Thursday, January 31, 2008

Early Morning Running

The alarm went off at 4:35 this morning, and I woke up literally dreaming I was running. As I stirred about, I realized that, indeed, I hadn't been running. No, I was quite groggy. Fast forward 20 minutes later, when I was weaving unsteadily down the road more than running, and I thought to myself, "This feels just like a few minutes ago, when I WAS running in my sleep!" Dori got a big chuckle out of that.

Early morning running has pros and cons, just like most things. The pros almost always outweigh the cons. There are few cars (I only saw six on a two-mile stretch on Granny White Pike). It is usually very peaceful and not windy. It's perfect "me time." There are no cell phones or computers; it's you finding a cadence and rhythm, either thinking deeply about things or perhaps not at all. It's healthy ... breakfast tastes very good after a run ... and you feel energized the whole day as long as you don't overdo things. There isn't time on weekday mornings for long runs; moderate morning mileage helps you get in your weekly mileage without tearing up your body.

The cons, of course, are there, too. Waking up at 4:30 can be tough some days. You can feel ragged the first mile or so. It can be frigid some mornings, but most times a turtleneck, hat and gloves solve that, as does half a mile of running. In the summer, the humidity can be high (wahhh). When it's dark, you have to look down a lot to make sure you don't hit a pothole or big rock (more wahhh).

Yada yada yada ... that's all small stuff. Running in the morning is great.

Dori and I spent time at the Long Term Clinic today with Dr. Jagasia and her nurse practitioner, Cary. We went over the signs of chronic graft versus host disease, which occurs in about 70% of leukemia patients. So far, Dori has navigated the GVHD stuff very well. It looks like the December flare-up was drug-related and not attributable to GVHD. Some of her blood counts have dropped some, but that's likely because her blood type is in the process of flipping. They will begin tapering the cyclosporine soon, which is a good thing, and her PICC line will likely come out next week.

We visited three patients we know in the short-term clinic. Candy Rucker is doing well. I met Larry, her husband, who has a lot of positive energy. That comes in handy, I've heard, when you're trying to defeat a blood disease. Another friend who's doing well looks like he has an onset of diabetes triggered by the steroids, while another is fighting the steroid side effects. Steroids are your friend, and steroids can suck.

Dori is at risk for more issues down the road, like osteoporosis, lung or liver complications, etc., etc., because of the chemo and steroids. Monitoring these potential challenges is a big part of Long Term Care. That's fine with us.

This morning's 4.5-mile run and some other running has me at about 20 miles for the week. I won't run tomorrow. Looks like I'll be running at least a nine-miler this weekend as I ramp up the miles. The kids have some basketball games, and we look forward to going to a Super Bowl party with some friends. I like the sound of all of it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Running with Will

Yesterday, Will ran with me and Pepper at Radnor under ideal conditions. The park was filled with nice families, young couples and slap-happy dogs. Will and I ran at a very easy pace. I wanted to see how he would do since the longest he's run is about one mile. He really did well, even up a hill at the 1.5-mile mark. All in all, we ran 2.75 miles, rested and then did a 1/4-mile sprint.

I had visions of running this morning, but I slept poorly last night. I think I woke up at least four times, so I decided to bag the run and try to fit it in before dinner. Things worked out, and I ran a hard 3.75-miler tonight in the neighborhood. I felt like a runner again! I ran hard up hills and kept a good pace throughout, probably around 8:20/mile. The last mile plus was easily 8:00/mile and I didn't feel winded. Some days are like this ... you just feel great. This is good news ... my body is applauding the training.

Speaking of runners, I saw presidential candidate Mike Huckabee today down near the Capitol. He was in town ahead of Super Tuesday next week. I asked him if he's staying with his running (he's lost 110 pounds since about five years ago), and he is, running about 20 miles a week during the campaign. He said he plans to run the Boston Marathon in April. Talk about impressive.

The most interesting part of my day was talking with NBC campaign reporter Carrie Dann, who is one of at least four reporters embedded with the Huckabee campaign. She's a recent UVA graduate filing reports for the network and the MSNBC political blog. I was sitting with her as she hammered out an update today, which you can read here. She captured some good humor from the governor. The actual site is pretty cool ... I'm going to bookmark it.

Anyhoo, I enjoyed talking with Carrie, who is having the time of her life. I mean, c'mon, you're a few years out of college, you're on the road, seeing the whole country, covering the presidential race. Sure, you have to talk once in awhile to a cheesy Tennessean, but Carrie has a front-row seat to history and is building a nice resume. She's taking in our cultural differences, meeting a ton of people and giving the NBC/MSNBC audience a fair look at all these campaigns. Contrast that with what's been happening in Kenya the last month, and Carrie has a good gig. God bless America.

