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How Running Saved My Life and My Heroes


It was March 2012 and I had just moved to Tennessee from Delaware. It was just me and my daughter Rae. Space was left behind while we settled in. I had a new and exciting job at a startup. After getting a little settled in I went out running and felt a little blah. My legs felt good but there was no energy. It could be just the move but it did not get better with future runs.

Enter Dr. Bill and Dr. Pethkar. They checked me out and found tumors in my lungs. This is where a Lymphoma diagnosis is a good thing. The initial diagnosis based on the CT scan was Lung Cancer. This is where I want to talk about my Heroes. I needed help. Space was still up in Philly so I called my Mom because of the news and the upcoming surgery. My parents were there 26 hours later.

The bronchoscopy went… okay. It wasn’t Lung Cancer. But it was still unknown. The next hard part was I had to tell Space what was going on. She didn’t take it well. Which was awesome. After another failed attempt at diagnosis the docs up at Jefferson Hospital wanted to take a crack at it. Lets back up a little. Space works at the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic at Jeff. So, my father and I got in the Van and surried up to Philly like a band trying to make it to the next gig.

The docs scraped around a bit more and we learned two valuable things.

  1. Anesthesia does not work on me. I was mostly awake during the procedure.

B. Great News! I had Lymphoma.

First thing was first. Meet with my new docs at Vanderbilt. They were awesome. They explained the treatment plan real well and their system was real nice. They had free parking and amazing hospital food. As I told the world the outcry of support was fantastic. It was the second part that was the hardest. I had to tell my daughter Rae. I sought out some advice. The docs at Vandy were no help. They recommended that I not tell here. Here comes my friend Abbey. She is a fraternity brother that had battled NHL and will be celebrating her 5 year clean mark in december. When she heard the news she came back with some great support and advice. Especially with regards to telling Rae. Earlier this year she dedicated her triathlon with TnT in Hawaii to me. The motto of the race was “Doing it for Duff” Abbey really came through as did all of my fraternity brothers along the way.

Back to the kid. My mother and I sat her down and had the talk. If only it was the other “Talk.” At least I had been preparing for that one. She took it real well… until I told her I would lose my hair. She was devastated about that. Rae eventually cheered up and was on the team for kicking this cancer’s ass. At every moment since her birth she has been my role model.

A couple of months and several treatments later, the fucking cancer didn’t respond to the chemo. What a downer. Then presto! My In-laws showed up and saved the day. My new treatment was going to make living in Tennessee impossible. They came down packed everything up and we were off back to Philly.

We moved and my new team at Jeff entered the fight. It is not what you know but who you know. I had the heads of Med Onc asking to take the case. Doc Weiss and Doc Flomenburg were on the job. A little back to Rae, real quick. She was going to be changing schools for the third time in 6 months. Not good. But she transitioned very well.

I went for my first treatment of RICE chemo at Jeff and got my ass kicked. It may not be the best plan but cancer is an amazing diet. At one point I went from 230lbs to 165lbs. I stopped eating . I stopped doing anything. A few procedures happened that put me into a further funk. I was during this time that we confirmed that anesthesia does not work on me. Space was there with me everyday. It finally took the efforts and a good tongue lashing from my Space and a fine nurse named Tina that snapped me out of it and got me to start eating. After a month stay in the hospital and then a total of 3 out of 6 months as an inpatient I had lost most of the muscle mass in my legs and arms.

I was getting stronger but it was Space that really inspired me to start back running when she agreed to run with me that first half mile down the street and back. Space does not run. Of all the miles I have run in the past and all the miles I will run, that half mile will be my most remembered and treasured.

Thanks Space.

My newest heroes in this fight is you guys. TnT has always been an inspiration since before all of this. I have enjoyed pacing along Team members in those tough miles and getting to know them as single serving friends. Now I have you guys. Every mile, you guys were encouraging me along. I go a chance o learn you story and learn more about this phenomenon that is Team.

So this is really for my Heroes.

My Parents My In-laws Dave and Chris
Rae Uncle Mike
Space My Fraternity Brothers
Doc Reddy Timah
Dr. Bill Tina
Dr. Pethkar Andrea and the other Rescue Ninjas
Doc Weiss Abbey
Doc Flomenburg And of course the Team

And those I have forgotten to mention.

Having or surviving cancer doesn’t necessarily make you the hero. It does give others the opportunity to show that they are the real heroes.


2 Responses

  1. We are and were just being parents. It’s what a mom and dad should do when their son needs them. Will always be here for you .


  2. […] How Running Saved My Life and My Heroes […]


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