Last week's training log. 5 mi total.
Mon 18 Jan - off
Tue 19 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1 mi @ 8:15
Wed 20 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1 mi @ 8:16
Thu 21 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1 mi @ 8:23
Fri 22 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1 mi @ 8:17
Sat 23 Jan - off
Sun 17 Jan - Artificial turf field, barefoot shoes. 1/4 mi warmup, 2 x 5 x 80m drills, 5 x 80m strides r3, all @ 13. After cruising the 1st stride in 13, I could feel that it would be a strain to run 12’s, so I kept it to 13’s today. On the last one I felt a mild strain in my right patellar tendon; also felt my right glute, right lower quadricep, right ankle, and right foot all working pretty hard. I’ll have to pay attention to this and make sure I feel sufficiently recovered … tomorrow is off so that’s good.
Right patellar tendon hurt a bit for the rest of the day. Still affected by falling on the stairs, maybe.
Last week's training log. 5 mi total.
oops, that last Sunday was the 24th, not the 17th. Here's this past week's training log:
Mon 25 Jan - No running, as per plan. Sore & stiff. Recovery: walk 15 min, stretch, foam roller. Felt much better. Upper body & core.
Tue 26 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1.5 mi 13:48
Wed 27 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1.5 mi 13:32
Thu 28 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1.5 mi 13:02
Fri 29 Jan - Grass athletic fields, 1.5 mi 12:57. Each of these 1.5 mi runs have been at roughly the same effort; I have been recovering from Sunday’s workout through the week.
Sat 30 Jan - off
Sun 31 Jan - Winter weather outside. Indoor stair workout: 2 flights up (commercial building; approx 16’ per floor) and back down, 12 repeats on 90”. Took about 37-40 sec per repeat. I hit every step and didn’t run very hard -- this is my first stair workout in over 25 years and I didn’t know how it would go, plus wanted to go easy on my knees just in case it’s a problem. Felt OK after, will go harder if I do it again.
This past week's training log:
Mon 1 Feb - No running. Snowstorm = lots of shoveling, got a workout that way.
Tue 2 Feb - Snow & ice outside. Indoor stair workout (same commercial building): 3 flights up and back down, 10 repeats on 2’. Moderately challenging.
Wed 3 Feb - off
Thu 4 Feb - Grass athletic fields, 1.5 mi 13:59. The field was mostly covered in 2-4” of snow. Came thru 1 mi right about 9 flat, then calves got tired and slowed down to 10:00 pace for the last 1/2 mi. HR was in the 140’s, so the aerobic effort was ok.
Fri 5 Feb - Grass athletic fields, 1.5 mi 13:19. Snow was mostly melted, so it was easier today.
Sat 6 Feb - Grassy field with small rise, 1.5 mi 13:22. Felt smooth & controlled, but was slowing down slightly each ¼-mi lap and HR ended up in the upper 150's. Funny, that little hill really takes it out of me. Anyway, good run today.
Sun 7 Feb - Grassy field with small rise, 1.5 mi 14:47, slow slow slow. Legs were pretty tired, so that was the pace. HR was in the 140's, so at least aerobically the run went well. Gonna take a day off tomorrow.
Been working on the 25th and final chapter of the "Battle-O-Rama" ... when I posted that initial Chapter 1, I never thought that I had this much to say, or write about it.
Thanks to everyone.
Looking forward to it. Good job on the training.
Running and Life, or, Running versus Death
Sub-8 Mile's Battle-o-Rama
(maybe this story will, in some way, help someone you know; if so, that's cool. oh, and F Cancer.)
Chapter 25: Finish Line, Starting Line
There’s dizzy disorientation, and then there’s this.
The world is warped. I’m outside, or somewhere. Each passing car goes by so slowly that I can see individual treads on the tires, and so quickly that in one instant it vanishes. The sun is a dark, dark orb in the dim, dim sky; the force of its radiant brilliance literally pushes me down to the ground. Sounds are bent. Crushing exhaustion crashes over me, a constant always-breaking wave at every moment.
I am taking it too far. Says my one doctor. Maybe don’t take all of the chemo. Probably no one has done this much before, not this total accumulated quantity.
My hands are numb. They tingle and sting.
Pills. Poison pills, derived from a poisonous plant that my ancestors knew in olde times.
The prescription is from my other doctor, who is out of state. So it’s up to me to decide. I keep filling the script and I keep emptying the bottle.
My ears have a nonstop screeching sound. My ears are filled with thick cotton that muffles the world around me. When people speak, I read their lips. Sometimes I jump, startled by an explosive screech that no one else can hear. My world has become so very loud, and so very quiet.
One of us is going to die. Me, or the cancer. I am making sure of it.
After everything, they told me I have to take the pills. They didn’t tell me this back when I was many-pounds-light, in a wheelchair, wearing a Captain America T-shirt to be ironic. They didn’t tell me when they finally yanked the rubber hose out of my chest on the count of three. I thought I was done. I didn’t know that there would be more months of more poison.
