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The Pill and Building Miles
July 31, 2013

II am going on the pill.  Woohoo!  Ok, let me qualify this: no, I did not have a sex change or plan to.  The pills I am referring to are chemo pills.  Whew! I am glad we got that sorted out.

My wife had paid a social visit to my oncologist to give him his favorite treat, Food for the Gods pastries, which my mom made.  During the visit, he happened to mentioned that he is thinking of giving me chemo pills for my treatment instead of infusions.  My two-month chemo vacation is almost done this August 12, so the plan now is for me to go on the pill.

I have been on chemo pills before when he prescribed it to me last year while I was in Switzerland and Germany.  Back then the deal was he lets me run the Berlin marathon (September 2012) but I have to take my chemo pills a day after the race.  I thought the pill will not allow me to recover fully but the side-effects were limited: some nausea but no vomits.

So I am ok with taking chemo pills.  It saves from staying at the hospital for long infusions, and I will have some mobility.  I am not tethered to a portable pump for three-days too.  It gives me a sense of normalcy and confidence in beating this thing because of the change in treatment plan.  I will take what is given and be thankful, as I always say.

Building miles.

So I am back to training now.  My wife and I did 9 miles (14 km) over the weekend and I am slowly building up my miles.  I am hoping to do double digit miles (nothing below 10 miles) next month but would have to balance this with my chemo pill treatments.  The irony of all this effort is I am not signed up to run any marathons this year.  There is the Chicago this coming October, where most of my running friends are entered, but I don’t have any entry.  However, it is not stopping me from training as if I was running the Chicago.

Running keeps me grounded.  The fatigue and pain I experience tells me I am alive or rather lucky to be alive.  The familiar leg cramps, the beaded sweats, the prickly plantar facia needle pains, the humid heat, and many others are all tolerable discomfort for a chance to live one more day.  Moreover, I am willing do it all over and over.  Call it an endorphin addiction, I call it high on Life.

Marathon running may not be your cup of tea, but in order to get something out of life you need to put something in…like building miles.  The ‘how’ always stumps people; how do I do it?  Simple, you put one foot in front of the other.  Kidding aside, in approaching a challenge you should not make it a big deal.  Just do it and see where it gets you.  Each of us are given the ability to achieve things, like two legs for running or walking.  It is just time to use it for our benefit first, not others.

Cheers.

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While you wait.

October 19, 2011

just got this race clip, so I thought I share it with you while you wait for the results.  Hope you enjoy it.  It was 26.2 miles of fun…and pain

Cheers

 

P.S.  Thanks for all the positive vibes and greetings.

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Chicago Marathon 2011: The results (Part 2 of 2)

October 17, 2011

The race.

t was a blur. That is how most people would describe a big marathon event. It is an overload to your senses. With 45,000 registered runners and an expected 1.5 million spectators lining the course, you are the star of the show. The corrals are packed, music is blaring, photographers in the corral, GPS chirping, and the smell of bengay in the air. Huh?

The crowd pauses as Star Spangle Banner anthem is played and at the end a crescendo of cheers moving from the front of the line all the way back. Chills run up my spine. Then you hear the honk for the start. Runners try to surge forward but is held at bay by corral marshals. It is like holding off wild horses.

As we move forward, you step on piles of clothes left behind (not much compared to last year). It is a practice to wear your ugly sweater and sweats at the start to keep warm and toss them just prior to the start. I see the starting line now. I did a last minute check to reset my GPS. Let’s go!!!

Elizabeth, Irish, and me

We (my wife, Elizabeth, and I) decided to hang with the 5:45 run/walk pace group. The target of the group is to finish in 5 hours and 45 minutes by running for five minutes at 12 minutes/mile pace, then walking for one minute. Sounds doable right?

We crossed the starting line and the initial rush comes. The crowd is thick. I check my ankle and pray it holds up for the next 26.2 miles. Our group, of about 50, holds back and I concentrate on the runners in front of me to avoid accidents. The key is to hold back the adrenalin rush and avoid running fast. Lots of energy is wasted at the start so it can be challenge. This is not a sprint, I tell myself.

Our group waddle through the first few miles with runners passing us. Suckers! At La Salle St. (Chicago’s version of Wall Street), the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstrators are in full force. Their chants echo against the concrete building and tries to to drown out the spirited cheers of spectators.

“Down with Wall Street!” “Greed is bad.” “I am the 99%”

“Go runner go!” “You are awesome.” “Pain is temporary.”

