Saturday, November 5, 2016

Imagination is the Only Weapon

Remember, remember
the fifth of November
The day my brain cancer showed its spot
I see no reason
Why left temporal treason
Should ever be forgot

I am not a man who acknowledges many days of personal history. I haven't had a birthday party most years of my life and certainly not most of my adult ones. Heck two of the most recent ones I've spent helping people move without letting them know I was aging. Yet there is one day, that I've given more than nods and winks to, the cancerversary, November 5, 2010 the day that life changed. One moment I was looking at a menu, later that day at an MRI. I wasn't far from my review at work and suddenly it seemed a little less concerning than the results of my blood work. I was bemoaning the fact I had just turned 30, never quite realizing that maybe the jokes about how everything goes down hill fast after you turn 30 would be a little too apt. I became physically and mentally aware that despite the fact that I had not stopped for death, that someday that seemed far too soon it was going to stop for me.

So I acknowledge it each time it comes, the time it passes. Most of that day was just questions but those questions weren't from me. They were from friends, from family to me and to my doctors. Looking at the dark matter on an MRI, being told I had a tumor that was possibly cancer and we'd do a biopsy in a couple of days. It's like that moment where the lights go out and you remember things being visible but you're just staring at the darkness. But days since the annual acknowledgement has varied.

See life and I had always co existed, gotten along well with it. But finding out you have cancer... maybe it makes you give up on some aspects of living because you're aware that they may end unexpectedly. But not me, while I didn't quite realize it that day, it was the day that I committed to holding onto life, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health till death did us part.  I'm corny enough, no cheesy enough, no hopelessly romantic enough that I actually know that I love many people but I love life itself so I looked up the traditional 6th anniversary gift. It was sugar and iron... so for breakfast I had a chocolate skull.

This year it started with a 10k, a 6.2 mile race to start the day of Celebrating 6 years of Life Part II. It was a place I'd never been, Mule Shoe with a racing company I'd never been part of, Spectrum. There are exactly zero races where I'm not gunning it and I took 2nd place. So while there may have been 1 guy ahead of me, I like to think the grim reaper was well behind me. Most importantly irregardless of those two, there were people from the running community besides me, one of which was a brain tumor survivor herself. I loved the race and there were additional highlights like the fact that they offered coke at the finish line. With about a half mile to go they had offered rum for people. I didn't take that during the race but once upon a time when I was getting medical restrictions they said I should no longer take part in alcohol or caffeine.  I responded with sass, "what about rum and coke, don't they cancel each other out?" I rarely drink but when I do that's become my drink of choice, in fact it's a nickname of mine, R&C. I am sorry to break it to you mom, or nurse but I broke that restriction today.

The race was actually entitled Wonderland. The finishers all got a cup which said We are all Mad Men now. Near the finish line they had great quotes from Alice in Wonderland, including my favorite one "Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality." I never imagined I'd be still standing so that wasn't the war I was fighting for, cancer wasn't and isn't the reality I'm fighting. But I go to new places, new events, meet new people to take the war to a different level.  Life not cancer has progressed because originally I had the same attitude as Alice did upon meeting the Cheschire cat,

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go."

But I've picked directions that beating cancer was not so much about taking on the disease, that was a small part of the puzzle. It was about working on the relationships I want to keep.  In that Wonderful book, it's also written, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” My cancer hasn't gotten any better or any worse; it's just stable. But while it took a few years it's been almost exactly 3 years sine I had a seizure. The medical debt is settled. I've hit PR's in every distance from the mile to the marathon since cancer started. I've done new events. But above all those things, I've done those races next to behind, in front, besides with people I love. So I take the joy in daring to imagine I've done a lot more than just stay in place.

Speaking of puzzles, I've been part of a couple of studies. One had a fascinating caveat in it that this study may not help you but it may help people in your condition down the road. It said it more formal legal language than that. But I've thought I'd just get to be a piece of the puzzle that would get solved well after me. But I've seen progresses in cancer in general, in the day to day things that patients can do, in brain cancer in specific. I got to be part of the inauguration of America's first medical university founding since before I was born at the University of Texas. My doctors from Duke have found ways to develop the polio vaccine to fight cancer. Livestrong continues to innovate how to deal with living with cancer. Imagination of theirs I've gotten to be witness of because of team work. Imagining good things.

Still the day continued with a puzzle room. The only goal there I had was to experience the puzzle, a casino heist where we were trying to get away with robbing it (it's just a play room mom). There were people as
part of or part of the dinner who were absolute parts of the past and the present and the future. Two of the guys, the guys whose names I wear on my wrist for emergencies, the guy who gave me the most rides when I wasn't allowed to drive that gave me a hard time about being a man among men. The ladies were as brilliant as they come. The 5 of us who had gone to the puzzle room had actually gotten one of the 5 fastest times that puzzle had ever existed. Because I'd been on a Alice in Wonderland kick between the two I had actually spent some time listening to Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters and as we shared food and drink I couldn't help but sing somewhere deeper than my temporal lobe, maybe down to the left side of my chest, "And I thank the Lord There's people out there like you".   Each of them were someone I could have said that about as I took in some eye contact. Or as one of them reminded me, the only reason I have such good friends is because only good people can put up with someone like me.  I know that moment and every moment that even those who weren't there that day, there are people who I could say that about. I'm particularly grateful that there may not be a table large enough for me to have all the people I could say that about to share with. But I'm glad life reflects that table. 

But I'm ready to turn around and say good morning to the night but I look back on a day where  we solved a puzzle, did a race, had some donuts, and I am not sure I would have imagined being alive 6 years into this journey but had I known I was going to be, could I have imagined it any better? I think these 6 years are better than believing six impossible things before breakfast. 

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