This is no clear thought our race report not a speech or a media interview... it's an emotional unwinding so be warned, I am tired... That's not surprising considering I just ran my fastest marathon followed by a 5k win one week later and now coming up, I am getting ready for Spartan Beast and Charity Race a week away. The body hurts in some very good and some very bad ways.
A challenge of choosing to be part of the cancer community, of being open in this blog, on social media, on traditional media is that because people have heard/read my story, I get the privilege of hearing the people who want to share theirs. I've met many many people in my entire life and certainly in the last few years and there hasn't been one, not one whose story isn't interesting. I suppose we like the happy stories of the guy who puts off brain surgeries to run a marathon and qualifies for Boston, wins another one pushing a stroller and keeps going (at least) until he finally 2.5 years gets a faster one and qualifies for Boston. Obviously I did or else the photographer wouldn't have caught at the end of the race where I am roaring like a lion (if you'll met indulge in a bit of notice of other progress or narcissism whichever you prefer to label it, that's not actually that different than a picture taken shortly after I won the marathon but I've finally built some upper body muscle training for Spartans and while we're indulging in over sharing if you have NBC sports, the episode that my family is going to be shown on is on September 13th at 2, 1 central. So far every event I've done in my life, it hasn't been too far down the road before Kiana's tried it; I'm proud of that).
Still, there are days the spirit gets knocked around too... and while it's against my religion to have bad days and I rarely sin... well the last couple of days are ones where I have played with temptation. And it wasn't because of the soreness, it was because there are days where the balance of emotion is difficult. Because yesterday was one of those days where you couldn't help but be overwhelmingly happy that the friend who is putting together Team Choose Joy, Sean Maguire, finished cancer treatment and was declared cancer free (you have a week left to donate by the way to that Spartan race, https://www.crowdrise.com/EpicStrongChoosesJoy). But it was also a day where I got to hear about a couple of people's deaths... one was someone older and both I and most people tend to accept those easier... I'm not sure why. The other was of someone who had gotten cancer at 10 and his parents were somehow happy he had (just barely) reached his teens rather than the original months that "science and medicine" predicted. It's an odd world where we find comfort in someone reaching their teens because of a prognosis suggesting otherwise.
It is those days, those "bad" days that I remember to run and yesterday I did my run and just completely unable to shake the sadness. I ran a 1000 meters at the track after a 3 mile hill run at a pretty damn fast pace, inspired by listening to a song that has made many many playlists but has actually never been mentioned in this blog, Bon Jovi's Have A Nice Day. On those days, I'm tempted to sin and have a bad day, I listen to this song with the same happiness shown in that marathon picture where it's not quite clear if I'm happy or angry or even if they are mutually exclusive (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfAbQgy1-D4)
Ohhh, if there's one thing I hang onto,
That gets me through the night.
I ain't gonna do what I don't want to,
I'm gonna live my life.
Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice,
Standing on the ledge, I show the wind how to fly.
When the world gets in my face,
I say, Have A Nice Day.
And in the pursuit of solutions, I find some comfort in taking that wind in my face, in feeling alive. So I go out and scream and run... that doesn't cure cancer nor make the world a better place inherently and I certainly disagree with the philosophy that well as long as I feel better life's better. I find this less than adequate since people who live only for themselves aren't much different than cancer in my book since cancer only lives for itself really. But I hope, dream, love the idea that maybe, just maybe that training and the donations that come from it will make some progress towards helping both those with cancer, those who love them. Trust me if my brain was working in a way where I could help it on a a clearer path that would be the one I'd be running to but I hope this one's doing something. If you've heard me sing, my singing voice isn't great but I am training for Spartan and for the New York Marathon and hoping if nothing else to keep my voice in motion (voicesinmotion.org/iramjleon) in helping things be better.
I know both that I'm unfortunate and unworthy of the opportunities that have come and hope I'm doing something right with them. Maybe it's the fact that I'm finally driving, that life's felt more stable than it has in so long, maybe it's a long term absorption of continuing to realize that I am having the best summer of my life and hope it lasts a lot longer than 500 days. Perhaps you could dismiss the faster times I've had this summer and this year as just better training but I think that it's because right now whenever I run, instead of running into the blue, I'm following my heart. And the legs won't last forever but maybe the best spartan, best marathon, maybe the best is yet to come.
So I keep running and fundraising, and raising a kid and writing about it... in entries like this where I'm just hoping that releasing it helps me focus on the why. On that having a nice day means sharing the good, bad and tough parts to where not too long after the primal scream of victory, you start dancing and just dare to dream that someone will come dance with you.
But I also write because I dare to believe Daniel Kravitz. (I am one of the people featured in the book recently published, Supersurvivors.) It's good material and covers good people (except for this one guy from Austin). But he also published something online relatively recently (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/supersurvivors/201406/writing-wrongs-writing-about-trauma-leads-better-endings). In it he discusses how sometimes writing about things helps us achieve better endings in feeling better... that is of course productive and meaningful... emotions matter. But it also has helped doctors achieved better ends as they get educated. (This is why there are links in here both for brain cancer research and for Livestrong which deals more with the practical day to day things that affect cancer patients.) But in writing about it, in spelling it out, in telling the narrative, we make things better. I dare dream that in the best kind of love, one I run to, it will be someone who we still handwrite things to each other, send postcards, find songs, maybe foreign languages at times and comfortable moments in the silence because you can write in different ways. So consider a donation to either of the above links if you can spare it as that's one of the things I hope to promote that by writing it helps on occasion to right some wrongs. And I believe it does, because even within those bad days, there are good signs. One of my teammates for the charity challenge is the wife of another brain cancer patient. When we met at Duke he beat me in a 5k... while he's still coaching, he is currently unable to run so his wife is going to do the Spartan with me. He's one of the people I got a make him work for it shirt and his wife is one of the first to get the female version of it. One of the donors to team Choose Joy is appropriately enough Scott Joy who is also a cancer survivor but whose wife passed away from cancer recently. And while he's obviously been sad, he's chosen joy thankful for the path, moments, memories and life they shared and donated in her honor.
So those things help me have a nice day. But I also write this blog to cope and to hope... so if you've read this entry this far, I hope you're having a nice day too and thank you.