Monday, March 23, 2015

Love It Out

There are moments... incidental moments where the right thing at the right time end up being eye opening at least if not life changing, hopefully in a positively overwhelming thing. I'm rarely overwhelmed with emotion since I apparently need to go to Greece sometimes since I've been a marathoner, a spartan and am known as a stoic.. Still not too long ago sitting at dinner with a friend, reflecting on some of the tougher parts of my life that have come from all this, with a tear going down my cheek, I said all I wanted to do was run a marathon with my daughter, I didn't expect all this.

Someone once said to me that the universe rarely provides what you're not open to and maybe that's true, I often state that the universe balance itself out in the end, not in any one life or perhaps even one generation but the ebb and flow creates forces that work out. But once in a while, once in a rare blue moon or if you were looking at the sky last night anywhere near me you see a star lined up next to the moon and realize it's a planet, Venus to be specific, that bright things are different and yet both brighter and closer than would be easy to assume with a quick glance.

Not too long ago, an interesting typo was made, one that I've since actually used in personal and professional email and is on my Boston marathon fundraising page. As I have sat here and tried to wonder what is the responsible path given statistics and circumstances and reality, I've made choices, some of which have been commended, others condemned. But a brilliant poetic mind suggested that no matter what the ineffable probabilities were that I should relax and love it out. They meant and corrected themselves to say just  "live it out." But it's a typo, a mishap, a non intended phrase that has stuck incredibly well with me, just love it out is something I've repeated often.

And so I've tried to be open to it in various ways... rather than sign up for my brain rehab on a yearly basis I signed up for the lifetime plan. I got higher scores than I had gotten in a while and the single biggest bump day ever. I've got things further out in the calendar right now than I've dared since before brain surgery. I've even let a daydream dance briefly when Kiana is sitting there talking to the neighbors kids and our dogs together that maybe loving it out will someday be trying to figure out the mystery of how to once again find a kid's name that is easily pronounceable in both spanish/english (don't get too excited mom, it was just a daydream I'm not engaged or anything).

Duke had gotten into the sweet sixteen which meant at least some of my bracket was alive. So on the last night of spring break as Kiana did one last track workout, mostly in hope to wear her out enough to where we could get back to regular bed and wake up time, there was a gorgeous cloud overhead and unlike usual Kiana got to take a break so I could capture the scene. She's a gorgeous kid all around but it kind of made my evening to be reminded that she has an awkward put on smile and so the smiles I generally take pictures of are one that I actually caught.

But then today came up, the appointment where I went to go see my neuro oncologist at his new office which is with a different health care group. Well let me step back a second, my roommate and friend, the cute girl I took on the cruise, a friend from church, a friend from running all reached out to me wishing me well. I didn't wake up particularly worried about this appointment but really more angry because this is the appointment that I have to do so that legal documents have to be turned over to Kiana's mother of an annual summary so that I can keep primary custody. I don't know what I did wrong that the balance of the universe felt the need that someone who left me with stitches in my head and on four drugs gets access to my medical treatment forever, if you can handle that completely calmly then you're better than me. When I'm not completely calm I try to isolate myself in conversation knowing I'll get it out later during the workout. My roommate got the worst brunt of it because even as he kindly tried to come with me just for friendship and company's sake, I said and I quote "This is an appointment that I'm going by myself. Until you have a kid that your doctors have to hand over legal medical summaries saying you're still medically fit to raise them, then today's not the fucking day to talk to me." Yeah, anyone who thinks I'm always a nice guy needs to remember nice guys finish last and well I'm not known for placing last.

Still, on my way to the appointment I stopped to visit a friend who also outlived the odds of her cancer prognosis but is no longer under treatment but in hospice care. It's her birthday today, she's turning 34, my age and having a party at a hospice tonight. There's no good word to describe the emotions she must feel as she shared that it's tough on many levels but also that visitors can be tough because she takes less pain medications when they are there to be cognizant enough. She also can't eat anything right now despite the fact a few people were sending her food. I hadn't brought anything but seeing her room decorated with butterflies I know a little girl who draws decent butterflies that I'll be dropping off at the next visit. So that certainly put it in perspective as how petty my emotions and whining may have been on my way to my appointment.

