Friday, December 28, 2018

Focus Point

Every year we have a tradition of putting an ornament representing the most important event of the year on Christmas Eve. This year, well to anyone with even a damaged brain, it was obviously the wedding. I originally started to type that in as the marriage but that would make no sense as that's not going to be something that's just part of 2018.

I've written long about the boyfriend girlfriend scenario and the engagement and the wedding itself so I won't repeat myself too much. Oddly enough, the ornament was of a wedding cake, something we did not have but it was customized with the year and with Kiana-hand-drawn figures of our astrological symbols which were used regularly in wedding decor. There are little moments of the tradition that matter like who hangs up the ornaments, subtleties that probably no one but me cares about but this year Elaine hung it up, formally part of it all. Although last couple of year's the ornaments were things she was also a part of and I presume that will be true indefinitely.

What was the greatest about the wedding was of course the union. What was not too far down the peg was that it was a re-union. There were friends and family there from every stage in life. Invariably, some will no longer be a part of the future because change is life's constant but with zero exceptions there are no previous ornaments that represent connections that are entirely in the past.

It's been the best year of my life thanks to that union and those reunions. It's been tough to watch some things like how mean spirited some people's social media posts have become about the other political side (I've literally deleted hundreds of people on mine, including some who were deleted before and were still invited to the wedding). I still struggle with how we define other viewpoints more and more as evil; I fully grant some things I disagree with are evil but not nearly as many as I see described that way on social media, some of those are just wrong and some are just variations. I loved that in my wedding there were different nationalities, viewpoints, religions represented. I like a variety of people. It is perhaps why a Mexican born immigrant married the child of Taiwanese Immigrants and have traveled to 5 World Wonders. The porters of Peru were as important as the concierged meals in high end restaurants. I mean that in regards to their personhood not just their careers. I believe Elaine understands that and thus one more reason why I love her.

But it was the best Christmas season I can remember but then again I have a damaged memory. There were good parties and good moments and my parents came into town where I showed them many Austin Christmasty things including ones I'd never seen before. There was a moment where Kiana, Elaine and my mom were all showing just how thoroughly they were unimpressed with me. It was one of those "It's a wonderful life" but in reverse osmosis moments.

I ran with a variety of friends this week including Kiana, Elaine, the guy who married us, hair dressers, people who I only know through running and I walked with my dog. You know I get asked as recently as last Sunday randomly by strangers at a Christmas like events what it's like to have been on the news a few times. Even the wedding represented by that ornament made the news. Still, honestly none of those compare to the fact that the little things like those walks and runs and traditions that predate my birth and my parents birth (so eternity as far as I'm concerned). Those were new once I suppose but even if I didn't have a damaged memory the only way to believe is to assume the story tellers and history makers did a reasonably acceptable job. I think they did but I am not worried if anyone besides the people who I've spent some Christmases with do and that I remember them. That's my focus and I'm glad we got to hang out with so many of them in August and with several of them at different times in life and throughout the year.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Time to Let the Old Ways Die

