Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IV

Four years ago today, I would wake up in an ambulance at a Friday birthday lunch and confirm what all smart people had suspected my whole life, something was wrong with my  brain. While that day I suppose is officially the beginning of the story, there are simple realities like that we found out next to nothing that day. No one would go over the MRI with me till late that night after hospital admission. The biopsy wouldn't be till Monday November 8th and the results would not be in for a few weeks instead of the few days originally stated. So while today I acknowledge the anniversary, cancerversary, beginning of Life Part II, whatever you want to call it, but much like my actual birthday, I don't remember it very well. However, it should tell you something that the guy with memory problems who can't remember the date he won a marathon, or the date of the marathon he put off brain surgery for, somehow doesn't forget this date (it may have something to do with the old British rhyme, Remember, remember the 5th of November; still there are no other dates that have been blogged on every single year since it started).

Speaking of British, there was recently an article about how cancer shouldn't be called a battle (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2819929/Cancer-not-called-battle-say-language-experts.html?sf33324462=1) because in those things there are clear winners, losers. Yes, I've lost some brain functions, a job, a few people I love we didn't make it work partly because of how we handled cancer. I won a marathon, some press and everyday still try to win over the heart of a cute little girl. (She's picked up my competitive side as demonstrated by yesterday's interaction:

Me: Kiana, I'm prettier than you.
Kiana: No you're not.
Me: Okay well, I'm smarter than you.
Kiana: I don't know about that.
Me: Well which one is more important to be prettier or smarter?
Kiana: Prettier or smarter period or just more than you?


Fortunately she decided that both in relation to me and society the more important one was to be smart and not pretty.)

I'm a competitive guy so I like to keep score, so while I've acknowledged the date every year, in my book the score is my team 4, cancer 0. While this is an imperfect metaphor (are there any perfect metaphors for indescribable situations?), I like the analogy. And let me be clear whether or not I make it through this next year because of something related to cancer, I hope, dream, and believe that I've done some good things with  my life since then and that if cancer is what I die of, that then the score will be at worst 4-1 and that cancer will still have lost.

Because while the final result obviously matters, still, like time splits in my races, or quarters in a game, or wedding anniversaries, measuring progression or regression also matters. So in looking back on the last year, I started realizing how good it has been. Financially, while there are still outstanding financial things from then, it's better than anything since 2010. Sportswise, since my 3rd cancer anniversary, I have PR'ed in every distance I've raced in from a mile to a 5k to the half to the full marathon and pulled off my first Spartans without failing any obstacles (even won some more races on my own and a 5 miler with a stroller). Kiana has done races, some on her own with  me cheering and others where we did them side by side. Emotionally and relationship wise, my counselor and I parted ways. I still haven't had a girlfriend since high school though perhaps my heart opened enough to where it could happen (speaking of which I looked up today that the 4th anniversary the traditional gift is fruit and flowers. I wonder who came up with that list and if girls would stick around longer with those gifts?). Friends wise, I have made more great ones but still have so many from so much of my life that it reminds me of what I've long suspected, all my friends are good people (because anyone shy of a saint probably couldn't put up with me).


Medically speaking, well, I got cleared to drive a little over six months ago which has been liberating. I had an appointment with a doctor yesterday that when they wanted to do sometime soon; there's been a few changes in blood pressure and weight, nothing too dramatic. Somehow at the end of it they asked if I wanted a flu shot which I got despite never having had one before. I had purposely scheduled yesterdays appointment not on the 5th wanting to not have to deal with medical stuff but the universe doesn't always line up and to check a few things the doctor ordered some bloodwork for this morning after not eating all night. Still, it tells you something about how awesome my doctors are in that before we started talking about anything medical they a picture up of my New York marathon finish that I hadn't even seen.

Because I now have insurance that is an HMO I had to go to a new place for the bloodwork. I am still amused at that I got moved over to a different receptionist not because of the procedure but because of the type of insurance. Oddly enough, the bracelet they put on me had the number 4 on it so I asked why and it was a code for something I couldn't quite comprehend. {Speaking of progress, because of someone who I wanted to be there for them at their medical appointment, I have in this last year learned to deal with blood in a way I'd never done (this took watching some online videos of bloody procedures)}. While the universe doesn't always align this nicely, it ended up helping me be completely calm for the first time while blood was being drawn intravenously and me being able to watch it. I guess that little buzzer they gave me for when it was my turn of "comfort call" was labeled correctly. The results won't be in for a bit.

I don't usually celebrate my birthday much nor do I acknowledge this cancer anniversary thing much but today I wanted to make a special note of it. While like birthdays, each of them is significant, there are ones we make a bigger deal of than others for whatever reasons, legal driving, voting, drinking age etc. This cancer anniversary year is significant to me because 4 is the first significant mile marker in this cancer journey because 4 years is the median survival rate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrocytoma). While, I hope to be a wild outlier in this game, if nothing else starting tomorrow I'm in the better half of patients (I mean this with no disregard for those who didn't make it that far).

So how do you acknowledge that day? Well, I'm a runner so I was going to run 4 miles in miserable weather, but instead I ran 4.08 miles since cancer doesn't get to play entirely on it's own terms. It's a cold rainy day one of those where you wonder how people make out in the rain in movies instead of just going into cuddle. I don't think either of things will happen but sometimes cancer, like rain, does make some of us feel down (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMF4B3wDO_E). But running in the rain or with cancer helps me keep believing that while no person has complete victory or much control over all circumstances, but you've got to hold on to some say in the matter.

I had a a meal with friends who I believe we will be friends till each other's end whosoever come first but hey I'm generally faster than them. They gave me an appropriate card and questionable, no generally inappropriate remarks. I am having a bit of time with someone who I met because of cancer. It's a connection I think is deeper than cancer could ever be and this comes from characters whose blood and brain are part of the cancer story. Yet, while I wish there'd be times where you just had brunch or comedy shows together, it seems we only see each other on cancer related days or events. That's somehow both discomforting and comforting if that makes any sense.

And I'm just a few minutes away from picking up Kiana where we'll do some fun indoor activities and keep an appropriate rainy day dinner. We are going to work on our annual card which captures the most important events of 2014 (it's awfully cool that this is the hardest it's been to pick which are the pictures to put in because of the variety of events).

And since I'm known for being corny, it has had some rough parts but I think over all the last few years have been overall, a fantastic four. I feel as lucky as a clover with four leaves for all the good parts and since Kiana and I got to go to DC and since yesterday was election day, I'll gladly dare to dream today for at least four more years.

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