Time blurs. Between recovery and oblivion and recovery and oblivion, I swing. I empty one bottle of pills over weeks and then recover for weeks and then another bottle.
My feet are wooden, no sensation. Searing electricity burns my feet. Both, all the time.
Today’s office visit, the usual questions. Pain level … I don’t know. I can’t tell any more. It’s not applicable, or something like that. Fatigue … there is no answer; the word itself is a strange understatement. These questions don’t matter. They are written for other patients, who have things like “pain” and “fatigue”.
With each pill, I am killing my body. But “killing” is like “pain” and “fatigue” … not the right word, not a relevant idea.
I don’t think I’ll die, I tell my doctor. I’m going to almost die. These doses of toxic poison, over an extended period, are my … what? My path to not this. After I do what I am doing, no one will ever again tell me that this cancer is here. Either the cancer will not be here, or I will not be here to hear it.
What I thought I knew before about Commitment and Endurance was nothing.
My hair has grown back and fallen out and grown back and fallen out. Eyebrows. Eyelashes. Arms, legs, chest … but it doesn’t fall out any more. Now, I can take the chemo pills, and my hair stays. It’s weird hair -- wrong-multi-color, patchy, baby-soft-here and pubes-on-the-sides-of-my-head-there -- but it’s not falling out. What, am I a mutant now?
I’m getting immune to the poison, maybe. Nobody does this much chemo and grows hair. Maybe I’m getting stronger somehow. Maybe I’m getting superpowers.
I’m starting to wonder if I’ve had superpowers all along.
It’s almost summer. I run strides back and forth, gliding across a 150m field in the glorious sun. I finished the last of the pills a few days ago. It’s not possible to run strides. What’s happening right now, this isn’t defiance. It just is.
I groggily open my eyes. I’m in a hospital room, slowly waking. The surgeon enters.
He tells me what happened. They took longer in the O.R. than the time they had it reserved for. He and his team, the leading team for this specific surgery, internationally, had “never seen anything like it.”
When they cut me open, the surgeon explains, they saw all my organs “degraded and stuck together”. They gingerly cut each organ apart from the others. Taking all day, they barely managed to perform the procedure without my internals disintegrating on touch.
What they found was a nuclear war zone. Scores upon scores of dead, hardened, blackened scar tissue that once had been vibrant bundles of tumorous cells.
I had scorched my earth, and melted my insides. My enemy? Completely f***ing torched.
late fall 2017
The brown leaves are, presumably, crunching. I only hear a distant whoosh as I walk the wooded trail.
This is my first outing in a while. Multiple trips to the ER, blood pressure skyrocketing, bulging abdomen filled with fluid.
I’m wearing a pair of old running shorts, which are now extra large and baggy on me, and a beat-up pair of XC flats because for some reason they don’t make my feet hurt as much as other shoes.
“What kind of birds are those?” asks my hiking buddy.
“What birds?” I look around, the trees and leaf-littered hillside swirling in my distorted vision.
“That. Wait … that, there. That sound right there.”
“I don’t hear anything,” I say, puzzled. We look at each other, both confused. Then we realize it’s the hearing damage.
We hike on. It’s just an easy stroll on a mildly rolling trail, but it’s a hike for me. I’m loving it on this unseasonably warm day. My feet burn like heck with every step, I’m about to fall down from dizziness every dang minute, and apparently I can’t hear s***, but I am having a great time.
Well, ok. I am trying to tell myself that I’m having a great time. What’s really happening is that the world is now weird and I am some sort of broken. I won the war, but with costs.
Now, I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know what I can do.
We come to a straight, flat stretch of trail.
“Hold on,” I say. “Wait here, would you? I’ll go down there a ways, take off my shirt, and head back to you. Take my picture, ok?”
I am tired. I have doubts. Fears. Will I always be this exhausted? Is my mind forever foggy?
I also have a photo of myself, wobbly and weak, fresh scar from sternum to shorts, grinning ear to ear as I run along a wooded trail on a glorious autumn day, newly cancer free, barely over a year after it took me forty-five minutes to walk a quarter mile.
One of these days, I’ll step onto a track and see if I can do 4 laps without stopping. Maybe next year. It’ll probably be tough, with burning feet and scarring in my lungs.
When I eventually get out there and try a mile, it's going to hurt. That's ok. I will always recover.
Valentines Day is the third anniversary of when I was given a name for my disease: Follicular Lymphoma Grade 3a.
I want you to know I have read every single entry from the beginning, worrying on occasion when it was weeks between posts, and I am just so glad you are here and grateful that you've shared this.
Fantastic, keep going Buddy.