Last weekend, I was again reminded why we are huge Vanderbilt fans. I received an e-mail from VU Baseball Coach Tim Corbin, who visited Dori by surprise this summer. He was just checking in to see how Dori is. I told him how proud I was of her fortitude, resolve and character, noting he and his team would be impressed by her toughness. He replied Dori is a "tough nut" who he would start behind the plate (catchers have the toughest job on the team).

At Kathryn's basketball game on Saturday, Will hung out with VU Wide Receiver George Smith, who keeps the scorebook each week. I know, I know ... what were you doing at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning? Recovering from Friday night's festivities, if you were like me. Will and George talked straight for an hour, shooting baskets at halftime. They covered the kind of ground you would expect from two jocks, one established and one budding - including the NFL draft, Christmas gifts and VU basketball. Will smiled the whole time.

Kathryn's team won, 16-6. She's really improved her game since last year. Will's team has yet to win a game, but he's learning a lot through a tough year. I think he's gaining some first-year learning experiences that will make him a better player and teammate. The key message from me has been - Perfect is not achievable, but giving 100% effort is.

Last thing and I'll run ... The kids and I were at Target yesterday afternoon, heading back to the car, when I heard, "CRUNCH!" I looked up to see a fairly large truck still recovering from an awful jolt, delivered very close to our van. The car delivering the blow was an old Cadillac tank driven by an older lady who looked like Mrs. Roper from "Three's Company." She was even dressed like her, in one of those showy smock dresses with competing patterns.

The lady looked seriously overserved and/or overmedicated. After she pummeled the truck, she got out, assessed the damage to the cars (it was significant), and then mosied into the store without leaving a note on the truck or staying behind. You wonder what planet some people are inhabiting.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

More Sad News

This morning around 10, I was drawn to an obituary of a 37-year-old woman. It was the lead obituary, but I was drawn more by the woman's infectious smile and pretty face. Then I read the remarkable family tribute. They thanked the doctors in Vanderbilt's Stem Cell Clinic, the same doctors Dori sees, as well as the caring staff on 11 North. This was very hard to read, especially after yesterday.

I thought of this young lady, who had her transplant in May, constantly today. She lost her courageous battle in the prime of her life. Later, I bumped in to one of her doctors, who said it wasn't the GVHD (graft versus host diesease) that led to her death, but a lung issue. Still, the leukemia and fight against it had weakened her. All of this hit me hard, then something else negative happened around lunchtime, and I realized I was angry for the first time in a very long time. It takes a lot to get me upset, but once it happens, I'm no ball of fun.

So I spent most of this afternoon frosted. I needed to run. I had already planned a long one - eight miles. I ran to Belmont, Wedgewood, back down 12th Avenue South, then home. My pace early was, understandably, way too fast for eight miles. I ran the first mile in 8:00, and had to make myself slow down. This was the first time I wore a watch and used my iPod in a long time.

I settled down on the moderate terrain, and started clicking off nine-minute miles. My pace at 6.5 miles was just over 9:00. The humidity was up, but the 37 degrees and light wind felt great. The last 1.5 miles was rough. I simply hit a mini-wall because I had no gel packs. My energy was gone, so I struggled home in 1:13:57, or a 9:18 pace. With gels, I would have hung in there better, but I made myself continue for this woman who was claimed by leukemia.

Other than that, I got the groceries and made a CVS run for Dori. It looks like Dori has some GVHD flaring up in her ankles, so I bought her some hose that fit better to help mitigate the swelling. Dori and I are going out to see friends tonight - for the first time in about eight months. It will be good to get her out of this house for something other than a clinic visit.

I should mention two things - Dori's red blood cell count is dropping, and the nurse practitioner thinks it's because Dori's blood type is changing over to her donor's. Also, Candy Rucker made it home one day after her transplant. Way to go, Candy! Keep up your great fight.

An anonymous friend mailed us six tickets to an upcoming Vanderbilt basketball game. Talk about an incredible gesture. When Dori read their tribute this afternoon, she left the room to cry. Their words were very touching.

Kathryn asked me if I'm going to run the Country Music Marathon. I still haven't decided. I actually might run the Tom King Half in March, since I'm adding miles right now. I ran this race, which is on a very flat course, two years ago. It was my first half and I had little idea what to expect. I had never run that far and had some confidence from an 11-mile training run two weeks prior that had gone very well. The race was a real learning experience. It taught me about pace (I went out too fast), preparation (I thought I had prepared, but not well enough) and pain (it got the better of me that day, and I vowed to do better).

Looking back, that entire experience (training, race, emotions) was one of the best things that's happened to me.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I'm talking to Dori about the week, which has been very busy but even more blunt. Dori says she's been reading blogs of transplant patients. One blog had a final entry from the mother of a young man in his early 30s. He never made it out of the hospital. A friend of ours had a friend on 11 North at VUMC who also didn't make it home recently; he died 12 days after his transplant. These are stark reminders what Dori and our friends with blood cancer are confronting. Please say a prayer for all these families.

