Monday, August 15, 2016

Mesothelioma Lawyer Center

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about mesothelioma.  It contains some basic information and a link to a fact sheet.

I recently received a request to post about a group that helps people with mesothelioma, the Mesothelioma Lawyer Center.  People with this awful and deadly disease need all of the help that they can get.  So even though I've not been keeping this blog up to date, I am posting this information in case it is helpful to someone.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Top 12 Moments in My Racing for a Cure Memories

As I wrote a month or so ago, this blog is going into at least semi-retirement, but I said that I would write one more post.  Here it is.  I could not close this out without a stroll down memory lane, attempting to pick out my 12 best memories from my nine years of racing for a cure.  I could have picked 50 or even 100, so why just 12?  Well, first, no one would read about 50 things!  But the 12 comes from surviving cancer 12 years as of this past April.  So a dozen fantastic memories seemed appropriate.  They are all great, but I have attempted to rank them in reverse order.

12. Purple Hair and Meeting Julie in Person. On June 26, 2010 in Seattle, Washington, I ran the Seattle Half Marathon.  My goal was to beat 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is slow for a strong runner but a great time for me as a run-walk combination.  And I did it, besting that time by a few moments.  More importantly, I exceeded my fund raising goal and dyed my hair purple to celebrate.  It didn't turn out as purple as I hoped, but it was still cool.  And at the end of the race, I met up with Julie from the "Cure Rocks" blog.  That was really cool to meet a fellow cancer survivor who also did TNT races and blogged about her experiences.  Here we are after running 13.1 miles each, showing off our survivor and "Rock Star" shirts:

11. Completing the Arizona Marathon in a Personal Record to Celebrate Five Years in Remission. My time was about 5:57 and was my PR for a marathon - a pretty good time for having walked all but a couple of miles of it. It was so special because my participation was to celebrate my 5 year remission just a month earlier. At the end, I was greeted by teammates Chuck and Suzanne, who waited for me after finishing their races! Chuck was a new marathoner, finishing like a day ahead of my time and just missing qualifying for Boston, and Suzanne just did her first half marathon. Do we look proud and happy?
On the same day, I learned that teammates Robbie, Theresa, and Paul had completed the Disney Marathon, and teammates Joan-E and Rachel completed the Arizona Marathon with me. All were first time marathoners, and it is great to remember them and their achievements, along with Chuck's and Suzanne's, as I write this.

10.  Cheering at the 2010 Shamrock Half Marathon.  I had a number of friends and teammates running and walking in this race, and four of us - three of us cancer survivors - showed up at the race course and cheered our throats out for hours.  It was a blast.

I need to mention the lady of the right, holding the sign.  Her name is Faith Eury, and she had Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same kind that I had.  It is 80% survivable, but not by Faith.  Less than two years after this photo, Faith was gone at age 43.  She was an inspiring lady.  I met her in person the autumn before when she formed a team, Faith's Hope, for Light the Night and raised over $10,000 for LLS.

9. Being There When My Friend Susan Earned Her Triple Crown! What is the Team in Training "Triple Crown?" It means that you have completed at least one of the three different events that TNT offers: a long-distance foot race, a century bike ride, and a triathlon of any length.  In June of 2009, my friend Susan Glass became the recipient of the "TNT Triple Crown" when she completed her first century triathlon near Asheville, NC.  And the cool thing was, I was there!  I surprised her!  From my motel in Asheville, I emailed her: "I have a big surprise for you the next time that I see you!"  I didn't tell her that the surprise was me being there the next morning to cheer for her on the race course.  And she was really surprised, trust me, because the next time she saw me was the very next day at the start of the ride!  It was great to be there to cheer her off to a great start and to cheer on the course as she zipped by!  I wrote this about her accomplishment.

8. "Crawlin' for Ed." Just two and a half years ago, my friend Ed Stone lost his long fight against cancer.  He was 43 and over half his life had been as a cancer survivor.  Ed inspired so many people during his all too short life.  He was a frequent Team in Training and Light the Night participant.  I've lost count of how many marathons, triathlons and century bike rides he did, and how many tens of thousands of dollars he raised.  He was an athlete, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, an inspiration, and a brave and determined guy.  A few days after his death, I wrote this in memory of Ed.

Last year, I learned that Team in Training would be participating in the Crawlin' Crab Half Marathon in Hampton, VA on Ed's birthday - October 6.  How could I not be a part of that?  Well, I couldn't, so I was!  Ed's widow and two sisters were also in the race.  It was my slowest half marathon of all of my four, but as I say, it is not your time in the race that matters so much as your time at the race.  It was special to run the course and see Ed's family out there cheering for us, and also to see Mary cheering on the race course.  Speaking of Mary....

