Cancer Wall Update: 3 Mar 2015

Wall Legend:
(Fr) = Friend
(Fa) = Close Family
(R) = Relative
(A) = Acquaintance
(Cw) = Name added from Cancer Wall post comment

Michelle G (R)

Those currently fighting
Dennis “White Chocolate” H (Fr)
Woodrow W (Cw)
Jacque T (A)
“Smiling:” Dan H. (Fr, coworker)
Bob Mc. (Fr)

Those who have left memories behind
Grover B (Fa)
Glori B (Fa)
Nancy C (Fr)
Jim D (Fa)
Peter H (Fa)
Larry “301”  L (A)
Glenn A (Fa)
Allen  “Lee Strong” L (Fr)
Donna “V” D (R)
Patti F (Fr)
Zeke (Fr)
Linda G (A)
Ric “One Feather” P (Fr)
Randy B (Fr)
Jessica O (R)
Mary G (R) – She has just been moved to hospice care

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Cancer sucks!

It is a sad day as I move several acquaintances from fighters and survivors to those who have left memories.

Ric “One Feather” P. your music will be sadly missed in our lives.
Jess O. your indomitable spirit lives on in all of us
Randy B. You can Ric can join in an awesome jam together now.

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Cancer Sucks!!!

Ending cancer, 1 step, 1 person, $1 at a time

Today I learned of another friend with cancer. His name is Dan H. and he’s a project manager where I work in Nashville. I last saw Dan a little over a month ago right after my dad passed from refractory non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Dan was very supportive during my absence over the Christmas and New Year holiday’s and was always concerned. And no matter the situation, Dan always wore a smile on his face.

I know I hadn’t seen him in awhile so I asked one of the other project managers. It seems that Dan was going right along, healthy and cheerful without a care in the world. About a month ago he was at work and was complaining that his legs were numb and that he was having problems standing and walking so they called and ambulance and he went to the hospital. There they found a large tumor on his spine that was pressing against his nerves. Much worse, it wasn’t the only tumor. There were several more in his spinal column and more scattered throughout his body. Silently, quietly, the cancer was being born along by his blood and bone marrow, spreading throughout his body. Even though on the outside he appeared healthy, he was being eaten up inside.

Dan just finished his first round of chemo. According to coworkers, he is doing well and in good spirits and he’s on his way back to Nashville to continue treatment. The only problem is that the treatment is not curative: it’s only palliative. In the end, it is only buying him time. How much? No one knows. It could be weeks, it could be months but his life expectancy is less than 1 year.

And that’s why cancer sucks!
It strikes quietly and silently. 
It crushes hopes and dreams.
It’s relentless.
It takes seemingly normal, happy and healthy people like Dan and robs them and cheats them.

And that’s why I run!
To raise money for research
To raise money for cures
To raise money for hope
To raise money for compassion and love
So that there are no more Grover’s and Allen’s and Larry’s and Dan’s.
I run because I can and they can’t!

Dan H is now on my wall.
Right now as a fighter. And I know that through it all Dan will still be Dan. He’ll have a smile on his face and will cherish all the time he can with his family.
But as much as I hate to admit it, Dan will end up on my wall as another one who fought the battle and lost.

So please, help me find more research. Help me stop my wall from growing.

Visit my Team In Training fundraising page. Pledge, or donate so that there are no more Dan’s. And share the page with friends, coworkers and family. Visit my Wall and comment with a name of someone who is fighting or has lost. I will add them to the wall. My goal: 1000 people. $1 each.

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One person at a time, $1 at time we will find a cure

Back in January I wrote a blog called One Step at a Time. I want to revisit that topic as I embark on my second half marathon of the year this June.

It’s about how I trained and learned to run a half marathon: One step at a time. Not looking at the whole 13.1 miles. not looking at it as two 10K events. But, one more step.

And that’s how I want to approach the battle for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood born cancers: One step at a time.

When you read this (and the other post), and you “like” my post please take a moment and go to my Team In Training page, donate $1, then share this with your friends, your family, your coworkers, your heroes who you fight and run for.

