Thursday, July 2, 2020

When Funerals Get Sadder


Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't go to yours.
-Yogi Berra

I think I've made this confession before on here but I don't remember since I don't go back and read these entries but I generally skip funerals. The cancer world has way too many people pass in general and the brain cancer one in specific has plenty of its own. It is an odd thing, in my personal experience of the last few months that while there is a pandemic going on, the cancer world has shifted. Many friends are having to delay treatment, others are far more homebound than typical (a common thing in the cancer world during treatment or always because of damaged immune systems). However, in my own take on it, I haven't been going to visit anyone at hospices because I've stayed away from high risks individual in the event that I am a symptomatic carrier (I've stayed fairly shut in overall but while I'm not afraid of getting it, I do not want to share it period but certainly not with high risks individuals). 

But now has come the age of zoom everything. Zoom dates, zoom meetings, zoom poker games, zoom happy hours but the latest one for my universe was a zoom funeral. Well, not the funeral exactly, that was still held properly though with just very immediate family. It was the memorial service but because they recognized that zoom calls can be overcrowded while anyone could be there for any part of it, they split them up into sections of life, work, high school, college, and my group, the brain cancer crowd. I caught a bit of some of the one before me but surely mine had to be the toughest one for the family to watch or to be part of because it's a reminder for them of those of us who are alive longer that odds are weird. He got exactly to the median age of the disease. It's also a reminder to those of us who met him that way of our own disease and luck and well, survivor's guilt. That can't have been the best hour of this call, how could it not be the worst?

The truth is like most funerals I would have skipped this one but it would have been fairly obvious and 'ruder' than usual. I am the guy who wants to be cremated and flushed down the toilet. I'm the guy who went on a good bye tour before brain surgery telling people that the guy coming out may not be the same one going in but this one loved them. The guy who came out, me, still does. 

I don't know what to say. I get paid, or used to anyway, to give public speeches but everything I'd want to say, I'd want to say to the deceased before not after death. Which is why I go to hospices and appointments with people but not funerals. The thoughts and prayers we send are good parts of the human spirit but I try to be consoling with presence or perhaps just presence. There was a preacher in the old days that when someone goes through your head you should pray for them, that was God prompting you they needed help. I have no criticism for that then nor now (I did it then) but now when someone goes through my mind, I reach out to them. Perhaps as I saw narrations of life in my friends page was the prompt but I've called friends from Nebraska, California and childhood recently. I've worked harder on staying in contact with my family lately too, including relationships I'd never worked on and working harder on others and still on others making some decisions that are overdue since well tomorrow is not promised. I've not attended anywhere near the percentage of funerals I've been invited to and out of all the ones I've ever been to, despite multiple offers to do so, I've spoken at exactly one friend's funeral. It was the first time I was asked and I've never done it again since then. I've just made it a happy to let the people who I love know that I have and I will long before then and other jokes and stories. 

I've gotten almost zero races of my own this year that were real anyway. But phone calls and zoom calls are real ways to connect and so that's where I'll keep working on the relationships I want to keep. 

If you're reading this, when my time comes to die, don't worry about my funeral. I mean why come to mine, I'm obviously not going to yours. But if you're reading this and we haven't talked in a while, reach out and say hi on zoom or text or email or old fashion mail. I will try to do it with anyone else that I don't want to say things about them at their funeral whether it be decades from now due to old age or weeks from now due to corona or far too close due to unforeseen circumstances. Let my funeral not happen or be the loneliest one ever but if we're friends let's not let our life be.  If I have to do post death or death on my own, oh well. Let's share life. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Drink of Choice

Back when this brain cancer journey started, literally a day or two after the biopsy, I was getting checked out of the hospital when the medical assistant/nurse was giving me the laundry list of medical restrictions. There was this medication that I couldn't take because it wouldn't interact with the antiseizure one I'd be on for a while, this other one that I couldn't take till I got off the steroids in a few days. I could no longer play soccer or scuba dive because impact to the brain could cause more issues etc etc. Then there was the food and diet which for the most part was temporary as the digestive system might me more reactive from the anesthesia. As the list went on, me, a guy who had never called in sick in his life and defined himself as an athlete, who is a leader or a control freak depending on how you see it, felt more and more trapped by a tumor that he still didn't even know what it was. Then they said, you can't have caffeine, you can't have alcohol and in the frustration and the humor coping mechanism, "I said what about rum and coke, don't they cancel each other out?!" The poor nurse looked up and stunned, confused and not getting that I was joking said, no no they don't cancel each other out. I told her I was just joking.

