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Today is the Day to Live

I woke up a 6 AM on April 4th. I called into work sick. I felt like throwing up. In fact I had for a couple of days. I decided to call my doctor and left a message with his answering service. I was certain there was something he could do to make me comfortable. His office finally called back at 9 AM.

You can come in at 3:30 or meet him in the ER where he is on duty.

I felt so baldy I decided to go to the ER. In fact I felt bad enough to call 911, but first I would let my now ex-wife what my plans were. This week is the 6th anniversary of the day I suffered congestive heart failure. It's a big deal. You know it took a year to complete Couch to 5K.

Some of you know that I have cancer and I am working through the treatment options. Cancer sucks.

If I were to make a list of the crap that has gone down in the last few years I would probably shoot myself before I finished writing it. But I am focusing on my progress not my history. I have lost almost 90 pounds and went from a wheezing-fat-old-guy to a slimmer, fitter runner who can knock out a 6 mile run in less than an hour.

How does one live with cancer? You live life on purpose.

You plan to do things you were putting off, and put off things you were planning. You say I love you more and get a second goodbye kiss. You look up friends you haven't seen in a while. You shut out the people that minimize your feelings by saying, "It's early, at least you won't die.", "My dad had that and he was fine." or "My uncle had that an he died." When surgery has the potential to reduce your quality of life instead of make it better, it's not an easy option to choose.

As surgery number - WTFE - is coming in a few weeks, I am not thrilled. Not even close. It's not like my knee surgery or heart surgery which made my life better. It could be life-changing.

It's not the same.

As a runner I have overcome a lot. Most of it was mental. I just didn't think I could do anything. I even had medication and doctors opinions to bolster my excuses. I found a hundred reasons to quit, and only one to help me succeed: a better life. How I feel at the end of a run is the only reward I have. It's not the bling, the cheering, the personal accomplishments, no it's how I feel.

I remember back when a 5K was about as daunting a run as I ever thought I could face. I ran it. a few  weeks I am running the Boston 5K as part of the marathon weekend.
I really can't wait!

For today, I am watching the calories, flossing my teeth, engaging my family, working, praying and living in the moment. Tomorrow may never come, and I don't know if I've "got this". I don't know if I will win against the Big-C or not. I just know that I am looking forward to hugging my kid, catching a little sunshine, making a co-worker smile, and letting the things of God swirl around in my spirit.

In the meantime, I have signed up for a a couple of 5Ks, a 10K a 10-miler and the Berlin Marathon in September. I plan on being there.
Thanks for the votes and comments.  And thanks for your support.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

2012 was the best of times and the worst of times. My worst days as a congestive heart failure survivor were behind me. My best days of health in decades were upon me. I was back to work full-time after 8 months of slow recovery.

I felt better than I had in so long, I couldn't remember.

To celebrate the first anniversary of my exit from ICU, I chose to work towards running a 5K. It was hard work. At 244 I was still overweight and hadn't done any real aerobic exercise since I was a kid. Quitting smoking in 1994 was probably the best choice I had made since dumping off Psycho Susie in high school.

My numbers were good, my weight was going down, and all my moving parts worked or had been repaired.

I had knee surgery 4 months prior and it was working quite well. I measured off a 5K run starting at my front door. There was that glorious day when I ran my first non-stop mile.

Not long after, that day, it was followed by 2 miles without walking. I did that on the treadmill. I trained 2 days a week at the work place gym and did my longer run near my home.

I was becoming a runner!

I wrote this 5 years ago: The predawn glimmer of morning peaks around the shades as the clock silently proclaims it is 5:47; it's race day! The slowly churning thoughts begin their own race in my mind. "Is it raining today?" "Did I remember my favorite headphones?" "Which pair of shoes?" "Am I going to run too fast in the beginning and have to walk in the end?" "Will I look like a dork?"

"Oh God, should I really be doing this?" MORE....

That day I made it a goal to run the entire 3.1 miles without walking. Although I had never done that before, I told myself don't give up and run it in under 30 minutes.

I met one goal that day. I finished without walking.

It seemed like life was going my way as I crossed the finish line that day. My family was there cheering me on. I was beating heart disease and finding a healthy outlet for all my fears and worries.

At the end I thanked God. For me, there was little doubt I was out there alone.

I cried. I registered for another race soon after. Since that day I have run 80 timed races, 7 of those marathons, and of those, 3 were world majors. THE DETAILS... Some of my favorite running was across New Hampshire, then Massachusetts (59.45 miles)and then Rhode Island (27.9 miles) to raise money for charity.