Still, in this new lobby, I was the only person under 60. It was an amusing moment when the assistant who had never met me before looked up at me worried and asked, "Do you work out because your pulse is 42?" There are things I have no clue what they mean medically speaking but I know that resting heart rate is both better or worse the lower it is. I've actually kept track of this and while 4 years ago at surgery time it was 51, it would be 49 one year later, 47 two years later, 45 last year. But now that it was 42 apparently my heart has finally found the answer to the question of life which obviously is to love it out.

When the doctor came in, we talked about my health, medications and obviously but then I remembered exactly why my doctors are all hand picked and amazing. I thought we would do some formalities and checks about things and then he'd write the letter. Last time I saw him he was asking about the New York marathon. This time he asked about my previous races, my parents and Kiana's races, about the Spartan cruise, about how the Boston training was going. He asked for tips on running routes. We talked some man to man stuff not just doctor to patient stuff. And then he kind of did that fine balance of showing why it seems he has two have two hearts to be such a good doctor. He said both from the memory test he conducted but from the way we were interacting that my memory came across better than he'd ever seen it and I told him about the luminosity scores which were on a streak specifically auditory memory, the most damaged memory function and we discussed some deep in and outs as to why that might be. I told him I'd started reading a lot more and we recommend books to each other, him specifically Brain on Fire about someone who had to reclaim their identity to themselves with mental health issues. He talked about how he was sponsoring once again the Brain Power 5k, appropriately enough the race where we met a few days before I officially became his patient. And then he told me about a study that I actually was already was aware of a new experimental treatment that they're doing on people when the brain tumor is aggressive enough that wasn't even around a few years ago when I first got this. I actually know two people on experimental treatments for this already but currently they are only doing it on people who it's growing aggressively on. He talked to me about how the hope/plan/dream is to get it to where people take it like me and it removes the tumor. My tumor is inoperable but if it gets there the hope would be that MRI's and monitoring would be to see if anything has come back, not to see if anything has grown. Those are gigantically different appointments in my view. We scheduled the next MRI and appointment for early June in order for it not conflict with a trip that I have then to help out in DC. Then when it was all said and done as he always done, he said to contact him if anything felt odd and with a smile on his face, he challenged me to a race but admitted that part was just a joke. Still what was supposed to be a formality appointment in my book is one of if not the happiest medical appointment I can remember with my improved memory.

So what did I do from there? Go get a piece of new running equipment which I'll break out in a bit with Kiana as celebration. And I looked up the book and realized that perhaps the only reason anybody got this far was that incidence of living it out and loving it out may seem like a typo but it's a whole lot better when it's sinonym. So maybe it won't all work out or maybe it will but only one way to find out and that's love it out.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thinking Out Loud

On my typical runs I run with music but somehow yesterday during my long run, I had forgotten my iPod and had 16 miles to do in preparation for Boston.  I can't say I was upset because luckily I had good company the entire time with friends. I'm  used to singing out loud as a way to distract from the pain from the hills... so there was more time to think than usual.  However, if you'll let me meander here, this blog has always been train of thought, a thinking out loud of sorts, I was amused when talking on the playground with someone about our busted brackets, as we were bemoaning having picked the wrong  upsets, someone who doesn't follow March Madness or understand sports betting, asked why we were choosing any form of being upset anyway?

As has become my typical habit every March, I've picked Duke to win it all, hoping that after a few trips there for brain cancer medical appointments, that if the basketball team would just win it all I'd get a bit of a refund. I happened to have been there in March of 2011 and saw the ramp up to March Madness on campus and while I was a bit confused from brain surgery, steroids and a swollen skull, it was a cool enthusiasm. Like most enthusiasms I've ever experienced one that isn't more contagious by being right next to it. So every year I participate in this activity of trying to make money on college basketball players who aren't allowed to do so themselves but I am getting distracted but my bracket is doing rough so my best hope right now is a side bet in which someone whose not a fan of Duke owes me some Duke gear if my bracket outperforms there :). But this year I did have one of my 5 brackets in three different pools picking Kentucky as the winner... I named it cheating on Duke. (When Kiana and I were at a Sherwood Forest Faire over the weekend and I was wearing my Duke gear coincidentally she was rather amused at the people referring to me as a Duke.)

