Friday, October 30, 2009

Faith's Hope

One of the really great things about Light the Night is seeing all of the white balloons, because every one of those balloons is carried by a cancer survivor. 40 years ago, surviving cancer was a rare thing. Now it is common, but not common enough, which is why so many people are out there raising money to defeat these terrible diseases.

Last night, one of those white balloons was carried by Faith, a young Richmond woman who is currently wrapping up her treatment for stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma. Stage 4 means it has metastasized from the lymphatic system and into organs. In Faith's case, this was her lungs, spleen, and bone marrow. You can imagine that this is quite serious, and Faith has had to undergo a terrible ordeal as she fights for remission.

But Faith did more than just fight her own battle. She used her illness and her courageous fight against cancer to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by joining Light the Night. She formed a team, Faith's Hope, and recruited friends for her team, many of them raising money as well. Faith's team raised $9,334 for Light the Night, the most by far of any team in Virginia this year. Faith single-handed raised over $7,100 of that amount. In fact, she raised more money as an individual than any other team in Virginia. Now, that is simply incredible!
A mutual friend gave Faith my email address some months back, and she reached out to me as someone who has been through Hodgkin lymphoma and its rigorous treatments, although I am sure that Faith has had to endure more than I did. So we have been exchanging emails for a while, and I joined her team to raise a few dollars of my own for Light the Night. But until last night, I had never met Faith. That changed when the big and enthusiastic team that she had recruited formed up prior to the event. One of the highlights of the evening for me was getting to meet Faith at last, and to give her a big hug - one survivor to another. I know that our entire team was inspired by her. And I know that when I do my next TNT event, Faith's name will be written on my race singlet.
Faith's fight is nearly over - her treatment ends in two weeks. She has responded well, and final scans after she is done with chemo will determine the level of success. I have no doubt that she will soon finish kicking cancer's ugly butt to the curb! And that she will continue to inspire people with her story and her actions.
Go Faith! Go Faith's Hope!
Here are a few photos from last night. I really enjoyed meeting everyone on Faith's team. It was my honor to walk with you all - thanks for coming out with Faith's Hope, supporting her, and supporting this cause.
Faith and her good friend Jenn. Jenn cleaned Faith's house when Faith was in the hospital, walked her dog, and generally kept an eye on her during her treatment. One of the spring team mentors and I walked a bit with Jenn and were trying to convice her to join Team in Training. Do it Jenn, do it! You won't regret it.
Part of Faith's Hope. Mary, the lady on the far left, survived Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 31 years ago, which is beyond remarkable. From left: Mary, Mary, Scottie, Faith, Lis, and Susan. Lis brought Faith ginger ale when she couldn't keep anything else down, and walked her dog on weekends.
Our team was big, and it seemed impossible to get everyone in the same place for a photo, but here is one with me in there with some of our team. Back row, from left: Scottie, Lis, Beth (one of Faith's sisters), Jenn, and David. Kneeling: Art, Faith, Martha.
Awesome survivor Faith holding her white balloon (the wierd loop was the ribbon to a balloon blowing in the wind)
People carrying their lighted balloons
Part of Faith's Hope after the walk - everyone is happy, everyone is inspired!

Volunteering is Hard Work!

So, I spent from 1PM yesterday until 5PM volunteering at Light the Night. It reminded me of how many things only get done because of volunteers, every single day. And it felt good to give back in a different way. If I win the lottery tonight, I will be doing a lot more volunteering - for many organizations and causes.

So what type things did I do? I hung banners with rope. I unloaded vehicles. I used tape to hang more banners, and to put Light the Night plastic "skirting" around all of the tables. I will probably be writing a post later about how tape - and in fact anything that is sticky on one side and designed to be applied to something - is the natural enemy of men. I unpacked and folded sweatshirts for sale. And I did a lot with balloons!

Light the Night is all about the balloons. Hundreds of balloons. And every one of those balloons must have a light inserted, and the balloon must be inflated. I will never take a balloon for granted again, because the last couple of hours of my shift was working with balloons. To insert the light requires two people. One sticks their fingers way down into the balloon and pulls it open - tougher than it sounds when repeated 100 times. The other tests the light and inserts it into the balloon. Then they must be inflated with helium, often with a deafening POP in the confined space of the balloon tent! But eventually, the 750 balloons were all inflated - white for survivors, red for supporters, and gold for walking in memory of someone.

Balloons with lights inserted lined up on the table ready for being inflated with helium

Red balloons are prepared

At the end, there is not a lot of room

Amber and Elliott, two of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's many fabulous employees, at the Team in Training recruitment tent. Come on, join TNT - you know you want to. Make TNT the road taken - you won't regret it!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brief Report on Light the Night

I am tired, it is late, and the Phillies are currently losing to the Yanks - bummer. So this will be most brief. I promise to write more soon and post photos from Light the Night.