We keep a steady pace; run for five minutes and walk for a minute.  Slowly, we start catching up to some of the runners. Close to mile marker 8, Elizabeth’s family greeted us with my godchild, Miranda. Woohoo. The area is Lakeview, a haven for the gay and lesbian community.  They always put on a show.  There is the usual rifle-wielding gay dancers twirling their wooden rifles like a baton. You go girls…er, I mean guys.  Some cheerleaders in drag and cowboy line dancers.  I love it.

At mile maker 10, Elvis is on deck. “Viva Las Vegas.” He sang. Runners would stop and have their picture taken. We move on. Pass the 13.1 mile marker, the sun is already high already and I am slowly getting tired. At mile marker 15, I see the Novacare tent with Jamie waiting to cheer me on. It is a welcome sight to see her. She checks my ankle and asks how I am doing.  In pain.  “You look great!” She says. Yeah, right.  Are we there yet?

From there it is all work now. We work through Little Italy (mile 18), jog pass the mariachi band with their monstrous paper mache giants at Pilsen (mile 19), and saw the worn out dragon resting in Chinatown (mile 21). We lost Elizabeth.  My wife and I are constantly making stops by now and our pace group is way ahead of us. My wife complaints about her plantar which is hurting but amazingly she does not give up.

We don’t talk much anymore. I think she is afraid to show her pain for I will give it up for her. She sees me struggle with my step but I don’t give up either. But my legs are are cramping up and my sprained ankle is hurting. We get to the infamous ‘The Gap’, a lone stretch at mile 24, where few people cheer.  This is torture and it is so tempting to give up.  But I think about my chemo sessions and this is nothing.

Then the crowds starts to thicken as you get closer. The last mile always seems the longest because you are in severe pain. There are more medical staff along the way, some on bicycles. My wife and I went for the last push and drag our aching legs up the bridge on Roosevelt Ave. I run near the crowd to feel their energy. I am almost there. I hate cancer! I hate chemo! Up the bridge, a left turn, and bam! 100 yards to the finish and a wall of people on both side cheering. I am hardly feeling my legs. I grab my wife’s hand. I imagine you there cheering me. Go Bo go.  Don’t give up. And as I step across the finish line I felt complete.  We finished, you and I, together in this journey. Thank you.

Finishers @6:20:21

Of life and death: the epilogue

Since the marathon, I have been recovering. The first few days were hard to walk. Many have sent me notes and text asking how I did. We beat Al Roker, LisaS. It is not my best time but a significant improvement from last year. Not bad for a runner with a sprained ankle. I am happy.

Happy also is Amber Miller, a 6:25 finisher who gave birth to her second child, June, hours after finishing the marathon. (I beat the pregnant lady by five minutes…ha!) People debated about her decision to run close to her due date (see related story “Woman gives birth after running (and walking) marthon”).

Lost in the debate was the tragic death of firefighter and runner, William Caviness from North Carolina. With 500 yards to the finish line he collapses and only to die later in the hospital. What a loss. (See related story “Autopsy on Chicago Marathon runner who died inconclusive”)

After the marathon, the next challenge is to face my cancer again. Those damm six nodules in my lungs. I can almost hear everybody in chorus: Bo, do your CT scan….please. I cannot run from this, can’t I?

Cheers.

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Chicago Marathon 2011: The results (Part 1 of 2)

October 13, 2011

Note: I decided to break it in two parts for ease of read.

his is my third time to run the Chicago marathon and it still excites me to be at the starting line. Each marathon or race is different no matter how many times you have run it. On race day, October 9, it is a mild morning at 62F (16C) with an expected high of 82F (27C). It is going to be hot.

But you can tell it is going to be a good day too. The lines to the toilet are shorter, the wind is steady, and the crowds will be thicker because of the mild weather. At the starting line, you see the veterans and the newbies with their own pre-race rituals. Some fidget or walk around, while others just sit, pray, or absorb all the surroundings. All came to find out what they are made of. Each has their own story.

My wife Irish and I at the start

Mine is about living with cancer and the hope of becoming a survivor. But on marathon day that all take a back seat. It is about living, running (or a challenge), and the pain that goes with it.  I think it can be said that your yearning for life is only limited to your willingness to accept pain and sacrifice. You become a different person.  Like when I go through each of my chemo treatments I feel I am not the same person anymore.  For me, running a marathon is like that too; it gives me a sense of rebirth.

Let me tell you about it….

The pre-race.

On Friday (October 7), my wife and I picked up our bibs. I was assigned 26009 and she was given 49105. Wow. Once I have my bib, it felt real. We browse some of the exhibits in the expo and bought the customary running shirt to mark the event. You can’t wear your bib everyday but a cool running shirt or dri-fit top is a must to show off even if you don’t finishing the race.

