Sunday, March 15, 2020

Panic and Soldier On


Image result for soldier onBy now we have all heard enough about the coronavirus/COVID-19 to last us a lifetime.  I for one am limiting the amount of radio, internet and TV time to keep the hype and noise to a minimum.    Given the speed of changes and misinformation it is easy to be whipsawed between what to do and not do to stay safe.

Take face masks for instance.  When I was recovering from chemo and the transplant, I was told I had to wear them to protect myself when my immune system was compromised.   Now I hear the ones I was given to wear are useless to prevent infection from a virus but useful for protecting others from getting what you have.  Great, months of thinking I was protecting myself when really I was saving others from getting sick from me.    Guess it worked, no one around me got Leukemia.

But more seriously, what is the story with the irrational panic buying?  People are doing hand to hand combat in stores over hand sanitizer while right next to the empty spots on store shelves are plenty of soap, bottled bleach, and spray bottles of Lysol.   Tito’s Vodka had to issue a press release telling people not to make hand sanitizer out of their vodka (not enough alcohol content).  They suggested using it to pass the time while quarantined.   And don’t even get me started about the rush on toilet paper.   Toilet Paper?   What are people doing as a result of the virus that requires pallets of TP?  Maybe making home grown face masks.

You have to admit if it wasn’t so serious it would actually be humorous.  The best comedians are the politicians.  In Philly this week the local politicians declared the St. Patrick’s Day parade would go on as planned but in the same newscast they warned people not to attend.    Then of course there is president Trump’s expert medical assessment that it “will go away”, “One day, it’s like a miracle it will disappear.”.    This followed shortly after by bans on incoming flights, cancellations of large public gatherings and a stock market crash. 
    
Speaking of cancellations, for only the second time in 124 years, the Boston Marathon is being postponed till September (first time was in 1918 during WW I).    Disappointing I’m sure for all the runners that put in the training through the winter and now have to face staying in shape for 5 more months.   For me it is actually helpful.   I’ve been fighting a bad cold for the last 10 days and as the case with immune system, when I get sick a number of the inflictions from the chemo and transplant come back to haunt me.  As a result, I had to curtail my training for a bit.  The extra time and the summer months will make for much more pleasant training as I try to make the marathon challenge.   It will also hopefully take us past the significant part of the COVID-19 outbreak.   As someone who falls in the high-risk category (over 60 and compromised immune system) and currently fighting a bad cold, I can use all the breaks I can get.  In the near-term Pam and I are just hunkering down.

Hunkering down reminds me of the months I spent in the hospital going through treatment.  As we all go into some form isolation over the next few months it’s good to keep in mind that this is a small taste of what many pediatric cancer patients face for months and sometimes years.    Their world isolated to one room, maybe even to a bed waiting for the next treatment.   It’s the reason Help in the Nick of Time programs focus on helping with the pain, fear and boredom that often accompanies protracted cancer treatment.     For those that support us I can’t thank you enough.

Till next time, stay safe.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

I Need Patience… and I need it RIGHT NOW!


Atheism, Religion, God is Imaginary. Family trip to enlightenment. Are we there yet? Easy Meditation, Meditation For Beginners, Mindfulness Meditation, Christian Humor, Peace On Earth, Love And Light, Family Travel, Family Vacations, In This WorldNow that I’m a grandparent and retired I find that I’m not in as much of a hurry as I use to be…except to get to the bathroom.   I don’t get annoyed as much when the Doctor or Dentist is 15 minutes late, or Pennsylvania drivers sit at red lights 5 seconds after it turns green (a guaranteed horn in Boston), or I get stuck in line in the grocery store behind the person that has to count out their exact change.    I’d like to attribute it to my mindfulness meditation but I think it’s simply age and the fact that I’m typically not in a hurry to get anywhere (other than to visit the grandchildren).    


While I’m on the topic of grandchildren and patience, I had the pleasure of babysitting my 3 year old grandson the other day.  Some people would think that it would take a lot of patience, and they would be right.   He needed to be very patient with me as I constantly forgot the names of all his Paw Patrol figures, was totally confused about the Lego characters, and couldn’t quite mold the playdough into the characters he wanted.

