Monday, December 30, 2013

Good Men Don't Need Rules

I'm not a guy who watches much television but Doctor Who will almost certainly be my favorite tv show ever (certainly a top Christmas gift in all of time and space was this year's TARDIS shower curtain). But in an episode where the hero is going to war, he warns his enemies that "Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many."

Year's end is for many of us a time of reflection... magazines proclaim people of the year, facebook gives you your year in review ( I personally look back at my 8 new year's resolutions ( and realize that the 3 that I didn't meet were somehow compensated accounted for and at some level also not the deepest ones. One was to break a three hour marathon and I didn't but I won one... the other was to run a trail and I didn't but I got to join the spartan world which is mostly on trail... the last was to use my passport which I didn't but somehow it was the year that I traveled the most ever in, mostly to races and only once to Duke.

But these rules, these resolutions are not necessary for many good men. There are good people who seem to do so many good things so orgnaically that it's not second nature, it is nature. There are people who have called my refusal to participate in races that I can't do without Kiana absurd since I've even missed simple 5k's which would be less than 20 minutes. Anyone who thinks that I haven't been doing things around the house when Kiana was home where she was entertaining herself for that long... but it's just a simple rule I've made in my life. Perhaps it's still the memory of that my first marathon was symbolically chosen because it was on Valentine's day but nothing was done together and therefore... it's no surprise that relationship didn't work out. Perhaps, it's not that different from an alcoholic anonymous member who can't take a sip of alcohol because he knows the damage that has inflicted on things far more important than just his body. Most of us can have a drink or two (or win the beer mile) without any doctor being super upset with us. But if alcohol was something which we abused... it's not worth the risk. Exercise is important but it's a means to an ends for me, it's about valuing life, not promoting running. And I'll always run and always love but for me, I run to love, not love to run.

In what I can only assume will always be, by far, the most media filled year of my life, I've kept writing here, just sharing the simplest perspective from my simple mind. A couple of more media pieces have come out. One of them ( felt somehow appropriate and/or ironic. I used to travel a lot and I cancelled a trip to Brazil's carnival and literally went to Duke on the exact same date for brain cancer surgery... that stung. And I've never gotten to get anywhere near back there but on Kiana's 7th birthday, our story came out there. My Portuguese is not great but google translate makes it seem like a good story and so it's somewhat comforting that in someway or another brain cancer didn't completely stop me from getting to Brazil :). It is apparently Brazil's biggest paper and I've had some cool Brazilian people reach out to which I can only say obrigado.

Another organization that helps with brain tumor awareness has been highlighting people that are kicking some mass ( There are some really cool people and I'm in there as well. Both those pieces if you think I'm being self deprecating... it's just being self aware.

In my favorite media pieces, and in the times I speak and on here, I regularly talk about my deficits of memory and language skills and about my character defects both before and after cancer (the biggest one from my pre cancer days was taking relationships as foregone conclusions). But the simple reality is that one day there will come a day where Kiana thinks it's dorky to hang out with me or I'll be gone. Aware of that reality, no race is more important. People have confused this for humility or strength... perhaps it is but in my mind, if there's any strength in it it's simply acknowledging the weaknesses that I wasn't focused enough before a hole was put in my brain.

The line from the episode is fairly self evident to me. Good men don't need rules. Whether you take the basics of items like the 10 commandments, "don't kill, don't steal, don't cheat on your significant other, don't be jealous of things" etc. I can't imagine a world where those things being the norm would lead to anywhere near a healthy or productive society but then again the guy who was bringing down the tablet prohibiting murder had killed a guy. The guy telling people to "love others as they would like to be loved" was betrayed by part of his inner crowd and publicly executed. I think that I, like society, have rules as the checks and balances hoping that the rules let the better halves of ourselves win.

So this week... Kiana and grandma cleaned her room and before she could open her birthday presents, she had to choose to get rid of some items to make room for the others (this was before she knew what was coming). And I've spent a good chunk of the last two weeks as I have each of the last three years, cleaning out more and more of my house. For three years now, I have owned less on December 31st than I did on January 1st because you can't imagine the freedom you find from the things you leave behind. So in what I hope will always be the strangest year of my life.... I'll keep the rules in my life which have gotten me here. Put relationships at the center of life and when there are simple conflicts like skip a race or get a babysitter... then you skip the race.

