Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Still Stable

Met with Dr. R this afternoon. Things still look OK. I'm still stable -- no real changes.


I'll be honest: I was prepared for him to say something like, "Maybe we should schedule a scan and see what's going on in there." Not that I had shared that expectation with anyone (except Isabel). It seemed to me that the nodes near my left hip were getting larger; when I bent down to tie my shodes, for example, I felt some different pressure than I'd felt before. Those nodes are fairly close to the surface, fairly easy to feel, and I had convinced myself they were swollen more than usual. So the typical watch-and-waiter worries started up, and I began wondering if maybe I was transforming to something more aggressive, and would need aggressive chemo right away. Or maybe that they weren't all that much more aggressive, but at the point where treatment was necessary, so I'd start on Rituxin. So it goes -- every ache and twinge is magnified.

But, alas, none of that. Dr. R felt around, and didn't detect anything out of the ordinary, in the hip nodes or anywhere else. The blood work is still very good -- all of my counts are within normal range. He was very reassuring about it all.

After the exam, we had our usual Q & A session. I told him I'd been doing some reading in oncology journals lately. He laughed and told me I should be reading about the economy instead. This was part of his being reassuring, actually -- I'm stable enough to have other things to worry about besides the NHL, which is proceding normally (that is, slowly).

But he wasn't blowing me off. We did discuss my questions, which centered around treatment options. I told him about an article I read recently (one that I haven't linked or fully discussed here) that has to do with the idea of Follicular NHL being incurable, and how that perception shapes our approach to treatment. Basically, the article author says that as long we do things like watch and wait, we are admitting that fNHL is incurable. But if we were more aggressive from the start, we'd have a better chance at understanding which treatments result in a cure. Since fNHL affects mostly elderly patients, many of them die of old age before they die of fNHL, so we don't know what actually cures them. So trying for a cure early on with aggressive treatment will allow us to see which treatments really do last long enough to be called curative.

Dr. R understands this aggressive approach, but is more conservative about treatment. Essentially, he thinks there will be time for aggressive treatments when the time comes -- no need to rush them now, especially since I'm still not showing symptoms. It's more or less the conclusion that I'd come to, but I was glad to hear he thought the same thing. I like that he's being conservative, as hard as the watch and wait thing is sometimes.

And this is all so hard sometimes. It's been the same way, to varying degrees, from the start: feeling the need to do something, but feeling happy that I don't have to.

Still, this was a good visit. As my support group friends say, "Stable is a very good word." Dr. R debated with himself about when to do another scan. It's been two months. He decided that, since things look so stable, he'll wait another two months to see me again, and then we'll decide when to schedule another scan.

So I'll keep educating myself and staying informed and ready for when the time comes to make a decision.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another Race

Yesterday (Saturday), I ran in the Reebok Homecoming 5k in Canton, MA (home to not only Reebok, but also Dunkin' Donuts. Great town!). I did OK: 28 minutes, 37 seconds, placing 165 out of 258 runners. Better than the New Haven Road Race, anyway. Official results here.


This was my first 5k in Massachusetts. It was nice, because it came close to Mom's birthday, and she likes to watch me run (I think it reminds her that I'm feeling well). So Isabel and the kids got to watch me, as usual, but so did Mom and Dad, plus my brother and his family. Quite the crowd for me.

The race began at Canton High School. They had predicted nasty rain for race time, but it held off, which was great. A little humid, but decent racing weather. It was a good-sized field of runners I like that 200-300 range. Not too many, so it isn't crowded, but enough so that there's always someone close by, giving you someone to try to pass. They herded us onto Washington Street for the 9:00am start, but then started about 3 minutes early. Not cool -- a bunch of folks heard the horn go off and had to run in from the parking lot where they were doing last-minute warm-ups. As we took off, I noticed that we were on a slight hill. Not good -- I figured we were starting in the middle of the hill, which meant the rest of the hill would be at the end of the race. But I didn't look behind me to check for sure.

I felt pretty good after the first mile, and my time was decent. I got into a nice groove during the second mile, and I checked my time and saw that I was pretty close to a Personal Record at that point. I resisted the adrenaline urge that came from that thought, remembering how I died at the New Haven race near the end.