When the biopsy results came in the doctor actually clarified that it was okay on occasion but that if I was like a bottle of wine or a couple of beers guy or a regular coffee drinker, I was going to have to give that up. Those weren't true but for the better part of a decade now, on special occasions I'd order a rum and coke just to give a, how do you say it politely, fuck you to the medical restriction to my brain cancer, to show that somehow I was still strong and independent and brain cancer wasn't going to tell this guy what to do!

It became such a running theme (no pun intended) that at a cancer event with First Descents when we all had to go by self given nicknames (the only self imposed moniker of my life) I went by Rum and coke, something a few people still call me, others R&C for short. It became such a part of my identity that it was my signature drink for my wedding less than two years ago.

It was not until less than a week ago that I realized I'd gotten it wrong. When I got my MRI results last Tuesday I went home and drank a Mexican coke with Kiana (everything is better with a little Mexican in it). I was intending to have another later in the night with rum mixed in but somewhere it hit me that I'd gotten it all wrong. While the story of me putting off brain surgery to run a marathon has been told a lot due to the marathon stroller win two years later, I was determined to not let cancer control me. I also finished my last soccer league then (we won it) and what I thought would be my last ultimate tournament (we won it). Cancer would wait for me and since then I have not stopped for death--though if Dickinson is write there will come a day where it will kindly stop for me.

But during this quarantine, the drinking at my house has been higher than usual. You're welcome to judge me but there's been plenty of times where I've thought that at my home, we could have called Covid-19 the wine flu, I mean that's the bare naked truth. There's also been liquor but it has all been whiskey, bourbon and tequila (sometimes with company, sometimes dancing alone). The bottle of rum has gone untouched, waiting till MRI results I suppose. It was while getting it done on MRI day that I realized this was a place where I'd let cancer control me. It was a small, insignificant thing but it had done it for almost a decade that my drink of choice had been one I'd never liked. I didn't dislike it but it was just a reaction, a joke that became life. So I put the rum back and grabbed some barefoot bubbly, realizing for a guy who hates his feet that there are times you pour some champagne and you take your socks off and celebrate that in your way, not a reactionary way. My cancer wasn't cured, my tumor was probably stable (see previous post) but my celebration was my own. There was almost nothing negative about that day and leaving a reactionary joking drink of choice was a highlight.

I'm not some wise owl; I'm a running lion. These are polarizing times about some gigantic things, some of which should be fairly obvious like hey let's not be racist. I've been pulled over 6 times in my life for running while Mexican (twice in high school, twice in college and twice in Austin-one of those while working for law enforcement and the other while President of the Austin Runners Club). Three of those times I was put in the back of a police car and got no explanation until I was there. I also spent 8.5 years working with 'juvenile delinquents' and being on the other side of law enforcement, most of them working with kids with mental health issues and know that both the breakers of the law and the enforcers of the law have complicated issues to deal with and the solution is not as simple as let's get rid of all the police. I've been asked recently to be part of two non profit boards to better represent minorities (a Mexican guy with Arabic name could tell you some stories) and I'm considering it, trying to figure out how to be part of the solution but again I'm not sure I'm smart enough for that.

With cancer, I made a decision that I didn't even realize was a small win for cancer changing me instead of me fighting back for almost a decade. I also have let it affect relationships from the many years of the George Clooney approach where I was protecting them, perhaps not entirely acknowledging my own scars from being left in the middle of brain cancer. I'll try to do my best to not let negative things in my path or in society carve out my reactions just to say fuck you to them. The rum and coke was relatively harmless other than reliving one small moment after a biopsy instead of living past it. The George Clooney thing harmed some emotional capacity for me and people who me and them could have been better for.

So to those who have read this thus far, remind me to choose life period each chance I get, to share it. To focus on the solution, yes, of course protest the problems in our lives, the harmers, keep track of it, hope to God that we do a whole lot better than just keeping them stable. And when we do and get to share life's goodness and not just the necessary evil of bemoaning and fighting it's problems, let's have a celebratory drink during the little victories. And just to be a good sport and enjoy the connections, let's say cheers while we make eye contact and  I'll likely have whatever you're having even if it's rum and coke.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

No Record of Wrongs

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, love keeps no record of wrongs. 
     -1st Corinthians 13

I just got through the longest time ever between brain cancer appointments. It was one year to the day between the MRI results of last year (June 8th) to this year's MRI. And what a year it has been. Kiana had her own annual check up delayed by 1 month but had grown 4 inches in 13 months. Oddly enough that development apparently changed her eyes to where her vision prescription also had to change. And the hormones have changed her enough to where she's decided she needs an edgier haircut. My household has all but officially grown by one adult girl since quarantine started. Being surrounded by 3 females has gotten it to be where in card games I had to accept that when you have an undefeatable hand, it's no longer I've got the nuts but I've got the ov's...

