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You Can!

Today marks a year since I finished the World Major Marathons. It was my way of flipping off cancer. You know, you can't take my life, cancer!

Fighting back is a healthy outlet.

That last marathon I was so incredibly miserable. My head was pounding, my stomach was nauseous, and I had no idea that a giant kidney stone was going to try to give birth.

Ah yes, and it was raining.

That day, I thought about this young kid, Kevin Lunsmann. He had escaped captors in the Philippines. I remember watching the documentary. He just kept running despite fear, lack of food, tropical weather, injury, and exhaustion.

I was like that. Giving up was not an option.

The truth was I would have been just as happy to die that day. For today, the skin cancer is back. I am having surgery to remove it March 12. I had a long day of testing at Duke UMC yesterday. The doctor didn't give me very much, but did slip in that the "headaches appear to be disabling."

So what can I do?

I am regrouping and working on being healthy. I can't stop cancer and I haven't found a cure for my headache, yet. Despite the roadblocks, I am still working on doing all the right things. If I ever get cured, I will not want to restart my life, lose weight, get beck to running and all that.

Here are some of my thoughts on what you and I can do.

Self Perception: I have been in the weight-loss running world for a while now. When I started out I was almost 100 pounds overweight. The number doesn't mean anything. What mattered is what I thought of myself. I hated looking in the mirror, I thought for sure nothing good in life would ever happen to me. Even after I started running, I was sure I would never get faster, and surely never be able to do more than a 5K. It took me a year before I was able to run the first 5k, an entire year! My first miles were 13:00+ minutes.

Don't Think, Do: What I did in spite of what I thought about me was a food plan, a strict food plan without cheats and that feel good mumbo jumbo. I wanted to be the best me I could. Sure there was always someone faster, skinnier, and younger, but I stopped limiting myself by deciding what my future would look like. Instead, I focused on the things that would make me leaner and faster and then the light came on, I had to think differently about myself. Every meal, every workout, everyday.

Have A Goal: The most important lesson I learned from my marathon was that I could do way more than I thought I could do. Folks kept saying "you can" and I believed them enough to register and finally run a marathon. I completed 10.

Can I suggest that you stop making judgments about yourself, your times, your weight, and your looks? Today is a day to invest the simple things which will change your future. You can eat well, you can run, you can workout, you can stick with your training plan instead of making excuses. You can.
I read today, that you either inspire people, or you wear them out. Chronic pain makes it really hard for those close to me to ask how I am doing. I hope I haven't worn everyone out.

See You at the Funeral

Having been on MFP for a few years, I have pretty much heard it all. You have your vegans and vegetarians, your carnivores and your fast food junkies here. People, we are here for a common goal; to take photos in the bathroom and get fit.

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 40th birthday or cruise, I am assuming your life will have some purpose after your special day is past. The formula for a healthy lifestyle is much more than what you shove in your face, although that is the major part.

For me fitness is a healthy weight, a nontoxic diet, good blood work and a 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 daily, and don't give up, they enjoy the benefits of being healthy and getting comments about being sexy in the forums.

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 forums. Here are some examples of posts I would like to reply  "See you at the funeral!":

- 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. Have fun, work hard, and enjoy your success.

So how has your lifestyle changed since joining MFP?

Why Is Enough Food Not Enough Food?

I denied that I was an emotional eater. I remember one day there was the 6-pack of mini-cupcakes sitting on the kitchen table. The good news is that my daughter ate 4 of them. It wasn't a really big calorie hit. What bothered me is that I know I would have eaten the entire box if there were any left.

It would have felt good.

If you are like me, you just want to be thin and eat whatever you want. If you are saying to yourself, "This isn't that big a deal.", "It's your birthday.", or "You deserve a treat once in a while." you might be in denial too. :)

I think about looking and feeling better.

I still see myself as a 29-year-old. I do. I honestly didn't care about being fit, I just didn't want to be fat. Oh, and I didn't want to have rogue body hair growing faster than mold on white bread in July.

Yes, I am proud of running 6 miles without walking. But ripped abs are much more appealing.

This morning I was thinking about why food is so important - why I need more than enough. Beside the simple fact that I freaking love food, I have learned to cook some tasty @$$ meals. 

I have a long list of Major Life Transitions.

It just doesn't make sense to me how a donut is going to make anything better. Maybe a fish taco, or seared blacken tuna steak, a juicy prime rib with garlic salt and lemon butter rub, or even my famous roast turkey with apple, walnut, and cranberry dressing.