And take a look at my Cancer Wall and comment with the name of a family member, friend, coworker, or anyone you know who is fighting their own battles, who have WON their battles, and sadly, even those who have lost and I will add them to my wall. They will become one more step for me in my fight against cancer.

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My favorite place to run

Today was another difficult day to get out and run. Not from a motivation stand point, but because of the location. I’m back home in Boulder, CO elevation 5320 feet above sea level.


This is one of my favorite places to run. Miles and miles of bike and walking/running trails with never having to be on or cross a street. But, it’s just over a mile above sea level. Have you ever tried to run or bike at altitude? Because of the decrease air pressure it’s the equivalent of having 17% less oxygen. That means you breathe harder and your legs and body tire faster compared to that 3 mile run at sea level.

I knew I was going to go run today. The weather was perfect (as you can see in the pic): 55 degrees Fahrenheit, light winds, and a few lofty, scattered clouds (and snow on the ground next to the trail). But I could feel the burning lungs and lethargic legs long before I hit the trail head.

I went anyway since I’ll never pass up a chance to run in my favorite running city. I actually modified my workout and used Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method and actually planned for it before starting out. And, I knew I would need to slow my pace a but. Even though I’ve been putting in 3 miles 4 times a week, I was almost panting as I finished mile 1 at 30 seconds slower than my normal pace. I walked 1/4 mile and picked it back up. Hit mile 2, and walked a bit.

Fortunately, the out and back route was uphill to the 2 mile mark and I was able to run most of the 2 miles back. I took a walk break at 3.5 miles and then finished the last 1/4 mile strong. I finished at 2 minutes/mile off my normal pace. And considering I took 3 walk breaks, that’s more than acceptable to me!

Was it as enjoyable as most of my recent runs? Not quite as much. But I went and I did it.

Am I glad I went? Yes.






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Mind over Matter

The other night I wrote about becoming  “One of those people”. You know, runners. The types you see out at the butt-crack of dawn, at night with headlamps, in the rain, heat and snow.

I’ve had several comments from fellow bloggers and friends on my “dedication” and how I’m able to do it.

To be honest, it isn’t easy. It’s because the mind is a dangerous tool!

Take last Tuesday night. I was all psyched up to go running with the Nashville TNT team that night. When I went out at lunch, the weather was perfect: Sunny, a bit cool (mid-50’s) with light wind. But it had changed drastically by the time I got BACK from lunch walking from my car in cloudy, cooler, blustery conditions. It felt MUCH colder than when I left. About an 90 minutes before the run I checked the weather and sure enough… it was 44 degrees, 15 to 25 mph winds giving a wind chill of 39 and …. light rain.

All of a sudden my brain went into “panic mode” sending me visions of standing in the parking lot with the team waiting to get started, me shivering, wet and wishing I were somewhere else. That premonition was so strong I actually started feeling chilled at my desk. But I held strong and dug deep within myself. I started dredging up memories of similar runs when it was cold, damp and downright miserable. Was I cold at the start? Yes. But inevitably, within 5 minutes of actual running recalled the warmth of my routine filling me up, flooding me. And I recall finishing each of those runs not even realizing how cold or wet it was and how GOOD I felt afterwards. And those 2 sides battled back and forth all the way up to 5 minutes into the run when guess which side won?

And that’s the topic for tonight. Our brain is miraculous. On one hand it can help us solve complex daily tasks, learn on the fly, LEARN new ideas and concepts daily up until the day we die. But it can do bad things as well. It can take a normal situation and invent a series of nasty and unpleasant realities that will actually never materialize in order to side track us and derail us from simple, enjoyable tasks.

With running it works even harder to distract us from our goal. “It’s too hot” it says and paints a picture of a sweaty, dehydrated mess. It tells us “It’s not going to be fun out there in 90 degree heat”.

It says “You’re going to be out of breath, gasping for air with your lungs burning, and legs aching and cramping”.