7. Meeting Mary at the TNT Tent in San Diego. My wife Mary made the trip out with me to San Diego, and we had a great time visiting the World Famous Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, touring downtown San Diego, and trying to learn how to surf. Mary made it out to the TNT finisher tent and it was great to see her after completing my second marathon.

On my visit to San Diego, we also visited the Cancer Survivors Park, which as a four year cancer survivor (at the time) really meant a lot to me.

6. Nashville Mentees and Cheer Leading.  In 2009, after having walked three marathons, I turned to a run-walk combination and took on a half marathon, the Country Music in Nashville, Tennessee.  It was probably my favorite all time event for so many reasons, but especially because we had a team from all over Virginia that just bonded so well.  We had a fabulous coach, Coach Chuck.  I was also a mentor, and three of the people I mentored were in the race, two of them running their very first marathon that day.  Here we are after the race, from left, me, Dave, Kristi, and Nicole.  Dave and Nicole were the first time marathoners, and dyed their hair purple to celebrate.

After each running the race, six of us banded together on the race course near the marathon finish line and cheered for the marathoners for several hours.  It capped a great day and a memorable trip to the Home of Country Music.

5. Crossing my First Marathon Finish Line. Very shortly after memorable moment number four, I became a marathoner, walking 26.2 miles that day at a fast pace. It was perhaps the proudest day of my life – to come back from surviving cancer three years previously and now to complete a marathon.  That whole day, I had to keep pinching myself - I was doing a marathon in Alaska of all places!  When I am 95 and sitting in my rocking chair (or maybe I will be training for a 10k?, or taking a hike) I will still remember that day and smile with joy!

4. The Leukemia Survivor Cheerleader in Alaska. Near mile 25 of the Anchorage Marathon on June 18, 2005, I was soaked, cold, tired. My feet had huge blisters. My legs hurt with each step. Standing in the rain was a lady with a large sign that said “Leukemia Survivor – Thank You.” I will never forget seeing her and what it meant, even as a cancer survivor, to see a fellow survivor out there cheering for us on a cool, rainy day.

3. "60 at 60 for Ann!" - The Komen 3-Day for my Sister, Ann.  Before I had ever gotten involved with Team in Training, I heard a radio commercial for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.  It was a year after my own cancer experience, and I thought how cool it would be to walk 60 miles in three days to raise money for breast cancer research.  I resolved to do it some day.

That day came in 2011.  It was clear that my sister Ann's four year battle with breast cancer would be coming to an end that year, and most likely before I could do the walk in September, just days before her next birthday.  I would turn 60 that July, and I decided that my campaign would be "60 at 60 for Ann!"  I wanted her to know that I would be walking for her that fall.  Here we are, just a few years before that:
Ann died on Memorial Day that year.  I had severe plantar fasciitis and could only walk a couple of miles.  But by August, it had healed enough for me to tolerate some longer walks, and even though I was never able to walk the recommended training schedule, I was able to do complete the 3-Day in Ann's honor in the Washington DC area.  For the third day, I wore a tee shirt with her photo on it.

It was a bittersweet day - I had accomplished a difficult challenge and fulfilled a goal that I had set about eight years before, but my sister was no longer here to celebrate that with me.  Her star shines on in my mind.

2. Raising $5,000 for my First Event in Only Five Weeks. I blogged before about my apprehension about whether I could raise $5,000 for the Anchorage Marathon in 2005. This was the minimum amount I had to raise, and it seemed like a nearly impossible amount. But I decided I had to try it, and signed up for the Summer Team. People were so generous, and I passed this amount in the first five weeks. I doubled my fundraising goal as a result, and passed that as well, ultimately raising over $11,600. Since then, I have always set my fundraising goal high, and whether I meet it or not, I give it a good run for the money.

And what has to be my favorite memory of my Racing for a Cure Career...

1. Seeing the Little Nashville Girl with Leukemia. If you want to learn about this amazing moment in my life, one I will always remember until I die (unless I get dementia someday, which is kind of the same thing), then go here.  Seeing this little girl in Nashville the day before the Country Music Half Marathon in April, 2009 really touched me, and summed up for me why I kept doing Team in Training over the past years of my life.

Well, that is my little stroll down memory lane of my racing for a cure career to date.  The incredible people I met along the way and the memories that I have from getting out there and doing this will always be with me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

It's Time...

I started this blog six years ago.  I had just finished my third marathon, in Arizona, the prior January.  It was also my third time doing a marathon with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  My beloved sister, Ann, had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before.