See what I mean?!

On a good day, that stuff is amazing. Of course there is the seafood pasta, lobster tails, raw oysters and stuffed pork chops with baked apples... I could even go for sushi, BBQ or fried chicken.

When food tastes good, emotional eating is easy.

If you add in chocolate volcano cake with fresh raspberries and I'm a goner. I can tell myself running is going to help. Portion control is going to help and - well - dang it, it taste so good I'll have a little more.

Things have been pretty rough, lately.

I have made it through a lot in life. Right now I am still surviving. Here are a few tips for not being overwhelmed and going on a food bender. Daily, here is my reorganization dos. It is part of my self-care plan.

- Cardio: Get in a long walk or a run.
- Laugh: Watch a funny movie, AFV, or record a favorite late night.
- Knock out the daily tasks: Open the mail or toss it. Hey, they always send more bills. Dishes. These help me feel in control of life.
- Socialize: Call the kids or a friend and even if they don't answer, leave a message.
- Make a menu plan: Food is a killer in high-stress times. Menu planning. I try not to have anything that is not good for me in the house. We buy food an divide it up into portions.
- Plan a fun activity everyday: This one is essential. Since I became disabled, the choices are harder. I run, play a little guitar, have sushi with a friend, take a walk with my wife, go to the shooting range, or spend time on the boat. I schedule 1 hour a day for fun; some days I only make 15 minutes.
- Forget the future: I had to stop worrying about doctors appointments, test results, calls from the attorney and whether I am going to die from cancer.
- Pray: I don't pray like I used to. Back then I always needed something. Now I just enjoy the communion and that gives me peace. I don't feel forgotten, nor do I feel desperate.
- Relax: I am at a point in life where relaxing gives me less pain and more energy for life.

Thanks for the votes and comments.

WTF Ever

Today I was up at 4:00 am with a scorching headache. I am waiting to call the doctor to see what my options are. I am not scheduled to see the neurologist for 2 more weeks.

In my pain fog, I realized it is World Cancer Day.

If I were to make a list of the crap that has gone down since 2011, I would probably shoot myself before I finished writing it. Today, 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 still knock out a 6 mile run. Sadly, I still am not cancer free.

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 call the kids a lot. 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.

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, or the personal accomplishments.

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 the first one a year out of ICU. I also ran the World Major Marathons. I wish I could say I could say I was still running 6-minute miles.
I haven't felt well, but I am running 5Ks when I can.

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 being with my wife, hugging my kids, catching a little sunshine, taking my boat down the Intracoastal, and letting the things of God swirl around in my spirit.

In the meantime, I run 3 times a week. That makes me feel better than when I don't run.
Thanks for the votes and comments.  And thanks for your support.

Fit vs. Weight Loss

It's finally winter here at home. We had a 24-hour period where it went below freezing. No iguanas fell out the trees. Me, I was 800 miles south in the Florida Keys, laying in the salon of my friend's cabin cruiser with the A/C on, not caring very much.

It was glorious.

I didn't care about anything so much, one day I ate Key Lime Pie for lunch. It covers the food groups pretty well, with dairy, protein, butter, carbs, and fruit. I also ate a lot of seafood while I was there, too: shrimp, salmon, tuna, cod, scallops, and oysters.

Then there was the lamb and prime rib.

All that is to say, my weight loss streak hit a speed bump called vacation. However, the sunshine, palm trees (We have a few of them at home, too.), and the sandy beach leading to the crystal clear Caribbean was good for my soul.

Since 2018 I have stayed in hospital beds more than I have on the boat.

I am grateful for gracious and generous friends. They know I need a lot of time laying down to manage my pain, so no one minded. I found the chaise lounge in the cabana just as comfortable as the bed back home. The same was true of the leather couch in the salon.

I am still working at this fitness thing.

I have lost 10 pounds since Thanksgiving. I managed two pathetic 3-mile runs while I was away. I have no idea where my blood work is at. At last look, probably due to the steroids, I was over the range for LDL and blood sugar.

That is not fit.

All while my body is self-destructing from the inside out, I still want to look in the mirror and admire myself. I just wish I had the energy to hit it hard like I did in 2013. I was hoping that diet and exercise would fix everything. Now, I am not so sure.

Today, I am in the hospital, again.