I love charity work! So far I have raised about $60,000 dollars.

I don't really have much else to say today. I've been battling cancer, job loss and all the sort of stuff that goes with being unemployed for six months. If I give up, disease wins. That is not okay with me.

Today I am just going to take it as it comes. I'll get my run this evening and eat simple meals. I will pray and do things to take care of me.

Now if the dang Boston Bruins would make the playoffs, it would be a good season.

Thanks for the votes and comments! Those allways make me smile.

See You at the Funeral - Lifestyle Choices

Having been on MFP for a long time, I have pretty much heard it all. You have your vegans and vegetarians, your pescatarians, your ketogenics (sounds like a band name), your carnivores, and your fast food junkies here. All people here for a common goal; to take photos in the bathroom and get fit. (CAUTION: Be sure to put away all vibrators, condoms and female products when taking bathroom pics.)

If you are here to diet for your special occasion, you are missing the point!

It's a lifestyle. Unless you planning to die on your wedding day, or by the pool in a bikin, or 40th birthday or your cruise, I am assuming your life will have some purpose after your special day has past. The formula for a healthy lifestyle is more than what you shove in your face, although that is the major part.

For me fitness is a healthy weight, aerobic capacity, strength, a nontoxic diet, good blood work and an emotional sense of wellbeing with every breath I take.

People come and go on here all the time, but for those who tame their junk food consumption, exercise regularly, log their food and don't give up, they enjoy the benefits of being healthy and getting comments about being sexy in the forums.

Over the years I have deleted thousands of friends.

I have a friend (Annabellj) that often says, "See you at the funeral!" I can't tell you how tempted I am to post that phrase as a response to some of the forum replies and topics. Here are some examples of posts I would like to reply  "See you at the funeral!":

- I run so I can eat whatever I want.
- 1,200 steps a day is hard work. (I thought that was calories!) 
- I have a cheat meal once a day.
- I am cheating with my best friend's spouse.
- I don't like fruit or vegetables and fish is gross.
- I can't swallow water.
- My SO makes me eat pizza against my will when (s)he's not at home.
- I can't afford to eat healthy, what should I buy at Olive Garden?
- Which burns more calories, sitting in front of the TV or going to the movies?
- Why would I want to sweat, I can lose without exercising.
- I am on an 800-calorie-a-day diet that works.
- I am back... but starting tomorrow.
- I am 1200 calories over and I haven't even gotten out of bed yet.
- People at the gym will think I am fat, what should I do?
- Seeking professional advice. (You'll get it in a minute.)
- I hate anyone that doesn't like my diary.
- I can't beleive the gym charges me when I am not there!
- I just had diarrhea after cleansing...

Look, it's easy to make excuses, and we all have bad days, however; the ones who succeed stick around long enough to meet their goals and make it a way of life.

So how has your lifestyle changed since joining MFP?

My Updated Bucket List

Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with a malignant tumor. Of course, untreated, it's deadly. As it turns out, I have run 80 races including 7 marathons; 3 or which were world major marathons. I did almost all of that since I received the news. I have had a number of surgeries to remove 3 other forms of malignancies.

I am not saying that you should get cancer to run your best, but it's working for me.

I won't have any more details until my next biopsy in about a month. That's when I will find out how bad it is, and what, if anything, we are going to do about it.

Not all cancer is fast growing.

It's been a long process of blood tests, medication that made me feel like crap, and surgical biopsies which are pretty gory and downright painful. Waiting for the results is always nerve wracking. I keep busy enjoying life, running, praying and being a smartass.

I do have good news.

I am running the Berlin Marathon in September even if someone has to push me in a wheelchair. I have booked a flight, a hotel, and paid the registration fee.

It will be my 4th World Major.

All this talk of the Big "C" has made me think about what it is that I really want to do before I die. Here is my list. It is just things that interest me or pertain to people I care about. It's entirely selfish, that's why it's my bucket list.

- Run Tokyo and London marathons to complete the World Majors.
- Run a race is all 50 states
- Run a marathon on every continent. 
- Get my kid a horse and someone to take care of it.
- Make the most of every day with those I love
- Stay under 200 pounds.
- Travel
- Leave instructions for how I want my life insurance spent. ;)
- Die with clean underwear on.

That's it. I have pretty much done it all. I have been to 42 states, 14 countries, put kids through college, run a marathon, and I don't regret too many days from the last 5 years.