Maybe it's time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change a man
Hell, it takes a lot to try
Maybe it's time to let the old ways die
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead
Some folks just believe in the things they've heard
And the things they read
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead
I'm glad I can't go back to where I came from
I'm glad those days are gone, gone for good
But if I could take spirits from my past and bring' 'em here
You know I would, you know I would
For several years I'd be writing a lot of blogs around this time of year. They would be describing scanxiety and how I'm doing a lot of races as a way to deal with it. They'd be telling you what song I was listening to to shake off emotions before I got strapped into an MRI machine but for the first December since 2010, I was not inside a damn MRI. My doctor said a while back that if I got to 10 years, something I never thought would happen, we'd move to MRI's once a year. I'm the kid born 8/8/80 so when we got to 8 I emailed him and asked him if we could do it now, he honored it. That December tradition won't be missed. 
Look let's be clear, I'm a stubborn guy. There's times I aim it right and get commended for it; there's times I get into silliness with it and get my eyes rolled at and there are times it gets me in right down trouble. It would be a lie to say that I don't try to get the universe to bend to my will. It almost never does but neither my will nor the universe have broken the other yet. The universe will win in the end, of course, but as I have for 8 years with cancer and 38 years of life, I have a hard time believing that I won't be going down swinging. 
But that doesn't mean I'm not open to change. I head to court again with Kiana's mother on a petition of hers where I feel like I've made reasonable offers. My batting average is one I like in court and I feel like it goes my way more than not and so they seem like reasonable offers but I wonder if the stubbornness of years past is not forgotten because in simple honesty this has all along been more annoying than cancer. 
Still, the coping mechanisms remain. I've actually kept a pretty tight running schedule in the last few weeks. In November and December, I've won a 10k, a 5k and placed well in two other 5ks. I'm in good shape without having following any training schedule. Once upon a time I was doing well cause I was doing my training runs behind a stroller now it's because I'm running with friends and often doing a second workout next to Kiana who is getting harder and harder to keep up with. The 10k was my favorite was it was the first time Elaine and I won the same distance together and the first time I kept a consistent pace despite having a solid lead the entire race. In one 5k I beat a high schooler and in another one I got destroyed by another high schooler. It makes me think of the good old says back when I was good and wasn't so old. Ahh youth is wasted on the young. 
But it turns out that while anyone who plays poker against me knows I rarely bluff, I've started caving on some things. I always said I'd always quit doing Christmas cards (or holiday cards if you're more into PC terms) once Kiana was done with elementary. Still between friends and two out of the three household members outvoting me, I caved. It highlighted the big and little things. The wedding of course, that single commitment for the rest of my life. There is a nod to the hair that was such a fun conversation piece for a few months that will never occur again.  
It also highlighted my dog who a little over a month ago got attacked by an unleashed unnamed breed dog half a block from my house who got out of their backyard. I literally picked that 85 lb dog up by the collar and lifted both dogs because it was clenched so tight. I would end up putting my knees on its chest and squeezing it while pulling on its collar until it let go since it recognized who was the alpha dog out of the 3 in the fight. You can take a kid out of a rough neighborhood but you may not be able to take the rough neighborhood out of him. The vet ER bills are proportional to human ones but she's healing and that picture of her is actual during the healing process. She's about a month and a half away from turning 15 and she's had a rough year. I wonder how much time she has left more than I wonder how much I have left these days, something that's only been true for a couple of years now. I'll be there for her as long as she's got but we live in a house where scars get covered with hair and with hope. I dare dream that at the very least Elaine and I's ring bearer will make it to our 1 year anniversary. I've already got some high plans for that and well I hope she gets a treat out of it. 
I have a tradition of very rarely doing the same thing twice. My 1st world wonder back when I was 14 was Macchu Picchu but I did it almost entirely touristy with a bus on one day. This time a professor who invites me to speak invited me to hike and camp. It was still a little more glamorous camping than I like because you know my idea of good camping is when you pay lots of money to be homeless. Still, I'd taken my girlfriend/fiancee to 4 world wonders and now my wife and I have made it 5. However, it was all on foot including climbing above it. That last little section we left the great group and went up there on our own and for a fair second of the hike and a bit at the top, it was just us. And well, it's the only World Wonder, I've ever done twice, the only international trip I've ever done twice and we literally took it to a different level. Seems that anything that I thought wasn't in my future period or after cancer, ultras, marriage itself, repeating adventures, she keeps taking me to join her to a different level. 
The last picture on there is Kiana running on her cross country team meet. She continues to grow more independent, a beauty on some days and a problem on others, and a beautiful problem on several as well. She finally got a B in Jr High but took it in stride and as a challenge. She began playing ultimate as well and in her first clinic was definitely intimidated. When it was over, she was ready to go back. I don't know if it's fatherly love, pride or affectionate blindness but I really do think in both athleticism and intelligence, she's already ahead of where I was at her age and stage. Everything I've ever been a part of creating or raising I always hope makes me look like a joke by comparison and there's nothing or anyone who I've hoped that for more than her. And if she does it look like a joke, it's going to be the best dad joke ever and I'll be laughing the hardest. 
I'm still the president of the Austin Runners Club and we put in the biggest decker challenge of my stint and the biggest in a decade or so. I ran and won the 5k cause I really struggle to just be sidelines for an entire show. I saw we're like lights and sound but I try to sneak in a cameo like Stan Lee. Every year there are different stories out of all races and certainly the ones that we put on but my favorite one was someone who it took 3 tries before they could be successful at it. I had been the person who had told them that finishing the race was not a realistic goal two years ago. Kayleigh's mom was the best cheerleader as she's progressed over the last few years but I assure you I gave anyone who wanted the silver medal as a cheerleader some stiff competition. 
What was this blog about again? Oh yes, my Christmas card and brain cancer appointment with some slight nods to more court issues. I think in all of those situations, the song I've been listening to as I focus is the one this started one. That letting old ways die can be a very good thing, even if the old ways had good or bad things in them. Being open to the Universe and trying to bend it simultaneously are why I love life. 
Still, what got this writing going was the medical appointment last Friday. The doctor, like a lot of people noticed I'm a little thinner. That's primarily cause I wanted to look good in a wedding suit. I assure you now that the holiday parties keep happening I'm finding that weight. He had a new medical assistant, often the case as they seem to be studying for other things since he's a teacher doctor. My resting heart rate was incredibly low as usual. With new medical assistants in 8 years, it has always led to one of two reactions. Worry that my heart might be weak or questions about how much athletic activities I do. It has always been one or the other from anyone whose ever taken my pulse for the last few years. This new assistant didn't mention either but said, 'wow you must be very calm.' Without an MRI results there was, of course less to worry about. But then my neuro oncologist told me about how the mutation in my brain tumor there's possibility that instead of another brain surgery or chemo or radiation in a couple of years there may be a simple vaccine if this ever grows and it might attack the tumor cells (sometimes other people do but even with a damaged memory I never forget I still have brain cancer). I immediately asked if we could do it proactively and just get rid of the tumor now instead of when it grows. and he said that would be further away as with most cancer new treatments it's only done if and when a tumor is actively growing. I walked out thinking that maybe another one of those things I'd never do again, treatment if this grows, might also have to be revisited and fight with medicine not just with running down the line. I don't have an answer to that but I still try to remain serene about it all. Hope soothes my heart even if my brain is damaged. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Pro Long Life

For the first several years, I'd write here on the 5th of November, on the state of mine and cancer's union or perhaps mine and life's union with cancer's disruption. Last year, I wrote on the day after and I liked that idea that this brain tumor will never be irrelevant but that the day after tomorrow still matters and keeps mattering more.

This was a big year for me the kid who loves the number 8 due to my birthdate (8/8/80) and I said long ago that if I got here we'd have a big party and boy did we. But I'll come back to that, it wasn't big just because of the coincidence of my birth it was because it meant I was above average by a full year since the median survival is 7 years. I started celebrating that from 7 years and 1 day but hey this last full trip around the sun has been a big one.

I married a woman who was a stranger and not old enough to drink when this all started. She was a friend who became a better friend who I will love till my dying day and marrying her made me more comfortable with the idea of dreaming of further and further days. A few days before this cancerversary last year I proposed, losing a bet about marriage not being part of a future. I also said I'd never do an ultra but I did my first one, 1 year minus 1 day of my proposal at the same site, a Spartan race. Last year after I proposed the race great went for both of us in sub freezing temperature. This year I went in struggling with a hand injury and despite both of us being prepared we struggled with some obstacles and coordination including me dropping a 120 lb concrete ball on my leg before the halfway point. I had to have her help on an obstacle I'd never failed at shortly after that. A couple of guys looked at me and were clearly judging me for taking help from a girl. I got it the second time around on my own and I gotta tell you on both I was super proud and would call both of those significant successes in their own right. When we got done we were both exhausted and are still bruised and battered and the race hurt but we got it done. The vows weren't tested that day, they were just demonstrated, in the for better or worse at least in regards to races. I've always said Ultra were dumb because the guy who ran the first marathon died so why would I run longer? But when a girl as smart, cute and accepting and challenging of my humanity asks, it's an easy answer. Throughout the course, I said multiple times this was my first and last ultra but I know this instant that if Elaine wanted to do another one and wanted my company, I'd say I do if she asked for my company.

