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.

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