Monday, September 29, 2008

The Express

Dori and I are planning to take the kids to "The Express," a movie premiering October 10. The storyline is about Ernie Davis, the Syracuse running back who was the first African-American to win the Heisman trophy. Davis was destined to a great NFL career before leukemia claimed the life of this great man. Will mentioned his interest in this movie the other day. Here's more:

Tonight, I ran a surprisingly easy four miles in 36:29, a 9:07/mile pace. Soreness from Saturday's run was minimal. I felt like I was running at 80 percent in the warm, dry conditions, but knew better not to press it after a long one. A cold front is coming through tomorrow morning, so running this week will be wonderful.

Commodore fans are having fun talking about potential signs to hoist behind ESPN's College Gameday crew, kinda like this.

Here are some sign ideas from my fellow Commies and one from me (the last one). Some of these are inside Vanderbilt/SEC/college football, so enjoy if this is down your alley.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Turf
Vanderbilt Bandwagon: Looking for Volunteers
Memorial Magic: Let's Take This Outside
Same old (crossed out) new Vandy
Dr. Lou says: 'Bobby Johnthon for Prethident'
Corso smells like sweaty costume!
Our hot girls are smart!
Only at VU, QB = High School Valedictorian
Fold your athletic department before it's too late!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

ESPN Gameday Coming to Nashville

Dori was surfing a Vanderbilt college football blog this afternoon (see why I love her?) and blurted, "Wow, ESPN's Gameday is coming to Nashville Saturday!" I got that funny feeling, like I was kissing my first cute girl. Hot damn! The eyes of college football will be on US NEXT WEEKEND.

Kathryn asked me if I was going to blog about this, to which I responded, "Kathryn, there's a lot of meat on that bone. Absolutely!"

If you don't follow sports, Vanderbilt has been the joke of college football for decades. Since the mid-70s, it's been futility at its finest, or worst, depending on your perspective. Our last bowl appearance was in 1982, when I had zits. 1982 was also the last year we had a winning record. We've found inconceivable ways to lose a football game ... seriously, try me and I'll tell you when and how we did it. I'm surprised no one has written a book or made a movie about it.

The last three years of football have been better, though we haven't been able to "get over the hump." We're beating one or two good teams a year now, but not getting that elusive sixth win. This year, we're 4-0 with eight games left. Heck we may not win six or seven this year because of a brutal schedule, but I like our chances.

I won't rehash why I love this team; that's in a previous post. I will tell you I am proud to be a loyal supporter of a program that has always placed academics and character above getting the most wins to fuel somebody's ego. To me, that's why I love Vanderbilt football and this upcoming weekend. In summary:


Hotty Toddy!

Ole Miss fans have a lot to cheer about ... Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty! The Rebels beat Florida in Gainesville yesterday. Yes, that's the same Ole Miss team Vanderbilt beat last weekend in Oxford. Florida and Georgia both have one loss, while Tennessee is going nowhere fast (0-2 in the SEC). VU's game Saturday with Auburn just went from huge to ginormous, as our daughter would say.

I felt like singing Hotty Toddy after yesterday's 12-mile Team in Training run. Before the start at Grassland Elementary, Coach Stephne said we should take it slow, but I had other ideas. Three weeks from the big day in San Francisco, I decided to simulate the race as best I could. That meant no stops or hanging around water stations. My goal was to post a 9:20/mile pace at the turnaround and see if I could negative split.

Things went very well the first six miles. Suprisingly, no one joined me as I settled on a 9:15 pace. Today wasn't social day for me, so I stayed in my own world. My only "stop" on the out portion was 20 seconds long at the 3.4-mile mark (the Moran Road-Old Natchez intersection) to refill my Gatorade bottle. Fresh off my first energy gel, I reached the Montpier subdivision after a cruise along the Harpeth River on Old Natchez. Average pace: 9:17/mile.

At the 6.5-mile mark, I saw Stephne, Lisa and Sara. A mile ahead of some good runners, I asked myself, "Is this too fast?" Stephne asked how I was doing, and I said, "Good!" Pressing on, I caught some of my teammates who were running 10. We knuckled Barack-Michelle style. Soon after, I hit the only serious hill of the run at 8.5. Could I hold this? My Garmin said average pace was 9:20 as I refueled again for 20 seconds.

At 9.5, discomfort arrived and I started slowing slightly. I also flashed a rash under my right armpit from the rubbing of my sleeveless t-shirt. At 10.6, I had to stop to remove my shirt, took a deep breath and swigged plenty of Gatorade. To the sounds of "You're So Vain" in my head, I ran shirtless (impressing no one) the last 1.5 miles, much of it uphill. I returned to Grassland spent in 1:54:27, a 9:32/mile pace. Total mileage for the week: 33.5. Total training mileage since June: 385.