Unfortunately we came home to a very sick dog who was unresponsive for the most part. She is over 14, closer to 15 these days but she was there unable to stand up, a stiffly held crooked neck wobbly eyes, confused and dazed. Literally the day before, we had taken a walk in the woods and the day before that she had jumped up for a treat and now she couldn't even stand without falling and was not taking food or water. Speaking of things that are Greek, I am known for being stoic and I held it together until Kiana's voice cracked and then that and the tear ducts did for me too. Vet gave possibilities from an ear infection to something that's nominally called old dog disease (vestibular syndrome) to a stroke to a brain tumor. When I heard brain tumor, I thought I know dogs resemble their owners but please don't follow me down this path. They offered imagery but shy of the ear infection there was no treatment for the others so I bypassed putting her through the imagery that I hate going to. The only way she ate for a few days was literally with things sliced through tiny amounts and fed to her by hand tiny tiny amounts at a time by Elaine, Kiana or myself. I asked the question to myself and prepared as mentally well as I could for the possibility that the friend I had her whole life, her time was coming. They talked to me about iv's and feeding her by a bottle if it was worse things but the truth is I'm the guy who put off brain surgery to run a marathon, a guy who has a DNR order, and I decided quickly that this was a stray, a 3rd world immigrant that lived off scraps early in life (hey dogs do resemble their owners) and we'd of course not do this quick but if she couldn't get to where she could enjoy an unleashed walk on the trail without assistance, for both her and I, it's time to go. We've gone on walks in the trail the last 3 days. Last night at the cancerversary party, she snuck out a couple of times. She did so today too when I was cleaning up from it. Usually we get annoyed when she reaches for human food at the coffee table. Today I gave it to her. Puppy may not be as springy as she once was and may not have eternal life but hope remains. For at least a little bit further down the trail, I think we get to live long and prosper.

Kiana keeps growing up. She destroyed a 10 mile PR by 7 minutes on Sunday. She broke a 6 minute mile a few days before by less than a second. We celebrated by going to a baking class where Ms. Independent who asked for a pasta maker for last night nailed the recipe for pumpkin and pecan pie. I don't usually like either but I ate quite a bit more than I should both yesterday and the day before. We had some left over ingredients so she's making another one tomorrow where I may decide a slice or 3 is worth it. She's in jr high and we're discussing the details of earring and smart phones, neither of which I like the idea of but we'll figure out a dance as I realize there are bigger battles to fight. She was wired at the cancerversary party and stayed up later than she should on a school night period much less a Monday. She asked why this was a big deal and why so many friends were celebrating it. I responded with I wasn't supposed to be alive now and goodness I love that girl, she responded with, no one gets to tell you when you're supposed to be alive.

I watch my parents now in their 60's and 70's. My grandparents in decades beyond that and I am impressed by their quality of life. They all have some age related things but they are independent in a huge percentage of things. Even my grandparents with more serious health issues make me realize that maybe I've had some bad luck in a disease that has no genetic, dietary, lifestyle or environmental components but I've got some good genes in this pool and I'm not sure early in this process I didn't let it sink in that maybe I'm not a great swimmer but I've never been afraid of the deep end. I used to work in a nursing home in high school that left some impressions that were afraid of aging. I've been to hospitals and hospices that assure me that I don't want to go out like that. I'm not afraid of dying but I've been living life hard and with conviction. They still invite me to do speeches once in a while though I think after 8 years of this it may likely be time to start wrapping up the public eye life. Kiana and Elaine helped me create a big drawing for the garage of some of the most powerful symbols from the last few years. There is a huge range from the but without exception, without exception, it's not the crowd I remember and at some there were media and strangers applauding. It was the friends. And while there were several new ones last night, there was the friend who walked me back into the hospital, the friends who helped with medical bills, the friends who over brownies and tears I decided to brain surgery with, the friends who I played poker with at the hospital before the biopsy and during medical exams. There were big additions, like the guy who married us and the girl who married me. There are others but I honestly thought after brain surgery no real friends or meaningful relationships that would come after that cause they'd only know the guy who was damaged and I'd resent that guy but it turns that great friends when they break into you, it doesn't seem like there was ever a time you were strangers and if you work on those relationships, there will never be one where you are again. We kept the party till midnight and a measure of happiness in my book is how many people there are you can call if there's an emergency in the middle of the night but those are all people I'd call but they are all people I've laughed well into the night with and that's better than an emergency call.

So what did I do the day after, I ran and went to a meeting and loved my wife and daughter. Tonight, right now I'm about to head to play in a poker game that's a fundraiser for pediatric cancer and my medical bills are less relevant these days so it's more fun to give money as an option for cancer. I started this path carefully making mistakes. I know that sounds weird but that's a pretty accurate description, I made mistakes from being too careful. I'm going to keep making mistakes but I'll make them with more and more conviction. Tonight at this poker game, at this weekend's race, and every day, cause I don't take a single one for granted, I am going in like a pro longing for more life.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Always Remember Us This Way

