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Cancer Sucks- Being Strong Is Hard

Some days you don't feel like being strong. You need to dig deep to find a reason to keep on living like this. I still have yearly colonoscopies to check for colon tumors and I am happy to report that instead of biopsies, I am monitoring my cancer with MRIs. Here is an exceprt from my new book on one of my not so strong days.


When the colonoscopy and biopsy days came, I would start my prep, work from home and manage it. Those days the emotions would work hard at generating fear and anxiety, ending in irritable frustration. I was living alone in my little one-bedroom apartment. I remember coordinating my work calls between bathroom runs. It was hard to concentrate. I had decided to cook a turkey so I would have food during my recovery period. Forgetting it needed to thaw, I had forgotten to purchase it in time. 

 I used the bathroom in hopes of holding on while I rushed to the supermarket a few doors down. I made a list on a sticky note to minimize my time in the store. I jumped in my car, pulled into traffic and a moment later I was parked and walking into Hannafords. I grabbed a basket, plopped a turkey in it and then found the stuffing, onion, apples, walnut and an aluminum baking pan. I dropped everything on the cashier’s conveyor belt. She rang it up. It was $19 or something. I reached for my wallet. I had left it at home. I just began to cry. It was all too much. “I’m sorry.” I blubbered. “I’m having a procedure tomorrow and I am a little out of sorts.”

“Oh honey, it’s OK. What are you having done?” The cashier asked.

 “A biopsy. I just don’t like them.” I saw her name tag. It said Donna. I started to ask Donna if she could set my purchase aside when she made her way around to the front of the payment terminal and swiped her personal debit card and  paid for my groceries.

“God bless you, sir. I hope it’s good news.” Come back and let me know how you are doing. I am always here on Thursdays. I thanked her more times than I could count. I went home and put my turkey in the refrigerator. Then I lay in bed, my mind racing, tears, and utter despair swept over me. Today - the next day or so, I would be in the “worry about cancer” compartment. Gratitude and fear of the unknown were the anchors of those thoughts and feelings.

Anesthesia Is Your Friend (Part II and III)

These are excerpts from my new book The Pathetic Runner, due out in December.

Part II
In college I was an amateure pharmacist. It was a pretty good living and I was a popular kid, having such an esteemed vocation.

It paid for books and supplies and kept a small New England town financially stable. Nitrous Oxide was one of my favored inhalants back in the day. If you are practicing to be a comedian, this stuff was it. However, It was a bad choice as a telephone operator. “You want to call who? Let me connect you to the president.” Speaking of presidents. The sitting president came to my college. We entertained him with a talent show and a redneck state dinner. My band Insanity played a few tunes for Commander-In-Chief. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane and Light My Fire by the Doors. Sadly, it was a 2nd place performance. Jimmy Carter got my vote that year. If he had liked my music a little better, he would have gotten it the next time, too.
Part III
Nurse Jennifer: You can change into this *handing me the surgical gown and cap* with the opening in the back. You can leave on your clean underwear. Put the rest of your clothes in the plastic bag. I will be back in a couple of minutes.
Me: Don’t be too long, because I came dressed for action. (I really only was wearing flip-flops, underwear, shorts with no pockets or belt, and a t-shirt.) This is a 30 second job. I was done before she pulled the curtain.

A little later...

Nurse Jennifer: We are going to give you something to relax. But first can you tell me what you are here for?
Me: The relaxation drugs. 
Nurse Jennifer: Anything else?
Me: Nope
Nurse Jennifer: What procedure are you having.

More to come.

Stop the Food Pushers!

Don't you just hate it when "no thank you" doesn't work? What do you do if those inconsiderate family members, friends and Type-A soccer moms continue to offer you food, suggest the worst restaurants, drinks and other deadly treats?

Well, here is an arsenal of snide remarks from my first book, which should stop them in their tracks. Feel free to mix-n-match. Gender options can be used as needed.

Them: You have to try it.
You: That's what they said about remote control underwear.
Them: I made it myself. You'll love it!
You: No thanks, I'd rather drink sour milk.
You (alternate answer): I make poop myself, but I keep that quiet.

Them: Here, have {some crap you don't eat.}
You: Did you check the package? I heard that was recalled due to E. coli.

Them: It's just once a year!
You: So are OBGYN visits and I am not sure I like the stirrups.

Them: You should have a beer.
You: No thanks, I am going skydiving at lunch and don't want to splatter on the roof of your wife's mini-van/husband's BMW, it might scare the hell out of the kids.

Them: Have another piece of cake.
You: So, I can look like you?

Them: One bite isn't going to kill you.
You: Unless it's cyanide.

Them: We have so many leftovers. Take some!
You: You are really going to give me the crap no one else eats?

Them: But it's your favorite!
You: No, running at 4 am is. Would you join me tomorrow?

Them: Let's stop at McDonald's.
You: You are what you eat, and I am not interested in being fat, cheap or passed out a window.

Them: You should have some {Name of some food item that your MFP friends will delete you over.}.
You: I am allergic to sugar, fat and sodium, but thanks for asking.

Them: Let's go to KFC.
You: I heard some one got a fried mouse there - pretty gross, right? 

Them: Have a piece of pizza.
You: I just saw the {name of the person most disliked in the office} sneeze on it. It's hard to tell with the broccoli, I know.

Them: How about a Margarita?
You: No thanks; I was looking for a José/Juanita about my age with ripped abs.

Them: Try some banana nut bread.
You: I can't, I am fasting for my colonoscopy. Actually I need to run...

Them: You are a vegetarian?
You: Yes, the only animals I eat are crackers.

Them: It's good for you.
You: Let's see *picking up the package* Bleached Flour, Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Vegetable and Animal Shortening, Dextrose. Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, and Red 40.

