Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happily Ever After

As 2015 wraps up, I can easily say that it was the happiest year of my life. Now I am and hope to always be an optimist, a hoper of far flung hopes and a dreamer of improbable dreams. With that said, I am not someone given to superlatives, everything is not "awesome" in my book or "wow." Perhaps it may be more revealing that one of my close friends recently "I know you don't hand out compliments easily so when you give me one, I know it's sincere"(psychoanalyze the complex that leads me to heckle the people I like the most).

End of year always lends itself to reflection for me, a natural transition into measuring time and evaluating it. One of the traditions that we have in the Leon household is putting up an ornament representing the most important event of the year or more specifically one before December. It's incredibly obvious some years (Kiana's birth, college graduation,house purchase, getting a pet, the Gusher marathon etc) and incredibly hard other years where there were so many cool things, it's hard to pick one (last year I cheated and conglomerated a few). This year was the most traveled year of both mine and Kiana's life by far. That kid has seen more of the country and the world in 9 years of life than I saw till I was a real adult. I collect a shot glass from everywhere I go and I put them together and was blown away... I am a minimalist so that's usually all I bring back with on occasion something making it in that's an additional nod but a shot glass and something that fits in it is not a bad collection of travel.

With that, I thought about making it just like a plane or something but that was a little too generic because some trips were very different. I got to do races in many states (many with trophies and PR's and almost all of them to do with someone I care about), I got to help out with a couple of cancer causes (the one to DC was a lobbying one and this year DC gave the biggest fundraising to cancer since before Kiana was born, the one to Denver was a push the clinic one where our project is working on being prototyped).  But in the end I just chose one, the trip to Disneyworld with Kiana. It was 3 magical days where the running was more like running around to the next ride or magic. It was meals and ferris wheels and a little girl who would remember it and laugh and ask a thousand questions about what was real and what was magic. It was a dad smiling back at her and hoping that she never forgets what it took me to long to learn, that life itself is magic, the joy in it, a mystical thing that you hold onto with both hands, that love itself is the greatest special effect. That's certainly true when you are thankful to have a second chance. Disney captured that and represented it the best; thus, the ornament.

Still you look back and realize that this year, 2015, your daughter did her first 10k, 3 of them in fact and won one out right. You look back and realize that your dad did his first 5 right next to your mom, 3 of them in fact and both pr'ed at all three! And we're just getting started my dad at age 70 is about to do his first 10k with my mom right next to him (she's 29) and Kiana and I little ahead of them.

You look back realize that 5 years ago you had to cancel a trip to Brazil due to brain cancer surgery. Travel was always a passion of mine but it got cut out for a few years because there were medical debts to pay and no money to spare. I accepted this and fought it simultaounesouly. I knew it was gone and yet I put up a wall in my house of a giant map of the world everywhere I'd been committed to that someday, someday there would be additions! Not all who wonder are lost was the caption and I've loved the wondering this year because sometimes wondering in the wilderness is the best way to be found.

Here, almost exactly 5 years later, I got to go see my 5th World Wonder, the Statue of the Christ in Rio de Janeiro on Christmas eve. Most everyone took the bus, we climbed it. You saw snakes and spiders and bugs and beauty. I'm not a preachy guy but when you're there on Christmas eve in a Catholic country how can you not life your hands to the sky at a world wonder, oh my and not take a second and say thanks to the King? There are 8 wonders of the world and life was kind to me in life Part I, the part before brain cancer when life seemed a little more predictable and I had seen 4. It stung to have to cancel a trip to the 5th one back in 2010 but a few thousand miles south of my home, after a few thousand miles having been run on my feet, you start to wonder and dare dream that in Life Part II you'll get to catch the other 4. One down, three to go. (Just in case anyone is worried if I was too righteous in a very Catholic country, I still would have needed to go to confession for some of the sins and vices that I took part in. Though my doctors would be proud to not have a confession needed and it was tough to do but I did not play a soccer game nor go scuba diving following my medical restrictions.) Go big or go home some day but I'd like to play by go see the big things then go back home.

I got home literally about an hour and half before Kiana came home from spending the Christmas holiday with her mom. She turned 9 the very next day. My parenting philosophy, at least outloud, and most days at heart, is first you gotta give them roots than you gotta give them wings. I've encouraged independence in her both because of the fear/expectation that I wouldn't be around and in hope that even if I was, all she'll ever have to do is let me know once in a while what she's up to. Still my hopes and definition for is that she lives an honest helpful life. These days when she decides to read now on her own and tell me about the book if I haven't read it, it's tough even for a guy with a damaged memory, to not remember when she wanted me to read to her or her to me, something long ago by the wayside at least as a regular activity. So in a move I wasn't quite expecting when I reminded her she was supposed to be a baby forever and couldn't possibly be turning 9 the next day she asked to sleep in my bed for the first time in who knows how long not on a trip. I told her just as long as I didn't have to change her diaper. She rolled her eyes and smiled. Her 9th birthday started with dessert for breakfast when the girl decided to order cheesecake with ice-cream and strawberries, an early sophistication and dress already in place (none of which I had any say in). She was going to be 8 forever in my book but I got her to promise me to stay nine at least for an extra day next year.

I don't know whether 2016 will be the best year of my life. I've never had the best year of my life happen two years in a row like it did in 2014/2015 so a 3 peat seems unlikely. That doesn't mean I don't intend for it to be a great year but just like not every race is a PR or a win for anyone, sometimes you know that great is awesome but that it can't always be the best. It's on focusing, accepting this that I'm well aware that like those Disney movies, after brain cancer, I get to live happily ever after. It took a little slapping around or perhaps brain surgery that keen reminder of my mortality to understand that phrase. I thought it was an over simplification that you got to be happy forever but happily ever after doesn't mean forever, it just means a bit more time. It's the heart condition since my mind is damaged, when you recognize and absorb happiness ever-y day. So goodbye and thank you to 2015 and I promise I'll be living happily ever after in 2016 and beyond.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bottom Half of the Hourglass

"They say we are what we are but we don’t have to be"

Dealing with the scanxiety of sitting between an MRI and it's results makes for longer days than usual. Fortunately I had plenty to do in wrapping up some things from the race and it's results. You try to take it easy, to remember to breathe. Someone joked when this cancer journey started that I'll do anything for attention that this was all drama. It was funny at the time but I realize now that a lot of this has just simply ended up being trauma  The people who understand realize it's a tough shift to return to normal life after cancer. When you go from over two years straight without a full month's break from medical appointments to only have having had 3 in 2015 (or 5 if you count the MRI tests as separate but to me they're one and the same), it's odd that it doesn't feel normal to have life to get back closer to normal. Perhaps it's like someone who was raised by an abusive parent or was in an abusive romantic relationship, you start to see the things that are awkward, painful, invasive, and wrong as normal. You start to perceive the perversion of things that should not happen as just the cost of staying alive.  So when they go away when someone is simply checking in about how you are down the road, the trauma, the fears, the blood boils. You want to turn it off, you try it turn it off, you try to redirect it but if there are people who get to 100% back of it well... 100% of my tumor wasn't removed so I'm not one of them. 