And those rules will be there not because I'm a good man but because putting them in place has helped me become a better one. And I'm miles away from being anywhere near what I should be but I dare to dream that in 2013 what was good in my life continued to rule.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Forward Progress

If you need absolute confirmation that I have problems with my brain/ memory or are wondering why I take the George Clooney approach in regards to making commitment in my life, let me simplify it for you, I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. And there’s been some rough parts of the last 3 years and various disappointments, and well… that’s been one of them. For the third year in a row, the last game of the season will determine whether or not they get into the playoffs (0 for 2 thus far).

I spent a good chunk of my life in Texas and football is big here. I was here when the Cowboys were winning Superbowls and at UT when theLonghorns won the national Championship. I’ve never played anything other than flag football  and I’m not allowed to do contact sports anymore my understanding of the game is mostly from family participating and TV spectating but there is a fascinating rule different from any of the sports I’ve ever played. The reasoning for it is obvious but even if a player is still standing up and trying to run forward, the play is ruled to be dead andthe player is ruled to be down if even if he is running hard against his opponent, if he is no longer moving forward. And if the opponents take him back, he gets credit, the ball gets to be placed at the furthest point he got to.

The thing about keeping a blog, or having had some challenges that unlike football or sports, you had no choice in signing up for is it helps you keep track of where you’ve come from, where you’re going. An old friend used to say, think about the stuff that was stressing you out six months ago. Most people can’t really recall or when they remember it kind of seems petty by comparison so it used to give me a perspective of not sweating the small stuff. For me, it has helped me appreciate the big stuff. Realizing that in 2011, I had 12 months of cancer related appointments. In 2012, I had 10 months worth of medical appointments and 4 with legal ones (so 10/12 or 12/12 depending how you want to measure it since there was some overlap) and in 2013 I had 7 out of 12 with medical ones and 5 legal ones (9 out of 12). These have ranged from bloodwork to office visits to MRI’s to neuropsychological to testing for seizures to waking up in ambulances to custody hearings where I should only have supervised visits. They have not all gone well but all in all, they could have gone much much worse.  In 2014, I have non set before April, APRIL!  I’m sitting here on the morning of Christmas Eve and well that’s a pretty darn good Christmas present.

I’ve tried to do at least once a month since I started running against after the surgery and gotten to, from track meets to marathons to bike rides to Spartans. In fact if 2014 holds at all, I get a chance to speak about my experiences with cancer and running before having to see a doctor at all. I get the privilege of sharing it at a race that raises money for the Mayo Clinic, which by the way is where my Imerman Angel attended and she’s also stable on her brain tumor (check it out at And I get to return to Beaumont where I won a marathon and unfortunately Kiana’s with her mom for spring break when that happens but I am going to run the half both because it didn’t feel right to do that full marathon without her and because they are going to be kind enough to let me hand out medals… I wish I could thank that community in many ways but that’ll be one of them.

The finances are a long way from where they were and a long way from where they should be but… they’re getting better. I finished the year with the beer mile and a great half marathon. I am starting it with the underwear run and a 30k in the first week of January. And oddly enough even though last night I did 4 miles worth of track workout and Saturday I ran 20 miles at a 6:59 pace, there are still no marathons on the schedule. Still, Kiana’s 7th birthday is on Sunday and we’ll do a party a few days after school starts and that will take plenty of endurance to keep up with that bunch.

Each of those areas, less medical appointments, faster times at various races, getting to play catch up a little more in the financial area, they are forward progress. In the NFL, you can see that a player is still trying but can’t keep going and he has to be ruled down. Other times it seems like these guys have legs that just keep moving even when there are two guys trying to take him down. Realistically speaking, someday I’ll be the former but I still feel like these days I’m the latter. But while my friends, news stories and me often make a bigger deal about the wins, I think the place that life has allowed me to grow most in and I dare dream what’s keeping cancer from growing is what I said once in a Livestrong video (, you have to work on the relationships you want to keep. I hope that the effort I put into running is a joke compared to that which I put into caring about people. And I hope/dream that I have this year from simple things like receiving and sending more holiday Cards, from signing up as an individual to being part of teams for races even if they were individual sports, to sharing simple meals and parties and moments.