At the expo, I managed to see Ryan Hall, the top-seeded (2:08) American born marathoner signing autographs. Go Ryan! Go USA!

That Friday night, the American Cancer Society is hosting a team dinner for all their charity runners. My wife and I have been attending this for the past three years and we could not help but be amazed at how the program has grown. ACS will have 700 runners running in the marathon and we have raised almost a $1,000,000 in total. Thank you to those who have helped me.

During the evening, four speakers shared their stories on how cancer have affected their lives through a family member, friend, or themselves. Listening to them, I related to all their heart-felt stories. One of them ended with a poem that goes like: I choose to run or do other wonderful things that life has to offer, but with cancer, it chose me. That’s me.

Saturday brought me to the office of Novacare. Jamie, my PT, had volunteered to open up their office tape-up my ankle but instead Noreen (a cancer survivor still undergoing chemo) did the honors. Watch out Kenyans, I got my support crew patching me up. I love these guys. No more tears, Noreen.

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!!

Chicago Marathon 2011

Cheers.

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It’s still on.

October 2, 2011

am still going to run the Chicago marathon on October 9. It’s still on. Go DetermiNation! Go ACS. With the help of Jamie and Noreen of Novacare, I am all patched up and will be ready to conquer the 26.2 mile race again. I can’t thank them enough.

Was there some doubt?  Yes, I did not know how fast my ankle could recover with all the treatments I received.  But I am back. I feel like Humpty Dumpty being put back together again by Jamie massaging my ankle and Noreen taping me up. I have not tried running but have done a cycling class and yoga, with little or no pain. So my confidence is building up again. My wife will no longer push me in a wheel chair at the race…ha..ha.

Being on crutches for a couple of days was difficult.  I tried to keep my right leg elevated often to bring down the swelling fast.  Also, I was using my left leg more and it was getting stronger, so at night I would do my clamshell exercise (lie on left side with an elastic band on bended knee and open the right knee). Then finish off with roller foam exercises .

I will be ready in time for the start, but I almost did not make it.  Whew… It would have been a real bummer. The weather forecast shows it is going to be a beautiful 70F degree weather. What a wonderful gift. I am getting excited. I have been so fortunate to be blessed with good friends and loving family. You have helped come this far in my running and chemo treatments. Thank you. I have shared my adventures with you and maybe in doing so I have enriched your life as well.

Taped ankle

Taped ankle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers.

P.S. Six more days to go.  I can’t wait….

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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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The Chicago Marathon – Reloaded Part 2 of 2

October 24, 2010

he sweeper car finally passed us at mile marker 21, just before Chinatown. I was beginning to wonder what it would be like at the finish line. I have never been in this situation before. You were suppose to finish in 6 hours 30 minutes and we were not going to make that time. I sense the disappointment in my wife, but as always we make the most of it. It is what you have at the moment. Remember last year?

Waddle…waddle…breathe…breathe.

I miss Nessie (or the Lock Ness monster) from UK. She was being carried by three runners from Scotland. They run marathons in US and Europe to raise money against cancer. I was looking for her at the starting line and along the course but somehow she has disappeared this year. Nessie is real, ok!

With Nessie missing, Mr. Eiffel showed up with his tower. Le voir? Oui?

French runner in Eiffel tower costume.

Go, Bo, Go. I would hear my name being called out. Looking good runner.”

Some spectators would call me. I gain confidence and tell myself, we can do this.

It is the first time for my wife to see the sights and sounds at the marathon. At mile marker 8 (Boys Town area), the baton twirling ‘guys’ were on stage again. Twirl those batons, girls…er, I mean guys. She love that. Then there’s Elvis singing his heart out for you at mile marker 10. I remember all the sights and sounds from last year but it is so cool to share it this time with my wife.

Now, we are really sharing the pain at mile marker 22. My wife tells me that her left plantar (forefoot) is bothering her. We are almost there with 4 miles to go. I was relieved that there is still water and gatorade at water stations we pass. I was spent.  It is just too hot.  They were giving out energy gels for runners but no more bananas, oranges, or water sponges. The Chicago Fire Department started opening up the fire hydrants along the way and sprayed mist to cool off the runners.

Just 4 miles. I was heads down and ignored all the cheers coming my way. Come on legs, move with me. Don’t walk just put one foot forward.

How can this last 4 miles can be so painful? It also means one more hour of agonizing running in the heat.  One more bleeping hour of punishment. This last push is all mental. Let’s see what I got left. Oh, I hang on like I hang on waiting for my chemo to finish. I hate chemo. This one is for you, Marge (she passed away from pancreatic cancer).  I am here because of your sacrifice.

