Monday, August 7, 2017

Generic faces and races

A frustrating challenge of being in video media and having facial recognition issues is that people often come talk to me and I don't recognize them. The convenient time is when they aren't quite sure who I am and my standard joke about it is "I just have one of those generic faces," and after the laughter we introduce ourselves (it can be strange when a stranger in another state who happens to behind you in a random line goes you were on that ESPN piece right?. Perhaps I should stick to things like the more recent Rogue Running podcast since my face was built for radio.

But through this summer, just because it's summer and there's more time Kiana and I have been riding, swimming and running and I couldn't help but notice that the one event that I had done ever that she hadn't was a triathlon (I've only trained for one and until yesterday had only done 2). I'm a horrible swimmer but she is not and so I signed us up for one which seemed perfect, Jack's Generic Triathlon where there byline is "where you're not just a number, you're a barcode." This year happened to be the 15th anniversary so they had a little fun with it and said they had brought 15 years of generic smiles (and you know generic smiles in the age of selfies, constantly posing for camera phones and showing everyone on social media that you're officially happy is quite important). This generic face couldn't resist that invitation and knew Kiana and I had to get signed up for one. Kiana's had some very cool experiences and so have I but I do hope that she enjoys the daily scenes and local races and moments as much as the big ones. It's arguably which ones matters more in life.

My parenting philosophy is you give kids roots, than you give them wings and this event would
embody at least the beginning of letting those wings spead. (It's not as easy as I thought it would be to encourage her to grow up. When I joked about how she should stop aging now that she was 10 because that's all she could count with her fingers. Without missing a beat, she said using binary code I can count to 1023. I'm not sure whether that or today's dental appointment where they said my baby only has 4 baby teeth left was harder to grasp). But in triathlons swimming isn't interactive and in cycling you're required to not be beside anyone unless you are actively passing them. In all racing, I train the way I intend to perform so as we trained for this, I didn't ride next to her and when we swam, like the person who trained me, I'd land a swimming arm or leg to prepare her for what would come. We even went and did the course on a hot summer day 3 weeks before and I honestly wondered how much she would dislike me at the end of the race.

Still when race day came, the weather was actually very good. The tweaks we'd work on like transition, dismounts, drinking while on a bike, brick workouts, well we were going to see how they all came into play. Her paternal grandparents, both of her parents and their significant others were there to cheer her on and dad was going to stay as close as he could. However, I'd forgotten with so little triathlon experience that they let you out both in age groups and gender and well... Kiana and I don't match in that. I tried to ask one of the course people if I could just start in the women 39 and under (I thought making a joke about how I hang out with her enough that maybe I identify as a 12 year old girl but who knows how that would go over in the current political climate). With Kiana standing next to me, they said that I would then be disqualified under triathlon rules for not starting with my heat and Kiana said no it's okay dad, just start with your heat cause I don't want you getting disqualifed for breaking any rules. I was amused at that because well to do a sprint triathlon you have to be 12 years old and the person who registered her (me) might have lied about her age to do that. I suppose it's not as bad as Spartan races where her first one she did at age 8 even though you're supposed to be 14, the age I might have said to everyone she was when asked (Part of this is me trying to get her into so many things at a young age because she's capable and I honestly fear there may be too much of her life I miss if and when my cancer grows. The other part of me fears that not too far down the road her justifying to herself that her dad letting her do things when she was officially too young for them).

So I started with the men's 39 and under heat and actually swam it fast enough to where I was back before her heat started and may have gotten lost on that 500 meter swim and done another 500 behind her. If you think it was because I was watching out for her well you would be wrong because 1000 meters was the most I've ever swam in one day and it turns out it's hard. But luckily I'm a little taller and was able to start walking a little earlier and make it up as we went into transition.

She had done three formal rides before, two of 20 miles and one of 25 miles. This one was 12.9 but on those others it was stop in the middle and get some snacks, rest and socialize. Now we were in race mode and many of the people doing the Olympic distance were doing their second loop. I stayed behind her and she got cheered on by many generic strangers who were impressed with a 12 year old taking this on (in triathlons you wear your age on your calf). We were actually keeping a decent 13 miles an hour on her mountain bike with the wind at our back but then it went down to 11 as we faced a strong headwind. She didn't fade at all and while she was passed plenty, she also passed a few people and her dismount was more gracious than any I've ever made.

Then we got to our game, the running game. The legs felt funny to Kiana but it wasn't long before she was moving pretty well. She was passing people and I mean passing people. If she started to slow down I did the old fashioned running backwards heckling of you want to get beat by an old man running backwards and all of a sudden she sped up and would say 'you're not old'. In the entirety of the run, while conceding she started in the very last heat of the day, she was passed by only one person and passed a lot of other people. With about a mile left, because I'd started the watch at my start and not hers I mistimed where she was and you're going to have to hurry if you want to do it under 2 hours. She said I'll hurry at the end. She turned it on at the end and... literally at the finish line passed the one person who had passed her on the run. As she huffed and puffed after we finished. I was like whoa you really sped up on the last bit, maybe you had too much left in the tank. She looked at me and said, 'that's not how it works dad. No matter what I find a way to finish strong and pass people at the end.' I don't know where she gets that competitive attitude from. She didn't place in any age group but she was the youngest finisher at...12 years old.

We've actually done several other races this year and we've both taken home some placement trophies but it was the first finisher's medal we had earned on the same race this year, over a year since the last one, longest gap since we started collecting them almost 3 years ago. But in a race where we weren't just a number, we were a bar code, it was great that the first medal of 2017 was on her first triathlon ever. By the way, while I have a generic face, out of all the little girls the universe has, she comes first  and helps an old man with a damaged brain know his heart's still working.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Producing character

"Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope."

Summer is an odd time in my already odd life. People who have a similar custodial arrangement to mine have different view points. It's standard Texas one for summer in which Kiana spends the longest time of the year with her mother, either two 15 days periods or one 30 day period with a weekend in between with me. I'm known for frankness so I've heard it both ways about parents who are thankful for the break, others who don't know what to do with themselves by themselves, and one mother, the one that gave me the most to think about was that they just see it preparation for empty nest syndrome. 

Until this year, I had actually not stayed in town for the entirety of it. In it's 5 versions, there have been three of the 2 two week period and 1 of the 30 day syndrome. I'm not much of a nester so I'd leave the nest completely empty for at least part of the time it wasn't shared. 
But that's not the case this year since my girlfriend and I are living in sin. We've been doing things to the house still, mostly little decorations and such. And with no races on the calendar, at least not of my own, for the longest times in several years, I've started running more. 

