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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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