I'm beat! I got there at 1PM to help set up and got home just after 8PM. Lots of volunteers and LLS staff worked very hard to pull this off. Light the Night is beautiful with all of the lighted balloons - of which I blew up a hundred or so. Balloons were red for supporters of blood cancer patients, white for blood cancer survivors, and gold if you were walking in memory of someone.

I saw several friends, and met my team captain and fellow survivor, Faith. She is undergoing chemo for stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma, but showed up to walk. After months of trading emails, it was great to meet her in person. She is clearly a wonderful lady.

Seeing the TNT tent there and talking with TNT staff Amber, Cate, and Elliot make me want to sign up for an event. But which one? So tough to decide!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mentor Captain

Well, I'll be trying a new role with Team in Training with the spring team: mentor captain.

Now in case you think I will be commanding a ship or something like that, nothing of the kind. I'll be working with the mentors for the team and trying to help them help their mentorees in a very tough fund raising economy. It will be an interesting experience, and I hope that I can be useful in that role. In every other TNT event I have done, I only was involved with the marathon teams. In the capacity of mentor captain, I will work with mentors for the marathon, triathlon, and century cycle teams. I'll look forward to working with this fine group of volunteers, several of whom are prior teammates.

Tomorrow is the Light the Night walk. I am really looking forward to it.

Here is a photo my friend Kristi took of me after Saturday's information meeting. I like the fall colors in it, and of course, I am dressed in blue - suitable for a captain, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Roads Taken

I spoke at the Team in Training informational meeting yesterday to recruit participants for the spring team, which starts training in a few weeks. I spoke in the role of a patient honoree (blood cancer survivor). I was out for a walk early yesterday, trying to think what I would talk about while noting the beautiful fall colors. Reds. Oranges. Yellows. Ah, yellows – “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” ends thusly:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

I thought about the decisions we make every day. Most are simple and of little consequence, like whether to watch TV or read a book tonight. A few are truly momentous and life changing – for me the decision to commit to TNT nearly five years ago is one of these. But that started with a pretty simple decision, that of attending that TNT information meeting in early 2005, just as the people I would be speaking to were doing later that morning. And I thought of how I could relate a couple events in my recent life to this, and maybe encourage a few of them to select the same path.

One was reacting to cancer. We don’t get to pick cancer or not. If we have it, we have it. But we can choose which path to take after that point. We can choose the road of negativity, of “why me”, of giving up, of constant complaining about our misfortune. Or we can choose to be positive, to be strong, be a survivor instead of a victim, and to learn and grow from our bad luck. I know that the latter path was the one that I selected when I was so ill, and that made a huge difference in my life. One thing that struck me when I was dealing with cancer was that this path had been traveled by thousands before me, and that my successful treatment owed a debt to what was learned by their experiences. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, people with Hodgkin lymphoma were much more likely to die – after tremendous suffering - than live, and now the five year survivorship is about 85% - remarkable. And I was determined that when I was well again, I would do something to make a difference for people dealing with cancer, to make their journey on this very difficult road a little less difficult.

The second decision I thought about was how I selected the road less traveled and decided to do Team in Training in 2005. I’ve written before about how I hesitated because of the fundraising and my self-doubts about raising that kind of money. For me, Team in Training was almost the road not taken, and that would have been such a loss for me. Now, maybe I would not know what I would be missing, because the other road – just going on with my life – would have been okay, too. But I would have missed out on so much had I selected that path. So instead, I showed some moxie, decided to believe in myself, and took my first step down a road that led to becoming a multiple-times marathoner, raising $40,000+ for LLS, and meeting so many amazing people. By giving back to others, I gave to myself. By making a difference in the world, I made a difference in my own life. And perhaps my experiences have touched other people and made a difference in their lives as well.

Frost’s poem has a few lines that are really apt:

Oh, I kept the first (road) for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back

Team in Training, the road less traveled, the road almost not taken by me, leads one to places in their life where there is absolutely no going back to that starting point where the two roads diverged nearly five years ago. Your life changes, for the better, too much for that. For me, that other road, that road without Team in Training, was the road not taken. And that has made all the difference!

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Connection

One of the things I do as a volunteer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is First Connection. We are in a national database for LLS, and when someone newly, or even not so newly, diagnosed with a blood cancer calls LLS and wants a First Connection contact, one of us is contacted by LLS to give that person a call. They just want to talk with someone who has been through it, who has had to face down that beast that we call cancer. And as a survivor, it feels great to chat with someone and maybe help lesson their fear at bit.

So tonight I was asked to call a man with Hodgkin lymphoma. He is in a state far away, and is almost done with his treatment. For privacy purposes, I will call him “Joe.” This is the first time in perhaps a year that I have been asked to call someone. Talking to Joe, and hearing about some of the things that he has gone through, reminds me of how difficult it is to go through cancer. He is doing pretty good, and just got back to work. Like me, he suffered lung damage during chemo, although it sounds like his might be more permanent. Unlike me, he never lost his hair or got really nauseous from the chemo, although he said he got very tired. He said “I guess I am not really a cancer survivor yet.” I told him that he sure was, and that you are a survivor from that first diagnosis. It was nice to talk with him, and I think he appreciated the call.