It was over 2 years (OVER 2 YEARS!) when this all started 9.5 years ago that I got to go a whole month without an appointment and now I hadn't seen any doctor or technician in regards to brain cancer in 12 months. I couldn't/can't decide if it's been an odd dream the last 9.5 years or an odd fantasy the last one. 

But it isn't just my world that had changed. The world itself is an odd place right now. We are dealing with a global pandemic with some people saying that the danger is a disease and others that believe it's just a way the right groups have finally figured out how to control and track us all (that was a while back and required no coercion... see cell phones and social media for example this blog). There are horrible examples of the systemic racism that has prevailed in the world and in this country for far too long seen in slavery, civil rights and far less than civil behavior from personal and official entities for too long. There were people reacting on the other side that you have to shout your agreement with them or you yourself are part of the evil with catchy statements like 'silence is violence.' 

In that world is where I had to go get tested for an MRI. The nightmares I had over the last few dreams (some of dying, some of watching a murder) made it seem like my mind itself couldn't tell which one seemed to emphasize to itself as a focal point. 

But the medical world itself was different. The place where I have gone to get MRI's for that entire time is owned by a large imaging company and the one I go to is not one that they have reopened yet so I had to go a new place. I joked that I now had to get a new makeup artist with a new photographer and a new camera but I hoped they got my good side, the humor coping mechanism ever prevalent. But it was more jarring than I realized. For starters, it was perhaps kardma that the guy who had refused company to medical appointments for so long was no longer allowed to bring anyone to minimize exposure. 

I had to get properly screen before letting go in the machine but it was a new place where I didn't know anyone. I am a guy who pretends to be bulletproof (they went in with a knife!) but realized I missed the front desk person, the hallway, the technician, the nurse. I was nervous enough to where I locked the key in the locker that keeps my stuff. I forgot to put on those dorky socks and was trying to go into the MRI section with my sandals (they made me change). I had to re-explain that I was deathly afraid of needles despite having been stabbed with them so many times while they were doing bloodwork (that technician said I should keep coming back here cause he doesn't get enough people with veins as nice as mine; so many people just want me for my body). Why was this room not as cold as the one I usually go to, I guess I won't ask for a blanket. There's this new machine I have to step in front of now before I go into the MRI, why never before? The machine looks different or do I just not remember right? This sounds different, the dye feels colder, this seems shorter than usual no? I often fall asleep during MRI's but didn't during this one, maybe cause there was no blanket but I was genuinely nervous. It was more disconcerting than 'normal' whenever it was that I had accepted brain MRI's as normal. 

I was as cranky (crankier?) than usual perhaps worrying everyone in the family would be better off without me  between testing and results. Still, the morning of the test I ran, the evening of the test we all played volleyball in the summer heat. The morning of the results I got up and ran a miserably hot several miles with Kiana till we decided to walk the last bit in because it was just not reasonable to run in this. Then the results themselves were in a new place, my doctor had changed location going from Austin Cancer Center to Texas Oncology so it was a new location, new staff there, socially distant waiting room where I was quite literally waiting alone. 

The medical assistant was very friendly and seemed to really know who I was and I was impressed with how thoroughly she knew my chart. It was not until she let me know that she had come over with the doctor that I realized we'd met before. The doctor came in and said that the images looked stable. There was a little bit of concern around the edges but that may have to do with that it was a new machine and the calibration may have been different. It was a newer machine period which is why it was shorter and it was a different dye. Yes that piece of equipment was actually new to the world not just that place. He did some of the memory tests, ask about my symptoms, about my family, about my running, told me about how his family has handled quarantine, his running. He showed genuine sympathy that during these masked times, with my facial recognition, must be ever harder because he's struggling recognizing some people with the masks they're wearing and he doesn't have that part of his brain damage. It reminded me of a recent roasting I received on my way out as ARC president where people from different runs of life commented on positive memories of me. They all messed with me in different ways but the biggest compliment one was one about how I really do care more about collective wins as a unit than I do about personal one (referencing puzzle rooms where I don't solve puzzles but I get people to work together well, I am at 100% success rate when I put together the team and only 1 miss when I don't... perhaps I'll go back and try it again with a crew). Another was a reference to someone who enjoyed working with me despite them having to meet me 4 or 5 times before I remembered. They almost all took digs at my ego, the driver and disrupter of why I do good and bad things in my life. 