I'm pleased with the effort. The only disappointment was not to negative split. The sun beat down pretty good the last four miles, which was a factor. It wasn't hot, but it wasn't cool either, except at the beginning of the run. My takeaway is I need to get to Mile Six in San Francisco at a slightly slower pace, probably in the 9:25 range, conquer the big hill at that point and then see if I can get it on. Realistic goal for San Francisco looks like a 2:02-2:04, but we'll see what happens. No race is ever the same or what you expect ... that I know after six half marathons.

The weekend ends with the kids' cross country run on a warm day and Dori returns after a weekend in Charlotte with her friend Garrett.

New link on cord blood donation is now in the Links section.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday Night Flashbacks

Friday Night Flashbacks are being delivered a little early. This week's back travel shines the light on Jim Kerr (Simple Minds) and his tigress ex-wife Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders). That was too much talent in one marriage and house, so they divorced soon after marrying in 2004 and having a baby girl.

First, "Alive and Kicking," a great running song and so spiritual.

Dori and I saw The Pretenders at the Ryman Auditorium a few years ago. The Ryman, an old church and the former permanent home of the Grand Ole Opry, has seldom heard better than the talented but foul-mouthed Chrissie, whose mouth my Mom would have washed. My favorite Pretenders song, "Show Me," was written by Chrissie about her baby girl.

I love "See the Lights," but Dori loves "Don't You Forget about Me" more. When momma's happy, nobody's bummin'. This one's with Pop-ups.

Morning Surprise

This morning, the alarm went off at 4:15. I turned it off, feeling no motivation to run. After 15 peaceful minutes, Guilt started yapping in my ear. "So you're gonna let people in need down?" he whispered. That was enough to get me moving, along with the fact Dori had me playing tooth fairy after Will's most recent gum loss.

The weather was perfect this morning ... 53 degrees and no wind. As I hit the three-mile mark on an out-and-back near Belmont University, a young lady bolted from behind a tree in a dark yard. She asked, "Can I run with you?"

My mind raced through about six possible retorts, some of them responses to old pickup lines and a few not fit for this blog. Using my media training, I said, "Sure, are you OK?"

"Someone was trying to get me," she said nervously. "A car stopped and they wouldn't leave me."

As we ran together, I could tell she'd been spooked. After a few hundred yards, she thanked me, then sprinted down a street to her home. Near Belmont, I saw a police officer at a gas station and told him what I knew. He took notes and thanked me.

The return run was uneventful. I ran seven miles at a 9:40/mile pace. I'm at 21.5 with a 12-miler scheduled Saturday morning. Tapering starts next week.

My employer is about to do a nice thing. They are sponsoring a team at Light the Night Oct. 16 in Nashville (they are a $2,500 sponsor) and will be letting folks know how they can contribute to my run. Pretty good stuff.

OK, I don't do politics on this blog, but I do appreciate a little levity. I'm watching in disgust, like many of you, Washington bail out a mess rooted in corporate avarice and lawmakers' and regulators' inability to address predictable problems over the last 10 years. So let's allow the world's most famous capitalist share a more cogent moment from a recent TV interview:

"It's nice to have a lot of money, but you know, you don't want to keep it around forever. I prefer buying things. Otherwise, it's a little like saving sex for your old age." - Warren Buffett

No wonder I like Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) in Caddyshack so much ... PG clip to follow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Big Picture

Sometimes when things aren't going well, it's good to take stock. As I embarked on this morning's 5.5 miler, I felt deep soreness I knew wasn't going away soon. Rather than focus on the discomfort, I decided my time would be better spent in the 5 a.m. darkness thinking about what I've accomplished and where I'm going.

Here's the big picture of my training to date and my half marathon race scheduled just 25 days away.

*I've run 366 miles since early June. That's the equivalent of running from Nashville to Knoxville and back or from Nashville to Greenville, SC (plus 16 miles). That's not bad.

*I'm injury free, knock on wood and break out a rosary. That wasn't the case last summer before the Virginia Beach half marathon.

*Most of my runs have gone well. Only two long runs have been duds, and I've emerged from another hot summer lighter and fitter. My resting pulse is in the high 40s, and I haven't spent Fridays making poor nutrition decisions.

*To date, we've raised $12,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with another $2,000 in corporate pledges. We may very well get to $20,000, or darn close to it.

*Through this site, we've raised tremendous awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and encouraged (successfully) many people to register on the National Marrow Donor Program. We're just starting on cord blood donation. This site has registered about 15,000 visits since its inception last June. What a blessing to have this impact.

*I've made many new friends. Great people, too. Mark, Sammie, Jessica, Stephne, Heather, Margie, the LLS staff ... the list is a long one.

*Most importantly, Dori will be with me at the October race. Last year, she was recovering from consolidation chemo and preparing for a bone marrow transplant. Certainty was not in our vocabulary. This year, I have a hot date in San Francisco.