 And so there have been many cool moments which I’m trying to share. For the Spartan races, I’m getting more friends to do it this year when it comes back to the Austin Course which was the first one I did. But in 2014, I am stepping it up even more. In 2010, it was the first year I did a marathon. I signed up for it with the ex because it was on Valentine’s day. We didn’t train together, run it together, we just high fived at the end. It’s really no wonder we broke up. In 2011, I put off the surgery and qualified for Boston. In 2012, the stroller races by the way began when I did my first half marathon with a stroller in order to get my mom to do her first at age 60 But even then while I went back and finished with my mom, I ran my own race first.  In 2013, I won a marathon behind a stroller (had anyone heard about that). But in 2014, the race that I’m the most excited about is the Paramount 5k. It’s the weekend of the Austin marathon and it was the only distance out of the three that allowed strollers (full, half, 5k). But as I thought about it and talked about it with Kiana we decided to do it together. (If you want to join our team or donate to it I’ll take it as  a Christmas gift and you can have a tax deductible donation for 2013) I don’t know how long it’ll take her and it’s a long ways at  her age (she’s been doing marathon kids and is up to mile 18 and has done as many as 2 miles with water stops at the track) but on this race, her longest one yet, I’ll be with her from start to finish. And while it will be slowest 5k ever (I’d never ran one till 2011), I can guarantee you that if she’s glad she did it, it will be my favorite race yet. I don’t know if life is as simple as football where getting taken back doesn’t actually count against you. But while I hope to still be standing when there’s a day she can outrun me but running, living, loving, sharing life, that’s where I’m still going forward and there’s still definite progress.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spartan Girl, Arooo!

If there's any ancient society I ever believed and belonged in it was ancient Greece. I mean they had a guy who ran the first marathon to announce a victory before his death. That's what I thought I was doing when I put off the brain surgery to run a marathon and qualified for Boston. It sure felt like that's what I had managed to do last March when I got to win one behind a stroller... But it turns out the Greek society had another great city, Sparta one where maybe Kiana and I both belonged in.

I have done six Spartans this year ( When I first got invited, I thought how tough could this be... Well watch that video or the NBC sports special about the Spartan championships and well... you'll learned it kicked my ass. In each of those spartan races,  the guys who are in the lead are incredibly balanced athletes. And simply put while there are some of those that are ahead of me that I would outrun on the road, the best by far I've ever done is 7th, I'm usually way further back. Oh did I say the guys that were ahead of me, without fail, every single time I've gotten beat by at least one girl. It's because of that spirit that Sparta would have been my kind of town because they were well ahead of their age. Their women were unparalleled, the only ancient city state in which women were given a formal education all but on par with the boys. The only difference was that they were given less education in military training: notice, not none, just less than the men.

And while there may be media pieces about my athletic, may it be ever clear that that is and always will be therapy, it is fun and intense therapy. The point of life, at least mine, is relationships and Kiana is above all others in that pecking order. So when I trained for the biking century, it didn't feel right to be learning how to learn to cycle unless I was teaching Kiana how to ride a bicycle. And this year, with the Spartan events, they felt incomplete because Kiana had never been to one. So, when one came back in to Texas, it was time to take Kiana to do the kids Spartan. Because the point of my therapy is to keep going because of those relationships but sometimes that therapy and that relationship happen simultaneously.

It set off on the right foot because Kiana and I have been practicing for the school musical for a while. She even had a speaking part in "A Very Beary Christmas" because the school mascot is the bears. She did it with gusto. She even keeps that beaming smile these days despite her first missing front tooth, showing I've taught her to not be greedy since she only wants one front tooth for Christmas (I love that she keeps beaming because teeth is something I remember being far more self conscious about). As we talked about the Spartan, I talked to her about trying to be like a bear out there.

So we went to the Spartan, and I got to take a good friend Megan with me, a friend who has been kind through the medical stuff both as president of the Austin Runner's Club at the time, as someone who invited me for Thanksgiving in the middle of the mess of a couple of years ago, someone who helped when the legal things that have occurred and someone who is a bad ass. She went out to do the beast and I stuck around to do the kids one with Kiana. In simple frankness, it shows that both of those girls are tougher than I am because the conditions, very cold, very windy, post rain are worse conditions than I've ever done any race in, Spartan or road one.