Still when it was all said and done, he made the next appointment for 6 months from now. Exactly once have I gotten to go a whole year without cancer appointments but due to the unclear edges or clearer edges on the MRI, he wants me to watch out for certain things and for us to talk in 6 months as I pay attention to certain details of my symptoms. I should notice and if I don't, we won't need to do an MRI, just a conversation but if I do notice we may need new imaging. So it will be at least 2 years from now before I get a full year without an appointment again which is disappointing. But in the scheme of things, I am 2 months minus a day from the birthday I statistically wasn't supposed to hit, my 40th. I have no plans for it, who knows what the world will look like then but I promise you I'll be glad to be alive. 

I came home to hugs, nap and woke up for lawn games and Mexican coke. It's usually my tradition to drink rum and coke after a good MRI since when this all started and they gave me a list of medical restrictions, alcohol and caffeine were among them and I joked that if I had those two they would cancel each other out. But perhaps, I'll have a good wine tonight since I already had the caffeine and change it up. 

This blog's post and the quote up top is Bible truth. Shy of the doctor, every part of this medical cycle for me was a place with no memories. No associations of that this is where I had to go after the seizure, that this is where they had to do this test because of the incident. It was a place where I had to give them permission to request my old medical records because no one there had any record of my wrongs. While it was somewhat disconcerting, I loved the aspect of that to them I was a new patient, a new man that they had to look up, not remember what was wrong with me. They were kind towards this patient.  They were calm, humble, kind, and came across as selfless while serving in both building both of which had active covid-19 testing (one in person, one drive in). 

I don't know what's next... this is the most open my life has been in quite a while. Tonight I'm having wine with the adult girls of my house to celebrate. But I think love has been there for quite a while and it will continue to and I hope it continues to keep no record of wrongs. 














Saturday, May 30, 2020

Nose to The Grindstone

"Keep in mind that a man's just as good as his word, 
It takes twice as long to build bridges you've burnt
And there's hurt you can cause time alone cannot heal, 
Keep your nose on the grindstone and out of the pills"

The world, or at least the part I inhabit in Austin and Texas is opening back up. Whether or not you agree with that may reflect your politics or your risk approach or your financial realities. I am balancing it as best as I can, only having gone out to eat once to support a friend's restaurant. The main business that opened up to my house's pleasure was salon's reopening where really I looked homeless while having been homebound but you know somewhere someone had the fantasy that I looked like wolverine. Someone corrected that might have been true about the hair but that the body looks more like Captain America... before he beefed up. 

School officially ended two days ago. We actually kept a pretty strict schedule here with the same block schedule that Kiana kept at school as opposed to the suggested 3 hours a day schedule. Kiana on more than one occasion complained about how no one else was doing that. I told he to pick a better father next life cycle. It/I was bad enough that on the second to last day I actually gave her the standardized math test with the same parameters that they have at school. She missed two and would have been in the 98th percentile in a high school level class she's taking in 7th grade.  I have a friend who has 3 elementary kids and his wife is still going to work as opposed out current family household where there have been 3 adults for 1 jr high and told him my ratio was much better. I shared that comment with Kiana who pointed out that she self taught with online video 4 of the 8 classes so she had 4 teachers. The subjects that are probably too tough for this brain damaged guy, Algebra and Science, were taught by the adult girls of the family. I am not sure I could have done it all and certainly not as well with apparently math having now changed and for some reason 7 grade math ending with sexual education at length which you know every macho father wants to get into details with his adolescent daughter but I gave up the opportunity. But just to make it clear, I'm not completely a hard ass on the last day we played games and had a splash fest with all of her home school teachers. Not saying that I'm competitive at all but I won ;). We actually have been playings tons of board and lawn games with a family of 4 and have been keeping a cumulative scoreboard. Kiana and I have decided that one of the games we will not partner up with other people again is Uker, uker for life bro or is it bra or brah. Can't keep up with the kids these days


But keeping up is actually something I've been trying to do is keep up with exercise. I was made fun of but it's probably true that PE was the class I put some of the most effort into. Box jumps, jump ropes, tire flips, running, sandbags, agility, body weight. Everyone in the family is a better cook than me and they've taken the extra time to make tons of good meals. There's a Columbian, a Chinese and a half Mexican kid who cook up storms.  Some of it has even been from a homegrown garden started by Jackie and Kiana in science class. If you're wondering how I'm pudgy despite all my running and exercise, it's because of this. I have not lost or gained any significant weight during all this and I think it's because of that... balance. 