It says “You’ll be wet, cold and miserable. Your fingers will get frost bite, and ache and burn”

It rarely tells us “But you’ll feel much better afterward”. It doesn’t seem to jump to the end of the run and the feeling of accomplishment and positive feelings and energy.

So how do I overcome these fears and imagined realities? I dig deep and force the brain to try and focus on those positive aspects. I often have to force myself into thinking these things as the negatives come just too easy.

And  also use 2 other tools. The first I read about in Dean Karnazes’ book 50/50 in which he writes about running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. He talks about how there are days he feels bad, doesn’t want to run and is stressed out and goes anyway. Then he says “And I’ve never come back from a run wishing I hadn’t gone out”. Hmm. That really resonated with me and I looked back on all my running experiences. I could honestly say the same thing. So when doubt starts creeping in, when the brain says “too hot, too cold, you’re too tired” I think “But when I’m done I won’t regret that I went out”.

The other mantra occurred back in Dec. I was due for my longest training run ever: 10 miles. The day before I had learned that my dad’s lymphoma had returned and that there was no cure. Not only that, but treatment would only my him months. Without treatment, weeks. The following morning was really cold and as we stood around the parking lot waiting to start, me wishing I were ANYWHERE else but there the coach spoke up and said “I know it’s cold out here and many of you wish you were back home, still sleeping in the warmth of your bed. But remember, we’re out here because we CAN. We have a choice. There’s are many who are fighting cancer and can’t. There are even more who have fought cancer and lost and can’t. We run because the can’t”.

And with those 2 mantras in my head, I fight through the negativity, dredge up the positive, and go run anyway.

And in the end, when I overcome the negative, and actually go OUT and hit the road or trail, it all melts away and I finish feeling much better than when I started. Just like Dean says.


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“Those People”

You know who I’m talking about. You see them in the morning before the sun comes up. Or after work, in the dark. Some are on the sidewalks, crossing against the light. Many are in the park. And it doesn’t matter the weather. It can be a beautiful, sunny day or it can be cold and blustery. You even see them in the rain and snow.

You know who they are…. Runners!

They have their short shorts and tank tops in warm weather. They have their ear muffs, head bands, jackets, gloves and tights in the winter. And don’t forget headlamps and school crossing guard reflecting vests for those that run at night.

Tonight, I think I officially crossed over and became one of them. I’ve rededicated myself after completing the Herothon Half Marathon in San Antonio, TX last month and I’ve registered for two more this year: The Wounded Warrior Half in Irving, TX in June and the Rock and Roll Half in Dublin, Ireland in August.

During my training for the Herothon, there were a few mornings where I was out with the team before sunrise and in subfreezing weather. But I didn’t do it so much out of the joy of running as it was out of commitment. Meaning: “Damn, I signed up for this blasted event and I better train if I don’t want to be carted off the course in an ambulance”.

And tonight was my, gasp!, 4th night in a row of running. I REALLY didn’t want to go. I was tired. And, the weather really sucked. It was 44 degrees when I left work, the wind was a blustery 15 mph gusting to 20. I REALLY didn’t want to go outside. But I kept telling myself that “Hey, you know you’ll feel better afterwards” so I sucked it up, changed into my running clothes at the office (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that aspect of “those people” as well) and headed for the parking lot. I walked out the door, the “brisk” wind hit me in the face along with rain drops.

Have I mentioned that I REALLY don’t want to go run tonight? Well, the rain was almost a deal breaker. I emailed the team coach and asked “Are you nut jobs seriously going to go out in this?” His response, “I’m already at the parking lot waiting on everyone”. Awkward moment of silence as I sat in my car and tried to tell myself how good I was going to feel afterward, to ignore the cold since I’d be plenty warm once I started moving. But inwardly, I was hoping that no one would show up and the coach would be the only one in the parking lot.

So I drove on over and guess what? There were 6 others waiting. When I got out of the car the coach spotted me and, with a huge grin on his face, said “So, you decided to join the rest of the nut jobs out here”.

I guess after tonight, I am officially one of “Those people” now.