Kiana was having fun with the obstacles until her shoe came off and she realized that putting a shoe back on while it's muddy and you're muddy in the cold is less than fun. But she grimaced and kept going. Then she got a sticker in her hand during the crawling and took it off and gave me a look. She liked some of the obstacles but the muddy ones were not any fun. But she kept going till it was time to do the burpees and going up and down in cold mud... she was by then definitely not happy and started crying. The natural instinct at that point was to pick her up and go why did I sign her up for this? But I picked up the tape of the course and said, step over here and I'll carry you back. Through crying and burpees, she said, "No, I'm going to finish this but then I'm never doing it again." And she did finish it.

Frankly that's kind of how my first Spartan and my first marathon went. After both, my initial thought was I don't ever need to do that again... well I'm at 6 spartans and 8 marathons... We got her cleaned up and changed and she learned like I did, the thought of a challenge makes you smile even if the challenge doesn't. And then afterwards somehow that medal does too... And this morning she said well maybe I'll do a spartan again if it's warmer and I can wear gloves. (My first 2 marathons were 13 days apart, the first time she rode on a bicycle she fell, cried, came home and then decided she was going back out after an hour. May it never be questioned whose daughter this is.) Afterwards, I took her out to show her some of the obstacles on the course for the adults and "performed" them for her. I hadn't done any since September so I was pretty proud of the fact that I got them all including the spear throw and she was like that one was cool daddy, do it again. (Since I've never actually hit two in a row, I might have said, oh I'm only allowed to try once ;)

I also introduced her to Amanda Sullivan who after a massive car accident and had to relearn to walk completed a Spartan beast yesterday ( Not everyone has to do a Spartan or run a marathon but as I keep meeting these types of people, it's just true that there's no excuse to do that basic function of using your body in exercise which for me has been a tool for good mental and physical health.

So today, she's saying climbing over walls and going under them was fun and the net was fun but the dirty parts weren't as fun. I can't say that I disagree with that from the Spartans I've done but I will tell you that I do think life is too short to pretend like it's always clean and messes come to all of us so it's fairly therapeutic to have some of them be ones you sign up for.

I don't know if Kiana will focus on being a girl who likes to workout or a girl who likes to do her make up but like the Spartan women of old and the Spartan athletes of now, I want her to know that her gender is not pre destiny. That may mean big things or it may mean little things like when her and I paint our toenails together. I was raised by a great woman. If there's ever any question of how I have any capacity to raise a princess, it's because I was raised by a Queen. There's a saying of a Spartan woman whose son was complaining that his sword was too short and she responded with "Add a step to it." Some of the arsenal since cancer isn't what it used to be, finances, medical things, literally a piece of my brain. But you know what, that Spartan women's spirit lived into my mother and I hope to pass it on to my daughter and we're going to add a lot more than one step to it.  Aroo!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Many moons ago, when life was normal? more predictable? Not cancerous? What's the right term? I signed up for my first marathon ever, the Austin Marathon. But to train for 18 weeks for a race so far away didn't seem fun at all especially since I hadn't discovered my training group and I'm really not the introverted run by yourself type. But then I heard that there was a race series called the Austin Distance Challenge where there were 7 races along the way. And it helped to have some races here and there though in simple truth, never having done anything longer than a 10k I had no idea how to do them so I just tried to do them all at the same pace, about a 7-7:15 pace.

The very first half marathon I ever did was the 3rd race in the series that year, the Decker Challenge. Appropriately enough it's a race that is run out in the back of Austin, up and down some serious hills. Some say it's Austin's toughest half marathon... because it is and certainly the hardest one I've ever done. It was the first half marathon I ever did and it hurt enough to where I questioned how does one double that distance? The next year, 2010, it would be the first half marathon I would do after getting out of the biopsy. It's one of these smaller races where your bib isn't assigned till you get to packet pick up. When I got there, my bib was 911 and I joked around with my friends, are you guys kidding me? I don't even have to put an emergency number on the back of the bib, you guys put it on the front! But it would be my fastest half marathon at the time and the first time I won my age group or division in a race ever as an adult (if you want to see the recount of how I saw it then versus now That course is tough enough to where it's the only race I've never missed since I started running.