*My faith in God has been tested, but it's stronger. I was never worried about wavering, but you do have to go through it to see what you can and should do. You look at some very dark places when you go through this battlezone called cancer. Emotions can bubble to the surface (I cried in church twice), and your wife and children are always on your mind. Whatever happens, as I said at a recent Gilda's Club meeting, I believe this brief life of ours is simply a test to earn the right to enjoy everlasting life.

Funny how the pain dissipated as I worked through these.

The run ended in 54:55, a blistering 9:59/mile pace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quick Hits

OK, three friends have sent me this video link today about Nashville's gas crisis. It's laugh-out-loud funny and PG, so move on if bad language offends you. If it does, you're missing out on a belly ache.

On last weekend's drive down the Natchez Trace, I rediscovered a song on a Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder CD that didn't mean much to me a few years ago. Written by Mac McAnally, the touching song revisits the journey of Mac's grandmother who was dying from leukemia. I shared the Ricky Skaggs version the other day with Dori; here's an older version.

Here's another good follow-up from Paige about the cord blood donation process. Thanks again, Paige, for sharing your experience and being an activist:

" ... This issue makes my head spin because on one hand an organized banking system makes so much sense (and it's easy to explain to people), but on the other hand, does it start with doctors, hospitals, a federal effort or regional, or with building more cord blood banks? Squeaky wheel is all I know to do, and I plan to make [the hospital in which she delivered] my first target. With more than 7,000 babies delivered per year and considering the hospital's interest in providing top-notch l&d services, the hospital surely could help make increased donation a reality. At the very least, I plan to write a letter. Beyond that, I have a couple of connections with the hospital chain's administrative folks."

Now love on that baby girl!

Our family continues to go through a good Gilda's Club program. Tonight, the kids asked oncology nurses questions about cancer, while the parents attended their separate program. We are learning a lot about dealing with things and sharing experiences with others that are helpful.

Running went fine last night (five miles at Radnor in 47:20) and this morning (four untimed miles). On last night's warm run, I ran slowly the first 3.25 miles, but clicked along at an 8:30/mile pace the last 1.75.

It's getting close to new shoes time ... Total mileage since training began in June is 361 miles. My current pair is still doing the trick, but I like to buy a new pair about 2-3 weeks before a race. New running shoes feel so good the first few weeks. Your legs and feet simply say, "Thank you." I donate used pairs to the homeless through the local running store and hope you fellow runners do, too. I'm sure many have said "thank you" to us.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Great Weekend on All Fronts

Saturday morning started with a Team in Training run, my first long run in two weeks since the bug invaded my body. I ran 1.5 warmup miles to a rendezvous point with the TNT crew, then joined them for five miles, making a few fueling stops. I peeled off at the Music Row Roundabout and headed home to complete 11.5 miles with my iPod cranking.

I felt great the whole way. I experienced some fatigue at a serious hill at 10.5 miles, but lumbered up and regrouped to get back in rhythm. Final time: 1:48:52, a 9:28/mile pace. The accomplishment was welcome after wondering where things stood the last two weeks.

Will and I then headed to Oxford, MS, to watch our undefeated Vanderbilt Commodores play an improved Ole Miss team. We tailgated with our friends the Woodmansees, then watched VU prevail in a thriller. Today, the Dores cracked the Top 25 today for the first time since 1984.

Yesterday, VU started slowly. Ole Miss was poised to blow us out in the first quarter. I looked over at Will, who looked very dejected. I said, "This team responds well to adversity, and I think you're going to see them play well soon. They may not win, but watch them respond."

Minutes later, they made some big plays and eventually tied up the game at halftime. They made key plays late, their trademark, to sew up the game. I think Will is gaining an understanding that football (and life) are longer than one quarter. He's watched his mother battle cancer with courage, and now he's been given another good example how you can respond when things don't look great.

As good as the football game was, the best part of the trip may have been the 200-mile drive to Tupelo and back on the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway, the two-lane federal road through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi that doesn't allow commercial vehicles. On the Trace, you might see a car every five miles. We saw dozens of turkeys and deer, quite a few box turtles crossing the road, and endless fields of soybeans, corns, sunflowers and other crops. It is smooth, picturesque driving without any eyesores (signs, telephone poles, etc.).

Kathryn and Will ran the season's first cross country meet this afternoon. It was warm, but they ran good mile times on the rolling course - 7:43 and 8:22, respectively, they tell me. I wasn't at the finish line but positioned on the far end of the course. Unlike past years, neither stopped and both combatted their pain.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Night Flashbacks

For the 14th installment of FNF (has summer flown by or what?), I submit piano pop from Vangelis, the composer of "Chariots of Fire." This song, which is empowering and thus a favorite running tune, is from the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty." Note Mel Gibson pondering a tirade.

