Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blogging Siesta

I attended a Team in Training meeting tonight at the Corner Pub in Midtown. The good news: There were a lot of people there for the meeting. The bad news: There were a lot of people there for the meeting.

I've sent out my first e-mail to friends I'm asking to help with my TNT effort. Here's the link to my fundraising page to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Please donate and please let people know about the page. Let's put a hurt on blood cancer this year.

I received an e-mail today from a friend who said she's been diagnosed with Large B Cell Lymphoma. She tells me this is treatable, and she's optimistic about recovery. She received the news on the heels of her husband dealing with blood cancer the last few years. We're living during an epidemic, folks. I have added her to my ever-growing prayer list for cancer patients and survivors.

I ran six miles early yesterday morning and another four late this afternoon. The six-miler was interesting. I woke up at 4 a.m. and started the run before 4:30. It was raining steadily, and Dumbo forgot his running hat. So the rain, recognizing my error, picked up and hammered my exposed face. After awhile, you get used to it, just like what happened at the Tom King race in March. But it will be nice to have the hat next time.

This afternoon's run was also interesting. My legs felt heavy from the start, and the heat and humidity (82 and 65%) were noticeable. The run still felt fine because I took it slowly, but it's clear the body is adjusting to the changing weather.

I'm likely going to hang up my blogging cleats for a brief spell. Shouldn't be too long, but it's time to recharge some batteries. Until we blog again ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Joys of Beersheba

From our trip earlier this month to the Cumberland Mountains ... Photos compliments of brother-in-law Stephen, who knows what he's doing with a camera. The wine glass did not jump.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Texas Style Q

This morning, the B-52s played on the Today show, much to Dori's and my approval. While we were rocking out, slamming caffeine and acting like we were 22 again, our daughter stared in mild disbelief. I'm sure she thought, "Are these really my parents?" We did get a thumbs down on the music, like most of our 70s and 80s tunes.

I recall going to see the B-52s with two Florida girls, Ashley and Lynn, my freshman year. We were on the first level when I looked up and noticed the balcony was noticeably moving up and down from all the stomping and shaking above us. Organizers actually stopped the concert. Yes, the B-52s almost brought the house down.

Yesterday, Will's second grade class gathered at a friend's house, totaling about 25 families. The kids hammered soda and played in one of those colorful bouncy tents, while the adults drank adult beverages. Wendy M. made some awesome sides (corn and black bean salad, feta slaw and potato salad) to go with the BBQ I prepared Saturday and Sunday morning - Texas style brisket, Memphis-style sausage and marinated chicken thighs and drummies (above). It was nice to receive compliments on the brisket from three Texans, who are as choosy about their Q as we Tennesseans. Many took home leftovers, a sign they weren't just sharing nice words. Stomachs don't lie. Dori and I enjoyed the sausage, and most of all, great company ... lots of wonderful families.

Running has been going fine. Will joined me for 2.2 miles Sunday, and I ran four miles midday today in 82 degree weather before some thunderstorms arrived. Running long distances in the summer is much harder than during other seasons. I did sleep 10 1/2 hours last night, so my motor was ready to go ... pace was sub-9:00/mile, probably 8:40. I've started to mix in mild weight-lifting and sit-ups with the running. I'll need to do speed work soon, as well.

On Thursday, I have another TNT organizational meeting. Training for San Francisco and fundraising for LLS begins soon. Our coach, Stephanie, called me today ... It looks like we have a group of 20 runners with two guys (If you are single, in your 20s and looking to meet girls, I think I have a suggestion). I am looking forward to meeting the members of this new group and hearing their stories linking them to this terrible disease. Even though we haven't met, the bond is already there.

Sister Anne has ended a prolonged food blogging drought with an excellent entry on how to enjoy corn in the summer. Trust me when I say the girl knows her kernels. She also told me about her sister-in-law's two blogs promoting healthy eating for kids and families. Lord knows, the world needs more of that.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Midwest League Champions

Will's 7-8 year old baseball team, after a so-so season, swept their playoff division this morning. The Rays beat the Giants, 17-12, in a thriller.

