Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Good Luck, Lake Tahoe Cycle Team!

To the Tahoe TNT Cycle Team, Coaches, and Mentors:

I had lunch with your Team Virginia Coach, Susan, today, and she was telling me about your upcoming race, er, ride around Lake Tahoe this Sunday, June 3. It got me thinking about what an adventure the group of you is in for – 100 miles around a beautiful lake, all the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, tremendous scenery. You’ve trained so hard for this race, er, ride! You will need all of your training, grit, and determination to complete 100 miles in California on Sunday. It should be a wild ride, eh? All for a great cause – to help those enduring cancers, and to help develop more cures for blood cancers specifically, but for all cancers ultimately.

As Susan talked about your race, er, ride, it got me thinking about another more distant June 3, one that is important to me personally. For exactly 10 years from this Sunday, June 3, 2002, I took my very first step into the chemotherapy room to get my first batch of chemo for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had not trained for this. It was a surprise, a bolt from the blue that had arrived just weeks before. I didn’t feel ready for it. I didn’t want to get chemo – in fact, I dreaded it that first day, and that first week. As in your race, er, ride, there were lots of ups and downs, peaks and valleys for the six months I had to get treatment. Not much nice scenery though – leaning over the water in a toilet bowl is not quite a scenic as Lake Tahoe should be. At least I sure hope not, for your sake! But like you, I needed grit and determination – that feeling that I would take it one day, one hour, one minute, or if need be, one second at a time to get through it. That is what cancer patients need to get through such an experience, if they are lucky.

I was one of the very lucky ones. I survived, and am happy and grateful for this. And I am particularly grateful to have lived 10 years now, to the point where the awful experience of chemotherapy is greatly faded. But I also feel sadness when I think of some others who didn’t have my luck: your Coach Susan’s dad several years ago. My good friend, Judy, who died in January 2011 just four weeks after her multiple myeloma diagnosis. My dear sister, Ann, deceased exactly a year ago today after her four-year difficult fight with breast cancer. My friend Faith, dead from Hodgkin’s lymphoma – the “good cancer" – this past February.

You can see that there is still plenty to be done, and you are out there helping to do it. I wanted to be sure to thank you for all you have done and are doing, and to wish you the very best on June 3. I’ll be thinking of you, cheering you from afar, and wishing you all have a great race, er, ride! This 10 year survivor salutes you!

Go Team!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Knee Pain Update

My knee pain is a lot better.  I've now not run since the Monument Avenue 10K on March 31, though.  I see people out running and my skin turns a curious shade of green.  Nor am I walking as much as I have in the past, but it is now at the point where walking doesn't bother my knees, so it is time to step that up - and time to try some hiking.  I got a different pair of patellar support bands from the doctor, since the first ones did more harm than good.  I've also been doing specific exercises a fair amount - you can read about some of them over here.  I've been taking an oral anti-inflammation medication twice a day, and rubbing this topical liquid on my knees two to four times a day (it is supposed to be four times but easier said than done while at work.)  That medication is nearly gone and I can't wait to be done with it.

When will I run again?  I don't know, but I see the doctor in two more weeks.  I may try a little running before that point and see how it goes so I can discuss it with her.  But mainly, I want to try to walk more and go for a hike.  A nice long hike!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What if a Race Were Like Work?

"We're going to need Molly off your project for a few days," they told me at work the other day. I tried to mentally calculate the effect of losing Molly on my already-behind project, but my mind started to wonder. What if a race were like work...........

I know I can set a PR. The course is flat, I've trained hard, and the weather is perfect for a run of 13.1 miles - cloudy and cool. I look at the thousands of other runners and walkers as I find my gate. "Lets do this," I say to myself. "The PR is there, waiting for you!" The gun sounds, and soon enough – just minutes after 7AM - my corral crosses the start. After dodging other runners for a mile, the field opens up, and I fall into a nice, steady pace. For once, the effort of running feels nearly effortless. Three more miles fade behind me.

Suddenly, a race official steps onto the course in front of me, extending his hand. "Stop!" he shouts. "We need you to do something. There's this old lady, and she ordered this book from the library, and they are closed today. We need you to hop on this bike, and deliver it to her. She only lives four miles from here. Then, come on back and resume the race. You still have plenty of time."

I stare at the man as if a gecko just crawled out of his left nostril. "Are you kidding? I'm kind of in a race here!" I state.

"Look, I hate to do this, but this lady really needs this book. Today! Come on, you can do this. It’s not like you were going win. Hop on the bike!"

"Bike? I haven't ridden on a bike in years," I say.

"No big deal. You'll do fine. It’s kinda like.... well, it's like.... yes, that's it! It's like riding a bicycle!"

Grumbling, I take the directions, the book, and jump on the bike. I see my PR flying away, wings beating steadily but slowly. But I find the lady, and she is so thrilled to have the book that it makes this all worthwhile. Less than an hour after leaving the race course, I'm back and running again. It takes a while to get back in a rhythm, but eventually I do, until the seven mile mark.

"Stop!" another official shouts. "We need you to move this Civil War cannon a few feet. A runner nearly crashed into it. Of course, if they hadn't been texting, maybe they would have seen it. But no matter, it will take you just a few seconds."

"Move a cannon? You might as well ask me to convince Lindsay Lohan to stop drinking," I say.