"I’m bad behavior but I do it in the best way"

I know I'm nowhere near the top of my game between MRI and results. Me, the guy who loves the crowd and loves people stays away from one on one meetings. I still fulfill standing obligations, I coached chess twice, made my ARC president obligations completely on time, trying to believe that the scanxiety is toned down with being a man of my word. It got built up by an odd thing, shortly after the MRI I had a missed call with a reminder of the appointment but they left a voicemail. There was another call with no voicemail and somewhere my mind imagined something they'd rather not leave said. 

I never quite know how to respond to people saying they wish me well, or that they are praying for me, or sending good vibes. I've never once prayed/wished/vibed to be one of the outliers in the survival statistics of this... I've just tried, when appropriately focused, to live appropriately, live with conviction. Honestly I've always felt guilty about being one of the survivors because if there's any karma/deity/balance to the universe there's at least one guy where places got mixed up because I've seen far better people die of this exact and other cancers and if someone is running the show, I hope they explain to someone why I got to stand longer than they did. Still, it was some comfort as I coached chess club that it was the first time Kiana got a checkmate period. Once during a school meeting with a government representative as they mentioned things that has been promised for a decade out of Austin ISD, the PTA president tried to be more polite while I was a little more direct about how I'd sat in multiple meetings since Kiana was in school with no actual changes. I reminded her and the room that this is why she was the politician but I taught kid that it's good to go after the king. I hope Kiana balances it better than either of us but between the two I'd rather Kiana measure life by results. 

Still, it's always during this time that helps me evaluate relationships. Most of us, if we're honest, know that at any given time we have less than a handful of people who we can be completely honest with. I'm not sure you should do that at all times, we invented social cues and the game for good reasons. But there should be times, people who you can break down in front of, where you're not having to choose your words as carefully or at all when life is a little extra stressful. Like Job's friends even if they disagree with you they stay quiet for a while listening and argue down the road and you know they'll still be friends after even if you're all wrong at some level. Or perhaps it's like the old saying that "home is the place that when you go there, they have to let you in." It is the place that you know will life you up even if you're staring at the ground at rock bottom. The stroller races started because my mom said she'd do her first half marathon at age 60 if I'd do it with a stroller and I started running again. So, she's who I called on the day between the MRI and the results. And we stepped up our game together as family. Last year in January, I did a half marathon and my parents cheered me to win and then I cheered Kiana as she placed for the first time in a kid's race, taking 3rd in the kid's K. This year, my mom helped me look beyond the results and all four of us are now signed for their 1st 10k on 1/10. Life isn't always clean but sometimes it's good when the family branches all grow in the same direction. I do hope that like my parents, my child learns that if you can find people who accept your humanity at your worst while challenging at its best, that's my definition of a saint. 

I’m still comparing your past to my future
It might be your wound, but they’re my sutures

Still, I was sore from all the recent races so I actually took it lightly on the workouts. It's probably no coincidence that almost every single one of my fastest time at any distance is shortly after very good or very bad news, trying to gun from the happiness fuel or gun away from the frustration.

There were still some issues though with trying to make sure Kiana stays in shape if she wants to keep doing the 10k's (which she does). So as you try to deal with the thought that an MRI may show that your path to hell is closer than you think, you try to say 'what the hill' instead and Kiana got the most hill repeats she's ever done in one day. I never did them that young and we usually do them together but this time I was more coach cheer leader... I hope she sticks with them but she liked it and said we should do that again. 

For what it's worth if anyone doesn't think running is my therapy, I did 7 races in November and 4 in the first week of December and there are none scheduled again till January. Therapy takes a break when there's less to resolve. 

I am the sand, bottom half of the hourglass. 

Then the appointment day finally arrives. It was an odd day because as school started Kiana's teacher talked to me about a writing exercise they do. Well I knew about the writing assignment but that Kiana had been writing about a child whose parent dies young; apparently there is more than one Leon who uses writing as a way to deal with worry. Her teacher proceeds to tell me about how both of her parents died at a young age and so she understands that experience and wanted to be sensitive. It certainly makes me question whether or not I should have shared as much as I did with Kiana. How inappropriate was it to take her to MRI's, to bloodwork, to appointments? Did I add my own trauma to hers? Was I mistaken in fighting for custody when someone said they should have it based on my medical issues? Are the 'seizure drills' a bad idea? 

I've been living with the reality of both statistics that the 10 year survival rate of this is 12% and that the doctor said it specifically that odds are that I wouldn't make 40 and thought giving Kiana a view of that, limited of course, was the wiser way to live. Originally when the diagnosis hit, when I put off brain surgery to run a marathon, I resigned myself to the fact that my best days were behind me. I've had so many ridiculously good days to know that's not true but even so, the day still hasn't come where I believe that I have more days ahead of me than behind me, a strange thought for most people in their early 30's, that in my hour glass there was more sand at the bottom than there was at the top. Still, when I arrived at the medical appointment, there was a new sign up or perhaps one I only noticed because of the conversation that morning about how children under 13 weren't allowed in the infusion room. 

Still when the doctor came in, he did his usual preamble of how usually the MRI's may show some difference just because you're not positioned exactly the same. However apparently this is the most consistent I've ever been because both to he and I thought they were exactly the same. So visibly the tumor was stable. And then I breathed.

Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith
Is when it’s tested again and again everyday

We talked about some of the memory functions and how they were also just not getting any better. The spatial orientation hadn't gotten any better. Oddly there I can remember old routes with tons of turn even if they are 20 miles but struggle with short routes even with few turns just because with memory damaged and spatial orientation gone. I missed some of the memory tests that we did today. Sometimes I miss some of it, sometimes I don't which is exactly the damage that I try to describe to people. It's not that short or long term memory is gone; it's that if the memories stay or they don't; always confusing to wonder how much of your life is missing.

