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? 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Happy Philospher

By all meansmarry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher. -Socrates

Where does a couple who meets training for a marathon and who bonds so much doing Spartans together go to honeymoon? Greece of course. I've been thinking about Socrates quote as a guy who blogs philosophically on occasion and wondering if I'll blog less now that I'm married as well almost a full month into it, I am happily married. That will play over time and perhaps that quote says more about Socrates or his wife than it does about marriage but this blog is less about philosophy but it says it's how I hope and hope with life changes and marriage is by far the biggest hoping and coping life change I've chosen in the last several years. 

I can't say that this blog will be gigantically revealing but it's always been my intention to write here what I intend to read when my time comes and how could I not try to remember some things about my honeymoon (which by the way in my odd life was covered by Runner's World; we didn't even have a videographer but they decided to compensate for us). What did I learn or have reaffirmed on our honeymoon? We travel well together. It was a trip where we spent every waking moment and most sleeping ones together (I sleep less than most people including her) and we bonded well over food and drink and adventures. We take the roads less traveled where we're trying to find the paths of the locals and sometimes the things that are big to everyone else match (we loved the Acropolis) but we climbed up to it and around it in places where everyone was and others were we were the only ones. We watched sunsets and while we both have self consciousness about healthiness we managed to make sure to get alcohol and dessert in every single day. I definitely lost some weight for the wedding and got well on my way to finding it. We take history in stride and I thought of Greece that I know from the days of the ancient gods that we still have named so many things after but now has a Christian Cross on its flag and entire version of it called the Greek Orthodox Church. I took Greek in college and it turned out a fair bit of it is still in this brain with a hole and a scar. Elaine was impressed. Our first run on the honeymoon was on the original marathon course and of course we stopped to take a picture at kilometer 8. We ran it side by side and a friend from Greece was a little behind us. 

Out favorite place was in the middle, Meteora. It was a place where we were staying was away from most of the tourists and where we got more of Greek culture, at least country culture than anyone else. We found trails there that we were literally the only ones. We had formal hiking tours and an outdoor climbing one but there were ones where it was just us. There were places where I would have hiked and climbed on my own literally risking life and limb but my wife was nearby and somehow, the brain cancer patient whose never been too worried about death in any form since it comes to us all, passed those up so that she didn't have to watch and so I could live a little longer by her side. There were monasteries and we tried to go to two, each on a separate day but on the first one, they wouldn't let me in due to shorts that were too short (they didn't cover my knee caps) that was a nunnery and I couldn't help but be amused and joke that yeah these knees would have made them rethink those chastity vows. The wine later that night with Elaine made me glad she hadn't taken them (hey if that offends you, well, you might want to get educated on part of what honeymoons are about). On both the first and the second one we were shocked that there were nearby trails with gorgeous views of both the mountains and the monasteries themselves that literally no one was on. Standing up there or in Athens made it fairly easy to imagine to me how they would feel that God or the gods lived up there and they'd want to be close... Standing in line didn't match up but Elaine and I matched up in how we shared it, perceived it, hiked it and well... let me be clear no Greek Goddess has anything on my wife. 

We continued to Santorini where tourism was thick in a town that has 15 thousand people but 1.5 million visitors. We found off the beaten path trails and hikes where again we were the only ones or one of very few. On the areas where its crowded and everyone wants to catch what is a gorgeous scenery tour, it amuses me how people will post to look philosophical against the white buildings or the ocean and then they'll go back to looking on their phone for more time than they look at that to get the right filter or they'll get their company or stranger to take it again from this angle. Life, life is full of us projecting how we want to be perceived but social media in beautiful places has made that easier I suppose. I quipped about it on social media and we even posed trying to mock the idea but like a lot of my sarcastic jokes it was funny more to me than anyone else but Elaine laughed and if the people you love get you, I'll take that over anything. We had ridiculously good meals and wine there too. One of both of our favorite moments was that on a 10k walk at sunset there was a local guy who was sitting there with a girl and just as the sunset was about perfect he kneeled and proposed. She looked shocked and out of pure instinct I caught what was one of the top 5 pictures of my trip. After a few minutes, I walked up showed him the picture, got his email address and then walked away. Obviously the guy hadn't felt the need for an audience or a capture but he ended up appreciating it and send me a very thank you email. That picture will not be one I ever share anywhere because it's their moment but it was a picture in contrast from the 4 couples we had seen getting married in town. I wish them all well but somehow if I had to pick he's who I'd cheer for the loudest as the engagement cycle was starting just as our honeymoon was wrapping up. It's the circle of life and it moves us all. Marriage ultimately succeeds or fail in the private moments and I loved the way he started his. 

