Daily Double

 

On 1 October 2013 I would have celebrated one year cancer free. What an amazing thing. One down and four more to go. I had to hold off on that celebration as some things got worked out. It was tough at times because I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I had kicked the shit out of this thing or something. Instead, I kind of stayed silent. I was with a group of friends after a run having a beer when it came to me and I jotted this down quickly so I could share.

 

“Sitting here around people with the knowledge I have. Not telling them is like living with a shame. I won’t pretend to know what it is like for a rape victim but I think I feel some of that. It is odd, these people (the Team) may be the best to handle this but I am still silent. Maybe it is still because there is some uncertainty as to what it is. At least there is some hope.”

 

I am sorry I could not tell you guys but I was sure glad to be there with you. I had a lot of fun and shortly after I wrote that my spirits lifted. Beer, pizza and the Team really helps. So it daily double of a nasty fungal infection and cancer relapse. So this is sort of how it went down.

 

It was going so well. It was July and I was feeling great. I was running quite a bit and things were progressing. I had been off of any juice for two months and we were all considering plans for the future. The stem cell transplant was off the table and we were looking at a stem cell collection so we would be ready in case. But that was where it went all wrong. I had an appointment with Doc Weiss after a CT scan and he dropped the boom on me. My left lung was showing something.

 

We talked and it was probably a fungal infection so I went back on the micafungen. I had my PICC line taken out two months prior so that meant I was going to get stuck. I really hoped that my veins had recovered from the abuse a year ago. I had false hopes. Andrea had a fun time trying to find a good stick spot. After several trials I gave up and let her take the back of my hand. Honestly it was not that bad. It hurt going in but afterward I had quite a bit of mobility.

 

Now I was a real bastard at times. I was running on Saturdays prior to coming in for an infusion. Therefore, I was quite dehydrated and my veins were even more uncooperative. My rescue ninjas were frustrated till I just decided to give up my one good vein each Saturday. There was also this new system at the infusion center that printed out my meds list every time I came in. That list is a couple of pages long with a cover sheet. I was really pissed at the waste and tried to opt out of it. Eventually I got back at them by reusing the paper.

I should have been an aeronautical engineer. They enjoyed the entertainment or at least they pretended like they did. It was weird as I started to see the staff there and talk with them. They were surprised to see me and we discussed how it is weird. You get to know these people and become quite friendly with them but deep down they hope for the best. That is you get better and they never see you again. I feel the same way. Though I had gone there on occasion and stolen coffee it was not the same.

 

During the first couple of weeks on the micafungen I was collected for stem cells. This is a most unpleasant process. They inject growth factor to have your bone marrow make more stem cells and then they put this catheter in your neck. The bone pain from the growth factor was not fun. I had rough long run during that and it was not my worst run but it was in my top 50. It is weird because in order to get the stem cells they have to literally pump all of your blood out of you and filter it and pump it back in. Honestly, it was not that hard. I slept during the process and after one day of collection I was done.

 

After about a month I had another CT scan and no it was not done. This was okay. Fungal infections like this take a while to respond to the medication and the spectrometric measurements always lag behind. I was cool as a cucumber. I was on top of my game. My training was going great and the Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon was coming up quick. Check out the race report. It rocked and I was amazing with the help of the Team. I was working on top of the world. Doc Weiss did want me to get a consult from Doc Evans about a surgical biopsy. What a mistake that was. I like Doc Evans but he wanted to take a lobe of lung out. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! I only have five of those and I know that we were looking at a biopsy of some of the more damaged lung parts but come on. Space and I were not pleased. I got over it quick because why not. On a side note, Doc Weiss took me off of cyclosporin which is a immunosuppresent to see if my on immune system would kick in and help with this infection.

 

So it was on like Donkey Kong and I had a CT and PET scan in October. I wasn’t worried. The worst part is moving your arms after the PET scan. You spend about 45 minutes with them up over your head while not moving. Well, as you might guess it was not only bad but it was getting worse. The PET scan showed a couple of spots that glowed like a 1000 watt bulb. We were entered in to full biopsy mode. One problem though I was still feeling great. I was ramping up my mileage and the Monster Mash Marathon was coming up real soon. I was on such a role there was no way I was missing that.