This time, the last half mile was a hill. One continuous hill, that got steeper as we got closer to the finish. I think race directors who lay out courses this way are sick. Hills are unavoidable, and I don't have a problem with them, but planning a steep hill at the end is a sign of a sadist. The hill slowed me down, but it didn't wipe me out. I finished decently, a 9:14 per mile pace, but I have to believe I would have broken 9 minutes if it was flat at the end.

On the plus side: some of the best post-race food I've seen, and among the best t-shirts I've received (dark green and understated in design). Plus, I came in first in my division (old fat guys from Connecticut). Nice race. And nicer with all of my family there to see it.


As I promised him: for my brother, who has switched seasons from long distance biking to hockey: a video of the Top 10 Penalty Box Momements. There's a reason they call it the "sin bin."


I see Dr. R on Tuesday afternoon. Look for a report sometime Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I'm still running. I'm back inside now on the treadmill. It's not getting light until about 6:30am now, too dark to run early in the morning when I like to. The treadmill doesn't seem to give me as much of a workout as running outside does, but I play with speeds and inclines, and that keeps thinsg interesting. But I won't stop. It's too important, not only because running helps you live longer, and it's especially good for cancer patients.

Busy weekend coming up, so I probably won't post until late Sunday, maybe Monday. I see Dr. R on Tuesday for the first time in two months. I always get a little antsy a few days before, even though I'm feeling fine, and I'm still not showing any B symptoms.

I'll give you the update after the appointment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not a Genius

Once again, the MacArthur Foundation Awards were announced yesterday, and once again, I was not given a Genius Grant. The MacArthur people give out 25 Genius Grants every year to people in the arts, sciences, medicine, etc. The grants are for $500,000, with no strings attached.
Most recipients announce some noble intention for the money, but they could spend it on aa half million dollars worth of Cheez Doodlez if they so chose. My kind of grant. Recipients don't apply for them; they are nominated secretly, and most have no idea that such an honor is coming.

I waited patiently by the phone all day yesterday.


There isn't even, like, a lymphoma researcher in the whole bunch. There is a basket weaver, though. Oh, sure, she's single-handedly preserving an ancient art, and her works are on display in major art mjuseums around the country. But still. Where's the love for Lympho Bob?


Speaking of lymphoma research....

(If you're getting tired of research news, too bad. It's either this or I write about the dog some more.)

Some excellent news yesterday from Cell Therapeutics, Inc., makers of Zevalin, the RadioImmunotherapy drug I've written about before. To remind you: Zevalin is basically a jazzed-up Rituxin. Rituxin finds the lymphoma cells by targeting the CD-20 protein on their surface. Zevalin goes a step further by targeting the protein but then delivering a shot of radiation to the cell. Since lymphoma cells are traveling through the blood, standard radiation treatments won't work. Zevalin (and a similar drug called Bexxar) allow radiation to be used on "liquid cancers," as they are called.

Zevalin has been used as a kind of "far down the line" option, most typically after a stem cell transplant hasn't worked. Yesterday, the FDA gave approval for CTI to apply for a label extension. That means that, if approved, doctors can use Zevalin as a first-line consolidation therapy: rather than waiting to use it far down the treatment line, it can be used as a second option, after, say, Rituxin or a chemotherapy has been tried. In the clinical trial that the application was based on, 87% of the Follicular NHL patients in the study had a complete response (they went into full remission). It didn't wipe out the lymphoma permanently, but it did greatly increase the length of the response. While there are some side effects, most are reversible, and other studies indicate that, unlike some fNHL treatments, Zevalin seems to work even better if it's used a second time.

It's not earth-shattering-there-may-be-a-cure news, but it's pretty good anyway. Zevalin provides another option, which is what fNHLers like to hear.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More Great Lymphoma Research News

First off, my congratulations to the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which beat the Europeans this weekend. The match was held in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky, where we spent five wonderful years. The U.S. team was led by Paul Azinger, NHL survivor, featured in my last Nodes of Gold entry. Gotta love it when lymphomaniacs do well. And you gotta love Boo Weekley.


There seems to be a ton of great lymphoma- and cancer-related news coming out lately, all of which is very encouraging. Two great stories from the last week.