We reconnected on this trip realizing that we were on pace with each other on walks and runs (she walks faster than I do, I run faster but every once in a while we do it side by side). We realized we're both more mountain people than beach people but could enjoy either. Her taste in food is great even if she doesn't like sweets as much as I do and her taste in wine is improving. Her taste in this man is questionable but too late too change easily and I trust she won't. But you know what, I said to the groomsmen before the wedding was some memories with them from winning a tournament to a trip that I'd gone with one of them to qualifying for Boston while they cheered, at many moments in my life, I thought this is going to be the coolest moment of my life. I was wrong, those have all been surpassed. The wedding was the coolest party of my life... so far. And this honeymoon has been the best trip and private party of my life... so far. But on both, I choose to believe and believe to choose that both are still going to get better. The best days are still coming. We bought absolutely nothing back of permanence, no permanent souvenirs  we had each other. 

One of the conversations we talked about was about how I thought marriage wasn't in my future; that's well known. What's less well known is Elaine also for some reason thought she'd never marry. A couple of the wedding guests who came were glad to see her abandon that train of thought because they said marriage was the highest expression of love. It's the right idea but I think the highest expression of love is the fulfillment not the keeping of the vows. That played through my head I ran the last morning at 4 am there and the moon had just a tiny sliver of night against a black sky with lots of stars. I'd point the moon out to my honey as we were headed to the airport thinking about Plato's old remark: We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light. The grey matter in my brain was a huge reason why I was afraid of the dark and I still have no idea how it will go but the happiness that comes from being married is a huge light in my life and in Greece I was reminded that I'm no longer living by fear. And the way I'm enjoying that light is nowhere near platonic ;).

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Morning Papers

If he poured his heart into a glass And offered it like wine
She could drink and be back in time for the morning papers
They could take a walk down the ocean side Make a wish on every wave
They could find a carousel And ride or kiss in every cave
They could contemplate the entire universe
Or just one star
Or just how far was the walk for the morning papers

There was a pre-wedding playlist that until the wedding day I didn't share with anyone and the entirety of it will never be shared with anyone other than the person I married later that day. But the songs varied from songs that were meaningful in our story, songs that were meaningful in my story. They were mostly romantic songs but not entirely as some were fun like The Final Countdown. The song In Late August showed how much I feared the weather our wedding might have too much heat in the wrong direction (it ended up being reasonable so we saved some of the heat for after we ran out of there and got to the hotel room). There was even a couple of hymns in there. I'm not a guy who prays much in the actual meaning of the word which is to request something but there were a couple of hymns in there because if nothing else I want to express thanks because I'm not quite sure how so many blessings flow my way. 

But the very last song added was one that I had no personal connection and came on just shuffle, it's the one quoted as I start these thoughts, Prince's The Morning Papers. Like too many romantic songs around wedding time it made me sappy but reflective. I was marrying a girl who was romantic but practical. Our wedding registry we wondered who would if anyone buy us certain gifts because well they were and I quote 'boring' but even the elaborate start line from the wedding wasn't kept (it was recycled for a classroom) because we're practical people. This is the girl who I've been to multiple countries with and tomorrow we head to Greece (because if you meet a girl training for a marathon and propose at a Spartan and neither of you has ever there, where else would you go for a honeymoon... and while we're on train of thought another song on the playlist was honey and the moon). But despite being to all those countries, we don't have much physical stuff to show for it, mostly a heart and a faulty brain full of memories. We've had philosophical conversations and practical obnoxious ones, big picture and little details.

But less than a handful of people had the courage to bring up to me how the brain cancer diagnosis relates to us in all this. Well, anyone who thinks we didn't have a conversation about it is naive at best but we're not. Before we were ever boyfriend and girlfriend, I heard her talk about someone in her family with health problems and recognized a maturity about it. She heard me talk about mine in a public speech at Livestrong in which the theme was 'my first time' and I talked about how bad my first kiss went but that while the second one wasn't much better, I was more teachable. I tried to share some ideas about how sometimes life, things like cancer gives you second chances at life and that can be more valuable if you're more teachable. But I ended with a joke that the real reason I was here was if they knew any girls who were into guys that were bad kissers to give them my number. Not long after that, she asked me out... I'm just saying. 

But we've talked about it. I updated my will to include her in it (Kiana's still the primary beneficiary instead of the sole one but there's no way I'm marrying someone and not sharing somethings in both life and death). But she also got fully informed of things like that I have a do not resuscitate clause, how I have a clause that I won't be seeking any more treatment again and that those who have power of attorney, which now includes her, can't over ride those. If the time comes to die, it comes. A friend in the legal profession has and is encouraging me to change those now that I'm married but my wife knows that's not going to be the story and at least conceptually she agreed with it or else well... I wouldn't have asked her to be my wife. It's that concept why we can talk about the breadth of the universe or how far the walk is to the morning papers.