Actually, I have a theory that your DNA changes with chemo and you grow a new set of patience genes.  In this fast paced, fast food, “I want it now” society this could be a good thing.  At least that’s what I thought until I realized when it came to the topic of how long it was taking to recover from the chemo/stem cell transplant, the patience gene was totally missing.   Take running for example.  It’s been over 2 years since I was released from the hospital after the transplant and it’s safe to say that progress getting back to jogging/running has been far short of my expectations.     A year ago, I almost gave up on ever running again.  It was a year since I got out of the hospital and despite walking almost every day, the best I could do was jog a quarter mile before I had to stop and walk for a while.   I did the math and at this rate I’d be almost 70 years old before I could run a mile and somewhere close to 90 before I could run 5.   Even with my new patience genes, sticking with the run/walk efforts for three more years, through the cold/wet winters and hot/humid summers to get to the goal of a mile seemed as likely as the politicians getting together to address global warming.    There was one thing that kept me going for another year, the support I received for Help in the Nick of Time when the best I could do was a 7-day jog/walk marathon in 8 hours.    With that motivation, and a ton of patience, I’m happy to report I am now able to jog more than a mile without walking.    It’s what will let me achieve this year’s 7-day jog/walk in 6 hours.  Sometimes being patient and sticking it out is worth the effort.   As long as I continue to get support for helping children with cancer, I’m committed to putting one foot in front of the other and blogging about the experience.

I’ve come to terms with idea there are no more marathons in my future but I would like to be able to run 5 miles before I’m 90 (maybe even before I’m 70).    Even better is to still be able to run 5 miles when I’m 90.

Till next time…slogging and blogging away.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Ripples


Image result for ripples in waterBack in college, what seems like hundreds of years ago, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to one of her good friends.   Bad move.   Almost 50 years later the friend she introduced me to and I have been married for 44 years, had four beautiful children and now have 7 (and counting) gorgeous grandchildren.    Anyone who knows me well knows that the decision to date and marry Pam was the best decision I made in my life (and I’m not just saying that because I know she will be reading this).   Heaven knows where I would be without her.  It’s interesting how a single decision can have such wide-ranging ripple effects not only in our lives but in the lives (and even the existence) of others. 

This month it is 2 years since I escaped from the hospital after my stem cell transplant.   I’m here to write this because a gentleman in Germany decided to volunteered to be a bone marrow transplant donor and when he was called to donate for me, he accepted.  The commitment is not trivial both in time and pain.   That decision not only saved my life but has had a ripple effect on the lives of people around me.   It’s a gift I can never repay.

It’s one of the reasons I feel so passionately about how Help in the Nick of time helps pediatric cancer patients and their families.    In the last year we have driven programs that have helped many dozens of children and families deal with the difficulties of a life with cancer including computers and tablets while in the hospital, gift boxes, camp outing, and day/night out events.    I like to believe the ripple effect goes far beyond our efforts.  It’s only through the support of many of you that we have raised almost $100,000 to be able to fund these programs.   This year I would like to break through that $100K mark and with your help I know we can do it.

For my part, while I’m a long way from running a marathon this year, I will again be striving to complete a multiday marathon challenge.    You may remember last year I committed to completing 26.2 miles over the 7 days leading up to the Boston Marathon and to do it in under 8 hours.    It was far from my less than 4-hour marathons but no less difficult.   Recovery this year has had its challenges but I’m now able to mix a bit of jogging with my walking.  It’s not pretty, and certainly a long way from what anyone would call running, but I’m setting the goal to do the 26.2 miles over 7 days in less than 6 hours.    Maybe I’ll send video this year, although I’d recommend not viewing it in public as the heavy breathing may give people the wrong idea on what you are watching. 

On the leukemia front, results from the latest bone marrow biopsy came back clean (YAY).   Just wish they could test without corkscrewing a piece of bone out of my hip.   But, chances of a relapse go down each year we are in remission so I’m one happy little camper.
So here we go again…another year of marathoning and fund raising.   I believe both our efforts are sending out good ripples far beyond what we know.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress on both over the next couple of months.   If nothing else, the training updates should be entertaining. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The age of Lost and Found


Image result for pirate with one arm and one legI just celebrated my 2-year transplant birthday this week and I thought it was a good time to reflect on where I am in my recovery and what I’ve learned about myself.   Self-reflection can be a frightening thing but not nearly as scary as my reflection in a mirror these days.

I was taking a post-transplant inventory on my health the other day and I realized how much I have physically aged just since the transplant.   I had expected aging to be a gradual process but with the chemo, transplant and associated after effects, I got to see it in an accelerated form.  Quick back of the napkin estimate is I’ve aged 5 years since the transplant….physically.  I think the jury is out on the mental affects but then I’m so forgetful how would I know.

It’s not like I expected to never get old.   I was prepared for a gradual decline in my marathon times, the inevitable thinning of the hair, the constant search for the car keys/wallet, the lack of strength to open jars, the need for a heating pad and Aleve after a half hour of raking leaves, etc.     It’s just I didn’t expect it to happen all at once. 