Dori hasn't felt great for a week. Her cyclosporine level is still high, but thankfully lower. Her blood pressure was very low this morning because of some medication they've since stopped. That made me feel two feet tall this morning (I was on the road on business the last day). Getting the kids ready in the morning can be a challenge some days when you're feeling 100%, and I could tell Dori was sucking it up this morning.

I'm glad I love what I'm doing at work, because it would be nice to have another person tag-teaming some of what I do. We have a great staff at work, but we really don't have enough manpower to do everything our leaders/we would like. It's full bore, pedal to the metal, every day, all five days. And I love it. The Lord brought me there for a reason.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I'm down on rude and/or fast drivers. On the way back from Memphis this morning, this punk couple almost rammed us amid some serious congestion. As they passed us, they looked over like we were to blame (I was in the back seat). Ten minutes later, we see them pulled over by police. Not surprising. Thirty minutes later, they went flying by us again at 90 MPH. Again, not surprising. On the way home on I-440, some guy trailed me by only a few feet at the speed limit, despite having nowhere to go. This stuff goes on every day, and it will until the fines match the wrongdoing. On a positive note, I love the Allstate commercial that personalizes drivers and incentivizes courteous drivers. We need to keep doing the same thing with healthcare - incentivize healthy behavior and reverse the downward spiral of slodden activity in our schools. It's our fault, not the kids', for not emphasizing physical activity.

Before I hit the road yesterday, I woke up at 4:45 to run 5.5 miles. It wasn't that cold, maybe around 30 with little wind. The run felt good. Fast forward one hour when I loaded the kids in the car for school, and it was frigid. I missed that cold front by a few minutes. I ran 16.5 this week and probably walked another five on my job.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Effect of Worrying

I ran four miles yesterday afternoon at Radnor Lake with Pepper. We had a nice, easy run, on which Pepper attempted to sniff every dog, person and thing along the way. I saw my friend, Ann DeNunzio, running with three of her bicycling girls and their dog. All of them were smiling, exactly what you're supposed to do among nature's beauty.

Dori hasn't been feeling herself the last three days. Her temperature has varied between 98.1 and 99.6. Lo and behold, she gets her test results today and her cyclosporine levels are at 700 ml; the acceptable high is 300 ml. Imagine drinking 10 cups of coffee in the morning ... that's how Dori has felt this week ... jittery as a jumping bean. It affects you.

We've been waiting patiently for the other test results from the biopsy (% genetic abnormalities and % donor DNA) since getting the good news last week Dori is negative for leukemia. They finally came yesterday - Dori has no genetic abnormalities and donor DNA is 99%. Her donor DNA was 100% after 30 days or so, so the 1% drop concerned Dori. She was told 3% or more variance on donor DNA is where the yellow light goes off, so all is cool. Dori settled in to being OK with this, especially after getting a confirmation e-mail from Dr. Greer.

Dori has been very strong through this whole ordeal. One thing where she and I are different is the worrying part. I'm not a worrier, while she can be. I'm not in her shoes, but if I were, maybe I would worry from time to time. My view has always been: Trust the doctors and staff and do everything you've been told to do (Dori is very good at both), and then put the rest in the Lord's hands. Dori does this more than she ever did in the past, which is a huge credit to her. She has grown spiritually, and her faith and love in God and her fellow man have only grown. There are still times where this up-and-down battle can be very hard for her, which I completely understand.

Whenever "the worry ogre" creeps in my mind, I tell it where it can go. Straight to hell. It's like cancer wants to tell you it's in charge, and I will never let that happen. Our souls, not just our bodies, are at stake. Can you tell I don't like what worrying does to my girl, my children and other people I love? There's a lot of scripture that we've read and been given that addresses anxiety and fear. It's good stuff.

Dori and I believe, even recognize, we're in a new phase with this disease. She's gone from daily clinic visits to every other day to three times a week to twice a week to weekly. Soon, her visits will be every other week and then monthly. Through this progress are little peaks and valleys. The last few days have felt like a little valley. This, too, shall pass.

It's dinner time. Yesterday, I made a big batch of blackened shrimp and grits, South Carolina style, that is killer. Onion, cream, pepper and sharp cheddar ... with hot sauce ... yowser!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Good run to Belmont

I didn't get to blog during the week, so clearly, I'm expending some penned-up blog energy.

This morning's run was both challenging and fulfilling. I did one of my favorites - an out and back to Belmont University. I fueled on raisins, Gatorade and a few leftover cupcakes, then took off all sugared up.

It wasn't that cold, really, and I saw many folks who were on the road agreed. They knew what I knew ... it's gonna get a lot colder this afternoon. Quite a few Country Music Marathon trainees were on Belmont Blvd. This makes me happy - to see so many folks pursuing this challenge, staying healthy, etc. I'm sure many are running for someone or something, just like I do.

