Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thank You, TNT Vancouver!

This weekend is the marathon and half-marathon in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This thank you is to the Richmond team, the Virginia team, and all of the teams that are racing for a cure there this weekend. Thank you, from a nine year lymphoma survivor, for deciding to do Team in Training and for sticking with it. Have a great time, and a great race. As April is Poetry Month, I decided to thank you in verse, for better or worse

We humans have feared when cancer appeared
Well before long-gone days of Herb Hoover
But we’re one step closer to cancer disposer
Because of your work in Vancouver

You I must praise, for the funds that you raise
Will develop more cancer remover
With your every stride throw your chest out with pride
As you race for a cure in Vancouver!

You worked hard in training, whether sunny or raining
And are known as a shaker and mover
You’ve proved you have mettle, now go win your medal
As a champion out west in Vancouver

Progress can seem slow with a long way to go
But cancer soon we’ll outmaneuver
You’ve raised funds for a cure, you trained and endured
To prepare for your race in Vancouver

For the young girl with cancer you’ll help bring the answer;
In the process, I’m sure, you will move her
Survivors like me will give you cheers – three –
For you’re heroes this day in Vancouver!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Bolt From the Blue

“The Bolt From the Blue”

The Twenty-sixth of April, Two Thousand and Two:
Life seemed so good on that day in the spring
But then late that morning, like a bolt from the blue,
Tidings arrived that would change everything

The doctor proclaimed, as he studied the X-ray,
“In your chest there’s a mass that is foreign and large”
For ten seconds or longer, I had nothing to say,
Becoming mute as a corpse while terror took charge

My brain, in that time, was frozen in fear
I wondered how events would transpire in my life
Would my time all expire by the end of this year?
Oh God, how to break this dark news to my wife?

I struggled in vain to find serenity and peace
All my focus was on just one word: “Lymphoma?”
Scrawled on the X-ray with a pencil of grease
I knew the import despite no doctor’s diploma

As some months before, a single stealthy lymph cell
Had decided to conduct guerilla warfare with zest
And it relentlessly grew, once it chose to rebel,
Into cancerous masses in my belly and chest

I began to recover from my initial shock
I knew that my courage I must somehow revive
And so, in my thoughts, I began to take stock
Of the actions I’d take to make sure I’d survive

I didn’t yet know all the tough trials I would face
But I knew that a warrior I would now have to be
For to live was the trophy for winning this race
Second place was a grave; that I plainly could see

Nine years have passed by, living healthy and strong,
Discovering things of myself that I never knew,
Meeting wonderful folks as the years rolled along,
Learning much about life from that bolt from the blue!

Art Ritter

April 26,2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Step at a Time

I should be sleeping, with work coming up in a few hours, and I was. But I found myself wide awake, thinking about my sister Ann. I don't think I can adequately express how I am going miss her. So with sleep interrupted, I decided to update my blog.

My training for the Komen 3-Day is pretty easy right now. Basically, it is a lot of walking. I am supposed to be doing about three or four miles of walking four days a week, plus a day of cross training. I decided that I would start using my trusty Omron pedometer again, and keep track of my steps from three weeks ago until the event in 22 more weeks.

After three weeks, I have taken a quarter of a million steps, averaging nearly 12,000 steps every day. Of course, not all of that is doing my four walks each week. A lot of it is just incidental walking - going from the car to the office, moving around at work, going back to the car, and moving around home. I almost always take the stairs at work. I often walk to see someone instead of calling or email. I walk to the grocery store at home if I just have a few things to buy - it is a half mile each day. Do all of that enough, mix in a few three or four mile walks, or even a mile or two at lunch, and in three weeks, you put on 250,000 steps.

I'll probably update this every week or two, but so far, here is how my step count looks after three weeks (a week running Monday to Sunday, since the Komen walk ends on a Sunday):

Week 1: 83,040

Week 2: 80,855

Week 3: 86,453

In Team in Training, we say "changing lives a mile at a time," and I would guess that Komen must have a similar saying. But each of those miles is composed of steps, and I'll be taking a lot of them over the next 22 weeks!

Friday, April 22, 2011

TGIF Musings!

I thought I’d update my blog with a little of this and that on this Friday, with no specific theme.