Thanks for the votes and comments. (You can do both if you like.)

You Can't Always Win

Have you ever felt so defeated that you didn't even want to play? That's how football was for me. I was pretty fast, but I couldn't catch the dang ball. I felt the same way in Dr. Swietzer's psychiatry class.

I tried my best and just couldn't do it.

There were other things in life which came a bit more naturally -  playing guitar and hockey. The excitement of both endeavors birthed a passion in me. Endless hours of practice, most of which I could do mostly on my own, gave me time to learn it my way. I could then show up for practices or rehearsal and be part of the team.

I learned a lot from team sports and playing in a band.

I found that working with others who had the same passion and commitment was a lot of fun. I naturally gravitated to those that were more talented than me. I asked lots of questions and watched carefully. I also learned to give away what I learned and encourage others after I got it.

I wish I could say life is a team sport, but it really isn't.

Sure, I need others. I need you. That does not remove the burden of taking charge of my own life, my finances, my relationships and my health. There are things which I must do, decisions I have to make.

Take buying underwear for instance; I know what size I need so I don't chafe or squash the man grapes.

I am the one that makes my marathon training schedule, measures (or not) my food into portions, and decides when I need another pair of running shoes. I also make decisions about my health care.

No one can do this for me.

This weekend I met a vendor at the marathon expo I was working this weekend. We got to small talk about the expo. In the middle of it, a fellow runner from back home briefly interupted to ask about my health. We are friends on Facebook and he follows my story based on what I actually post. He looked me in the eye. 

I went from living in the moment which I have become very good at, to thinking about my next biopsy in late March. The fact that someone took a moment to ask pierced my rather protective emotional skin.

The whole moment ended in a hugs from him and the strange vendor. #life
As it turns out, I did a quick video endorsement for the ChafeX vendor. During the three question interview he asked me where I applied it. (If you run, you know where it goes!) "On my privates and my butt crack I responded - sometimes on my feet."

I can be unvarnished.

The fellow doing the video, hid a smile and thanked me for my honesty. :) I am not sure it was the best decision I ever made, but I had fun doing it. Some other decisions I have made are to login into MFP once a day even if I don't log my food.

I still need you.

Thanks for the votes and comments. (You can do both if you like.)

I Still Suck at This

I don't know about you, although I am not afraid of being mugged my a chocolate cake with vanilla icing (is this profiling), this effing food thing is tough. I does not care how fit you are, or what you do; when you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight.

This should be easy - easy after 5 years. It's not.

Most of you know that since I first logged onto MFP I became a marathoner. I have run 7 of them. The real deal, the 26.2 mile kind! I have run about 70 races and did a 60 mile charity run across Massachusetts, and a 28 mile run across RI. I do love running, but it is not a weight loss program.

You cannot outrun a bad diet.

Marathons are a lot different than shorter distance races. You need to have lots of rest before and lots of recovery time after. With a 3 week taper leading up to the race and a week or two of recovery, you don't get a lot of exercise.

The problem is that it is hard to cut down on your food intake.
Well it is for me. I need to be in a highly controlled environment. That means nothing that I should consider an occasional treat can be in walking distance. I can't have left over birthday cake, chips, dips, and other types of snack foods close by.

I just can't do it!

I have to divide up portions meat, fish and poultry when I get home from the grocery store. It's SO easy to toss the second turkey burger in when I get home from work and I am hungry. If there is more than one in a package, I will eat them all.

The good news is that when I run, I am a lot less hungry.

I have not been running as much as I used to. I have been traveling and spending a lot more time commuting. I have gained weight - AGAIN! Did I say I need a controlled environment? I made lots of good food choices. I mean soft boiled eggs and caviar is good, right? I skipped desserts, sweet drinks and I only ate potatoes once. I drank as much water as you can when you don't know where the next bathroom is.

What I didn't do was control portions.

One of the things I know about failing is that we give ourselves permission to do it. We make excuses. "It's only once", "it's vacation", "it's OK to start over tomorrow", "it's just a stressful time" and the hits keep on coming. In 5years on MFP I have seen HUNDREDS of people come and go -maybe thousands in fact!

Overeating is an enemy of mine.

The fact still remains that 55% of those who lose weight will not keep it all off, 20% will return to their previous weight and 20% or so will gain even more weight than they lost. That leaves 5% to win the championship and make a true lifestyle change.

I want to be one of them.
How about you?

Thanks for the votes and comments! 

