I ran the marathon that I won with a stroller because I wanted to run a marathon with a stroller. I put off brain surgery to run a marathon because I thought there might never be another. That would lead to a short tv interview. It was the second year I’d ran it but the very first time ever it was the Livestrong marathon… where a cancer diagnosis would come in the middle of it and I’d put surgery off just because running with job shifts and relationship shifts, I kept running because it was the one place that felt normal. And on that marathon in 2011 I would qualify for Boston and then come back and win the cancer survivor’s division in 2012 and 2013.
I ran the first half pushing a stroller to encourage my mom to do her first half ever at age 60 and it got local news cover. (http://www.oaoa.com/gallery/sports/collection_11ffb65c-0fe8-11e2-a849-001a4bcf6878.html). She came in dead last out of the half marathons but I was a lot more proud of her than of any of my wins. At Gusher, that speaker I referenced being lost in here was noticed by the very last finisher, who took twice as long as I did but along the way was kind enough to notice it and have a cyclist pick it up. I just kind of said oh well when it fell because I’m no good at getting started again if I break that late in a marathon. More importantly, this was his 50th marathon and he did the entire thing carrying an American flag (http://www.12newsnow.com/story/21578566/veteran-carries-american-flag-as-he-runs-50th-marathon). Somewhere in both of those I think the Biblical precept of the last shall be first is incredibly true.
I raised money for the first ever brain cancer research race in Austin, the Brain Power 5k and was fortunate to win it (first race I had won since college) but more importantly was the lead fundraiser. That would win me a trip to Sonoma which felt weird on other people’s donation and in my sense of obligation this year got it donated as raffles for the 5k under which I revolved my next follow up at Duke (http://dccc.convio.net/site/TR/Angels/AngelsAmongUs?px=1118121&pg=personal&fr_id=1150).
Long before all this I raised money for charities because I strongly believe that if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately. And a simple look through my facebook profile would tell you I used to have more money if for no other reason than that there were trips around the world and since then I have no clue where my passport it. And my diffuse astrocytoma, grade II is a cancer that has no known genetic, lifestyle, environmental or dietary components. And long before any of this I was comfortable being in the center of attention but it has all felt very odd that it’s due to a disease. If you read the last blog entry which will likely always be the most read one, read the race director’s comment. Every other race that has let me in opened it up to anyone else doing it with a stroller but I was the only one “dumb enough” to do a half marathon and a 30k with a stroller. She wanted to know why I wanted to be let in and I didn’t want to talk about the cancer, I wanted to have credibility with just the times from the races but she thought my credibility should derive from the heart of the matter, why I wanted to do it with a stroller which was what that enterprise article was all about (http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/sports/article/Brain-cancer-patient-wins-Gusher-Marathon-4342280.php). It’s greatly written and was picked up by runners world and outside online magazine. The author is 22 years old and it’s his first job out of college… If he can write that well with that little life experience, he’s got a career ahead of him. We traded emails where he humbly tried to deflect the attention the article was getting and we finally compromised and agreed that like in photography both the subject and the angle at which you catch it at matter.
But boy have I learned that life is full of unintended consequences… It was picked up by those magazines and the wall street journal put in a picture on the back… Honestly there have been throughout this journey people who have had me sit down with their relatives or friends and try to get them to keep going when they are considering giving up. Most of that has never made this blog because even as public as I am, I’ll take a line from George Clooney that some of your personal life should be kept personal because otherwise it’s not personal. But let me say this, there have been more of those type of emails this week and phone call than in the last year combined. As in the past, I have talked and listened as best I know how, let them know they can call anytime having recognized from sitting with survivors that the human aspect is gigantic but also referred them to Livestrong where you know they are professionals. One of those interviews let to a donation to Livestrong under my name.
People have asked about my doctors and I brag about all of them. These are doctors from Duke, Dr. Friedman who let me put off surgery to run a marathon, Dr. Valiant and Desjardins who let me keep running and have tried ways to help with my deficits, Dr. Perurena who knew enough to where even if focal seizures might have been dismissed understands that it’s better to put extra restrictions on me than to ever let Kiana be at risk in a car with seizures fully controlled. My neuro oncologist who pointed me to lumosity to work various aspects of improving the brain. There are times where I was dumb enough to think some of the deficits where their fault instead of cancer’s fault due to the drugs or the surgery. That’s of course ridiculous and fear based because I think from meeting other survivors is that my deficits would be far more obvious if I didn’t have that ridiculously good of a team. After I won the marathon, I hit my Duke fundraising goal within 48 hours.
And then the crazy race director for the Gusher said we should start a college fund for Kiana which frankly I objected to. This was a woman who got my sense of humor and when she finally let me in decided that it was a no brainer. She simply did it and joked that she was crazy and put an incredible goal for it. http://www.donationto.com/Sports-Society-Fund-for-Iram-Leon is where it’s at. She said you’ve helped people and you’re obviously too proud to let people help you but don’t try to stop us from helping your daughter. She pointed out I didn’t ask for a dime but I’ve got no argument for that. I don’t know where that will go but it’s currently at 100 which in simple frankness is $100 more than Kiana had in any college fund yesterday. So if you want to make a donation to that… you get a virtual hug or a real one whichever you prefer.
I didn’t expect to get that kind of time on the marathon and if you look at past results some of it was blind luck. It was the slowest winning time they’d ever had. This has me all feeling grateful, confused, humbled and overwhelmed. I assume and trust this will all be over in a day or two. But even so, it’s spring break and while Kiana’s had some playdates to make life a little more social during spring break (and hearing about UT students crazy antics), the one thing that has not been negotiable has been that we don’t do something fun together everyday. And so we’ve thrown a Frisbee around, we’ve ran together at my track workout, we’ve drawn on the sidewalk… because at the end of the day, there’s something incredibly comforting about the fact that cancer and its side effects have ruined many things but they haven’t taken away my ability to run and love. And at the end of the day… perhaps the reason the Universe was kind enough to let me win the only marathon that ever let me in pushing Kiana was to remind me why it’s letting me keep breathing, even if it’s hard, a little bit longer.