I’ve caught my fourth cold in the last three months, which is unbelievable. I usually get one or two a year. I am in day four of this cold, and although it is not fun, it is better than a lot of the alternatives. I am popping the Zicam, and hoping this will knock it out quickly.

My fund raising for the Komen 3-Day walk is off to a great start. I have not started a general email campaign yet, but have sent a note out to a limited set of people, and they have generously donated over $2,000. I plan on starting my general email campaign this week, which marks nine years since I found out I had a very big problem – a large thoracic mass that turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The 3-Day event is about 22 weeks away. I have been walking a lot each day. In general, I should be walking three to four miles several days a week, and I have been doing this or even exceeding it a bit. So far so good – my surgically repaired left foot (neuroma removed three months) seems to be holding up well. It is a little sore, and has a large numb area. The latter is something I will likely always have, although my brain will probably gradually learn to ignore this in time. I will try to mix in some hikes as part of this exercise. A couple of weeks ago, I walked more than six miles in the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. This past Sunday, I walked five miles along an old railroad track through the mountains of upstate New York.

Even though I have decided not to do Team in Training in 2011 to focus on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, I am still involved in TNT. I helped at an informational meeting Wednesday night for the upcoming Fall season. It was poorly attended, which is too bad, but the four people who came all seemed fairly interested. I hope that Richmond can recruit a big team for the fall, because they have some great events going!

Happy Easter on this Good Friday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two On My Mind

There are two people with cancer particularly on my mind right now as I start preparing to race for a cure once more.

One is my sister, Ann, who is battling late stage breast cancer, and who is my prime honoree for my upcoming 60 mile walk. She had surgery last week: pleurodesis, which adheres the pleura to remove the pleural space around the lungs and prevent the buildup of fluid around the lungs. The operation was a failure, and she was back in the hospital a week later to have two liters of fluid removed and a drain put in. The damage to her lungs from the metastasized tumors appears to be accelerating, because she was getting a liter of fluid removed every few weeks and now it is two liters in a week. She has fought so hard, and it is heartbreaking to know that the end could be coming. When I walk the Komen 3-Day in September, she will be with me every step of the 60 miles. I’d walk 6,000 miles if it would give her one month of good health to just enjoy a normal life. Does God make deals like that?

The other is my friend Ed, who is a Team in Training buddy and a 20+ year leukemia survivor. He is also a six year melanoma survivor, but it has come back with a vengeance. Ed has been battling active melanoma for the past year and a half, and has gone through hell in the last few months with his left leg. It remains swollen and immobile, with lots of awful lesions. He can finally walk slowly upstairs and at least get a shower, and is grateful for that. But now, tests are showing suspicious areas in his lungs, and he is going to need a biopsy. Melanoma spreading to the lungs, if that is what it is, would be a terrible thing. He is always brave and upbeat, but I know it is not easy to always put on a brave face.

I wonder about cancer. Why do so many of us, me included, survive it with relatively little hardship, and others like Ann and Ed go through such hellish experiences? All the billions of dollars and millions of person years spent fighting these diseases, and yet, here we are!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting Started for the 3-Day

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in Washington DC is 168 days away. Time to get started! When I was in high school, if we were assigned a paper that was due in 168 days, I would start researching it in, oh, about 164 or 165 days from now. I would write like mad on a tablet of paper, and cajole my poor mother into typing it for me (usually). There were no computers or word processors in those days! If you made a mistake typing, you either wrote over it in ink or maybe used some kind of white out fluid and typed over it - if you could line it up right. Young people today would think that this was the dark ages!

But I am no longer in high school, and having learned at least a few things about deadlines and life since then, it is time to start now, so I have. I got fund raising started this past weekend with a note to family, and then one to Team in Training friends. People have very generously donated $1,400 so far - about 40% of the absolute minimum that I want to raise for this cause. I hope to start general fundraising - kicking off my formal campaign to all contacts - sometime in the coming week.

As far as training goes, well, 12 miles on my feet last Saturday - including running and walking a 10K - was a good start to show me that I am not in the terrible shape that I had feared. Right now, the Komen training schedule has about 3 mile walks that I should be doing, and I am exceeding that. For example, I walked nearly 5 miles at lunch yesterday. This weekend, I hope to do some hiking if it is not raining.