Part of that is what else should you do with your time but dehydrate more by running in
summer? Part of that is that I've had good company in all of those runs. 3 weeks ago was the highest mileage of my life with my girlfriend and my bromance joking around which one was going to the highest (she beat him by a mile in the first week I ever broke 60 miles in one week). Not to be outdone, last week, he and I did 60 miles in one week on the first time I ever broke 70 miles. People keep asking what I'm training for since I'm stepping up my mileage and doing the most intense speed workouts since high school. I keep joking that I'm retired, which I presume means really tired from all the extra fun stuff you need to do. But I keep in mind the study that long distance runners have a higher brain cancer survival rate than anybody including other athletes, the theory being that it's the chemicals that are released in the brain after a certain amount of continuous running (though I fully concede that those chemicals seem to alter other things like how many swear words come out of my mouth towards the end of those runs).

But it's also because I've been helping Kiana train for her first triathlon. It's a sprint and it's arguable whether that or the Spartan Super will be the hardest thing she's ever done in one day but when we went out to try the course on the weekend she was home, she was suffering in the end. That determination and the fact that I am a believer in do as I do not just do as I say that got me to do my hardest 3 weeks of training. There was never a time she asked to stop. We may not always have great race days where I come from but a DNF still doesn't exist in our file and I hope we never add it. I've also done the entire time without music since music isn't allowed in triathlons just to show her it can be done. 

It hasn't all been work since a life that's all work would be almost as difficult for me as a life that's all play. But part of the playing has been actual plays where we went to the opening night of the Wizard of Oz. We even made the donation to be in the official photo booth where of course I had to be the scarecrow (If I only had a brain), Elaine dressed up as the witch with a nod to a little bit of our history. Kiana went as Dorothy. It was raining before and somehow right before seeing an outside play of the Wizard of Oz, there was a rainbow over the area we were going to. Maybe, just maybe, there is a place where 'the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true'. 

Where the balance of work and play should be is a great deal of debate but for me, an unemployed workaholic, I always thing work should be the over riding factor. Maybe it's justifying my approach to life but I think work can be converted into play far easier than play into work. But my parenting philosophy is coming more and more into play and work. It's always give them roots, than give them wings. Part of the reason we're doing the triathlon is in triathlons, you're not really going to be next to someone during the swim and you're not allowed to be next to someone on the bikes (that's for passing only). We went and practiced the course and we did it where she was on her own, primarily. As she practiced, she was suffering (we were much later in the day than the race itself will be cause you know sleeping in is good) but she was practicing with conviction. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. I suppose in the original writing it might have all been intended towards one person or community but I think Kiana's endurance character is a big factor in why my hope just doesn't blink. 

Her mom was a creative writing major and is into drama so she's sent Kiana to an acting camp the last couple of years. Before she headed over there she kept asking me what part she should try out for in Alice in Wonderland Along that giving wings approach, I told her that was her call. She would end up trying out for and getting Alice's part. She was on stage and had more lines than anyone else. It was a pleasure to watch her conviction, hear her 'British accent, to see her perform theatrically that 'imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.' Luckily they had a rule that there were no cell phones allowed or video cameras, to let the plays be enjoyed the way they were supposed. It was 20 minutes that flew by too fast but then again forever is 'sometimes just one second."

Soon she'll be home again and just by nature of scheduling, many things will be back to familiar rhythms without yellow brick roads or long rides or long swims. But I think we'll find ways to keep the balance of not running away from suffering or perhaps its better phrased of running while suffering. We'll find the endurance, the character and the hope. Who knows how the triathlon or 5th grade will go but I am glad we've used the summer to build up a base. Carrol said every adventure requires a first step so I trust and hope that the balance of good adventures are still coming up. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Benefit of the Doubt

I think most of us like certainty.... High probability is comforting but there's something about certainty for humans even if it so very little of it exists in the real world . We make days 24 hours when there are exactly zero days in which sunrise to sunrise has been 24 hours. Just like there are zero months that correspond with the lunar cycle or 0 years that match exactly with the solar one... we divided things into clean kilometers and miles and speeds based on that. Us runners run with GPS watches and sometimes find ourselves running in a parking lot up and down till that watch beeps exactly. It's interesting how much heckling I've given and taken for the fact that so many looks of excitement and anticipation are marked by us by pressing a button at the start line. The finish line look of triumph or defeat are awfully similar for many of us, it's the pressing of that same button.

I like certainty too. The balance of utilizing it is certainly clear in concepts like geometry where we use perfect circles and squares to work within the natural elements (where no perfect circles or squares actually exists). But there are laws there like gravity and inertia etc that seem to reflect a universe that holds those rules so well in a vacuum and perfectly inconsistently within the actual universe. 

But I keep trying to give life, my life, my friends lives and opinions the benefit of the doubt. I am nervous about the echo chamber that I see in the universe online and in person where anyone who disagrees with my views or ideas of insert 'religion, political belief, ethnic views, sexuality views, diet, exercise approaches' is clearly wrong/evil/stupid. Because if we don't have the capacity for opening up to ideas there is a low chance of getting anyone to open up to ours and let them dance. Line dancing is entertaining but my favorite and the most intimate is interactive. I am known for being a bit arrogant but I don't have the arrogance to think everyone, heck anyone including my own child would be a better person if they thought exactly like me. I'm not even better for thinking exactly like me. 

That there's wiggle room in life is something I want to teach my daughter. Father's day we went to a lake we planned to swim at but it was closed to swimming due so bacteria so we sat and skipped rocks across it. I had my best rock skipping day and taught Kiana how to do it for the first time in her life. We didn't bemoan that we couldn't swim there, we just went with it and I skipped more rocks that day than the rest of my adult life combined. It even went from finding the best ones to skip to seeing if we could make this one that seemed impossibly big or uneven to skip. We managed more than I would have believed. We've done it a few times since then and I think Kiana and I will skip a few more days together. 

We went to another swimming hole a few days later which had a reasonable big jump. I have issues with heights and with a crowd heckling over and over as old men and small children jumped in I couldn't get up the nerve. Without fail when the heckling however good or mean natured came, I said I promise I'll get it done. I don't know how long it'll take me but I'll jump in (it was a 2 hour reservation). It took me half an hour of standing up there but I jumped. Kiana did it in just a few minutes. We both kept jumping off both the lower and the higher one and did the last one together. I've never hesitated in letting her see me afraid or letting her be. We don't have anywhere near 100%  success but I wonder if the fact we acknowledge doubt is why we're able to beat it. Not sure which one of us draws the courage from the other.

But summer started well with her and I having some adventures. Elaine has joined us for some though not all since she has a real job. But they both did their toughest bike ride ever, one that includes a serious hill. I had done it before them and said that it was okay if it had to be skipped on one of the turns. Kiana did it on all 6 of her 3.5 mile loops the time she went and Elaine did it on all 8 on the time she went. On both occasions I joined them pedal for pedal. For both it was the toughest ride of their life so far but maybe we're all just getting started. 