Will went 3 for 4 with one catch that electrified the crowd in the bottom of the 6th. I was coaching in the outfield when a Giant hit a line drive about five feet high over Will, who was playing pitcher. My first thought was, "No way that's caught." My second thought was, "How in the heck did Will catch that?" He really climbed a ladder to snare it. The Rays' third baseman, Luke, ran to Will to high five him in excitement. Dori told Will she will never forget that catch. It was great to have family at the ballpark, as the photos captured.

I spent last night surfing blogs authored by leukemia and lymphoma patients, caregivers and survivors. It really got to me, especially one young Asian boy who died in March. The stories were across the board - happy survivors, people struggling in hospitals and a few folks who battled admirably until the end. Earlier in the week, I went to a Team in Training (TNT) organization meeting with 10 athletes and 10 support staff. Most of the folks in the room were women, but one guy who lost his dad to cancer last year talked about his TNT Country Music Marathon. He was very inspiring, raising $23,000 and declaring his praises for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society staff.

I spoke with him afterwards, and he said, "Cancer picked the wrong people to mess with, didn't they?" I looked him square in the eye, and said, "Yes, it did."

So I'm committed to the Nike Women's Marathon on Oct. 19. I will get my training schedule soon. I ran last night in 80 degree weather, feeling good and motivated for the first time in weeks. I ran four miles at an 8:30/mile clip. I felt every bit of it, but needed to get moving again after too many spring cheeseburgers and acoutrements.

This afternoon, Dori is with the kids at the neighborhood pool, and I'm smoking Texas-style brisket for 70 people at tomorrow's end-of-school-year party at a friend's house. I raise my beer glass to all of you who have supported us this last year and say a prayer of thanks this Memorial Day to every American who gave his or her life for our freedom. Bottoms up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Achievements

Just when you thought parents couldn't be any prouder ...

Dori called me last night in happy tears. I had to work late (grrrr), having to miss the kids' school awards ceremony and Will's playoff game. Dori was at the former, while Mom and Dan covered the latter.

Dori said, in between sniffs, that Kathryn had been recognized as the prime medalist or among a small group in seven categories, while Will was recognized in two. Both have had stellar years in the classroom, which is worth celebrating any year. Their overall achievement, however, occurred during a year with many distractions. Staying focused in school and activities, especially in the fall, tells me a lot about our children. It hasn't been an easy year, but they are more appreciative and aware than most children in this world. And focused on success. And oh yes, we are blessed to be at an excellent school with remarkable teachers, administrators and friends that nurture and guide our children in a Christian way.

Will's team won last night, 15-3, his Nana tells me. They're one win away from winning their tournament. The boy smiles the whole game, loves his teammates and plays the game with passion. That's all I want for him ... Play hard and have fun, and let the results be what they will be. I'll be at Saturday's game come hell or high water.

Dori and I talked to the kids last night, and just marveled at them. Sorry ... It's not gloating. It's different. It's recognizing two special young people who have endured much emotionally the last year and emerged stronger. It's worthy of tipping your hat and celebrating, which we will be doing the next few weeks. I told Kathryn how impressed I was by her reaction to her recent run with me that didn't go well; she decided she was better than that and asked to go with me again ... the next day. She could have quit or sulked, but she dusted off her pants and decided she was the boss.

Just like her Mom.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some Achievements

Sister Anne, Girl with the Magic Paint Brush, was honored this weekend with a Best in Show painting among entries from 100 artists. I sense a marketing campaign. Way to to go, Annie.

Will's baseball team started their playoffs, winning their first two games, 12-8 and 15-2. He went six-for-six with one big knock over the shortstop's head; he also made some good fielding plays. Dan's recovery from hip replacement surgery hasn't been easy, but he's making progress. He's made it to a few of Will's games with my Mom.

Kathryn asked if she could join Pepper and me this morning for a run at Radnor. She hung tough, finishing 2.2 miles. Our pace was a modest 10:30/mile. After we returned home, I headed out for another four miles, running some 9:20s and finishing with an 8:45 final mile. Total mileage this week - 16. I needed every one of them considering what I've eaten of late. Let's just say I made a pass at some Krystal's, donuts, pizza, nachos and beer. Not all at once, but it sorta feels like it today. The bad boy diet will be ending in a few weeks when training for San Francisco commences.