I’ve probably called about 7 or 8 people now as a volunteer over the past few years. Some of them were doing great, others were in a terrible position – no health insurance, too sick to work and no disability insurance. Some were very upbeat, others much more discouraged. Some had great support from family and friends, others had virtually none. I got in contact with one man the night before his first chemo, and at the end he told me something that made me feel great, and that I have always remembered. He told me that he had been terrified about the next day, but after we talked he felt calm, and that his fear was gone. He said that he just needed to go in there and do the treatment, but that it would all turn out in the end. Another man I called wasn’t home, so I identified myself as an LLS volunteer to his wife, and she was desperate to talk to someone who had been through this. We talked for a good half hour, and she was so fearful about what her husband was about to go through.

Bottom line – this is a really good program that LLS provides, and it helps people out, if they request the call, at a really tough time. Because I can tell you from personal experience that when you hear those words from the doctor – “You have cancer” – it is like getting kicked in the gut. You wonder how long you will live. You worry about losing your job. You worry about leaving loved ones behind. You have hundreds of thoughts racing through your head all at the same instant, and you can hear the doctor talking but you can’t really understand for a few seconds. If from my experience seven years ago, I can help someone out now, to make the road even a little less fearful, then I am glad that I have the opportunity to do so.

So if you, or someone you know, are diagnosed with a blood cancer, contact LLS and ask for information, and for a First Connection volunteer. We are there to help you.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

My major post of today is on my hiking blog, talking about a lunchtime hike that I did, with photos of the same. But I did want to blog about some more or less random and unconnected thoughts.

I was back at the podiatrist again this morning, getting my fourth injection into my neuroma. This time, it was the alcohol, and it hurt like crazy for a little while. Then it makes that part of your foot feel kind of numb for a few hours, almost as if you do not have a chunk of your foot. It made me walk very carefully for a while, especially on stairs. But by the time I took my hike at lunch, it felt pretty good and I was able to cruise along, walking nearly four miles.

The podiatrist told me that the neuroma is definitely still there, but the only way to tell if it is improving is to start doing long hikes and/or runs. The longest run I have done in the last few months, with some walking mixed in, is about 4-5 miles. So I need to start finding the time to get those miles increased. I only had time for 1.5 miles this morning before my doctor visit, but with the long walk at lunch, I got some decent exercise today.

Light the Night is a week from tonight. I am really looking forward to it, and will get there in the afternoon to help them set up. My team, Faith’s Hope, has raised over $8,000 for this event. The vast majority of this has been raised by Faith, our team founder and captain, who has done an amazing job. I hope that the weather will be as nice for the walk as it was today.

Saturday morning, I am helping Cate – our Richmond Team in Training Campaign Coordinator – with an information meeting. I will be talking as a cancer survivor, and also will talk about my first TNT meeting when Jamal convinced me to overcome my fear of fundraising big bucks and go for it! I hope we can recruit a big team. Kick-off is in two weeks, and I guess recruiting is lagging a bit. I am not on the team, but will be volunteering as mentor captain, a very new thing for me. I am looking forward to being involved in some capacity with the purple people again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Here Comes the Sun!

My first warning that something was terribly wrong on Monday was when I opened my garage door yesterday morning on the way to get the paper. I stopped in mid-step. Something was not right, but what? Quickly, I realized that the driveway was dry. We have had so many nasty, cool, wet days lately that rain just seemed normal. Our somewhat strange neighbors, the Noah’s, had gleefully removed the gigantic tarps covering their strange boat, and resumed construction of their huge watercraft.

“Well,” I thought, “I guess the driveway being dry is really odd, but isn’t too alarming.” I stepped outside, and glanced up. The early morning sky was a very strange color. But what color is that? The sky should be a leaden, cold grey, and there should be moisture coming from it. I searched my memory. Yes, that’s it – blue. The color is blue. That's not right! My sense of foreboding grew – something is seriously amiss.

Trembling a bit, I walked towards the newspaper box, and froze in fear. There, to the east, was a strange orange-pink glow in the sky. I studied it cautiously. What should I do? Should I alert my neighbors? At first, I thought that maybe this was just an oddity, but the glow got brighter and brighter. I was starting to approach a state of near panic. Suddenly, a glowing fiery orange-yellow ball appeared, low in the sky. I screamed! It got a little higher. What the hell is that thing? Is the earth under attack from aliens from the Blennobian Nebula? Without warning, the terrifying orb rose completely above the horizon and seemed to just hang there, glowing ever brighter! “This is really, really bad,” I said out loud as a sense of terror overcame me. I turned and started to run, and tripped over my own feet. As I sprawled out in the driveway, I had this sense that I was doomed, and just curled up into as small a ball as I could form myself into.

