Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Lot on My Mind

I don't like when Dori and the kids leave town. They've been in Ohio visiting Dori's Mom, Dori's sister Kathy and husband Nathan, and their two great kids. I know they're having fun. Down here in Tennessee, I'm lonely.

I like being with my dog and knowing where the remote control is, but other than that, living solo doesn't have many benefits. The house is dead quiet. Kathryn isn't playing the piano. Dori isn't cooking or getting something in order. Will isn't shooting baskets outside. I miss them. It sucks.

Thankfully, I have family closeby. My step-Dad, Dan, helped me clear dead trees and limbs for 90 minutes yesterday morning. My sister, Anne, and I hiked five miles at Radnor Lake yesterday afternoon, and I joined her and husband Stephen for dinner last night. Dinner was spectacular ... grilled chicken, a parmesan polenta, baked tomatoes and zucchini in bread crumbs, EVOO and parmesan, and grilled Tuscan bread. The accompanying wine, a 2005 Gabbiano Chianti Classico, was the prefect complement. I will tell you something Anne doesn't know yet ... she will be cooking the exact same meal before my next race. Here's why.

That meal was great fuel. I ran eight fast, very easy miles this morning at Percy Warner Park in perfect conditions. I started on the 5.8-mile loop. The hills looked flat today, and I took them with ease. I felt so good at the end I had to keep going, so I added another 2.2 and ran it at an 8:00/mile pace. I could have run faster and longer, but I decided not to push it. It's been awhile since I ran a middle distance.

On the run, I thought about Ronni Gordon, who announced on her blog she has relapsed. I told Dori about this before she left for Ohio, and she just cried. I was angry and still am. Real angry. I think regularly about the possibility Dori could relapse. It doesn't dominate my thoughts, but it's always there. It's not negative thinking; it's just something I continually process. Usually, I finish with positive thoughts, like "Jim, you need to keep living in the moment. Live now. Cherish every day, every moment. Now go do it." When I read Ronni's entry, it just slapped me. How do you process that? It's not easy, but you just do ... eventually.

Today's run helped me with my loneliness and my anger about Ronni's relapse. At the park entrance, I saw my friend, Chuck Hargrove, who had just finished the 11.2 loop with some friends. Chuck, always nice and complimentary, asked me when I'll be running my first full marathon. This summer somewhere up north, I said. For now, I'm looking forward to more good weather and more good runs like today, as well as my family back in our house safe and sound.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Magic

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's a wonderful day to celebrate. I do love Christmas. Not as much as I love Thanksgiving, but I enjoy today because Dori and the kids love it and because today is the day we receive the greatest gift of love.

Soon, my family will awake to presents under the tree and Dori's famous monkey bread for breakfast. Later, we'll enjoy beef stew, roasted brussel sprouts, yeast rolls and homemade fudge pie.

Last night in a packed church, we saw unfamiliar faces. Before Mass, Kathryn told me about certain people she sees in church only on Christmas and Easter. She's intrigued by the subject, like her Dad.

I'm happy people make it to celebrate Christmas and reflect, but I'm not sure many were doing much reflecting, at least around us. Before the service, the children's choir sang lovely songs and a violinist performed Silent Night. Rather than listen, most people around us talked. Most is not an understatement. During Mass, things didn't change much ... some people continued their irreverance. Each week, some Catholics bolt after communion to beat the traffic or rush to some event, I guess. Last night was no different. Dori and the kids noticed all of this, too, which we discussed on the way home.

I wonder about the magic of Christmas. Is it gone in America? Does warming a spot in the pew for 70 minutes constitute adequate homage to God? What is adequate? Some of you reading this are probably thinking, "Gosh, Jim, they made it to church on Christmas. Cut them some slack." Absolutely, yes, I am not anyone's judge. I'm just curious. Does mere attendance make whole the genuine appreciation we have for the gift of Christmas, or should we be bringing more? Is secularism the new religion, or am I being a Scrooge on Christmas morn?

I don't have answers here, just questions. But I can't be the only one ruminating like this today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bring It, Chuck

Our Tennessee weather has been predictably unpredictable. The other day, it was 73 degrees. A few days later, it was 9 degrees. Today, it's in the low 60s and rainy. We've had a wet December. Perhaps because of the wild swings, I've been battling the crud of late.