In the two following years (2011 and 2012), I asked for bib 911 and got it (it might help that I volunteered at packet pick up), remembering how much that meant to me. But this year, on half marathon #8 and wondering just how well the legs would keep holding up, I just kind of let it go. I'm the kid who always asks for bib #8 since I was born 8/8/80 but I'd never gotten that in a half and hadn't asked for the 911 this year. The last two races were just random bibs and the first two times I'd gotten PR's with a stroller and the truth is the legs were tired after several races in a short time. I just wanted to go see what the system still had.

But a couple of days before the race, someone sent me a video put on by the same store that sponsors this race and the Brain Power 5k, Rogue Running, called JFR, just fucking run ( Now, if you believe that a store that charges the kind of prices that a specialty store does for equipment and training or a guy like me who does regular workouts with a GPS watching timing every second, is only about running, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you (for the bargain price of the costs of my medical bills plus a burger). And so... that became the goal... this one is just for fun, hard hills but let's just go fucking run. There's no marathon on the calendar and the honest truth is that after the year I imagine will always be the race I do the most athletic events in one year... it was the last race of 2013 and while that may not last, there's honestly no race on the calendar for quite a while. When I got to volunteer pick up, they had reserved bib #8 for me!

So I did... I didn't do my traditional meals before (going to 4 holiday parties the day before didn't facilitate that and I have a weakness for desserts) I still focused on the music and the watch but less so than usual... it was the coldest half I've ever ran, EVER. One of my shot blocks fell on the race. There wasn't anyone ever anywhere really near me neither behind nor in front after not being far out the gate and it's a lonely course out in back roads where there really isn't pretty to look at. I don't know the roads since I've seen them only the 5 times I've ran the race but it's one big loop so pretty impossible to get lost. Looking up at the hills was not a pretty sight so I just focused on the lines and the cracks in the roads, sang when the breathing wasn't too hard.

The cold weather helped, the great volunteers that high fived and gave water helped, the music helped. To be in good shape, to do something well requires tuning in but every once in a while in some of the things like running that are just basic, you just tune out and it's just fun. So on the last race of the year, I just had some fun and it would be my fastest half marathon ever 1:20.21, taking 2 minutes off my previous fastest one which it had been two years since. I went back on the course and ran a few friends in and wondered if the look on my face at the end of those hills was as pained as some of theirs looked.

In the obsession with the number 8, on my 8th half marathon, I took 8th overall and still somehow didn't place in my age group. I got beat by 7 people and 4 of them were in my age group (but I promise I'm not competitive). But you know I went to eat with some people, some who had gotten their best time, some who it was their first one, some who were disappointed. But I don't know that there was one who wasn't happy that they hadn't ran. I'm actually more sore than I have ever been after any half marathon. The races are done for 2013 and somehow I've managed to get a trophy and or a best time in every distance I've done this year (miler, 2 miler, 5k, 5 miler, 10k, half marathon, 30k, marathon, spartans and 100 mile bike ride). That is of course insane and cannot be sustained. But it turns out that my therapy, that whole just fucking run has worked out pretty well for me in 2013.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Just A Drill

So I’ve won some races, I do regular track workouts but none of those were ever near the closest to the fastest I’ve ever run; that was a few weeks ago on Veteran’s Day. My favorite workout are when Kiana and get to do some of our runs together. While we’re not the same speed yet, we sometimes go to a nearby track and she does a marathon kids workout  while I do a track workout. We go opposite directions until the very last lap where we race it in together.  (That was my favorite part of seeing the NBC piece, and for people who ask, no Kiana doesn’t get to watch those things, they talk about things she doesn’t know and while I suppose there will be things she learns from TV, my prognosis is not going to be one of them).