Running and Life, or, Running versus Death
Sub-8 Mile's Battle-o-Rama
Epilogue (Just to connect the dots and tie up loose ends)
It’s a year after the end of Chapter 25. I have finally worked up to giving it a try. I haven’t trained, just gonna run and see where I’m at.
I’m at a beat-up old middle school track, and I’m about to run a mile.
This neglected, potholed track, surfaced ages ago with a mystery material, now surrounded by overgrown bushes and trees, sits a good quarter-mile behind the school -- way past all of the well-maintained athletic fields. It seems like 440y never-converted but that could just be my still-mostly-melted brain. Anyway, I’m convinced that 4 laps will be a proper mile so that’s what I’m doing.
I stretch a little and jog 50 yards or so. More stretching, then I jog back to the start line.
I’m nervous. I have no idea what my pace should be, and I have no idea if I can go the distance. Well, I am going the distance. It’s just a question of what’s going to happen between now and a mile from now.
I take off. My feet burn. My lungs ache. My legs are dead. About to collapse after 660y, I stay with the pain (cancer trained me well) and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
No run that I have ever done has come close to how much this hurts. But it’s nothing compared to the other ordeal. I keep going.
Splits: 1:54 / 3:56 / 6:04 / 7:56
Laps: 1:54 / 2:02 / 2:08 / 1:52
Some puzzled-looking middle schoolers and their coach, milling around the 100m start line, stare at me as I come off the last curve and “kick”.
7:56 and I am elated.
It takes more out of me than any race or workout in my life [as noted in the original post on this thread].
Proof of life. That’s what this is. Post-cancer, I have felt detached and ghostly. I’ve been existing in some strange state of suspension since the surgery, unable to reconnect to anything or anyone.
Today, it's like I've proven to myself that I am here. I shed a tear or two at the track, before walking back to the car.
After running the mile, I’m wiped out for weeks.
Eventually, I get back to walking and the occasional bike ride or short jog.
I decide to train, whatever that is going to mean. In my head, I’m going to run lifetime PRs in the 400, 800, mile, 5K, and everything else ... because yeah, that makes sense. Realistically, I just want to run.
I start a thread on letsrun called Post-Cancer Comeback, looking for ideas & feedback.
Each and every running step is painful. The year ends with me sporadically jogging short distances.
Present Day, early 2021
I am not whole. I never really came back, not all the way, not as I was. That guy is gone, lost. This guy is fatigued and foggy. Emotionally exhausted from pain, tired of being tired, and worn out from the neverending shrill screech that is the permanent soundtrack of my existence, I am withdrawn and ill-tempered. Most former pre-cancer friends are nowhere around.
Sometimes I think of the ferocious warrior battling on the brink so many times. I think of the Other Place, where I kept myself. I wonder, at times, whether I made the right decision when I chose to be here.
Running is my escape. When I run, I am free.
Developing a training plan in response to last year’s challenges, I renew my efforts over the first several weeks of the new year. My fitness improves.
In late February, I run a 4 x 800m session, averaging 3:30. Compared to last June when I started this, I ran 4 x 1/2-mi repeats in just under 5 minutes.
I’m 46. Cancer has stolen the past 5 critical years of earning potential. Now, with age 60 less than 15 years away and zero net worth, the pressure is on.
My living situation has come to a transition point. I can’t keep staying where I’ve been since Fall 2016, when my cancer nearly overcame me. My previously-melted brain doesn’t experience time in a normal way any more, so it seems strange that it’s been 4 1/2 years since I walked into the hospital coughing blood.
And now, I waffle between-
a) Moving somewhere inexpensive (where I can rent super cheap, where the running is good, and where I can find work) & using a bike for transportation, or
b) Just getting some camping gear, throwing my stuff into a self-storage unit, and doing some stealth camping for a few months to save money & maybe get a car, before deciding what to do.
Cancer has ruined financially; my resources are limited. I am going to have to make some decisions.
My oncologist thinks I’m doing great. Far, far, far better than expected. His thinking was that IF I survived, which he assessed as extremely unlikely, he figured that I would end up permanently mentally and physically disabled as the best case scenario.
Whatever happens next, I will keep running. Seems like it’s the only thing that keeps me somewhat grounded and sane.
Odds of running lifetime PRs??
Thanks again to everybody.
Maybe this Battle-o-Rama story will, in some way, help someone. If so, that's cool.
I hope everyone reading this remembers to plan for the unexpected. And don’t forget to live a little. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Make today count.
Oh, and F Cancer.
Thank you for sharing your story and for the reminders. Keep posting when you can!
After I finished my six sessions R-CHOP I decided to run in the Idaho Senior Games 1500 meters. It was about six weeks after completion. I ran 7:22, took me quite awhile to catch my breath. Hardest effort in my life, I believe.
The proof of life run got me in the feels.
I had one of those too and it felt really similar. Thanks for posting your story.
Thank you for sharing your story.
May the wind be ever at your back, you deserve that.