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ICU to 26.2

On April 4, 2011, David lay in the Intensive Care Unit speaking with his cardiologist about the events of the preceding day.

"How are you feeling?" Dr. Gange asked.

"A little better.  I am hoping for a pair of clean underwear today too," I said.

He smiled. "Well it looks like you made some progress since you got here. Your ejection fraction is up a little."

Not that I felt like moving, but I asked, "When can I leave?"

"It will be a few more days," he replied.

I was in the ICU for six nights before they let me go home. I was fifty-two and so far had survived a Viral Myocarditis. I went home with a half dozen medications: Beta blockers, ACE Inhibitors, blood thinners and diuretics. 

When I arrived at the house, I went up stairs to my bedroom and took off my clothes. I pulled off some of the dozens of EKG contacts, they were everywhere. I finally headed for the shower. As I stood there, I just cried. I don't know exactly why. I was relieved to be home and I guess had missed having a quiet moment alone. Maybe the gravity of what really happened hit me. I took a long and glorious shower, and I cried some more.

My recovery took eight long months before I was able to return to work full time. During that time I worked with the doctors to get my life back on track. I was encouraged to walk and eat a more nutritious diet (translation - lose 70 pounds).  I started to walk down the street and back. I couldn't even make it around the block. I made a little progress every day. On April 18, 2011, I went to watch the Boston Marathon.

I lived one mile from the course and had my daughter drop me off. I prayed I would be able to make it back home.

The race was incredibly inspiring - something so emotional about it all. Being up close, standing on the sidewalk, you could read tattoos and sportswear brand names. Beneath the perspiration you could see the intensity of personal strength and emotion.

It seemed to me that most everyone was running for a reason that was not about winning or best times, it was something deeper.

On the way home, I walked and dreamed of running. Could I run a marathon? I was pretty certain I had missed my opportunity in life to run 26.2 miles.

I climbed into bed to take a much needed nap and continued to think about running.

Deep inside of me, a dream was born. I started using the Couch to 5K program. It took a year. For the anniversary of my stay in Casa d' ICU, I ran the Run with Heart 5K in Clinton, MA. A year later, I ran the Hyannis Half Marathon (Hyannis, MA) in the freezing rain.

My cardiologist was thrilled with my recovery. I continued to think about running a marathon, but I still doubted that I could finish. I had both knee and rotator cuff surgery in the midst of all that was going on with my heart. The spring of 2013 brought warmer weather and longer training runs. Having been fitted for a new pair of shoes, my runs were more comfortable. I decided to start training for a Fall 2013 marathon. I didn't register, but I penciled the date on my calendar. Pencils have erasers, after all.

I kept training six days a week.

A marathon was not just on my bucket list nor was it a test of my physical strength and mental toughness; it was the proving ground of my personal faith. The encouragement I received from friends and runners eventually outweighed my own doubts. I could do this...eventually.

The conflict over whether to run The Cape Cod Marathon or just put it off raged within me. And not solely because I lacked confidence in my ability and had a couple of disastrous LSDs, but another health concern had surfaced. The blood test for prostate cancer, although not very accurate, came back in the danger zone. The doctor wanted to schedule a biopsy. I just didn't know. Add to that a lay off at work, and it was hard to focus on such a huge personal accomplishment.

I finally committed to registering after a woman named Cherie commented on a Facebook group post. "David, I ran a marathon while I was having chemo treatments. I decided that it was six hours of my life which I could control." I was more convinced than I had been. As I clicked submit button on the registration form, I told myself that I could still back out. Of course I had trained, and most of it was in the heat and humidity of the New England summer. As the long miles wore on there always came a point in every run in which my heart rate skipped up to near maximum, trying to provide oxygen to fuel the clamor of its muscles. The confidence builders, the long slow training runs were all virtually disastrous, ending in more walking than running.

Fast forward to October 27, 2013. At 8:28 a.m., a jazz performer sang an a-cappella rendition of America the Beautiful which rang out into the cool fall air. The sun was just peaking over the buildings on Falmouth's Main Street (MA) as I stood with my hand over my heart. In that moment, I felt proud to be an American, and part of a marathon. These patriotic songs seemed to be more meaningful since the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

The starting cannon boomed and the first of over 1000 runners moved across the starting line. I switched on my GPS watch and tucked my iPhone in the arm holder. Crossing the timing mat, I high-fived my friend Tom Frazier who was working as a volunteer on the course.

As a game-time decision, I chose to use Jeff Galloway's walk/run method instead of running continuously. It worked perfectly – especially in the twelve miles of rolling hills.

Five hours, seven minutes and twenty-three seconds after I began - and 938 days since I lay in the Framingham Heart Center - I crossed the finish line.

"I did it. I made it all the way from the ICU to the finish line of a marathon."    

October 27, 2013

20 Questions to See Where you Stand

Have you ever wondered what the hell you were thinking when you decided to change your pathetic lifestyle? When I read the message boards and look back over my own journey, I sort of cringe.