Just at that point, my neighbor, Shirley, came walking by. “Run!” I screamed to her. “Save yourself! Don’t worry about me!” With amazing courage, she just continued walking calmly towards me. “Art, what’s wrong?” she asked. I raised my hand and pointed to the eastern sky, pointing with quivering finger. “L-l-l-l-look,” I stammered, with a quaver in my voice. “What?” she asked, her gaze following my finger. “Oh, that! That’s just the sun,” she said. “The sun?” I replied, in confusion. “Yes, the sun. Remember? We saw it a week or two ago. Now, it’s back. Calm down! Everything is OK.” She held her hand out, and helped me to my feet. I felt rather foolish as the memory of sunny days slowly returned to me. “Yes, the sun – now I remember,” I said with a sigh of relief. My pulse returned to normal, and my fear quickly left me.

I got the paper and returned to the house, opening the paper to page 2. Weather forecast – bright sunshine, high of 70. Yes, the sun – welcome back, old friend! Where in the world have you been lately?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thank You, TNT Marine Corps Marathon Team!

Wow, here it is, the very last event of the Team in Training Fall Team! If you are doing this race for TNT Richmond, TNT Virginia, or any TNT Chapter, I want to thank you for your dedication to this cause.

I hope you have an amazing time at the Marine Corps Marathon a week from today. While you run the race, think a bit about the people you are helping right now, and the lives that will be saved in the future because you choose to care. And take some time to thank and reflect on the sacrifice of the brave men and women of the US Marine Corps - past, present, and future – that this race honors.

I, and all cancer patients and survivors, thank you for raising money to fight blood cancers. Have a fantastic time running all over our Nation’s Capital! And GO TEAM!

I wanted to write some verse for you that more or less describes your marathon course, without writing 26.2 verses. So here goes! Thanks again!

From the streets of our grand Capital to Potomac River’s shore
You will run your heart out for a cause that’s well worth running for
First or last, it matters not at all, it’s the cause that means the most
All cancer patients give you thanks and applaud you coast to coast

Your long race starts out in Arlington where so many heroes lie
You’ll run north and cross the river soon, reaching Georgetown by and by
To the north and then back south you’ll run, gliding past the river’s shore
While you make a difference in the world, and laud the Marine Corps

You will run past Mr. Jefferson and past Mr. Lincoln, too
Up the mall past the white obelisk as you see this long run through
You will head west so you “beat the bridge”, run past Jefferson again
Through the efforts of you purple folks, cancer war we’ll someday win

On you’ll run right past the Pentagon; on that grim September morn
The attack upon our country’s soil left our nation so forlorn
Towards Crystal City then you’ll run, and then turn back up north
The mile back near the Pentagon will be your twenty-fourth

Then past headstones back in Arlington you will move your weary feet
You are gaining on the finish line and the feeling will be sweet
Team in Training teammates cheer for you in their purples, whites, and greens
As you near the great memorial that honors our Marines

For the race ends at the monument to the men who raised that flag
In their fight on that Pacific isle, where their courage ne’er did sag
In this war we fight on blood cancers, soon a vict’ry we’ll declare
It will happen thanks to folks like you, because you choose to care

PS: When I was studying the course map to write these verses, I realized that you have an incredible route to run. And I said to myself "I HAVE TO DO THIS RACE FOR TNT SOMEDAY!!!!!!!"

The Runners' Conversation

The other day, I poked a little fun at myself and other people of my age (and older) by writing a fictional conversation that “old people” might have. Today, I will poke more fun at myself and also other runners by writing about a runner’s conversation. When I was young, I used to get pretty tired of hearing older people dwell on their medical conditions. But now, I realize it is a pretty normal thing to do, and also that much younger people, like runners, can do the same thing at times. We runners can focus on our aches and pains at times to the exclusion of other things because frankly, they can get pretty crippling. And frustrating – since they inhibit us from doing what we want to do.

As with before, this is intended as humor only, is based on no real person’s words – including mine – and is not meant to show disrespect to any age, gender, or running style. Here is a fictional conversation of four runners: male runner 1 (MR1), female runner 1 (FR1), male runner 2 (MR2), and female runner 2 (FR2).

FR2: Hey, good to see you! Haven’t seen you in a few weeks.

MR1: Yeah, it’s been that plantar faciaitis. It’s been killing me lately!

MR2: I’ve heard that’s bad. Try rolling your foot on a frozen Dixie cup. I keep having IT (ileo-tibial) band pain off and on, and it is pretty painful.

FR2: Ouch! I had that last year, couldn’t run for months! It was agonizing.

FR1: I never had that, but I had that knee pain around my patella. I think that is similar. Boy that hurt! Brought me to my knees! It eventually got better, and I did exercises to strengthen my quads. That has helped.