But then we talked about something which I rarely talk to people about, that odd facial recognition quirk. I told him about the Bond girl (the only girl I've ever taken on a date to a Bond movie and fortunately this is the one Bond movie where the girl was still alive at the end). Specifically I told him about how I didn't recognize one of her friends that I've met many times when I saw her at the beginning of an evening and once again at the end of the evening. I didn't remember meeting her about an hour apart! Of course, this is frustrating and I always try to get the few people I share this with that it's not that I don't remember their name, I don't remember them. This is when he corrected me and said do you remember how you know them, the context from which you know them, places you've been at together. It's funny how I've always known that's correct without realizing it; so I do remember them I just can't recall their face and well, it took till today to acknowledge it to myself, that it's one part of them even if it's a very important part. He explained to me how that was near where the surgery was. I told him I'm still trying to do it better, to study people's faces on social media in a way that would be odd if not downright creepy in person. He suggested I tell people that when I meet them, that other patients of his share that. He pointed out that most people would be patient and just share who they are and from that point forward the conversation and playing field would be more level. I'm a guy who likes working the room so I can't imagine doing that, swalloing my pride that much. Perhaps that day will come, like the way it took enough seizures before I finally put in a reminder on my phone and a pill container rather than just trusting my memory. But, well, that day is not today.

And if we meet forever now
Pull the blackout curtains down
We could be immortals just not for long.

And then he showed why I love him (is that weird to say about your doctor?). He asked about the races and then he talked about how he had been there for the Thundercloud stroller division this year and how he looked up my results since we were both doing the same race. He asked about other races and didn't reprimand me for the beer miles. We walked about my kid and his two kids and our running times. We talked about Kiana's hill repeats and the Austin Runner's Club and how I was helping out but it was only possible because of the team and we talked about his medical team. And for just a few seconds we took the curtain down between doctor and patient and we were just humans in the same room. 

Then the nature of the relationship got restored and we started talking about the next appointment. He said that obviously I could call him anytime if needed but he hoped next year we'd only have two appointments. As much as I like him the less I see him the more I like him. At the last appointment he said maybe I would be one of the people who would beat this, something he'd never said before. At this appointment, he said we would keep it at two appointments a year until the decade mark (we're only at 5 years). Then if and when we hit the decade mark we'd make it to only a once a year appointment... I've long assumed and believed that I'd not make 40. Honestly I've never thought about a long life for the last several years, I have very few dreams that are very far out and none that are even a few years down the road. I haven't imagined paying off my mortgage, or being there at Kiana's high
school or college graduation or at her wedding; just assumed I'd left her with enough connection to keep her going. I know saying if we get to a decade doesn't create any expectations but it created hope. Who knows if those are 'true' expectations but in my book there's no such thing as false hope.

Unsurprisingly, I had two meetings straight from there, one personal and one business. The personal one was actually with a friend whose a financial adviser. I had set it because it could go either way... if the MRI/appointment had gone bad, I could ask questions about how to sell the house and set up an estate for Kiana. If it went well, then I could figure out what to do with the 'extra' money that might be there next October if/when all old medical debts are settled. I didn't take it too far in but in that context well, I thought about the question of what I might do once Kiana's done with college. The second meeting was about ARC about a race a few months away but after that one I started thinking about the race we're in charge of next December... 4 days after we finished this year. 

The italics in this rambling of thoughts have been the quotes from "Immortals." Most of humanity, myself included, are unaware of our mortality for much of our lives. Then when we become aware of it, we tend to be in denial of it, sometimes even till death. The question of whether or not I'm going to die hasn't changed, I'm still going to die whether it be from or with cancer. We want to believe we are immortal in some form. I don't know whether or not that's true, whether or not this life is it or we continue in some afterlife. I don't spend much time thinking about it. But I am thankful that at least for one more medical appointment that I dare dream that the question of which half of the sand of the hourglass is a little more vague than I thought before. Or should I just say that I'm glad that for one more medical appointment where I get to be immortal even if it's not for long?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Keeping Pace

What are the right thoughts to have the night before an MRI? What are the right reflections... what are the wrong ones? I've had so many over so many years and that's mostly the one I try to have the more MRI's I have, that no matter how tomorrow goes... each MRI of yesterday means I got more tomorrows than I suspected at the last one.

If I'm completely honest... and well I'm always that, I know that no matter how the results come in on Thursday after a very long 48 hours, I'll be relieved. Which way I'll be relieved more, I'm not sure I even know and that's no joke... Still I try to make jokes, wondering when they'll finally do a frequent flyer card at that place. It's not ever the machine itself that worries me, I've fallen asleep in it multiple times. Though while I think about that it occurs to me that perhaps the reason I fall asleep in it is because I don't sleep as well before it and perhaps it's just exhaustion.

But the pattern of therapy continues, November was the most races I've ever done in one month, 7. Though no matter what amount of races besides one, it's the first time in my life I brought home hardware from all races done in one month. Not a single race matched in distance, 10 miler, spartan super, 5k, 10k, 25k, 5 miler and the Austin Beer mile was the last one. I won the last one, becoming the 3rd time Austin Beer Mile champion... Somehow that win wasn't one my mom was proud of.

Still of all things, it led to an invitation to the 2nd annual beer mile championship. I was amused when they did an interview for their web promotion. If she wasn't proud of the 1st beer mile my mom certainly couldn't have been proud of the second one where the headlines changed  from dad runs races with beautiful daughter.. to brain cancer dude gets babysitter to get wasted after daughters bed time on a school night...Let me make it clear that I am certainly not making the case for binge drinking but I would dare say that if every person who drinks beer regularly even without changing their drinking habit ran a quarter mile for each beer they drank the world would be a happier healthier place in many ways. 

If anyone thinks those beer miles stopped me from doing anything, well the day after the first one I went and ran 15 miles. And between the two (completely sober mind you) I won a Balega Dance off at the Running Event with, you guessed it, bib #8. I won an iPad mini which went to Kiana for her Christmas present. I was just doing it for fun but when it came down to the finalists, I might have taken off my shirt and thrown it in the competitors face while it was all sweaty... luckily that hasn't shown up on the internet yet. 