Dori fought off a sore throat this weekend. It's a little unnerving when she gets a little something. Her temp was 99 on one reading, but she says she feels better this afternoon. Dori isn't really strong enough on a consistent basis to work a full schedule. Some days are good, some days aren't. She's been sleepy the last few days, fighting off this bug. Her appetite seems much better ... she pounded some hash browns and bacon two mornings in a row.

I spent some of yesterday clearing brush and working around the house. Dori planted flowers a few weeks ago that look very nice. Last June, Dori entered the floor at 11 North where she was greeted by a sign that said "No flowers." Maybe that's one reason she planted some at every turn around our house and in pots on our deck.

It would be nice to catch a break this summer and have a peaceful few months. We have a full schedule - camps, a beach trip and other festivities. Anything semi-normal will be better than last summer.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kanzius Update

I've thought of John Kanzius' radiowave-nanoparticle effort to whip cancer since the 60 Minutes' piece. Here's an article with some impressive detail about where the initiative is. Mr. Kanzius has set up his own foundation to raise funds and awareness. It's permanently linked now on my page. We'll be making a contribution soon, and I hope many of you join us.

I ran twice this week, both early jogs. After a four-miler with Pepper, I flipped on the TV and surfed past the local Fox affiliate. When I realized they were doing a story about young leukemia patients at St. Jude's in Memphis, I surfed back. The reporter talked about two very young patients, one that was doing well and another that wasn't. I started getting misty when Kathryn walked in. She just stared at me, recognizing the story's theme immediately. One year ago, I knew very little about this disease; now, I know way too much. It seems to be at every turn these days.

I don't talk about work on this blog, but I'll share something of generic interest. I was presented with a situation a few weeks ago that required some fortitude to get through. A few years ago, I'm not sure I would have faced it well. Living through the last year, however, has strengthened my resolve to do what's right, even if it's uncomfortable. I've learned the path to less resistance can be self-serving, even selfish.

"Life's too short" isn't a cliche, it's the damn truth. I'm enjoying addressing new challenges and working to kick each one square in the backside, just like Dori and many of our friends are. I reflect on their courage often, which emboldens my own resolve when things start looking choppy. Don't back down, stay calm ... just like them ... and stay principled. Who can be afraid of that?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NMDP Deadline Nearing

The National Marrow Donor Program's (NMDP) "Thanks Mom" awareness and donor recruitment campaign only has a few days left.

You can join free during this campaign by clicking here.

It costs the NMDP $52 to add a donor to the Registry. Your tax-deductible gift extends funding so more donors can join - especially those who cannot afford to cover the cost to join.

Deadline is May 19. Save a life, y'all, just like Hans did. Get on the Registry! If you're already on it, tell a friend between the ages of 18-60.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Running in the Family

Today after school, Dori and the kids went for a 1.25 mile run. They ran a decent pace, I'm told, faster than the one the kids and I ran yesterday on a 1.5 miler. Six months ago, Dori wasn't going to run anywhere except to the nearest toilet. Progress comes with time.

Mother's Day was wonderful - church, VU baseball and dinner at our friend Phila's secluded bed and breakfast, Spring Creek, in Joelton. Phila, a caterer, author, noted speaker and B&B owner, is an energetic woman who is 82 years young. I've known her as long as I've know Dori - since I was a salesman with Robert Orr Sysco in 1993-94. To say she's still going strong is an understatement. Kathryn even remarked "how energetic she is." Phila sets the pace.

I love that our children are having experiences like these. I love even more that Dori is enjoying them with us.

Tomorrow morning looks like 47 and clear. I think I'll go for a run.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Good Friend

Yesterday, Kathryn was named Science Fair Champion of her level for Individuals. K-Girl hypothesized what kinds of toys Pepper would like and not like based on his personality and habits. She then methodically tested and cross-tested his reactions in groups. It wasn't flashy science, just sound. She really did an amazing job.

I think everyone knows some parents essentially do their kids' work sometimes ... Dori and I are always willing to guide ours, but never do. Once a concept is explained, a kid just has to do it on his or her own. Dori answered some questions during the test phase, and I explained some ideas about project presentation ... but Kathryn put all of it together by her lonesome. We walked away and let her let it rip.

Clearly, the Sawyer gene is responsible for this. Browns don't do so well at this science stuff. I remember my science fair project at that age ... getting a few different-sized hard foam balls for planets and slapping a ring around Saturn. I was so proud when all the toothpicks stuck in the foam.