All 3 adults of the household have lost their 'jobs' during all this. That is only in quotation because my source of income for a while of officiating and speaking etc at events well all the events were cancelled as late as September and there are none on the calendar. Jackie lost one and got one that will start later on relatively quickly. Elaine got laid off last week and is updating and sending out her resume. I've got some contract stuff that may happen in July and August. I've never been a paycheck to paycheck person so there will be some stretching of the savings for a while but the stress is primarily mental right now. I have joked that corona may end up being more expensive than cancer and I haven't even gotten it. In one of those murphy's laws we were right smack in the middle of a 4 day job of converting an outdoor room into an office with a bathroom when the layoff happened... if I'd only known a week earlier. Still I remember what my grandfather always said, 'if it's about money, don't worry about it, we don't have any.' 

Still, even when I was broke during cancer, I'd sign up for cheap local races once a month, that was my 'luxury item' and going out to eat once at a local sandwich place was Kiana's. Corona cancelled some trips and this is cancelling others and the little luxuries like keeping wine and Mexican coke around, a lesson learned from growing up poor and that I hope at some level gets instilled into Kiana that when you have no income, you spend less money. The adage I live by is spend less money than you make and while during times like these that's impossible, the spirit has to ring as true as it can. But these days there aren't even races! 

In the last few years as things rebounded right before MRI's, I'd do tons of races right before. Running hard always being one of my 3 main coping mechanisms, the one most socially acceptable one. Humor is the 2nd but that doesn't land with everyone and that sex drugs and rock n roll one ;). The races have been virtual during this time and if you're wondering how much I've applied that I've done a dozen or so in May including a marathon two weeks ago and 5 this week. The latest one was a 17:52 5k this morning. Most of them have been with my friend Chris, the guy I ran with the most before this. He goes back to the group he's part of next week so it won't be an almost daily thing but it's been a good ride. One of those was my family joining and crewing him for the only trail marathon I've ever done. Why they call them virtual, I really don't know as on that and a couple of others I've gotten lost and gone longer.

Still, my MRI is a little over a week away. As is my custom, I do my best to make the test or the results on the 8th and so it will be on June 8th with the results the next day. The test itself will be exactly 2 months before the birthday that statistically I'm not supposed to make. While the results will be in grey matter, I hope everything is stable enough that like Kiana's home school I pass with flying colors. The 10 year survival rate is 12% so I I'm almost at the B+ level? I'm not (too?) afraid of death but I have kept track of that cancer patients in general have a higher death rate when contracting and that in my case in specific because it does invade the brain and fevers put me at a high risk of a seizure that corona could be a factor. Nonetheless, this is why XX is my beer of choice or maybe I'm just not wild enough for XXX rated. 

I've seen people's social media during who have gotten this and passed in the last couple of months and others whose medical treatment got postponed, disrupted, interrupted through all this. My own appointment they've let me know that I need to come alone to the MRI. Originally it was not clear whether or not the results appointment was going to be virtual but I got notice a few days ago that it would be in person. I can't genuinely decide which way anyone, myself included, would feel more alone being told their cancer grew, in person with the doctor or virtually with family. 


Still, while I have watched more 'television' than usual, I've tried to keep my unemployed workaholic habits alive. That's not exactly true, I've probably watched in total less than I usually do but often it's sports as opposed to fiction, movies etc. I've listened to a song a few times, the one quoted at the beginning here which oddly enough I was supposed to be going to his concert that was supposed to happen back in March and then delayed to yesterday and then delayed to the fall and then cancelled outright because one of the artists in the concert got corona. 

But where I place my nose on the grindstone will have to shift. My 5 years as president of ARC ended two days ago. I think the new board is going to be great and I will both miss and be relieved to be relieved of duty. I intend to take the approach that W did to Obama which is just to be silent (of course I understand they had infinitely more important things on their agenda). Home school is done for the summer though we're going to keep working on Spanish, Math, PE and reading as those are more life skills than academic ones. 

I don't know what's coming, in an MRI, in finances, in the way the world opens back up, in how Kiana handles adolescence but I'm going to keep working on it as best as I can figure it out. I still remember what my grandfather says there too, "take it one day at a time, I get tired when I do two." Life was kind enough to give us a gorgeous sunset on the last day of school, the last day of my ARC presidency and I tried to remember an old quote that gorgeous sunsets need clouds. We took some pictures of it and absorbed some of it just our eyes noticing that like life, it doesn't take much time for it to change dramatically, some beauty, some contrast.  Invariably it all ends too whether it be with a bang or with a whimper but I hope like this blog that it expressed itself without filters, unaware and not veryconcerned with its observers. 