I've had a few windows where I felt ok. I ran three and four miles this weekend with Pepper, felt rotten on Monday and then ran five miles this afternoon after the downpour stopped. My fitness is average, though I've slipped since the Boulevard Bolt on Thanksgiving.

I haven't been as motivated to run lately, choosing rather to enjoy the break since the Nike in October. Today, in my inbox was motivation to get back at it. Chuck Hendry, Dori's pal on 11 North, sent the following CaringBridge update today:

I am feeling much better since getting off of the medications last month. After a year and a half of steroids and immune suppression drugs I finally for the first time since getting sick feel NORMAL. ...

I have even gone back to the gym and started to work out again. I have committed to running the Music City Half Marathon in April so I am in training. I hope to be participating in this event with Team In Training which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society so I will be asking for donations as we get closer to the event. I will have a Team that I will have to raise ex amount of pledges for that will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. More later!

We can't wait, Chuck ... for the race and to write you a check.

Christmas at Nana's

Photos often say it all. As much as I love the photos of our children, it's the first that has the most meaning to me this Christmas. Dori reminded me last night she was in the clinic last Christmas Eve getting her blood drawn. This morning, she is sleeping peacefully in her own bed. Photos are compliments of my brother-in-law, Stephen.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


As we prepare for Christmas, real battles against blood cancers continue.

This week, I have followed the ups and downs of Ann Gregory's battle. Her week ends on a high note after yet another scare. Sigourney Cheek sent an email update about the return of a lump in her neck (from Richter's Syndrome) and the dumbfoundingly subpar care from a doctor at Sloane Kettering in NYC and her choice to be treated exclusively at Vanderbilt. Dori updated me yesterday about courageous Christian, the young man in Tennessee whose blood cancer is rare and so aggressive that it could come back in a week. Ronni's blood counts are low and she's understandably anxious and frustrated.

I've debated recently whether to shut down this blog. More of my posts now are about everyday life instead of leukemia or training for a race to help fund research. But I still think about cancer every day, or someone affected by it. I'm in a different place with this blog for sure. Dori continues to deal with the after-effects of her battle. You don't leave battles without scars, emotional and physical. I don't know one person who has survived cancer that doesn't have marks.

I've thought about starting another blog that covers all things that matter to me that aren't related to cancer, just like PJ did. But I don't have the time for another endeavor right now, at least without impacting another facet of my life. I recognize my scar is the turmoil that has been inflicted on my family and others I love or deeply respect, even while my anxiety for my family is much lower than a year ago.

Still, Run for Dori has a place in my life for influencing and connecting people and for healthy reflection - my own and others'. The show must go on.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the Road Again

I'll be home for Christmas. But today is one more day on the road.

Praise Baby Jesus, I did run on a nice treadmill in a hotel this morning. Four smooth miles. Watching CNN Headline News isn't the same as watching the ducks play on Radnor Lake, but I'll take the four miler.

Dori, as you may know, wants to go back to work. An old friend (the Ghost of Banking Past) called to inquire if she's interested in a position for which she's well suited. Wouldn't that be a nice stocking stuffer?

Dori seems to be on the back end of a tough bug, and her strength is returning. Way to go, Hans.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deacon Faulkner's Homily

Here's yesterday's homily from Deacon Mark Faulkner, a dear friend of ours. I love that Mark just gets to the point and is glass half full, in spirit and in practice.

So I was contemplating the readings for this Sunday and I couldn’t help but think that some people might feel a bit of a disconnect. Listen to these ... From the first reading: Glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, release to prisoners, a year of favor, I rejoice heartily. From the psalm: My spirit rejoices, call me blessed, great things for me, filled the hungry, my soul rejoices. And from the second reading: Rejoice always, give thanks, don’t quench the spirit, be preserved.

And then conversely these, just a random grab of headlines from this past week: Automakers working to reduce their ranks, Job-seekers get low-ball offers, November home sales tank, Major hotels close doors, Taxes fall short, and from Father Joe Pat Breen “Pastors see upswing in anxiety.”

Glad tidings vs. bad tidings. Liberty to captives? Liberty from debt would be nice. Release to prisoners? From prisons of fear and anxiety? A year of favor? Versus a year of recession! Rejoice heartily? Blessed? Great things? Be preserved? (I’d like my 401-k to be preserved!)