But somehow as spring 2015 is starting and I've got almost one year of driving under my belt, I'm kind of blown away and thankful by how well life is going. The person I was supposed to competing against for the ARC elections (they were running first) dropped out and so it was really more of an appointment than an election but I am now the Austin Runner's Club President-Elect, a title that when it starts late May/Early June will be a lot cooler when it loses the last couple of syllables. While waiting for that to start, I'm volunteering in Kiana's school coaching chess for a UIL competition so those kids can learn how cool it is to be nerdy like me and think of the long game (many many many moons ago one of the most exciting parts about a trip to India was all the elaborate chess boards I saw in the country where it originated). I am about halfway to my goal for Boston fundraising (I've loved the captions from the very kind to the ones in honor of other people and perhaps amusingly enough the one who instead of donating the $26.20 donated $28.20 since I'm known for getting lost and running extra, something I've done way too many times; if you haven't donated, today's the day to be my hero). 

The ESPN piece may actually get done and air (though it's dragged out long enough you start to realize they have better stories to air) but we're scheduled for the last shooting soon (anyone know why both guns and cameras are referred to as shooting since no one is blasting something out and one is taking something in... and while we're on sidebars, when ESPN said it was their final shooting they meant one with cameras not guns right?). Let me admit a quick secret about the media pieces I've been in... I am a guy who captions most things he shares in social media from pictures to links this blog etc but when I put up something from actual media I usually just share the link with very little if anything commented... Well the reason for that is because a good chunk of them I've never seen or read, my little brother heckled me about when I was on the Today Show that "you're supposed to tell your little brother when that's going to happen." I actually watched that piece this week more because Lester Holt has taken over NBC nightly News and I was a big fan of him and how humble and human he came across while in my house. But I was a yearbook photographer and I rarely take pictures selfies or otherwise cause somehow I am a lot more comfortable on the other side of the camera. Anyway, I'm sure if the ESPN piece ever airs it'll be like at 2 o clock in the morning (that could be a fun demographic) but I've learned my lesson if it happens I'll let people know in advance. 

But the Boston marathon, ESPN, ARC presidency, I am excited about but they are gigantically in

second place to the adventures I'm having with this little girl. It was spring break and we took in some fun times from exercise like her longest bike ride ever (12 miles), her first time swimming laps (500 meters and 300 meters) some runs and track workout and hill repeats. The combination of those things made me think it's time for her to tie me in how many triathlons I've done (1). She made totem poles out toilet paper rolls and glue and art and craft paper. She's had playdates and time with the neighbors newborn infants that makes me realize that maybe a sibling is one of the things in my childhood that is better than hers.  She cuts pancakes into the shape of a bone to hand our Puppy. She takes way too much pleasure in finding those little stickers that stick to my clothes on our walks and seeing how many she can put on me before I notice (someone took one off me at church this morning). She loved that we both wore green for St. Patricks day. I keep hoping that this is as wild as she's going to get during spring break EVER but even if she does grow up to make some of the choices and mistakes we make as teenagers adults, I hope she holds onto many of the simples ones, some which I think I learned from her. She was just talking about how fun exercise was during those things, during the playground, during the recent track and field day in which she was one of three winners for  the hula hoop contest. (The reason there were three was because first they saw who it hadn't fallen off and then they made them take a second hula hoop and in the end some kids still hadn't had either fall off for a while so they told them just to put them down. I saw one of my best/worst qualities in that kid that day when she waited till the other kids had put them down and went a few more seconds before she did).

There are people who have criticized my parenting in encouraging competition or too much exercise but my favorite moment speaking ever was during a Q&A when someone asked when I started running and a baby ran across the room and I said, "Right then, just like everyone else, I just never stopped." I do try to get Kiana to tone down once in a while like during the workouts I have her do the fun one, not the fast one (we always have two at our teams workouts) but still I think the very way any of us were successful at being born was getting to the next change at life with conviction in order for growth to occur and I hope neither her or I ever completely lose that. I mean who says at any point in their life "I wish I was more lazy?"

Still this is one of those times were cancer is annoyingly relevant. I see my neuro oncologist tomorrow... while the poking or prodding will be fairly minimal, the main (only?) reason for this appointment is that by legal decree Kiana's mother gets an annual summary of my health in relation to cancer from my doctor in order for me to able to keep primary custody of my daughter. It's literally in a legal document that it's suppose to come on April 1st and I've never quite decided whether it's ironic or appropriate that it falls on a day known for fools. Now unless there's some gigantic surprise, it will read along the legalese lines of: "Mr. Leon's tumor is stable, there have been no seizures, and his medication has not changed."

