Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Only Hurts When I Breathe

(I am not sure why I always throw in this warning on these types of entries but this is one of those
stream of consciousness entry and boy will this one wander.)

There are rare days where I am not both reminded and grateful that my cancer hasn't grown... I still work off the statistical probability that it will, from reminders of people I've met that drop me a line when things go good and bad perhaps because I take pills semi related to it everyday, perhaps because I've chosen to be active in this community, perhaps because I wear a Livestrong bracelet and an emergency contact one. But on those days, I try to believe that some of the good things like heart, mind and character are growing, that the good parts of it like love are shooting through and that hope floats.

I stopped by Livestrong recently to drop off the charity challenge check from Spartan (can I say I was a little disappointed that they asked to keep it cause I mean who doesn't want a giant check at their house to say hey sweetheart, don't you like the size of my giant 4k check?). I also brought some donuts to the staff because then I'm more likely to keep being faster than them at races, I mean because they are really good people and I wanted them to appreciate that in their day to day work which is somehow also big picture work. (I've been asked a few times why I support Livestrong and I could go into more length about it here but there's a speech I gave that you can watch or read here

I guess maybe I had too many donuts there because somehow Saturday night I had a serious fever and despite Kiana ringing hers, it turned out more cowbell was not the cure. I am apparently pretty off when I have a fever though I have no memory of any of the times I have. I am supposed to be relatively careful when I do because an increased temperature puts me at a higher risk for seizures than normal. But my thoughts and emotions are wacky then and if drinking and texting is bad than fevers and phones should be reconsidered as well. 

But as I thought through it all on little sleep and much exhaustion, I was getting ready for a training run for the true captain of team Choose Joy for the Austin marathon (, Sean Maguire. Bart Yasso and I are the theoretical captains and lots of people from Livestrong are  helping out but if we're honest  he's doing more than the lion's share of the work. He has just finished treatment and is now getting the stint in his chest removed and was working off getting off his painkillers (all this while putting together a team of marathoners and half marathoners). I am doing what I can and making him do some of the toughest hill repeats in Austin. 
But we sat and talked after about how we have very different approaches to life, love, cancer. I come with more edge and aggressive willingness to compete... maybe this comes from growing up poor in a rough neighborhood, or being the son of a boxer, maybe it's being one of literally a few dozen grandchildren (I like to think I'm the favorite since at the 50th wedding anniversary I was the one that got to walk grandma down the aisle), maybe it's just innate personality (though if you're reading a wandering entry may I point out that we're all at some level competitive because the only reason you're alive is because there was a race with a few million sperm and if you're alive, YOU WON). It is this approach why I wear things like the grim reaper shirt that says make him work for it, it's why I sign up for things like Spartan that will whoop me out of my comfort zone.

But Sean also signs up for hard things and kept working on marathons till he qualified for Boston. Now that cancer treatment is done he wants to qualify again (I can't relate to that desire at all). But while he's also made some inappropriate jokes to deal with it all (he calls dealing with colon cancer dealing with the bug up his ass), the team we're trying to raise 100k for is team Choose Joy. We all have some edge to us and different ways to release it but he is definitely one of those people who by far his ideas and facebook entries etc are on the up and positive. He has both the wherewithal and the sophistication to notice the cameras during races and smile at the cameras (and he does so during the runs I've trained with him for too).

But Sean has worked off the assumption that he will beat cancer and be fine while I've worked off the assumption that I'm working off borrowed time (some of that is statistically more likely, some is just hope). He believes that the things that have gone right and wrong in his life are closer to meaningful while I try to write them off as coincidence because that way that's less pressure than calling it fate? He met a girl and married her quickly much like George Clooney finally did (yes I had to hear a lot about George Clooney's wedding Saturday. May I point out that he took a couple of decades to do it. I have bets riding out there on if I ever get married again, one of which is a friend who has to run a marathon if I do, others that will cost me money, so different people have different directions they'd like me to take. I still haven't even been lucky enough to have a girlfriend since I was in high school so I'm sure one of us would have to have clear enough thinking to realize that anyone I'd be compatible with is probably out of my league under the current circumstances. But maybe Keith Urban's song will come true of finding someone I run to). But even as we realized we have different approached we've often ended up at the same place... which one of us got there faster or better is definitely debatable. 

A simple big picture keeps showing that I'm still getting some good times as far as running is concerned. But as I've said this summer was the best one of my life including my running times and lumosity score. I don't know if fall will continue that way but it was because it was a summer where I trained with joy in my head, with love framing my heart, with a thinking that had changed to take some high risk high reward scenarios. I still have a burning pain about the things cancer and its side effects has done to some people. It is both joy and pain that has fueled me; this summer I've just let joy take a bigger part of the stage. Yesterday I broke a five minute mile for the second time this year with the ship of fools (it was a challenge from a friend in order to win some concert tickets and it helped to be finishing in between two young twenty year old fast guys). I don't run track with music but I still sing in my head (yes I know that's weird). And the two songs that I played in my head were my two latest downloads period and also two songs that will make the NYC marathon playlist as I try to get into an empire state of mind. The first song going through my head was 22 by Taylor Swift ( and you better believe I'll be dancing like I'm 22 as long as I can. 

While my more recent pattern is dealing with some of the heavy emotions early and letting the happy ones take me in the latter half, on this sub 5 mile I switched to trying to get past the pain on the second half by acknowledging it and focusing on it (maybe this is why even after brain surgery I never took pain killers because somehow feeling pain was better than feeling deadened even after a medical procedure). But because yesterday was a bad day, I reverted to the form I've used more for the last few years, the running got tough on the second half of the mile, mentally I switched to Greenwheel's breathe

But home
Is a feeling I buried in you
That I buried in you

I'm alright
I'm alright
It only hurts when I breathe

And it did hurt but it got the job done. Let me make this clear, fear, no matter how real it is, like all
negative things, can only be used so far. I often joke that part of the reason I don't work out harder is because the instinct is fight or flight and there is a very small percentage of people in the entire world who could both outrun me and whoop me so I always have the option. But in the real universe, dark can only get so dark before all photons are gone, cold can only get so cold before it's absolute zero, motion can only stop so much before you're at a dead standstill. But light, heat, motion we've never found anywhere near it's high tipping point. I changed my facebook profile picture yesterday to a time where I was just a kid, no scar, no cancer, no marathons, nowhere near this damaged or emotionally scarred either, trying to remember that guy from 7 years ago and wondering if he still existed. But they went in to my head with a knife, with an edge, I pulled up the digitized picture of me with and without the scar wondering how different life would be if it didn't hurt so much when I breathed. But I put it away and just went back to realizing we get our choice in our thinking and our feeling and we have to respect the universe sometimes, and sometimes push backwards. And acknowledge the heavy emotions but realize that the only way the universe has ever had a creative force is when light, when motion, when heat balanced correctly with the lack thereof. I am nowhere near that but I'm trying. 

As I've always said, I'm not sure whether I'm not running to or from something. But whenever, I reach my journey's end, even if I've longed stopped doing races, I am afraid I will be the man who keeps running. Never looking back. Because he dare not. Yet I dare dream, I hope I'll be the man who ran to something to someone even if it hurts when I breathe.  

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