Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fly like a bee

For much of human history, scientists determined that theoretically bees should not be able to fly. The bulk of what they're made of should not be sustainable enough but yeah somehow, they work with a certain conviction, with enough spin and turn to where they go back and forth, not only flying but sharing life as they do, creating sweetness in the process.

This was the image that was going through my head as I prepared for the first and only time in my life to start from the back of the pack for the Brainpower5k. Well, I suppose I should step back a minute and remember what I was recalling. I was sitting there reflecting on many things that the race means both in and of itself and to me personally.

The race has been around 5 years and is entirely organized by volunteers. It is the only race I know of that has grown every single year starting with a few hundred and before packet pick up we had
already exceeded last year's number and ended up with a couple of hundred more. There is no way to deny the sad reality that part of the reason it has grown is because people have become aware or become patients of brain tumor. Still, over and over, there is a light we can shine in the way of the darkness.

For me personally, it was the first race that I did after brain surgery, not long after I got cleared to drive for the first time after seizures had stopped long enough. It was a race that had been announced to my running on my first birthday after the cancer diagnosis... making me realize that perhaps the best way I could react to cancer was to take it as a second shot at life, as life part II. It was the first race that I accepted and "labeled" myself as a survivor. I have always struggled with the term since some of the tumor is not removable and I still have cancer, thinking survivor should imply a clean bill of health. But on days like the brainpower 5k where I remember that it means I'm still standing, I take it as a reminder not of cancer but of the good things in my life. Counting my blessings on any given day could be an all day thing. But it certainly is each time of the brainpower 5k.

Somehow the universe was kind enough to where it would be the first race since college that I won and was the lead fundraiser but on that first one, I went with only one good friend. I count it as one of those blessings that's still one of my good friends. But the second year it would be Kiana's first kid's k and my mom's first 5k after she had just turned 60. It would also be the race where I became painfully aware of my spatial orientation issues and would be a race I'd get lost in. Still the positive things kept happening with the next year it being one of the largest teams and on the 4th one it being the largest team with people I'd met in the triathlon world, in the spartan world, in the world of ultimate, and of course in the world of running. It's funny the prize for winning biggest fundraiser that first year was a stay in wine country, where I'd gone to college. I honestly believed when the brain cancer diagnosis started that obviously my best days were behind me but if there's anything I learned that life can be like good wine, better shared, opened at the right time and completely capable of getting better with age. It was the progress at each of these races that reminded that maybe I don't know how old I'll ever get to be but I firmly believe that the best in life is yet to be.

This race was the first time that both of my parents were joining me for the Brainpower 5k though they were in good company. The announcer from the race I won in Beaumont was there and a brain tumor survivor who I had made friends with was getting out of bed to do her first athletic event, a 1 mile walk. There was an old coworker and boss, I was at her wedding and now she's been dealign with her child having a brain tumor who doesn't even have words to describe what she's going though. But then again what parent or child would? There was my doctor in whose brain I've trusted my life. There was a friend who was one of the honorary cochair this year who had to step out of college and now is working on her master's.  There was the other chair whose life it is what is she thinks is honesty but with the smiles and efforts she puts on, I know it's progress. There were people who I'd only met because they or I had been through a brain tumor... man I wish that wasn't how I met them but I'm glad that some of our life moments are shared. I've never quite grasped how to deal with the realities of people who you meet or even those you don't who the event is there not in honor of, or in hope of the right research beating what invaded our brains will get beat; those people their signs and family are their in memory of. No good way to grasp it all but perhaps Shakespeare can be applied that in these cases it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

I could pretend that there was someone I was cheering for louder on the course but highest on the list was Kiana. This would be her first road 10k and the first race that she started entirely on her own. I'd do about 40 yards with her and show her the pace that we had held in 5k's and then see her run off... let's just say it was a very emotionally happy moment of watching her grow up. (Someone would send me a picture of her on the course of her own and she was smiling and so was I though somehow the sweat was still in my eyes when I got a couple of days later.)

The race would start and I'd start almost 5 minutes back knowing that with each person I passed Believe and Train was going to be making a donation. I've never been more hungry to pass people in any race nor realized that the challenge of the bee was suddenly mine, weaving, fluttering, trying to stay afloat in the idea that keeping going forward gave things a little more chance at life. There were high fives and cheers and a keen awareness that this wasn't a race I would be taking it easy on for one step. I was at one of the fastest paces I've ever kept for a 5k but weaving and dodging makes you do some extra. Still when it was done I had gotten the 4th fastest time over all and had passed all but 40 something people. 

I turned just as I finished to realize Kiana wasn't far behind me and I had only a moment's breath before I'd go run her/my second lap. With no watch on what she had done or what she was doing, we would go on passing 5ker's and 10ker's along the way. She would finish in just slightly over an hour at a faster pace she had kept in her previous 5k's. She and I had both had people who had donated to our run and I hope we earned it. It's the loudest I've ever gotten cheered for by the people I've been passing but I think that reflects the community of people who deal with tumors, we understand that the people who are ahead of us and behind us are part of us, not beating us or lagging behind us. 

The awards came and this year our team earned the fastest team (I couldn't believe they didn't put in a best looking team cause shy of the captain, my team would have had a great chance) with Kiana, my mom, my dad and me all placing in our age group (along with my running buddies). More importantly the event had raised over 100,000 to keep not just hope but actual people alive. 

It took wise and intelligent people a long time to figure out how such small wings carry the load of bee's body, thinking it's too much. It only takes a few looks around the brainpower 5k event to realize how we do it, somewhere the desire to carry life, to help it last a little longer, it gives you a little extra heart, a little extra flight. We're not quite home yet but we're not done flying. 

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