Maybe is a word you find in my vocabulary a lot. Statistically speaking is in here often and in almost all my public speeches. Doubt and hope are two sides of the same coin. They are bound together and both serve a function. We have negative associations with doubt usually because we associate it with uncertainty or even criminality like beyond a reasonable doubt. Hope is the positive side of the same idea perhaps. That's the trouble with hope; it's hard to resist.  With a disease that the median survival is 7 years, something I'm exactly 4 months away from my honest thought about it are I doubt I'll make 40 but I hope I will. 

I am watching 7 brain tumor survivors right now (8 if you include me) who are all around the same testing results that I am in very different stages. Two are marathon runners who had both surprising growth in their MRI's and are now dealing with the after math of that with new surgeries, chemicals etc. They both give great aura's of positivity in social media and in conversation and at least not there or to me, express much doubt. That positive vibe energy maybe very well what's keeping them going. I've hugged them at the beginning and ends of races before. I hope to again.  There are two others who were full grown adults that the tumor has gotten them bad enough to where they literally had to move back in with their parents at an age past mine (it's arguable whether it's the parent or the child who that's harder on on many levels). One was someone who had done races after relearning to walk but moved at such a pace that they were by far the last finisher except for the nurse and the other cancer survivor who did it next to her. I won the Brainpower 5k that year and everyone wondered why I missed the award ceremony; well now you have an answer. She asked me to come visit her as this was all starting and she was trying to grip her mortality. We walked some together that day even if it was slowly. Now she says we've gotta get a running date together where I'll push her in her wheelchair around the neighborhood. You better believe that run will rank up there with the stroller ones with Kiana. Two it has been stable for so long since it was fully removed that their odds look dramatically better with one even being declared cancer free and no longer having to do MRI's ever again. One is a small child whose the one I have the most sympathy for her and her parents. Cancer is a cruel disease. I am thankful each of us has been part of the other's journey. There's times, in complete frankness, whether I doubt if my sleep would be easier if I hadn't hidden more from this but I don't think so. 

My own doubts created some good decisions along the path as well as some horrible ones. Being careful with time and money when medical appointments were the norm helped get away from that debt sooner, live with more conviction. Being doubtful the resources would ever return made the impact be less and better for Kiana. Being doubtful that I would be around did and at some level still does make me nervous about being too engaged in relationships but I keep trying, I keep trying. Elaine and I are at almost two years since our first date. This year we've been doing more races and runs together. Last week, with this month being the first in 5 or 6 years that I've gone a full month without a race, it was my highest mileage week ever. It was in fact the 1st time I broke 60 miles in week. Not a single one of them was run by myself and I ran more miles with her than I have with anyone in week in my entire life. She's joined my enthusiasm for Spartans, with me having done now both a Super and a Sprint side by side with her. I do the elite heat and then repeat with her. The Beast is the hardest thing I do each year and this year will be her first. I don't have the capacity or time to do it twice in one day so when we do that in October it'll be one lap together. We even did an obstacle workout together for Independence Day. Even independence doesn't have to be done alone. 

We've continued to team up on house improvements. Until recently all the improvements had just been done in the bedroom (insert easy joke here). But now there's been improvements to some of the outdoor lights and furnitures. We've repainted and replaced a few things; not all but a huge percentage of the new bases are gray based and that definitely let to the easy joke of when are we going to get to 50 shades of gray in the house. In fact the most recent one was a new front door which like almost every improvement we've made, they let a lot more light in. I've actually started training with her for this month while Kiana's visiting her mother which led someone to say that it was to show people who usually run with her who her boyfriend is but that's incorrect. Relationships are based on trust; if you don't trust someone you shouldn't be in a relationship. It just turns out I enjoy being around her. 

I'm not going to give up hope but I'm also not going to give up doubt. I am going use them both to fuel decisions like you do in poker or anything involving probability. Hesitation can be good so can full propulsion and you need them both at specific moments. I'm going to keep giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt and perhaps continue to doubt cancer's ability to keep being too big of a factor on any given day. Maybe that's exactly how hope and doubt can work together.  I think doubt is hope's shadow and it's what happens when you have good light. I'll take that as the benefit of the doubt. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Russian Roulette

With a pending MRI on a recent run with a friend, someone asked if I got more confident or less confident with each MRI and potential results. In one of my less than eloquent answers perhaps because Russia has been so much in the news these days, I said it honestly feels like Russian roulette where the chances don't ever feel any better or any worse but at best you come out with another turn and at worst you're looking at death. I've only fired guns one weekend of my life and certainly never aimed one at myself so this isn't something I have much knowledge or experience with. 

I completely grant that was not one of my better choice of words but if there's anything I've ever shown in this approach to life and death it's that well I don't pull the trigger lightly. There were 3 events the weekend before. The first was the Atlas Ride where the Texas 400 did their first ride on their way to Alaska. Almost 70 college kids will go on 3 different routes form here to Anchorage on their bicycles... I did the 50 mile ride that day and while it was not officially a competition in anyway me and the two guys in the front when it got down to about 10 miles to go, one of them said it's always a race. I was the first to finish. But that wasn't anywhere near the main highlight of the day, I started the ride with two cancer survivors who mean a lot to me, Will Sweatnam and Mike Thompson, oddly enough Will was one of the guys who was there as I was learning basic things about a bicycle half a decade ago. Mike at the time was working in a bike shop and helped me maintain the bike I would use as my car when I wasn't allowed to drive. It may have been a point to point ride but it felt like some very good things were coming full circle my first time joining the Texas 4000 as they took on Atlas.

There were 25 and 70 mile options (the 25 one started two hours later) so after I got it done I headed back out and finished with my girlfriend. She looked good in the Livestrong gear of her own and while often when we have done trail races she has been doing the longer distance, twice or 3 times as long, it was nice to show I could last longer for a change. 

But we headed there for teamwork. We went to a trail race where arriving less than 30 minutes before the start of a running festival we would put together a team of the 4 by 5k relay. We had decided if we arrived on time we would put together a team and in worst case scenario we'd each run two legs. Let's just say we didn't just put together a team, we put together the winning one. It's the 4 relay we've placed in and the 3rd one we've won. It was a cool trophy and it resulted in a shelf now at the house for our joint medals and trophies. I hope that shelf keeps growing just like the ones with Kiana and I has kept growing. 

It was pouring rain at the trail and many people headed out before the 3rd race but well I wasn't one of those and took off for the 3rd race of the day. It was an evening 10k and well... I won it. When I originally got diagnosed with brain cancer I put off brain surgery to run a marathon and qualified for Boston. It seems I always race intensely before medical appointments... 2 years ago I did 4 races in 8 days and placed in none of them but enjoyed them all. Last year I did 3 races in 3 days and placed in two. This year I did 3 in 3 days and was in the lead of them all. Somewhere it may well be the subconscious but I want to know that if some trigger is being pulled that I had some say in how much conviction it got pulled with. There may be people who call that naive to think it's all just chance but I never quite forget that I have a brain cancer that has no known dietary, genetic lifestyle or environmental components. 