Last night, Will and I were joined by Chuck Hendry and his son at the Vanderbilt-Georgia baseball game. Chuck and Dori are close. Both battled AML at the same time. Chuck entered VUMC a few weeks after Dori, and Dori's transplant was two days before Chuck's. Chuck is doing well, but has a few more issues to work through at the moment. He has some chronic graft versus host disease in his mouth and eyesight challenges. He fatigues easily like Dori, still is on cyclosporine and takes about 10 medications (Dori is on three plus vitamins).

Chuck says the scar tissue from seven biopsies causes some stiffness in his back and sometimes numbness in his legs. Dori had about 10 biopsies, we think. When Chuck said he's glad he's done with biopsies, I reminded him AML survivors get one more "on the house" at their one-year transplant anniversary. "Whoa, I think you're right," he said disappointingly.

We spent most of the night enjoying baseball and having some laughs. When Chuck remarked that Vanderbilt's football team looked good last year (another losing season and we haven't been to a bowl game since 1982), I responded, "Rooting for VU football is like going on a date with a great-looking girl. You know what's going to happen. Things are gonna look good, but you're going to drop her off and get a peck on the cheek." [Insert big boy laughter.]

When it began to rain lightly with VU ahead three runs, I put on my black windbreaker, noting, "I've seen a lot of football losses in this thing." Twenty minutes later with VU behind one run, Chuck said, "You might want to take that thing off."

"And exorcise it," I added.

Dori and I are walking the same path as Chuck and his wife, Abbie. Dori and Chuck spent hours in each other's rooms to relate and compare experiences. I know they both believe they were part of each other's recoveries. I certainly do. Our reactions are the same to many things. Whenever we hear a VU LifeFlight helicopter, we have flashbacks to the hospital. Whenever we pass VUMC, we think and pray for the patients on 11 North.

You don't ever walk away from this experience. You incorporate it. It is part of who you are.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

5K Plans

Dori recently said she plans to run the July 4 Firecracker 5K. The kids also plan to join us. Will, who is very active, has run a three-miler with me once, but Kathryn is going to need to train a bit. She's active, but doesn't have a ball in her hand all day like her brother. And I mean ... all day.

I am excited Dori is planning to run. Talk about a goal and some courage. The race won't be easy, I'm sure she knows, after what she's been through. These days, Dori sometimes has the strength to walk two slow miles; other days, she's too fatigued to walk for any length. Dori last ran a 5K in 22 degree weather before Christmas 2006. She's no fan of the cold, but she displayed grit and ran a good race. I remember how proud she was. We were all proud of her. Cold, too.

I ran the Firecracker 5K last year when Dori was in the hospital. My race wasn't halfway bad - a 7:47/mile pace. This race will be about pacing my girl and encouraging her and the kids. It will mostly be a fun day being a family. I'll sign off and say a prayer for all of that.

Here's why I love our kids: At a VU baseball game tonight, A foul ball sailed over our head and almost hit the lights. Kathryn said, "Ooo, that might have been like [the movie] The Natural," when the lights exploded at the end of the movie after Roy Hobbs' home run. To which Will replied, "Dad, would they have really exploded?" Wonder is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Morning Companions

The NMDP has a creative donor and fundraising drive going on ... They're calling it a Mother's Day Donor Garden. Check it out. Nice work by that group. Check out PJ's great take why this is so important.

I did run six miles this morning. It was clear and 50, perfect for an easy run. It was also dark, as I started the run at 4:30. Some guy passed me doing 60 MPH in a 30 zone, but I soon had my faith restored in our universe when a deer trotted slowly across my path and several others waited for me to pass. Very cool. Minutes later, two dogs made their charge; I think I yelled loud enough to wake up an entire neighborhood. I scared the you-know-what out of those two.

My left knee is a little irritated. Running isn't painful, but the knee is a little tender on the outside left of the kneecap. It seems to flare when I run downhill and is better on ascents. Something to watch. I've been very blessed not to have injuries since last summer's calf muscle debacle. You almost take being injury-free for granted, but not as much as you grow wiser and more experienced; we middle-aged folk know better.