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Guest Post: The Difficult Role of Caregiver of a Cancer Patient

Today is my first guest post. I’d like to thank Cameron for his take on being a caregiver to someone with cancer. Before I get on with tonight’s guest entry, let me introduce you to Cameron.

Cameron is husband to Heather Von St. James, survivor advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, and father to Lily Rose. He, along with Heather and young Lily, had their world’s turned upside down when Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just 3 1/2 months after the birth of his only child. When faced with the very real possibility of raising Lily on his own, he fought alongside Heather in her battle with mesothelioma. Like Heather, Cameron is passionate about bringing awareness to mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure. It is his hope that sharing his story will help others those battling cancer and their caregivers who provide them care and guidance in their journey.

Thank you Cameron, for sharing.

The holidays were coming up and my wife, Heather and I were excited that we’d be celebrating with our daughter Lily, who was just a few months old, when Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005. We were devastated with the diagnoses. I went from my wife’s partner to her caregiver in an instant.

Once the doctor gave Heather the diagnosis, he provided some options for treatment, but Heather sat there silent. When I realized my wife was shocked and stunned by the news, I jumped in and chose the option that offered the greatest hope, Dr. David Sugarbaker, a Boston physician who specialized in mesothelioma treatment. That was only the beginning of the decisions I made regarding Heather’s cancer.

Very quickly, we went from both working full-time, to me working part-time and Heather not working at all. Instead, I had to get us back and forth to Boston for appointments, work when possible and care for our daughter. I was overwhelmed not only by my new role, but also by fears that Heather would die and that we would lose everything in the fight against the cancer. Would I end up raising our daughter alone? It was all I could do to be strong for my wife.

Into this breach stepped not only family and friends, but people we didn’t even know. Some offered encouragement and some offered financial assistance. I learned that families dealing with cancer should accept help offered; there is no room for pride when a life is on the line. Accepting aid lightens the load and helps you know others care.

Becoming a caregiver means stress and feelings of fear and anger. And you can’t quit. Emotions can overwhelm if you do not allow yourself to experience negative as well as positive feelings. The key is to allow feelings, but focus on hope beyond the emotions.

Guilt is also a feeling that many caregivers experience while caring for their loved ones. Many times, a caregiver will spend so much time and energy caring for their loved ones, that they often forget to take care of themselves. Or, if they do spend any time for themselves, it’s common to feel guilty for doing so. Caregivers need to remember to take time for themselves during this whole process, when they can. It’s far to easy to “burn out” during this struggle if you don’t.

I walked with Heather through her radiation, surgery and chemotherapy to fight mesothelioma. During the fight for her life I relied on my natural stubbornness. We weren’t going to lose this fight. The cancer brought home how important it is not to waste time we’ve been given. Our chaotic lives taught me how to deal with stress as I learned to balance all the different elements of our schedule. In fact, two years into Heather’s fight for health, while caring for Lily–now two and working full-time, I returned to school.

Years after Heather’s diagnosis, I graduated from college with honors. I learned the importance of never giving up hope. We accomplish more than we think possible when we believe in ourselves. Seven years after that awful diagnosis, Heather is cancer free, and we couldn’t be more thankful.

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My first half marathon – Mission accomplished

Last Sunday was the Herothon Half Marathon in San Antonio, TX (said with the gusto of Lyle Lovett’s “Wild Women Don’t get the Blues” song).. It was also 3 weeks after my dad had passed so he was my big motivation for finishing.

It was fun. It was hard. It was a blast. It was grueling. And I finished!

My training over the previous 2 months had suffered greatly between work, travel, taking care of my dad, and oh, Christmas. Part of me was really dreading this run. Then the weather warmed up a bit I’ll admit, I much prefer running in cooler weather. Give me a mid 50’s and a light rain and I can go for hours. Throw in some warmer weather and high humidity and I start falling off my pace quickly.

I won’t go into all the race details. Suffice that I followed my gut and my coaches direction and “ran my own race”. I avoided getting caught up in the pre-race excitement, loud music, and hype and stuck with my pace from the starting line rather than going out too fast. To my amazement, I was well ahead of my goal by mid race, feeling good, and thinking that I was going to “blow this course away”. Then I hit mile 8.