Food, Sex and Valentines Day

Cupid has unleashed his love drunk fury today. The good news for folks who love food is that you can help bring things to a climax by eating some of the food mentioned below. 

No one has the more need for a bedroom boost than the folks on MFP. ;)

So here's to getting the blood flowing, the neurotransmitters rocking, and the clothes flying in the air.

-1 Oysters: Anything that looks like the flu is suspect. I will admit that this is my favorite food ever, and I am going to check to calendar to see how lucky they made me! I can assure you that it is not sushi.

-2 Chili Peppers: This is supposed to improve the "heat of the moment." I guess if you like kissing when your ears are numb from pain, there is a lot more I don't want to know. Oh wait, are we talking about a band?

-3 Avocado: The Aztecs called the avocado ahuacuatl, or "testicle tree." After you stop laughing, think about all the uses it the pit might have. I think we are done talking about avocados.

-4 Chocolate:  I am with you on this one. I like chocolate so much I would have sex by myself. Dopamine and PEA can be your imaginary friends. 

-5 Bananas: The banana is no stranger to sexual activity. I was at a party once - never mind. Apparently if you eat them it increases the male libido. I think when I was a teenager it worked. I still eat bananas, but I guess I am immune to their effect now a days. I'd probably have better luck if someone else would eat it and I watched.

-6 Honey: Well, it is supposed to increase hormones which make us want to rip our mate’s clothes off! The problem at my house is that I can't get the stupid cover off it once it has been opened, and we lose the desire if I have to go shopping. So much for boron and whatever the hell else is trapped in there.

-7 Coffee = Sex. I have 3-4 cups of sex every day.

-8 Watermelon: I can't see a seed spitting contest as a romantic contribution. Confused? Me too!

-9 Pine Nuts: Sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't. If your Valentines celebration includes a hike in the woods, be sure to pick some up.

-10 Arugula: Because every good meal starts with a salad!

-11 Olive Oil: Critical for blood flow and hormone production. More importantly, if you forgot the lubricant, you probably have some in the kitchen.

-12 Figs: Figs make me think of camels, and camels make me think of spitting - it's not working for me. And besides, Adam and Eve covered their privates with fig leaves. That's like having kids banging on the bedroom door.

-13 Strawberries: Best when covered with chocolate. I am sure there is stuff in there that makes you want to do the deed. But it's the color!

-14 Artichokes: Mostly a legend. Sometimes sex is a legend. Just saying.

-15 Chai Tea: The Viagara of the Starbucks generation.

-16 Pomegranates: Rumored to increase genital sensitivity. Really? I'll stick with silk or Egyptian cotton. It's easier to wash.

-17 Cherries: Lots of melatonin and other good stuff. If you eat a lot of this legendary fruit, you can fall asleep before there is any meaningful conversation.

-18 Pumpkin seeds: These little wonders are supposed to raise the testosterone levels. Just be sure to scoop out you seeds in advance.

-19 Whipped Cream: Because.

I don't know about you, but I am going to take my chances with flowers, chocolate and a thoughtful card, right after I take out the garbage.

Thanks for the votes and comments. Friend me at your own risk.

The original list was found here, but I wrote an adaption in my book: ICU to Marathon:

It's Not What I Hoped For

This health journey is nothing like I expected when I first started. I had done dieting before but I always gained it back. I wanted to be happy, but I took antidepressants. I wanted to be in love but I didn’t know what it was.

It’s taken a few years, but I have found a few answers. 

I kept looking for the same thing (what I thought I wanted), and that is what I found; the same old thing. At some point I decided to leave the door open for something new. It’s likely I didn’t know enough to succeed at much of anything. I had to shut off the fear of repeating past failures. I had made them with my health, my relationships, and even in my pursuit of faith. I needed to find ways to take one more risk - to say or do one more thing that made me feel more like me – a more authentic and healthy version of myself.

I still had unfulfilled dreams.

As I approach 60, I still have hope for the future. I needed to change my goals from whatever it was that I thought I should be in life, to that which came naturally with some work to let it out. When I started this journey, I just wanted to be a thinner version of me. I wanted to get in those damn 32” jeans that made my @$$ look good.

I need to stop hoping and praying and get to work.

My life needed a magic pill and there wasn’t one. No amount of prayer was going to fix my health. As much of a faith guy as I am, I also had to act – faith without action is well, pretty useless. I just reread the Catcher in the Rye. Holden was me, and he ended up in some sort of mental hospital.

As much as I identified with the character, I didn’t want to be him.