On the health front I have been denied medication treatment at two pain clinics. I would have to do 15 months of treatments all over in their network (including some experimental treatments not covered by insurance) just to get a 30 day prescription. I am having diagnostic spinal injections for the 5th time, today. Hey - why not keep doing what hasn’t worked at all? Whether they work or not, I’ll be seeing some sort of surgeon post procedure. 

It will be spinal surgery or a neurostimulator implant.

Wednesday I’ll be following up with my neurosurgeon. He’ll try to determine if the surgery he did in August was successful and if there is something else he can do to alleviate my 24/7 headache. Possibly there are other nerves which can be decompressed.

The truth is, I am way past my threshold for pain.

However, I am always working to be grateful, looking for the positive in life, and finding things which give me hope. So, if you want to send me a puppy, money, or prayers, I will take them. :)

Weight Loss Is a Religion

Since the beginning of mankind, religion has often turned the world upside down. Everyone has an opinion about unseen whether it's good, bad or somewhere in between. They worship, they teach, they hope, they pray, and they even spread the word about their personal enlightenment.

Folks can be just as religious about weight loss!

That's right, some of us have become enlightened and now everyone needs to become like us! What, you don't believe me? Here are the basics constructs of religion.

Belief in Supernatural Being, Deity or Absolute: Weight-losers believe that the calories are supernatural. Then sneak in at night and shrink your clothes and meddle with the zero balance adjustment on the scale.

Sacred and Profane Objects: Sacred objects include the scale, skinny jeans and sometimes the tape measure. The profane; chocolate, ice cream, donuts, wings, and pizza.

Rituals: Scale worship is like daily vespers. Then there is something akin to high mass like cheat days.

Moral Code: You must eat clean, lift heavy, do intervals, or zip your pants. There are many factions.

Religious Feelings: I ate donut, I feel fat. I ate a salad I feel skinny. I ran a marathon and I am sore. I don't look fat in this dress.

Prayer: There are rote prayers like the names we call the scale. It's a universal language. Then there is the second donut prayer and the skipped my workout prayer before ascending to the Altar of Poundage. (I heard the Brits get stoned there.)

A World View: Our world is about weight and rarely about fitness. We have a hard time seeing ourselves as we really are. We say it's OK to have curves and type II diabetes. But then we hit a goal or two and sanity clears our vision.

Intolerance: Skinny people make us angry enough to trip them on the escalator at the mall.

Divine Destiny: We are dreamers of a life of being sexy and skinny in life and the afterlife spent with Jack Lalanne and Richard Simmons.

Problem of Evil Explained: We know about sugar, Aspertame, and GMO's, just ask us!

A Social Group Bound Together: Umm, we are here on MFP.

Belief in a Sacred Scripture: Fad diets are everywhere, but heretics like me have written their own.

Thanks for reading along. I appreciate the votes and comments.

Self Talk

Do you remember when you used to have to ask a parent or teacher (or the prison guard) for permission to do something? We asked hoping that our request would be granted. Then when we were responsible adults, we pretty much only had to ask ourselves permission.

Can I eat this donut? Sure, have six.

This is the time of year when everyone is complaining about how full the gym is this week. Or they are complaining because people are complaining about the gym being full. Like we should be grateful they are there doing something good for themselves. I don't personally care.

What I do care about is this: Am I succeeding at being fit?

Don't get me wrong, I am glad when others get fit and make good choices, however; my success does not depend on their success. This ain't baseball. Our lives are our own. I just received my 21st anniversary card from Yahoo email. It's pathetic I'm online so much.

I do love your support, but I make the choices.

In all of the years of fitness forums (over 3100 days on MFP), what have I noticed is the most common trait? It is that we give ourselves permission to be slackers.

I'm the king! I say this kind of stuff to myself. 

Self: Today is my workout day.
Self the slacker: The gym is full, I'll go tomorrow.

Self: Today is my run day.
Self the slacker: It's too cold out.

Self: It's Sunday and I need to plan meals.
Self the slacker: I'll just get something small for lunch (like a large Meat Lovers pizza) and do it tomorrow night.

Self: I haven't lost any weight this week.
Self the slacker: It's better to loose like one pound a year.

Self: I am still overweight.
Self the slacker: I have big bones. I have bad jeans (pun intended).

Self: I am out of shape.
Self the slacker: Round is a shape.