First, there is a report on a variation of an already-effective chemo treatment. Some background: The chemo is called CHOP, the acronym for the combination of drugs given to lymphoma patients. It's fairly aggressive, and has always been reasonably effective. A few years ago, it became known as R-CHOP. The R was for the addition of the monoclonal antibody Rituxin, the NHLer's best friend. Rituxin is sometimes used as a first line, initial treatment for Follicular NHL (my current plan is for straight Rituxin as my first treatment), but is even more effective when combined with chemotherapies. Rituxin targets lymphoma cells because they have a protein called CD-20 on their surface. Researchers aren't sure exactly why the addition of Rituxin makes the chemo work better, but it does.

This recent news has to do with another monoclonal antibody called Epratuzumab, which targets a different protein, CD-22. In this recent study, CHOP was combined with both Rituxin and Epratuzumab (the combo is called ER-CHOP). The numbers in the clinical study are pretty impressive: 56% of patients had a complete response (they went into full remission), and another 38% had a partial response (reduction in tumors). For fNHL patients, that's pretty darn good news.

There's a clinical trial underway that uses Epratuzumab and Rituxin in combination as a first line treatment; a reader of this blog, Dave, is in the trial and should get results soon. Good luck, Dave.

The best part of Epratuzumab is that it is being marketed under the name LymphoCide. That name rocks.


The other interesting news from this week concerns Follicular NHL and treatments after relapse. Basically, fNHL has a bad habit of coming back after being treated, so patients face a series of treatments, which are usually effective is holding off the lymphoma, or beating it back for a while, until the next treatment is used. The treatments are usually progressively more aggressive; you start with Rituxin, then if/when it comes back, you use a certain chemo, then a stronger chemo, then R-CHOP -- or whatever the doctor and patient decide what the course of treatment will be. The assumption has always been that fNHL becomes more aggressive with time, and so each treatment must be more aggressive.

As it turns out, not all fNHL behaves this way. Researchers have identified 81 genes that can determine very accurately if the fNHL is going to behave more aggressively with time. Knowing that can help determine a better course of treatment, going with something more aggressive earlier on, or holding off because things will keep going slowly. Another excellent step for better treatment.


It's nice to hear all of this great fNHL news coming about. I expect to hear about some very interesting new treatments in the next few years, partly because of the Stand Up to Cancer folks. Cancer research funding usually depends on a researcher showing how he or she is building on previous effective work, which increases the chances that the funding will result in something good happening from the research. The result is slow, incremental progress, which is great. Stand Up to Cancer is taking a different appraoch. They're funding "dream teams" of cancer researchers to take their best ideas, some of them fairly radical, and giving them a chance to show that they'll work. They might be so new and unusual that they don't have that kind of history that the slow, incremental work has to have to get funded. Could be a waste of money, but it could result in some very interesting cancer treatments.

Keep looking here for news, of course.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stem Cell Donations

No, no, not for me -- not yet anyway.

The National Marrow Donor Program is making a push for donations. Through September 22nd, the fee for the testing kit is being paid for by an anonymous donor (it's about $50 otherwise). You can find out more here. Sorry I didn't hear about it sooner. Read on for more details about why this is important.

What used to be called "Bone Marrow Transplants" are now more commonly called "Stem Cell Transplants" or STC. They don't involve the politically-sensitive issue of embryonic stem cells. Everyone has stem cells in their body all the time, waiting to grow into specialized cells. In the blood, stem cells are immature cells that turn into red blood cells (which carry oxygen to the rest of the body) or white blood cells (which fight infection).

Stem Cell Transplants are basically a way of supporting chemotherapy. Essentially, they allow massive, aggressive chemo to be used. The chemo is so strong that it effectively kills off the patient's immune system. After the chemo does its job, killing off the cancer (as well as the immune system), the stem cells are transplanted into the patient, allowing the immune system time to redevelop. Without the transplant, the body would be defenseless for about a month -- plenty of time for dangerous infections to develop. With the transplant, the immune system is usually out of commission for only about a week -- much more manageable.

There are two types of Stem Cell Transplants: autogeneic and allogeneic. With the auto, the patient's own stem cells are collected and frozen before the chemo treatments begin, and put back into the blood after the chemo is finished. They result in little chance of the body rejecting them, of course, but there's the danger that some cancer might still be lingering in the stem cells. With an allo, the patient has to find a donor that is a genetic match. It's most often a sibling, but not always. (That's where the donor match program comes in.) Allos present a much greater chance of the body rejecting them, but they're usually more effective overall than autos.

