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Archive for April, 2011


Go D-Nation

April 19, 2011

MG. LOL. LOF. I was smiling all the way. What started out as a cold and drizzling day turned out to be one of my most memorable run. I am smiling as I write this post. Tell me what’s wrong with this picture.

Yeah, that’s right! Bib #1 and #2 came in overall at 1259 and 1260, respectively, while the winner is bib#3 came first and bib #4 came in second. How can a seeded bib number be beaten badly and only manage to beat two others who are senior citizens.

Chad (Ware)…tsk…tsk.  You put this “Kenyan” to shame.  Ha!  That is so funny!

My wife and I came in last in our age group too…haha!

This is all because of Noreen and Novacare.  I was invited as the starter runner and guest speaker for their annual Lakefront 10 miler and I felt honored. The last time I ran Lakefront 10 was April 2009 and came in at 1:47:48 (see my post April 26 ‘The results are in…‘).  I was on remission then.

Last year, 2010, I got invited to be their started runner but my liver surgery got in the way.  So when Noreen asked me again this year, there was no way I was going to miss it even if it was my chemo week.

My wife kept on asking if I was going to run the whole 10 miles in my condition.  I think she was more scared of the 10 miles but she saw my DetermiNation to finish.

It turned out to be one of my most memorable and fulfilling day.  What got me was I made so many people happy along the way.  When they saw my seeded bib #1 bringing up the rear they would do a double-take.

“Huh.

What the..?

Go #1 go!

That is so cool #1. Oh, there’s #2 also.

Go…go…go!

Go D-Nation you are #1.”

Those are just some of the cheers my wife and I would receive as we bring up the rear. Then, my wife would just reply to them.

“We got lost!” How funny.

As the pack of runners were returning from the turnaround point, we meet them on the shared pathway. They see #1 and #2 waddling behind with my ear-to-ear smile.

“I am watching you and will be coming up behind you soon!” For a moment, they would break a smile from their strained faces. I love it.

When finally we reach the turnaround point, there were no more runners it was the water station volunteers and medical aids who were cheering us on.  American Cancer Society volunteers were manning one of the aid station so cheered us big time.

Our friend Elizabeth ran with us from the start and kept us company. Taking pictures of us and posting it in Facebook as she was running (that is just so wrong).  She and my wife were so animated in their conversations that they forget about me at times. One time I stopped for my energy gel and water, and they just kept on chatting and running.  They forgot about me.

But it was during those moments that I became Bo the Kenyan running the Boston. I chased down my two ‘pacers’ who were running a punishing pace of 13:30 minute a mile for the last 3 miles.  Yeah, baby. Bring it on.  Oh, I feel the pain now.  My heartbeat rate was up but got to kick those chemo toxins out my system.

Do you think my pacers are feeling the pain?

You betcha! Their animated talking and chatting had slowed down a bit but their laughter was still there. What’s up with that? I think they are playing mind games with me.

But I am BIB #1.  D-Nation! I am running full-throttle at break neck speed.  Woohoo.  Everyday is a good.  During my training runs, I have not gone beyond 5 miles but today this 10 miler is mine!

Elite runners #1 and #2

Cheers.

PS:  I am going to frame my Bib #1.  Also, a great female marathoner champion passed today of cancer, Grete Waitz.  She is the true #1.

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Yes, I can…

April 15, 2011

er name was Lea. She has been working at the hospital for more than 12 years, mostly in the radiology department. I can tell she knows her stuff as an ultrasound technician. She is also from the Philippines. She gets the warm gel and puts a healthy dab on my stomach.  That feels good.

“So they took out your right liver?” She asks.

“Yup. And my gallbladder too. I was first diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008, then it came back in November 2009 and had metastasized to my liver. In April 2010, after a few rounds of chemo they decided to remove the right lobe. Lately, my oncologist noticed my elevated liver function test and wanted to be sure there are no blockage.”

“They did a good job on your right liver. They managed to save a portion of it including your portal vein. Listen.”

She turned up the volume and I listened to the strong surge of blood flow in rhythmic harmony with my heart beat. Amazing.

This brought up memories of Dr. A, an excellent liver transplant surgeon (see his picture in this post ‘I will remember thee’). I have described his hands as those similar to being touched by God. I am indebted to him and everybody who have helped me come this far.

“Did they take out your kidney too?” She interrupted thoughts.

Huh? Was I robbed of an organ?

“Oh. I found it. It moved since there was a space left when they took out your right liver.” Whew!

She went about looking for my pancreas, spleen, veins, and arteries taking pictures of them along the way. Except for a liver cyst she noted, she did not seem concern. But the doctors will have to make that assessment.

I received the results the following day as I was having my treatment. My wife read the results and told me everything was fine. However, my blood test came back again and my liver function test results were still elevated. This thing is going to bother us. I have learned my lesson not to ignore any signs of abnormality. My monthly chemo treatments constantly reminds me how fragile life can be.

When it is time for my monthly treatment, I have this battle in my mind about the limitation put on me. I can’t get invited to the ultimate dance – a Boston Qualifier. I can’t travel far or meet that deadline. I can’t run fast.  I can’t…I can’t.  It is dangerous to go down the path of ‘I can’t’. So it is a constant ordeal for me. Writing about it helps. Meditating.  And of course, waddling.