I settled for less for years. I could have been taking better care of myself, but I didn't really see the future.

If you identify with me you are thinking, "If I had only listened to my _____ (friends, parents, co-workers, God, Dr. Phil, the lady in the line at the bank). Every one knows Dr. Oz is a loser and cocaon snorting Julian Michaels is the trainer from hell. (Google it, it's true! Everything on the Internet is true!)

What if I hadn't lied to myself thinking _______ is normal? (Back pain, a 50" waist, medication, shortness of breath, eating a bag of chips and dip in front of the TV) Aren't Barbie & Ken normal - well except for the anatomy?

Of course, once we realize that we are full of crap, then we become experts in the fitness field posting our own topics for which no one can disagree with us. Fortunately, most of can contain the subtle arrogance which lives inside us. For those that can't, we get our threads locked.

Here is a self-test to see if you are a noob, an annoying heath nut, or an elder statesman on MFP.

For each question, score yourself accordingly.

0 I never even thought it.
1 I thought, but never said it.
2 I said it.
3 I posted it on a message board.
4 I said it worked for me.
5 I have a certificate to say this stuff.

1 - It doesn't matter what you eat, as long as you are within your calories.

2 - Even though there are studies to prove it, it doesn't matter what time you eat as long as it's not in your sleep.

3 - If you have ripped abs, it improves you sex life.

4 - Caffeine is a food group which contains coffee and chocolate.

5 - Eating raw through a straw requires some real effort.

6 - Every good diet requires that you eat yogurt, drink water and clean up after your dog.

7 - Eating clean is good if you drop your carrots on the kitchen floor and you own cats.
8 - The caveman diet is sexist.

9 - The Atkins diet is for people who love bacon.

10 - Being a vegan because you don't like fish is not being honest.

11 - Admit it, you are here to find out how to be thin and keep on eating the same stuff.

12 - Running is for people who can't walk.
13 - Biking is for people who need to coast once in a while.

14 - Cheat days are cheating.

15 - Water is a negative calorie food.
16 - Cardio is anything that requires breathing the entire time. (That's why sex is not in the list.)
17 - Being able to see your privates without a mirro is an NSV.

18 - Farts you make with your headphones on at the gym still stink.
19 - Logging food is the program. 

20 - Groups are for people who don't like opposing opinions.

0 - 20 You are probably in a sugar coma.
21 - 40 You have an active mind, and more restraint than a hog tied hog.
41 - 60 You are a safe friend and only contribute the message boards while everyone else is asleep.
61 - 80 You have been around a while and probably have a strike or two.
81 - 90 You are probably about to get locked out.
91 - 100 You are Dr. Oz

Please post your score. (I got 100!) And you can vote too!

What I Don't Want for Christmas!

vibrating weight loss machineI don't know about you, but some of the folks in my life are pretty aware of who I am, and what I like. They know my long time interests include: ice hockey, music, shooting, photography and Christianity. They find it easy to get me something at Guitar Center or Best Buy. They might even get me a pair of tickets to see the Bruins, but then they are afraid that I will ask them to come to the game. Needless to say, I haven't received Bruins tickets since 1975. I am not much for gift cards unless it is iTunes or a restaurant. However; I don't think the ex-fat man is going to get any gift certificates to Mickey D's this year.

The problem is when there is an apparent new interest. IE: Wight loss. I decided to make a list of what I don't want for gifts. Here is David's Top 10 Gifts that Would Suck List:

- Vintage Vibrating Weight Loss Machine: I can't imagine just standing there having my flab massaged at 120 beats per minute. With my luck it would just push it to some other unsightly location. (see photo)

- Yoga Mat: Mostly because they come in pink. Anything that has to be done on the floor that's good for you, should involve alcohol and/or a heart rate over 130. Besides, it's going to pick up all the dog hair and germs on the floor. Blech!

- Insta Slim Shirts: I am not really into clothing that crushes my diaphragm and causes my love handles to move up to my armpits. Worse is the one that pushes my back-lap up so that it looks like I have kidney stones the size of softballs. Shapewear is not not going to hide 20 or 30 pounds as well as Photoshop.

- Home Pole Dancing Kit: I am just not a dancer. And anything the elevates me above the floor more than a few inches increases the risk of bodily damage 10 fold. (Check Amazon!)

- BodyGlide Anti-Chafe Gel: I suppose it might be a stocking stuffer which is hidden under the nuts and apples.  How would someone know if I was having this problem anyway?

- Guy Girdles: It's the name. I am trying keep my man card.

- Weight Watchers Membership: That is on par with me saying to my girlfriend, "Yes!" when she asks if she looks fat in a dress. Although I believe that anyone dumb enough to ask that question, is smart enough to know that answer. Besides, MFP is better, cheaper and cooler. Just sayin'.

- Oscar the Grouch Talking Scale: "What's wrong with you, it looks like the garbage you are eating is catching up with your "A" for a$$. Nobody wants to be taunted by a garbage eating puppet.