Lovers in the night
Poets trying to write
We don't know how to rhyme
But, damn, we try
But all I really know
You're where I wanna go
The part of me that's you will never die
So when I'm all choked up
But I can't find the words
Every time we say goodbye
Baby, it hurts
When the sun goes down
And the band won't play
I'll always remember us this way
Humans, we anthropomorphize things. We literally try to make the world revolve around us like the ancient idea that the sun revolved around the earth. The story is cleaner if the angles are sharper, if the story flows better. It's literally wired into our brains as that's the way we make memories in our dreams with our brains subconsciously telling itself a story to implant memories. 
There are times that, like most of my human qualities, that is easier to live with than reality. But I like reality better than myths anyway so I try to hold onto both. Kiana and I recently did a race called Where to Next? Race. It was a scavenger hunt where we were figuring out clues and challenges. A friend had suggested that we were contenders as we got ready for it but Kiana and I were partners needing internet and social media, neither of us is an expert at either yet (and I'm not getting any better). Still the first clue took us to the Hope Outdoor Gallery and that's when it was game on. From there to the second challenge for a clue being a relay between partners running around the block, we were contenders. We'd be in 3rd place for a good chunk of it but between her brains and my driving since I'm not sure I contributed much more, we were always relevant. There were a couple of points where I was intensely, competitively, aggressively, primally telling her to focus on getting it done, almost, ALMOST, forgetting she was my 11 year old daughter and that winning wasn't the only task at hand. Kiana has on multiple occasions pointed out that I look angry during races, that's my focused look I suppose, my game face. In a moment of self awareness after that intensity, I asked her if I should relax and we should just worry about getting it done. She said, no, let's go I want to win too. Somewhere after that we got to a more balanced competitive but friendly mode. Suffice it to say we both ended up happy, dancing and in first place with the team "Smarter Than We Look."
Our race had just ended and coincidentally a Livestrong lunch was happening at the restaurant we ended at. We would hang out with old friends, some which were at my wedding, some which were professional cancer relationships like the dean of the new medical school's cancer institute. Those back to back moments that lined up put it in perspective of I am always running away and somehow run into some cancer related items. I never have and likely never will be the people who say that the good relationships that came from cancer were worth it (I mean I'm a fan of the old idea of learn from other people's mistakes, you don't have enough time to make them all on your own so along that theme don't wait till you become aware of your mortality before you appreciate life). 
It is why I appreciate those people, the humanity they share even perhaps while there's humanity to overcome. The friends like Bob who can't ride due to some health issues and volunteers instead. One of the top 3 fundraisers and a 15 year survivor, Scott, who comes with his daughter and posts a picture that looks like it rhymes to one of his wife from 13 years before who has since passed from cancer. The guys who we sit and have a men's dinner over pizza and beer and one of them has done me a solid and Hurff baked chocolate chip cookies for the family (Kiana and Elaine both got one a piece... I'll leave how many I ate a mystery). The group moments, the one on one moments remind you that cancer is a body misfiring but perhaps one of the best way to fight misconnection and negative growth in the body is to combat with good human connections growing. I am certainly not suggesting that's the cure to cancer but in my mind, if cancer kills me tomorrow, it's how I won. There are those who would suggest that's cheesy or over simplification; fair enough, I have a damaged brain after all. But it's what got me to do a 30 mile ride with Kiana and Elaine. Two years ago I did 20 with Kiana and told Elaine we were probably going too slow for her and encouraged her on my own, somewhere that was between the truth and not ready to move too fast with who I'm married to now. Last year we were in better shape and did her longest ride of 45 miles together. This year we did Kiana's longest ride of 30 miles together. Love has many ways of showing itself. 
But I remember that while this was my 8th livestrong ride, I did the first one all on my own. I made friends but didn't have any going out. It was a 100 miles. I've kept making friends and invited more and family too. Those are never competitions so it was easier to do at an easier pace which definitely has its place. 
I've now been doing running competitions for 30 years. I say I'm officially retired for a last few years because I haven't had an A race or a particular training program but no one believes me when they see me on a course (myself included). Somewhere I don't want to be the guy hanging on too long but then I read about 70 year olds still doing marathons and 100 year olds still doing races. They of course are no longer at their fastest though anyone who is still going man that somehow feels like they are at their prime.
I don't want to be the guy who cleans up memories of others to only the good things. I don't want to be remembered for only the good things or bad things either. The universe is messy and chaotic and inconsistent and so is life, at least mine. I love the line from the song that this starts with, we don't know how to rhyme but damn we try. So I'm okay being forgotten but rather than the victories or the losses, I aim to live and make my memories perhaps being able not to always rhyme but always knowing I tried. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Swept Off My Feet

When your legs don't work like they used to before
And I can't sweep you off of your feet

I've longed quipped off the idiom, 'Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes; that way if he doesn't like your judgement you're a mile away and he can't catch you easily because he's not wearing any shoes.' Trying to understand each other has and always will be important and obviously being able to perfectly do so takes time, effort, creativity. 

Two years ago, I spoke at a politics class at the University of Texas as I have at various times encouraging students to run for some race or another. This one was different in that it was the only time before or since that, at least I noticed, there was a student, Archer, in a wheelchair near the front of the class. I'd stick around for a bit after I was done just to watch the class and he was outspoken and in disagreement with the professor on different sides of the political aisle with no hesitation in sharing those differences. I was in between them politically but I appreciated the kindness in spirit they shared it with. That professor would invite me back to run with some of those students as they prepared for their race and then he'd give me news that Archer had also decided to run the race with the Dr. Sean pushing him for the 10 mile course. Having introduced me as the guy who'd won a marathon with a stroller, I would help with some of the pushing but Sean did most of it with me just clearing the path. I appreciated Archer better as a person but was still missing plenty of perspective. 

Last year, Archer started a program called Archer's challenge where some UT Professors, some movie theater staff did a portion of their workday in a wheelchair so they could understand. They reached out to athletic groups to do a 4 team relay of doing a running route that was about a 5k. I put together a team that had the right attitude and competitiveness but it was on a trail where my main focus ended up being on doing it without using my legs in anyway but also trying to pass people. My main appreciation of it was when crossing the street onto the trail in regards to traffic and mostly how much work my upper body still need. I even thought that well if my brain tumor ever affects more if I can be a little less dependent I may hang on longer. It was less than 20 minutes of a glimpse of Archer's life but I appreciated him even more. 

This year when Archer's challenge came up, rather than putting it off on a closed running route, they decided to let people explore the area around City Hall at their own pace. This time I had decided to do it all alone because while I have the beauty of having good people in my life, even I'm not fortunate enough to never be alone so I thought trying to do on my own gave me a chance at a better point of view. By sheer coincidence, I had done a run that morning that was 3 miles starting a quarter mile from where Archer's Challenge would begin. Due to the trail being closed due to rain we had done a simple rectangle, across to Congress Avenue and up to the Capitol, heading back across to Lamar, Down Lamar to 3rd Street and back to our starting point. What can I tell you about this mornings run? I can tell you some stuff about the conversations I had with the friends, a little bit of the flooding that we talked about and how we missed running on the trail cause we caught a few lights. On the crosswalk anytime there was even a few seconds left we sprinted across confident we could make it. There was another thing that had happened as we started the run, someone from our church, Margo, was coming off a bus stop heading to work and I said hi.

When I got to Archer's challenge, thinking about Margo from the run and the history, I decided to try to replicate the exact route from that morning but in a wheelchair. I did a 5k time trial on Thursday that I had kept a 5:50 pace at. Friday morning, we'd done about a 5k easy run that I had done in 27. Last year we had done 5k together in roughly an hour as a relay team. How hard could this be I wondered since this was all paved sidewalk? I realized that earlier in the day there was a spot where the sidewalk was closed due to construction. I had no memory on it because at 6:40 AM we'd just gone the half block quickly up it uphill and the road at a sharp angle. I had already decided no matter what I wouldn't be using my legs and I started struggling with angles in both directions. Someone passed by just as I was almost done conquering and said, "I didn't know whether or not it was appropriate to offer help." I didn't know whether or not its appropriate either because with my own medical condition, brain cancer and it's deficits from brain surgery, I can't say that I've ever been great at accepting help. I passed on the help and got to the top.