MR1: Speaking of pain, I had bursitis in my hip last year. The only thing that helped was a cortisone shot, plus some physical therapy. Made me feel like I was 90 years old. I could barely hobble for a while. Hey, where’s Jill been lately?

FR2: Oh, she has a stress fracture in her foot and can’t run. She might even have to miss the race in two months. There is not much you can do about them but rest, I think. It would suck to miss that race because of it.

MR2: I thought I had a stress fracture a few years ago, but it turned out to be metatarsalgia. Pretty painful with every run for months. I finally had to rest for a while and get orthotics for my shoes.

FR1: Did you ever pull a hamstring? Talk about pain! I did that in school when I ran track. I thought my hammy would never get better!

FR2: Nope, but I tore a calf muscle once running in sand. That hurt like crazy. Hey, how is Bill’s Achilles injury doing?

MR1: Pretty bad, I hear. Every time he tries to run, he has to stop after 3 miles. It is agonizing. Man, running sure isn’t for wimps, is it?

FR1: Nope, but it sure beats the alternative – being a couch potato! Boy, my hams are really tight today, I need to stop and stretch out in a few minutes.

MR2: We’ll wait. I could use some stretching, too. I’ve been having some back spasms lately. Need to work on my core. I never take enough time for strengthening exercises.

FR2: I’ve had back spasms, too. I hate that! Plus when your muscles cramp up after a long run sometimes – that is so painful.

MR1: Listen to us! We sound like my parents!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Old Peoples’ Conversation

This will be a two-parter, with the next part to be called “The Runners’ Conversation.” That will come in a day or so.

When I was a young guy, I used to get annoyed when I would visit my mom and my in-laws and they would seem to dominate conversations with all sorts of news about their health. They were fairly old – like about my age now or maybe somewhat older. Every conversation involved detailed health information – sometimes too much information – about either them or friends of theirs. Of course, time having passed by so quickly, I would love to have such a conversation with them now about any subject. By the way, if you are young and roll your eyes when the old folks talk about weird stuff, remember – you won’t have them around forever!

I don’t know when I will hit official old age – maybe age 65? No matter, because I guess I am old enough that I hear more and more conversations again involving health problems, some fairly graphic. In the interest of full disclosure, I am pretty sure that I have even been involved in such a conversation or two. So I have put together a hypothetical conversation between four old people, all fictional, and no offense meant to anyone of any age or gender. They are Old Male 1 (OM1), Old Female 1 (OF1), Old Male 2 (OM2), and Old Female 2 (OF2).

OM1: I’m going in for a colonoscopy next week. Kind of dreading it.

OF2: Oh my God! I had one last year and it was awful! You are going to be so sick. I wore a path between the bathroom and the living room the day before getting “prepped!” And I was really pooped the next day – no pun intended!

OM2: They aren’t so bad. But I sure hated it during my physical last week, when I got a “digital exam” from "Dr. Ben Dover!" They are so miserable. But he said my prostate feels pretty normal this time, unlike last year. He said I have the prostate of a 30 year old!

OF1: You men are such wimps! The stuff we have to go through, starting with pap smears, pelvic exams, and mammograms – not to mention childbirth. Men have it easy.

OM2: Oh yeah? I remember last year when I had that little prostate issue. The urologist had to take some biopsies with this thing traveling through an area that Mother Nature never intended for such explorations. “You might experience some slight discomfort,” he said. Slight discomfort? I was lying there and suddenly it felt like an enraged five pound ground squirrel was attacking me again and again in a very sensitive place!

OF2: Well, that’s couldn’t be as painful as my knees. Looks like I might need knee replacement surgery in a year or so. I can hardly do stairs any more, and am in constant pain.

OF1: Oh, don’t get your knees replaced! Remember when Mabel had that done three years ago? She can still hardly walk and is worse off than before.

OM1: Speaking of pain, I had a huge black mole that was shaped like a star fish removed from my back a few months ago. It hurt like the dickens for weeks! And it wept pus and gore for most of that time.

OF1: Oh for God’s sake, don’t remind me of that! It was so gross, and you were such a wimp about it. You screamed like a little girl! And it was just a little mole, no bigger than a pencil eraser.

OM1: It was more like the size of a pocket watch! The pain was awful. It was a lot worse than my knee pain.

OF2: Not worse than my knee pain. And certainly not as bad as my colonoscopy. Oh, you are going to feel so terrible. It is horrible. Don’t do it! I bet it is worse than colon cancer!

OM2: You know, I have to see a surgeon about this shoulder. Ever since I tore that rotator cuff, it just hasn’t been right, and it just isn’t healing by itself. I hate the thought of shoulder surgery. Man, old age isn’t for wimps, is it?

OF1: No, but it beats the alternative. But it is tough. Man, I had the worst cramping last week. I was in such pain that I thought I was going to throw up! Kind of felt like that time after I had surgery and they had to lay most of my insides on the operating table next to me while they stitched up that problem with my uterus.