- Suzanne Somers’s Torso Track: Have you seen that thing? You could lose a body part - but that is not the sort of weight loss I am after.

- Richard Simmons'  Workout DVDs: Well with the exception of his appearance on What's My Line with Drew Carey.

Tell us a gift you do not want to get for Christmas!

Thanks for the comments and votes. As always, your support is awesome. Freind requests accepted.

How the Hell Would I Know?!

Why do avocados have large pits? I don't know? Why do drive-up ATMs have Braille? Why do women like to talk about feelings and men like talk about sex? Dunno.

The real question is how do we complete this journey?

Are we supposed to die fit? If were not, when is OK to give up exercising and eating healthy? I am really asking myself these questions. It's been one hell of a journey since February of 2011. A lot of people know my story. Running on the treadmill one day in ICU 2 days later with congestive heart failure. On the flip-side I have had some great success as a runner too - for one my age anyway. 

It doesn't really feel like my life.

I have been at this for 5 years. I guess I get to say what works for me. I was nearly 300 pounds and I went as low as 197. I am back up some. 207 at last check. It's been one freaking tough year.

The weight loss journey is as hard as it ever was!

It's the same old story. A few cheat meals, forget to watch portions, a whole package of cookies in the house, and an awful chronic digestive issue which keep me from running long distances. People said I should be good to myself, it's OK you have cancer and dont' feel well. It's not working! 10 hard fought pounds came back!

My new clothes don't really fit well. *sigh*

I am running 5 days a week for about 4 miles. I need to work back to a marathon distance!

When I gained 5 pounds I said to myself it's not a big deal, I will lose later. So now that it's 10 what should I say to myself? Do I cut myself some slack? I don't see any other way to stop the downward spiral but doing anything other than being accurate about the food portions. I can run, and I have another marathon in 2017!

It's time to get real. The food will kill me if I don't stay on track. I need to run, log the food, and manage my stress. The stress of a cancer diagnosis (another one), the job loss and all that goes with that, has been really tough.

Food won't fix it.

So here is to getting it fixed now, and not lamenting 15 pounds. I suppose that I should add in some weight training or something. I used to do that too. 

Thanks for listening! I always enjoy new friends if you want to be on the list.

Cancer Still Sucks, But Guess What

Some of you know that I have been around here for a few years. 2005 days to be exact. It's not that important. I stuck with the plan and lost a lot of weight, not to mention I can run a marathon, and fit in some much smaller clothes.

I also made some people on the message boards mad.

I have had a lot more than 5 surgeries since I showed up as a Photoshopped profile picture on MFP. The heart surgery was only cosmetic. :) I had my knee repaired and I liked that so much I also had my rotator cuff repaired too.

In the fall of 2013, just a few weeks before my first marathon, I had a surgical biopsy.

The diagnosis? A malignant tumor. WTF?! What I really wanted was liposuction and a tummy tuck to complete the weight loss process. According to the doctor, it was a small tumor. Compared to what, I don't know - maybe my head.

Cancer sucks. We all know why.

As a follow up, I have had 5 needle biopsies in 3 years. My previous experiences were not a lot of fun. I am pretty much immune to the effects of lidocaine, a local anaesthetic. Instead of switching me to something new, they gave me more of the one that doesn't work. Did I say I was pretty much immune to the effects?

You may want to cover the children's eyes.

Here is a half naked guy with an ultrasound probe strategically placed in the location where my ex-wife swears my head was. Truthfully it felt more like they took all the office furniture and shoved it up there. And oh damn, then they accidentally were a little rough on whatever it is up there that doesn't get a touch of local anesthesia. Then they proceed with the biopsy which feels like you were snapped with a large rubber band on the buttocks. 12 times.

Did I mention they took 2 needles to inject antibiotics, one of which was pure molten steel?

Before the procedure I was just wishing it was over because I know. After the procedure, I just wish I was dead. Recovery includes blood. Supposedly it's not much, but I consider mine almost as precious as that of Jesus. When given the option, I like to keep it in my body.

As I stated earlier, I have had a number of surgeries and none of them hurt like this.

The ladies are thinking, "oh, now you know what it's like to give birth." Well, I did ask for an epidural and never got one. But whatever it is I gave birth to, I won't have to send it to college or pay for a wedding.

When you have been diagnosed with cancer (4 times), you think about a lot of things.

Will I die? This sucks and will it suck more? What is the treatment? Can I run? Will I miss work? Will the treatment make me feel sick? And will I die? That questions shows up more often then, "Is there sex in Heaven?"

Venting a little helps. The problem is that someone would rather tell you about an uncle who died from cancer then spend much time just letting you ramble.

This week I gained access to the Berlin Marathon in September of 2017. So here I am, on the verge of one of the most amazing experiences of my lifetime (however long that is), and I don't get to think about it that much. I have to see the surgeon, and last I heard, my stage 1 cells were almost stage 2. We will discuss the treatment options soon.
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