There as I continued up the capitol since it had started at noon, I wanted a snack but the only place that I regularly eat was packed and I wouldn't have waited that long so I kept on rolling. There were moments I recognized were very different. I get nervous with the cars that don't stop until after the crosswalk to see if cars aren't coming. As a runner that scares me but I can usually clear out fast enough on my feet in any direction. As a cyclist, it scares me more because while I can move faster in one direction, I can't dodge a car. Today, a car pulled up at a red light onto Congress avenue with about a foot and a half in front of me in the turning right lane and I realized my 4 wheeler would have lost to theirs quickly. They did not back up, they did not apologize. I'm not sure as they looked down the street they even saw me, they just saw no cars were coming and made their 'right of way' right turn with the walking symbol lit up. The lights that I'd rushed through earlier in the day with only a few seconds left, I wouldn't take on unless they had turned to the pedestrian sign just as I arrived, afraid I wouldn't make it across the little bumps and freshly wet from the rain. Another small construction detour, I honestly was struggling and a city janitor got up behind me and without asking just pushed me to where I was trying to get, a sweet older lady and said 'I've got you baby.' With my obstinate pride, I turned around and said, 'you must be an angel.' She noticed the wheels were getting wet from the rain and she asked if I wanted gloves to be able to make the spinning easier, I said yes please and it turned out she only had one left so I put it on my left hand since I was struggling more gripping with my non dominant side. I hadn't rolled but a block or two when I realized while I may have come on an angel unaware who had been so courteous, while I'd said thank you, I hadn't had the courtesy to ask her name. 

I've been around Texas Capitol many times, for workouts, for tours, for a race with Kiana being filmed by ESPN. I've even climbed all the way to the top in a serious stair workout. Those were much easier than rolling up it in rain. Interestingly enough a constable came up and pointed out to me that the only wheelchair accessible side was the north side. I wasn't going in but I said thank you and when I got to where I thought I could get across, I realized that there was no way to cross because while there was a crosswalk, I guess they meant the walk part because the next place there was ramp was all the way back down on the other side of the sidewalk to redo most of the hill I had just conquered. I did it and started rolling back up across the way. Once again a stranger had just watched and put me all the way back said, let me at least make that part easier. His name was Rob. 

I wanted a picture next to the Capitol and usually I go up and tap someone to take a picture; I'm selfie-phobic but it was a rainy day and so not a whole lot of people were out. I saw a lady passing by and tried to get her attention but she was tuned into her phone. A runner who was further away heard me and said I'll get the picture. We talked briefly and she said she was just doing an easy 4 miler... I was struggling with 3 miles but we encouraged each other and Ashley ran on. To leave the capitol again took some extra rolling past two crosswalks to a ramp to come back up to another one. As I got back onto the streets I ran and got past stop signs and street lights, this new experience kept sinking in. I couldn't decide which was more or less considerate. As a runner, walker, there are people who their path is their path and unless you want to literally bump shoulders with them, you're going to step to the side. There were still a few of those and I circled as best as I could. There were others who walked so far around you that I wondered if they thought I had a flu not just a wheelchair. There were others who gave you normal personal space and just walked around you; they were my favorite. 

But this, this was the part where I started going down hill and it was the hardest part. There was a part where I couldn't quite control and a wheel ended up rolling off the sidewalks into a flower bed. I pulled and pulled with my upper body for a couple of minutes, just trying to pop it out but I wasn't budging. I was committed to not using my legs and was trying to figure out how to pick myself off and pull it up with just my arms and then figure out a way to prop myself back onto the chair when a stranger in a truck pulled over, pulled me out of the ditch and said there you go buddy and drove away. I kept being impressed with the hospitality of strangers. There was a place where getting onto the sidewalk was easy but in the middle there was a business drive way. It was some black ramp to get off and no way to get back on. For a small section I was just on road; I waited till there was no car coming before taking off but one came before I could get back on sidewalk who slowed down and went around me and I was so glad they were not on their phone. 

There was a ramp that had a deeper groove than usual in front of it. I actually remembered that from the run earlier that day cause I'd skipped over it. Here I didn't have that option and I thought well, I'm already wet from the rain, I guess I'll get more wet but I'd miscalculated. The puddle was deep enough and wide enough that once I was in it, I couldn't get any traction in any direction, neither backing up back onto the road or up onto the side walk. Once again I was trying to figure out what to do when my friend Steve who was running stopped by and offered to help before he recognized who I was and I briefly explained it to him and he's like well I can help you if you'll take it, I took it. Twice with a picture and with a puddle, runners came to my rescue. There's something good about that crew. 

Not long after that was the only place I probably would have asked for help because I was one block away from a place I love, the Hope Outdoor Gallery but that sits on hilly ground and no easy crosswalks near it. And to take the whole thing in really is impossible in a wheelchair since it's a steep hike on your feet but to at least be in front of it. I tried to get a couple of people's attention just daring to dream that the one and only place I'd seek help was to at least get a closer glimpse of hope but it did not come. It was still beautiful just a little further than I'm used to. 

There were other little adventures before I got back. A place with cracked sidewalk where all 4 wheels were on a slightly different plane was a lot harder to roll out of than I would have guessed on. A truck passing by me a gigantic splash that fully soaked me and I wondered what I would be doing if I was near work when something like that happened. The scooters that annoy me when I'm running worried me when I was wheelchairing. The compact cars only parking spots at a restaurant that were used by 4 bigger cars in a row made me be in the road of oncoming traffic for about 20 yards. One of the guys I ran with this morning looked worried and wondered whether I'd had some injury or some minor surgery that I hadn't told them about a few hours before. Someone else who knew me missed the point entirely because as he talked with me for a minute or two along this adventure, he was like 'huh, your arms sure are going to be sore tomorrow.' I hadn't walked a mile in his shoes so I didn't judge him and also I remembered it took me two years to even get a fraction of understanding Archer and people with this ability to get through the world without being able to walk. 

When I got back, I talked to Archer's mom and then I did the magical thing of getting up off the chair, getting back in my car and driving home to pick up Kiana from school. I took her back for the short after party and while we were there, she got to be in the chair and we said hi to Archer. I think the universe would be a little kinder if we all focused on what we have that's a gift which is in my book 100% of all that's good. I don't feel entitled to any part of life. There's times where my running abilities are commended but that's what I told onto because some of my mental ones are gone. Yesterday, a 5k on a speed workout was about a 6 minute pace, today an easier speed took me about 27 minutes. That exact route in a wheelchair, I would say by myself but that's clearly not described here, took me over 2 hours. I'm going home tonight having been in a wheelchair for 3 miles and appreciating what I have but more importantly that there are people like Archer who don't have the option of getting up off the chair and still smile at life and constantly roll with it. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Leave A Lot To Be Desired

'You leave a lot to be desired but I still desire you'. -Melanie Doane

There are so many and yet no good parallels for a life with cancer, or at least not my life with cancer. I am unique, just like everyone else but I wonder which one of us survivors handles it most adequately, most inadequately. Coping mechanisms are sometimes like family, friendship, team, religious or political affiliations; maybe they're logical or perhaps so deeply ingrained that they're so far in our minds that we've stopped thinking about them. That's an odd line for a guy with brain cancer because it is exactly what's inside my brain that consumes too many of my thoughts. 