90% of runners are very friendly to each other - like we're in some running fraternity where words don't mean much but dedication and discipline do. They wave, smile, say hello or something funny or encouraging. For the 10% of runners who ignore you (look down or past you), I always wonder what's so important to them that can't wave or say those excruciating words, "Hi there." Often, the "in-their-own-world" runners are guys between 20 and 30, some of whom are running quite fast.

The 3.5 mile trip out to Belmont wasn't a breeze because of my back. I felt enough of a twinge to go slow, probably a 10:00 pace. This kept my HR way down, so I was otherwise comfortable. When I reached Belmont, I thought my back was starting to get a little worse. Onward, Christian soldier, I thought. Back down Belmont, I started feeling better. By the time I reached the six-mile mark, where Belmont Park Terrace starts up a steep hill that gradually flattens over half a mile, I felt good. I had no problems the last mile, and even considered going another couple. That went out the window when I experienced early signs of chafing (I hadn't prepared with the anti-chafing stick), so I called it a day at seven satisfying miles.

The most encouraging part of today's run ... I barely felt like I was running, even on the hills. Sure, my pace was slow; that probably had a lot to do with it. A few folks asked me this week if I've lost weight, and I wasn't really sure. But today, I felt lighter than I have in awhile. So maybe I have. I don't hop on the scale often ... I care more about how I feel and "can I fit in the clothes I like?" God has blessed me with the ability to run for myself and to do a lot of good with it. That's what matters.

The kids have basketball games later today, and I've got to grocery shop, so later, alligators.

More humbling news

I continue to be humbled by good news. I learned this morning that the mother of my friend Beth Fortune has completed her radiation treatments for a cancerous tumor on her brain. There's Vanderbilt and our Good Lord to the rescue again! Becky Fortune is doing well and has a two-month pass away from VUMC. Please keep the Fortunes in your prayers. Also, Elizabeth Antony's sister-in-law had a good report - no lymphoma! This has been a very cool week.

Equally encouraging is the news that our friend Kim Swindall, an 11th floor friend of ours, is doing well with his battle against leukemia. A super guy, Kim had his transplant last month. Candy Rucker is receiving chemo for her lymphoma and will have a stem-cell transplant next week. I ask that you say a prayer for both at this critical time for them.

Last night at Mom's was wonderful. We sipped some good wine and toasted Dori the Warrior with champagne. The dinner Anne and Mom prepared was typically delicious - grilled hangar steak and roasted herbed chicken, polenta, roasted sweet potatoes, a roasted mix of potatoes, carrots and some other goodies, and my favorite, brussel sprouts with pancetta (awesome!). We had cupcakes from Dessert Designs, then headed home and crashed hard.

My back feels better ... so I may try a run this morning.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dori the 'Warrior'

Dori's heartfelt post on CaringBridge has evoked nearly 40 responses today. Some told me they shed a tear or two when they read her words.

One post from our friend Melissa Red really captured how I feel about my wife. I want it forever on this blog, so I'll post it for posterity's sake in a second. But Melissa is one of those people Dori mentioned in her post. She was one of five very special women who called us almost immediately in June to offer to be our "Mother Hen" (meal coordinator, etc.). We probably knew her the least of the five, but we always knew we liked her and she was special. Man, were we right! I found out later last summer Melissa had a big role in the dramatic rebuilding of a beautiful church here in Nashville that was burned by an arsonist. In her spare time, she's probably setting up a foundation to cure all 250 cancers.

We're off to my Mom's for a celebration dinner, so here's Melissa's special tribute to Dori the Warrior:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2008 10:03 AM, CST


It's so hard to find the right words to convey all of my feelings for the 100 day news that you and all of us have hoped and prayed for for you. It's been such a journey for you and Jim and the kids and your families. A journey you'd never have volunteered for and didn't have any time to prepare for. (I remember my shock and fear getting Jim's first e-mail about your diagnosis and just sitting at our neighborhood pool that next hour or so trying to comprehend the news.)

I've watched you hold tight to your dignity and grace and strength.........and fight like hell against this unwelcome disease. And also to let an ever widening circle of family, and friends of family, and friends, and friends of friends, and fellow cancer 'soldiers,' and their loved ones surround you on your journey. It's been beautiful to watch this and heartbreaking to know what you've had to endure. You've never been more than an hour or two off of my mind and I know I do not hold that designation alone. You know more than most of us, the real value of this life that we are living. And, you've helped me live more intentionally and openly and appreciatively these last 7 months. Thank you for that.

As you continue to get on with the business of enjoying life, I hope you'll continue to feel and to know all of the love that is surrounding you from all of those who love you and whose lives you've touched by sharing yourself and your journey.

Much love to one of the greatest 'warriors' I know.


Day 100 is Here!

