Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Sweet Dream

The other night, a few of us gathered together to toast the memory of our friend, TNT teammate, and fallen cancer warrior Ed Stone.  We went around the table and we each said something about Ed, maybe a memory we had of this great guy.  Here is the story that I related.

When I walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in 2011, I had well over 100 people make a donation to me.  Everyone who made a donation got an email from the Komen organization a couple of weeks before the walk.  The email talked about how they could give the person that they donated to a "Sweet Dream."  For an additional ten dollar donation, they could have a chocolate and a note delivered to said participant.

So a few days before the walk, I got an email saying that someone had donated a "Sweet Dream," and that I should check the camp "post office" at the end of the first day of walking to collect it.  I thought that was pretty cool, and wondered who among my many donors would have done this.

At the end of the first day, soaked and tired, I trudged through the mud of camp to collect my "Sweet Dream."  Of course, it was from Ed and Leslie, with a kind note about what I was doing in my sister's memory.  I very much appreciated and was touched by their thoughtfulness.  At that point in time, Ed's left leg had essentially been ruined by a failed attempt to destroy the melanoma in that leg.  He was in a lot of pain and misery, struggling to get around with a walker.  These once strong legs, which had once propelled him 100 miles on a bike and 26.2 miles on foot, could barely get him across a room.  Yet here he was, thinking of others, as was Leslie.

It was a gesture that was so typical of this couple.  I will never forget their kindness, and as I savored the chocolate that night and prepared for sweet dreams in my little pink tent, I said a little "thank you" that there are people in this world like Ed and Leslie, even though there are not enough of them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Five Years Ago

I was thinking the other day how five years ago, not quite to the day, I did my third and last marathon.  This one was the PF Changs Arizona Marathon in Phoenix (mostly).  It was my third Team in Training marathon, all as a walker, and I was celebrating five years in remission the month before.  I still remember some of my teammates having a little ceremony that day in training and giving me five purple and green balloons!  It was also the first marathon I did as a grandpa, and the first I did knowing that my sister Ann had breast cancer.  Her name was the first that I wrote on top of my race shirt.  Now, she is gone, coming up on two years, and that is hard still to believe at times.

Also gone is five more years of my life, just like that.  Since that race, I've done two more TNT events, this time as a runner - walker (a "runalker" as I say).  Both of these were half marathons, and I added a third half marathon last year, the Shamrock Half, on my own to celebrate surviving cancer ten years that May.  Even though my left knee has not been normal since then, I don't regret it because I made a statement for my 10 year mark.

But I was reflecting on how our lives just move along.  Five years, gone by just like that!  I wonder sometime if I will do another marathon.  I could maybe do one as a power walker again, and maybe as a runner - walker - but only if I can figure out what is going on with this knee.  It hurts a good bit even after a moderate length walk, or a hike.  Not excruciating pain, but pain that should not be there.  I was doing some one legged squats last night, and my left knee hurt a lot with each one, my right knee not at all.  So something is still not right.  I think I need to go to another doctor and see what they think.  Which reminds me (as my friend Mindy did last night), it is also time for an annual checkup with my oncologist.

A small group of us got together for a beer last night, to toast Ed and what he meant to us.  Most of them are actively involved in training for a TNT event right now.  And it made me realize a little more how much I would like to solve this knee pain and get out there in purple at least one more time before I get too old.  I'd love to think that I have one more marathon in my legs (and knees)!

Monday, January 14, 2013

One More Fallen Cancer Warrior

When I first signed up for Team in Training, exactly eight years ago, each event team was assigned its own patient honoree.  Our team's (Midnight Sun Marathon Team) honored patient was a young man named Ed Stone.  He had survived leukemia at age 19 with a bone marrow transplant from his sister.  At one point, things looked bad enough that they had a moment of silence for him at his old high school football stadium.  But he pulled through, and survived another bout with some kind of other cancer a dozen years later.  Shortly after our training started early in 2005, we learned that Ed had melanoma - his third cancer, and he wasn't even 40 yet!  But the melanoma was cut out and Ed resumed triathlon training for his own spring event with Team in Training.  Within a few years, he was the first participant in Virginia to earn the coveted "TNT Triple Crown:" at least one marathon or half marathon, a triathlon of any distance, and a "Century" bike ride.  I think that he did about 10 to 15 TNT events over the years.