Things started to deteriorate quickly. I was drenched from sweat and water from the aid stations and my jersey clung to me. I couldn’t cool off. Not to mention, I must have stepped in some water somewhere because my right shoe and sock felt damp. Then it went numb. Then the blisters formed. Seriously… if your foot is numb, how can you feel the incessant pain of a blister? I tried to run through it, altering my stride to avoid hitting the blisters directly. That just made my foot even more numb. So I stopped and laced my shoe tighter to avoid the rubbing blister. BIG mistake. that just made my foot throb even more. So I stopped again and loosened my laces. Oops, TOO much. Now my foot was sliding around in the shoe exacerbating the blister. Third stop.. PERFECT. The numbness subsided, the blister eased. Then the left foot flared up and it’s mile 9.

After several more stops I finally got my feet somewhat normal again. (Really, how can anyone say their feet are “normal” after running 9 miles?”)

My spirits lifted at the 10 mile mark: Only a 5K left! I can DO this! Except I think I drank my Powerade too fast at the aid stating. By 10.5 miles I had the worst side stitch I’d ever encountered. I slowed by pace to try and run through it to no avail. I kept slowing down until I was at a brisk walk. It was gone by mile 11 so I started up again. “Come on” I told myself. “Two more miles. That’s an easy weekday jog. You can DO this!”

Yes, I did. But those last 2 miles were the hardest miles I’ve ever run. I could see the Alamodome from mile 12. I KNEW the finish was there. But that’s the funny thing about large buildings, mountains, etc They LOOK so close. It just never seemed to get any closer.

Finally, I was close enough so that it loomed in my vision and that’s all I could see. I looked down at my GPS and it showed 12.5 miles. Awesome, just 1K to go. I should be able to see the finish line any minute. In my head I start chanting “Hell fucking yeah! Hell fucking YEAH!” and pumping my fists and arms with each stride. Then “The Hill” loomed.

Instead of running straight into the parking lot, the course veered right and up and over I-35. There in front of me looked like what was the biggest hill that had ever been thrown at me. Seriously? At mile 13 of all places???

My knees were aching. My feet were throbbing. Every article of clothing clung to me. I was exhausted and worn out. But damn it, this hill was NOT going to defeat me now. I was DETERMINED to run across that finish line.

As soon as I hit the bottom of the hill I found my wife. She had met me at mile 10 to give me a hug and to offer encouragement. She was almost back to th finish line and saw the hill and waited for me there. As I past she ran out and gave me a hug and a kiss. Then, one of the coaches spotted me. He jogged up beside me and asked how I was doing. I said “I hurt and I’m tired but this hill is nothing”. He jogged along side, offering tons of encouragement and before I knew it I had crested the top and was in the last 1/10th of a mile. There in front of me was the finish line: A balloon arch, official race clock and the band.

I felt strength come from somewhere I didn’t know I had and felt my pace kicking up again. The chant started up again ‘Hell fucking YEAH! Hell FUCKING YEAH! HELL FUCKING YEAH!!!!” My fists were pumping as I crossed the finish line right at my goal: 03:01:00.

I did it! I finished a half marathon!

Now I KNOW I can do it. All doubt, fear and skepticism are gone. Will this be my last? Hell no! I am already looking forward to the Wounded Warrior Half n June in Dallas and then the Dublin Marathon (they offer a half there) in Dublin, Ireland in August. I’m hooked!

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Ready or not, here I come: The San Antonio Herothon Half Marathon

It’s just over 2 days away. I’m on a plane from Nashville to Dallas where I’ll work tomorrow then hang out with friends. Then Saturday morning, hop on another flight for the short trip down to San Antonio. Sunday morning, bright and early, the race begins, There’s no turning back now. I’m a little anxious because I;ve never run this far before but my heart and motivation are all I need now.