I love life, the good, the bad, the ugly. I prefer the simple practical stuff but in a few days I have to step into a machine that is the opposite of that to see whether cancer is growing. Whether or not that unhealthiness is, I go in believing that in the last year since the last one, in the months of quarantine and difficulty, beautiful things have grown and set and hoping, dreaming that those will continue. 



Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Apocalypse

I haven't blogged in almost 3 months. That's crazy for someone who used to do it that often every month and when this brain cancer journey started I wrote that often every week.

There are certainly things I should have written about perhaps. 10 years ago in February almost to the date I ran my first marathon. It was on Valentine's day and I was running it with Kiana's mother. I've often joked in my speeches that we didn't do a single training run together, didn't run it together and just high fived at the end, no wonder we broke up. The next year was the one where I put off brain surgery for and qualified for Boston. I would win some divisions there, skip it to run a 5k with Kiana and my parents, etc etc. But this year was my favorite. I guess it was supposed to be better than it turned out, or so I imagined it. I was doing the first half with my daughter Kiana on her last half of the Distance Challenge. Then I was going to speed up/wait for my wife and do the 2nd half with her. A decade apart but finally learning that maybe running with the people you care about even if slows you down has its own importance. I was going to retire there. My parents were in town and Jackie, a recent addition to our life, was going to run the first half with Elaine and then receive Kiana and get her to my parents who were doing the 5k.

That's only sort of how it went. The race itself due to issues far beyond my control or understanding was delayed 40 minutes but not announced till a few minutes before the race in small increments. So we were just literally standing there, all dressed down with nowhere to go. The water and food that we take prerace messed with the system as opposed to preparing it because what your body does with hydration and nutrition when you take it before movement is different than what it does when you take it before quite literally standing still. I took it in stride and tried to share that spirit but knew that it was inadequate to be too nice as I was not racing at my own speed and knew that it would be more frustrating if I was trying to gun it myself.

Kiana's race did not go so well. The humidity was high, she'd tried a new shirt and it was the first and only time she's ever had to have a long bathroom stop in the middle of a race. It was clear she was slowing down before she communicated this and she was pushed and in discouraged tones said, "I'm not as competitive as you" with some adolescent attitude and some resignation and some cracks in her voice because quite literally the day before she wanted to her faster race. I tried to encourage her to finish but it got so bad she actually saw a portapotty off the course. It was not long after that where we were scheduled to split ways. The day before she had seen me give one of those "motivational" speeches I get invited to do and see me get thanked and said with tears in her voice "Dad, say something motivational to me." I teared up and said to her "I've done this course so many times but this was by far my favorite" and we split up there to her finish with quite literally sweat and tears. She finished a few blocks after that crying to Jackie's arms saying that everything that could go wrong with that race did. Jackie said her spirits were down for a little while and then she was back to herself laughing. I thought that was right; a race that you train for and give effort to should not be something you shrug off immediately but it's also not something that us amateurs should be over emotional for too long.

I had to actually catch up for about a mile to get to Elaine. It was mostly a quiet 2nd half. The person she hoped to beat was ahead of her and she was reflecting on her own distance challenge on a hot humid run. She never really slowed down but she didn't speed up like she'd hoped. The season she had a series of strong races where she hoped to finish with a strong marathon but it wasn't that much different than the previous year which came with injuries. She appreciated the company (except when I did dumb things like chug a beer in the middle) and she appreciated the sidelines. The truth is I've never been cheered on with as much conviction as she was during that race including a tunnel of people who she had to run through to get up the last hill and she also finished with sweat and tears from that support. She rehydrated all that with something that had bit of an alcoholic bite.

I had to work the rest of the event so I was not able to be there as fully for Kiana, Jackie, my parents or Elaine were gone before I headed home several hours later but... I kept reflecting during the quiet moments if this wasn't more meaningful in its own ways. There were no articles about any wins and really most people in or out of our household had tough races that day, not PR's. A few days later we still all celebrated continuing to the finish at a fancy restaurant, Comedor, where we shared most dishes.