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 16, I have been invited to the starter runner for the Novacare Lakefront 10 miler. I feel honored.  I have waited a year for this.  Last year, they invited me to be their starter runner but my liver surgery got in the way.  There is no way I am going to miss this event, come rain or shine.

Thanks to Noreen, Jamie, and the amazing Novacare staff they helped me get back to running when I had ITB problems in time for the 2009 Chicago Marathon. Another set of people I am indebted to!

I will speak about ACS and the fullness of life.  You see, life is full of opportunities once you get past ‘I can’t’.

Cheers.

PS:  As part of the deal, they gave me bib number 1.  Woohoo.

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Almost but not quite…..

April 10, 2011

almost beat my son today: his time was 51:34, while mine was 54:16.  But, I really have nothing to complaint about. Many of my friends and colleagues are amaze that I am able run or complete a marathon last year inspite of having undergone chemo and still continue to have one on a monthly basis. I just want to out run my cancer and make the most of what is given.

It was my first race of the year and as a habit, I approached it systematically. Up at 5:00 am and short massage of my legs using a roller foam. Then, I meditated (a daily ritual) to center myself for 40 minutes. I really believe that you must first pay homage to your body before doing anything. It is like investing  in yourself first before taking something out.

After a light breakfast of yogurt, green tea, and wheat bagel, I donned my ‘superman’ outfit, my American Cancer Society shirt. Bam! We are ready.  Woohoo!  Weather was an ideal 65F but I would like it a bit cooler. After checking my gear at the ACS tent, we all (wife, son, and me) headed to the starting line. There I was again shoulder-to-shoulder with 40,000 other runners. This 8K race was billed as the largest 8K race in the world and is the unofficial start of the running season in Chicago. This is my third time to run this race and I am still amazed at the attraction it draws.

The mass start never fails to humble and amaze me. It is an awesome and exhilarating experience. I feel so alive standing there. Each runner standing there has their own story or reason for being at the starting line and I am no different. You can tell the first-timers by the anxious look they have. You will survive.

Honk! There goes the start. Running the first 2 miles was a blur. Powered by adrenaline, I was pacing at 9:00 min/mile, 1 minute above my target. I am going to pay for this at the end. Running is such an exact science that each second is accounted for. It is about spending your energy (glycogen) evenly along the race, you cannot waste energy so can still have enough kick to finish. I came prepared with my own water bottle to save on the stop. At the last mile, I tried picking up my speed but I was close to being spent and fatigue. Times like this they advise you to have a mantra: Cancer sucks! Somehow, that powered me home and when I saw the finish line it was just all adrenaline again. Ah….catharsis. A cleansing of my thirsty spirit.  Life is good.

For my first race, I have dedicated it to my dear friend DebbieD who passed away from liver cancer this January. I am sure she was cheering me on.

Cheers.

P.S.  Tuesday, April 12, is chemo maintenance day again.  But tomorrow (April 11), I have an early ultra-sound of the abdomen appointment.  During my checkup with my oncologist, he noticed the elevated and upward trending results of my liver function test since December.  Gulp, no more tumors please.  I am hoping for a clear result.

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There it goes again.

April 6, 2011

irst it was just a few strands of hair, now there are a bunch of them. In the shower, on my pillow, and in my shirt. It is my normal cycle of shedding as a side-effect from the chemo.

“Stop touching it!” My wife tells me. “Just leave it alone. It is just temporary and it will grow back.”

Yes, it does grow back. I get fresh set of hair when it does. Good thing is that I don’t go bald from this shedding. My hair just gets thin, especially on the side. Think of it as a self-cleaning oven or my very own self-trimming hair; only it gives me an uneven trim. I will leave it alone.

My first race for 2011 is coming up this weekend, April 10. It will be the 8K Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle. It has become a tradition to run this race since it is the closes thing to a mass start of a marathon. Imagine more than 40,000 people running a short race. By the time the last runner crosses the starting line the finishers are just about to cross the finish.  Last year my whole family ran with me (all six of us) and I was doing full-time chemo in between. This year, it will only be my wife and the youngest, Louie; the others did not make it.

For this year, the plan is to try beat my 19-year old son so I can have a year of bragging rights.  I am not getting any younger or faster so this year is my chance to beat him.  I also have been sabotaging his training plans by tempting him with food so he gains weight and give me fight chance…haha! Last year, he finished in 53 minutes, while came in waddling along in 1:06.  My oncologist is in it with me too because we scheduled my monthly chemo after the race.  I am at my strongest now.  All I need is a bit of luck.

I have been training a lot now, while I see my son has been sleeping and eating.  But he is strong.  This morning he ran 5 miles…gulp!  He did tell me his time.  I think he is playing mind games with me.  I need to run at a 10:30 minute per mile pace just to beat his time last year, assuming he did not improve this year.  My knees would surely complaint since my normal pace is 12:00 to 11:00.  I got to feed him some more fatty food.  Hello Chinese buffet!

Finally, I signed up again to be a charity runner for American Cancer Society – a DetermiNation runner.  I feel complete and have a sense of purpose.  Each year I am overwhelmed by the experience of being a charity runner.  I come across stories of people stricken by cancer or have survived.  I know you will be there with me to share the experience.

Cheers.

PS:  If you wish to support me and give a donation, follow the link above to my personal ACS site.

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