My wife is already silent too but she does not stop. She can be stubborn and funny.  I remember several hours ago when we were at the starting line.

You did what?” I said.

The lines in the bathroom was long and I could not hold it anymore, so I pee’d in the bushes. I saw this one lady doing it, so I said, to hell with it. I found my spot and let go.” My wife said, visibly relieved.

The visual was so funny; an exposed ass (or arse for my UK friends). Well, after this she is a seasoned marathoner. I made a mental note to include sanitizing gel in my pack next time. Who cares!

The crowd went silent as the national anthem was played. It was wall-to-wall people. The corral was so full of people that you cannot move and there were still many more runners trying to get into the corral. I was standing there drowned among 45,000 runners who does not even know my story. I am sure they have their own story as to why they are running.  I love it.

Then, I hear the starting horn blast and it electrified the crowd.  The excitement surged from the front to the back of the corral. My adrenaline was pumped and the crowd started to move forward to a slow crawl.

I feel like I am really crawling now. My adrenaline was spent many hours ago, even whatever reserved glycogen I have left. My wife is getting impatient because each mile seems to be taking longer. Most runners are just walking now. We have been running for more than 6 hours. Where is the next mile marker? What is it now? 23? 24? 25?

There were still people in the street cheering you. Who knows how long they have been out here too, cheering for their family, friends, or stranger. I think that is how my cancer journey feels like. I have met people who have cheered for me and gave me hope. Nameless faces who want me to succeed in finishing the marathon and fight cancer. They have lined up the course, like you have lined up for me and cheered.

Go Bo go. You can beat this cancer. You are inspirational.”

My wife and I pushed on. We are almost there. We just passed mile marker 26, we turn right towards Roosevelt Road and it is an incline. My legs feel the strain of the uphill but my wife does not. She surge forward ahead of me and I try to stay with her.

The crowd surge forward to the starting line. We walk slowly trying avoid discarded clothes, water bottles, energy gels in the corral. Loud music was playing…’Start it up’ by Rolling Stones. Sign boards being waved by spectators while trying to look for friends or family. They call out their names.

I hear somebody call my name. I turn to see my colleagues (Art, Jim, Rodney, and Ravi) from work where there cheering for me, all holding a camera to capture my run to finish line or me being left behind by my wife. What a moment. I wave to acknowledge them and turn to chase (or beg my wife to slow down). Let’s go, Kenyan.

Wait, babes!” I called out instead.

I see the starting line. We were so far back from the starting line, that it was taking us almost 30 minutes just to get there. I see the TV overhead cameras now. I hope they capture my start.

The start

Come on, babes, we are almost there.” She calls to me.

She is all adrenaline now and I am all in pain. My hamstring seized up from the uphill. We turn left to Columbus Drive and we are 200 meters from the finish. I don’t remember the start or how long we have been running.

I see my brother, Rene, in the spectator stands patiently waiting for us near the finish line. I wave and smile but it hid the fact that I was all cramping up. So close and yet so far. My wife heard my desperate call.

I have leg cramps. I need help.”

I hope Mom is watching the start at home but knowing her she might still be in church. I told the wife to look at the overhead cameras and we might be seen in TV. Our fleeting 5-seconds of fame. We raise our hands to wave. Hello, world.

Woohoo! Timer reads 7:55:35. The race officially started at 7:30.

She stopped and waited for me. She held out her hand. I felt your confidence, your cheers, your joy, and your support. I strain to the finish line, afraid that I might fall over from cramps.  That will be my youtube-moment.  I will my legs to move.  I grip the hand of my wife tightly as my left calf seized up.  One last gasp from Mr. Pain.  Damm you, Mr. Pain.  My wife and I held hands crossing the finish line and with my other hand…I raise a finger.  Up yours, Mr. Pain.  Not this time, bitch.  We finished in 6:53:08.

The Finishers with medal

 

 

 

Thank you. Thanks for being there for me.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

Epilogue:

I was tired and sore. As we walked pass the finish line I was looking ahead if they were still giving out medals. We did not make the cut-off time but we got our medals together with all the unforgettable memories of 10-10-10. We met up with my family back at the ACS tent and exchanged war stories and got some goodies, then headed home where Mom prepared a seafood banquet for us.

Will I do it again? In a heart beat, yes. I would take the pain of running again and again. Each mile I run is a victory for life. Each mile gives me hope that some day they will find a cure of cancer. I still shed tears for those lives claimed by cancer. They remind me how fragile life can be.  I will continue to run and tell their stories as well.

P.S. I have fully recovered.  Today, my wife and I ran 7 miles but on Tuesday, October 26, I will have my chemo maintenance again.  Cancer sucks.

 

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