Let me be clear so there’s not any misconceptions about me. I am not a runner. I in no way or shape resemble those ectomorphic Olympic athletes that post sub 3 hour marathons. I am a 40 something, overweight guy with a mission.

That said, this is not the same 40 something, overweight guy you’d have seen 4 years ago. Back then, I had just started a new job that required me to get on airplanes and fly all over the country. On that first trip as I sat in the back of the plane, wedged between two other similar men I knew I wasn’t going to survive this job in my current physical state. I deplaned with my legs in a constant cramp, an aching back, bruised hips from being crammed into the seats, and a goal: be able to sit comfortably within the strict confines of an airplane seat.

I wanted to do something. I have done lots of bicycling in the past and that works ok when I’m home. It’s just not feasible to take my bike on a plane. I walk a lot too but I needed to burn much more calories than walking could afford. So I decided to take up running.

At the time, my wife reminded me “But you hate running”. In actuality, it’s not that I hated running. In high school I could run a 6 minute mile. What I hated was the process of  getting the body used to running so that it wasn’t wheezing, gasping for air and panting. Whenever I reached that point, running was fine.

So I set off on my “training”. I started going to my apartment gym and I hit the treadmill. I’d walk a few minutes to warm up, then bam… The next thing I knew I had the treadmill set to a 9 MPH pace (a little longer than a 6 minute mile). Lo and behold, within a quarter mile I was dead. I slowed the treadmill down, walked a bit to recover, then sped back up. I couldn’t make it the next 1/4mile . And so the process continued: walk, speed up, crash, walk, speed up, crash. I think I finished my mile in about 12 minutes but my face was beet red, I felt my chest heaving as if my heart were jumping out of my chest. And what did I do? I went back the next day and tried again. My goal was to slowly increase my running time and decrease my walking interval until I could do a mile nonstop. And this was what I hated about running. And each day I felt like I was going to puke. And I was about to give up.

After a week or two of what felt like torture and thinking “I’ll never be able to do this” I talked to a friend about it. This friend happens to be a serious runner. One who does things like marathons. And not just marathons, triathlons. And not just triathlons, but ULTRA triathlons. Those are where you swim 2 to 4 miles, bike 100 miles and THEN run a full or even DOUBLE marathon!

After telling him about my experience he looked me right in the eye and said “well, you’re running all wrong!”

What? I’ve been running for 40 something years. I would think I know how to run by now. I was about to explain my indignation when he said “No, not that. You’re running too FAST. Why do you think you need to go from sitting on a couch to running an 8 minute mile?” Then he taught me how to run. I say run, though in reality it is a jog. Based on his recommendation I bought a heart rate monitor and started off the next day. My goal? Not run a mile, but to “run” for 15 minutes at a pace where I could breathe without panting and to carry on a conversation with someone. And the result? I finished the 15 minutes without wheezing, gasping for air and without wanting to puke.

To motivate myself to continue, I looked at running events coming up over the next few months. My goal was to be able to complete the Bolder Boulder 10 K by June . It was currently the end of January. Halfway in between there was a 5K event in Dallas in April. I signed up for both.

By the time the 5K rolled around I was easily “running” 3 miles nonstop. Not that I was breaking and world records but I was doing it. My official time was 41 minutes.

six weeks later I strolled across the finish line at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado in 90 minutes. I had accomplished my goals. In the meantime, I was starting to get hooked on running. Since then I’ve dropped close to 60 pounds (I’ve put 30 back on this year with all the stress around my dad’s lymphoma, work/travel and an inconsistent training schedule) but I still go out.

Now all that’s immediately ahead of me is this weekend’s event. Can I do it? Yes. Will it be fast? No. But I will finish. My goal is under 3 hours.

And after this? Well, I’m not gonna let anything stop me. I will be mentoring the Summer season for TNT and running the Wounded Warrior half in Dallas in June. I am “rewarding” myself for last year’s pain and misery by going to Ireland and running in the Dublin half.

I will keep on running. And maybe one day, instead of being the middle aged, overweight guy on the plane, I’ll be the skinny, middle aged guy on the plane.

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