Then, in July or August of 2009, while getting ready for the Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon as a family team with his wife, sister, and nephew, Ed discovered melanoma in the ball of his left foot.  He went ahead and did the race, and later had a big chunk of his foot removed.  And periodically, he had more increasingly awful surgeries and chemotherapy treatments.  One of these ruined his entire left leg.  This former athlete, who did marathons, a half iron man, and 100 mile bike rides, continued to try to recover.  He was recently back in the pool, and even trying to ride a stationary bike.  He always had a smile, and was not a complainer, although he had more to justify complaining than did most people.  He was a true cancer warrior, and he was an incrEDible inspiration to so many people.  Just a few months ago, Ed walked about 2.5 miles in Light the Night.  It was difficult, but he did it.

I learned today that Ed lost his long fight early this morning.  He was 43.  He leaves behind a young widow, grieving parents, and many friends.  He inspired us all, and touched so many lives.  He did everything he could, with courage and grit, to keep on living, but it was not to be.

Rest well in peace, Ed - you will be missed by so many, my friend!  You gave it your all.  You were an amazing human being.

Read my tribute to Ed here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things 61 Year Old Men Should Not Do - Part 1.

What things should 61 year old men not do?  Well, for starters, they should not carry or lift heavy, bulky objects.

A week ago, we decided that it was time to replace our 15 year old TV.  It still works just fine, but it seems so out of date, what with "plasma" and "high definition" and "3-D."  So we went to Best Buy, looked around a bit, and made a purchase.  It will be delivered in another week, at which time they will also collect our old 31 inch Sony.  In the meantime, we bought a nice piece of furniture for the new television to go on, and that was delivered last Friday.  So we had to move the old TV and the entertainment center that it was on out of the way.  We decided to move the old piece of furniture upstairs for our backup TV.

My wife got the brilliant idea to move our love seat in front of the TV and lower the television on to it, then push the love seat back where it belongs.  When I say "brilliant idea," I am not being sarcastic.  This TV is huge.  Picture any two people you run with, and it probably outweighs them.  We had some interest from the Washington Redskins about picking up the TV and using it in their weight room, but they decided to pass, figuring it would just injure their players.  So my wife's idea was a lot better than mine, which was for us to pick up the TV, walk across the living room, and place it on the couch.  Had we attempted that, the TV undoubtedly would have dropped onto the floor, or onto our feet, and would have crashed through the floor, through the concrete slap, into the earth's crust, and popped out somewhere in China!

We positioned the love seat, each got on one side to the TV, and hoisted it off the entertainment center.  A millisecond later, despite our best efforts, we dropped it - screen side down - on the love seat.  That is when I told my wife "Your idea was brilliant!"  I mentally pictured what our living room would have looked like if we had used my idea.  Before I got the partial rotator cuff tear about five or six years ago, I had really decent upper body strength and worked out a lot (which was apparently what caused the tear).  Now, while I may not look like the proverbial 99 pound weakling, I am apparently no longer up to hoisting televisions the size of small automobiles.

We slid the love seat easily - well, somewhat easily - across the floor and positioned a coffee table under the edge of the television set so that the cat would not jump on the TV and tip it on to the floor.  Then, we turned our attention to the entertainment center.  It is not huge, and weighs perhaps 80 or 90 pounds.  But it is big enough that there are no two points where one can grab it with a good grip.  Plus it has this base that swivels, and two glass doors, one of which popped out and crashed to the floor just as we began to wrestle the piece of furniture upstairs.  I will never understand how the glass didn't break.  We somehow put the thing down, and I picked up the glass door and put it and its companion aside.  Then we resumed the climb up the staircase.