Though if I had editing/writing power and you'll indulge me in a fantasy, it would read more like,
"In the last year, Mr. Leon has Pr'ed and/or placed in every road distance between the mile and the marathon. While this has caught some people's eyes, he is far more proud of the fact that it has been months since he's done any event by himself with quite a streak of running races behind or besides his daughter and his parents all 4 of them about to embark on their 3rd month in a row with a 5k together.

While his damaged memory has not shown any drastic improvements, he continues to be focused on making plenty of good memories insuring at least some will hold. His cancerous brain tumor is stable and while it continues to worry him when/if it grows, what helps him sleep at night is that the good part of his life are still growing. He's taken on new challenges in triathlons, bike rides and Spartan races. In these he's reminded whether it be part of a team or next to someone, that you'd jump through fires for people you love. Still you definitely feel the love on a different level when you jump through the fires with them. No seizures have occurred in the last year but he's still trying to seize each and every moment from the tips of the toes to his hairtips. His medication still makes him dizzy and throw up once in a while but that somehow feels a lot more balanced than waking up ambulances.

In fact his only medical appointments and medical imagining so far this year until this one were similar to the ones he had before brain cancer, only due to sports injuries. It may well show that somethings wrong with his brain that with a torn calf he smiled while having to walk with a pink cane. But either way, his daughter is beaming, healthy has straight A's and perfect attendance so it appears that none of the things that are wrong with him are genetic."

Anyone think I can talk my doctor into sending that? Yeah me neither. Still there are tiny moments that don't stop you from smiling. Back in October, I told one of the Leaders that I met at my first out of state Livestrong outing (and we are still friends). I told him that he was one of my heroes and we jointly argued about whether or not heroes should wear capes. He got capes made for Kiana and I that she loves. And then to step up his notch, he had a tile made for Livestrong's tribute wall with her and I drawn in our capes thus ruining our secret identities forever. But one of the stops during Spring Break was to see that tile up on the headquarters wall, a way they remind themselves that the reason cancer matters is not some vague human interest idea but because the people affected by it are each individual humans. I sat and explained to Kiana why some were "in honor of," some "I am a survivor" and the toughest to explain "In memory of." They were also kind enough to give us a copy to take home and when Kiana sat and admired it at home, the thought going through my head was that some very good parts of the future are absolutely in the right hands.

Anyway, it's the last day of spring break and we're heading to a picnic party in a bit. But the song that came on the radio as I was ready for breakfast was where today gets it's title from, thinking out loud. I changed it a bit and posted my deriviation

When my legs don't work like they used to before, 
And I can't sweep anyone off their feet, 
When my hair's all but gone and my memories fade,
And the crowds don't remember my name, 
Well, I'll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you'll understand
I bet I'll still love every single day,
Maybe that's the whole of my plan.

And I don't know if it's the right song for an actual race playlist but I downloaded thinking out loud about that once upon a time I put off brain surgery to qualify for the Boston marathon.  I'm heading out there once more in less than 4 weeks and while it will be different than the 1st time I was there, I actually imagine and dare do dream when I wake up in Boston on April 20th, I'll be waking up pretty happy to just get to experience it again. Because no matter how the race goes, that day will be great because it will feel like I could do it till I'm 70 and my eyes will be smiling from my cheeks because love of life is my marathon plan.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Never Thought I'd Be On A Boat

Until I'd heard of the Spartan Cruise, the idea of a cruise was not my type of vacation. I'm not a sitting around type of guy so I never thought I'd be on a boat where a good percentage of the point is to enjoy lounging around... not exactly my style. But when I got on the Norwegian Cruise Line, it would only be moments after walking on and enjoying the company on the ship that I realized it was exactly the right decision. I hadn't used a passport since before brain surgery so to be able to use it again for the first time on an obstacle course I'd never heard of back then on a cruise that was it's first time launching felt just right.

It actually started on the flight out that it felt right. Somehow the universe was kind enough to line up that this was the first direct flight American Airlines had ever had out of Austin to Miami. Fittingly they put out breakfast tacos and the trip started out with good food looking forward to good weather.

Still, this wasn't your grandmother's cruise and right from the beginning we were all doing burpees pool side. And then right as we got on the cruise I sat down with Spartan friends among them two cute girls. The one who I thought was cuter (probably because she was the single one that very late in the game had decided to join me on the cruise) was being talked into doing her first Spartan the next day. I offered to join her and do it side by side as I have with the people I love like my mother, brother and daughter and like my first Spartan had been guided for me by my friend Alexander. Enthusiasm can be contagious in many ways but my favorite both on the receiving and giving end is when it's close enough to literally be by your side.