But if the 7 races in November didn't show up a pattern, in the first 6 days of December, I didn't just do a dancing competition. (By the way while we're on it, I've won two eating competitions this summer and a dancing one and neither of those got news coverage! I'm not just one dimensional!). I also did 4 running races, the beer mile and 3 5ks. They were all ones I Pr'ed on or placed. But I've never been running to beat the watch, I've been trying to make the grim reaper work for it. I also was lucky enough to lead a social run with a bunch of elite runners from all over the US. Right next to me one of them was a friend from Spartan which had come in for the running event. It was the first time Spartan was at a running event, my worlds coming together in my home town. 

But it wasn't the iPad or the athletic or dancing victories that brought the biggest smiles. They never were. It was little moments like when Kiana decided at Costco that she wanted to push the cart and the more "bulk material" we put in she didn't hesitate. And I couldn't resist asking her if she would push me in the cart and somehow she did for a couple of hundred meters. Less than a week after the stroller had been retired and was in another home, roles had been reversed. I've been trying to talk her into it for almost a week now to do a race with me in the costco shopping basket but she must wear glasses form a disorder that comes from rolling your eyes at your dad. Either way, I'm not a guy who takes selfies usually but how do you pass up that type of opportunity to capture Kiana pushing me in a cart for the first time!

Still, the  idea of the MRI on some midnights weak and weary still is sitting like the raven tapping on my chamber door. There's no quite shaking the fact that no matter how many go well you keep doing them ever more, hoping that the tumor's stable, the scar tissue is the darkness and that they find darkness there and nothing more. I try to take in the joys in simple things and distract myself with the races. I am amused that when asked to keep a 7 minute pace I do so almost exactly on a day I forget my watch even if it's the day after a beer mile. I find comfort in the fact that no matter how the MRI goes, the scores are all but settled. Medical debts, if all goes well, will be done in fall of 2016 instead of spring of 2017. And if the MRI doesn't go well, finances aren't the issue, let's not kid ourselves, there's not going to be any more treatment, normal experimental or otherwise. It will be time to try accept my head being bloodied but unbowed. There were mistakes the first time I had a bad MRI, called finding out I had brain cancer, that I would literally bet you my life will not be repeated in regards to finances and relationships. 

But you have to find the simple distractions... the intensity of the races and the quickness between them almost makes me think life is normal that these distractions are they've always been, an unemployed workaholic whose made running and staying happy and raising his kid his full-time jobs. Sometimes they become personal and awesome like when you get the coolest shaped bib with #8. Or the fact that a company asks you to run out in "nude" shorts and a women's top to "be the hustle." And you know the only reason you were the first in your family to go to college and perhaps the only reason you're still standing is because you've always been hustling. I keep a frantic pace in order to hide in public from myself or others I never quite know. But I keep going, and searching because while I may have done the most races I've ever done in one week in a habit that is incredibly well, predictable, one foot in front of the other. Not one, not one was a race I'd ever done before so if you keep the system moving, the muscles and brain having to take in novelty, there is no way a tumor can grow right, it has no room to since the energy to feed new growth is being used elsewhere, right? RIGHT!?!

So the old habits continue in the right thing, with my coping and hoping mechanisms being commended, my acts of desperation that are anything but quiet somehow regarded as more socially acceptable, perhaps more acceptable by the body itself. But even the guy with the damaged brain goes through emotions and deals with them well often with music. I try to keep pace in all my races, in all of my race but that pace seems to sift on me in both. That's the latest song I've been listening to to deal with the emotions, a song called "Sifters"

What if we hadn't been each other at the same time
Would you tell me all the stories from when you're young and in your prime
Would I rock you to sleep
Would you tell me all the secrets you don't need to keep
Would I still miss you
Or would you then have been mine

I think this in relation to the odd circumstances that have become defining moments that I was training for the first ever Livestrong branded marathon when I found I had cancer... That I won Austin's first ever brain cancer research race and was it's lead fundraiser... that I signed up for a race that I'd win with a stroller just a few days before an MRI and went out there relived it was stable.

But then again I think about that no matter how tomorrow goes or really how Thursday goes since that's when I find out the results all the scores will soon be settled. For the first time I've decided not to take a copy home of the MRI since sitting and trying to analyze it myself accomplishes not much. I will try to think of post MRI things no matter what. I am scheduled to go to Brazil in exactly 2 weeks, a trip I once cancelled due to brain surgery and the passport finally has something new in it for the first time in over 5 years. I am the ARC president and the two events that I did that got me into long distance running, the Austin Distance Challenge and the Decker Half marathon, I'm the president of that club and while not by much both grew this year in both participants and financial resources and that also feels like settling the score. I wish it had been infinitely more but the final participants in the first half marathon I've helped organize for the kid born 8/8/80 was 880... Put together by many many people but 8 board members. That's  8/8/80 taken to team working making dream work. A weekend so busy where I barely had time for a Facebook status (that's seriously BUSY!) but where I'm taking comfort in that somehow we were a good team.

There is no way in which I don't think I've beaten cancer even if all goes wrong tomorrow. I've already won but I'm competitive enough to where I don't mind racking up the score for at least a little while longer. So MRI in the morning, results thursday... It's funny how I try to stay hopeful I've scheduled chess club immediately before the test and a track workout has no chance of being missed later in the day trying to remind myself that my head is on fire but still has strategy and that my legs are still what gets me everywhere. I keep having sifting thoughts as I go to sleep knowing I haven't exactly kept a constant pace but thankful for the days I got to do it and hoping as I do on each night for at least one more good day of keeping pace. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

When the ride came to its end

Sometimes life is too kind even in the midst of confusion. There are moments, constants like the
North Star that as long as you can see it the darkness hasn't won. For me, the moments I look back and forward to aren't quite that grandiose... they are more like a good tree which you know has growth and changes and seems to have always had it even if you met in the middle of seasons of both of your lives. For me, those trees that measure life changes are races and there is one race that has been there every year since cancer began and perhaps just as importantly before, the Thundercloud Turkey Trot.

I had done it well before I woke up in an ambulance, mostly to justify the calories I take in, a symbol of gratefulness. But it was a race I would do less than 3 weeks after I had first had a grand mal seizure, exactly two weeks after I got out of the hospital with knowledge of a brain tumor. It was a race to feel alive, still waiting for biopsy results, that even if my head was on fire, my legs were just fine and that I'd carry on. Still, back in 2010, I went on my own despite my family and Kiana all being at home, it didn't occur to me that I should invite them cause running was my thing.