Just a quick post before I head to work ... Today is Day 100 for Dori post bone marrow transplant. We will celebrate tonight at my Mom's and again tomorrow with some delicious winter food from Margot Cafe in East Nashville.

Dori called me yesterday morning, just ecstatic. She had received her bone marrow biopsy results from Tuesday, which showed she's negative for leukemia. I was very jazzed, but not as much as she was at that moment. She was emotional, much like I was on Sunday. Strangely or perhaps not strangely, I already knew the good news was coming, though it was very good to hear confirmation. I will continue to pray every night that my bride never has to battle leukemia again. All of this is still so humbling.

I tried to do a run for Dori this morning, but my back is in bad shape. I have some pain from a four-miler on the road earlier this week. So I bundled up early and took Pepper for a short walk. People drive very fast at 5:30 in the morning. Folks on Harding Place were doing up to 65 mph. Sheesh. Total run-walk mileage this week: 18 miles.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Two More CaringBridge Sites

Dori had a good day at clinic this morning. Anne took her, and Mom is taking her tomorrow for a biopsy and pulmonary test. On Thursday, my step-Mom Peggy will take her in for an eye exam. On Friday, we hopefully have a celebration on Day 100.

Dori has been an inspiration to so many. I'm certainly in that camp ... I've had a front-row seat to her grace and courage under terrible conditions. Well, a friend of Dori's, Candy Rucker, is getting a transplant next week. Candy has been battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma since fall 2005. She's our friend with whom we partnered on the successful bone marrow donor registry drive in late August. Dori is an inspiration to Candy and her family, as you can read here at her CaringBridge site. I'm also linking her site under my Links section.

We heard the Logans, another family that some of our friends know, have set up a CaringBridge site for their fifth grade boy, Parker, who is battling lymphoma. Please keep the Ruckers, Logans and other families facing these awful diseases in your prayers. Ask that they have peace through these storms and faith in the Lord's plan. We pray they'll return to normal, healthy lives soon. Oh, yes ... Dori saw our friend Kim Swindall at the clinic. He's doing well after his recent transplant. That is very good news.

I'll share two things I saw last weekend that made me smile. I read a caption of a photo in The Tennessean about two women who work for Thomas Nelson, a local publishing company, who are training for a half marathon. Their company is offering $100 gift cards to them and any employee who will train and complete a half. Thought that was cool ... to incentivize healthy behavior. I hope many more follow. I also saw where a gentleman has invented an extreme hybrid car that can go more than 40 miles a day on new technology batteries without a recharge. This would satisfy the daily driving needs of more than 80% of Americans. The car didn't look like a go-cart, either. Very encouraging ... I'm sure the oil companies are not happy.

Speaking of batteries, I charged mine up this weekend for two good runs. On Saturday, I ran down Belmont, cut through Clifton and came back on Lealand for a smooth 5.5-miler. The weather was perfect. On my emotional Sunday, I ran 7.2, my longest run in some time (I think since the VB Half). While I was stretching at Percy Warner Park, this guy gets out of his car and says, "When I left Franklin, it was 54 degrees, and now it's 44." "Yes," I said. "It seems like it got colder the last few minutes." As soon as I said this, it started sleeting. We laughed pretty hard. I ran the 1.6-mile inner loop in the cold, blustery park, then ran the out and back on Belle Meade Blvd. I felt great before, during and after the run, though I woke up this morning with a slightly stiff back.

So I'm at 12.7 miles three days into the week (starting Saturday). I hope to crank out another dozen miles this week; it's gonna be colder, and I'm busy with a lot of work right now. I would love to see some snow, which is in some forecasts for Thursday. The kids would enjoy that.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flood of Emotions

I woke up this morning, thinking about how humbled I am by the grace of God and the goodness and generosity of so many friends. I have a wife whose health is returning, super children, good friends that I know are good friends, and a job I simply love. It's humbling, and I'm grateful.

As Will and I headed to church, humility continued to dominate my thoughts. Today is Day 95 post Dori's bone marrow transplant, and don't think Dori and I haven't been counting off the days to Day 100. By the time Will and I sat in the pew, I was a little emotional. By the time the gospel was read (about John the Baptist humbling himself before Jesus before baptizing Him), my emotions were heightened. When Deacon Jim McKenzie started his homily with the word "humility," I was more than geared up, I was tearing up.

Deacon McKenzie defined humility so well. It's not self-centered piety and it's not abject submissiveness (that's more like humiliation, he said; it's interesting I found one Catholic dictionary that defined humility as pertaining to lowliness and submissiveness). He said humility is centered aroung loving God, more along the lines of praise, service and adoration.

He struck a chord mentioning Abraham Lincoln's letter to General Meade after the Battle of Gettysburg ordering him to finish off Lee's Army. Lincoln noted in the letter that the glory would be all Meade's if he won; if Meade lost, Lincoln said he would take the criticism. He told Meade to destroy the letter if he won and publicize it if he lost. Lincoln's humility was a significant reason why he's my favorite president.