Also good Vangelis here from "Blade Runner," a favorite 1982 movie. Since Dori doesn't like Vangelis, it's time to make momma happy with The Babys' "Everytime I Think of You." Admit it ... all of you want to sing back up to this song.

Time to make daddy happy with the Pointer Sisters.

This one's a request from my friend Chuck. Hard to believe Bobby Caldwell is not African-American.

Bobby Caldwell - What You Won't Do for Love

Well Said, Gary

From my weekly Team in Training newsletter, which included an entry from a triathlete:

The following excerpt from a letter to his teammates by Nashville participant, Gary Mappin, (who experienced not one, but two flat tires on the bike course!) makes a beautiful connection between this experience and the patients whose lives we hope to impact through our fundraising efforts.

I think it has come together for me; the connection between cancer patients and triathletes, the answer to my daughter's brain-overload question ["Dad, why do people play sports?"] and what I took from the race today. As sports enthusiasts, we seek to overcome what seems to be insurmountable goals within a controlled environment with rules, regulations and safety nets included. We start out with great expectations and then disaster strikes or the circumstances we thought we would be facing suddenly change. In a very microscopic way, we simulate real life challenges people face in everyday life, such as the people we raced for today. I "experienced" that common-thread in meeting Jana and Joshua Kelley on Friday night and Dori on Saturday night [Nashville tri team's honored teammates]. I'm sure their life dreams and plans never included the hand they were dealt. After calamity struck, they went on to display the courage and fortitude needed and chose to live in the moment and live for the journey and not the final destination. I think the reason we miss this in our society today, is because we glorify the athlete and not the people who are living this out in real life drama on a much larger scale.

I do believe participation in sports helps develop the coping skills needed to pursue our dreams and overcome our obstacles. I also believe it takes an exceptional coach to prepare you to accept the hand you are dealt and teach you how to live in the moment and savor the journey.

This is so true about Dori ... how she has changed:

After calamity struck, they went on to display the courage and fortitude needed and chose to live in the moment and live for the journey and not the final destination.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the Road Again

I've spent this week traveling for the job and am finally running again. A constant, nagging cough remains. I've slept a total of 10 hours the last three days, but I know too many people going through far worse to complain.

Instead, I'm taking delight that I ran three, six and four miles the last three days. My fitness is still ok, but I'm not all there yet. My new buddy, azithromycin, is doing his best to get me there.

OK, fellow runners. I dare you. Try to run slowly to "I'm Alright" by Kenny Loggins. Impossible. I think that's the only "old song" that the entire family loves. Kathryn even put it on her iPod. Trust me, that's a big deal, alongside Aly & AJ, the Jonas Brothers and Jordin Sparks. My new iPod Nano has been a lot of fun. It's much lighter and more versatile than my old iPod.

I promised to share a cord blood donation update from my friend, Paige, who's loving motherhood. Paige, as you may recall, attempted to be a cord blood donor but the blood weight was slightly under requirements. Here's her insight to this important process, which so few in Tennessee seem to be aware of or ready for, which is an awful shame because of the life-saving benefits:

[Chris, my husband] was a champ at managing our part of the process once we arrived at the hospital for delivery. It was disappointing to not be able to donate, ultimately, but I felt that it was made very clear to me in advance that a minimum amount of cord blood had to be collected in order to complete the donation. I think it was more frustrating for Chris, who took the "arranging for the donation" baton from me in the 11th hour, only to learn that it wasn't going to work, via multiple phone calls to the company that would have received the cord blood and multiple weighings of the blood sample - in the delivery room and then again he requested the nursery weigh it just to make sure it wasn't enough.

As I'm sure you know, if more people knew about cord blood donation and tried to donate, there would be a greater chance for successful donations. I would love to see this option offered by more hospitals. It would be great to have support in the hospital from an established program that would relieve patients and their families of some of the confusion, pre-admission paperwork and in-hospital management of the process. From beginning to end, from my OB and the office staff, to the hospital's registration desk, the delivery nurses and the postpartum nurses, every healthcare professional I encountered during this experience said it was the first time they had had a patient request cord blood donation. It would be fantastic to see cord blood donation become a regular practice in the Nashville area, considering its national rep as a healthcare center.

Well said, Paige, and thank you Chris and Paige for trying to save a life. It's important. Just ask PJ and her family in Rhode Island. I know I now have something on my list to ask the hospital professionals I know.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Drugs Ahoy

The bug that started in my head last week worked its way through my nasal passage and throat over the weekend, finally winding up in my lungs last night. I coughed much of the night and slept little.

I finally gave in and called my doctor this morning. Who knew getting a prescription could be so challenging after watching Dori get 15 filled easily on a regular basis? I'm not a frequent flyer in the pharmacy world (prescription was called in under a similar name, which took three calls to sort out, and I fell out of the pharmacy's database after one year of not calling in a prescription). I am still a person, though!