But on Veteran’s day, while it was a student holiday, it was a teacher in service day and so when we were going opposite ways, a voice came over the loudspeaker that said “A man with a gun is on the campus, please lock all doors and follow appropriate protocol.” And that moment to get to Kiana who was almost the further point possible from the track was the fastest I ever ran and then just picked up Kiana and started walking backwards off the campus. Kiana asked why we were leaving the water bottles and why we were walking backwards, let’s just say she didn’t get well thought out answers. Our house is only one block away but the track makes it more like 4 or 5 since it’s on the back end of the school. Since it sits on a cul de sac there was no way to not go around the school if you can't go through the campus. Once we were off campus, it felt like we were walking very slowly as I was keeping an eye on the school with Kiana behind me. Then what apparently was only a few minutes later but felt like an eternity, the loudspeaker once again announced “The drill is complete, staff please come to the library for our discussion of this protocol.” I sit on the citizens advisory council and at the next meeting they would talk to us about that drill and how they had purposely done it on a day where students weren’t there because they were still trying to figure out if and how they would implement this drill. It’s a sad thing that this has to be considered but in the modern age, it shows wisdom on the school’s part that they are doing so. Kiana and I would go back and get our water and I’d talk to her about drills a lot more calmly and we stayed on the playground for a while just so that she realized her school was still a safe place.

The adrenaline/fear/thoughts would stay with me for quite a while that day. When we got home (free free to judge my parental wisdom on doing this all on the same day), after a good lunch, as we kept talking about a drill, I decided to add another drill.  Kiana and I do this once in a while but honestly it had been too long. She has fortunately never seen me have a grand mal seizure but has watched videos of them with me and we have our own practice drill. It really is her finding me shaking or on the floor and looking for my phone. Luckily we also own an ipad and we’ve even practiced using the “Find my phone” app and then her “pretend” calling 911 and letting them know our address etc. I hope she never ever has to through with that but when you’re a single dad raising a young child and have woken up in ambulances… Sitting through both of those drills was not pleasant and it’s probably fairly arguable which one of us is less of a fan of those experiences. Still I remember fire drills in my school days and talking to friends from other times and places, they talk about drills where they had to practice for a tornado or some of my friends from the cold war where they had to duck underneath their desks in case of a bomb (did anyone really think that would work?). In any of those drills, school shooting, our seizure one, a fire one, a tornado or cold war one, people who think ahead are guaranteed nothing but improve their odds of surviving or if nothing else being prepared when it’s time to go out.

That’s what the last 48 hours felt like with the medical stuff going on again. Good intentioned people question why I start thinking about the Grand Canyon etc when the MRI’s, medical things begin again. They tell me I should just assume the best and not think about it. To quote a poor movie, fear is a choice but the danger is real. The fire alarm may just be a drill but if there is an actual fire and you don’t know whether or not there is, again those who treat it as such will have higher chances of “success” however you want to define it.
So while sitting in the MRI itself is not a problem for me, some people apparently have to be sedated (I‘ve managed to fall asleep with my head strapped into something that keeps it from moving), and while even my doctors wonder how I just don’t care about the vomiting (as I’ve said to them if it happens enough you kind of start taking it as “normal”) and in fact the only medical “part” that bothers me is the needles cause I’m a total wuss about body fluids but the last tech was the best I’ve ever gotten and so I barely felt it. The tough part is, no pun intended, mental. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And while I sit there and wait for results, I wonder if we’re going to have to do any more treatment, or if there will even be that choice. But if there’s a certain mistake I made was obsessing too much about this when it all started (I can’t say I’ve fully turned it off, I always still bring an MRI CD  home and look through as it if I know how to read it; I also show it to Kiana who just thinks it's kind of cool) so I schedule things before, after during the days to feel normal so that there’s someone to share the worry with, someone to share the appointment with, someone to share possible disappointment and/or celebration with. I think even some of the people who I am a gigantic fan of, the people who in the moments I’m with them feeling overwhelmed, somehow being in their presence is when I remember to breathe, would tell you that some of the things I say and don’t say in person or electronically show a rather stressed out dude. But I am lucky enough to have good people who can see through that.

I sit there and try to think happy thoughts but when I’m wearing a medical outfit waiting the only one I could think of was well at least I’ll win the ugly sweater party. And as I ran home Monday from the MRI, intending for 2 miles and ended up with 4, I stuck my ipod where they’d gone in with a needle. The day, like any day, had some speed bumps that weren't on my radar that had nothing to do with cancer. Luckily, most of the day was time with good people, and decorating a Christmas tree with Kiana, and using the winnings to go to Thundercloud for a “we won the turkey trot” dinner. And Tuesday, there was lumosity to do, and a kitchen to clean and laundry to do while waiting to go to the doctor.