One year later, Thanksgiving 2011, a brain surgery, way too many appointments and medical pills later, I'd woken up. It would be Kiana's first kid's K and I'd run it right next to her at 4 years of age because what good parent could possibly let a child run a whole kilometer and be a good parent without being right by their side!?! Then I'd run the first race I would ever with a stroller because even I hadn't been open to it, the race was family friendly, the only race I've ever done that had a stroller division and a maternity one and all kinds of division that helped a guy with a damaged memory remember that running was something you could, perhaps should share. I'd take second in the stroller division that year.

The next year 2012 I'd come back and the concept kept growing. Kiana would do the race next to her best friend, May. And by next to, you could already see the competition in both their eyes. Two worried parents realizing that their kids were fine and having fun doing that natural run. It would be the first time I'd win the stroller division in the closest the competition has ever been with me and a professional triathlete sprinting side by side for the last quarter mile... I won by less than 10 seconds though I had been behind with 1 mile left to go. I liked getting a trophy, Kiana liked that too but she also appreciated we'd won gift certificates to the presenting sponsor, Thundercloud Turkey trot.

It just kept getting better with more friends each year, repeating the title in 2013, first time I'd ever defended a title in a  running event. In 2014, they added a team division and the Austin Runner's Club put together the team that won it so we went home with 2 trophies. It was also a come from behind win (though I'll point out the guy who led and eventually took second was pushing a double stroller). Still it was nice to have gotten together together the trifecta, a back to back to back turkey trophy stroller track. I thought it would be the end honestly. Kiana had already done 2 5k's, she was getting too big by my standards even if she was still enjoying the ride. 

Still, when 2015 came around, she insisted that she wanted to do one last stroller race. I insisted that she hadn't been in it since January... Don't know if the Turkey Trot cookies or subways were her motivator but she kept asking to do it. I told her no matter how it went, this was the last one, this one was just for the run of it. We practiced one 4 miler around the neighborhood and I wondered how I had ever done it before and realized I was not in stroller shape. We put together a well crafted playlist from Mulan (Make a man out of you) and Big Hero 6 (Immortals). I threw some shot blocks cause I miss more water stops on stroller races cause I'm nervous that I won't be able to turn sharp enough to avoid hitting the volunteers while trying to keep one hand on the stroller and another reaching out while angling in and then out. Kiana put her stuffed lion and lion cub figurine in there (they're sown together). We found one of the friendly Turkey dressed people and I joked with her that I was just using her for her body... She said that at the Turkey Trot is the only time she lets anyone say that to her. I couldn't help but think that there was at least one turkey back at my house that would have probably been less receptive.

Race day arrived and Kiana got to do her first race all on her own with me just near the start/finish to cheer her on. She was sitting there making friends with another "independent" girl and they started side by side. In a cloud of kids, I couldn't see her till she was near the finish and she was flying back so I barely caught a picture as she blazed by. I hugged her at the finish and she was smiling waiting for her finisher's bracelet and then waiting for her new friend.

We went from there to get a group picture with the Austin Runner's club before the race. I was helping get people together but remembered the magic of life that the best part of life is when your friends become your family and your family become your friends. There for the first time ever at the Turkey Trot was the person who had been there since before my birth and provided the way of it, the man who helped raise me, and the person who I had been lucky enough to be there since her birth. There were people who I had known since before cancer, some since, and some who I was literally meeting moments before the picture. Isn't that the way family reunions happen anyway?
We headed to the race start and tried to get the music going... then I realized I'd forgotten to charge the iPod and the speaker since the practice run... So we were going to have no music which is well not exactly my style.  Kiana looked up and said what she would repeat a few times during the next five miles... "Don't worry about it dad, you can do it."

The Turkey Trot is 25 years old and somehow this was the first time ever that it rained on us right before it started... But I thought a little drop of rain could hardly hurt us now. Plus it was Thanksgiving, why not take it as showers of blessing. Then we were off with a course that has a lot of elevation... just kept thinking what the... hill? I'd forgotten how hard it was to push half your body weight up one of those or contain it while going down steep ones. I tend to focus a lot during races, the music is mostly a distraction from the pain. With that gone, I only heard how hard I was breathing but also an occasional voice. A competitor with a smile on his face looking sideways and saying, "hey can you slow down, you're making me look bad!?" A friend and face  from Livestrong cheering. But above all, a quiet little voice saying "I think we're going to win, I don't see any other strollers," "Dad did you see that sign", "you can do it daddy". That was the inspiration and the motivation was that with each mile marker it was a countdown, at mile 1, only 4 miles left ever behind a stroller. At mile 2, only 3. When I hit mile 4, I turned it on, the watch was irrelevant, even the competition was irrelevant. Only one mile left and I would bet that was one of if not the fastest mile I ever ran with a stroller. Someone I had passed would come up and say how he all of a sudden heard the crowd cheering really loud for him but then realized as I passed him that they were cheering for me. He shook my hands in congratulations as he said I would have cheered too if I'd had more breath.

A friend was there at the finish line and caught a picture of Kiana and I wet. There is someone who said we look happy, another one mentioned mostly that I look relieved, another said that I look exhausted. Those are probably all entirely correct. 

We waited and cheered my parents doing the mile walk and my teammates finishing. Kiana hung out more under the cover with grandparents but I just kept soaking in the rain which I don't know just felt right knowing that my my teammates, running, Kiana, well none of us were fair weather friends. The announcement came that we'd placed in various age groups and that my team was once the fastest team. And that for the 5th time placing and 4th consecutive time winning and by the biggest margin of victory we'd ever taken, on the last stroller race, Kiana and I were the stroller division champions.