To pretend like I shook off the impending MRI would be a myth but I don't pause for it. We played a poker game the night before with some of the same people who had played in the hospital when this first started and a few new ones. As I prepared for it with stiff legs thinking that my exercise is habits is my way of fighting cancer I echoed the song that was playing the background 'luck ain't even lucky, gotta make your own breaks.' I'd end up taking home not the win from the poker game but more money than I had put in. I like that approach to poker but I hope it's the opposite in my life, that I put in more than I take out. Not quite sure how that works with the laws of the universe but that's my hope. 

Kiana and I are on a mission this summer to catch some things we've long neglected around our own home town. We found a tree house that I climbed up first and reminded Kiana that if she broke her legs she shouldn't come running to me. She got up and down from the tree faster than I did. I kept trying to find ways to stay busy till the moment of the MRI and then even busier between the results.

I've been to this MRI place for years (that's both a good and a bad thing I suppose). I have no idea what procedure was happening but from the moment I walked in and for a solid 10 minutes there were screams in the background, not muffled but just outraged screams from a child. They were those primal ones that you hear and you're not sure anyone can comfort because the procedures presumably necessary. It took plenty of focus to refill the documents I'm given every time as I just kept listening to those screams but when I to turn them in it was to a new front desk lady who was named of all things, Hope. That's what the MRI feels like, somewhere a balance of primal screams and Hope trying to be helpful through the process. 

There was actually something different about the machine this time. For the first time ever they said they could give me earphone to use in there as opposed to ear plugs. They asked me what radio station to put it on and I tried while we did the first set of imaging (the one without the contrast). But then I remembered during that first set and as I listened to my favorite radio station a piece of advice I'd been given when trying new drugs which was not to have some of your favorite foods because their taste might change for ever due to emotional associations and vomit associations. I'd listened to that then so I have no foods ruined for me. The contrast they inject with rare exception makes me throw up so as they came in I said thanks but no thanks and handed the earphones back since I didn't want any good songs associated with that machine or that vomiting feeling. That would result in me being in there for the first time without earphones... let's just say the machine is loud.
But the louder part is from when it was over Tuesday evening till results this morning. I tried appropriate and inappropriate distractions for the scanxiety as we call it. Did a track workout with heavy legs, a Marathon Kids Ambassador Training Day, a social run for Global Running Day. For the 3rd year in a row I've had an MRI between national cancer survivor day and global running day... I can't ever quite decide if it's appropriate or odd that I'm stuck between those two. 

But while it may feel like Russian Roulette and while there are suddenly arguments in the news and politics today about what things from Russia we should take, the one thing I hope to not be in life or social media or my approach to cancer is a Russian doll. I don't ever want to just be full of myself. Still as I perused through social media, there were 5 of us who were due for scans and or results within 24 hours of each other literally all doing scans in different cities and states. Three I've met through brain cancer events but one was a running friend. I reached out to them and was intrigued that we had all ended up on the same schedule. While none of them knew each other I wished them all well and the same in return. 

In complete honesty, my girlfriend has asked to come to the MRI all but insisted on it but I am just not there where I'm ready to let someone join me there. Perhaps it's damage, perhaps it's protecting others or even self protection. I mean I tried to kick my mom out of the hospital room before brain surgery... I appreciated the insistence and well a thought that went through my mind in that machine there's at least room in one area of my life for growth. 

When results were due, I took Kiana with me. She's stuck with me and my results for now and sat and listened as the doctor said everything was stable. The last time one of the measurements had gone up a millimeter. This time one went from 14.04 to 14.10 which was nothing to be worried about. 6
hundredths of a millimeter matters in very few areas of life including this one but I still noticed it. The doctor talked to me about recent races, about Kiana's races. I talked to him about how I needed a new primary care doctor due to the most recent appointments (she's great and so is her nurse but I've had so many ridiculous billing issues with Seton that I finally decided I'd rather not keep dealing with them. With the most recent billing problems it literally took hours of phone calls and 16 different people before we got it solved. I left on a voicemail and will put here in writing that I'd rather die than have this process play out every time I have to have an appointment. He gave me a referral.) I talked to him about how I'm serving help develop the new Livestrong Cancer center at the new medical school. We talked about my piss poor problem and we looked at my MRI different than I ever had before specifically how near the tumor was to my pituitary gland, something we've talked about before due to other side effects. 

The last several years worth of appointments have been on the 8th of something... so the next one is December 8th. If somehow the way you spin the barrel and hold things keeps consistently keeping you alive, I don't mess with the formula. But one way I did mess with the formula was usually I go to the Hope Outdoor Gallery before an appointment to 'just breathe.' Summer time is sleeping-in time so this time I went afterwards and for the first time ever either of us, both of us, spray painted. The first thing Kiana painted was a heart, something that somehow has in my view both stayed steady and kept growing for me. 

But the story may be that for me today but it doesn't end that cleanly. Because when I got home, I checked on everyone else. They almost all got stable or clean results. But Matt, a guy who I often refer to in speeches who I talk about in media interviews like the Spartan one, someone I met at my first brain cancer event. He's relearned to walk and talk and it was after that he did his first marathon. He's why I got mohawks and a little more comfortable both with being an advocate and living with the scars. He's the one I stole the joke from that if the brain cancer doesn't kill you the medical bills will. He's the one who always tell me to leave it all out there. He's been stable far longer than me but on his scan results today, there is now a new tumor at his skull base and will have to have another brain surgery next week and likely have do radiation and/or chemo not long after. As soon as I heard the news I offered condolences and he offered congratulations on my stable one. I said I wish I could trade him spots and he said he'd never let me do that with Kiana. 
I have another race tonight, the Moonlight Margarita Run 5k, a race that has honestly never gone that well in Texas heat but we present a check afterwards from the Austin Runner's Club. I have a Spartan on Saturday. I was going to take them a little less intensely than last weekend's races and it tells you something they are the last ones I presently have on the calendar till September. But I'll go out there and give it what I can with a little more conviction and a little more purpose. I'll see my family and friends at the Spartan. Kiana and Elaine will be home tonight. I'll hug them all with a little more conviction. 