I didn't eat so well the week after the half marathon (you see, Summer, we all splurge!). Yesterday, I started getting back in the good routine (oatmeal-whole grains-fruit-salad-pasta). When runners stop training, we have to be extra careful not to put the tire back around the waist. Not sexy, as Serge said in Beverly Hills Cop.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hiking Photos

Honey Bear

So yes, the weekend getaway was great. On Saturday, I hiked the Collins Gulf Trail (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the article I wrote in 2001) in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area with my friends Charlie and Nicole. While we were taking in nature's beauty, Dori, Anne and the kids went to Hallelulah Pottery in Monteagle. Later that day, all of us went to Beersheba Pottery, which the kids have renamed "Pug Pottery" because of the feisty dog that roams the premises.

Saturday night's dinner was a delicious blue cheese pasta and gourmet salad by Dori with plenty of adult grape juice. The night before, Anne made a fabulous fresh taco bar with grilled skirt steak, fish and incredible fixings. On a related note, I'm planning a six-mile run early tomorrow.

I don't think I've blogged before about Honey Bear. When Dori entered VUMC last summer, the kids and I bought Dori a guardian bear from the hospital gift shop. She loved it and clutched it often during all her hospital stays. One frequent question during difficult days was, "Where's Honey Bear?" Usually under the covers or her hospital bed, but we never left the room without making sure Honey Bear was with Dori.

Honey Bear is still with us, often in Dori's clutches as she falls asleep. I've been known to grab HB a time or two as well. HB was Dori's knight in shining armor coming to her emotional rescue. Thank you, Mick and the Stones. I do believe Honey Bear reminded Dori - many times when she needed to think this - that her angels were by her side, even when we were home sleeping and praying for her recovery.

Last week, Dori and I attended a small reception hosted by the local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We heard from a researcher at Vanderbilt who is looking for breakthroughs to help drug companies target new gene therapies. Her team had success a few years ago and think they're on to something again. It was nice to meet this very intelligent person for many reasons, one of which was to hear from an important person who our LLS fundraising helps directly. We learned the LLS funds about 400 researchers at about 25 facilities across the country. We learned 87% of children diagnosed with leukemia survive today; several years back (I don't recall the number), the survival rate was 50%. That's good progress for children; 100% would be nice, wouldn't it?

Channel 4 here in Nashville did a nice story tonight about Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt's daughter, who had a bone marrow transplant at age 11. They interviewed the daughter and her donor, who said all she had to do was say "yes" when asked to donate her marrow. Very true, but we need more people to register through the National Marrow Donor Program.

So have you registered?

New Blood Type

Dori's blood type has officially switched from O+ to A-. This happened sometime between the last two clinic visits. What a miracle.

Dori, the kids and I spent the weekend in Beersheba Springs on the Cumberland Plateau. We were joined by sister Anne and husband Stephen. Dori said she feels great several times. I fit in a good hike, and several of us teamed to conquer a difficult puzzle. I'll blog and post photos later about the weekend, but we enjoyed a nice break.

Please keep my friend Beth Fortune and her family in your prayers. Her mother, Becky, passed away Saturday. Becky endured a lot this past year. Her obituary is supposed to be in today's Tennessean. Beth, I am thinking of you often and offering prayers of thanks for all your mother's wonderful works. I know you take comfort knowing she lived a life that made our Lord proud.

Cousin Laura in New York ran a 1:52:11 half marathon on Long Island this weekend. That's a great time, just over an 8:30/mile pace. Great job, Laura.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Good Clinic Visit

Dori's visit to the clinic went well today. Her blood counts look fine. White and red blood cell counts stayed about the same, while platelets dropped slightly into the 120 range. Her neutrophils (her army against bugs) looked great.

After Dori's scare in mid-March, it's great to clear another hurdle. Only Dori and other leukemia patients can know how it feels to walk back into a place of many difficult memories. The fear of being readmitted is real and causes anxiety. This morning wasn't a fun time for Dori ... but just reminding yourself that you're awake is a victory in itself.

I cannot intimate how great it is to get Dori's call that the clinic visit went well. I will do everything I can to make sure Dori stiff-arms the occasional anxiety and continues to look forward, not back, and trust in her Lord that He knows best. That's easy to say for all of us, but sometimes hard to do.