Go, drugs, go. I hope to be on the streets soon, pounding pavement. My five-day hiatus feels like three weeks away.

Ann and Chris continue to deal with two storms - the aftermath of Ike and more importantly Ann's Fight to have a successful transplant. I know our little community will keep saying prayers for them and others battling the Beast. For that, I thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Changes in Attitudes

Something I've noticed about myself since June 2007 - I'm good with the venting thing but when blowing steam turns to rage I believe a change is needed.

Case in point - Dori and I have been following some West Coast women who are battling blood cancer. The first, who shall remain nameless, is using her cancer blog now as a platform for a candidate she prefers. In my opinion, her personal attacks and name-calling took away from her corner of the Web.

The world is negative enough, so why fuel it? The blood cancer community should be just that - a community. I wish her well in her recovery, but choose not to spend my political time on a cancer blog. Maybe she'll start a political blog and get back to the cancer journey ... I'll be back if she does.

The second woman we've been following, Lea, reminds me of Dori. She's honest, inspirational and amazing. Nine months post transplant, Lea has had a rough go, but she's recovering with grace. She remains focused and upbeat through the fear she's experienced. She ran the first Nike Women's race in San Francisco, where Dori and I will be next month. I will be thinking of Lea's spirit and character as I finish my training and run 13.1 on October 19. I've added Lea's CaringBridge site as a permanent link. Keep firing away, Lea, and thank you for your calming, resolute example.

Remove one bookmark. Add another. That's my little vent today.

"If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane." Jimmy Buffett

Dori's CaringBridge Post

Last night, Dori spoke to about 25 Team in Training tri-athletes who were scheduled to compete today. They gave her a standing ovation. Here's cause for more applause - Dori's CaringBridge post today:

“Bone marrow is perfect. NEGATIVE for leukemia.”

That is what my nurse practitioner said regarding my latest biopsy. It is customary for transplant patients to have a biopsy at their one-year transplant anniversary. For insurance purposes, I had mine a tad early. I was on pins and needles last week waiting for the results. I likened it to some kind of final exam, yet I had no way to study or prepare for it. There are still some additional tests to come from last week’s procedure (cytogenetics), but so far, so very good.

I have to admit, it has been nice not composing CaringBridge updates -- that meant that everything was going well. It feels great to write this update, though.

I am so thankful to each of you. Our family could not have gotten through this without your fabulous support and care. As I went to bed last night, I reviewed last year in my mind and smiled as I thought of all of the wonderful people we know and even those that we have never met.

It is hard to say “thank you,” because my appreciation is so much deeper than those two words. However, I want you to know that I do thank you for all the great memories during a difficult year:

- All of the eloquent, funny, touching, encouraging CaringBridge posts. With not much to do in my hospital room, they were a source of inspiration and smiles.

- All of the great visitors. I may not have been a good hostess, but I certainly appreciated seeing each of you!

- Those who spent the night with me after the transplant. Wow … you all are incredible.

- The food. Yum. The meals were great! Yes, I am talking about the meals that you made, not the Vanderbilt food.

- The top-notch medical staff at Vanderbilt -- You were professional and compassionate.

- The staff at SBA … you rose to the occasion and helped my children. Thank you as well to those who had my kids over for playdates.

- My caregivers who came to make sure I was okay and those who made trips to the clinic with me. I have memories of good conversations and fun magazine reading.

- My fellow transplant friends … I am so, so happy that I know you. We will always share a special connection.

- Each and every member of my family -- It sometimes makes me ache to think of all that you have endured. I love you.

- Those who have contributed financially to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and who have registered to become potential bone marrow donors.

- Those who prayed for me, brought me lovely gifts and touching cards.

- Those who helped my return to normalcy -- taking me to church and out to eat.

- “Hans,” my stud of a donor. I hope I meet you. You have given me the ultimate gift.

- Jim – you stood by my side, always encouraging and never judging. You are the best.

I was a bit hesitant to make the list above for fear of forgetting someone or something. Know that you all mean so much to me.

Much love,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Biopsy Results In

Dori's bone marrow biopsy results show she's negative for leukemia.

Dori was checking her e-mail this morning when I heard screaming from the far end of the house. I thought, "Something is very wrong," and knocked over some objects in our bedroom and ran to see what was happening. Dori was crying uncontrollably at the computer.

We haven't seen the complete results with chromosomal data, but Dori has had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders this weekend.


Training is on hold and has been since Wednesday. I haven't felt right all week and spent most of yesterday in bed. As Dori said, "I know you're not feeling well when all you want to do is sleep."