I am trying to slow down my walking pace. My normal TNT walking pace is somewhere between a 12.5 and 14 minute mile, depending on the distance and how I am feeling. But that is too fast for the 3-Day walk, where there will be thousands of people out on the roads and no real rush to get done each day. Plus, I will have to repeat the 20 mile walk three straight days, so I need to make sure my legs don't become "dead" by walking too fast. So I am trying to be very aware of keeping my walk pace under control and trying not to exceed a 15 minute mile. 16 would probably be better, although that feels like a stroll.

I do have a little competitiveness about it, I've noticed. The other night, I walked a 1.25 mile loop around a pond, trying to stick to about a 15 minute a mile pace. A guy, walking, passed me, and I did not like that! I ignored it until he got about 50 feet ahead, and then I kicked it up a notch to keep a constant distance behind him, which I did. Eventually, he left the path and I slowed down again. Silly, I know, but it is the truth!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

From Purple to Pink!

Last week, I said I would have a big announcement this week about racing for a cure. Here it is: for 2011, I am turning from purple to pink! Instead of doing Team in Training this year, I will be walking 60 miles in September in the Susan G. Koman 3-Day for a Cure!

I'd really planning on running the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco for Team in Training, although I likely would have switched that to Dublin, Ireland after I saw last week that Team Virginia is doing that race. However, after a lot of thought, I realized that I want to do the Komen Three Day instead this year.

My sister Ann has been desperately ill with stage 4 breast cancer. She had a horrible sounding surgery yesterday in an attempt to temporarily relieve some of her problems caused by metastasized breast cancer tumors that have spread throughout her lungs. I think about her every day, and feel helpless. I can't ease her misery. I can't cure her. I can't save her life. But I can walk 60 miles (well, OK, I can't today but I will by September). I can raise money for the purpose of breast cancer research and patient support. I can make a personal statement to do some small thing to make a difference in the lives of future women (and a few men) who get breast cancer. So that is what I will do.

On September 23-25, just three days before my sister's next birthday, in the Washington DC area, I will lace on my running shoes and walk 60 miles with thousands of others, all of us with the same goal: to stamp out breast cancer by making it curable not some of the time, but all of the time. Do you want to help? You don't have to walk sixty miles or even a mile. Just make a donation, of any amount, by going to my Komen 3-Day website.

I have a four year old granddaughter. I was there at her birth, and I love her to pieces, even though she lives far away and I am lucky to see her twice a year. Someday, my little granddaughter will become a woman, and when she does, I don't want her to worry about breast cancer. I want that to be an evil thing of the past. And I want her to know, that in his own small way, her Papa Art had a tiny part in helping to make that happen.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Monumental Grit

You'll have to read on to realize where I got the title of this post from. No, it was not from anything I did today, the day of the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K.

When I signed up for this race about five weeks ago, it was a bit of a leap of faith that my foot would heal enough for me to do it. The surgery and then a series of colds raised havoc with trying to train, and I got in only about a half dozen training runs and walks. But I am in better shape than I thought, walking and running 12 miles today - more than double any distance I have traveled on foot this year. That included walking from where I parked to the staging area and then to the start of the race, doing the race, walking back to meet Robin's entourage - more about that later - and completing the rest of the race again with them, and then walking back to my car. My legs are plenty tired this afternoon, and I know they will be sore tomorrow.

I dedicated this race today to our good friend Judy, who passed away in January from multiple myeloma, and to my dear sister Ann, who is battling a relentless metastatic breast cancer. I wore their pictures during the race and thought of them often. I wish Judy were alive and that Ann were healthy, but wishing does not do too much. So I tried my best to honor Judy's memory and Ann's courage with my feet today.

This was the seventh straight time I have run this race, and it is always such a lot of fun. Richmond is always so pretty this time of year, and is rocking with the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams in the men's Final Four! Part of the race goes through the VCU campus, and there was a lot of Ram Pride in evidence among race participants and spectators. I wore my Team in Training pride with my Seattle race shirt, and a TNT tattoo on my cheek. Here are photos from the day, and an explanation of the Monumental Grit of the title.