My blog started out as a summary of my training and fundraising leading up to the Arizona Marathon.  I back-dated them to follow along my actual time sequence of training for and walking in the race.  That took me up to July 2008 to get them all posted (the marathon was in January 2008).  I also wrote about the 5K Race for the Cure for the Susan G. Komen for a Cure in May 2008.  And then I just kept going, writing about my experience as a cancer survivor, writing of others facing this disease, and writing about training and fundraising for additional half-marathons, 10K's, and other events for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and other cancer-fighting organizations.  Since I started, I have written nearly 800 posts about these topics.

Six years have flowed by.  In that time, I ran three half marathons (Nashville in 2009, Seattle in 2010, and Hampton, VA in 2013) for Team in Training.  I ran a fourth in Virginia Beach in 2012 to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer.  And I have done numerous 10K's, a couple of 5K's, and a 60 mile walk for breast cancer research to memorialize my sister Ann in 2011.  Yes, I said "memorialize," as she lost her determined battle with this awful disease in May of that year.  Her star shines brightly in my memory still, and will until I draw my final breath here on God's beautiful, wondrous, blue and green earth.

Two days ago, June 18, marked the nine year anniversary of one of the most amazing experiences in my entire life - walking my very first marathon - the Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska - for Team in Training as a three year cancer survivor after raising a lot of money for LLS to participate in the race.  It made me reflect on some of my experiences over the past 12 years since my Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis.  It made me think of the people I have met along the way affected by cancers - some in full remission like me, some battling the disease every day the best that they can, and far too many losing that battle, often at a young age.  Many of their stories appear in this blog.

And I got to thinking of how seldom I keep this blog updated now.  I am not signed up for a race right now, and may even give up running permanently to save my legs for hiking and walking.  I think it is time to semi-retire my blog.  It gets very little readership, I believe, and I am not updating it often.  If and when I do another event, I will bring it out of retirement for a while.  But for now, I am giving it some rest.  I will do one more post in the near future and that will be it for a while.

I hope that anyone who has come along to my blog or who does so in the future will enjoy some of my tales and stories.  Maybe you will find some inspiration from the tales of my experiences as a cancer survivor who has tried to pay it forward and to give back, or maybe you will be inspired by the tales of others in my blog.  Maybe the things that I have written about here will inspire you to keep trying and to make your own difference in your own way.  I very much hope so.

And if you come here by chance and are battling cancer, maybe feeling so ill and scared and alone, just remember: cancer is indeed a terrible and cruel foe, but there are limits to what it can take from you.  Here is something I wrote on this topic when my sister, my friend Ed, and my friend Faith were all in the middle of their tough battles with cancer.  And here is another poem, written anonymously, about what cancer cannot do.

I hope to again be Racing for a Cure in some way in the future, and when that happens, I will reactivate my blog.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Race for the Cure!

A few days ago, I looked at my schedule and decided to participate in the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure" this morning.  At the end of the month, my sister Ann will be gone for three years, and there is not a day that I don't miss her.  So I wanted to walk today for the 5K "race" and make a little statement to Breast Cancer:  "You took my sister, but as long as I breath you will not take her totally because I still remember and love her."

Pink was the dominant theme today.  I wonder how I would have looked in a pink tutu?
Not often you get to see the Good Health Fairy!
I wore the shirt I had made for the 2011 3-Day for the Cure with my sister's photo on the front.
Brown's Island down by the river is a popular venue for all kinds of events.
 Liked this view of the James River in the distance behind the banner.
Not much I can add...
More pink!
At the start of of the race, everyone is pumped up.  I was walking, not running.  I have not run since the Crawlin' Crab Half Marathon in October.  All of these photos were taken with my new iPhone, by the way.  It was a good crowd.  30+ minutes into the race, crossing back from the south side of the city, we could still see people heading across the Manchester Bridge in the distance, 30 or more minutes behind where I was - and I was hardly at the front.
Mother Nature decided to wear pink today,
as did these two dogs.  Pretty in pink!
It meant a lot to me to do this walk today in my sister's memory.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Twelve Years!

Where does the time go?  As I struggle about whether or not to keep this blog going - if not posting for more than a month constitutes "keeping it going" - I do have to reflect on this date, April 26, and its meaning to me.  For it was 12 years ago, as a healthy 50 year old, I was told "You have a large mass in the middle of your chest, something that should not be there."  The radiologist had written the word "Lymphoma?" on the edge of the X-ray, and that is just what it turned out to be: Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

It was like a bolt from the blue.  Time stood still as I listened in shock.  Thoughts poured through my brain.  "How is this possible?"  "Will I still be alive by Christmas?" "How will I tell my wife this news?"