I did my best to gain control of my health. It was a bit of a process and I waited too long. You can’t un-pickle a pickle so to speak. I did MFP, started running and yes, I kept praying. The combination of those three things got me to the point where I did not need heart medication or antidepressants. 

Yesterday I had my yearly physical – you know, where guys cough and are #1 with the doc.

My new doc is after the weight and blood sugar again. With all this GI stuff the last year, I have gained 10 pounds. In some ways I am back to square one. The good news is that I have already been there and I know the path. I bought a new set of portion control plastic tubs.

It’s been going on 6 years, and I am still unable to manage this by winging it.

Sure, I still have a cancer diagnosis I am working my way though, and now I am commuting quite a bit. No excuses! The food is, and will always be, the problem. I need my food scale, my food tubs, and my food log.

I NEED running, 

I also find great joy in being with those whom I love, being in the presence of God, and finding the good things in my day. I watch more sunsets and sunrises and I'm doing some of the things I just never made time for. 

I not only stop to smell the roses, I occasionally buy some to bring home.

It All Started with a Choice

How did I ever let myself get to almost 300 pounds? I ate too many calories. The change occurred slowly over a period of millions of bites of food. It's pretty much the same way anyone becomes and addict; it just happens.

I was always going to change tomorrow.

What got my attention? Well, it wasn't the US Post Office considering giving me my own ZIP code or the fact that I thought I could be seen from outer space; nope, none of those. It was a week in ICU without a shower or underwear or sleep.

It was hard to decide to live.

My heart failure cost me just about everything. It took 8 months to get back to work full time. It stressed out my family, and I was emotionality depressed. When you don't have your health, the rest of life doesn't mean a whole lot. I came home from ICU with a pile of heart medications.

I was just one of thousands getting treatment.

I didn't really get to think while I was in th hospital. I fell apart when I came home. It took all my energy to get up, make a small breakfast. I needed a 3 hour nap. It was the same for lunch.

I worked up to taking an hour long afternoon walk.

Eventually, I was up to 3 miles which took so long I started running a little just get it done. I tried to talk about my recovery, but I didn't find anyone very positive. Running is bad for your knees, you'll get A-Fib if you over train, you'll need knee replacements, running is a treat, you don't need to run to to lose weight. I heard it all. And most of it from doctors! I also heard, you weren't that fat, a little meat on the bones is healthy, I like your curves (not really that one), you look cute (yeah from the top of my head up.) and I didn't realize you were so sick. WTF?

It took a year to do C25K and loose 66 pounds.

I have faced a number of challenges since I first logged onto MFP and asked what an NSV meant. Here is what I can tell you. Because I run and lost weight, I have survived cancer 4 times. I have dumped 7 medications for my heart except for a low dose of blood pressure medication which I have needed all my life. My resting pulse is down from 72 to 48 and I haven't had to take an antidepressant. I have only had 2 colds. That's going on 6 years.

It all started with a choice.

How I Quit Running

In 10th grade (1974) there was a very good looking girl in my Algebra class named Susan. She invited me to her track practice after school. I sat on the bleachers in my flannel shirt, blues jeans and work boots - smoking a Marlboro cigarette.

You probably noticed I am a bit a show off - so I challenged her to a race.
100 yards - a little short of 100 meters for those who don't speak American. Her in a ponytail, skimpy track shorts, singlet, and running spikes, and me in my ponytail, flanel shirt, blue jeans and work boots.
It was going to be a fair match up. I tossed my cigarette under the bleachers and got in place on a starting block, all the while talking trash. A friend of hers gave the countdown.
On your mark, get set, go!

We took off down the track. She beat me out of the blocks, but I caught her at about 50 yards and beat her by a few strides. I stood at the finish line bent over wheezing and coughing.
The track coach came over and asked me to join the team. Ummm, the boys team. He assured me that we would ride the bus with the girls to all our meets!
I showed up for practice the next day. I had a pair of PF Flyers.

I ran three meets fr my high school. Then my grades tanked and it was over. It was because she was mad about losing to a cigarette smoking dork, so she wouldn't let me copy off her test papers anymore. My best time for the 100 was 10.6. I was second in the state. That girl, she was 1st in the state for 440, 880 and javelin.
And no, I never got lucky.

In 1975, I ran a barefoot on a cinder track and after completing a 6:15 mile to keep my place on the hockey team; I threw up at the end.
That was it for running except a few times to escape substantial bodily injury.

This is just some shenanigans from my next book.
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