At least I have an explanation for Sunday's bad run and general lethargy all week. The culprit is a sinus infection (headache, fatigue, puffy eyes, scratchy throat and dryness, all the fun stuff). I woke up Friday morning at 4:30 to run, but bailed after realizing that was a bad idea. Around 7, I couldn't keep my eyes open so I crawled back into bed. I woke up at 11:30, checked my voicemail and blackberry, and shut my eyes again until about 3.

I have no motivation to do much right now, much less run. C'est la vie. Not a big deal and my body probably is enjoying the break from the pounding during this training cycle - 327 miles to date. Looks like a day filled with college football and playing with the new iPod Nano Dori bought me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Night Flashbacks

It's a good night for 80s synthesizers, with ABC's "Poison Arrow" and Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby." Beware of makeup and costumes ... so vogue.

No embedding for Kool & The Gang's "Fresh," so click here for another fashion statement.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dore Talk

My Commodores are 2-0 and on top of the SEC East standings. Check it out. I'm not kidding. Sure, it's early and I've been known to chug the kool-aid. We may have more injuries, start playing poorly or just get a run of bad luck. But the following statement from QB Chris Nickson is encouraging:

"Actually the biggest thing I saw that is different is the team chemistry of the players," Nickson said. "In the offseason, our captains were basically just leaders, picking up freshmen and doing things with them that we've never done before. We were without groups and cliques. Everybody was together. Guys took it upon themselves to make others feel comfortable, accepted, to really generally care about what's going on in the other guy's life."

Dori's back, encouraged by her meeting with three VU students who are planning a bone marrow drive in March. One is a male AML survivor, another is an Asian-American studying to be a doctor and the third is a member of Dori's sorority. Last year, 500 people registered on the NMDP through a similar on-campus effort. Dori has a list of ideas they'll be sorting through to get people out to register. Last year, the gals showed up while the boys weren't as engaged. Maybe we should have cold beer available.

23,000 Big Macs

Dori woke up this morning still sore from the bone marrow biopsy. I called her at lunch to check in. She asked me to repeat everything her nurse practitioner said yesterday after she woke up from the procedure. She just couldn't remember anything. How could she after getting the cocktail Betsy the Bartender gave her?

Dori is at Vanderbilt right now planning a bone marrow drive with students. I'll share the scoop when I know something.

Gilda's Club last night went well. I like it and the kids seem into it so far. Dori will join us again next week. It takes a lot of energy to hear the stories of others who are battling cancer. Normally more of a talker, I've been more of a listener the first two weeks. I simply want to hear what others are dealing with; so far, it's some of the same stuff we're dealing with.

I read this today, and all I could think was "tick, tick, tick, tick ... ." At least he walks 10 miles a day, but can you imagine what his arteries look like after 23,000 Big Macs?

Tonight's four-mile run went fine. I'm fighting a sore throat, lower energy and a stiff back. I couldn't touch my toes this morning, which I normally do with ease. It was one of those runs you just do. After a half mile, the back loosened up, which made things easier. Final time: 37:30, a 9:22/mile pace in 85 degrees. A cold front is poised to blast through Tennessee after the weekend, and I can't wait ... running is so much more fun in cooler, drier weather.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

He's Back

I'm not sure how I feel about this yet, but Lance is planning a return to the bike.

Our Hope: Last Biopsy

Dori had her one-year biopsy this morning. It went fine, and the preliminary results show no blasts, which means Dori remains leukemia-free. We're not celebrating yet, knowing the full lab results, which will be available in roughly a week, are what'sn important. Her other blood counts looked fine with a slight drop in platelets.

The biopsy, as some of you know, is medieval, almost gruesome. The VUMC staff does a good job, making it as low-key as possible. To Dori's amusement, one nurse calls herself Betsy the Bartender because she delivers a nice drug before the procedure. The staff played Simon & Garfunkel and then just did their thing after Dori, who was keyed up, sorta fell asleep. Dori asked that I not allow her to speak after the procedure because she knows she rambles like the last girl out of a bar. True to form, Dori rambled, cute as always.

She's resting now, sore and drug-fatigued. She's getting a one-year dose of Reclast, the latest and greatest drug to combat osteoporosis. Since she hadn't eaten since last night, I picked up some chicken parm, mashed potatoes and Dove dark chocolate, all of which she enjoyed very much.

Our hope and prayers are that Dori has had her the last biopsy. She'll return next month for her immunizations, then be free of clinic visits for a year.

My morning got off to a great start at 5 a.m. I ran six miles in 57:55, a 9:39/mile pace. Temp, humidity and dewpoint were 75, 75 and 65. Hopefully, my cold is gone and strong training will resume.

Time to take my sweet girl home ...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Survivors BBQ

Last night, Dori and I hosted several couples who have been through or still are battling blood cancer. Our friends Tammy (survivor) and Joe, Melody and Kim (survivor), and Kim and Chris (four-year-old daughter is undergoing chemo for ALL) joined us for some backyard smoked chicken and sausage and other goodies prepared by my favorite cancer survivor.