That day lead to about a month of all kinds of tests, and then six months of living in a toxic world as I got the four awful drugs that saved my live while ravaging my body.  They may yet have the last laugh, as they themselves are carcinogenic, and two of them cause heart and lung damage.  But so far, so good.

How much I have done in 12 years!  When this posts, I will be off in the wilderness of West Virginia backpacking - a great way to celebrate the day and my return to strength.  I've done hikes all over the place, and seen some dream places - Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier, and Alaska.  I've heading to Scotland later this year. I held my granddaughter on the day of her birth.  And along the way, I have given back, raising over $60,000 for the cancer fighting cause while doing three marathons, four half marathons, and a sixty mile walk.  Like anyone, the 12 years have had sadness and some heartbreak, but that is all part of life.  My glass is way more than half-full.  And I hope for many more years ahead before I take that last breath on earth, as we all do at some point.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Marathoning Bling

While I decide whether I am going to keep this blog going or not - although given that I last posted something more than a month ago, one could easily argue that I have not kept it going - I thought I would put a few photos out there of my medals from races - my "marathoning bling."

My six medals for my Team in Training races are on the outside.  Starting from the top left and moving clockwise, they are: Midnight Sun Marathon, Anchorage, Alaska, June 2005; San Diego Marathon, June, 2006; Arizona Marathon, Phoenix and environs, January 2008; Country Music Half Marathon, Nashville, Tennessee, April 2009; Seattle Half Marathon, June 2010; Crawlin' Crab Half Marathon, Hampton, Virginia, October, 2013.  In the middle is my medal from the Shamrock Half Marathon, Virginia Beach, March 2012.  It is my only long distance race that I didn't participate in for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Instead, I did it to celebrate 10 years as a cancer survivor. 
Each of these races was special in its own way, but the Arizona Marathon was special for four reasons: (1) it was my first long race as a grandpa (2) it was my last full marathon of 26.2 miles - maybe ever (3) it was my first long distance race that my sister Ann's name was on my shirt, she having been diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year before, and (4) it was my fastest time in a marathon, and first time under six hours, which is really difficult to do if one is walking the race.  That being said, running a marathon in any time is harder than walking it.  I know because I ran most of my three half marathons.

My two favorite medals are from Seattle and from the Crawlin' Crab.  Seattle's featured Mount Rainier and a steaming cup of joe:
And how can you not like the happy crab from Hampton?
For each of my six TNT races, I also got my coveted 26.2 or 13.1 pin.
My medals are all thrown in a drawer together, buried under workout clothing, so it was nice to take them all out, get a photo, and think of all of the hard work behind each little hunk of metal.

Friday, February 7, 2014

One Step Forward and Two Backward

At the start of the year, I wrote of my fitness goals for 2014.  And I have dilligently been making progress on at least some of them.  I still can't fit into all my jeans, but I have lost two pounds, which I could easily gain back in a day or two of unbridled gluttony if I am not careful.  I've been walking a fair amount.  I've been on the eliptical machine a few times.  I've been doing crunches and planks.  I am walking the stairs at work at least 90% of the time, only using the elevator if I am late for something.  And I have been doing two to three upper body workouts a week.

And that is where my setback, my "two steps backward," has occurred.  I recently moved up to 80 pounds from 70 and it didn't seem too bad - until Wednesday night.  About seven years ago, I partially tore my right rotator cuff, and now I am having very similar pain in my right shoulder.  It is not agonizing - and in fact, I've had more or less continuous low level pain in that shoulder for seven years - but it is pain that was not there before this past week.  And it should not be there.  So clearly, I have done something I didn't want to do.

So what to do next?  I think I need to knock off the upper body for a week.  Then try a few light weight, say 50 pounds, workouts and see how that feels.  Or even 40 pounds, or if need be just 30.  I probably need to focus on lighter weights and many more repetitions.  I am not sure how best to do it, but it does seem that this particular fitness goal may be one that I need to back off of.

It is always discouraging to have setbacks, but they are part of life and we just have to do our best to move forward, even if we don't get quite as far as we hoped for.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mesothelioma - A Big Word With a Terrible Implication

Have you ever toured one of the great World War II Battleship museums, like the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, NC or the USS Massachusetts in Fall River, MA?  It is fascinating stuff.  You can go all over the ship, from the bridge and the gigantic gun turrets to deep below the water line, and get a sense what it was like to be one of 1,500 - 2,000 men living aboard one of these ships in war time.  You can even get to the engine rooms with the massive power plants for the ship.  And while you are down there, you can see some of the heavy use of asbestos made on these ships - and in so many other places at the time, and since.