Monroe Park is the staging area for the race: I always love the costumes that people run in. I saw this fire hydrant and dog on the race course later. VCU Ram Pride on display at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart! The beautiful Cathedral of the Sacred Heart - I went in after the race and gave thanks for being strong and healthy enough to run today, and said a prayer for Judy's memory and for Ann's health. Springtime in Richmond is always amazing, as shown by this magnolia in the park: Minutes before the start, I show the photos of Judy (left side of my shirt) and Ann (right side of my shirt) on my shirt: My friend Kristi saw me and we ran and walked together. She can walk at faster than a 12 minute pace, and had to slow down so I could keep up with her. Kristi and I are both Hodgkin lymphoma survivors and Team in Training marathoners. A rowdy band of Viking raiders: The start is so close. It was cool and blustery, and I could not wait to get running: I think this building must have signifcance to VCU, because this guy got a lot of cheers from fans: Kristi zips along with a beautiful cherry tree to her left: Happy VCU fans cheer us, who may even be happier tonight, depending on how the Rams do against Butler: At the half way point, my good friend Bill (Judy's husband and widower) and their grandson Sean were there to cheer me on. I posed with them and tried to pull out my shirt to show Judy's photo (no, I am not pregnant!). I much appreciated them coming out to cheer for me today. This is the coolest monument on Monument Avenue, in my view. It is to Matthew Fontaine Maury, the "Pathfinder of the Seas." Richmond is the only city on the east coast with the Picasso exhibit, and these two celebrate that: When I finished the race, in 1 hour 18 minutes - not bad for two months after foot surgery and a lot of colds - Kristi and I hung out for a little while and enjoyed a bagel and a banana. Then I decided to walk back along the race course to find Team Robin. More about that later, but along the way, I snapped a few photos of the sights. This one is a statue at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and is called "Rachel Weeping for Her Children," in memory to the martyrs of the Holocaust. It always is moving to see this statue and to reflect on the horrors that it memorializes. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart alertly watches the races as they head to the finish, less than a half mile away: You can even find a Barbie Doll at the race! More than an hour since I finished, and the runners and walkers just keep on coming: Now about the monumental grit - well, what else can you say about a lady who loses her leg mid-thigh to bone cancer last August, and manages to walk a 10K with a prosthetic leg? This woman is Robin Yoder, and she is a huge inspiration to so many of us. She had bone cancer at 18, and the radiation used to save her leg and her life caused a new cancer 30 years later. This time, amputation was the only realistic choice for this triathlete, and 8 months ago, she lost her right leg. Many would give up, but not Robin - she was determined to walk the 10K. She had to totally relearn how to walk, and gain back her stamina. She fell a couple of times, including shortly after I took this photo. Refusing help, she slowly stood up on her own, and kept going. She had a lot of friends supporting her, many wearing special shirts that said "Because We CAN-CAN, Robin CAN-CAN." There were designs of ladies dancing the Can-Can on the shirt. There were at least a few tears sprinkled among the loud cheers when Robin crossed the finish line and embraced her son and husband. It was my privilege to join Robin's group and re-walk about 1.7 miles back to the finish line. I will never forget it. Go Robin!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Eve of the Monument Avenue 10K

Tomorrow morning, I will run in my seventh straight Monument Avenue 10K. This year, it is sponsored by Martins, who bought out the Ukrops grocery chain last summer. I am glad that they continued to sponsor the race. There are over 40,000 people registered, which is cool but also a great way to get tripped. Anyhow, it is a lot of fun, and will be a good test of my surgically repaired foot. It will also be a test of running and walking a race with not nearly enough training, thanks to these colds. I'll be wearing my Team in Training shirt that I wore for the Seattle half marathon, covered in the names of people who have survived and died from cancer. I will also wear photos of my sister Ann - in her fifth year with breast cancer that went metatatic a year ago - and our great friend Judy, who died this past January from multiple myeloma. My race shirt is ready to go: As always, the artist who does the official shirt for the race came up with a cool design: Wish me luck - it should be a lot of fun! It is looking like a chilly start to the day, so I may be carrying clothing down the backstretch. Run or walk, I plan on enjoying the experience, being grateful for good health, and honoring my sister and my late friend.

A Big Announcement Coming!

There will be a big announcement coming from Racing for a Cure by early next week. Stay tuned. I will be racing for a cure in a way that I have not yet done!

In the meantime, my focus and energy for the next 24 hours will be on running and walking the Monument Avenue 10K tomorrow morning. The knee pain I reported earlier has diminished considerably, and I think I am good to go.