I am getting ready for the Livestrong Challenge this weekend where it's a family event with Elaine, Kiana and I all riding together. This event will be my 8th local one here in Austin where I've ran the 5k one time, ridden the 100 mile century 4 times, ridden 20 miles with Kiana once and 45 with Elaine once. It's never about the bike though. In it, without fail, I find confusing inspiration. Inspiration is easier to digest from the people that are cancer free and are thankful for avoiding death for a little longer. But the confusing and yet amazingly inspirational people are those who have lost limbs and are out there living life with more gratefulness and strength than some people can handle bad traffic. There are the people who have lost lungs and have outlived their prognosis and literally appreciate every single breath. There are those who have had organs that were meant to nurture life, to reproduce it that instead of procreating have almost brought demise who appreciate the cancer experience as a second birth of their own. There are enough of us who make light of these things with jokes that some have called dark humor but to me, a guy whose neuropsychological evaluation says humor is a coping mechanism, anyone can focus on the dark all they want, each punchline, each laugh is a match and at times that's all that's kept me from tripping too much harder on the uneven, unpredictable often obscure path. 

I am well aware that it's only 3 weeks until I am 1 year above the median of my cancer survival's rate and of course that's 8 years.Naturally, we're having a party, my first 'birthday party' since 08/08/08. I perhaps say it a bit too much but I didn't think I'd be here but the universe has been kind. It would be dishonest to say that there are times I don't miss a more normal life where I hold a regular job without having been in media for a disease. I almost remember what it's like to have a dependable memory, nearly perceive a time where I had good facial recognition, can get close to that area of my brain where I had spatial orientation. But it's so far now that, the deficits are all but ordinary, the abnormal becomes normal in its own way. Yet there's enough primal moments where you want to just do things with honest conviction without a second thought where the Life Part I and Life Part II find their dividing line on the side of my head. This is one of those rare instances where while I miss some of the original character, I'm convinced the sequel is definitely better. Life has left a lot to be desired but I still desire it. 

There are fun little moments that occur now and then. There is a wedding where we have fun with outfits because the dress code calls for ranch formal and we make do. There are moments where Kiana hosts her first sleepover and I am both under and overwhelmed by Kiana and other 11 year old's conversation. Intrigued by a question I'd never received "what's your pronoun?" and wondering whether I handled it more awkwardly now or would have done so in Jr. High. I play a good sport when Kiana asks to do my make up so her and her friends can giggle at me and then while keeping it on for a while and then when trying to remove it, I can simply say I am genuinely appreciative that my pronoun has many things in life that are simpler. 

In 2016, I could count on one hand the number of times I'd ran more than 50 miles in week in the entirety of my life. Late that year, two of my doctors sent me a study that said that brain cancer survival rates are higher in long distance runners. It was no coincidence that 2017 was the highest mileage year of my life with no races. I would run over 60 miles that year 3 weeks and 70 twice and thought well I don't need to take it over board, no need to do that again. This year I've ran the highest mileage week of my life 3 times, with two of them over 80 and last week I ran 92. When people see me running they'd ask what I was training for and in 2017 I didn't even run a marathon so I'd say just running but my friend and wedding officiant finally gave me the right answer, I'm training for life. Though I did an additional 18 on Sunday. 110 miles in 8 days made my legs wonder if running was going to make me live longer or if it just seemed longer...

There are other moments where cancer is far from my mind because life has a few distractions. Like today, Kiana’s after school animal club got cancelled due to weather. She figured someone would tell me and I’d be there since in Elementary School that's what happened. That's not the way it works in jr high She didn't think about calling herself and instead decided to walk home 3 miles in 45 degrees and rain. Though she be but little, she is fierce. She’s definitely my daughter. I lectured her on not worrying her dad and that if she wanted to walk that was up to her but not to have me waiting a long time while inside I was just glad everything was okay. I didn't say that out loud at least not with words but I think the hug after the lecture said it where she understood. But let me clearer somewhere else. Mom, if you're reading this, I apologize for all of those times I assumed you'd magically know where I was and that I'd be safe. I am not sure I am going to be able to be as prepared or handle as smoothly all the decades of worrying that you have. You have 3 boys and at least one of us is consistently obnoxious and I am sorry about that. 

There are other moments where the fact Kiana's my daughter gets seriously reaffirmed. Her first cross country season was only 2 back to back weekend meets due to a lot of rain here. Still, on the first one she broke 13 minutes in the biggest junior high meet in the state, taking 6th female while running against all 6th through 8th grade boys. On the second one, a smaller one she was the second person in her heat of all 6th graders, getting beat by one 6th grade boy by a few seconds. Both times I thought she rocked it, both times she immediately expressed how she could have done better. I can't quite guess where she got that competitive vibe from. But while I'm proud of her races and her drive, it was in the 2nd meet where a boy tripped early as they went on and I saw it and was seriously impressed with how deftly she jumped around and over him, it was her description of it that made me once again wonder who is raising who because she said, "I thought about helping him up but then remembered it was a race." I related that he was fine and got up and ran well but I can actually remember people falling in races both as an adult and as a kid and candidly, I can't think of once where I thought about picking them up. 

I have a race this weekend and then the ride on Sunday with the whole family. The weekend after that I have my first Ultra Beast with my wife. I have that party to look forward to in November which is the day after I do another race next to Kiana. I am also going to go Climb Machu Piccu with my wife and some friends during Thanksgiving. I also know that roughly a month after that I have an MRI. Will that be when things start to wrap up? I don't know but I see enough brain cancer friends whose imaging go in enough directions both good and bad to where as I do before MRI, I start making preparations in case it goes the least preferred way. But then again, some of life's preparation and transitions may show in that I went to two romantic musicals last weekend and enjoyed them both, even dressed up for one of them (my wife cleans up well). However, these days I'm preparing for life better as well we have season passes for this year's UT musical program and are working on next summer's trip. I didn't even let myself dream beyond the next MRI before and now I'm planning beyond the next two. In fact, my doctor once said that if I get to 10 years we'd move to MRI's once a year instead of every 6 months. Maybe for me, it should be once I hit 8 years. 