OM1: Hey, who’s hungry? Let’s go eat!

Now, if you are a young runner shaking your head at all us older people – beware. My next post will be about the conversations that runners have, and you may see some surprising similarities. And since I am not just a semi-old person, but a runner as well, I guess I’ll be poking some fun at myself again!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Ran Tonight – No, Seriously, I Did!

After my tongue-in-cheek account of Monday’s “training”, you probably wonder if I really ever do any serious working out between Team in Training events. And the answer is yes. Tonight, I ran / walked four miles after work, running 26 minutes and walking 20.

It was a crappy and frustrating day at work, and it felt good to pound out some miles. Any time I found myself thinking about work as I ran, which did happen a few times, I forced myself to think about something else. These included just being outside, running through the woods for a bit, and thinking about a short story I plan on writing. Plus I was running my favorite local four mile route, one I haven’t done as much lately. I haven’t wanted to run it in the dark every since I nearly ran nose first into that ginormous spider. So since it was still daylight, I took advantage of the light to go that way. This is my first time running more than two miles in about 10 days. And with rain moving in just hours after I finished, and looking like lots of rain in the next few days, I am really glad that I got out there.

Actually, I have had at least some exercise this week. Sunday, I took three separate short hikes for a total of 10 miles: beachcombing, a nature walk, and wandering through a wildlife refuge. Monday, I did eventually do an hour of water aerobics after blowing off my morning run. Yesterday, I did nearly an hour of weights and crunches.

So while I am not exactly going crazy as a fitness butt, and certainly not close to marathon or even half-marathon shape, I am not totally decrepit, either. I have a class reunion coming up in a few weeks and would like to look at least somewhat fit for that. So I need to keep that running going!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Analyzing Monday’s Workout

I thought it would be instructive to analyze the great workout I had yesterday. So I am breaking the whole thing down into time sequence.

The path my workout took began the night before, when I stated watching the Phillies – Rockies on TV just after 10:00. Gotta love the people who set these sports schedules – clearly they don’t live in the East. So starting Sunday night, here is the chronology of my Monday workout.

Sunday 10:10 PM – start watching the ballgame. Go Phillies!

Sometime between 10:40PM and 11:30PM – fall asleep in recliner. Give me a break, I had hiked 10 miles earlier that day on three separate hikes.

11:31PM – wake up and realize I’ve been sleeping

11:35PM, go to bed, vowing to get up and run in the morning

Monday 7:15AM – wake up, looks like a good morning for a run – very cool and cloudy. But I still feel sleepy. Need caffeine!

7:25AM - start drinking a cup of tea

7:45AM – decide that it is too late to go for a run, because we are driving up to LL Beans in Northern Virginia later. Have another cup of tea, work on the computer, and listen to music instead. Plus we are going for a hike on the way back from LL Beans, so who needs a run?

9:40AM – leave for LL Beans

11:55AM – arrive at Tyson’s Corner Mall and find a place to park.

1:30PM – leave LL Beans and being hungry, walk all over the place looking for a place to have lunch, eventually settling on Panera Bread

2:25PM – Wow, “Cake Love!” We’ve heard about that place on the Food Channel. Those cakes look great, and the sign says "Nothing sold here is fat free!" No kidding! Buy four cupcakes, two of which have a remaining life of about 60 minutes.

2:45PM – leave the mall to head out, deciding to go to the REI store instead of a hike. It’s not the greatest hiking weather and I’ve wanted to go to the REI store for a while.

2:46PM – grind to a halt in the famous Northern Virginia rush hour traffic.

3:30PM – arrive at REI. Two cupcakes are selected for sacrifice. Their gallantry will always be remembered.

4:00PM – leave REI and take a back way to I-95. Once on I-95, the traffic is amazingly light for any time of day, much less rush hour. Wonder briefly if a lethal virus has struck the country in the last half hour and wiped out 90% of the population.

5:55PM – arrive home

6:30PM – arrive for my one hour water aerobics class, my only workout of the day.

7:50PM - eat a nice plate of pasta for dinner. Have to replace all those carbs I burned, right?

8:45PM - Ice cream! We have ice cream! And not just any ice cream - Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk. No better way to top off a strenuous day!

Talk about the best laid plans. Moral of the story, which I sure I will ignore in the future: if you planned a run, and you get up in time to go for a run, go for a run!

Friday, October 9, 2009

People are so Generous!

So a couple of days ago, I sent out an email to my contacts to ask them to donate five dollars to my Light the Night Campaign. I had already raised $45, and hoped to get 31 five dollar donations to reach $200. I was specifically requesting donations from people who had not donated to my 2009 TNT Cancer Kickin’ Campaign.

Instead, I had 22 people donate about $470 in three days! Many of them donated 25, 50, or even 100 dollars, and many of them had already donated to my TNT campaign! But here they were, back making another donation. I really appreciate this generosity to such a good cause.