I got home that day with the trophy in hand and before putting it on the trophy shelf along with the others, Kiana and I put together every medal and trophy we'd ever won from a 2 mile race, to a couple of 5k's, 10k's, half marathons, 30k's and marathons. When I got told I had cancer as I do often, I made an off the cuff edgy joke... When I get complimented, not knowing how to handle it either, I make a self depreciation joke which people confuse with humility (when I get called that, I usually say I'm super humble, probably a picture of humble next to me in the dictionary). I'm known for often being stoic but I have to confess that at that moment, somewhere in the balance of happiness and sadness, I was overwhelmed. There were some races that only happened once, others that I have done with a stroller every year of their existence but it certainly felt right that the one that I'd never missed, the one that had 5 stroller trophies was the one I was retiring on the Thanksgiving ThunderCloud Turkey Trot. In as manly way as possible, I wept a little. Perhaps because she didn't know what to do, perhaps grandma encouraged her, perhaps because it's just what you're supposed to do, Kiana came and hugged me and then well I folded the stroller and put it away one last time in the garage. It was in someone else's home less than 48 hours but believe you me, I'm not done running and neither is Kiana. While it's the end of an era, with a lot of great rides, I am very very thankful. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hold Something Precious and Run

It's around this time of year that I start doing holiday cards... I got them done before Thanksgiving both last year and this year so it'd be hard to call them Christmas cards. There is of course the fact that I wouldn't want to offend my friends of other religions or lack thereof... or the Starbucks overreacts or the over reactors to the over reactors (with that said, in a train of thought blog, let me make 2 succints points 1: with all that silliness I couldn't resist putting it on a red backdrop 2: if you read this regularly and haven't received one, message me your address please. Trust me I have a damaged memory).

While sometimes I am embarrassed to admit that for some people it becomes a way to stay in contact at least once a year, I always try to encapsulate the theme of that year and some of the highlights of that year. In 2015, the quote on there reflecting some of the pain and passion of my entire life, "we don't walk away but when we're holding onto something precious, we run." They represent my dad getting into running, Kiana doing longer races and without exception everyone of those pictures were days we saw friends and family, people we loved.

For the 3rd year in a row, I can say I've traveled more and raced more than any year before it and had less cancer medical appointments. That bikini statistics I quote often from an old professor reminds me of another one from college, correlation does not mean causation. But why take risks, it is perhaps no coincidence that in 2014 and 2015, the two years I've only had two MRI's the months I have raced, the most are May and November. "Coincidentally," my MRI's have been in early June and early December. I've long said I'm not sure if I'm running to or from something, but I keep running.

But I've stepped up my game in ways I'm more proud of than anyone else. This month I'm at 5 races with two more to go. The first one, Run for the Water, that I had helped promote to Austin residents for a good cause but I went to training runs with the group and listened to stories about their first run and I was proud to run next to some and on the same course as them. This was the day after I had done a Spartan beast side and by side with my family.

The next weekend was a Spartan super in Sacramento with friends from the west coast with 2 of the 3 teammates that have been on my Spartan charity team 3 years in a row. The next one was with other friends from the west Coast in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with Voices Against Brain Cancer. One of those was one of the first friends that had flown in shortly after the brain tumor story started, Nicole, and 5 years later she was doing her first 5k. There was a young man there running for his mom who had brain cancer and I sat and talked with her and the passion he ran with and the compassion he shared with the race organizer gave me a little faith and hope that perhaps someone with a brain tumor has a good opportunity of raising a child. I took first place in that race, keeping the streak alive of a win or a PR every month since June, longest streak of my life. Being part of that team was by far the bigger win. And that I've gotten to help on races from coast to coast is both not lost on me and beyond my wildest imagination.

I headed from San Francisco to Denver to help with Flip the Clinic. I went running there in the snow and helped work on a project called Patient First. There were people well established in their careers on my team, a couple of medical students and a nurse who decided to go into becoming a doctor who made me have faith that perhaps the transplantation would be like those of us who are immigrants but came at a young age and had to figure out how to translate to ourselves and to others two cultures that we were in the middle of. The project which I got lucky enough to name, Empowering Preparation, will be launching a prototype soon by people whose brain is well above my capacity but I do think it will help the patient experience. Not everyone who is in the medical world are as good as my doctors (if you're wondering how good they are, some of them who can no longer bill me for anything, still send an email here and there checking on me) but maybe it will begin a shift in the culture. It's pretty humbling to have two different doctors commending your group's idea on how this will make both theirs and the patient experience better.

I came home for less than 48 hours before heading to Chattanooga for a race. Kiana had done two
10k's at this time, one trail one and one road one. She had won her age group in both of them so with those being her exes we went to go do a hybrid in Tennessee. On a tougher course with mud, she started ramping it up in the second half because she started to pass two little boys and they didn't want to let her so she ramped it up and literally left them in the mud. Someone who received my holiday card said she's growing up so quick she's going to be breaking hearts soon. I reminded them she's going to be a nun and I hope this race is the indicator that she's not going to chase boys but pass them. But that wasn't even the highlight of the race, she was the first 10k female finisher. Let me phrase that again. She beat every girl out there at 8 years of age doing a 10k. It was a small race but she got hugged pretty tight at the end. There were some cool pictures of us at the finish line together... My favorite part was that we were stuck step in step. The camera focused on something in the background but I like to believe it's because we were moving so fast we could only be blurry.

Still in Denver, the friend I had some one on one time with was Leandro, a friend who also came to my house between the diagnosis and the surgery from high school. And in Chattanooga, my friend Gil who was the best man at my wedding and I was a groomsman at his, I hung out with him and his wife. I've known him about 20 years and they did their first 10k together (is it rude to point out Kiana beat them both). He's someone who came to visit me at Duke a few days after surgery. If anyone thinks it's a coincidence that the places I go are always near people who I care about... well let me say that on this particular one, correlation does mean causation. I was in all 4 times zones in one week and did 3 races in 8 days and if anyone thinks that's not exhausting... But sometimes excitement and exhaustion go hand in hand.

And I came home and tried to catch up on sleep and holiday cards and time with friends. I signed up for a trail 25k where I was in the lead but ended up taking a serious spill in the mud but stuck around to cheer and hug. It was a day where I had nothing planned other than to work on the relationships I want to keep and it turns out it was worth it. Sometimes focus, honesty, patience and willingness are hard but I'm still a runner and I want to keep pace.

