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 http://foolsfive.org/). 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 (www.livestrong.org/iram), 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 http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/recreational/article_462d74e6-1038-11e2-9b83-001a4bcf6878.html). 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 http://www.livestrong.org/fundraising/iramandkiana/ 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.


  1. Merry Christmas! I found your blog through a link another survivor-athlete put in his blog. I thought you'd like to know that I was diagnosed with a grade 2 oligodendroglioma in 1998, went through the gradual reduction in MRI frequency & am down to every two years now, and that I became an athlete after my surgery. I was inspired by that scary diagnosis to recognize how good it makes you feel, how trivial the discomfort (pain? suffering?) we go through to get better is when compared to our diagnosis, how important it is to get on with our lives. You are doing great things - I am proof it is entirely possible to go 15+ years and be fine. Keep it up!

    Oh - the profile I use: initials stand for Death Ride Grandma because, (based on what I just read), I am your mom's age, a grandmother, and have, as of last year, taken on the California Death Ride on my bike. I'd never ridden a road bike in my life until about 5 years after my diagnosis with brain cancer.

    1. Very cool! Congrats that things are going well.