Monday, June 25, 2012

A Great Honor

I've done a lot of things over the past seven years for LLS and Team in Training: five events as participant, and a sixth season as a mentor.  Speaker at numerous meetings to recruit volunteers and at kick-off.  Cheering at events.  Light the Night three times.  But until Saturday night, when I addressed the "I Love the Tavern Triathon" Team, I had never been the honored speaker at a TNT inspiration dinner.

If you have attended an inspiration dinner for the Team, you know they can be pretty massive and inspirational events.  This one was a lot smaller.  Instead of addressing hundreds of participants, there were 15.  But that was fine.  It was my great honor to speak to such a fine and dedicated group.

So what did I say in my 10 minutes of fame?  I talked about how I found out that I had Hodgkin's lymphoma 10 years ago, and what the treatments were like.  I tried to interject a little humor by recounting my story of the ear hair that wouldn't die.  I spoke of why it is so difficult to cure cancers, and although I was a lucky survivor, there were many more who never make it.  I spoke in particular of three people in my life who have passed away in the last 18 months: my friend Judy from multiple myeloma in January 2011, my sister Ann from breast cancer in May 2011, and my friend Faith from Hodgkin's lymphoma this past February.  So there is plenty more to do before we can consider cancer defeated.  Then I closed with these three thoughts:
  1. You never know if and when your life will change radically, as mine did 10 years ago.  So enjoy the good times while you have them, and seize as many days as possible - starting with completing the triathlon the next day.
  2. Someday, all cancers will be curable or at least manageable.  When that day comes, each of them can smile, knowing that they all had a part in that.
  3. As a 10 year cancer survivor, they had my sincere thanks.  I can't thank the people who figured out 30, 40, or 50 years ago how to get most people to survive Hodgkin's lymphoma, but I can thank them.
I don't know if this fine team was inspired by my talk, but I am sure inspired by their hard work, dedication, and courage to tackle a triathlon while trying to make a difference in the war on cancer.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Running Again!

Well, I am running again - sort of.  After more than two months of not running a bit because of knee pain, I started back last Sunday with a walk-run mix.  It is heavy on the walking, a three minute walk interval and a one minute run interval.  That means I am running about one third of the distance, at an average pace of something like 12:30 to 12:40.

I've done this three time in the last week: five miles Sunday, four miles Thursday morning, and four miles today.  It has felt pretty good to run even a little bit, even though I am a little winded at the end of my minute interval.  I hope to build it up after a couple of weeks of this.

So what I am training for?  Good question.  I had grand plans to celebrate surviving 10 years, starting with the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Monument Avenue 10K.  Those I accomplished.  Anything else is on hold, pending making sure my knee pain is in the past.  Maybe a 10K this fall?  That is a big come-down from early plans, but we must adjust to life's events.  Maybe being alive and healthy 10 years after cancer is celebration enough.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cancer Survivor's Day

Today marks 10 years since my very first chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I can still remember the emotions of that day fairly well.  I marked my 10 year anniversary - which happens to be National Cancer Survivors' Day - in two ways.

First, I laced up my running shoes at 6:30 AM and went for a run - my first real running since the Monument Avenue 10K on March 31.  The knee pain is a lot better, and it was time to try some running.  I did more walking than running.  For my five mile workout, I ran about 1.7 miles of it in intervals of three minutes walking and one minute running.  That seemed like enough for me, but it felt good.  Why five miles?  Well, I was thinking of how the holy grail of cancer survivorship is five years, and neither my sister Ann nor my friend Faith made it to five years.  So since I dedicated my TNT Silent Mile yesterday to the two of them, I decided to dedicate five more silent miles to them today.  When you run or walk by yourself, being silent comes kind of naturally.

Second, Mary and I joined our friend Bill at an event for cancer survivors put on by a local hospital.  Bill found out last fall that he had stage 4 colon cancer.  It was a pretty good event - food, music, educational talks on various subjects, and clinics on massage and meditation.  It was another chance to reflect on my amazing fortune of surviving cancer, because so many people don't.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Silent for Ann and Faith

This morning was the Team in Training Silent Mile ceremony.  I am always inspired by this - always!  About eight or nine of us survivors spoke, relaying tales of courage and endurance.  In particular, Robin's tale of fighting back after the loss of her right leg two years ago to cancer and Ed's story of his continuing fight with melanoma (after dealing with leukemia at 19 and two other cancers since) were moving.  As Ed put it, tongue in cheek, "cancer can be the gift that keeps on giving!"  My talk was easy, for 10 years ago today, I was preparing for my first day of chemo the next day.  I tried to prepare mentally that June 2, that beautiful Sunday 10 years ago.  I took a little hike in the mountains, knowing it would be the last time for a while, and wondering just a bit if it might be my last one ever.  There is no certainty or guarantee when dealing with cancer.

We also paid tribute to the Tahoe cycle team and the San Diego Marathon team, in action this weekend on the west coast.  After the talks, we walked, ran, or biked the first mile in silence.  It is a time to reflect on why we do Team in Training, and those who have fought the good fight but are no longer with us.  As I walked, I thought of my sister Ann, dead from cancer one year this past Wednesday.  I listened to the wood thrushes singing in the woods along the road.  She loved this bird's song, as do I, and I felt the connection to her.  I miss her so much!  There are days I feel as if we just haven't talked in a while - after all, we had lived nearly 500 miles apart.  And then the reality hits, and hits hard.  The reality that as much as I wish, I will never see her again, at least not in the flesh.  All because of cancer, something that started with a single cell gone haywire that could not be supressed.  It sucks.

I also thought of my friend, Faith, who died in February.  She was so young, 42 or 43.  She died from Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same thing I had 10 years ago.  She should have survived.  She should still be here.  90% of Americans with Hodgkin's survive 5 years.  I've lived for 10, so far, and hope to keep going.  Faith lived only for three years.  Faith came to one of our Silent Mile celebrations two years ago, and she did a mission moment for me on a bitter winter day's training in 2010.  She was a special person, so gentle and caring, and missed by many.  One more grieving family.  One more too many.  So for the last part of that mile, walking along with a little running for the first time since the 10K two months ago - when I wore Faith's photo on my shirt - I thought of Faith and how badly she wanted to keep living and enjoying life.  It is so unfair.

In the afternoon, Faith's dad and sister came up from North Carolina and had a memorial get-together for Faith's Richmond friends.  While I was there, I learned that they will have a Light the Night team on October 27 in memory of Faith.  Faith was so proud of the awesome job she did with her LTN team "Faith's Hope" in 2009.  I walked with her on that team, and I walked with her the next year with Light the Night.  So I plan on walking on Faith's memorial team this fall.