So there are two more races left in November which will make for a grand total of 7... anyone find one nearby on Saturday and I'll be tempted to make it 8 ;). Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, appropriately enough the first one I did a stroller race was the Turkey Trot. Despite having ran 4 longer ones, Kiana wanted one more race in the stroller. We did a practice one of 4 miles (first time she'd been in the stroller since January and I honestly have no idea how I ever ran a marathon with that much less won one). We got 2nd once in the stroller division and 1st three times. She's gotten bigger since then and I am not in stroller shape but thought we'd finish where we started in Austin on Thanksgiving. She'll be doing the kid's k and for the first time ever my parents are joining me for the race, 4 generations. No matter how it goes well, that's the last stroller race and this one, this one's just for the run of it. Black Friday there likely will be a clearance sale on a used stroller (medals, child and batteries not included. )

And the last one on Saturday will be the beer mile cause it's a charity race and I get affectionate when I'm drunk. It might be the right idea when worried about brain scan results. Then I'm about 10 days out till the MRI. People ask me how I feel and that's really irrelevant. Even here almost two years exactly since the last seizure, I know that I felt fine moments before each one. One of the people who I helped organize the young and strong events with passed away from breast cancer last week and I keep looking at pictures from an event about a year ago where 4 of us went out to watch a Cowboys game... 2 had a better prognosis than me, 1 had a worse one but 2 of the 4 cancer have passed away since then, half of us. Did I mention this was the young and strong group and that I was the oldest of the group? There's no easy way to reconcile that and believe that life is fair or just or always sensical.

So I keep going, sometimes primally, sometimes with help pushing up as best as I can, not sure if that's really cheating death but if it emphasizes feeling alive more, why not? I go to Livestrong Events and help out with cancer events and with running events to try to pass things forward as a way to give thanks. I went to one last night where Kiana and I did our longest training run ever, 5.5 miles. Someone asked if I hoped she would carry my legacy someday and I joked that I was hoping she'd be carrying me soon. But that was never why, it was just a way to keep going. When my time comes well whether it be not long after this MRI or in a decade or few, I pray, trust and hope to know that I'll be able to look in the mirror and that I didn't walk away. But that I held onto something precious and that I ran.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fudge and Family and Five Years

Remember, remember the fifth of November! 5 years ago today the brain cancer journey began in a hospital emergency room... I thought it meant my future was going away but it was just the beginning of a life I couldn't have imagined but that I love living each day. There's certainly been damage, ambulance rides, way too many medication attempts. But there's also been wins, focus, and a heart that perhaps has gotten bigger to make up for the gaps in the brain.

It's funny, I'm a guy with a damaged memory but there have been some good ones in the last few years... I hope I remember the best ones but I know some of each never materialized. Still both in just basic humanity and awareness that some things don't quite sink, I recently added the "memory" feature on Facebook this morning it brought up the very last social media post I ever would put up before the seizure that would start the cancer journey: "families are like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts."

That describes the last 5 years incredibly adequately... I had a hospital room full of friends before and after the biopsy, before and after the surgery. Almost all of them are still here but there are even more friends now. The awareness of my mortality made keep too many people away at a distance, wanting to believe that I could handle it all alone and that if I couldn't they'd be better not having to put up with me. Now I appreciate them each time I see them often showing affection with as firm of a handshake or hug that I can do and still pretend like I'm super manly :). I'm not sure whether it shows how sweet they are or that they're nuts that we are still all friends.

I stopped by Livestrong to drop off the $4000 check from the 3rd Spartan Charity Challenge Win. Turns out on what I consider my birthday of life part II, it is more blessed to give than to received. It was funny that the organization the helped me the most I blew off being called a survivor for a while but once I embraced it, I embraced it thoroughly. I learned to ride a bike for the Livestrong challenge and have biked five 100 mile rides with them. I'd never heard of Livestrong or a Century 5 years ago but turns out the people who help you face the unfriendly unknown get you to embrace a new way to move, turn, glide. There's not a single time that I drive that I realize it was gone for a good chunk of the last 5 years due to seizures. But I also recall that it's been almost 2 years since I had one. Some people say knock on wood and if there's no wood knock on their skull; I don't do the latter since I don't want to cause a seizure. But it somehow felt appropriate to drop off that check that on a day which is important to me to say thank you.

That mantra of attitude is everything has gotten me to try one new sport a year and one of those was the Spartan itself. I've ran 5 beasts in the last few years as well constantly believing that if you sign up for difficulty messy things the ones you don't sign up for are a little easier. The last one was the first one was one where there were team obstacles, ones you couldn't do without each other. I started in the elite heat but on my latest one I did it right next to my family, my cousin and his boys on their first elite heat and their first beast. The challenges that you needed teammates for were a lot tougher than any I'd ever done alone but joys and difficulty in my book are better shared.

I've kept up my old hobbies, playing ultimate still and running. I've pr'ed in every distance since then. I put off brain surgery to run a marathon so while I've done 5 Spartan beasts and 5 100 mile bike rides, it may show what built my heart that I've done 10 marathons since then. But I had a very inspirational person who heckled me into doing something I thought unachievable. I matched one week ago today the fastest mile I ever ran in high school at 17, 4:51 at 35 years of age. It might have been the right mix of unexpected rest and no road races in October. But it helps remind me that while inevitably for all of us, our best day will be behind us, well it reminds me not to accept that easily. Quiet desperation was the original road I took for a short time with cancer but I'm glad it didn't hold long and life has been kind enough to let me keep choosing life with a view. Still that's not nearly the part of running I'm most proud of. When I couldn't drive, Austin Runner's Club's leg, the Ship of Fools saved my life. I'm now somehow the president of it and I'm mostly the smiling face at the front of event while we have a great board and we're getting some good things done. 

In total honesty, some of the motivation for far too long was settling the score. Paying back the Austin
Runner's Club, paying back Livestrong, paying back the ultimate community, and of course paying bills that had come very unexpectedly. The proud hispanic male who couldn't accept anyone paying him for anything had to resettle the score and if truth be told, I intended to fade once that was done. While the personal debts are not settled they are ahead of schedule, may it be well said that the others I was just wrong about and I'm glad life was kind enough to let me share it forward. To him who much is given, much is expected but perhaps more accurately I wasn't expecting life to be this kind and to pay it forward in adequate perspective would be infinitely impossible. 

So instead I choose to embrace both the old and new, the borrowed time and to rarely be blue. People have dared say to me that my perspective has to be put on, it's like a unicorn that doesn't exist. That I see the world upside down from what I should. My daughter has perfect attendance, loves that her dad's the chess coach, was the top seller in the 3rd grade program. That alone would make any parent please. She got some jazz hands tonight during her musical as she played a spider in Squirm! This morning Kiana asked if I wanted to see upside down and then wrote upside down on a piece of paper and showed it to me. She then drew a stalk of corn on top of a unicycle and showed to me that there is such as thing as a unicorn. Someone tell me again, I'm supposed to be the one raising the kid right, cause maybe losing the imagination to have a little bit of fun is how we learn to be scared. She keeps me smiling and perhaps she shows exactly why we're family cause we're both kind of like fudge, a little sweet and a little nutty. 