The offertory hymn after the homily was "Center of My Life," which is a song of praise and love for the Lord that He is and will continue to be at our core while we're here on earth. By the end of Mass, I was a mess, overcome by joy and humility.

There are many people who have supported me and my family the last seven months. They also have shown humility and love. They'll go nameless on this blog, but two of them are a couple at our church and school who worked to ensure my children had a seamless year during this ordeal. I approached them after church, and it took me a minute or two to gather myself as I told them how much I appreciate them. I told them cancer, as much as I despise it, has given me a view of life I never would have had otherwise. I said Dori and I are in a better place because of it. I cried as hard as I've cried since Dori's diagnosis in June.

Another remarkable supporter is a good church friend with whom we socialize every month or so in a couples group. I saw her and some of the group after church, recounting the awe of the day still with the edge I was carrying. A few of them had spoken with Dori on the phone earlier in the week, remarking how strong she sounded and how they were looking forward to seeing her soon.

When I got home, Dori knew something was up. She asked me what had happened, and I said it would take time to explain, so she said let's sit down. As I recounted the morning and told her how I just can't believe she's still here, I started to cry again. Kathryn walked in the room, and Will followed. Dori and I then shared times with the children that were very difficult for them and for us. Dori remembered one Sunday last summer when Will simply refused to leave Dori's room. He cried so hard that day that it hurt Dori and another leukemia patient who saw him as I carried his limp body off the 11th floor. That's the day I told Will in the parking garage that yes, "This sucks," and he has a right to feel the way he does. "I feel the same way," I said.

I recalled the evening of July 4 after the party at my Mom's. We joined Dori around 8:30 that night to watch the downtown fireworks from her window. That's not how things worked out. Will and Kathryn wouldn't stop crying from the minute we arrived, so we left. Will didn't stop crying until he went to bed. I asked Kathryn if she remembered the times when she asked the frank question, "If Mommy dies, [insert question here]?" I remember thinking each time I fielded that one, "Lord, are you kidding me?"

I've been told this blog can be almost too personal to read at times, but trust me when I say it's been a place for me to do a lot of good, like express my gratitude or educate people about leukemia, or even to vent. It's certainly a place of personal reinforcement for what I need to be doing through this subsiding storm. If the blog is too intense, I figure people can opt out and stop reading. That said, I've had many people tell me that reading CaringBridge and this blog has helped them cope with something difficult in their lives or awakened them to the fragility of their own temporal existence. That must count for something.

Friday, January 11, 2008

'I Believe in Angels'

I'm having one of those enjoyable nights, after a rapid-fire week of a good week at work, running kids to and from school, grocery shopping, errands, late-night meetings and an early morning run. I'm flat-out enjoying right now, especially after an e-mail I received about 15 minutes ago. Bear with me ...

So I've got an ale in hand and am listening to some 80s music. More specifically, I'm replaying my iMix from the Virginia Beach Half Marathon, which would stoke any runner (or lover of the Decade of Big Hair, synthesizer and cheesy videos). It's bringing back some memories of that Run for Dori - the actual run, the support of my friends Dan and Dave, my incredible sister Anne, details of the entire trip, and mostly, the fight of my precious wife.

So as I'm listening to this great music and thinking, "What are my top bands from the 80s?" ... I receive a CaringBridge notification e-mail from my friend Beth Fortune, whose courageous Mom is battling a brain tumor ( They've been through it, just like Dori and our family. After a few rough months, Beth has informed us her Mom's tumor is shrinking and the treatments look like they're working. She's in pump-fist mode right now, and I can relate. While I was reading her e-mail and CaringBridge post, I was listening to ABBA's "I Believe in Angels." There are no coincidences, folks. I am so happy for Beth and her family.

OK, so what are my top 80s bands? No, not Rockwell (Somebody's Watching Me). It's pretty easy, in fact, so here you go:

Dire Straits - Of course.
The Dream Academy - Shame, shame, shame on them for not making more music.
Haircut 100 - All you need is a pig roasting over a beach BBQ pit and a few good friends.
The Fixx - Saved by Zero? Red Skies? Stand or Fall? The Sign of Fire? C'mon!
Pet Shop Boys - There's no better way to start a Friday night party when you're 20, single and looking for trouble.
Tears for Fears - All of it, not just the Top 40 hits.
Simple Minds - Ditto ... an extensive library of tunage.
The Police - I was hooked after watching the Ghost in the Machine tour in 1981.
Run DMC - Can't help myself when I hear those boys belt out stuff like: "Funky fresh, cold yes and on my feet. With no shoe strings in em, I did not win em, I bought em off the alley with my black feet in em! My Adidas!"