My LTN team is Faith’s Hope. Faith is a local woman who is currently battling stage-four Hodgkin lymphoma. She has done an amazing job at fund raising. Our team has raised over $7,300, is number one in fund-raising in Virginia, and is nearly $3,000 ahead of the second place team. If I sound like I am bragging, I am not. I had nothing to do with that. Faith, our team captain, has decided that she was going to use the occasion of her illness to make a difference, and she has personally raised over $5,500 of our team’s total! Therefore, she as an individual has out-raised every other team, by far! Go Faith!

Even though I am not going to go crazy with fundraising right now just months after ending Team in Training, it does feel good to have those donations coming in, and to see once more how generous people are in a down economy. I will be sending out one more note (for a total of two), and that will end my fundraising attempts for this year.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thank You, TNT Nike Women’s Marathon Team

In a little more than a week, a bunch of you will be heading to the City by the Bay for an amazing experience. For some of you, it will be your first marathon or half-marathon. For others, maybe it will be your second, or third, or more. But for all of you, it will be the culmination of a lot of hard work, and act of making a difference in this world. And as a cancer survivor, I want to thank you for that. So for those of you on TNT Richmond, Team Virginia, or some other TNT group heading to the Nike Women’s Marathon next weekend, please accept my thanks and my gratitude.

It has been seven years for me now, since I was starting to head down the stretch during my chemotherapy. I guess that by October of 2002, you could consider that I was at about the 20 mile point of my cancer marathon, and was pretty sick and tired of it. But despite all that - maybe I had some denial, or maybe it is just a lack of common sense - all through chemo, I almost always had this expectation that things would turn out fine. It’s been since that time, reflecting on my experience and hearing the cases of so many people who didn’t have as much luck as I did, that I realize how tenuous and random surviving any type of cancer is. And that makes me realize how much work remains to develop cures that not only are very effective, but that don’t halfway kill the person who is going through them.

I bet this race will be a lot of fun. It is one that I hope to do for TNT before I hang up my running shoes some day. So I would love to hear comments back when you return home about what you thought. I will be thinking of you on the 18th as you run and walk all throughout a truly beautiful city.

When you start the race, and worry about how far you have to go – think of all those starting their battle with cancer that day, and how intimidating and frightening their race appears to them at the start.

When you are running up one of those steep hills that San Francisco is famous for – think about how those with cancer have to climb steep and difficult hills every day.

When you run past the Golden Gate Bridge – think of how the cancer experience bridges the patient from their pre-cancer life to life after cancer, often with continuing financial and medical difficulties.

If you are chugging along through one of the famous fogs of that area – think of the dense mental fogs that roll in during chemotherapy.

If the sun beats down on you with solar radiation as you run along – think of cancer patients dealing with the exhaustion and burns of radiation therapy.

If you have a tough five minute stretch when it seems difficult to keep going – think that during that time, one more American was just told “you have leukemia (or lymphoma, or multiple myeloma).”

When you are coming down the stretch and see the finish line, and break out into a huge smile – think of the cancer patients who never make it to the finish. And remember that your efforts, your fundraising, and your dedication will help more of them to reach that finish line in the future.

Thanks for doing what you have done! I hope you have a great time and a great race!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gimme Five! for Light the Night

This is my first Light the Night fundraising note.

Hi everyone,

If you donated to my 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign for the Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville, then this note is just informational – no action is requested. Thanks again for your generous donation.

If you are currently out of work, then this note is just informational – no action is requested. I sincerely hope that you are employed soon.

But if you are not in one of these two groups, then I am asking you to Gimme 5!

1. Gimme 5 minutes of your time! On October 29, I’ll be walking two miles to light the night! Go to my Light the Night web page at:

There, you will learn more about The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and its Light the Light Program. In the four or five minutes that it takes you to review my web page, someone new is diagnosed with a blood cancer – so money for research and patient support is desperately needed.

2. Gimme 5 bucks! I am trying to raise a very modest $200 by doing this event, and so I am requesting a very modest five dollar donation to this great cause. I have already raised $45, and so if only 31 of you getting this note make a five dollar donation, then I will reach that goal – and you will have helped in the battle against cancer. Of course, larger or smaller donations are much appreciated, too!

3. Gimme 5 friends! Send this e-mail to five of your friends or colleagues and help me spread the word about what I am doing! Maybe they will want to make a donation as well, or maybe they know someone who has cancer and who will get some encouragement that people are out there making a difference.

4. Gimme 5 months since I ran the half-marathon in Nashville! During the five months that I’ve been taking it easy since the race, approximately 21,600 Americans have died from blood cancers.

5. Gimme 5 years since volunteering for LLS! This coming January marks five years since I went to a informational meeting for TNT and signed up to do the Midnight Sun Marathon. I am alive and healthy seven years after getting Hodgkin lymphoma only because of cancer research. When I was ill, I pledged to give something back once I was healthy again, and raising money for LLS is what I have been called to do. But I can’t do it without you.