The Russians have a saying that a bird is known by its flight. Matt texted me before either of us has results and said that he prayed for us to have clear results. The years and the symptoms and the struggles of brain cancer are something we've flown through or above, sometimes with mohawks to be a little more aerodynamic. I told him all I ever hope for is is to handle the results well no matter what they are. I think loving and living with conviction is something he shouts and I try to echo it and I think despite our different results that won't change and I really believe that for both of us that's handling it well. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Even If

'They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain
Well good thing A little faith is all I have, right now' -Mercy Me

Cancer survivors have little things that sometimes scare us... This fear of re-occurrence, or of growth of a disease whose symptoms are often not foreseeable or detectable by human norms still causes everyday things to be slight panic moments. I and others tell the bad ass stories of the people missing a lung or a leg who hike Everest or finish an Ironman. But there are ones that are somehow both sad and amusing, my freckled cancer friend who had skin cancer who always loved her freckles even as a child but now worries that one of them is changing shape. Summer is a time for long sleeves not extra freckles and she draws patterns on them somehow believing that if they line up properly like the right armstronomy then everything is normal and surely that one's not extra big right, it was always the north star? I have a young friend who decided walking was better than hard exercise because he wanted the bone cancer to be kept at bay but the soreness of muscles made him too nervous. There was the older lung cancer survivor friend who wondered if he should slow down since missing a lung because he thought making the shallow lungs work too hard was dangerous if he only had so much breath left. There are amusing stories like one breast cancer survivor who in her own words ask her husband far too often to feel on her breasts for less than erotic reasons and the colon survivor who acknowledges that he spends too much time wondering 'if anything new is up his ass and so he watches his shit closely.'

I have brain cancer so the truth is I don't pay attention to my body as much. In fact during Q&A during speeches a question I get often is if I've changed my diet because of the diagnosis and I acknowledge that I actually always ate relatively healthy for athletic reasons but now I have dessert more often since if odds are I'm not going to make 40, I'm going to enjoy all things chocolate till then.

But there are mental symptoms that make me wonder. There are times where I can't find a word, probably an everyday quality for all of us but then I remember that was one of the tests that went down in capacity after brain surgery near the language and memory center. It is a strange thing for a damaged brain to be wondering if its own damage is growing... There are memory moments where I forget someone's title that I've worked with for two years or say a different name by association in back to back moments on stage. I've got enough of a sense of humor where I play it often to everyone but there's a little sadness in me on those moments, something I try to comfort myself with the phrase that sad is happy for deep people.

When this all started, I had been having moments where I couldn't read for a few seconds, when I couldn't 'think'. It was only a few micro seconds with the suspicion now that they were micro seizures and the last thing before that grand mal seizure was that I couldn't read the menu at a birthday party. The thing that got me fired was making memory mistakes on the stand.

So lately I've been losing my wallet. It's not a new thing, I lose it once in a while as well as my keys. People have tried to comfort me about it by saying well Einstein was a genius but he couldn't ever remember little things like that. I never had neither his intellect nor his forgetfulness before brain surgery. But the last time I massively lost it was over 2 years ago 4 MRI's ago. That one as soon as I realized it was gone, I remember I had been at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center where I had decided to jump over a river and had emptied my pockets in case I missed I didn't ruin my wallet or phone or electronic keys. I nailed the jump but forgot the wallet but would get it all back together a few hours later, in the middle of the night with some criminal trespassing where I got caught but got let off after I explained why I was back.

Since the last MRI in December I've lost it 4 times. Once was after a party where Kiana and Elaine helped me look for it and after hours and hours and hours of searching I finally remembered that we were playing darts in the garage and I was wearing running shorts that barely had pockets and I'd put it to the side; it was still there. There was another time where again after a few hours it came back up and in my constant use of humor as a coping mechanism I even had a facebook status about how me losing my wallet was good for my house because that's the cleanest it ever was (someone chimed in that it was always the last place you look because then you stopped looking). A couple of weeks ago, I lost it again and spent 3 days looking for it before finally cancelling my credit cards and debit cards. 10 minutes after I did that I remember we had an unusually cold day in May and went and found it in my jacket pocket in the closet. Once again, I used the coping mechanism and a Facebook Status about how I'd be very financially responsible for 5-7 business days.

Today I once again lost it and I knew the last place I had it was right outside of a liquor store I parked at. I was taking Kiana and one of her friends to a swimming hole that starts near the parking lot and realized I hadn't brought water so I was going to buy some but you  have to be 21 to enter and I wasn't leaving two little girls on their own period much less outside of a liquor store. That was the last place I remember having it and needing it. We would walk the 1.5 miles to swim and enjoy it. We'd walk back and drive home and pack up her friend's bag. Then an hour or so later I realized I needed my wallet and I once again tore up the house and the car. I finally wondered if I dropped it on the hike so drove out there again as the sun was setting walked the entire way. On the way there I sent a message to Kiana's friend's parents... I kept walking through that trail and if that's not the definition of walking through the woods deliberately... it was exactly when I got to the furthest point and realized it wasn't there that I heard back and the wallet was in her friend's bag.

When episodes like these or the keys events happen, someone always suggests I get something to keep with one or the other or both that's trackable by an app. I cheat/compensate for many of my deficits with technology. For some reason these two are the stubborn holds. My memory may not be what it once was but one thing it does remember is how good it used to be. I keep a tight compensation thing on things that anyone else depends on me on, contacts, calendar. But the things that usually only affect me take longer to accept. It may be why it took so long to stop the seizures because it literally took me years after brain surgery before I accepted an app to check off my medication. I'm a proud man all around. Even as I struggle by merely aging to keep top speed I finished 3 of my recent track workouts with extra fast speed workouts. So fighting aging and cancer this way can't be fully called intelligent or stupid or can they?

But I have an MRI Tuesday and the question lingers are these just oversights or has the tumor grown and messed with memory more? The answer of course is until the results on Thursday I don't know. So a thousand thoughts go through my mind on an extra 3 miles looking for a wallet about that MRI. How to properly balance nervous energy and hope I don't have a great answer to. Some of it I do by looking at recent victories. Kiana just finished her 4th grade year, once again with straight A's and perfect attendance. This was literally just a few days after I paced her for fastest 5k yet in the worst weather she's ever done a race in. A new PR of 23:37 and she was once again the highest fundraiser at the event, beating both her time and fundraising from last year.

It also happens to be the 5k celebrating its 40th anniversary. When me and a few others joined the Austin Runner's Club the race was barely over 100, the next year it was 350 and this year we went over 500. The right team work... worked. Not only that, it was almost 5 years ago that I started doing races in a stroller but still my parents were out there too going side by side and finishing the race together. There are those who say pride is a sin but we're Leons so that's a good pride in my book. Whether or not I'll make 40 will remain a question for at least 3 more years but we enjoyed that the Daisy 5k did.

How to manage being nervous about whether or not something has lost equilibrium is by testing my own fears. At a friend's birthday party I rode once of those ancient bikes... I rode first and longer but also fell harder than anyone else at the party. I choose to act on the belief that sometimes balance doesn't have to be graceful or modern.

In fact the retouches, remodeling of the house continues. Just today I got the flooring that will get put into my bedroom soon. The room that had never had anything done to it will now have a new closet, a redone bathroom and now a new paint job and floor. With the MRI so close I honestly thought oh I should hold off on that until I see the MRI results since if they go bad I won't be alive that long much less living in that house. But ultimately I decided that no matter how it all goes, literally the last few steps when I rise in the morning or when I go to rest will be on a floor of my choosing. I in fact won't have a chance to get it done until after the results are in but it's going in no matter what to ensure that something still wins quite literally step by step.