I still worry on occasion; I mean my MRI is in about a month. Still, cancer and its side effects should be aware that the score is 5-0 and even if it grows (it was never gone so it's not like a return) it's too late in the game to make a comeback and in my book, no matter what happens, me and those on my team already won. So today or anyday anyone wants to celebrate let me know and we'll accept that we're both sweet and a little nuts and go have some fudge. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Humanizing Cancer

Once upon a time I had a chance to speak to the Livestrong leaders about why I appreciate the work of the organization and the people who do it, so it's always with endearing and enduring excitement that I like the weekends that are with the team, with my family. Perhaps there are those who would not understand how cancer can cause family but the birth process is a complicated mess in its own way and I've long called the cancer part of my existence, life part II. So both of my families, those who came from birth and those who came from cancer are because of a biological connection in their own way. Maybe it's an odd thing to say but while I certainly would never sign up for cancer, this second part of life, made me aware of my mortality more poignantly and gave me a greater appreciation for life. At the first part of life, just that being born, I was far too young and immature to appreciate the gift... With both there were fears and tears and a reaching out for holding hands and each year, I'm glad to still be holding on.

The weekend began as it had last year with me, the guy who once couldn't drive for the better part of
3 years, picking up some friends who are joys in life and having good old Texas BBQ since they were mostly from out of state because that's obviously the best nutrition for long bike rides. Time flies when you're having fun so lunch hadn't been done too long before it was time for the official "Ride for the Roses" dinner. There'd be old friends to catch up on, new friends to meet, new survivors. The survivors are always the easiest to talk to for me because you find encouragement in that not only are they standing; they're working to help others stand long. There are those moments where you see someone knowing that some are still grieving the losses that have come from cancer since the last time. A couple of them had lost spouses and you hug them a little higher commending them for having kept their word of the 'till death to us part' and encouraging the rest of their journey. Seeing them smile as they told stories of the spouse cancer had robbed much too early makes you know that love is stronger than death in its own way. The hardest ones are those who are their in honor of their children passing... I can't imagine the difficulty of this one not even try because we're supposed to be buried by our children not the other way around.

The formal part of the dinner where we tell jokes about the journey and shed tears along the way, the mix of pathos and ethos echoing the up and down hills we're getting ready for. There was the survivor who talked about his childhood cancer and how out of everyone on his childhood hospital wing, he was still the only one standing. There was the survivor who talked about how they went up Mt. Kilimanjaro after cancer, taking on a peak after a tough valley of life. There was the person who graduated nursing school on the same day they finished chemo treatment, if that's not balancing health care I don't know what is.

It's been a year of transition with Livestrong as the new CEO, Chandini Portteus, taking the stage about some of the things that have shifted, changed but while she gave many new details she focused on what is, was and will be always an important part of the Livestrong mission, they had helped more cancer patients this year. The upcoming Chairman of the Board also shared her experience with cancer in her speech she gave what to me was the line of the night, "just because cancer treatment is terrifying doesn't mean it has to be dehumanizing."

This is why I've always appreciated Livestrong because they help in the here and now. They helped me deal with the treatment part and connected me to the right doctors. While it would take time and it's not done yet for it all to absorb correctly, they would help line me up with a better approach to relationships from parenting to significant others. We have to throw out numbers to get a concept like that there's over 32 million people dealing with cancer right now, in my particular case the diagnosis is 3 in a million. But those numbers are abstract without a human face and on every Livestrong story, they connect the diseases to individuals, humanizing why we have to fight the disease. We are the faces of those who got to be better parents or were incapable of childbearing because of treatment. My friend Cisco is the one who had finished treatments years back but then realized he could be part of making the cancer journey easier. My friend Scott realized it immediately and has been a serious fundraiser every year because he'd beat cancer; whether that or the fact that he kept doing it after his wife passed away from it is more impressive. My friend Steve who is still doing the journey with cancer. These are not just statistics or numbers; they're people who I have hugged and heckled, had meals with, shared memories with. Cancer and Livestrong made each of us keenly aware of our mortality, helped us balance accepting it and fighting it simultaneously.

The ride itself is always a tough party (not a typo)... I've done 5 of these and each time signed up for the century, the 100 miler, simply believing that if you sing up for the long haul then maybe I'll end up with a  longer one on my own. I knew when I started that once I got across that finish line I would have biked 500 miles with and for Livestrong. There'd be moments where I'd ride next to people, a man who had just turned 30 doing it in honor of his father who he'd lost at age 20. I'd have a few miles with another runner pretending to be a cyclist where we weren't quite sure how to turn all the gears on all the hills but hey sometimes trying new things is what messes with the system enough to get new health going in the middle of challenges. Some were riding to support their friends and family. There were of course those who were just there for the ride and that's called life. While this is theoretically just a ride not a race, I might have only stopped once and biked as hard as I could cause the weather was perfect. I've never been good at taking it easy and maybe I'll learn that lesson someday but at least for now, I chose to believe that pursuing the right pace with passion is the better path.

When it was all said and done, there was a sign at the end that said "Cancer survivors move right." All that was supposed to imply was of course left vs right and I think it's been at every Livestrong event I've ever done and I've never really caught it. But on this 5th 100 miler, I went back and took a picture of it so that the guy with the damaged memory from a cancerous brain tumor, could remember that's why I love livestrong because from day one, they pointed me in the "right" direction. Somethings I ignored initially, others I'm still learning but they were a consistent force in sending me to the right places and people.

Still, I came to a quick stop at the end cause there was some good music playing and what do you do but dance... the bike wasn't the best dance partner I've ever had but luckily a lady who gave me hope the moment I met her, Linda Santos came out and danced with me. I got my survivor's rose and then went looking for friends who had done different and shorter distances because their brains weren't as damaged. We traded some more stories, some more hugs and were grateful for the weekend.

Still, when I came home, I didn't keep my rose. I never once have. I gave it to a little girl who I hope always appreciates flowers and life. Like me, like them, like all of us, how well we're planted, tendered will be a factor in how well we grow. Like all of that, nothing is 100% predictable but if we appreciate it more that's how we humanize cancer patients and how we love and Livestrong.