People have had an easier time climbing Mount Rainier than we had getting this thing up a flight of stairs!  The base kept swiveling around, throwing us off balance and blocking progress.  There was no good way to grab the thing with a solid grip.  I had the lead, going up backwards.  My wife's job was to hang on to the other end, and go with me as I twisted and tugged the cumbersome beast up one stair at a time.  I was bending awkwardly and kept having to twist my lower body, and then kind of move back semi-explosively (there is nothing really explosive about using one's muscles at my age, but this was close).  We finally got the bulky piece of furniture up to the top, and I was breathing like I just lost to Mr. Bolt by 10 seconds in the 200 meter dash.  But within 10-15 minutes, we had moved the thing into the spare TV room, moved the old entertainment center out, and had everything hooked up properly.  "Not so bad," thought I.

Then, within 30 minutes, I realized I could barely walk.  My left hip was so painful with each step.  Instead of walking like a 61 year old man, I was hobbling like I was 101.  "Man," I thought, "I've moved myself half a dozen times.  I've helped friends move another dozen times - heavy, nasty stuff, working hard all day.  But move one piece of furniture now, and I can barely move.  I guess my moving myself (and friends) days are over."  I took three Ibuprofen, relaxed a bit, and it the morning I could move almost normally.  Two more "Vitamin I" later at work, and I was fine.

But I did learn than men my age best leave the heavy lifting to someone else.  Either that, or I seriously need to hit the gym a lot more than I do if I want to be able to do this type of thing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year!

Wow, 2013 - How'd that happen?  I look back on last year - all these plans I had.  Very few of them accomplished.  But the main thing is, I have now survived and been in remission from cancer for more than 10 years.  That fact alone trumps anything else, even though I didn't accomplish most of my racing goals for 2012.

Looking ahead, I am not making resolutions.  I do have some fitness and "racing for a cure" goals for 2013, however.  I also have some hiking goals, and you can view them here on my other blog.

I own three pairs of blue jeans.  One of them fits fairly comfortably, but not as well as they did before, say, Thanksgiving.  The other two fit about as comfortably as a hippopotamus trying to squeeze into a phone booth.  Just a few years ago, I could wear all three.  So here is one goal for the year - fit in all three pairs again.

A second major goal is to at the least continue with walking and hiking, if not running.  If you keep up with my other - and in the last year or so, more active - blog, Oh, To Be Hiking, you know that I have done pretty well keeping hiking alive in my life.  So I will set a tangible and measurable goal - average at least 13,000 steps a day.  Bonus points if I exceed an average of 14,000 steps.  Whipped cream and a cherry on the top if I reach an average of 15,000 steps daily.

Here is a very worthy third goal for the year - figure out once and for all what is going on with my left knee.  I see two major steps: (1) get back to my physical therapy routine religiously and see if that makes a difference and (2) if there is no change in a couple of months, see a new doctor and maybe get an MRI to figure out what is going on.

A fourth goal - determine, based on the knee issues, if I can do Team in Training in 2013 after skipping it for the past two years (although in 2011, I did walk 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, so it is not like I sat on a couch full-time.)  For example, I bet I could at the least walk a half marathon.  My preference would be to run, but walking for a cure beats sitting on my butt for no cure.

A fifth goal for 2013 - get back in an upper body routine.  I should be doing upper body workouts 2-3 days a week, but never seem to find the time.  When I do for a while, I feel better and then slack off.  Of course, the last time I was really working out a lot was about four months ago, and my left elbow hurt like hell.  I think it was tendinitis.  I stopped entirely for several months and the pain slowly receded.  Time to try again.

Finally, I'd like to update this blog every week even if it is just me musing about something.  I rarely get comments and I am not sure if anyone reads it or not, but writing more often would be good for me, if not for the world at large.

Hmmm, these are starting to sound like resolutions.  Uh-oh!