 

Doc Weiss said it was time to go on with that surgery and we put the slam down on him. Really we just opened up a new possibility with Dr. Hehn better know as Boyd. He was the pulminologist that has been in my lungs the most and most recently. Space and I wanted get his input about it prior to the cutters getting all up in me. Weiss agreed and we met with Doc Evans and Boyd on the same day. Actually, Doc Evans had already consulted with Boyd and agreed to a bronchoscopy as a first step. I was in.

 

First thing was first. Boyd wanted to see what my lung function was before any surgery. So up to nuclear medicine and they injected me with technetium. When I asked me what it was that I was injected with they told me and told them it is the lowest weight element without a stable isotope. The doctor learned something new that day. I love chemistry. It has maintained such a wide open universe for me. As it turns out my left lung is crap. Over 75% of my lung function comes from my right lung. Well at least some part of me is conservative. Before the bronchoscopy I went and ran the Monster Mash Marathon. It was awesome. I cannot wait to get to that race report. Two days later Boyd asked me how the race went before he had me knocked out and lung scoped. Long story short. The results were inconclusive. So off to surgery.

 

At this point it was the end of November and thanksgiving was upon us but best of all Doc Evans was going for a new approach. He was going after a lymph node adjacent to my left lung and a wedge cut out from the upper left lobe where there was some good glow. I went in for the surgery and had to wait and wait and wait. I could not eat so I was getting real cranky. Naps were helping but not enough. I was taken from the pre-op room to the operating room area. There a couple of docs came and talked to me and explained to me what was going on. An anesthesiologist came by and put two elephant tranquilizer needles in the back of my hand and my wrist. He was talking more about the procedure and mentioned that they would probably use the robot for the surgery. I immediately asked if it was Three Laws Safe but all I got back was a puzzled look. What a shame. I am surprised I made it out of there alive.

 

I woke up with two chest tubes in my side and a foley catheter in. It was not a very happy time. Always avoid a foley catheter and chest tubes are a bad idea. Taking each of them out is beyond description. Needless to say it hurt. The good news is they gave me happy button for the pain. It was fun but it made me itch. After two days of observation I was out of the hospital and getting hungry for Thanksgiving. I tried to be patient and waited an entire week before calling for results. They were not in and I was told to wait till I saw Doc Weiss in two weeks.

 

So there I was. I had just gotten my stitches cut out from my side by Doc Evans. They were tough to get out. It hurt and he kept apologizing and backing off. I tried to convince him to just keep going. Pain is temporary except in torture which this was. He got on with it and they were out. They sucked and I determined that there will be no more major holes put in me for a while. Doc Evans wanted to know if I wanted the biopsy results but I declined. I wanted to stay ignorant for a few more hours. Back at it. Sitting there in room 24 with Space just waiting for the inevitable. Doc Weiss comes in and sits down. I ask him to “sock it to me and if the results were inconclusive I was going to scream.” Actually, my reaction may have been worse. Here comes the problem. He rambled. There was good information but it all boiled down to this. I do have a fungal infection and that needs to be taken care of quickly. Then the R word. Relapse. The cancer was back and a new fight was on.

 

Fucking cancer. After we take this fungal infection out with some new harsher drugs we will take this cancer on with a new chemo regimen followed by a stem cell transplant. We will kick this. I just have to continue fighting and running. I cannot forget that I have the Disney Dopey in less than a month. No reason I can’t have some fun along the way.

 

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An Awesome Encounter on 16 Miles of Dehydration

I was on my long run this Sunday as I usually am.  I found out afterwards that my training plan said 12 miles but I had already chosen to run 16.  I wanted to get out and run for close to three hours and clear my head in the mild weather.  It was about 32 degrees with no wind and no rain.  All was going okay till a point.