The term "bone marrow transplant" is on the way out, becuase it represented an older process that involved major surgery for the donor, where bone marrow was extracted from the lower back. (Having had a bone marrow biopsy, I can only guess how un-fun the full donation process must be). That procedure is rarely done anymore. These days, it's called a "stem cell transplant" because the stem cells are extracted right from the donor's blood. It's like giving platelets: the blood is taken from the donor, put through a machine that removes the stem cells, and then pumped back into the donor. Not the major deal it used to be to donate.

Stem Cell Transplants are an important treatment for lymphomas and other blood cancers. In fact, for Follicular NHL, it's the treatment that most often results in a durable remission (what we would call a "cure" if we agreed that a cure existed). But STCs are also used in a number of other cancers that require aggressive chemo. (Yale Cancer Center does a local radio show every Sunday night, and they had a really informative program on STC. Here's the link for the full list of archived shows. You can listen or just read the transcripts.)

The process of becoming a donor (apart from actually doing the donating) doesn't seem too complicated. This video explains a little more. Consider it. It's a lot easier than donating an organ -- that's for sure. But it might have the same results.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Strudel

She's been humping my leg, begging me to let her post, so here's Strudel. My apologies in advance.....

Hey, Cancer Boy! Lymphoma Awareness Day? I left something on the rug in your room to be aware of. Now go clean it up and leave me alone with my readers.

I'll keep it kurz und gut, because Cancer Boy will be dragging his anschwellen lymph nodes back down here soon.

I just wanted to remind you all that dogs are the superior breed. Und German dogs are more superior than most.

Still need the evidence? Do you read the news? Or are you too busy pretending to exercise while you play with your Wii games?

A few days ago, a man has a seizure. His German shepherd dials 911 and he is rescued. Pathetic humans. Where would you be without us?

Yes, yes, yes. Sit, down, roll over, good dog. We could speak back. But we don't. And when we do, it is purely for your amusement.

Watch the video and listen carefully. Listen very carefully. Is not so tough.

Cancer Boy watches and waits. We dogs watches and waits, too. So you better watch yourself.

Cancer Boy coming back. He mumbles -- something about more paper towels. He mumbles a lot these days. And plays that gestopfte guitar. All day with the strumming and the singing James Taylor. I liked it better when he was busy.

Guten Tag. Be nice to a dog today. Probably saved your life and you didn't know it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Sunday blog entries are kind of a rare treat, but you've all been so good lately that I thought you deserved one.

Plus, I want to give you a little heads-up that tomorrow is Lymphoma Awareness Day.


But first -- Yesterday. It was a banner day in the household.

John had his first soccer game of the season. He had been a little hesitant about playing this year. He likes soccer a lot, but last year he was on a "difficult" team. The coach was a nice enough guy, but not much of an instructor. It was also a very good team, with 4 or 5 very strong players who always wanted the ball, and who were, well, jerks. Not that I want to say an 8 or 9 year old kid is a jerk, but they weren't very good teammates, and the coach didn't place a high priority on them all working together and encouraging one another. So last year John ended up not getting much help in getting better, and not getting much action, even when he was in the game.

This year is a little different. New coach who has worked with John a few times in practices and before the game. New teammates, some of whom are very good, and all of whom work together well.

John's team went up pretty quickly, 2-0. John didn't start, but when he was put in on offense, he did well, scoring his first goal in a couple of years to put his team up 3-0. The other team came back and scored twice before the half.

For the second half, John played goalie, something else he hasn't been able to do in over a year, and that he loves. He shut out the other team for the second half, and his team scored twice more. Final score: 5-2, with John playing a big part of the victory.

I'm sure they won't all turn out that way, but it was a great way to start the season, especially after last year's experience.


The other big event yesterday was Catherine learning how to ride a two-wheeler. We've tried with her a few times before, but she got discouraged and we gave up. We know these things come when the kids are ready for them. Yesterday, she seemed ready. The boys take bike rides together around the neighborhood every now and then, and Peter rides with some friends after he does his homework, and of course Peter and I sometimes do a 10 mile ride (with a Dunkin Donuts stop) early Saturday mornings. So she's had some incentive to get in on the fun.

