Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Quiescent Orientation

I was seeing my internal medicine doctor last week on 5 de Mayo for a 6 month check up and to my disappointment they had neither chips and salsa nor margarita... It started with checking my weight and pulse as it always done... not sure how reflective it was but I went literally there from hill repeats and it turned out I had lost weight (170 lbs of pure muscle baby, yeah right )but my heart rate was the highest they'd ever measured it at, 61. From an appointment in March where it was 42 to 61 was explained by coming straight from a workout.

It would not be long before the nurse and the doctors were checking my internals. They're both great beautiful brilliant woman. Still two women talking about what's in my blood while this was informative not exactly my fantasy of two women and what my blood is doing. They threw out counts and various things, some of which I understood and some of which I just accepted that even if nothing was wrong with my brain I likely would have never understood. The doctor though kept using a word about how quiescent my tumor was... she used it enough times to where I tried to subtly google what it meant but couldn't figure out how to spell it so I finally asked. It means dormant and/or inactive and she said that she honestly believed that how active I've stayed plus taking onthe variety of activities that I've taken on is keeping my tumor quiescent because other healthy cells are the ones using the energy's body to regenerate. That was obviously a theory and she mused about how being part of group statistics was probably not going to be too helpful (I am unique just like everyone else) because of how different I live life than so many other cancer patients but that she'd be intrigued to have me as case study. We talked about Boston and the upcoming Spartans. The appointment ended with two surprises both of them being pleasant. The first was that the internal appointments were going to become annual instead of biannual as long as things stay steady or improving really. All this time in this battle against cancer, I've been playing to win and lately I've started to believe I think I just might. The other was that like my neuro oncologist she was also leaving her practice but also taking me with her as one of the patients she was taking. I try to take it as a compliment that they take me with them and hope that it's not like a train wreck where they just can't take their eyes off the mess....

Still... I went from there a little bit more pumped about the Spartan race weekend. I hadn't done a race since Boston and hadn't done the Spartan since before that. Now I was going to be doing two races in one weekend, the Super in the Elite heat where I went back and cheered friends into the finish line. The one that I was more excited with in case it's not obvious that my favorite races are the ones with company was Sunday where it was the shorter race with my cousins. Now it wasn't like my brother's first Spartan where I did it side by side with him. This was a cousin who could bench press more in junior high than I can now. There was a cousin who was always more athletic than me and to me this was going to settle a generational argument about who was the best athlete even if all the girls think they're taller, darker and more handsome. 

Sammy actually came in to stay at my house the night before. Spartan right now has a campaign going of #whyIrace (cause things are cooler with hashtags) but he's a guy whose not really been doing aerobic stuff till recently running 5k's for the first time and this Spartan sprint would be the longest and hardest event he'd ever done. I asked him why he had started doing this and he told me it was a way to get over a girl and then we traded girl stories, mostly he wanted to hear about the girl kissed in Boston and turns out he had figured out who it was from a previous conversation so I was impressed with all aspects. But it made me realize why we're family because we'd figured out a way to calm the demons of our heads, our hearts of our emotions with healthy things when they were most disturbing.

I love marathons and always will but spartans have a special appeal to me in that I've done them in different places but they tweak the obstacles, make them different, put in new ones, make them harder. On Saturday during the super I had missed 3 (resulting in a 90 burpee penalty) but they were all ones I'd never seen before so that was comforting at some level (I was far more excited about the new ones that I'd gotten on the first try). It was rainy and muddy so I'd hit some rocks seriously in the worst possible way I've ever gotten shin splints... still I'd had enough left to jump over a fire into water to finish with conviction. 

Sunday I was not far from the finish when I saw my mother not far with the last 5 obstacles left. I had already missed the one I'd missed the day before and the other two were at the end. And internally I was like oh come on, I gotta try to do better, mom's cheering now on mother's day (this is the place where I should get judged for my mom coming to me on mother's day and not the other way around... do I get any credit that I stopped and gave her a muddy hug and kiss in the middle?). Still, somehow with actually far more ease than the day before I failed exactly zero of the obstacles she was watching which was true in the last Spartan she cheered so turns out loving your mom and feeling it back on the course is very good for me. 

Then I went back to finish with my cousin, my cousin Omar was doing it with a friend of his and was showing his athleticism. Then I went back to finish with Sammy who had less than a mile left but had started to struggle... Still there wasn't a single obstacle where he even seemed to suggest anything other than finding some way to get it done never taking the option of walking around it or doing burpees without at least trying. Perhaps the hardest thing to watch was when he took a serious slide down a muddy rope wall... he didn't say anything and I had climbed it and looked down at where he had slid and said... "well at least you've  wiped off the mud for the second climb..." His mom and my mom cheered their heart out as he did it once again all the way to the top successfully. He'd miss the same two obstacles I'd missed the first day and even as he sat there cramping we sat there and did burpees. It occurred to me that we should face the finish line which was a frisbee throw away so that even as we went down, every time we came up we got to have a glimpse at the goal he'd reach for the first time, a Spartan finish line. He got across the line and while I'm not usually much of a hugger, I couldn't resist embracing him with the heart and conviction he'd faced the course with. 

Less than 48 hours later both of the cousins since it's in Austin back to back weekend had signed up one more time. I think this time I'll remember to hug them at the beginning of the course too. Omar is even bringing his son and they're going to do the course side by side and my cousin Cefy is coming from West Texas so 4 cousins from four cities. I guess for some people racing is an individual sport but for me, it's something I do with people I love. 

Kiana and I had dinner tonight with a friend whose dad died of brain cancer. She told me stories about him and their childhood memories. About how he had outlived the prognosis and made it to 15 years. She told me about the cool activities they shared and some of the ones he did on his own. Like me, he had lost spatial orientation due to it all (I usually run with friends or a phone but my latest GPS watch Vivo Smart has a built in feature which points you back to where you started). I'm known for getting lost which has happened in races and workouts and I take the jokes about it good natured. That and the fact that I've been mostly a runner makes the spartans particularly tough but also particularly rewarding.  She shared about her dad had always stayed active but there were certain things in water events like surfing that the spatial orientation had made for some amusing and nerve wracking moments. e had clearly oriented life for her into active healthy things and the heavy negative things he'd kept quiescent by doing so far longer than expected.  The way she spoke about her dad with such affection and warmth that if I do half that good a job of parenting I'll be fortunate.

People have questioned why I don't focus more or just strict running or strict spartans or strict anything... they don't realize that like today where I went on a trail run and we stopped in the middle of it to drink water from a natural spring or to jump off a swing that landed in the lake. Those things reminds you the running is the excuse, loving life that's the reason. I had no clue where we were and Joe and Ty helped me stay on track but never once did I have to look to my watch or anywhere but my heart for the right orientation. And those 8 miles were more fun than any training run in a while with company. 

So I don't know why the tumor cells or at the things that haunt me I try to remember that I want to feed the right cells and the right parts of my body which are the parts that interact and love others and not just like cancer are all about self replicating... or like CS Lewis said

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

But I think in being vulnerable in new activities and in life and in love, it's made the ghosts of me quiescent and kept my head, my health and my heart to stay correctly orientated.

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