Dr. Geoff Rutledge, and I am delighted to invite you to join Wellsphere's HealthBlogger Network, the world's premier network of health writers, which now includes over 2,000 of the Web's leading health bloggers! We reviewed your blog, and based on the high quality of your writing, the frequency of your posts, and your passion for helping others, we think you would be a great addition to the Network. It is easy and free to join the HealthBlogger Network, all you have to do is reply to this message and let us know you would like to participate.

As a member of the HealthBlogger Network, you'll enjoy the greatly expanded reach and exposure to Wellsphere's more than 5 million monthly visitors, innovative special features and functionality for your blog, and an exclusive badge to recognize you as a leading health blogger. Once you join, we'll begin promoting you and your blog as a great source of health knowledge and support, featuring you in rotation on our homepage (, republishing your posts on Wellsphere, giving you special status on Wellsphere and linking back to your blog from your articles and from your profile.

THERE IS NO COST FOR YOU TO JOIN and YOU RETAIN OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL of the content that you allow Wellsphere to republish. Here are the key terms of the straightforward HealthBlogger Participation Agreement, which you can see at :

* You retain full ownership and copyright to your content

* You grant us the right to republish your content on

* You can revoke your permission, and we will remove your content from the site

* Wellsphere (and also HealthCentral) will not make any other use of your content without your permission

Let me tell you a bit about me and about Wellsphere. I'm a physician who has taught and practiced Internal and Emergency Medicine for over 25 years at Harvard and Stanford medical schools, and am passionate about helping people get the information and support they need to be healthier. I'm now the Chief Medical Information Officer at, where I manage the HealthBlogger Network. Wellsphere, the fastest-growing consumer health website, is revolutionizing the way people find and share health and healthy living information and support. We've recently merged with The HealthCentral Network, Inc. (, and together we're now serving more than 10 million people a month!

I would like to invite you to join the HealthBlogger Network as a featured blogger in the Cancer Community. Once you join the HealthBlogger Network, we will automatically republish the blog posts that you've already written and the ones you write in the future (so you don't have to re-post them yourself, and there's no extra work for you!). We will feature them not only on the community pages of the site, but also on numerous relevant WellPages, where we give users a comprehensive view of expert information, news, videos, local resources, and member postings on topics you write about. All of your articles that are republished on Wellsphere will include a link back to your blog, and your Wellsphere profile page will show your special status as a featured blogger on Wellsphere (and will include another link back to your blog). By connecting to the Wellsphere platform, you will greatly expand the audience for your postings, attract additional readers to your blog, and receive much deserved recognition for your efforts to improve peoples' lives.

You will also receive from us a special badge for your blog recognizing you as a Top Health Blogger, and gain access to features and functionality for your blog that we've created especially for members in the HealthBlogger Network, including a custom tailored Health Knowledge Finder search widget, a Wellevation widget that provides daily motivational tips for your members, and a Wellternatives widget that offers nutrition information and healthier suggestions at popular chain restaurants.

If you would like to join the HealthBlogger Network, just reply to this message and say yes.

Congratulations on being selected to participate in the Health Blogger Network! If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email to, or call me at the number below.

Good health,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflections on my Fourth TNT Event

Wow, here I am, a year older once again next week. Well, only a week older from right now, but as humans measure age, a year older. It will be my eighth birthday since contracting cancer. It is sobering to contemplate that had effective treatments for Hodgkin’s disease not existed, I would not be writing this, or doing anything else other than pushing up daisies. Nor would I have had a fourth TNT season to reflect back on. I am so grateful to still be on God’s green earth!

I have so many great memories of my participation with TNT this season. It was my first half marathon and my first time to Nashville, and my first time running more of a long distance race than walking. So those things alone made it special for me. I got to train with some old friends: Vicki, Chuck, Kristi, Theresa, Paul, Nicki, Ann, and Sarah for starters. I got to make some new friends: my amazing mentees Dave, Lexi, Leslie, and Nicole, and many other new teammates like Kate, Jen, Cathy, Chopper Guy, Tammy, Jamey, Chad, Nancy, Donna, Gina, Bethany, and Rose. Then were the wonderful teammates that I met in Nashville from other parts of Virginia, including the great time we had together cheering for everyone. Then there was the young girl with leukemia that I saw in Nashville two days before the race. I think of her often and wonder how she is.

Fund-raising was tough this year for everyone. I didn’t come close to my goal. But I gave it a good shot and had a lot of fun with it. I really enjoyed executing my fund raising campaign as if it were an election: kicking off the campaign, the press conference, the attack ad and so forth. And I really liked the campaign buttons that my friend Lissa did for me. Even though I didn’t make my goal, I still passed 40K for total fundraising since I started doing Team in Training, so that felt special.

A few other special moments was the fun of training with the Charlottesville Team, running the Monument Avenue 10K, and seeing my friend Susan go for the Triple Crown in the Fletcher Flyer Century. Then of course, the surprise of being chosen for the LLS Winged Victory award a couple of weeks ago was a tremendous honor.