I don't know how any of life or death will go and my own has gone in enough good and bad directions to where I'd probably not make any big bets in either direction. I hope when I'm gone, I've fed life and love enough to where when its my time to go, I leave a lot to be desired. But while I have the chance, I am going to keep desiring life.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Make You Feel My Love

When the rain is blowing in your face 
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace 

To make you feel my love

There is a wide variety of ways we deal with life and death... we talk more about the first from comparing validity of diets and politics and hobbies and habits. Perhaps its our way of avoiding or dealing with the latter. Sometimes we make them connected and people point you to studies that show that if you eat healthier or if you exercise more or if you go to church more or if you... you'll live longer. My standard response because so often it's a give up this or switch to this to expand your lifestyle is a simple joke, "Do vegans/church goers/married people/marathoners really live longer or does it just seem longer?"

We support each other in hard times as best as we know how and I'll be the first to admit that at 30 when I got cancer I was wholly inadequate to know how to deal with it (I'm now only mostly inadequate). I went on a life tour visiting as much of where I was from to say goodbye to everyone finishing meals with them with the sadly eloquent line "I don't know if the guy going in is the same one coming out but this one loves you guys." I did those trips on my own; that aspect was a mistake. 

Since then, I have realized life, life is better shared. Whether it's been the highest mileage week of my life where I did 88 miles, zero of them alone or the quiet moments where Elaine, Kiana and I are just sitting across a couch watching a dumb movie together or having long conversations about a range from the ridiculously insignificant to the as Kiana used to call it 'phisolophical,' I try to make people feel my love. I'm not always great at it, I'm not affectionate by nature but I try to show love and get better at doing it adequately. The simplicity of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' or concepts like the five love languages show that there's a range of things. I try to not have it too complex or too simple, with no artistic capacity, there are 3 different places in the house where Kiana can draw too. With no real care about how fast I'm going or mileage, I just do some of Elaine's long runs with her. With both I talk smack about how they couldn't do better, something I would not do if it hadn't regularly resulted in their attempts to prove me wrong worked on their self improvement. 

I invite my parents to hang out at Mexican Independence Day and we all share some good things with music and food and of course we make sure we arrive at post racial bliss by just changing our outfits (nobody need not worry, we have fancy chopsticks and I have a Chinese style shirt for when I gotta celebrate my better half's holidays. In all seriousness, I've traveled all over the world with Elaine and there are very few places where one of us doesn't get looks and most places the fact that we're together gets us looks and it makes me appreciate that the world has gotten small enough to where I got to meet her and marry her). 

Despite my antimaterialistic approach, we indulge Kiana's cheesy halloween ideas by
buying a few more Halloween decorations. Some of the house remodeling was put in place so that all pantry shelves could be reached by Elaine. Some of it was so that my 14 year old dog had an easy path in and out of the house. But there is a small occurrence with her and a medium one with my wife and a large one within the cancer community that inspired this blog. I had her on a walk and was realizing that this dog who I've been with all her life and posted something to it on social media. For some reason a few people read my displaying of affection towards my dog somehow showed my sadness at her passing. If anything I was just impressed that she still had moments here and there where she was passing me to chase a squirrel in her old age. 

The large incident was of a brain tumor connection, Mahoney, who was a cyclist. He lived in Chicago so our in person connection was intermittent but we kept it mostly on social media cell phones and the internet. He was intent on beating this with this diet, that meditation approach, this cycling approach on fasting at this many watt. He shared with me ideas that he'd research about making yourself profoundly cold to make your system more resistant to this bacterial infection. A couple of days before the Livestrong 5k last weekend, he passed away. I've lived in different countries and how we mourn has a variety but in the modern age, social media is a way. So several of our connections share happy memories, some heartbreak, just a way to release, to respond, to share. I had sent him a message not too long that I'm not sure if he ever had time or opportunity to take in as he never responded. These tumors that have no known dietary, genetic, lifestyle or environmental components and he more than any other brain cancer patient I'd known had seemed to attack it with each of those components along with medicine. He lived with it almost the exact median average of 7 years. I saw his name in a few shirts and in the in memory wall at the event as well. 

I'm never quite comfortable at funerals and these all feel like digital funerals. I personally have avoided going to most funerals these days and have avoided speaking at all but one of the people who I've met through the cancer connection. For a guy who gets paid to make speeches, amusing stories or heartbreaking ones are extended ways to say, 'I'm going to miss you' is more than I can personally hear or deliver gracefully. I try to avoid going altogether even as I honestly think about Yogi Berra's old comic maxim, 'go to your friends funerals or they won't go to yours.' I hope no funeral is thrown for me but if someone is silly enough to put one one on, feel free to skip it. I mean I guarantee you I won't be there. 

So now, when I take my medication or these moments, I take the approach that got me married and the approach I took to my wedding guests which is an active effort towards relationships. Before I wrote this blog as I was thinking about it, I put it off to text, call or set up meals some with people it had been a lot too long or a little too long. Even in tough moments, I choose to say that life above ground is always good if you count your blessings. I said that in the middle of seizures, financial messes and personal good ones. Perhaps, it's just a coping mechanism but it's not the worst one I've utilized. 

I still run races with my daughter cause she still likes that even if she doesn't think it's cool for her dad to come have lunch anymore at school. It's a heartbreaking moment but I realize that raising her to be independent in case I'm not around has made her better for her but tougher for me that I am around. I listen to her about her race costume and her Halloween costume not out of any obligation but simply because if she cares about something, I try to as well. I don't bat a thousand but I had no objection to Wakanda Forever. 

But the family and friends are still going strong. Without exception, everyone in the family has won and/or PR'ed in a race since the marriage so we're starting on the right foot. I've been beside or at the finish line for these girls and after their PR's they collapsed into my arms and there's something special about those sweaty hugs. Elaine won the Livestrong 5k and I was proud of her but it's a distant second to the fact we keep finding ways to all be there for each (or maybe I was the one in a distant second place, I get confused). I loved that the announcer, who is a friend of mine, a few months ago introduced me as Kiana's dad and pointed out she beat me as I got across to the finish line. I was equally happy that when he announced my second place, I'm not sure he used my name and just introduced me as Elaine's husband. I get a little too much of the coverage for whatever reason but unemployed single dad with brain cancer gets hot woman with engineering degree, anyone whose focused on the first part, you're misfocused. The Livestrong MC and award presenter was not. 