Speaking of shoes, this weekend is tailor-made for running. Sunday has long run written all over it. I ran 3.7 miles this morning to close out the week for a total of 15 miles.

Alright, blog friends ... let's hear who your fav 80s bands are with some commentary!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Birthday Boy

Dori, never one to give up, did a good thing the other day. Before Christmas, I called the Vanderbilt ticket office looking for seats to an SEC game for Will to celebrate his eighth birthday. Unfortunately, they said they were sold out for all games.

Enter Dori, our new live-in tank commander. After the New Year, Dori called the office again asking if they had any birthday packages. Turns out they did, but only for some games in March and this week. No problem, we said. Last night, Will took a few of his best buddies (he has several but had to narrow down so Kathryn and a friend and a few parents could join us).

The kids had a blast. They smiled the whole night, while the three dads just smiled watching them. Mr. Commodore, VU's mascot, brought Will a great birthday cake, and VU won 80-73 to go 16-0. They're having a great season, ranked No. 12 in the country. For most of the kids, this was their first college basketball game ... they were awestruck.

All because of Dori.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

How 'bout Those Dores and How 'bout My Dog!

Vanderbilt's basketball team is a quiet 15-0 against a decent schedule. Yesterday, Dori, the kids and I watched VU play an athletic 11-2 UMass team on TV. The Dores struggled early, but turned up the volume to pull even at half, then pull away at the end, 97-88.

VU has a complete team, and I don't even think they're playing to their potential yet. They are deep, athletic and fast, and most players have "basketball sense." VU's star player is Shan Foster, who can shoot opponents out of a gym. Freshman center A.J. Ogilvy from Australia is averaging 19 points as a freshman and looks like NBA talent. Every position goes two deep. That said, team defense and perimeter defense against good opposing guards look so-so at best right now. But scoring shouldn't be an issue.

The scary thing is Tennessee is better than us right now. Those boys can guard you. It should be a race between the Dores and Vawls for the SEC East; Kentucky is struggling and Florida looks down this year (but never out). Kentucky looks like they may miss the NCAA Tournament on this pace; they're 6-7. Blue Mist is not happy.

So I took Pepper, who's not yet two years old, for his first major run today. We ran the 5.8-mile loop through Percy Warner on a very nice day. Only in Nashville ... it's 11 degrees four days ago and 65 today. No wonder everyone's sick.

Pepper has become a very sweet dog, much like a labrador retriever. He's got the dalmatian perkiness (yes, he ate Will's homework, as the photo above shows) and a curiosity that won't quit. He's a house dog because of his deafness, but I've been running him more lately to see what he's got and get him more exercise. I ran at a slow pace today for two reasons ... we were on a hilly course after yesterday's 5.5 and I didn't want to torture the dog. The farthest he's run is four miles on moderate terrain; this was six with some major climb.

When people see Pepper, they just stop and gaze. Some think he's probably almost ugly, but most see what I see - a unique dog with peppered spots (and a few giant ones) and an animal with great spirit. They like him, and so do we. He's been a great pet for the kids; even Dori, who didn't think much of him at first, likes him (none of us did, really ... he was a nut of a puppy and we strongly considered finding him a new home). But our training and patience are being rewarded.

Pepper is very different than Otis, our 110-pound black lab who was the most stunning dog I've ever seen or will ever own. Otis was the man. He had a bear of a heart and was strong and extremely athletic. I loved him and still miss him. My sister painted him for us after we put him down, and that painting is to the side of our bed. He and Dori are the last looks I get before sleeping. So while "Pep" and I were running today, I thought a lot about Otis, who used to crank out long runs and 15-mile hikes on the Cumberland Plateau with me like we were walking to the end of the driveway.

Pepper pulled me the first two miles today, intermittently taking a poop break, lifting a leg or sniffing another dog or person. He then ascended Three Mile Hill with me, which we took slowly, without a problem. Around mile four, I saw a tiring dog, but I didn't see any quit. At mile 5, the dog hit "his wall." I thought we might have to walk it in, but I slowed for him and he found a second wind. Very cool. He made the six miles.

After a little water, some stretching and some congratulatory pats on the head, Pep and I headed home. I thought, "I have a running buddy any time I want!" And maybe, just maybe, if Pepper had a blog, it would be called "Run for Otis."


This weekend has been nice, just putzing around. Is that a real word? The kids had basketball games yesterday. Kathryn's team lost by a point, while Will's team showed some grit in their first game, losing 30-19. Will had four points and showed a nice crossover move he learned in the backyard!

We had a good laugh this morning while watching the Sunday political shows. One candidate used the word "change" at least six times in a few sentences, which reminded me of the bank commercial on Saturday Night Live about 15 years ago. It went something like this:

"We can make change for a dollar ... we can give you 20 nickels. Or you might need 10 dimes. Perhaps the change you want is four quarters or even a hundred pennies. Nothing is too difficult because that's just what we do."