"No problemo! I have help lined up. Fred, Manny, and Joe are going to help you with this. It will take you guys one minute," the official says.

"OK, let's go, then! Where are they?"

“Should be here any minute. Manny has a leg cramp so it might take him an extra second or two. Just sit down and cool your jets for five minutes.”

32 minutes later, Manny hobbles up. Fred and Joe got here before, and the four of us manage to move the cannon enough so that someone who is not paying attention doesn’t end up with the barrel shoved up in an anatomical place that could cause them great bodily harm. I start running again, but have stiffened up. It takes me a while to get going, and I start passing a few stragglers. I reach the 10 mile mark, when another plea to stop comes.

“We need you to take this box of cookies to that hermit living on the island on the James River. It’s only a mile to the river, and we left you a canoe. We know you used to canoe, so it shouldn’t be a problem – just be careful near the rapids. The hermit is hard of hearing, and his dog isn’t the most friendly thing in the world, so just proceed cautiously when you get near his house. The last guy we sent there, well, it didn’t … You know, you don’t want to be bored with all these details. You’ll be fine. Here are the cookies, and take this steak for the dog. It just might save your … err, it might help make him friendlier,” the race official said.

I won’t talk about all that happens during the execution of this task, but let’s just say that when I stumble back to the 10 mile point – soaking wet, clothes shredded, shoes muddy, fang marks in my right calf – it’s pitch black and I am the only one left on the race course. I stagger more than run the last 3.1 miles, finishing just after 10:30PM. The only one still there at the finish line is a drunk, who applauds and cheers wildly before tumbling against an overflowing porta-potty, tipping it over. I only have partial success avoiding the noxious river of foul-smelling and dark liquid heading my way like some kind of deadly wraith in the night. Chip time: 15 hours, 22 minutes, 17 seconds. Yep – a new PR!

And that is why if races were like work, there wouldn’t be anyone there to do the race!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hey, Isn't This Supposed to Help My Knees?

On Thursday, the doctor told me what I needed to do for my sore and aching knee: (1) an oral anti-inflammatory medication (2) a topical anti-inflammatory ointment (3) foot-turned-out leg raises 100 times a day (4) physical therapy.  Then, she added, "And knee bands.  I want you wearing them on each knee every waking moment for the next month, unless you are in the shower!"

Knee bands?  What are they?  Well, I think they were invented by the Marquis De Sades.  They are about an inch across and cinch with velcro straps around the knee just below the joint.  They felt miserable right from the get-go, but I wore them to work.  I wore them all afternoon.  I counted the hours until bedtime.  Hey, what if I go to bed at 8:00?  That might help!  I wore them after work while having a cool and refreshing Legend Brown Ale, one of the best beers ever, on the deck of Legend Brewing Company.  Maybe the beer would help.  It didn't.  I finally got home about 7:00, and contemplated going to bed right then so I could take the damned things off.

But instead, removing my trousers to put on a pair of jeans, I noticed how red and irritated and sore and painful everything was where the bands were.  I took the bands off, because it seemed like lunacy to keep wearing them.  "I'll put them on in the morning," I thought.  But in the morning, I still had bright red marks around each knee after nearly 12 hours of not wearing them:

So, I have not worn them since, and don't really intend to.  I walked 4 miles, briskly, this morning and things felt pretty good.  I'll do the other stuff - the drugs and the exercises - but these knee bands?  The Marquis can have them back!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Leisurely Morning

What a gift a leisurely morning is!  Yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment at 9:00 to look at my knees, so there was no point driving all the way into work for a half hour.  Instead, I took a nice three mile walk, starting after 6AM!  No rush to get back, no pressure.  It felt so good to walk on a work day in daylight, listening to the birds singing away and to feel the cool air on my skin, as well as the warmth of the sun.

It reminded me how much of our lives are spent rushing around, and how much I hope to retire some day.  I got back from walk, and actually read the paper while sipping down a mug of hot tea.  How decadent is that?  I just got in a new situation at work, one that I think will be better for me, but it still doesn't compare with being retired, and taking a walk whenever I want.

The doctor said I have a little fluid on my left knee.  She said the root cause of my pain in weak hips, pretty much what the doctor who treated my plantar fasciitis said.  I got a couple of prescription anti-inflammatory medications, and a couple of knee bands which feel awful.  Maybe they are too tight, but they feel like they are doing more harm than good.  I also need to come to PT to learn some exercises.  Maybe I will stick with them this time once the problem is better.  Yeah, sure.  Maybe I will win the lottery, too.

As a bonus, I stopped by Amber's place of work for a few minutes.  Amber was the TNT campaign coordinator for several of my years with the team, and how works for another health-oriented non-profit.  She works less than a half mile from where the doctor is, and it was good to see her and where she works.  From there, it was off to work, and my leisurely morning was over!

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Can We Improve the Mission?

I am involved with a large group of Team in Training participants and alumni to come up with ideas to improve the TNT experience for people.  We split into sub-groups, and mine involves the mission.  How can we make the mission more real to people?  How can patient honorees interact more with participants to improve their experience?  What should we do more of?  Less of?

If you have ideas, I would love to hear them.  We are in brainstorming mode right now.  All constructive ideas are welcome.  You can comment on my blog, or just email me directly - my email address is on my profile.

Thanks, and I hope to get some good feedback to help our improvements to take wing!