Self: I am not getting any faster running.
Self the slacker: I don't like sweating that much.

Self: I ate too much.
Self the slacker: Everyone deserves a cheat day.

Self: I am binging.
Self the slacker: Might as well keep going and start tomorrow.

Self: The doctor said cut out the sweets.
Self the slacker: It's only dark chocolate.

Self: I should throw out these clothes that are too big.
Self the slacker: I'll probably fail and need them again.

Self: The doctor said I should lose X pounds.
Self the slacker: That's too skinny.

The things we say to ourselves are the real problem. If my mother heard me say some of these things, she might have washed my mouth out with soap.

Good luck if you are turning over a new leaf, starting over, picking yourself up, or keeping on keeping on. Happy New Year!

The End Is Near

As 2019 ends this evening, I look back over a decade of challenges. Some of them I rose up to meet with enthusiasm. Others really kicked my @$$.

In 2010 I weighed about 300 pounds. But I have big bones, so it's healthy.

In 2011 I showed up nearly dead in ICU with congestive heart failure. I just remember wishing I could pass on and be done with life. It hadn't been all that kind to me. Being overweight and depressed is a lot of work.

Unhealthy sucks. I was a pro.

Then there were the loved ones. Three kids and a wife. After my heart cath, some pain meds, and heartfelt plea from my then 8-year-old, I decided to give it another go.

I was miserable.

I trusted the doctors to give me all the right medications and give me back my old life. Whatever that was. I was scared to live like that. I slept 13 hours a day. I had no energy at all. I was confused. I was depressed.

I thought it was over. I sort of wished it was.

Somehow I believed walking was going to help, so I began. A mile took 55 minutes. Eventually I made it up to 3 miles. Each one taking about 40 minutes.

Man that was boring.

So against doctor's orders, I started running. Eventually I stopped taking most of my medications. I ran my first marathon in 2013. 

Then my first cancer diagnosis just in time for Thanksgiving.

I was scared. I finally was beginning to feel good. I had dropped from 296 to 198. Again, I was tempted to believe the doctors and scheduled surgery. I hated the possibility of all that was going to change with a radical prostatectomy.

I got a second opinion.

I opted for active surveillance. The first couple of years were torturous. Biopsies, PSA tests, and WAITING for results. It was horrible.

Then the melanoma in 2014.

Followed by the colon tumors in 2015 and 2016. I went from running marathons to fighting cancer all the time. I kept running - Boston, Chicago, and New York. Somewhere in there a dream was born. I entered the Berlin Marathon lottery and signed up for Dublin for 2016.

I was too sick to make it too Dublin and didn't get in Berlin.

I kept running, and I kept fighting. It had taken its toll on me and my family. I moved on and later met Ruth. She embraced my cancer, my uncertain future, and became my favorite cheerleader.

I signed up for Berlin and got in for 2017.

It was World Major number 4. It was my way of flipping off cancer. It was my way of beating heart disease. Running also brought me out of a lifetime of depression. Running was good stuff.

Except for breaking my leg in three place at the end of 2016!

2018 I passed out from heat exhaustion at the finish line of the London Marathon. World Major number 5 was complete.

I signed up for Tokyo 2019.

I was hoping for my best ever World Major. It was a daunting commitment. Running and cancer were constantly at odds. More melanoma, more colon tumors, more biopsies, it was just hard to keep going.

I did anyway.

August of 2018 I woke up with a severe headache. It almost completely removed my ability to focus, do math, make decisions, be logical, remember things, all while the pain fluctuated from level 6 while lying down to somewhere around 9 or 10 within four of five hours.

I tried everything. I still am.

Living with a 24/7 headache has proved to be the most challenging thing I have ever done. At first I tried to tough it out. You know, like I have always done. Even though I could make my legs move, I was in pain all the time.

What I couldn't do was make my mind work.

I went to Tokyo. I thought about not going a thousand times. In the end, it was paid for, and it seemed like it could be my last chance. I took a pile of drugs and made my way to the hotel in downtown.

I pretty much stayed in bed except for one day. Race day.

I ran, if you can call it that, the marathon and got my World Majors medal. It is without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. I was miserable.

I came home and spent a few days in the hospital.

Then the surgeries, March 9, March 24, March 29 and August 2nd. I lost my momentum. I was in more pain than before. The depression of old returned. Of course I reached out for help.

2019 has been pretty much hell.