She's not completely there, but she's darn close. It's like St. Peter walking on the water -- she does great until she stops and thinks about it, then she panics a little bit and hits the breaks. We're going to try more today. A little more practice and she'll be flying along like my brother. (Or Pee Wee Herman. One or the other.)

Having all three kids riding a bike is one of those parenting milestones we look forward to reaching -- things the kids have to be able to do on their own, without any help. There are a bunch of them: Potty training. Tying their shoes. Using a knife and fork. Reading. Swimming. Isabel adds "making their own beds," but that seems to bother her more than it bothers me.

Anyway, they're growing up.....


Now, Tomorrow:

September 15 is World Lymphoma Awareness Day, co-sponsored by about 30 Lymphoma-related health organizations around the world. Since so few people understand what the lymphatic system is and does, a theme of the Day (which began in 2004) is "Know Your Nodes," which I like, only because it sounds so much like "Nodes of Gold." Go to the Lymphoma Coalition website to take the Know Your Nodes quiz!

There are all kinds of events going on all over the place to support Lymphoma research and raise awareness. For example, the Red Sox honored the Lymphoma Research Foundation before their game a couple of days ago. And, of course, Tom and Mary will be getting sloppy drunk tomorrow in the name of Lymphoma. Or something like that. Go to the LRF website to find out if your local chapter is doing something interesting.

I know all of you don't have an issue with lymphoma awareness, but if you could pass the word on to your less-aware friends and co-workers, that would fabulous.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lymphoma Research News

Some nice news about lymphoma research:

Both the University of Rochester Med School and the Arizona Cancer Center just received $11.5 million grants to study lymphoma.

The Rochester team is looking at a drug called SGI-498. Researchers have already identified proteins that seem to trigger tumor growth. SGI-498 has shown in trials that it can identify these proteins and disrupt them, stopping the tumor from growing. So far, it's been done in solid tumors. Lymphomas, of course, are not solid tumors, but rogue cells that travel around the bloodstream. This research will look into how SGI-498 can be used on non-solid-tumor cancers. They're working on the theory that lymphomas develop from abnormal stem cells (immature blood cells that haven't grown into mature red or white blood cells yet). This is why stem cell transplants seem to work -- they wipe out all of the old, bad stem cells and replace them with normal ones. Very interesting work to come soon out of Rochester.

The Arizona researchers are working on individualized therapies connected with Rituxin, looking at the growth mechanisms for lymphoma cells and hoping to find ways to turn them off. They're hoping for the same result as the Rochester folks, but goinga different route.

What I like most about the Arizona story is the lead researcher's statement:

Dr. Miller says in some cases it has become difficult to define what a cure is because patients with supposedly incurable types of lymphoma are in remission for many years.
He says "About half the patients are known to have a curable type of lymphoma, and the other half are the types that we know we can treat. And the time that those patients spend in remission is getting so long we may be curing some of them. We just haven't lived long enough to testify to that conclusion."
There's excitement in the air.
We're even hearing a word researchers use very cautiously.
We're actually hearing the word "cure."
Dr. Miller says, "I'm getting close to offering a written guarantee. It's that close."

There's a whole lot of that cautious talk about "cure" in the lymphoma community lately. Very cautious, but there's more talk about switching treatment strategies toward curing rather than just treating. Part of the difficulty is knowing how to define "cure," as the Arizona researcher says. With a slow-growing lymphoma, someone might be treated and not show signs again for 5 years (the standard for many cancers in labeling someone "cured"), while the lymphoma is still there, just not very visible yet. So that involves new ways of measuring its presence -- which might lead to better screening, and thus early detection and better curability.

Anyway, it's all very fascinating -- certainly something I'm keeping my eye on, and that I'd like to talk to Dr. R about.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Few Follow-Ups

We're back into the swing of things with classes now. Isabel and I are both teaching brand new courses in a new program for first-year students, which is fun. But it's all completely brand new, so we can't even fall back on old activities and assignments much, so it's been a lot of work. But I'm enjoying it -- helps with that transition back to being a full-time teacher again.