It’s time to face facts… “this is your new reality…get use to it.”

Last Sunday I stumbled on a cartoon in the Sunday paper that hit home.    I’m usually not a comics reader but this one happened to be just above the Sudoku puzzle which I’m fairly passionate about.   It was Hagar the Horrible talking to a crippled pirate.
 “…look at you…one eye! 
“One hand!”
“And one leg!”
“Could your luck be any worst?”
The pirate responds “Sorry, do mind talking into my good ear?”

A great reminder that nothing is so bad that it couldn’t be worse.   Also a great reminder that your attitude determines if the glass is half empty or half full.   For example:

  • -         Lost my sense of taste but now I can eat almost anything and not worry about it tasting bad.    With a little imagination, any flavor of ice cream can taste like my favorite.
  • -         My memory is not what it used to be but I worry less because I can’t remember what I was worrying about.  I write myself more notes and lists to get things done.  I just have to remember where I put them.
  • -         Eyesight is going so I have to wear glasses.   Glasses make me look smarter when I'm wearing them but dumber when I ask where are my glasses (and they are on top of my head).                  
  • -         No hair so I save money on haircuts and shampoo.  Showers are faster too.
  • -         Less of a sense of smell makes changing grandchildren’s diapers easier and airplane trips more pleasant.


Maybe we need to have a weekend camp for middle aged adults to introduce them to what to expect.   Make them wear slightly out of focus glasses, give them mouthwash that numbs the taste buds, shave their heads (men), hide any items like wallets, purses, phones and keys they leave around.   If we really want to challenge them mentally, make them select the lowest cost Medicare insurance plan for a simulated 65-year-old.

Despite what it may appear, I’m not complaining.    I expected pretty much all the above at some point as I got older, just not so soon and not so suddenly.   With the exception of running I’m learning to adapt.   I haven’t given up on getting back to running even though I’ve accepted my marathon days may be over.    I plan on doing another fundraising multiday marathon challenge again this year.   Thanks to all the support last year we were able to fund four programs for children with cancer and their families in 2019.    They send their heartfelt thank you for the help.

So, 2 years on from the transplant and despite the challenges of GVHD I’m thankful to still be here.  Shortly I’ll get the results of my latest bone marrow biopsy and if we get a clean bill of health it will lower the odds of a relapse.   Fingers crossed.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Marathon Week


Image result for boston marathon start lineMonday is the Boston Marathon Day and for the first time in 14 years It will be the second year in a row I won’t be at the starting line.    All those years when I was in the midst of winter training doing long runs in single digit temps, I never thought I would miss it, but I do.   It’s not just the race I miss, it’s all the activities around the race weekend, the awesome crowds on race day, and the thrill of being one of the runners who earned the right to stand on the starting line with the most elite marathoners in the world.

Running the marathon was also my way of showing my commitment to Help in the Nick of Time.  If I am asking people to part with their hard-earned cash, even if it is for a good cause, I wanted to demonstrate my own commitment as well.  Besides, it selfishly gave me a good excuse to blog (vent) about the ups and downs of training and running the marathon. 

So, you can imagine the hole cancer has left, not only taking away the marathon and fund-raising challenge, but the ability to run at all.     When I finished the first round of chemo and went into remission back in 2016, I was back running within a couple of months and did the 2017 Boston Marathon just 7 months later.   I figured it would be about the same after the stem cell transplant but here we are over a year since I got out of the hospital and my efforts to jog at all resemble a toddler falling all over himself learning to walk.   It’s cute in my grandchildren, not so much in an old man.    I swear I can hear the kids at the bus stop as I pass by saying” get a walker before you hurt yourself” under their breadth.

It is with this in mind that I decided to put together the 7-day Marathon Challenge (26.2 miles in less than 8 hours over 7 days).   I figured it may not be as impressive as running a marathon in 4 hours but it would take a similar amount of commitment given where I’m at physically.    

Well, 5 days in and I didn’t underestimate the effort.   It’s forced me to push myself from just walking to mixing in occasional 30 second jogs.   While it feels great to have the legs moving again, 30 seconds of jogging leaves me feeling like someone poured cement in my shoes, and breathing like a lifetime smoker, with a single lung, in the midst of allergy season.  Despite the challenges I’ve been able to complete almost 20 miles in the first 5 days and with a push I may make the full 26.2 in under 8 hours.

Why do this?  It’s nothing compared to what the children with cancer have to go through.    If my efforts motivate contributions to Help in the Nick of Time it is all worth it. 
  
Two days to go.  I’ll send and update once the 7 days are up and let you know how I make out.