The coping mechanisms haven't changed, perhaps having even grown more intense. Between pacing and racing I did 3 races last weekend, 2 the weekend before that and I have 3 tomorrow. Each has been with family, friends and the Bond girl. Tomorrow I am doing the Atlas ride with the Texas 4000, a group that cycles from Texas to Alaska to help out with cancer awareness. It was to be part of one of their rides that I actually learned to ride a bicycle a few years ago, something that would be very useful when I wasn't allowed to drive. And now I'm doing it again tomorrow with the Bond girl. From there we go to a trail race where we'll camp out. It was after a camping out race near a lake where she asked me out on our first date. The universe is being very kind right the weekend before this MRI. Perhaps the reason the bedroom needed some retouches in many ways.

I had lunch with a pastor friend and the honest truth is I didn't even tell him about the upcoming MRI. I never know what to say because people always offer to pray and I've never prayed that my cancer never grows. There's always songs I listen to when all of these things are going through my mind about if anything is growing in my brain. One of the most recent additions is the one quoted at the top and what this entry is named after, Even If. It's basic premise is that even if the mountain doesn't move, hope stays. It's a word I hang onto, one I make out of rocks and wood in moments like when Elaine and I went to the South Congress area of town with Kiana yesterday. There is a wall there that Austin is known for that says 'I love you so much.' Every once in a while it has to be redone because some moron feels the need to blemish a local landmark. There's only been two times I've ever taken a picture next to it both just on the spur of the moment, neither time retaking or enhancing the picture. They were almost exactly 4 years apart which gave me perspective on that I've gotten 4 more years of this little girl's life and of my own and of many people. The message was right behind me then and now. Even if everything goes horrible or wonderful in tomorrow's event or Tuesday's test, I think cancer is so far behind it can never come back, at least not to win. And that is why everyone mentioned here and a few others not mentioned at all is why cancer lost and why I'm thankful for all that. Because even if it all goes great/terrible, to them, to life, I love you so much.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Strangers Like Me

"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else." Margaret Mead

What is conscious or subconscious is always a mystery to me, not every aspect of which I hope is ever solved. The dance between our natural wiring and our will power is fascinating. Nurturing our nature or fighting against it... like so much of the beauty of life is a fair question for most if not all of us. It occurs to me that we do it well individually but sometimes struggle with it in larger group settings.

Life continues for me. It must be getting near an MRI  because I've had formal events every weekend for over a month and then have at least 4 maybe till June 10th. (June 8th is when I get the results of one a couple of days before that). They've varied from road races to Spartans to bike rides. Therapeutic use of muscles to try to show the system that I am still alive no matter what's going on in my left temporal lobe. I've been taking this approach for over 6 years now and where it's hurting may be simply as aging. I still do it all and am still staying pretty competitive but the legs and system stay sore longer. It hurts enough to where I've had to start listening to country music to laugh it off, reminding myself that I'm not as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was. Still the kid born 8/8/80 got a faster 10k recently than the exact same Sunshine run course a year ago and finished 8th over all. It may tell you the subconscious of me not accepting aging well that I've put away all age group winner trophies and now am just holding on to the ones I have placed outright.

One weekend event though that was tough on the second weekend of May wasn't because it was physically tough, thought it was its own challenge. I spent a weekend with First Descents, a great organization that I raised money for the last time I did the Boston Marathon. They help young adult cancer survivors have great, primarily outdoor adventures since their motto is out living it. We were out windsurfing, for most people it was their first time. They actually have regular adventures around Texas but this was the first time I joined them on a rare weekend without a race. The windsurfing was great but it was nowhere near my favorite part. There were moments where we laughed at silly things right from the start. Our intro was from a graduate student who had us all introduce ourselves and say what chore we didn't like and why. It's a group where we go by nicknames not proper names so my intro was 'my name is Rum and Coke. I don't like cleaning up my dog's poop because I don't do it often enough and then when I do it I wonder if I should do it less often or more often." Before you read the next sentence try that with your least favorite chore. Then you're supposed to do the exact same thing except replace the name of the chore with sex... Man did I pick the right 'chore'.

But there were moments were people talked about the physical struggles of cancer, some people who were actively going through recurrences. A couple of us who shared with each other how we talk about it with kids, how it affects relationships. Anyone whose ever spent a few minutes with me knows I talk too much but in these situations I talk less than anywhere, mostly making jokes to
alleviate the tension of the emotional reminders of it all. Humor remains my coping mechanism but so does running when emotionally uncomfortable. I ran pretty hard on the beach both days I was there on that relaxing weekend. But in both of the first descent events I've been to they have this ritual where everyone shares emotional things one on one with someone and then with the group. There's a phrasing that came out of several people, that what they appreciate about these weekends is to feel normal. It's something I often hear in cancer survivor groups, the places where to feel normal. I understand at some level... normal's a rare place for me, usually while I'm running or taking care of chores. But I personally never want to feel normal among cancer survivors. Perhaps it's because I so thoroughly despite having cancer that I want people to always fight it for it not feel normal. I may be like a solider who constantly re-enlists where the battle is the normal feeling while most of us, in that scenario, would much prefer the domestic life as to where things feel normal. My favorite people and moments on the trip were ones where no one was on their phone and we remembered that present company was very important. I lied a couple of times that weekend in the lie me, a guy with facial recognition issues tells the most often, 'yes I remember you.' Oddly enough a person who I spent a fair share of time talking to and who I have apparently have met more than a few times, I still wouldn't be able to pick out of  a crowd because they aren't on social media (this is where I usually study people's faces to remember them, something that if I did it in person would well creep anyone out). It was a reminder that even with a damaged memory and imperfect recollection, some people give you impressions to reminisce about. When we did the emotional sharing thing after everyone had genuine kumbaya type moments around a 'camp fire' and it got to me I was honest and said I hate this emotional stuff because it makes me face my humanity, something I struggle more to face than my mortality. I struggle with acknowledging the emotions and reality that an intense and yet relaxed weekend like that makes me focus on but I think I always come out physically and emotionally challenged, healthier and stronger for it. How can one not be grateful for that?

But I got back to home... and the room that had never had anything done to it, my previously unshared bedroom, continues to get better. I'm still amused that the nicest door in my house is a closet door but that led to the bathroom not looking as cool and it got some upgrades. The short version is that there's been more done to my house since Elaine moved in than had been done in years and there's a couple of things already planned. I'm a fan of the fact that most of them are things that are invisible to most people but primarily practical even if a little more polished. I joked with a  couple of guys while I was running about all this and they said well that's the cost of a woman's touch... with the double entendre fully intended.