And the universe went on or did it? Because March kind of fell apart fast with the corona virus (maybe this is why I was always more a XX guy or straight up tequila guy). I had a cancer trip in Tahoe cancelled shortly after a trip to Napa Valley tossed. The chips, dominoes have kept falling with the race I was supposed to start last Sunday of 25k people cancelled due to this. This extrovert who sees tons of people every day is now isolated in his own home. Every way I make income is now gone for the indefinite future if not permanently. It's funny I've survived off small but meaningful gigs but was thinking it might be time to return somehow to a meaningful workforce. I had actually applied for a couple of gigs that were looking promising and now they are both gone as they are laying people off and if and when they are ready to get going again, that's who they will be turning to. Every race, trip, and event I had planned to be a part of, was a speaker at, was an organizer of and through August is now cancelled. Kiana's school is now closed indefinitely and while once upon a time I was valedictorian of a high school class and a suma cum laude graduate, I'm struggling to keep up with a 7th grader's curriculum (I have help in the hard stuff with Elaine teaching Math and Jackie teaching science).

This is strange for the world as it should be. But for better or worse, it feels strangely familiar to me. I once couldn't drive for 3 years and was not exactly home bound in the same way but with too much pride to ask for rides, I spent a lot of time at home. I lost my job due to brain cancer issues and well, what was the point of keeping a kid in day care. I had no forseeable income. I keep hearing people refer to it as 'the end of the world' or some other armageddon reference. I have no way to know how it's going to play out but I'm intrigued. It's genuinely likely going to cost me as much as brain cancer personally and the world likely more.

I've been thinking about it more as the apocalypse. I don't mean what the last book of the Bible is called in Spanish (apocalpsis) but I know Greek so I actually know the word. In English we translated it rather than transliterated it and called it Revelation. Technically it means the removal of a cover, the Uncovering. Brain cancer showed me once what was wrong with me, what I had that I didn't have and what I did have that I didn't. I'm not harping on some etymology that it shows who we really are no more than I think being drunk shows who you really are (it shows who you are when you don't have discipline but choosing discipline can be part of who you are). I've seen people who make jokes about how much more they like their kids or spouses or the opposite. I've seen way too much political commentary; I've seen the argument over health care and economy, about life and death, about
individualism and community. I have my opinions on all of that but this isn't the place for them. I don't know what's coming; I certainly don't want to promise or guarantee that will all end or that it will be better than it was before. The universe isn't quite that clean; this has killed thousands of people fast so for them and their loved ones, how could anyone say that? I've personally known 5 people who had this so far (they are all recovered or recovering) and someone whose grandfather passed away of this on the east coast.

What will be uncovered about me, about my household is still too early to tell. I can tell you that some of it needed work. I moved my couches for the first time in too long and uncovered dust on the ground that badly needed to be swept up. Starting a garden for the first time took some uncovering and leveling, very little of which I helped with. Some long neglected sports equipment is getting used more as somehow PE seems to be the class I'm putting in a lot of effort into preparing for. On the 1st day of it, I was dumb enough to try to do my workout while showing Kiana hers; now I do it all to her scale after all it's her class I'm covering. Kiana has primarily been her own art teacher though this week I introduced her to wood burning (and by introduced her I mean I bought her one and showed her youtube videos).

I'm still running. I'm getting close to 700 days of continuous movement. I'm also having fun with the lack of vanity and a guy who has been clean shaven ever since hairs broke onto my face is having the longest facial hair ever. It's my way of making sure everyone is socially distant from me. Whatever gets uncovered about me, those I know, those I love, I hope we find a way to overall make it a positive revelation. What weaknesses get uncovered I hope we work on for improvement if neccessary. What strengths get uncovered I hope we focus on and utilize. What positive emotions we find, we relish, what negative ones and annoyances come on, we realize we love someone with all that they are not just despite their faults. While major holidays of 3 major religions are around this time, I don't personally think the world is about to end in 2020.  I wasn't supposed to make 40 and I'm 4 months and 1 day away today. It seems almost comical that I'm going to have to make it through the apocalypse if I'm going to make it. I hope good things are uncovered about me and that I work on the things that being uncovered about me that aren't good. I hope whichever side of it I meet you on that we're still in a good relationship.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

F in Function and Fiction

Some parts of life are fucked up. Some parts of me are fucked up. I don't just mean the obvious like the fact I have cancer with any known dietary, genetic, lifestyle or environmental component. I mean some of my tastes and passions.  The joke use to be in this blog and life was that I the fun in dysfunction and I still enjoy that attitude and that humor. What I don't want is to just keep the f in fuck and make it fiction; what I strive for is putting the f u part of that into functional.

I'm now just a little over 6 months away from making the age I wasn't suppose to hit, forty speaking of F's. 2020 vision was something my eyes weren't 'supposed' to see. New Years resolutions this year were the hardest they've ever been. I've hit every running time I've ever pursued, every running goal that had ever crossed my mine is in the past and I'm not a big fan of reruns so I'm now putting one foot in front of the other just for the run of it. The only running goal I have left is to go back and cover every race I did with a stroller next to Kiana; there is exactly one left and I hope we pull it off in November.