And finally, it has been a lot of fun blogging about my fourth TNT campaign. I’ve really enjoyed that, and plan to keep right on writing about it right along into my fifth campaign sometime next year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The One Thing I Can No Longer Do

Since surviving cancer seven years ago, I can still do nearly everything I could do before cancer. I remember wondering at the time whether I would ever feel totally normal or healthy again, and whether the mental fog caused by the chemo would ever clear. Would I be able to do my mentally demanding job again? Would I ever sleep soundly more than a few hours at a time? Would I get stamina back? Would I hike again? Would I enjoy eating so many things I loved without wanting to puke? Would my incredibly screwed-up digestive system ever work properly again?

Within a few weeks of wrapping up chemo, my nausea was gone and the mental fog was lifting. I was sleeping reasonably well, and got back to work part time at my job with Computer Resource Team. Within a few weeks of that, I was working full time on a demanding project and enjoying being back to work – and getting a full paycheck. As the months went by, my stamina began to return. Within perhaps three or four months, I felt like I had never been ill, although I was more tired than normal for months after that.

Now, seven years later, things are going pretty well. Working again? Check! Tough hikes in the mountains? Check! Thinking clearly? Check (at least I think so)! Doing marathons? Well, I had never done one before having cancer, but check! Able to eat or drink just about anything? Check! Check! Check!

Well as it turns out, there is one thing I can no longer do, and never will again: donate blood. Anyone who has survived any type of blood cancer has a lifetime deferment from donating the gift of blood to save others’ lives. I first donated blood in college, and got in the habit, donating approximately 80 pints of blood over the years. I joined the “Friends 4 Life” with Virginia Blood Services, pledging to donate at least four times each year. I donated in March, 2002, never dreaming that cancer was growing inside my chest and abdomen, and that it would be my last donation.

There is no substitute for human blood, even though some of the uses of it have been made somewhat obsolete by blood building drugs like Procrit and Neupogen, both of which I received. So it pains me that I can no longer do it. I feel bad when there is a blood drive at work, and I am not allowed to participate. I feel worse when I see ads proclaiming critical shortages of blood. But it is out of my hands.

Maybe someone reading this who has never considered donating their blood – something I was never, ever paid for, even once, unless you include cookies and juice – will step up and take my place. I won’t lie and say it is painless. How can a sharp object inserted through your skin be painless? But it is not agonizing either, and the pain is very temporary and is a small price for saving someone’s life.

I wonder sometimes how many people are still alive because my 80 pints of blood helped saved them. How many lives did I save? And how many lives will YOU save if you take my place as a blood donor?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Foot Pain Explained

Said the doc with his fancy diploma
Your foot pain is from a neuroma
A cortisone shot
Might help or might not
Well, it surely beats having lymphoma!

I’ve battled pain in my left foot on and off for years, especially since taking up long distance walking and now running. I’ve tried wide toe-box shoes and in-sole off the shelf orthotics, and those have helped quite a bit. In fact, I doubt I would have been able to complete my first marathon, or subsequent ones, without these.

I’ve used the “miracle drug” of ice, lots of ice, more times than I want to remember. Nothing like sticking your foot in a bucket of ice with just enough water to allow it to flow around your foot! Now that is true pain!

It has all helped, to a large degree. I would still get the pain when hiking long distances, say more than about 3 hours, especially if my left foot would slide sideways into a rock on a downhill trail. Then it would feel like a really severe electric shock. It would normally take a couple of days after hiking for the pain to fully go away. But generally, doing all the things I was doing during marathon training kept the pain at bay or under control – until this year.

Since around mid to late March, nothing I would do made the pain go away, other than resting a few days. I would go out and run / walk, and after 5 miles or so, every step with my left foot would just hurt. Ice? Man, did I ice that foot! Ibupropin at times. Cutting back miles at times. Nothing would work. For some reason, the day of the half marathon in Nashville was my first long mileage day in a couple of months without a lot of pain, and I was very grateful for that.

Since then, I have taken it very easy. I’ve done a few short hikes, mostly on level ground and none longer than about five miles. I’ve run a few times, walked a little more often than that, again none of these longer than about five miles. I slept in plenty, getting up at 6 or even 6:15 after months of 4:30 or 5:00. I took two entire weeks off for a family visit, other than a few very short walks and a short hike or two. In short, between laziness and deliberately trying to rest my foot, I was hoping to have whatever was wrong with it heal. But every time I would press on the left metatarsal area, I would get the electric shock feeling, so I knew something was still wrong.

So I went to a podiatrist yesterday, and as you can tell from my opening limerick, a neuroma was the verdict. He discussed a bunch of options, and we decided to start with a cortisone shot to the affected area. He definitely found the right nerve in my foot with that long needle, I can tell you that! It is still painful from the shot about 30 hours later, but I am hoping to try out a hike in the mountains this weekend if the pain subsides by then. Depending on how that goes, I will try some road running and walking later next week.

A friend said maybe it was time to give up hiking and long distance training, switch to a bike. No way! Although supplementing my normal routine with a bike makes sense, especially if a triathlon is in my future next year. But I think that over time, the neuroma will heal. I am optimistic about it.