But speaking of double, I did something I'd never done before. There have been several times where I have done the elite heat of a spartan and then headed back and done the finishing obstacles with
friends and family. I am intrigued by the fact the activity I've shared the most is one that I'm at best mediocre at in my viewpoint. But I've gotten to do it with cousins, my brother, my oldest friends, friends from crossfit, running, ultimate and of course Kiana. She's done two adult sprints where I did the elite heat and then went back and did it with her again. When she did the super last year, I just did it from start to finish with her. But this year, I did the men's elite heat competition (spatial orientation caused some issues and a few extra miles of running) and then went back and from scratch did it once again with Elaine. Perhaps because I didn't get lost, perhaps because her heat didn't have any lightning delays in the middle of it, perhaps since she was in front and I had a good view to chase, but ultimately the second joint wave was faster than the first one on my own. I guess that settles the argument of which one is the better half. I often make fun of the song 'one call away' about that superman has nothing on the guy since he's only one call away... wasn't the great thing about superman that you didn't have to call him? I feel alien enough but I am glad that during an entire Spartan Super we were never even an obstacle away.

I've also been asked to sit on a committee that's helping develop some things for the cancer institutes at the new medical school at the University of Texas, the first medical school built in America since before I was born. They are definitely open to a whole lot of new and innovative ideas and one of the things they are working on is a young adult cancer's clinic. The pediatric world has a few good places (as we should watch out for children more than anyone else). The older crowd does as well (while all are true, I've wondered if it's because there's more resources then, because cancer is more common at that time or because the fear of mortalities rises in most of us as we get closer to the end of life). But the young adult crowd is still much neglected. There are issues for young adults where they're trying to figure out life period much less when life throws a gigantic cancer curve ball and its hard to distinguish which is part of what. I never quite know why I get asked to help with these things because I certainly don't go in as a rubber stamp or a yes man. They obviously realized they still had more perspective to add because this was the second meeting and at the first they had no survivors on the committee; they had fixed it by the second meeting. Their was brilliance and compassion in there, genuine questions and genuine care. The ideas  flowed well. My contribution was sometimes speaking for the things that were under represented. There were 3 men in the room to a dozen or so women. This is often the case in cancer care events, the only place I see is more disproportional is at mom/dads events helping elementary kids events. It may say something about my gender in general but I've pointed it out at enough cancer events. It's gotten one CEO to say that I'm a good manbassador for that. I put minor energy into having an influence on that at school events but a lot more in cancer events because it's not like the people affected by cancer are that disproportionate neither in diagnosis or contacts. I pointed out as we talked about surveys that there are many people who will never fill out their survey, who should actively seek them in a place of their own.

I spent over 6 years as a juvenile probation officer where I did more home visits than were required legally speaking because there is something about recognizing what someone calls home and how much of it they make their own and how much of it is just a place to sleep. Most of the juveniles involved in the system are ones from single mom homes. Correlation doesn't mean causation in any aspect of life but I think that as I've found ways to show and share my manliness at home and not just in sports, I've become better at many things from family to cancer survivor to those sports themselves. I've got a long long way to go but what do you know even when I'm lost I keep moving and the moment I recognize I'm lost I try to get back on path.

While running with my bro-mance partner, I've wondered out loud about this imbalance of people wanting to feel both special and normal. He joked back that it was fine, I was never going to be
someone who was normal. Perhaps it's why I'm drawn things like the quote this blog started with that a college professor used to use a lot "You are unique just like everyone else." People who sign up for marathons, single fathers, brain cancer survivors, Spartans, heck my favorite sport is one that felt the need to show its inferiority/superiority complex by naming itself Ultimate. In an age where social media, regular media, and friendship circles have become far more enclosed echo chambers than I thing is good for any of us I keep trying to hear more voices. Perhaps it's because I see a gorgeous rainbow after hill repeats in the rain that I think diversity is a good thing. Like in nature there's some danger and some destruction in thinking it can be all encompassing but I think it has a much bigger range than I've dreamed up.

I got my first ticket in over a decade recently and went to driver's ed. Not knowing much about it I decided doing it in person was better than online for 6 hours. In simple honesty is the first time I've had to sit in a room for 6 hours with a diverse crowd where the common point is speeding. It's become an even more conscious effort to hang out with more people who we don't just have common interests like the parents at Kiana's school. Neither the defensive driving or those parenting events
have I wished I hadn't opened my mouth to answer certain questions. Kiana once in a a while gets in trouble at school for being condescending. Many of her great qualities I have no idea where she gets them, like having won all 3 of her UIL competitions this year, all improvements from last year. But her bad ones it probably comes from the person she literally looks up to most days during meals. But with her and with myself, and in an age where a person who disagrees with my political views is 'evil', we've been focused and I hope never lose that focus, on seeing beyond ourselves and our interests. Cancer, a huge and upcoming part of my life with a few medical appointments in early June. The reason it is so destructive to the system is because it only wants to take care of itself no matter the expense, ultimately killing the very host. There's a reason we want to and should get rid of it in all of it's forms. In seeing the uniqueness in everyone else. I try to teach both her and I that sometimes the things that make us feel strange which we try to feel normal should just be embraced because we really do all have more in common than we do apart. Feeding that healthiness is how you feed life and defeat abnormal growth, right?

'I want to know, can you show me?
I want to know about the strangers like me
Tell me more, please show me
Something is familiar
About the strangers like me'

So in cancer events or school events or sports events or defensive driving events, I hope I keep finding ways to like strangers and help strangers like me. Because I've learned that helps us get them closer to feeling like family.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hold On Hope

Well after a month of waiting for blood work and other results, they all came back as normal. Some of the things we measure like blood pressure actually came back as improved. One of the things that brought all these tests about is a piss poor development. The truth is that I have to pee more with the medication I'm on. I honestly don't notice it much during the day though I've had a few people make fun of me for the fact that almost without fail I usually pee between the warm up and the workouts of track and hill repeats. Its appeared to be getting worse in the last year mostly at night (this is where everyone is wondering what I usually do, why does anyone read this blog) so getting up at night 5 or 6 times.. well let's just say I've done far more fun things in the middle of the night. The question in the bloodwork was whether the brain was causing some hormones to be regulated unevenly; the answer was no. My grandfather everyone in a while asks about some of the things that have come from this brain surgery and these medications. In both regards to peeing too much at night and memory issues, he's said with a grin well I've got those problems too man. Who knew brain cancer with epilepsy and being in your 80's could cause similar problems... what if the kid born 8/8/80 who statistically is not supposed to make 40 gets to his 80's?!? What then?

