Relative to my decade-long quest to complete 10 Boston Marathons in a row, it has been more like a journey of 8 million steps. Like most journeys of this length, I didn’t start out with the idea I was going to do this for 10 years. Initially it was a way to remember my son’s life, give something back in his name and for a long while, an avenue to deal with the grief. The roads and the wind gave me a shoulder to cry on. Over time the idea I could make an impact with the donations became the bigger goal but I needed a bigger challenge to grab attention and get support.
There are about 20,000 elite runners who qualify and get accepted into Boston each year. A little over half are men and less than 10% of those will be in my over 60 age group when we toe the line at the start. At the end of the day there will be less than 900 runners age 60 – 64 who will finish. I would guess less than 20% of those will complete it more than 2 years in a row. If I could avoid injuries, fight the weather and stay healthy for 10 years, if in the process I could run fast enough to requalify and get accepted into the race, and if I could actually finish all 10 in weather that would range from 40 degree days to 90 degree days, and include rain, hurricane winds and a terrorist bombing then truly that would be an accomplish worthy of asking people to fund the efforts of Help in the Nick of Time. This has been my goal since starting the charity 7 years ago.
OK, enough history, let’s turn to philosophy. Pretty much all of us have heard or maybe used the phrase “A Journey of a 1000 miles…blah blah” from the Chinese philosopher Laozi. It’s a timeless phrase you can use for just about anything that involves a challenge (quitting smoking, going to the gym, losing weight, getting to college, building a career). It has the added benefit of making you sound wise and experienced. Works great on a long road trips when your 8 year old asks “are we there yet” (Gaze off into the distance and with a thoughtful voice say “the vacation of a thousand miles begins with one step). Totally derails the kid’s thought process.
OK…what has this to do with my training for Boston this year? The journey of 8 million steps is almost over. For the last nine years, while I thought I was on annual quests to get to and finish the Boston Marathon, in truth I was on a decade long journey of healing and discovery. That journey is about to end. But not at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Last week, during my 17 mile run it was clear I was struggling to keep my normal pace. Within a couple of days I knew the answer, I have Acute Leukemia.
Am I angry? Not yet. Probably still in denial. I’m waiting for the first guy who says “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Then I’ll go postal. Sometimes when life hands you lemons you just want to throw them at someone…..starting with the guy who said “make lemonade”.
So now my life has totally changed. For the next 30 days I’m stuck in isolation as they pump my body full of poison to first kill all my white blood cells and then watch to see if good ones or bad ones come back. Unfortunately the chemo kills off the production of red blood cells (which carry your O2) and your platelets (which handle blood clotting). So avoiding germs because I have no white cells to fight infection, no cuts or bruises because I have no platelets to stop the bleeding and limited exercising because I can’t get a lot of O2. In my new world I’ve traded my 17 miles running for 17 laps around the hall pushing my new best friend….my intravenous tree we’ve named Olive Oil. I also have a machine that does leg massages to keep the blood flowing. We call her Helga. You can tell that loss of red blood cells are affecting oxygen to the brain as well.
Now instead of looking like one of the zombie extras from the walking dead shuffling down the road on my runs, I’m one of those hospital zombies shuffling down the hallway pushing my IV pole, nodding to all the nurses and trying not to flash my backside through my custom tailored hospital gown.
For the next 30 days or so I plan to change the blog over to my new journey. When I feel up to it I’ll post info on what is it like to be on this journey and much like the running, give some of the emotional highs and lows. For those of you that don’t care to follow this info just let me know and I’ll take you off the distribution list. I fully understand…neither one of us signed up for this trip.
I also want to thank all of you who have supported me through the years. Words cannot express my gratitude or the gratitude of the people we have helped. That effort will continue regardless of what happens.