But we've hung out with other friends too and realized that the closest connections are the best but there's enough room for other friendships. There are foundations and structures but there are other things that aren't as critical to upholding a home but they make it better. 

I realize I can't give anyone advice on how to deal with death; I'm not good at it. But I hope that the way I keep dealing with my mortality has some adequacy of just staying in contact and doing what I love to do with people I care about has something. I hope continuing to say hi and I love you to them and checking on people as often as I can remember with this damaged memory is more meaningful than an eloquent speech at their funeral about them would be. I know it would be to me, just a simple hello here and there even if by text, I promise you I will hold more sacred than anything you say when I'm gone. Is that not true for everyone since well... we'll hear it? 

I've been listening to the song quoted at the beginning and that this blog entry derives it's entry from. It's the sentiment that is getting me to prepare for ultra race by doing my long runs next to my wife. It's also a Spartan so it may be literal when I'm starving and bruised under barbed wire:
I'd go hungry; I'd go black and blue
And I'd go crawling down the avenue
No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love
That's how I show my wife and I hope if your my friend that there's some way I've shown it to you that is adequate. If I haven't feel free to guide me. And if there's one thing you take away from all this rambling it's go pick your people in a way that is meaningful in life that makes them feel your love. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Consultin' With The Rain

There was a path I found on my first birthday after brain surgery due to an email that went out to my running group. It was simply an invitation to Austin's first ever brain cancer research race, the Brain Power 5k. I would go on to win it and be the top fundraiser for it. Somewhere that said to me that it was not yet time to hang up the shoes.

It would be the race that was home. On the 2nd year, I would meet the guy who to this day is my neuro oncologist. It was also my mom's first 5k and in an era where it had yet occur to me to race with my daughter in a stroller, she was the one pushing her as she walked it. On that 2nd year my spatial orientation issues became clear as well, I got lost. 

On the 3rd year, I would come back to win it a second time but also continued to build a team, a team I named the Scarecrows, a playful nod to my wish of if I only had a brain. Some of the people on that team have stayed friends 'till now but on the 3rd one there was a girl I met at the pool team after party (she'd officially been part of my team but it was because of a mutual friend). She naively smiled questioned whether or not to believe my story that my skin was so smooth because of the salt water in my friend's pool and when she went to test my skin, she ended up testing the waters. I suppose it worked out because two years later we'd be going on our first date and five years later, we'd be returning from our honeymoon in time to not miss it. This was the 8th year of it and I am one the few, if not the only person who has been there for all of them. Elaine has not missed one since she moved to Austin. Our engagement was at a start line but it only felt right that the honeymoon end at a race finish line and I'm not sure what race would have worked better than this one. 

International travel is at best shaky with time change so coming back from Greece ended up having issues with our flight literally redirected to San Antonio at midnight instead of Austin at 10. You know you have good friends when they come get you and you get home at 2 am. That we aren't afraid of commitment or jet lag was reaffirmed when we got up at 6 am to go get this race done. We had great weather on our honeymoon but when we arrived back in Austin it would be pouring. 

Having named my team the scarecrows it is a ritual to listen to "If I only had a brain" when I do this race and somehow, it was the first time I'd ever noticed the lyrics nearing the opening that I'd be 'consultin with the rain.' In 8 iterations, the first 7 were reasonable 5k weather if not downright great. On season 8, it was pouring and wet and a soaked ground. The parking lot was full but very few people were out and about delaying getting out of their cars as long as reasonable. Elaine and I headed out there and I love that girl, she's not a fair weather girl in any form. 

When it was game time, our teammates got together and talked and encouraged each other. I had a goal of breaking 18 minutes after the trip but that was a secondary goal to being there, being present. It's an out and back and at the turn around it was good it was raining because it was a fair question what exactly was causing the moisture on my face was it rain, sweat or something else. Because there on the way back I would see teammates who had been part of most of these, all of these since we met, people who I had met because of this. Like the scarecrow of old, I'd realized the path and the journey were better shared. With about a half mile to go, the sadness turned into the intensity of a kick and a strong finish. But the angry look was because I recognized too many of the signs. If they had just been the "In Honor of" that would be maddening enough because for a disease that's supposed to be rare there were just too many. The In Memory caused the bigger frustration because I wish there were none but when I saw those the people I remembered were two from last year. One was the person I had pushed, a brain tumor survivor who would not make it to this year's race or her daughter's graduation. The other was someone else who had been in a stroller because they were too young and unable to walk and died before making age 3. She was my old boss's daughter. There were others of both signs but those were the two that came to mind as I closed and I closed with conviction. I hadn't won the race in 5 years but I won it in the fastest time I've ever hit on that course. 

I immediately starting cheering my teammates in. We would have people get back to racing for the first time in too long, the winners of the women's 5k, men and women's 10k, masters were all personal friends of mine, multiple age group winners, and people who were just there to show support by sometimes the only thing you can do, being there with one foot in front of the other. Elaine would get her fastest 5k by 8 seconds, taking 2nd overall woman and of course 8th over all. I love that girl and everyone else I knew and each person crossing the line helped the guy with memory problems remember that we don't run for some theoretical cause or someday where a disease doesn't exist but we run with and for each other, in this case no matter what the weather, no matter what the conditions. 

Unless it comes later today, the cure for brain cancer is too far away but I hope we got 5k closer that day. For just a little while on the drive home, I thought the same thing I had thoughts seven years before that maybe this was the time to hang up the shoes, to go out on top. But I know that's not coming because we're not there yet. While it's not true of all races, each one of the brain power 5k the start and the finish line has been the same whether it was a loop or an out and back. It was the start of my daughter's first road 10k, the start of my journey back, the start of a friendship that would become my marriage and I hope a continuous start to where this race eventually goes away because we have figured out how to get rid of brain tumors. Yes some of those finish lines had wins and trophies but it turns out it was just a way to keep going. Elaine and I created a photo album from the wedding pictures, a simple 8 by 8, no captions or cleverness, just moments. It starts with the proposal at a start line and finishes with the pictures in this blog. It's how the honeymoon finished but it's how marriage began. We'll keep the love going at home and  until the day where those tumors are irrelevant, could we start again please?