Every Spartan race is different, it's own unique set of challenges in changing orders with no exact distances like road races. I'd never ran this hard on the beach, changing into water, changing into swimming, changing into rocks, climbing up ropes, up beach sides under barbed wire. The water obstacles are usually mudwater so it was different to have them be salty seawater which made for some early mistakes on when I opened my eyes. Still, on my first loop the only obstacle I missed was the spear throw by a smidgeon... I finished smiling as I received my medal knowing that I'd just gotten to experience my idea of a good day on the beach.

The second loop was just as fun as I accompanied the cute girl and we teamed up with someone else from the first heat who was also doing his second wave to accompany his parents. The beauty of the Spartan races is that in road races you really only get to see the people who are approximately your running speed but with the obstacles there are people who crawl under wire better than me (don't believe me check out our respective backs), people who have better upper bodies, people who have more dexterity. It's a test on these courses that tests the balance of all these things themselves, heck it tests balance itself. It is perhaps why I love Spartan so much that it's the closest thing I've ever experienced where an individual sport feels like a team sport as you get the camaraderie back and forth. Second loop around I nailed all of the obstacles including the spear throw though I did more burpees though as we went around together we did burpees together when obstacles were missed. Taking it a slightly slower speed than the first it was cool to watch what a huge range of athletes went out there. In marathons we talk about hitting the wall, in Spartan you have to try to figure out how to get over an 8 foot one and how to balance and grip across a Z-wall. We all finished it and hugged it out becoming Caribbean Spartans, Aroo. Well... I might have given her a salty kiss at the finish line. I had just finished my second loop of the day but it was as refreshing as the ocean to hear people including those who had just finished their first loop talking about doing a second

But the party was just beginning with acts of acrobatics and drinking being the post race celebration. Guys and girls whose arms seem bigger than my legs walking along tiny boards, holding themselves up, showing that apparently the body has a lot more ability to define muscle than I'd ever realized. When we finally got back on the boat and results were announced it made my day to "place" for the first time in a spartan. They were awarding the top 50 finishers and while Isaiah Vidal had won first place and made 3k which he immediately donated to charity, I took 50th place as the last official placer.

Still, the running I do, the working out I do, the race is just the excuse and the Spartan cruise certainly understood that when not too long after sunset but well into the night, we started the official Saturday night party baby! People think I drain for endurance for running but it's just so I can last longer on the dance floor as is any attempt at flexibility or coordination. So there was dancing and drinking, not necessarily in that order till well into the night. Between participating in it and watching people me the guy with memory problem was grateful that some of this was dancing I'd remember even as those whose dancing reflected shifted more/less gracefully with each mojito would be dancing to forget. Still, on that big blue watery road, believe me when I say... I partied till 4:30 in the morning between the various locations like the dance floor, the casino.

Still, perhaps why this is exactly my kind of crowd despite having been out on the dance floor, we were all up at again with founder Joe Decena doing a workout on the deck first thing in the morning. While it was optional there were tons of people there, planking, burpeeing, push upping, running around the boat. A few people were talking about sea sickness or hang overs or soreness but the solution for all of us was to sweat it out immediately after breakfast. (Or if you're really hard core you take 2 tries to break a 50k time record on a treadmill.)

It took me 4 years to use a passport since brain surgery. Back then I thought I'd never see the day with a big boat coming my way but I am not sure it could have been any better first use than this, from both loops on the course to having it be a challenge I'd never heard of before, consistently reinforcing that if you sign up for challenges you weren't ready for it makes the ones you don't sign up for easier to absorb. But also because of the main reason that even the down time was with people who have helped keep much of me and my spirit up and rising constantly in ways I'd never imagined.

With the awareness that statistically speaking I'm not likely to make 40, I've often made the joke that statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital and if there's any reason I'm fighting cancer is because of how good people look in bikinis. Let's just say that first night alone much less the rest of the weekend is the most bikinis I've ever seen and how good those Spartan girls looked in bikinis well I'm going to keep fighting with conviction.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Four score

March 3, 2011 was when I had brain surgery to remove some of this dumb brain cancer... Actually what I first typed was damn cancer and hesitated thinking about being polite since I once bothered people by upon celebrating the first month without a medical appointment (after 22 straight) by saying "thank God and fuck yeah." Perhaps there are cancer patients whose journey is such that they only have polite thoughts along mile markers of races or life, but well, I am not one of them.