Despite surgery, my pain levels have only dropped from 6 to 10 down to 3 to 8. I have learned it now depends on how much time I spend upright. The more I do, the worse it gets. The neurologist took me off all the pain medication.

In the end, it was doing very little, if anything.

What helps is laying down. I do that most of the day. I manage my days in two hour blocks. This blog took two hours. They used to take twenty minutes. I can go for a run, take a walk, or spend a little time on the boat. Driving is still not a safe sport, so I sold my car.

There was good news this year. I had my yearly colon check up and no tumors!

The skin cancer has been quite a challenge. I am keeping up with it. My prostate MRI showed no changes, but my PSA is back up. :( The doctors are trying to find the root cause of my debilitating headache and the lawyers are trying to decide if I am disabled or not. We'll see how happy 2020 is.

I am wishing you all a very healthy and happy 2020.

Christmas Cheer

Sunday I ran 5 miles with my wife. It was her first time running that far without walking. I mean, she has a good coach! :) It was a joy to see her succeed. I love when others succeed. It is the same with all of you.

If you are from the south like I am now, I love when all y'all succeed.

She has overcome a lot to get here. She has exercise induce asthma. It has taken months and months using a couple of different inhalers to get here. She also hasn't settled for less. Although run/walk is a completely valid running technique (I used it for 4 marathons!), for her it wasn't the kind of success she was hoping to have.

Most importantly she came to believe in herself.

When she finished, the smile through the sweat told an amazing story. It was a record time, a record distance, and self satisfaction words cannot express. I was happy for her and proud, too.

This health thing is hard for all of us.

I have my own stuff going on. I had nauseating pain that day, but sharing her joy was most important. It was an hour I would never have the chance to experience again. I was glad I was there. I came home and lay down for a long while.

She made all the required social media posts, and I loved them!

Later on, after a shower, I stepped on the scale and I was down almost 8 pounds. The medication change is working in that regard. Actually I was down about 5 pounds since Thanksgiving. What is not working is my blood work.

I am a little discouraged.

Sunday we ended by spending an hour or so putting up our Christmas tree. All the ornaments are from out travels together. Each one has a memory. London, Las Vegas, Barcelona, Rome, Marseilles, Toronto, San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, The Outer Banks, Berlin, and a many others.

It reminded me that I dodged the bullet back in 2011 when I had congestive heart failure.

Since that time, I have worked hard to be healthy. I have failed a lot this past year. Today I am talking to my PCP about my blood work. We'll also be talking about real pain management. It has been well over a year and I have been on just about everything. Hopefully he will coordinate with my neurologist and psychiatrist to come up with a solution.

I don't have to many plans for the holidays. I just would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a healthy New Year.

Down a Few

I hope you all had a nice holiday! Mine had many great moments. My wife and I celebrated our second anniversary at the inn where we were married. We had most of our kids, the big family dinner, Friday brunch, and the lobster massacre Friday evening before making our way back home.

There was a lot of food!

The good news is that I didn't eat a lot of it. For dinner one night, my wife and I split a burger with no bun. It came with roasted mango and Brussels sprouts. For Thanksgiving, I had two slices of turkey and a few carrots.

The new meds and nauseating pain have a way of taking away your appetite.

I did my best to find times to lay down. It wasn't always easy. I have had no pain medication of any kind for about two months now - not even Tylenol or Motrin. I do have a TENS unit. That helps. I am due to see pain management this week.

I am glad to report that I am down a few pounds!

I am also trying to find a way to look at life. Do I use positive words? Do I use negative words? Is it OK to complain? I certainly have a lot to be grateful for. I work hard at not dwelling on what could go wrong. (no one could have dreamed this up!) Life has challenges for everyone. Tomorrow has its on difficulties and I will manage those when I get there.

The way I see it, if the cup is half empty, it’s because it’s the wrong size!

I’m also not afraid to admit things suck sometimes. When I moved last year, I had everything going for me. Newly married, dream home, good job, I was beating cancer and in pretty good health. Three days after we moved I woke up in pain. I’ve been in pain everyday for over a year. I have tried just about everything. It’s a little surreal.

I heard chronic pain changes the cortex of the brain.

I keep looking for answers and I have made some progress. I still run a little, I still try, I still make the best of each day, but I also need to acknowledge the sadness I have over losing such a large part of my life.

Thanks for being on the journey with me. I hope you'll still be here when I hit my goal weight, again!
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