Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don't Call it A Comeback

The word comeback appears too often in parts of people's conversations with me… it comes with both negative and positive connotations. Do you ever wonder if your cancer will come back? What would you do if your spouse came back? Glad you got to come back to this race again. Glad to see you came back to be a father and a runner.

Perception is reality but mine and other people’s is sometimes miles apart and I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle. Am I worried about my cancer coming back? No because my cancer hasn’t gone away; it’s not going to in any way that I can see; they just took out about 80% of the tumor; we’re just monitoring what was left during the surgery to see if it’s growing. I’m not coming back to MRI’s or neuropsychological testing just continuing with them, they are tools to see how the present compares to the past for sure but they are mostly about carving out the future. When I did those tours throughout California and Texas shortly before the surgery, I had learned to say something that revealed my fears in a well received manner. I said,” I’m not sure the guy going in is the same one coming out, but this one loves you guys.” Having read a book that someone from my running group gave me “I had brain surgery, what’s your excuse” and one from my psychology back ground “The man who mistook his wife for a hat,” I knew that neurological damage can dramatically change a person and wasn’t just something we could wave off. While I embrace our romantic idea that will power alone can overpower the universe, this is not exactly the path of luck of all human beings. But I still don’t want to ignore the fact that the harder we work the luckier we get (anyone who reads this blog knows that I clearly need to learn to avoid clichés like the plague). Anyway, there were some changes in calmness and impulsivity but its also calming that the guy that loved those people remains mostly intact to this point and so do most those people.

A year ago, people were putting on a tournament to raise money with my medical bills and there were more friends cheering me on for the Austin Livestrong marathon than there were miles in it. This year I was running the tourney and raising money for Livestrong, a restoration of some of the kindness I hope. Between donations and the profit, we made them about a grand (though again with the great irreverence of my friends, it snowed/sleeted during the tournament and an atheist friend said God really hates you man, first he gives you brain cancer and now it snows during your thank you tournament. I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist but this reminded me of the story of the butterfly who struggling to get out of her cocoon is “saved” by someone who cuts it too make it easier, and that butterfly, by losing the struggle loses the ability to fly. Sometimes we destroy and lose things by struggle but other times it helps us build character, muscle?) I’ve raised about as much money for brain cancer research as I have for Livestrong and a fair share for the ultimate community in other tourneys. But even if I ever surpass the amount of money they raised for my medical bills, there is nowhere that the bills are even; I don’t owe them money, I owe them life. I was doing tours of where I’d lived because surgery was a few weeks away and people came heavily to them. I’m running the marathon again and I hope it will be faster and I still do dinner and parties with friends and they are still well attended and I hope and pray that I don’t lose the focus no matter how long I’m standing because either way I’m going to die.

But it’s not a comeback from last year. I was a father and a husband, I was a runner, I was a probation officer, I was a cancer patient and I’m still almost all those things (I am going to the anti Valentine's day party with a friend telling me if I don't win I have to post the winning story on facebook; ironically/appropriately its at the first place I went to eat in Austin, Black Sheep Lodge right after I got out of the first hospital and the last place I went for a happy hour before heading out to Duke). Now, I am just trying to put more effort into improving the good parts and hoping the bad ones stay where they are. Wicked, the musical was recently in Austin and there are days where I wish I could hide echoing the scare crow’s voice about dancing through life, that life is painless when you’re brainless; life is fraughtless when you’re thoughtless and that those who don’t try never look foolish. And trust me I dance, sometimes to remember and sometimes to forget….

So the marathon is a few days away and the 8 hours of neuropsychological are two days after that…and then the MRI is a few days after that. We’ll see what progress/regress we’ve made a year later. I am watching the weather reports and doing the Rehab Apps trying to achieve that serenity of changing what we can’t and accepting what we can’t… Neither is easy but it wasn’t last year and it won’t be in the future but I’m still going and hope to continue so don’t call it a comeback.

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