March somehow has always been a significant month since brain surgery. One year to the date, March 2012, of arriving at Duke was when I would wake up in an ambulance with another grand mal seizure in the middle of a run training for the Boston marathon, the one and only time I've ever had one while running. March 2013 was when I would win the Gusher marathon that would change a significant amount of details about my life and where they would start Kiana's scholarship fund. March 2014 I would go back and win the half but more significantly I said a small thank you as a volunteer of handing out medals. And on the first weekend of March 2015, knock on wood, it will be the first time I use a passport to a new place in over 4 years for a Spartan race in the Bahamas... each year it feels like progress to a better place. 

Do I ever do anything to acknowledge the day besides blog and think about it? Not really. I mean March Madness will begin and as always I'll pick Duke to win it all hoping that one time I'll win the bracket with them so that I get a bit of a refund since despite the money billed, they never gave me a degree. I'm certainly grateful that the only medical appointment in March will be at Runlab where I will keep dealing with this injured calf which is definitely making progress. 

I've figured significant coping mechanisms for the memory deficits and ways to make them better. My lumosity scores are not at their highest ever but they are higher than any other March. The membership just expired but when I sign up again, it will no longer be for a 1 or 2 year membership as it has been in the past but rather for a lifetime one which for obvious reasons is pricier. I dare dream that they feel ripped off someday by how much I've used it both in time and years. I can't do it at all you can eat buffets anymore but I intend to in all you can think and improve your brain exercises.

It's dishonest to reflect with being aware that I've certainly made many many mistakes along the way. I've hurt people trying to protect them; I wish I had 100% batting average on getting better at this but there are still times I make apologies. This to me is actually probably the biggest argument about saying we're fully in control of ourselves. While I think humans should be held accountable we do, it may well be what makes us human that we do things we have to apologize for. Making those apologies but also improving the behaviors so they are less necessary is what makes us better humans. Saying we've made progress along the way but I am grateful that by and large there's been some level of reconciliation with the people I owe apologies to. The ones where there hasn't been are still more haunting. Everyone makes mistakes in life and relationships are complicated but the correlation and causation of relationship issues when there are seizures or MRI's... let's just say that's not one mile marker I'm proud of. 

I still try to help out with various organizations and many of them have been cancer related... still believing that to him who much is given, much is expected. Last night Kiana and I were people who got to share their experience at a dinner for Camp Kesem fundraising, a camp for children of cancer patients or people who have passed from cancer. It was a camp Kiana attended for the first time this summer and will again next summer. When she got back from that camp, she said with that ever charming smile that she hadn't had time to miss anyone...  I asked her what it was like with so many of the parents having cancer, she said she didn't now, she didn't meet the parents. That was probably the selling point of the camp because like in survivor groups, it's a bit of comfort to find somewhere where the oddness cancer causes in your humanity, with other people who understand you find yourself feeling normal. At the dinner her "speaking part" was a Q&A with three other kids and when they asked her how Camp Kesem had all changed her life, she answered with her sweet smile "It hasn't changed it; it just made it more exciting." It was raining last night and right around then one of the rain clouds got in one of my eyes and almost let out a drop. But I knew I was raising her right and they were backing me up when the men's Acapella group that was performing tried to serenade her and another girl and she would only go if she was chaperoned by her counselor. That's the way she'll always take on any guy singing to her right?