I remember the first time I saw this, it struck me how much the men who built and later served in these ships must have been exposed to asbestos, a valuable and useful mineral with a terrible cost: mesothelioma.  This is a lethal cancer of the lungs that is only caused by asbestos fiber inhalation.  Thus, it is a totally preventable cancer.  Yet, about 30 million pounds is used annually in the USA.

US Navy veterans of World War II and the Korean War have the highest incidence of asbestos related diseases.  But of course, many others are afflicted as well.  I have wondered for some time if my father could have been one of them.  In the late 1930's through the mid-40's as a young man, he worked in ship yards as a shipwright and later as a naval architect, helping to build and design the ships that helped the men and women of that generation literally save the world.  Forty years later, he was dying of a terrible lung cancer.  It was not necessarily mesothelioma - he had been a smoker earlier in his life.  But he certainly had been exposed to asbestos, and that could have been the cause of his death in 1983.

At the time my dad was working in the shipping industry, very little was known about the hazards of asbestos.  That is not true today.  Should we still be using so much of it?  What will the cost be in 30 years to those handling it today?  No level of exposure to asestos is safe.

Want to learn more about this not too well known cancer?  Here is an excellent fact sheet about mesothelioma.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Miles for Meg

Last Monday, I'm sure, started perfectly normally for 34 year old Meg Menzies of Hanover County, Virginia.  An avid runner since her youth, she headed out on her morning run.  She was training for the Boston Marathon, and her husband - also a runner - was running with her.  I imagine that their three kids had headed off to school.  And then, at about 8:00AM, her time on this earth came to an abrupt and tragic end.  A vehicle driven by a physician, who was allegedly alcohol impaired, crossed the line onto the shoulder of the highway and struck and killed Meg.  Her husband was by her side as she died.

I don't know Meg, although many in the local running community do know her well.  What I know of her- about her running interests, her grieving family, and the fact that she was director of her church's preschool children Bible school on Sunday - came from the newspaper or from talking with others today.

Meg was doing everything right - running facing traffic; running in daylight; running off the road and on the shoulder; and even running into the sun so that drivers should clearly see her as they headed west with the low morning sun behind them.  But it was not enough.  And now, a husband is widowed, three children have lost their mother, and a genuinely good person is gone.

Today, all over the US of A and all over the world, people signed up to run and walk "Meg's Miles."  I am not on Facebook and so did not formally sign up.  But I did go out with my friends from the current Team in Training group and put in six miles for Meg.  And I logged my participation on this map, and I logged my miles on this website.

May you rest in peace, Meg.  All over Virginia, all over the United States, all over the world people you did not know were thinking of you today as we moved our feet.

Here is a view of some of the USA participation on "Meg's Miles:"
 And here is a view of world wide participation - even as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, and Japan, people were running and walking for Meg.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Rockport Mile VO2 Max Test, Take 2

I blogged the other day about cardiovascular fitness and trying the Rockport Mile Test to estimate my VO2 Max level.  Well, having the day off today, I decided to go for a five mile walk, a rare treat for me on a Monday through Friday.  And after about 1.5 miles, I came upon a middle school with a track.  As it was during school hours, I thought I'd better keep going, but no kids were out and I saw two ladies running and walking laps.  So I figured it was OK (more about that later).

I decided to do four laps on the level track and see how my VO2 Max estimate would compare to the hillier neighborhood route of the other night.  So I walked four laps on the kind of soggy track as fast as I could, and I knocked about seven seconds off my time of the other night, down to 13 minutes and 17 seconds.  And my heartbeat was slightly lower than before at 140.  The overall result was that my VO2 Max level rose slightly to 36.01.  That is still on the high end of "good" for males of my age.  To get to "very good," my heart rate for the same time in the mile would have to be about 133.  To reach "excellent," my heart beat would have to be at 114 for the same time.

If nothing else, just trying to walk a mile as fast as you possibly can is great exercise.  My normal walking pace right now seems to be about 14:30 to 14:45 per mile, so cutting 1.25 to 1.5 minutes off of that requires a lot of effort.  I'll be evaluating ways to improve my level of cardiovascular fitness in the coming months.

Now, the rest of the story.  About a minute after I finished my laps, I was cleaning gravel out of my shoes, and a police officer appeared.  He told me that the school had called in a concern that I was on school property and that I had to leave.  I apologized and left immediately.  I only walked there because the two women were, so I figured that it was all right.  Interestingly, the two women continued to walk and run, and the officer left without speaking to them.  I guess women are not viewed as the potential threat that men are, with some level of justification, I suppose.