The fact that I liked that song may have demonstrated my age but oddly enough a little over a week after the wedding, a picture and an article came out in the local paper. I've come out in many papers for race wins etc but this is one of my biggest wins and it was the biggest picture there's ever been with me picking up a really hot girl in a wedding dress (take hot whichever way you want but I gotta tell you if hang out with me and we'll have an awesome where I'll literally pick you up... if that's not a good pick up line, I don't know what is). The article was by someone whose written about me more than once on the day she took the buyout from the Statesman. By that change it became that without exception all of the reporters who I've stayed in regular contact with from the Beaumont win are no longer at their jobs; change continues to be life's constant. 

Why is age more than a number when it comes to love?
Should we ask the ones who speculate
When they don't know what it's made of?
Should we ask the moonlight on your face
Or the raindrops in your hair
Or should we ask the man who wrote it there in the morning papers?

Many people, mostly older but a few closer to my age and one close to Elaine's age reached out to me to let me know they'd seen it or they sent me screen captures etc. There was actually a preview of it on the front page, that huge picture on the front of the lifestyle section and the article finished on the very back of the paper. It seemed fitting that marriage would be from front to back with a huge section on lifestyle. But if anyone else noticed it, they didn't mention that on that same front page, there was talk of Sen McCain's death. When he passed, a few people asked me about it. The truth is that like any public figure, I could only gleam from what was reported about him but I admired him way back when and till his death and no matter what he passed away from I think it would have been a loss to our government. But he died from a higher grade of the same cancer I have... For something that's supposed to be so rare, 7 per 100K people, I don't quite know how to grasp that we've had 2 Senators in a body of 100 pass from it in less than a decade... I've met many people in the events that I am a part of the cause so that seems a little more 'logical' but there are other random things. Another ARC board member got it in the 4 years I've been there as President, my old boss's child got it and passed away from it since I've gotten it. The privilege of survivorship is never lost on me. It's one of the reasons there is a Livestrong bracelet on me and reminders of hope are visible in almost all areas of the house. 

I don't know why I'm still alive. I made no mention of my cancer in the wedding ceremony but I said to the groomsman as I thanked them for the many positive and negative things that they'd been there for in over a decade that I was shocked to be here not just getting married but alive. But my fiancee, now wife, knew the importance of it because we revolved that honeymoon around getting back to the Brainpower 5k, the only race that I've done every year of its existence. It's its 8th year and assuming all international travel goes well, I'll be getting in really late the night before to run it on next to no sleep. She's actually never missed it since she started doing it and on her first one at a party afterwards is my first memory of her, when I threw her in a pool. The Scarecrows will be out there again so if you want to donate or join... here's the place. It's not too late and if you want I can make sure you get thrown in a pool though it's too late for it to turn into marriage, at least to me or Elaine anyway. Brain cancer and good times don't have to be mutually exclusive.

But speaking of pool, several people have noticed, I've lost weight. Since this blog is full of inadequate confessions, I wasn't on a diet but I did step up my running and eat less quantities as my birthday and wedding were coming up so that I could look good in my wedding and birthday suit. We didn't go our honeymoon right away which frankly getting thank you cards and clean up done may be more fun than immediately traveling and coming back to all that but the main reason was to get Kiana situated right as she started Jr. High. We also purposely revolved it so that due to the new custody schedule I only have to miss two days while I'm gone for 10. The only thing that I'll think about or miss is something that I didn't know the schedule until she joined less than 48 hours ago which Kiana's first cross country meet but Ms. Independent will be fine for that and you better believe I'll make the rest. We had mariachi at the wedding but we changed while they were on and left before they were done so we went and caught some at a hillside theater last weekend but before that we went swimming in cold Barton Springs cause this Texas heat is not relenting (Greece is going to be so tough to bear the cooler temperature, just kidding. We were swimming there and I wondered what the water would be like in Santorini and remembering that the ancient Olympics were done in the nude but then again that's probably not the way I want to be in any papers even if Europeans are more liberal). But as I sat there and swam with my wife and my daughter and thought about Senator McCain and our return to the Brainpower 5k, all I could do to cope and hope with the privilege and guilt of still being alive was remember the joke I usually close speeches with “I still have brain cancer which has a 10 year survival rate of 12% so statistically speaking I’m not supposed to make 40. But when I think of that I remember what an old college profesor used to say ‘statistics are like bikinis: what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital.’ But I’m going to keep running hoping to defy statistics plus I want to look good in a bikini."