It's a dance of believing in both hope and statistical probability. A few weeks ago I got to speak at an event where they opened up a new art exhibit in the Livestrong Headquarters of an installation of a big egg made out of wood from a project called Hero's Journey Art. It's a project designed for patients who go through clinical trials and their friends and family, people who are part of studies. I have never been part of a clinical trial but I am actually tracked in a  couple of studies. My brain will be donated to science whenever I die because they want to know what a brand new one looks like. One of the things I shared was what is the study signup, "what we learn here may never help you but we hope it will help others." The two closest friends I have made with this same type of tumor both had it grow unexpectedly, it's typical pattern ended up both being part of clinical trials. One did it as her and her husband were finally 6 or 7 years down the road talking about opening up to having kids and then found out the tumor grew. It went well for her but they decided it was probably most responsible/reasonable/I don't know what the right word is to not have kids. The other friend already had a wife and kids but the clinical trial didn't take with him. He died at home just a few months after the growth was discovered.

It's a tough journey being known for being a cancer survivor and choosing to be active in part of the community. I've done things with Livestrong, Imerman Angels, the Brain Power 5k, Head for the
Cure, First Descents, Voices Against Brain Cancer and the American Cancer Society. Most have been actually fairly minor though some have been sustained but because I know it can be a lonely journey, without exception I have kept friends and relationships from everyone. Without exception, I've seen people had resurgences. The bonding is at different levels, like all relationships but when you see people you love reach out in faith and hit walls, there's no way to not be angry. One of those people is someone who decided to reach out and go for the lottery for their first marathon, the New York Marathon, which this year lands on my 7th cancerversary. They got in but at their next appointment... there had been some regrowths and now they have been told to get their affairs in order because they have a few months left at best. That's just one of many examples I could tell you of people I've met personally and frankly some 4 letter words go through my mind every time. But as I said at that speech and well every speech almost I've ever given, I go with HOPE as my 4 letter word. The artist had a brick to give me and I thought great that's something Kiana can do as she was standing next to me and she's the artistic one. He would end up giving us both one and... well I knew it would take some more creativity than I used to.

I originally was going to simply get hope burned into it and then write along the sides some key phrases from my hope pile (hope is the thing with feathers, no such thing as false hope, and hope is my 4 letter word). Kiana was originally going to write a poem on it. But as we went and shopped for arts and crafts to use, we tweaked what we were going to do. Kiana made it a word Believe with her unique touches. I actually painted Hope with chalk paint in my favorite color, no one will write on it but I wanted to believe hope is where things and written and sometimes erased, but there's always capacity to write on more hope. I purposely didn't fill it solid but gave it imperfections and different textures in different parts. I gave it its own feather and somewhere in the middle literally put my fingerprint on it. Hope, rising above, rather than burned in is my thing with feathers.

Between the bloodwork and the final results (a full month), there were a few things that occurred. One was a simple thing, the AC on my car went out. In Texas... that's a problem you resolve quickly. For a couple of days I actually thought about getting another car rather than sinking money into this one being fixed. Some of that was just looking at how many adapters now come in cars so that I can play music with my iPhone or charge it etc etc... Some of it was practical that as Kiana gets older it seems when I'm taking her and her friends to an adventure putting things in my car has felt like a jigsaw puzzle and a bigger car might be useful. But some of it, as silly as it sounds, was just trying to commit to further down the future. Because for better or worse, in 6 and half years of brain cancer, I have yet to commit to anything past 1 MRI's. That's progress because for almost 5 years I honestly had no commitments ever past a single one of them. They were then and now scheduled around Kiana's semesters so if anything goes wrong the transition to a different school would be at a more organic time. But to take a car loan for a few years could be argued as a poor financial decision but it's also a simple belief that you're going to be around for those few years. In the end, oddly enough, it  may well have been medical issues that kept me from buying the car. I keep all of my paperwork from everything but I finished paying off the car while not allowed to drive 2 months into the brain cancer journey and I couldn't find the title. I ordered a new one but it takes 30 days to arrive so... I fixed the AC. But there was something that almost, almost felt right to believing a bit down the road.

But down the road the journey continues. There was an article written about me running the cap 10k shortly after I won the marathon. No media covered it this time or last time but both of those times were ones I cared about a whole lot more. Last year Kiana did it and it was the first time she broke an hour and my parents also joined us. This year Kiana did it and took almost 5 minutes of for a 51:29 speeding up for the last 3 miles with conviction. You can check out pictures of me here in a weight vest but there's a kid constantly in the way. But she wasn't the only one who got a PR that day, the other lady who is now part of the household, my girlfriend Elaine also ran her fastest 10k that day and was there waiting for us as we crossed the line. We have a little tradition in my house of always having the most recent bib up in the kitchen. It's always just been two but even as I write this it warms my heart for the first time ever to look up and see 3 which coincidentally have our names .

When your girlfriend moves in, everyone from old fashioned people like friends and say your mother, ask when the wedding is... none of that is planned but it sure makes me believe in Karma. In the modern age where we're a little more tolerant about these types of things, every time one of my friends got engaged, I'd ask if they were nervous about losing their virginity. So now my girlfriend lives with me and I get asked when I'm getting married. I caused awkwardness and now get some caused. Who says life isn't fair? But people keep asking how it's going and it's going very well. I feel like I'm sleeping better and some of my lumosity scores are better for the first time in too long.

Perhaps a key to that is it's been a little over 2 years since my heart rate reached what it has stayed at since, 42. My heart therefore has within it the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. Perhaps it's a coincidence, perhaps not that it wasn't till it got there that shortly afterwards when I would start dating Elaine. There are little things that have crossed my agenda since she moved in, the trees are about to get their first real work done since I moved in the house over 10 years ago. There are times when I say that my life has been on hold for so long but the truth is that when you're on hold, there should be a reason you're making the call. I've kept raising a kid but that's someone you hold as necessary but it's just because they are still growing their wings. Perhaps I've had too many areas of my life that when I'm honest weren't on hold but really on standstill. It's a tough balance to pretend like cancer is irrelevant or improbable to return when you've had to say goodbye to too many people. I think of a friend who moved into the college chaplaincy work said it was easier than his previous job because he got to do lots of weddings and not many funerals. I've been to too many hospices and funerals. I will never be grateful for cancer but I am absolutely grateful to have met those people no matter how painful it has been to say goodbye.

I'm never going to pretend like I'm immortal. I've got an MRI in only a few weeks but the truth is the George Clooney girls only ever made it between MRI's. Kiana's mother, my wife of 10 years, only made it through 3 and that was over only 6 months. It may be a strange thought but if Elaine is still here come June 8th, something I'd bet on, she will surpass anyone this hopeful romantic has ever allowed into that area of his life. Maybe that's why we still hold each other so well.

There is still in fact nothing and no one in my life that I have a substantial commitment more than two MRI's away. With heavy debts and heavy emotions, I don't think it's that unreasonable of a position to have put too much of life on hold. But with it, I am glad, thankful, relived that there have been people kind enough to hold me, and people who I've been fortunate enough to hold. I've even been listening to music like Buble's Hold on,

So hold on to me tight,
hold on to me tonight.
We are stronger here together,
than we could ever be alone.

It is these people and these relationships why even while some parts of life were on hold, I've held onto hope.