I think you are wrong.

Them: If you don't try my dish, I'm just going to have to force you to eat it!
You: Is this food rape?

Them: This is to die for.
You: Last time it gave me raging gas and I was asked to leave the bait aisle at Bass Pro Shops.

Them: You should eat another serving of turkey.
You: No, thanks, it makes me fart and I sound like a tuba with benefits.

Them: You can go off your diet.
You: Think of it like this: I am speeding down a mountain road in Argentina; there are no guardrails. Would you tell me it was safe to go off the road?

Them: You don't look like you weigh too much.
You: Not on a scale of 1 to 10, no I don't.

Them: Here try some pork.
You: Was that once a real pig? It looks like your ex.

Them: We've got donuts in the break-room.
You: Is Michelle Obama on vacation this week?

Them: Looks like someone is obsessed with dieting…
You: I would say passionate about health. But what would you know about that?

Them: Come on, you only live once.
You: And when I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.

Thanks for the votes and comments. You guys are amazing!

Friend me for wise cracks, sarcasm and support on your news feed. 

Self Imaging

Do you remember when you first thought about losing weight? I was very obese weighing in at just about 300 pounds. I am 6' 1" but, according to my cardiologist, I should be closer to 190.

And this is why BMI is BS. ;)

I have a picture that was taken when I was 33. I looked great in that image! I stopped looking in the mirror after 41 years. I even shaved in the shower. I always had that skinny me pic as a fantasy. I still do. When I did look in the mirror, I was depressed. I had more than let myself go.

I really wanted to be thin, so I got to work.

I lost 20 or so pounds pretty quickly. I dreamt of running. I started the Couch to 5k program. Then I had congestive heart failure. That set me back.

I didn't quit.

I kept on working out, eating less, and running. As I started to feel better, I also started to look better. My self-image was changing. It was an important step to accept where I was while I worked for a future goal.

I had never really examined my self-created body image.

Speaking of body images, I had to get up at 5:30 to be at the MRI center for 6:30. My priorities were coffee, food so I could take my pain medication, and well, not wearing anything metal. This was MRI number 6. I know the drill.

It's not that I'm going for a record, but if I was, I am off to a good start.

It's warm here today, and it was flip-flops, a t-shirt, and gym shorts. There is something wonderful about being able to go around in public wearing your PJs. Just one layer away from the bed.

I was slid into the imaging machine like an .

I don't really like the tube. I close my eyes, listen to all the buzzing and clanking, and try not to hold my breath. They clamped my head in something like an S&M mask.

It was white and not black. No studs.

They put the whip in my hand (emergency buzzer) and left the room. I tried to fantasize about something other being stuck in an elephant rectum. Is this what it feels like to be an earthquake victim?

OMG, I have an itch!

I start praying and 30 seconds in, I am pretty sure God is mad at me for something, I mean here I am in a tomb thinking about S&M.

Ahhh, images of my wedding to Ruth.

The beach. Click, bang, buzz. Now I am pretty much terrorized. It sounds like GANGNAM STYLE! "Oh, God!" I cried out.

"Are you OK?" came the voice from the tube.

"Just fine, sir. I feel good about myself"

I'm a Little Negative Today

I have spent a lots of time around folks who want to lose weight, get healthy, and/or run a marathon. There have been an equal or greater amount who just wanted to drink beer and eat pizza. I have been both. I had excuses and justifications, too. Yes, I have pretty much heard it all. 

If you are going to succeed, you are going to have some failures; I guarantee it!

There are all sorts of failures in life because life is filled with real failures and possible failures, which you can fail at failing at. Right? There are the known failures, the unknown failures, the controlled failures, and the uncontrolled failures - the failures that take us by surprise and the ones that we bring on ourselves. And there are the ones that are someone else's fault, and maybe one or two that are our fault (which we we're probably mistaken about).

In fact, there as many types of fitness failures as there are Bubba's shrimp dishes in Forest Gump.

I don't know about you, but I have failed at lots of things - well, except dying (But I did get score of 9.4 out of 10 for trying). I have had some epic and painful failures in my life, some of them still haunt me. (That is why God created running endorphins!)

I have determined that failure is inevitable.

There is a lot of advice on how to succeed in getting fit and losing weight. There are dozens of books on how to run. I am sort of bored with it. However; today I am going share some sure fire ways to fail at succeeding. Pardon my tongue in cheek negativity. ;)

- Don't plan meals. You are probably already as fit as Jillian, so why bother.
- Don't do cardiovascular exercise. Because sweating is for pigs.
- Focus only on the scale! That way you'll have an excuse to give up every time you step on it.
- Don't do any strength training. You don't want to look like Arnold in a tutu.
- Don't worry about skipping training runs. You can defer to next year.
- Don't clean out the junk food in your house. Because you are reading this blog for a friend.
- Be controversial about everything. It's better to get advice you won't like.
- Eat whatever you want. Because dieting is better than changing a failing lifestyle.
- Don't set goals. You might fail at reaching them.
- Reward your weight loss success. I recommend food and lots of it.
- Drama. Use plenty of it so that no one can help you.
- Don't get any friends involved with training or working out. That way you fail in secret.
- Don't encourage others. Because they have it down.
- Don't read success stories. Because it won't work for you.
- Make posts about your TOM. Because us guys need to know that information before commenting.
- Don't try C25K. You can't fail at what you don't try. Wait, you have to try it, that way you can fail at it.
- Make lots of excuses. Remember, the best excuses are the ones only you believe.

Did I miss any ways to fail at getting fit?

Honestly, success is trying again even when you do fail. So let's get cracking!

Thanks for the comments.

You Can!

My Blog has moved HERE.

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. :)
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