Saturday, April 5, 2008


Part of my job is to speak in public. I'm usually more of an extrovert, so speaking isn't a problem for me. When I'm feeling introvert-ish, I have to search for the fire.

On Thursday, I had a speaking engagement at the Massey Business School at Belmont University. I know the teacher, Jose Gonzalez, from some community efforts. Jose invited me to speak about my job, which I was glad to do. I was feeling mildly like an introvert, but the switch flipped when I started talking about Dori and her battle with leukemia. The reason I talked about leukemia? First, it was fresh on my mind. Earlier that morning, I learned someone else in my industry, a 30-year-old woman, plans to run the Country Music Half Marathon. I asked her why, and she said her 33-year-old cousin is battling leukemia and she's joined Team in Training. She then told me about another woman in my profession who organizes an annual Bone Marrow Donor Drive for Hispanics and African-Americans. I thanked both of them for their gifts.

You can see where I'm going ... shortly thereafter, I'm in front of a class of 21-year-olds with an Hispanic teacher I respect. Hans, Dori's donor, as you know, is 23. Young, healthy people are the best donors. So I talked for a few minutes with the class about my wife, why I run, the need for more donors ... all the things I care about these days.

On Friday, Dori and I met with Colleen Grady, the Executive Director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for this area. Colleen has 12 people on staff, 10 full time. We didn't know Colleen, who is a recent breast cancer survivor, until she called us last year to thank us for raising money from my Virginia race. Apparently, she received an e-mail from headquarters congratulating her office on the achievement and alerting her about the funds.

Yesterday, we finally met. Dori mostly talked with Colleen about her experiences and outlook, while I talked mostly about raising more money for LLS and raising awarness for the NMDP program and activating more donor activity, especially in the minority communities. Colleen brought us a bag of t-shirts and information about LLS. Lots of information ... like nearly 825,000 Americans are living with blood cancers and nearly 220,000 are living with leukemia or are in remission.

I talked with Colleen about how I believe the donor registry for minorities is a shambles and I'm hopeful LLS can help address this. I told her I believe LLS efforts should boil down to two main goals - raising a ton of money for research and helping to expand the NMDP registry to save lives. Yes, patient and caregiver education is very important, but the other two objectives have the greatest impact. Dori's chances of survival were higher than an Hispanic woman or black woman of similar age with a similar diagnosis simply because of her color. Is that fair? Dori had three perfect matches for her transplant; most minorities have no perfect matches. Somewhere there is a 43-year-old African American named Jim whose wife is dying and children will suffer because she has no transplant match. That just makes me bristle.

So that's how many of my conversations go these days. Not adversarial, just passionate. Our frame of reference is strong. Please register today on the NMDP and save a life. Tell a friend or 10, too.

Before the rain season started (it's been pouring in Nashville for a few days), I ran twice this week. On Monday evening, I arrived home from work around 7. With a setting sun and fueled by Gatorade and a Baby Ruth, I went on a 5.5-mile run through the neighborhood. The smells and sights were as exhilarating as the run. Families were laughing and kicking soccer balls in their yards, women were walking their dogs, men were grilling burgers and chicken in their backyards ... it was awesome American scenery. My 9:00/mile pace was easy ... no stress. I thought the sprints a few days before might have helped. I also thought about the grilling smell; it's much nicer than the cigarette smell I sometimes experience from drivers who pass with their windows cracked.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up at 4:30 and hit the road at 4:50 for a six miler. An eastern crescent yellow moon hovered on the horizon. The only sound was the hum of interstate traffic three miles away, with an occasional faraway crack from train cars engaging. After a shaky first half mile, my body stopped arguing with my mind. I settled into a decent pace, about 9:15/mile.

I love solitary morning runs in the dark. It's just you and the road, with time to think or just run. Not until mile three did I see a car. Toward the end of the run, I noticed few construction workers were out compared to last summer. Our economy is a little different than 10 months ago. As I neared our house, I began to see others ... two women walking their dogs ... more cars with early-birds headed to their offices ... delivery men in their trucks. I was glad to get in these runs before our monsoon.

Today is a great day to run - cool and cloudy with an easy, refreshing wind. As we sing at church, "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad."

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