Thursday, April 26, 2012

Toasting Ten Years!

The expression “Time Flies” is used a lot. It sounds trite. But in what feels like the blink of an eye, 10 years have gone by since I found out I had a very big medical problem, which turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And it makes me realize that time does indeed fly. Where does it go?

Exactly ten years ago, feeling perfectly healthy except for an odd pain in my side, I stood in a dark room as my doctor examined my thoracic X-ray. “You have a large mass in the middle of your chest, something that should not be there,” he said. I felt as if time, and I, were frozen in place. It was like a bolt from the blue! I wondered what it was, knowing somehow it was going to be terrible, and I wondered how long I would live.

I still don’t know the answer to that last question, but I do have a partial answer: at least 10 years. 10 more years now experiencing the joys, along with a few sorrows, of life. 10 more years to create good memories and to grow as a person. 3,653 more days (a few leap days were in the mix) to attempt to seize the day. I believe that I've tried to make good use of those days, most of them anyway. I am very grateful to still be here. And not just to be alive, but to be strong and healthy as well.

During those 10 years, I held my granddaughter on the day of her birth, and have watched her grow to become a happy five year old. I’ve seen places I’d never seen before, including Alaska, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park. I've hiked in the mountains and at the shore, and seen amazing wildlife - including wolves pursuing Dall sheep. I've enjoyed great books and music.  I've experienced great get-togethers with family and friends. I comforted my sister during her final months. I walked 60 miles in three days last fall in her memory, with tears in my eyes a few times.  And I became a marathoner and a half-marathoner six times over, five of them with Team in Training! The sixth time was in March in the Shamrock, to celebrate my 10 year mark a month or so early.

During my 10 years of surviving, over 525,000 Americans have died from a blood cancer. I easily could have been in that group instead of in the group of survivors. What made me different from those 525,000 people, a few of which I have personally known? Luck? Good medical care? Divine intervention? Determination and grit? Winning scientific research? Family support? All of the above? I don’t know, but I am grateful.

No cancer is easy to endure or survive. Even the supposedly “curable” cancers often are not. If you are out there raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or one of the other organizations fighting for a cure, this survivor thanks you. You, and people like you in the past, helped to give me 10 years that I would not necessarily have had otherwise.

You know what? I think I am going to go for 10 more now!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Three Weeks

Three weeks ago, I ran for the last time, 6.2 miles in the Monument Avenue 10K. Since then, the pain in my left knee, which has been developing for several months as my distances increased, has not gone away. It is not too bad if I walk, but if I run across a street to make a light, it hurts a good bit. I would have thought that it should feel pretty good after three weeks of rest. Other than one five mile and one six mile walk, I haven't even walked that much in that time period.

I've been slowly getting back to some stretching and PT work. That may help. The breast cancer 5K is about three weeks away, I think, or maybe four. I realize that I can sign up and walk it, although I would prefer to run it. The important thing is just to do it in honor of Ann, run or walk.

Five days from now marks the 10 year anniversary of when I found out that I had a very big problem - a problem that turned out to be Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had so many thoughts and plans of how to commemorate and celebrate my 10 year survival year, including doing a Team in Training event. Now, everything seems unsure. I don't want to keep running and ruin my leg or cause lasting damage. But it sure would be ironic if, in doing the Shamrock Half Marathon to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer, I rendered myself unable to do a TNT event and raise money for LLS.

At this point, I will keep doing some walking and PT, and keep running on the back burner. I miss it though.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Now?

The first two events that I wanted to do to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer, the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K, are in the past. After hardly running in 2011 because of foot problems (although I walked the 60 mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in September), I am back to running moderately well for an old guy. But it has led to knee pain, especially in my left knee. So what next? Do I sign up for TNT again? Do I do some races that I have heard about? Or do I try to figure out the knee?

I am guessing that the knee pain is some kind of IT band issue. I have not run since the 10K, now nine days ago. I've missed running, but the running break has felt good at the same time. I did take a nice five mile walk seeing some of Richmond's Black History sites on Friday, and my knee did hurt more after that. But it feels pretty good after two more days of taking it easy. Hmmm!

In early May, nearly a year after my sister Ann's death from breast cancer, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a 5K, occurs in Richmond. It seems I should do that in honor of Ann, and go for a PR in the 5K. I've only run one 5K for time, so that should be doable. Then on June 3, a few friends are doing a 10K trail run up around DC. That happens to be my 10 year anniversary of starting chemo. I need to do something special that day, and maybe that race would be the thing to do. Other than that, I think the answer to "what's next" is to try to get back to some of my PT exercises and see if strengthening my hips will help with the knee. And of course, do some thinking about a TNT event.

Here I am, honoree photos on my shirt, after the Monument Avenue 10K:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tying my 10K PR

I had hopes yesterday of besting my personal record in the Monument Avenue 10K. Instead, I did the next best thing - tying it to the second. Fortunately, I could still look up my best time on the Internet, which was set in 2009 at 1:03:21. I finished 170 out of 526 in my age group of 60-64 year old males.

I feel good about my results, even though I didn't set a new PR. My pace per mile was about 1.2 minutes faster than at Shamrock just two weeks ago. If I just skipped that last water stop though, I would have not had to slow down to a slow walk for twenty seconds or so - and I would have had a new PR!

As I reported yesterday, I left the camera at home, which was just as well. First, it rained for the pre-race period. Second, had I stopped for even one photo, I would not have tied my PR.

I pretty much stuck to my strategy of running 2.5 minutes and then walking for 30 seconds. There were a number of times that I ran for an additional minute or half minute, and a couple of times that I walked a little longer. I did not look at my stop watch once until the six mile point. Therefore I could not fret along the way about whether I still had a shot at a PR or not, and perhaps assume that I didn't. See - I have learned a few lessons along the way, and actually applied them. It really helped that I wrote down some of those lessons here and was able to review them before the race.

Mainly, my feelings of running yesterday were of joy. Joy at being alive. Joy at being healthy and strong enough to compete (against myself, not against the people that won the thing in under 29 minutes!) in this race at any pace. Joy at seeing all of the activity around me. This race is just a lot of fun - it really is. Yeah, it is crowded, and it can be annoying when some guy spits in the street right in front of you, or when four people are walking abreast and you have to scramble to get past them. But mostly, it is just pure fun! And I am thankful to be part of it once again.

Wearing the shirt I had made in memory of my sister, my joy was tempered a number of times by my reflections on losing her last year. I wish she could know that I was running in her honor once again. I wish Faith could know, too. At least Nancy, Bill, and Ed know. I even stopped by Nancy's home yesterday to show her the photo of her pinned to my sweaty race jersey!

The other thing I thought about yesterday a few times as I ran along was that 10 years ago, I had cancer growing in my body and didn't even know it. I would not learn of it until the end of April. Now, as far as I know, I have been cancer free for more than nine years. That fact alone is worth celebrating by completing my ninth 10K!