At the doctor’s, everything was stable. The brain cancer tumor’s still there it hasn’t grown; in the world I live in that’s as good as the news gets. We talked about the Spartan races, the turkey trot and even the beer mile. My resting heart he said was very low (47) but that’s normal for athletes (he used some fancy word for it). He showed me the scans of my brain and pointed at different sections (again he used some fancy words). We talked about the seizures and how because they still aren’t fully controlled that driving won’t happen at least not for a while if not till next summer but we’re going to play with a dosage increase of the current medication (I have a half marathon Sunday so of course I asked if we could start that on Monday. I’m not sure if it was with a smile or a roll of his eyes but he said yes). He always comes across as a pretty calm brave guy, thus appropriately named Valiant. Unsurprisingly, the least pleasant part of seeing my doctor was talking about the legal order that is now in place that within 7 days of an MRI I need to let Kiana’s mother know and that she gets a summary of my treatment, medication changes etc at her expense. I sent her an email after an appointment to make sure I fulfilled the legal requirements and let’s just leave it at that her response appearingly focused mostly on getting information without fulfilling her end of the bargain shows less than appropriate humanity.

Cancer has been too big a factor in my life for too long. And if you think hope is the only 4 letter word I use, you can read about the first month I didn’t have an appointment ( in November of 2012. But assuming nothing drastic happens soon, the appointments keep getting further apart. The first time it was 2 months, then 3 months and now the next one isn’t scheduled until April so while it’s really 3 months without appointments it’s 4 months between them.  Appropriately enough in the middle of the celebration, I got some cool pictures of the New York Voices Against Brain Cancer race Kiana and I went to, the privilege of the only race we’ve ever done outside of the Lone Star State. 

So I went home, and hung out with a friend, and walked the dog, and took Kiana to the school book fair, and did a track workout, and went to a holiday party for a place I volunteer at, and was amused at the huge range of facebook responses about the fact that everything was stable and that we’d be increasing medications (they ranged from praises to God to that I should start dating to asking about my next race to eating different to lower my blood pressure, all of which were thought about and considered).

Maybe the last two days was just a drill that we’ll have to do occasionally until/unless the shooter of electricity in my head shows up, or till the fire grows. Drills aren’t fun; they’re not meant to be. But I hope that with each of these drills, I’ve gotten at least a little better at handling it.  And I dream that if there comes a time when it’s not a drill anymore and the tests are the emergency that the way I deal with the days before the medical stuff, the days of, and the days after are worthy of something good. Because good things, good people are the values that I hope Kiana and I have drilled into each the best and most often

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What's Coming Tomorrow

Well, I have my next MRI tomorrow. I’d love to say that I’m not nervous or scared but that would be far less than honest. Still, while a few other choice four letter words go through my head when the appointments start up, hope is the four letter word I choose to hold onto. I’ve done four races in November, 3 titles, and 2  PR’s. That may tell you a lot about my psychology that the running is often just a way to shout out with my legs that I’d much rather the races test the system than that weird machines do it.

People are shocked to find out with the fact that I don’t work that I rarely sit around. Or even that I still haven’t spent any extra time training because well that’s just not where I want to spend my life. I volunteer in many places when Kiana’s not around because I want to contribute. Perhaps the upside of the driving restriction is getting from place to place on the bicycle both kills time and gives you thinking time. But on the days before medical appointments, I try to create a flurry of stuff if for no other reason than to not have time to think about the uncontrollable.

Kiana headed out with her mom for the weekend after Thanksgiving. Kiana asked me what the weather was before leaving and I simply answered that it was Kiana hugging weather with a big squeeze. She said that was the weather everyday and I was not being helpful in picking up her clothes. Obviously, I am super macho and manly and didn’t even considering tearing up at all at such a sentimental comment from a six year old. It's a lot easier when she's around before medical tests because she makes the focus of why I'm fighting easier and it takes all my energy to try to keep up with her/