We're still running. I actually have yet to race this year. I've ran next to her as recently as two days ago where she did her 2nd half marathon and took about 2 minutes off from her first one. Since this was her first point to point race, we took a picture at the start and the finish. At the start, the person realized there was toilet paper in the picture and asked if we wanted to retake it and I said no that's part of the game. Any runner will tell you why there's such a long portapotty line right before every race. That's part of the function of the body before you go push it is to well push some other things out of it. Kiana didn't look super awake yet on this cold morning but removing the toilet paper would have been more fictional.


Afterwards she was talking about how much she hurt and I reminded her that if you do it right, it's supposed to hurt. Elaine was doing the same race and she Pr'ed by 7 minutes, a faster time than I've ever hit on that course. She did this after struggling with confidence due to an injury. And she nailed it and then afterwards because some allergy causers are at the highest they have been in 25 years, she napped with conviction. We also didn't see her at the start because talking of pissing and moaning she almost didn't make it due to that starting line. Is it called an adrenaline rush or just kind of a shit show if that's why you're hurrying to get to the start line?

A week before, we were out crewing and pacing the latest staple in our house, Jackie, through her first 100 km race. When she got to the aid stop she would point somewhere and Elaine would use the massage gun and Kiana was refilling her water bottles and giving her the nutrition of choice which was vegan. She had made a special vegan meal for us as a thank you (is that really thank you?!? do vegans actually live longer or does it just seem longer?) and we had some sparkling wine and code names to celebrate. (For those of you who are wondering what code names is, it's a cooperative board game where I have fun with double entendres). All 4 of us have played it and they all seem to communicate better with each other than I do with any of them. Speaking of cooperative, the one thought I had when Jackie was getting massaged and fed in the middle of a race by Elaine and Kiana that I did not share was, wait they're never this nice to me in the middle or after a race. I did not bring that up. Afterwards, we took Jackie to the nurse to deal with some toe issues and well anyone with a toe fetish is not going to have a successful relationship with her.

I'm not known for being a super clean cut guy. That's been helpful as Kiana hits jr high and we have conversations on different levels about things like sexuality and relationships. Last night we revisited the ones where I first told her about sex and made it more age appropriate (it was based on her sharing things in 3rd grade with a neighbor about how a relative had gotten pregnant just by hanging out). I have not made it about the adage that I got about waiting till you got married; I know a few people who pulled that off successfully but for a gigantic percentage of my friends and family it mostly led to ignorance and/or a lot of guilt. I've told her that it's something she should put off until she's an adult and that it be about a deep and meaningful connection that is not easily shared. We'll see in due time how all that pans out.

If you're wondering where this is coming from, well I have a TV interview today at 1:30 and a media shoot coming up soon. I also have a speech in February and another one in March. I am also currently on ads and posters as the ambassador for the biggest 10k in the state. (I did love how Kiana and Elaine made fun of that poster by trying to replicate the stance). A cursory reading of this blog shows you I've never tried to sell an image. Lunch with two of my great friends last week who call me out on stuff said that one of the things they appreciate me is that for all the odd things in life I appropriate, I don't try to hide them. There are some things like the toilet paper remark above where they're only implied and less explicitly but I don't try to pretend like I don't go to the bathroom. And while I still haven't quite got to where I'm never going to fully share many details to anyone like how my bed recently broke or with Kiana about the George Clooney days, I'm never going to lie about any it to anyone. It's part of reality that I do and did give a fuck.

The speeches that are coming up are to two very different audiences though both are cancer based not running based. One doesn't quite have a title yet but they're both based around hope and despite the foray into a few others in today's blog, hope is my constant 4 letter word. But that's a spirit with simplicity and at different ages and stages of the cancer world, the practicality of it varies. One speech essentially flows around the idea that "hope is not a strategy" and the other revolves around the idea of "What to Hope For." Appropriately enough both of those phrases are 'plagiarized' from people who I love and run with.

Anyway, this blog has always been about how I deal with cancer and life changes in the raw. With the cameras they'll work on the lighting and the editing. With the speeches I'll work on the revising and amending and proper humor delivery. But here there is no backspaces, no checking for typos, it's accepting that some of my f'ed upness is entirely by choice. I hope here and in the best relationships I am always able to not be fictional but trying to channel anger, sadness, occasionally despair into fuel for the fire to be functional.