I'm not quite there but I am getting closer to being the guy who runs despite having cancer, or perhaps running from it. With the media and those types of things of the guy who puts off brain cancer surgery to run a marathon or gets a few trophies by himself or with a stroller, there have definitely been days where it felt like running and cancer were too closely associated. But it's better that cancer and running be associated than that cancer win and running stop. Still I told my neurooncologist at the last appointment that I had PR'ed in every distance since I'd seen him last so maybe the less I saw him the better I got. I've even taken down the bibs that used to hang in my bedroom because, at the time, the cancer media stuff was what they reminded me of when I woke up to seeing them instead of the therapy those races had provided. Sign of progress of the fact that I'm reclaiming my running territory that the only key chain I have is one I added recently of a  Saucony running shoe, the brand that I have raced in since winning that marathon maybe because of superstition and maybe just because if it ain't broke, you don't fix it. The reminder certainly isn't lost on me that I pick up my keys the most often to go drive, something I wasn't allowed to do most of the last 4.5 years. So the keychain perhaps reminds me that run to drive might have been kind enough to let me drive to running group practice. Far more significantly than a keychain, the club I've trained with for every marathon for, the ones who I woke up to in an ambulance, the ones who took me to workouts for all the years I wasn't allowed to drive, well I've made a choice. It's a non profit and we have
elections every year; I've served in many volunteer positions over my entire life but the first new one I am trying out for since brain surgery. I was nominated and accepted running for the president of the club... there's someone else running so who knows if I'll win but anyone who thinks I won't be trying hasn't ever seen me race. The place I've been struggling most is actually on days where Kiana paces me on her bike and I used to have to slow down for her but those days are past. Still I think it's helping me get in better shape. I mean yesterday as I was supposed to do my first 20 miler to prepare for Boston I got lost and did 22. As we say at our running group, and I've seen this philosophy translate both on the board and on the workouts, you can always do extra. That was my longest training run ever and it didn't feel too bad.

The biggest honor of my life still continues to be being Kiana's dad and as I walked her to school a few days ago, I teased her by saying I'd be walking her to school till she graduated high school. Without missing a beat, she said it would be till she was in middle school or maybe 5th grade. I hugged her extra tight and planed a gigantic "embarrassing" kiss on her checked as she walked with her classmates. I hope I'm still around for that day when the reaction to is that teenager eyes rolling rather than the cute giggle of an 8 year old.  If she's anything like me, she'll think her parents are totally dorky in adolescence as she establishes independence, and then somewhere in adulthood realize that it was you changing and that we were among the lucky ones whose parents were always there for them.

But we'll keep enjoying the daily victories and I'll keep noting and noticing the little details like on school picture day she didn't want her heir braided because it had been braided in kindergarten and first grade. That was both impressive because she remembered and also worrysome from a guy whose fashion sense is already struggling to keep track of hers. I'll enjoy the progress of having both her parents there for her at a play and her both struggling and accepting them not being good at co-parenting. Still when it was time for the post play picture, I was both proud and embarrassed that she was the one who thought of and made sure that she got a picture with both her parents simultaneously. 

So 4 years since brain surgery and I'm still standing and running and back to driving and trying to step up to new challenges. It's rare moments when I actually think that I'll be part of the minority that beats the statistics. Hope is my four letter word but it's not just the statistics. It's the human reminders like where I'm watching the two individual people who I've connected with the most struggle with brain tumor growth from the same type of cancer, one at the 6 year mark and one at the 2 year mark. They are both going through treatment and one is doing very well with the experimental one and one is struggling far more. Neither are far from my age though their stage is now 4. Their spouses presences is something I get to hear about a fair bit and with even George Clooney being married now... it certainly gives me some thought. And in simple truth I had the first conversation ever with my mom about my lifestyle decisions of not getting married or having kids again, my theoretical way of protecting someone from when/if this ever grows. 

Like all good mothers and like the great mother she's always been, she wishes that I'd let someone in more and that she would support it. She's the oldest of 12 and had to watch 2 of her younger siblings die far too young, one from health reasons the other of an accident. Both left two kids without a father and mother respective and so having seen that she understands my hesitation in being open to more kids with my odds. Those kids are doing fine but neither of her siblings would have signed up for that. With sadness, while she said she'd love more grandkids like Kiana, she does think that decision is a solid one. But like any good mother she'd like me to being open to being loved and loving more or you know at least having a girlfriend. 

Still, I gotta say, while November 5, 2010 when the seizures started the official brain cancer story and when March 3, 2011 when they removed part of my skull to remove part of my brain... I'm not sure I'll ever shake those dates or not reflect when they are around. Every time they pass, I'm grateful to be reflecting on them and not being reflected on by creatures in sewer water (though my friends have made it clear that no one is going to follow through on my wanting to be cremated and flushed down the toilet). So I'm competitive (as is anyone who went through typical conception cause there was a sperm race and to get here you had to win) and so with both brain cancer and brain surgery, the score is still 4-0 and if it ever wins well I'll have outscored by at least three at this point. And to finish with the words of the wisest woman I now, what my mother said yesterday, one day at a time but I'm happy to see that you've kept living.