So there's nothing much new to report, but there are a few follow-ups from older posts:


First, and certainly most importantly, we're all devastated here with the news that Tom Brady is out for the season with a torn ACL. Well, Peter is devastated. The rest of us are just...quietly mourning.

While this might seem like a completely new item, it's actually a double follow-up.

First, we had suspected that Strudel had a torn ACL a little while back. I'm happy to report that she has been doing well since the vet recommneded resting her leg (her own version of watch and wait). She's back to full activity now. She sends her love to most of you, except the few of you she wants to bite.

But the Brady item is also a follow-up on a previous Nodes of Gold entry, featuring athletes with Lymphoma. In that entry, Joe Andruzzi was shown singing "I Got Friends in Low Places" at Larryoke -- teammate Larry Izzo's fundraiser. Here's where the second follow-up comes in: at the same event, prevously-second-string-and-now starting-quarterback Matt Cassel drunkenly announces "I'm very flamboyant right now," whatever the hell that means, and then sings the Backstreet Boys' "I Want it That Way." This is the guy that's going to us back to the Super Bowl. Great.

(Not that I have anything against the song. In fact, I just love this video of two guys from China doing their thing with the song. But just as the Chinese government didn't want these guys in the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics, I don't much want Matt Cassel throwing to Randy Moss.)

(Be sure to stay for the Bloopers Reel at the end of the Chinese Guys video.)


The New Haven Road Race finally posted category results (by age groups, etc.). I placed 124th out of 164 in the 40-44 year old male division. Not great.

However, in the Clydesdale division, I placed 48th out of 76. Much better in terms of percentile.

Delving further: I placed 9th out of 12 in the unofficial category of 40-44 year ol Clydesdales.

So, I think we can safely say that I don't do well against other old guys, I do better against fat guys, but, again, less well against old and fat guys.

I'll need to think carefully about the implications of that data on my training plan.


Finally, a nice article in USA Today a couple of days ago on the Stand Up To Cancer telethon from Friday night. They raised about $100 million for cancer research. It was a good show -- lots of stars with cancer, who are survivors of cancer, have been affected by it, or who just care. YouTube and other places have lots of video, in case you missed it.


You're about caught up now. My next appointment with Dr. R is at the end of the month. I'll start gearing up for that soon, I guess.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Big Guys Running

I'm a little disappointed with the folks at the New Haven Road Race; they still have only preliminary results up. These results list the order of finish for the entire race, which is great. But the final results will give more information, including a breakdown of results by age group or other category. It's always fun to see how I've stacked up against other old men.

In additon to age groups, though, the NHRR is big enough to divide runners by, well....weight. Some races recognize what they call "Clydesdales," male runners of a certain....body composition. The Clydesdale category was begun when some fat guys argued that, just as it isn't fair to compare a 50 year old runner to a 20 year old runner, it also isn't fair to compare a 200 pounder to a 130 pounder. So now we have our own category. I, of course, signed up for the NHRR as a Clydesdale. After the showing that the other 40 year olds made at the Bastille Day 4 miler, I figured the fat guys would give me my best shot at an all-time high for a group finish.

The bad thing about having run the NHRR is that now I really can't go hard for a couple of weeks, which means that I can't run in a special race on Saturday.

In addition to being Isabel's birthday, Saturday is also the day of the Big Man Run in Somerville, MA (ironically, home to some of the best barbeque in the northeast, at Redbones in Davis Square. Try the White Trash Sundae for dessert). The Big Man Run is supported by the USA Clydesdale and Filly Racing Federation. (Women runners of a certain size are categorized as Fillies in some races, or Athenas in others.)

The Big Man Run is an amazing thing, from what I understand. It's a 5 miler, which is probably amazing enough, considering everyone in the race is over 190 pounds. But at three stops along the route, instead of getting water or Gatorade, each participant must drink an 8 oz. beer and eat a hot dog. Failure to keep it down results in disqualification. Also, you must bring three $1 bills with you, and tip the women who serve you. Failure to tip results in disqualification.

I can't imagine doing this race. Maybe when I was 20 and had more of an iron stomach. But now, I'm a 41 year old with three kids and a mini-van, and on Nexium for acid reflux. And that doesn't even factor in the cancer thing.

