Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Devil in the Church

Humor will probably never start being a coping mechanism as long as hope is alive in me. I'll wear bowties to events just so I could undo it and look like someone from the ratpack at the end of it. And the flowers that they give survivors at the end of an event always goes to a cute girl. Having lunch today with a couple of friends made from cancer's journey, we were trading awkward gallows humor. There was a laughter of when someone who walked into a funeral and when someone thanked them for being there, they responded with "it was my pleasure." While they immediately apologized, I believe that would cause some awkwardness for both the hearer and the speaker.

Cancer in any of it's forms is less than pleasant but somehow there are times where we bond the more specific items in life, like getting beyond the same college and major to that one professor whose comb over was horrible. It's been an awkward few days for me for a variety of reasons... enough to where someone pointed out that though they've known me for a while, this was the first time they saw my serious side in person, somewhere outside of this blog. As I shared in my last entry, I went to a memorial service for someone who died of brain cancer in their early 20's and that shook me up some of course. Both that a life was robbed so early and that his parents were the ones dealing with it is tough because we're supposed to bury our parents not the other way around.

I walked out of this memorial service to a tough email to read. Back when this all started, as I found out how rare diffuse astrocytoma was in the left temporal lobe, I asked Imerman Angels if they had anyone else in their network with it. There were zero other people with it but someone would sign up soon and we are still in touch to this day. She's a couple of years younger than me but a couple of years ahead of me in the cancer journey. In one of the sweetest romantic stories I've ever heard, her boyfriend propose not too long after her grand mal seizure in the snow while all the cancer things were pending. He showed up at her parents house to bring a few things since she was staying there. They've been married 5 years now and were looking into fertility treatments if everything went well at their bi-annual MRI... this was just a few days ago and unfortunately something showed up for the first time. While it could be a variety of things and she's incredibly optimistic (100% confident!), even citing the new evidence and some genes that she has that give her more specific fighting tools, they've decided that probably having kids may not be the right thing for them. Still as we spoke on the phone, she said some kind things about how it would have been nice to have a kid to have one more reason to fight for but hey she had her dog and her husband someone to fight alongside with her. She stole one from my playbook of putting off treatment for a weeks but showing her brain is better healed than mine, she didn't postpone dealing with cancer to run a marathon but to make sure she wouldn't miss a friend's wedding. Because she lives in another town, I've only once gotten to meet her once in person but she still feels incredibly close. It tells you something about her kindness of character that she would say to me that she hesitated in letting me know because she didn't want to cause any anxiety to me about the fact my tumor could grow.

Someone from New York who had seen some of the media thing and we've been in contact for over a year has had unexpected growth with her doctor telling her it may be time to get her affairs in order. Her primary concern has always been how this will affect her child and her boyfriend's children which are a joint part of their lives. I've tried to tell her some of my experience knowing there's no real way to put that at ease for anyone... But today as we talked on the phone with her and her fiancee as they headed home from an extended hospital stay, she was telling me about he's putting all types of pressure on her to move up the date and make it happen very soon. If anyone can't figure out the reason for that, well I clued her in on it, he was obviously nervous but also excited about losing his virginity finally. We had a few good laughs and hope to get together when I head to New York next week.

Being this open about cancer continues to make some heart breaking connections, some that really have left me feeling completely broken some days. The brain cancer ones are tougher on me not just because I have it but because your brain at the end of the day ends up really being your mind, heart and soul, you even if we theoretically try to encapsulate those elsewhere. I've experienced and watched people who aren't quite there and wish with some other people that we could trade head space for 48 hours just to understand each other better and I imagine that with most people if you did, you'd love each other more. Still, I stay open to them like a friend from college whose coworker just came down with a brain cancer and asked me to reach out to them. I see stories of a couple who had a kid together and had lived together and finally not too long before he passed away from a quick fight with brain cancer finally tied the knot.

I finally watched Fault in Our Stars, in simple honesty a great movie that at some level I struggle with because of the fiction of using cancer as entertainment comes close to home. Still, there are some great lines in there that I can relate to, one which I've certainly tried to rationally explain to myself as a reason/excuse to stay so committed to being single.

“I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?” While I've stopped calling it the George Clooney lifestyle since he finally got married, the girls who have all been even shorter lived than his weren't just a fault of a bad break up. For the guy known for TMI, there was a vasectomy scheduled for a few weeks after the surgery as a way to minimize the casualties. While some people have interpreted and judged my actions differently and I'm certainly not pretending that there was entirely one motivation, one of them is seeing myself as a grenade. In fact Grenade ( is one of the songs on the NYC marathon playlist.

There are some incredibly romantic lines in there... for the guy who loves the number 8 and who knows on its side it's an infinite symbol: "I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."

And I'm a guy afraid of commitment because when I make a commitment, I keep it. Not out of some sense of obligation but because if there's anything I believe from a sacred book, it's that love can conquer all or as the writer of that movie script said “Some people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them but you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” 

And for the guy who knows that there was almost one girl who could have broken the George Clooney pattern or at least the not having had a girlfriend since high school pattern, there's the unforgettable line "It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you." 

I try to blow off these lines, these ideas with the fact that these are two young fictional cancer patients. They are just young kids with not much dating experience and so it's just puppy love which always feels so real to the puppies. And yes (spoiler alert), oddly enough the one who is more ready to have his heart broken by the fact that she's got the worst prognosis, is the one who dies first. And then I'm like yeah, I don't wanna be that guy. I could be the guy who proposes to my friends no matter what their conditions were but I come as a hispanic male who is proud to be protecting his little girl and how could I ask anyone for anything too serious? Still at brain cancer events, at cancer events, I've  heard parents, spouses, kids, friends who said it more eloquently as they added the details of how it was their privilege to have their heart broken.

So when I hear these stories, it's when I go out and do another workout so that hopefully less people and perhaps no one ever has to have those type of decisions. Even on days where I'm not sure where to find the fire, I'm still looking. Realizing yesterday that I'd gotten bib 8 in 8 different distances from the mile to the 100 mile ride, I went and did 800's and dedicated it those who had donated to Voices Against Brain Cancer (  I put together the playlist to find a way to keep going, knowing that while I wish it was all fun and games that there may be better ways to find inspiration to run but sometimes you just channel the frustration and anger and let it out on the road. 

If you're wondering where the title of this blog comes from, it comes from a song, this is gonna hurt (  

You say it's all a crisis 
You say it's all a blur 
There comes a time you've gotta face it face it 
Hey hey hell is what you make
Rise against your fate 
Nothing's gonna keep you down 
Even if it's killing you 
Because you know the truth

Listen up listen up 
There's a devil in the church 
Got a bullet in the chamber 
And this is gonna hurt 

I added it recently not primarily because marathons hurt and the song has a good beat. Someone said they heard me as they passed the opposite way doing what I probably thought was singing but what they thought was screaming.  But as these couples headed and will head to wedding chapels with painful awareness of realities that the promise of till death to us part was a lot closer than it is for most people, they signed up anyway. If a cancer that's destroying your brain isn't a devil in the church, I'm not sure what it is. But still, those people rose against their fate even if it was killing them. And so that's why I'm heading to New York with Voices Against brain cancer because at least here on earth hell is what you make of it and so I head out there to face it with the best that I've got right now. I started this with the gallows of how someone said it was their pleasure to be at a funeral... well here's hoping that race, those donations against brain cancer, make people wait for that pleasure a lot longer.

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