Two years ago, November 5th, 2010 started the brain cancer journey. I’ve kept some great friends, made some new ones, lost a few. Since then, I’ve won some races, some Frisbee tournaments, a soccer league, raised some funds etc etc… Long before any of this started, I’d said things like “No one says on their deathbed… etc and I’d been part of local events for various sports and charities. But though all this, I am intrigued/comforted/fascinated by the fact that without exception what has gotten the most affection and positive attention returning my way is where I’ve come in second best. My second best marathon time would win me the cancer survivor’s division at the Livestrong marathon (http://hawktober.com/tag/iram-leon/), my second best half marathon was pushing a stroller while my mom did her first and it got both local news coverage (http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/recreational/article_462d74e6-1038-11e2-9b83-001a4bcf6878.html) and a motivational poster made (picture below, though John Bussert, the friend who made it is an army trainer and I’m just waiting to get beat up by the guys who can’t give him excuses anymore). Even one of the races I won originally, the brainpower 5k, I am far more proud of that the second year we raised more money and I got more people to come and raise money themselves than the first year where I wasn’t quite ready to realize that this tumor and me are well tied together inevitably. Some of the coincidences, the fact that the night the Livestrong Center opened was the day a significant other left, the fact that the first Brain Power 5k was announced on my first birthday after the surgery, the fact that my two best marathon times are the first time they had a cancer division, the fact that the first Imerman’s angel with the same diagnosis signed up shortly after mine… I'd originally tried to dismiss these but Einstein stated you can live life as it nothing is a miracle or as if everything is.
I am bummed out by fact like that I don’t get to help the ultimate community as much as I used to but single fatherhood complicates that and I love that community but if I ever have to choose between getting a few more moments with my child and anything else… that’s an incredibly decision. In regards to running, while I’m doing the same relative schedule, I’ve continued to train harder in effort than I actually ever have, beating some times that I achieved in college and high school. Some friends have even wondered whether the medication I am on helps my performance but the truth is that it actually lowers my peak performance somewhat and I have to take extra to be able to push this hard without risking seizures. But let’s be clear, I wouldn’t be pushing this hard at trying to balance the legacy that apparently my life is tied to in that poster (combining family, cancer and exercise) without that brain surgery. So in that sense, I suppose circumstances even if not the drugs have helped me achieve better performance. I’ve heard a few survivors say that cancer was the best/worst thing that ever happened to them and I can certainly echo much of those feelings but two years in to it, despite the fact that some of my mishandling of the emotions cost me my high school sweetheart, that some of my mishandling admitting some of my memory problems cost me my job and health insurance, I think that, for me at least, it has been far more the best thing than the worst thing, second best thing at least, after the child who I kiss to bed. A custody battle is ensuing over that… where an attorney, I hope not her mother, is trying to make the case that the hole in the middle of my brain makes it unsafe for her to live with me because I have some mental deficits and am far more prone to seizures than most of the human population. Seeing the legal bills and am doing my side without an attorney from now on because I’m not draining the resources left fighting cancer that way. I grew up poor and be beyond sure, I’m not leaving my daughter that way.
Anyone who’s been keeping track of this… knows that I snuck out of a hospital when this started to run 8 miles, put off a surgery to run a marathon, rushed my doctors are both the initial biopsy and the major surgery to let me get back to work as soon as possible… When I was found collapsed on the side of the road, I went to work the next day and ran 15 miles the day after that. Two days ago, my insurance decided that I’m eligible, I get a Sabbatical from work for a while. This was less than easy to accept for a guy whose worked full time since I was 14 and from Mexico, a country where we derive our value in how we provide, what I was most worried about in that initial hospital bed. Now, my toenails get painted, I brush hair, have lunch with her and volunteer at her school. There are not trips to Costa Rica, India, Italy or the cancelled one to Brazil that got replaced by the first trip to Duke. I may not get to go all over the world as I did before all this but we walk to school every day and she asks for me to tuck her in and carry her and those trips are infinitely more valuable. I can live without work though I assure you that's tough but if this custody requests goes through where I am only allowed supervised visits where I become a guest in my daughter's life s... that somehow will feel like I've gained my soul while losing my whole world.
Kiana and I are also currently on the poster for the upcoming turkey trot, the only race I’ve ever done with a stroller division. That picture was one captured shortly after we got handed the 2nd place trophy, keeping that second best theme pattern. It was on last year’s Christmas card and this year it’s on a facebook billboard. People joke about how I am everyone’s poster child and that it’s cool but if anyone thinks all of this doesn’t feel strange… let’s just say that if anyone wants to trade lives, just tell me where the dotted line is (trading the kid, well that one’s not negotiable).
There are some things that are far more in the black than they were two years ago, others that are far more white, some that are far more in the red but none quiet yet that are in 50 shades of gray… The one thing that is beyond clear as Thanksgiving approaches is that I am incredibly more grateful for many aspects of life. Ward wrote that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it” so to all of you who are taking time to read this (and even those who don’t who have helped) Thank you. Some say that the second anniversary is cotton but Kiana and I sticking to a paper gift and getting our holiday cards ready… and while I am grateful for each of you who read this but I may not have your address so if you’re reading this, send that to me. Two down, here’s hoping there are dozens more to celebrate. We had a party called Life Part II and while there are still some odd elements a long way from being settled and perhaps never will be, this may be the second part of my life but I still believe it’s the best.