Still, it does show that running is among the most democratic (small d) of all sports, with room for everyone to feel like a winner. Or something like that.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Get Up, Stand Up

An aside, before I begin: When Peter was about three, his favorite song was Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up." He'd sit on the floor for the verses, and then when Marley got to "Get up, stand up," Peter would dutifully stand up. Then he'd sit back down and wait for the instructions again. And that's about as good a story as any to describe Peter.


Anyway, the point of this entry is to alert you to Friday night's Stand Up to Cancer extravaganza. All Big Three networks are going to simultaneously run a kind of telethon, raising money for (and awareness of) cancer research.

From what I've read, the Stand Up people are taking a new approach and new attitude toward cancer -- it's not the Scary Word Death Sentence that it always has been in the past. The show will feature many big names in entertainment. YouTube already has a bunch of videos from Stand Up that show the kind of funny, irreverent approach they're taking to this. Henry Winkler, once known as The Fonz himself, appears in this video and this video as a very pesky, annoying character named Cancer. There's also a very funny video from cast members of The Daily Show. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to link to it in a family-oriented blog like this one, but if you search YouTube for Daily Show Cancer, you'll find it easily enough. It's one of my favorites.

SU2C's whole approach, particularly the humor and irreverence, is to make cancer something that doesn't get whispered about. (If you've been reading the blog, you obviously know that I appreciate such an approach.) That kind of hushed awe about cancer isn't good for patients, their families, or anyone who's trying to fight it.

So watch, or set your Tivo, for Friday night at 8:00pm. Give if you can, or just watch and help raise awareness.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ran Another Race

This morning, I ran in the New Haven Road Race, one of the city's premier athletic events. I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but it was still a respectable 29 minutes 45 seconds.

This was, by far, the largest race I've ever been in -- 2536 finishers (plus a bunch more that didn't finish). I finshed 1598th. See preliminary results here -- not yet broken down by category. The results list the clock time, and the net time. Because there are so many runners, we are timed with a chip on our shoe that begins timing for each individual runner as we cross the starting line. So the clock read 31:17 as I cross the finish, but my it took me over a minute to officially start, so my time was 29;45.

This was also the first race I've been in that had a separate tent marked "Elite Runners" -- at the same time as the 5k is a 20k (12.4 miles) that serves as the national 20k championship for the US Track and Field Association. This year's 20k was dedicated to Ryan Shay, who won it in 2004, and who died of a heart attack during the men's Olympic marathon qualifier last fall. There were another 2090 finishers in the 20k. While the two races take off in separate directions, they start in the same place, so there were a whole lot of runners there in that one place.

I had been going back and forth about how I wanted to handle this race -- really go hard and try to get close to my PR? Or take it easy and enjoy the experience of beng in a big race? I kind of hedged and decided I'd just take whatever opportunities came up.

As usual, I started near the back of the pack. That might have been a mistake. It was packed solid for the first mile or so, very hard to pass anyone. Big races like this include lots of first-time racers, people doing it just to try it, little kids, etc. Which is great -- I'm all for people running. But these kinds of runners also tend to go out too hard at first and then die about a half-mile or a mile into it, and start walking, or even stop dead in their tracks, bent over. Which tends to cause pile-ups, near pile-ups, and tripping, as does the lateral zig-zagging that people do when they see a small break in the crowd and try to dash for it before it closes.

So the first mile was slow, as I tried not to fall over anyone or be tripped. For the second mile, things started to spread out slightly, so there was a little more room to pass people. I was feeling pretty good at that point.

But then, about 2.5 miles into it, I just started dying. Maybe it was the hot sun, maybe it was all the sprinting up to that point to pass people in the crowd when a seam opened up. Whatever the case, I struggled for the last part of the race. It was my legs, not my lungs, which is better than the other way around (less worry about that ol' lymphoma-induced fatigue).

Still, it was a respectable time. I'll take it.

Plus, the NHRR gives out awesome shirts -- not cheap cotton, but that nice moisture-wicking material. Sweet. Too bad mine didn't fit.


Speaking of shirts:

Before the race began, while I was warming up and looking for a short bathroom line, I said Hello to about 15 people wearing purple Team in Training shirts. I told them I was lymphoma patient, and thanked them for what they've been doing for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They all seemed pretty moved; three of them told me I gave them inspiration to run hard in the race.

I'm glad SOMEBODY had a better race than they'd planned......