I ran 18 miles on Saturday. It’s funny that there are actually zero marathons that I have any commitment to but I’m still training like there’s one waiting out there for me. But then there came a chance to defend a title. I haven’t made it to all of them but call it pride or a measurement but any race I win, I try to go back and defend the title the next year. Most of them do not get repeated but it measures where I stand from year to year. The only two titles I’d managed to defend this year were the Cancer Division champion of the Livestrong Austin Marathon and the Stroller Division of the Turkey Trot. But there was still one left, Austin’s annual beer mile. It’s a simple concept, chug a beer, run a lap, and repeat (for last year’s recount, I’d never even heard of it and the simple reality is that of all the titles that I might not have repeated I could have lived without that one without any problem. And I’m not really supposed to get drunk and it tells you something that the only 3 times I’ve drank anywhere near seriously was at three charity races, the two beer miles and Austin’s red dress run, each one about a year apart (neither my mom nor my doctors approve of me taking too much alcohol but if it's done annually I don't get reprimanded too badly). So while I don’t normally drink beer but when I do I repeat as Austin’s beer mile champion by drinking dos equis. And if you rarely drink and then do it while sprinting, your head gets to where it's swimming fast. Apparently, I hugged a few people and slapped a few people’s asses.  Now you’re wishing you’d signed up for the event eh? I am amused that the only titles I managed to defend were a cancer marathon, a 5 mile stroller race and a beer mile. It perhaps shows the diversity of events I do but it may at some level reflect my priorities as well.

Still, after dinner and sobering up, we went downtown to dance with some people from the running group. I rarely go downtown and while Kiana and I dance all the time, it’s usually at home.  I’m always amused at that old phrase dance like no one’s looking because when you’re dancing unless you’re extremely good at it or extremely bad at it, odds are no one’s looking anyway so just enjoy it. I am more of the old song that some dance to remember and some dance to forget. The guy with memory problems when he dances usually dances to remember but on a weekend where I can’t quite shake the fact that an MRI is just around the corner, well I’m dancing to forget (as an aside, no problem during the runs or races but my IT band cramped up on the dance floor; oh well at least the girl I was dancing with was both cute and smart because any girl who dances with me has to be brilliant right?).

I’ve been in videos for trying to respond to life under not normal circumstances. Different people need different things around medical appointments. I obviously need a driver for some of them but even after the MRI, two miles away from my home, I’ve made it clear I’m running home afterwards. I’ve done that before and I usually throw up from whatever contrast they inject in the middle of the test. And people have helped in many ways during many of the messes of the last few years… but for me some of the biggest help on days like today, the day before appointments and tomorrow and Tuesday, the days of appointments, is remarkably and simply complicated. I remarked about this when talking about Job’s friends ( but there are days when the biggest help are those who realize they don’t need to do something, they just stand there.  A few days after the diagnosis, it was a friend who flew in and just hugged you on your couch, a friend who watched you cry in the waiting room, a friend who brought good food, they patted you on the thigh or on the back. Sometime, it was just someone you could make eye contact with in the middle of the appointment and know that even if things weren't going to be okay, that moment itself was more okay because of that contact. For me, it was not something they said, but it was just that were there in presence, in text, in thought, in prayer. Now, I just came from church and I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, I’ve never prayed to beat this and never will. I just am glad that Life itself has provided people who are there to share the moments with you that creep you out.  

People ask about the financial problems and I finally have come up with saying that I’m not poor, I’m broke. Because fortunately the insurance I’m on, I’m still in a house with equity so when push comes to shove, I can sell it and have some money. And those are all stressors that if you have a magic wand, please fix them but I'm guessing no one does. So in that case don't just do something, stand there.  I always just kind of am remembered of what my grandpa said, “If it’s about money, don’t worry about it, we don’t have any.” 

But for me, perhaps for most people at most times, life is just a little bit better if when you defend the title of just being yourself, there’s friends and family around to share yourself with.  While she may never understand it’s full significance, I took the liberty of getting Kiana a music box. It’s penguins because in that species it’s mostly the male that does the parenting.   It that plays the tune of an old classic, she’ll get an early Christmas
present on the day of the MRI, tomorrow:

Oh! We ain't got a barrel of money 
Maybe we're ragged and funny 
But we'll travel along 
Singing a song 
Side by side 

I don't know what's a-comin' tomorrow 
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow 
But we'll travel the road 
Sharing our load 
Side by side 

And no matter what else, that's coming tomorrow.