Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Smell The Color 9

This blog started, stayed and will be till it's end a simple thing, a boy with a damaged memory trying to remember life in real time, a diary (I mean journal I'm obviously way too manly for a diary) that happened to be online because in the age of the internet I could write to it or access it from anywhere.  It usually focuses around brain cancer and the changes and side effects that have come that I would not have been able to guess, if my life depended on it. Fortunate and thankful, what it is my life depends on, it's still working.

Some of the things that don't surprise other people, they still surprise me. I won a 5k in Houston recently; it was the inaugural one of the Seabrook series. I've won races before and I dare dream I'll win them again though the last race that I "gave up" the lead on, one particular element stung. So even though I've managed to win races since 3rd grade into my mid 30's, never once had I broken tape. Not once but I'm not bitter. I mean it's not like I noticed back in that race in January that I had less most of the way that the actual winner had broken tape... Or that race where I got out kicked last year that the winner broke tape within my view. Or that in other races I'd been that the pictures of the winners was always with them breaking tape. The closest I'd ever gotten to the tape was holding it once while was someone was crossing. Not all races have tape, I'm not sure if its the majority or minority of races that use it but usually even when I win races I don't do anything "triumphant" until after the race not across the finish line. But in Houston they had tape as I crossed and I saw it with less than a tenth of a mile to go and I pumped my arms up in a fashioned that showed that breaking tape was something I'd given enough emotion to garner an entire paragraph in this blog. And not only was that the coolest thing because it was an inaugural race and I was the first winner of it ever, they had planned to give it to the winner and it now sits in my home though I haven't figured out a way to put it up.

Still that was only the first of 3 races for the weekend, a feat I'd never even attempted before, with the races doubling up distance each day. The next day was a half marathon relay where I bonded even more with a girl from the Austin Runner's Club. I had the second leg and we were in second place by a few minutes by when I started, a gap I thought I couldn't make up (I also wasn't sure what place we were in but I knew we were in at least second). The watch is never quite my motivator, it's beating people but since the course was a double loop, there were people all along the course to pass and that serve as inspiration for perspiration. I gunned a little  faster than I ever have on similar distances on the road or trail. We would eke out the half marathon relay victory over 2 brothers that were 13 and 11. There was no tape the second day to break so the lack of tape might have inspired us to get a little cheeky after our victory.

Still having gunned to that left the legs hurting and realizing I was going to be running more than those two days combined for a half marathon. I had two goals and a dream, the goals were beating our joint time on my own and beating my fastest half marathon with a stroller (1:23.08). The dream was to get my faster half marathon ever but I knew with burning legs that might be pushing. I ended up 12th with a 1:22.58 and an age group win and managed to pass 3 people in the later part of the race. I was afraid I'd fly and die or crash and burn but turns out that there was still something in the legs. I got to speak at both the finish line and the awards presentation. Since it was a St. Paddy's themed half marathon I changed into my running kilt. To answer an age old question, if you're wondering what was underneath the kilt, it was my running shoes and the legs that had gotten me to 3 trophies and medals in 3 days!

Still I came back home and realized that despite the 3 races it still wasn't a full marathon distance for the weekend so when Kiana got home from spring break with her mom, we finished it up. Then we got back into the groove of going to school where for the 3rd quarter this year, she would once again get straight A's and perfect attendance. So we're both still showing up. They get a gift certificate to a Tex-Mex place for straight A's and I am amused cause when I got straight A's, I got Mexican food too but mine was my mom's home cooked and with no offense meant to anyone, my mom's way better.

I couldn't help but reflect that with 3 races in 3 days (and I kid you not the room we stayed in was 333) I also had 3 speaking engagements in less than a week. Apparently all the skills I needed for this stage in my life, running and talking about my life, I had by 3rd grade. The third speaking engagement was the most formal at a fundraising dinner for Camp Kesem. It's a camp for children of parents who had cancer, some of them orphaned by it. When someone suggested sending Kiana to it, I blew it off. One was the part of not wanting to say on my deathbed of "I wish I'd spent more time with my kid." I never went to camp as a kid but I figured that the right developmental age for my little girl to by away from home and not be able to call or write was about the time she'll be old enough to have a boyfriend, say 20 or so. She loved it when she went and missed me so much that the first thing she said when she got back was if she could go back the next year. The speech was well received but despite me getting invited still to speak at places, there is the reality check that this was the first speech Kiana had been to in a while and she, like she often does, brought a book with her (old school still giving her books instead of my iPhone). It certainly keeps things in checked that she asked that if my speech was boring if she could read during it... To my credit, she did not get the book out while I was talking but that may be because her question ended up being my opener which got lots of laughs from the audience. From Kiana it also got me a smile (albeit if you know her it was one of those glaring smiles... she's learning early). It was a formal dinner so it was the first time we got to dress up together in a  bit and showing she's already got a better sense of fashion than me, she wanted to make sure my outfit coordinated with her.