We spent most of the three hours laughing while the kids played or watched TV. We also talked about the responsibility each of us has to make life better for those who will be facing cancer. Kim talked about how grateful she is to the people who came before us that helped her daughter have a greater chance of survival. We talked about life being a test, a brief one at that, with the opportunity to live in God's eternal kingdom.

The group agreed we're living life through a lens that some will never understand. We believe we've been given a gift, as difficult as that can be for some to comprehend. I looked around last night and liked what I saw - unselfish people with strong marriages, people who know how to deal with a lot of bull, and people I greatly respect.

After our guests left, Dori asked me what I thought. I said I'm glad she called three very different couples together to enjoy ourselves and to relate our experiences. She agreed, noting she thinks she should get the group together annually. We hope the couples who couldn't join us make it next year.

This morning, Dori followed through to the group on one of her projects - the Light the Night team we've formed for the Oct. 16 event in Nashville. Stay tuned for more. Dori also has been asked by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to speak Saturday to the local triathlete fundraisers who will be competing soon. This is an honor to Dori, who has become quite the speaker ... she's communicating fearlessly and from the heart at every opportunity. I'm certainly buying whatever she sells and hope many more do, too.

Maybe she can help me figure out why I had another dud run Sunday. Conditions were cool, though humid. I was fine the first four miles on a 9:15/mile pace, but bonked around mile six. I had to stop, gather myself and figure out what was going on. I'm still sorta weak today and felt the same yesterday. I've had congestion and some aching, so it could be a cold. That said, I wasn't thrilled my planned smooth 11 miler turned into a brutal 8.5-mile march in quicksand. I couldn't get up any significant hill the last few miles. Waaa, right? This, too, shall pass.

Congratulations to our friends Paige and Chris on the birth of their beautiful girl, Lillian Margaret! Classy name from a classy couple. Start saving for college, guys.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Island of Misfit Toys

Dori ran 3.5 miles yesterday and carried Will to bed tonight. Will smiled the whole way down the hall. My three-miler yesterday was a bounceback run - 26:12, an 8:44/mile pace in warm conditions. I'm skipping tomorrow because our coaches decided to have us do our long run on Sunday. The conditions are supposed to be excellent.

Will, his godfather Al and I watched Vanderbilt upset South Carolina last night, 24-17. The Dores never flinched. Watching Vanderbilt lose is like watching any Halloween movie. You know Jason is going to appear from somewhere and do his thing, but this time Jason got the Gamecocks. Dori asked me if I'm happy. Of course I am, but I told her, "It's not life and death" if we win or lose. It certainly felt that way 15 years ago.

VU's win was gratifying on many levels. They beat a very good team ranked No. 24 in the country. The coaches addressed last year's weaknesses - special teams and conservative playcalling. The team faced adversity and smacked it in the mouth. They won with grace and displayed sportsmanship. They finally won an important home conference game. But it was more than those things.

Ninety percent of all college football players have no chance of getting in to Vanderbilt, so we recruit from a limited pool. VU is outspent every year by the other 11 SEC schools, all of them public. Our facilities are OK but not as nice as the big schools', and our fan base is small. Our star players are athletic, but a tad undersized compared to the Georgias and Floridas in our conference. Vanderbilt is the league's version of The Island of Misfit Toys; often we attract players the other SEC teams don't recruit heavily. I could go on, of course, but you get the point.

After the game, the players were excited but humble. Our running back who was the game's MVP thanked God for the glory to be able to play college football. That stayed with me last night and today.

People sometimes ask us why we're fans of perennial losers. Dori and I are alumni, but we simply like exposing our kids to the coaches, administrators and players. Nearly all the players graduate from a great school and you rarely hear of anyone having a run-in with the law.

They're role models in a world that needs more of them. And maybe we're losing the perennial loser tag in football.

Go Dores!

Friday Night Flashbacks

It's Friday, it's the Night and it's time for some Flashbacks. This 60s video is so cool on so many fronts, I better stop now and just encourage you to click.

Per request from sister Anne, here's Joe Jackson's Steppin' Out. Love the Lite beer sign.

If you don't like muppets, it's time to move on. If you do, strap yourself in for some vintage Jim Henson. I'm so glad Cookie Monster dislikes [the] article adjective. He must have been an editor.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gilda's Club and 'Stand Up To Cancer!'

Sometimes on this cancer journey, I get doses of perspective. Other times, I get bucket loads. Lately, it's been the latter.

Yesterday evening, we started Kids Support classes at Gilda's Club. We've embarked on a 10-week journey of two groups, one with kids and the other with adults, both led by facilitators. The groups, in their own way, will learn how to process the cancer monster. So far, I have nothing but great things to say about the people at Gilda's Club who are helping my wife and many other people.