Previously, in the week there had been some frozen precipitation that has melted and refrozen.  This had caused sheets of ice that we almost undetectable and made for some treacherous motivation.  I had gone on to the Metroparks and decided that I would give the multipurpose path a try and run till I couldn’t or 16 miles which ever came first.  I got to my starting point and downed an e-gel and gulped some water from my tour de France bottle and I set off with my MP3 player blasting.  I found that the ice on the path was that kind of white crunchy ice that afforded some sort of traction.  This held up for about a mile.   There were patches of no white crunchy stuff where I quickly found out were just sheets of black ice.  Well, that lesson was learned and I stuck to the crunchy stuff.  All was good and got better when I turned to the Bedford Reservation and found an almost dry path free from even the crunch ice.  Fantastic.  I was feeling real good about this.  The bulk of my run was to be in the Bedford Reservation and if it was all like this then I was golden. 

It is amazing how things change.  I made it about three miles and then the path turned behind some trees and the ice was in sheets again.  These were at least sporadic at that point.  Another mile and the path was almost impassable.  I must have been a site.  I was switching strides like I was a Fremen on Dune trying not to attract a Worm.  I started off shuffling across some ice with short controlled steps.  Then at another point I kind of planted one foot and pushed with the other to slide across some ice.  Then there were the down and side slopes.  It was awesome.  At one point I actually slipped and just about pulled a bicep keeping my balance.  I have never hurt so much in my upper-body with out actually falling.  It was about that time I decided that I would just run on the road of the Metroparks instead of the path.  I had seen others doing it and for once I thought that was the better idea. 

I am glad I did.  For one thing I am alive to tell this tale which I am unsure I would be if I had not abandoned the path.  The other is that I crossed this fellow runner going the opposite direction at about 6.5 miles.  We saw each other and nodded in acknowledgment.  Then he asked me how far.  I removed my ear bud for clarification and the replied 16 miles.  He nodded and wished me luck.  I did the same and I went on my merry way.  I had another 1.5 before I turned around.  I had thought nothing more of it.  It was just another pleasant interaction with another runner.  Well, there was one more ice encounter of note where I was running across a sheet in one direction to my left and ended up on the right side of the path.  At the turn around I had popped another e-gel and got back on the run.  BTW, I love the Cherry Bomb is the best flavor ever.  Lets say it is the Bomb. 

All is relatively uneventful. I stick the road for the next four miles and almost get run over by one old jerk that doesn’t know that pedestrians have the right of way on all roads throughout the Unites States.  Either way I hit the clear path and keep trucking.  Then up in the distance I see that I am coming up on another runner.  I was trudging up the hill when I caught up the the gentlemen I had conversed with ever so briefly a few miles back in crossing.  It was the crest of the hill and he had stopped to grab a drink from his bottle when I approached from behind and commented on how beautiful the day was for running.  That was when he asked something like “How do you do it?”  My confused look was enough for him explain further.  He wanted to know how I could run 16 miles without hydration.  I really did not have an answer for him. I just kind of patted my belly and said I have a lot stored up.  I had already started to get dehydrated a mile or two back when my palms went dry.  I had told him that I tend not to run with water that much in the winter.  I know it was probably a bad idea but it was just the way I ran.  He asked what I was training for.  Of course the Flying Pig in May and the Catch a Leprechaun 30k in March.  He was training for a 50k in March and Boston.  We stood there for a minute or two discussing running.  He hydrates every mile with 4oz of a sports drink of sort and the bottles were marked lines denoting those 4 ounces.  He has run the past 10 Marine Corps marathon and I explained that I had run last years Marine as well and that my father had run it in 83 and that was my inspiration for running as well.  We chatted some more about the training and races and of course hydration.  I even got a 4oz slug of his drink.  Well thanks went and greetings and I was off.  I was probably 200 meters out front when I realized that I did not even catch his name.  It was a most pleasant experience and only two miles from my finish.  I really regret not getting his name.

I finished my run and quickly downed all the water in my car and considered tapping the radiator if it weren’t full of ethylene glycol.  My banana was fantastic and all was well.  I had a fantastic run with some adventure and I met a fantastic runner along the way.  I hope to cross paths with him again.  I am more fulfilled by the experience and am glad to be part of the community that is running.  Either-way, thanks Dude for the juice and the fantastic camaraderie.  I am going to reconsider my hydration in the future.