6. Gimme 5 hundred thousand Americans who have contracted blood cancers in those five years! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be a survivor! Help me help others with cancer to win their battles.

So Gimme Five! You’ll be helping so many others, and you will feel good about yourself all day! Thanks for the support, and thanks again if you donated to my Team in Training campaign earlier.

With humble gratitude,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two Things We Can All Agree On

At least, I hope we can.

I got an email from Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Organization a couple of days ago. His assertion is that no matter what side, or sides, of the health care / health insurance debate – ever raucous and impolite – you are on, every American should be able to agree on the two following premises:

1. No American should be denied health insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

2. No American should lose their insurance due to changes in health or employment.

As Lance asks: “Will you sign the LIVESTRONG Action petition to make sure any legislation includes these two critically important reforms? We’ll deliver these to Capitol Hill this month as the debate reaches its climax and make sure our voices are heard in the debate:"

Lance Armstrong knows a lot about this first hand. Here is what he had to say about it: "When I received my diagnosis, I was between cycling contracts. My new insurer used the diagnosis as a reason to deny coverage after the new contract was signed. Fortunately, one of my sponsors intervened. At their insistence, I was added to their insurance company and was able to continue my life-saving treatment. If my sponsor, a powerful company, had not gone to bat for me, I may not have made it."

"I was lucky. We can't rely on luck to ensure coverage and treatment for the millions of Americans affected by cancer. Some cannot get coverage because they've already been diagnosed. Others get calls from their insurance companies saying they have been dropped. It happens all the time—and it's unacceptable.

I plan on signing this and passing it on to friends and family. I hope that you will as well. There is no way that we can all agree on everything. But maybe we can all agree on these two things, and make our voices heard.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spectator at Livestrong Dolphin Challenge

During my short weekend at the beach, a nice surprise was a 5K and 10K race Saturday morning, that started and ended right outside our condo. It is the Second Annual Livestrong Dolphin Challenge, and 500 participants ran or walked in the races.The route went 1.55 or 3.1 miles up Sand Fiddler Road in Sandbridge, and then turned around and came back to the start.

I chatted with a few of the participants before the race, including a woman in a TNT shirt who has done about 6 events for the Team. And it turned out that TNT's famous Coach Bob was announcing the race at the start - finish point, so it was great to see him! I watched the first hour of the race, cheering on the participants, who were mostly having a great time. Definitely I need to recruit a few of my buddies and do this race next year - maybe a small team of us who are cancer survivors. The money raised goes to two great causes: Livestrong and Dolphin Rescue (VA Beach). Plus, nothing wrong with an early October weekend at the beach!

It did get me in the mood for running, because when I came home today, I went back to Echo Lake Park and alternating running and walking six 0.75 mile laps around the lake. So at least I proved I could run and walk more than 5K despite not doing much running since the half-marathon in Nashville.

I snapped a few photos of the event.

Being Livestrong, yellow was a dominant color. This was the pace car that led the pack.

The starting gate

The pack at the start of the race. The girls on the left in yellow were the entire field hockey team at a local high school.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Flashes

Wow, TGIF! It’s been a busy week, and I’ve not had a lot of chances to write this week. For one thing, I’ve been watching the Ken Burns series on the National Parks every night since Sunday. Two hours of TV every night is a ton for me, and it takes time away from reading and writing. But it has been a very interesting series. All these things we take for granted in our society are there because they became important to someone, and they took it on and got it done. I’ve been to at least 15 of our magnificent national parks, maybe more, and it is fascinating to see some of the history and people behind their creation.

It was my sister’s birthday earlier this week – happy birthday, Sis! It is a birthday that she certainly wasn’t guaranteed when she came down with a very difficult form of breast cancer two and a half years ago. She had such a difficult time, and is still worn out a lot, but doing OK and is still in remission. With her type of cancer, that always needs to be watched. But as I wrote the other week, there is no point sitting around worrying your life away that you might get cancer again some day.

78 to one – how do you like those odds? We are moving to a new office building at my workplace this weekend, and although it is a nice facility in many ways, the men’s room on each floor is very small and has only one urinal. And there are 78 men (plus several dozen women) on my floor. This is going to get interesting, and I could write a very humorous post about it, although it might get me trouble at work, so I won’t. Even though I would not be blaming our management for it, management can be so touchy. People might be seen sleeping at their desks, because I think that coffee consumption will have to go down! I wrote a poem about the dearth of urinals, to be sung to the tune "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles, but maybe I had better not post that here! If anyone is desperate to see it, you can email me.

I had lunch with my friend, Susan, the other day, and she was telling me about the great time she had at the Augusta half-iron man triathlon. She said that I should do it as my first tri. I’m like, uh, don’t you think I should do a shorter tri first, like an Olympic distance triathlon? Reminds me – I need to buy those goggles and try to improve my swimming!