Just found the commercial here. I was close enough on my rendition. Man, I miss Phil Hartman.

Dori liked my stab, and not just because she's a banker. The kids liked it because they like when Mommy laughs, which she's doing more every day. She really sounds like herself again, and she's eating great again. She had TWO helpings of hash browns yesterday morning. She's a treadmill queen and her hair continues to grow. She's on the treadmill now listening to Nickel Creek. There's the nickel thing again!

I had a good run yesterday afternoon - 5.5 miles over moderate terrain. I took the backroads to Franklin Road, ran through the grounds of First Presbyterian Church and back down Tyne Blvd. I listened to a new Pure 80s mix on my iPod, which included The Fixx, Information Society, David Bowie, Simple Minds and other goodies. My time was 49:30, or a respectable 9:00 pace. I'm gonna run again today, listening to the rest of the new mix, before a busy afternoon and the upcoming busy week. The Babys, INXS, Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys ... you're next. I think I'll take Pepper, who I'll need to awaken from what looks like a very peaceful nap.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Last night, our family watched the results from the Iowa caucuses. We surfed CNN, MSNBC, PBS, Fox and other outlets. It was quite fun. We were amazed like the rest of the country by the energy from these caucuses.

What was just as amazing to me was how interested Kathryn was in the whole process. Kathryn ran for 3rd grade class president last year. She was a longshot, but her tenacity and hard work got her to a runoff. She lost by one vote, feeling betrayed by a few friends she thought might back her. Ahh, politics.

So while Will lobbied unsuccessfully for a college basketball game and tapped his Gameboy, Kathryn, Dori and I watched the results on TV. K-Girl asked many questions and told me she wants a woman to be president, just not Hillary. I asked her why, and she gave a reasonable answer. She asked me who I liked in both races, and I told her who and why, as well as who I won't be voting for. Just really cool stuff for a nine-year-old.

At age 11, I remember watching Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford slug it out in 1976, while my Dad gave commentary behind his TV dinner tray during the evening news. Kathryn said last night she wants to run for president one day. "You have my vote, sweetie," I said, "but you'll have a lot of work to convince enough people." She smiled and nodded.

Here's my take on last night, without being too specific. Obama's victory was historic. His perfomance in a state with few African-Americans was impressive. Huckabee's win was also extraordinary. He persuaded and outworked his opponents. Both men have a way of disarming folks, and they articulated a strong message of populism and real change. They were the best with the dinner conversation topics. We'll soon see if the rest of the country wants that. Iowa does.

I haven't run a lick since Tuesday. I wanted to, but my busy week, in tandem with the cold weather and a slightly sore throat, put me OOC. I hope to run tomorrow, maybe a long run in the afternoon after the kids' basketball games. I need to let loose some energy and get some mileage on this slack body.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Good One and Rough One

After nine miles this past weekend, I took Kathryn to Radnor yesterday for a two-mile "family run." Kathryn hasn't been doing much over the holidays, so I expected she might struggle. After about three quarters of a mile, she started feeling it, so I encouraged her to slow down (she had the pace, about a 10:00 clip).

The last part of the run wasn't easy for "the Rabbit." I kept encouraging her, though, and she responded. I told her how impressive she is running this length, while "her brother is sitting on his duff at home." She laughed and perked up. It was like that on and off the whole run ... laughing and groaning. Near the end, I said, "Finish this for your Mom ... you've earned it." She sprinted the last 100 yards, then turned to me and said, "I think I'm gonna barf."

"No, you're not ... you did great," I said truthfully.

So after that wonderful run, I woke up New Year's Day thinking I'd make it four days in a row pounding asphalt, after scarfin' some breakfast. Dori asked for my famous hash browns, which I whipped up along with some bacon. Breakfast was delightful. Dori had two plates, then ate two plates of blackeyed peas, cornbread and cookies at our neighbor's house for lunch.

Ninety minutes after breakfast, I was outside, bundled up and running. The temperature was 34 degrees with gusty winds up to 25 mph. The first two miles were mostly uphill into a brisk northwest wind. Yes, it was very cold. The worst part was scaling Castleman Drive west of Hillsboro Road, expecting a bit of a break at the top; instead, the wind blasted me in congratulations. After another steep climb up Lindawood, I turned left instead of right, cutting off 1.5 miles of my planned run. I ran about four miles instead of 5.5, and it was rough the whole way. Total climb, according to, was 350 feet, while total elevation change was 700 feet. It felt more like 700 and 1,400. I almost felt like a cold was coming on, when you have that 90% feeling at the beginning of a scratchy throat and sniffles.

I'm at 15 miles for the week with three days left. I don't expect I will run tomorrow, but now that I have a base, I need to find a race. The weather looks better at the end of the week, so another run or two looks reasonable. I will avoid hilly courses, however, and "take a break" on some flat runs.