Last night, the adults introduced themselves and the kids had a talent show. I've never been prouder of Dori - she said it all so well. We learned what others have experienced or are experiencing as families. The list is ominous - a male colon cancer survivor of six years, two young women in the middle of chemo for breast cancer, the parent of a young AML survivor and others. The most emotional part of the evening was hearing from two parents who just learned their young daughter's brain cancer may have returned. As they cried, others followed. In a nearby room, a Bereavement class for children was underway.

None of this got us down, but it touched Dori and me, as you can imagine. We believe you have to face cancer square on and keep those gutters clear, as I mentioned recently. It's the reason we're investing our time, and our children's, in this class. I expect we'll experience the gamut of emotions - joy, pain, laughter and sorrow - but the goal is to emerge fully equipped to combat the Beast.

I've had a George Bailey moment or two this week - imagining what life would be like without me here. "It's a Wonderful Life," sappy as that movie is, always gets to me, never more so than in recent years. I'll just summarize that I like being here and am grateful for all of my family. My beautiful wife told me tonight how proud she is of me. It feels really, really good to hear your spouse say those words. There have been times when I deserved a dressing down or two, and she chose not to go there. Now, I get to hear her sweet words and share them with people who can identify. What a gift!

I was glad to see the following in my inbox today from the Kanzius research folks (I plan to watch):

"Don't miss the big "Stand Up To Cancer" Telethon Friday night, September 5th at 8:00 p.m. EST on all three major networks: NBC, CBS and ABC! The three major news anchors Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charles Gibson will team up for one evening to focus on the latest in
cancer research and treatment. To read more about this event, go to and click on the header in Breaking News. The anchors and their guests will be encouraging donations in many ways ... and we hope your choice will be the Kanzius Radio Wave Treatment. You can donate online at or by mail. ... ."

This morning's six-mile run was pretty bad. I wasn't thrilled about the effort or result, but as the day wore on I settled on two things: It's not that big a deal and I get to try again tomorrow, which I will do. Dori nailed another two-miler today, by the way. Wonder when she starts her 5K training?

Monday, September 1, 2008

It Keeps Finding Us

Leukemia - check that - blood cancer continues to find us wherever we go. It doesn't just seem like every few days I hear of someone battling blood cancer. It happens this way. Kathryn says, "Don't we also know people who have breast cancer?" Yeah, that too.

Frankly, I'm sick of the pit in my stomach when I hear someone else is battling any cancer. About five days ago, someone in our profession told me of another colleague who is battling blood cancer in a Memphis hospital. He's African-American, which as you blood cancer experts know means he has a lower chance of survival.

Saturday night, a friend of a friend told me about a relative who has myeloma. In church on Sunday, Dori and I saw four-year-old Charlotte, who is battling ALL and is in the middle of her chemo regimen, take communion. We see their family, who we've gotten to know a little, experiencing some of the same crud we continue to face.

We don't have a list of everyone who is battling blood cancer. If I knew last year the number would be so extensive, I would have started a list. Sometimes when I'm tired at night, I just pray "for all the people who are battling blood cancer" and their caregivers, families and hospital staff, rather than go through the list. I can't keep track of it all; subconsciously, I think it's almost better that I don't but sometimes I feel selfish that I'm not being more attentive.

Kathryn asked me today if someone is going to find a cure for cancer. I told her I believe someone or some group of people will. I told her that's a big reason I run, to which she added, "And for Mommy." Nothing gets by K-girl, as our friend John calls her.

Yesterday was a cross-training family day. Sister Anne joined Dori, the kids and me for a Radnor Lake hike. Will dragged in the heat, so he and I cut it short to three miles, while the girls went four. Today, I ran 5.5 miles in the late morning heat (90 degrees and 70 degree dewpoint) at hilly Percy Warner Park. The run was difficult. After scaling Three Mile Hill, I stopped for a spell before getting back on it. My biggest problem was the skillet full of hash browns and veggie sausages I ate for breakfast. Bad running food.

If I sound disgruntled, I am. I don't feel this way often, but I do when one of several of my triggers gets pulled. Sometimes, when this crap gets to you, you bemoan the lack of control. You want to wave a wand and see all the affected people you know be healed instantly. Little else you think about seems to mean much when you feel this way. Most of the time, this feeling nests for a day, maybe two, then it's gone. I'm pretty sure fellow caregivers and blood cancer patients and survivors can relate.

Dori is having a better day. Today, she shared what Dr. Jagasia told her last week - that 14 of 15 blood cancer patients who received the same intense chemo and radiation regimen in 2006 as she did are still alive. Dori's "one-year biopsy" is scheduled one month early on September 9, so we'll see where we are soon.