That still may not have been the biggest surprise of the weekend. I hosted a playdate with a few of her friends, something that just kind of came together after school. I worry about many things about Kiana but one is definitely that she's an only child with no family in town. My mom is the oldest of
12 and I am one of 3 and there's a social development that comes from family and friends your age that can't come up no matter how good of a parent you are. It was easter weekend so I hid eggs (being called a master egg hider by 2 nine year olds was a serious compliment since well 9 year olds tell you straight up things like when they are bored at speeches). But the one that took the cake (or earned them chocolate) was that we had this new rasberry nail thing that everyone single one of the 4 little girls called the most fun nail thing they had ever done! I never though I'd be hosting a nail salon with 4 little girls  at my house period (much less enjoying it) nor it being called the best one and by one little girl's account something that their mom had been talking about doing and she was glad to finally have the chance. I didn't do my own nails (I only do my toes with Kiana and this was finger nails) and there are certainly a few dads and friends who would think that the activity I chose to do was a nail salon reflected the damage in my brain but I dare dream it's the growth of the creativity in my heart.

So Easter was a good weekend with a chance to reflect on New and Renewed Life and that at least for now, keeping all my eggs in one basket hasn't gone too badly. There have been a few things that have come since then that are still blowing my mind. I am a boy who had never called in sick in his entire life... had missed 5 days for chicken pox from Kindergarten through college and then got a cancer that has no known dietary, lifestyle, genetic or environmental component. The things that have come from it, both good and bad are ones I would have never guessed.

But the strange life continues as this weekend I'm heading to Houston for the 4th time this year to be part of the Final Four weekend. Infinite is donating up to $700K for people's pick to the American Cancer Society. There will be 14 cancer survivors playing against each other as part of the weekend and then we get to attend the game. We had tryouts in February and if you check out the details, you can see during the selection process that I am the first one announced, which if you watch the game will be inversely proportionate to the talent on the field. I don't know for sure but I'd bet more money than I have on any on any bracket that it's because I was the last one picked :). Still,  since I was at Duke during March Madness, that's when I started following college ball, there's something cool about getting to be there as both a part of it, as a fundraiser against cancer, and as a spectator.

Yesterday I did an interview locally for it and another one with Nike about running. Today I have another one of those interviews and and I'm also speaking to UT premed students for the 4th year in a row about running more (I always want to sneak in hey by the way go cure cancer along the way). I hope that none of them have heard me each year because it's essentially the same story with a few minor tweaks and updates and some new jokes (besides do we really want doctors that take a class 4 times?!?). This is my 8th time speaking at the University of Texas, in 5 different buildings in 4 years. Yet in the middle of all these talks and interviews, I've also been on the phone quite a bit appealing an insurance claim. Cancer has strange side effects.

I am incredibly thankful to still be standing... daring to dream it's because I haven't been standing still. But it's hard to configure or reconfigure the emotions of thankfulness, guilty and responsibility when I'm visiting friends in hospice care who are dying of cancer, most of which I met because of cancer and way too many whose prognosis were better. I've been to too many of those visits, though on those I've never taken Kiana. I think and hope that I had been preparing her if my time came when oddly enough the first person whose death she has to experience was a few days ago and it was her maternal grandfather who passed away of cancer. We sat and talked about it with a game where we've playing more and more, backgammon, a game where strategy and chance and foresight all matter and nothing ever reigns consistently supreme. But in the best way, I tried to encourage her that sharing emotions anger, hurt, sadness were all okay. Those emotions are useful and serve a purpose they just have to be channeled correctly. But this was coming from me a  guy who still often hides (it it hides or experiences) his emotions in running, in music, in this blog, in a nakedness that wants to be seen but is afraid it may be too much.

There's times you want to cry out to the universe or pray and try to deduce it to logic, which cannot be done. It's one of those things that if you spend too much time thinking about you'll lose your mind, even more than I already have. Still I also believe that if you don't spend some time reflecting on it, you may well lose your soul. Trying to make sense of any or all of this is like trying to smell the color 9. You may say that 9's not a color and even if it were you can't smell a color which is my point exactly. But despite the strangeness of life in general and mine in specific, I am infinitely thankful that for me that the secret to having it all is appreciating all the life that I do have.


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