The second reading speaks of “the God of peace.” And so I ask, do you feel at peace? I hope so, but I hear the angst of the reality of those headlines in the voices and words of many people I talk to. And do you feel a sense of rejoicing? It may just be me but I sense a slightly more muted tone this Christmas.

We are in the midst of preparing to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world, but are we welcoming Him into OUR world? Our personal world. Because if we do that, then we CAN, despite anything, we can be at peace. We can feel a sense of joy and rejoicing.

I always marveled at the stories of how Maximilian Kolbe smiled and stayed positive even as he was tortured and starved to death in a Nazi concentration camp. Even as he suffered and died, he was at total peace, leading other prisoners in song and prayer. He had a deep peace that caused him to be happy, no matter how terrible the circumstances.

I want that peace. I love that peace. I want you to have it, too. And guess what, it’s really pretty easy to get.

But it starts with, and has to have, silence. If we want to truly be at peace, we must immerse ourselves in rich silence at least 10 minutes everyday (or more if you are able) ... in the quiet of the deep of the night when laying awake ... or in the early morning hours before everyone else is up…with the door shut and the phone turned off in the afternoon. Seek and capture silence.

And then, in that silence, clear your mind, let everything go, deflect distracting thoughts. Use deep breathing, focus on yourself deeply breathing in life and exhaling with deep peace. And maybe, try using the Divine Mercy mantra ... simply “Jesus, I trust in you” ... Jesus, I trust in you ... Jesus, I trust in you.

And then slowly start to share the things that you care about, that you are concerned about, with Him. Talk silently with Him. Be candid. Tell the Prince of Peace what troubles you ... what you are grateful for ... and then listen in silence. He wants to enter your world.

If you do that, everyday ... you WILL rejoice at the peace He brings.

No matter what.


Yesterday's second reading at Mass was timely. With all the bad news in the world and the challenges some around me are facing, the scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24) resonated.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

Our deacon's homily, which I'll post if he shares with me, was powerful. He translated modern day life and news headlines to the staying power of all three readings.

Mighty Pepper and I ran a good three miler this morning. I was sore from Sunday's practice (I ran most of the drills with the kids), so it was slow. Thankfully, Pepper cooperated by taking it easy on the big fella. It was windy and almost 60 at 5:30 a.m., which means it will be 35 degrees in 12 hours. Winter weather in the south ...

We moved an old piano from a friend into our house yesterday. Our daughter loves playing and is gifted. Her play of Christmas songs on the electric piano has warmed the house this month. Now she gets to tickle the ivory, not plastic, with her delicate fingers. Kinda reminds me of the scripture above.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mustering Some Mustard

Dori has had a fever the last two days, not like Peggy Lee's. The good news: Hans and his stellar immune system seem to be in complete control. Dori was down for about a day with a 102 temperature and other symptoms, but seems to be getting back to normal.

Candid alert ... This week was a royal pain in the donkey's behind. Work went well, but seems like everyone I know is facing a significant challenge. Seems like, because not everyone is. Sometimes I feel like crawling in someone's skin and taking on the issue at hand. Before taking that thought seriously, I quickly realize I better get back to my own issues and just play cheerleader or tough love dad, depending on the situation.

One of this week's downers was that I didn't run once until today. I did spend an aforementioned 30 minutes on the hotel bike, but Friday morning's run was iced out. In between Will's and Kathryn's basketball games today, I decided to run seven miles, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, I started out way too fast, running the first 3.5 in 31 minutes. Normally, that pace is fine, but my mileage has been slipping of late and I've been Happy Fun Boy at too many meals the last week. I made six, walked a spell, and finished unimpressively.

Will's team's game this morning was exciting. We lost by three, but the kids played so much better this week than last, when we lost by 19. Last week, the kids rambo'd and failed to find their sets. This week, they played more cohesively and great on defense. We have a ways to go on offense, but I'm happy as their coach with the improvement. Kathryn's team also lost by three, but she and her buddies hustled. She was sassy in the car afterwards, talking about all the no-call fouls the other team committed. Yes, the refs weren't good, but your team lost fair and square, I told her.

So why's the mustard up top? I've already mentioned why, actually. I'm praying some of my peeps sink into some vinegar and address their challenges. I also like strong mustard and it's my blog! Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

News Worth Sharing

I've received two great e-mails today, one from leukemia survivor Lea Morrison, our favorite cancer tiger on the West Coast, and another from the folks at the Kanzius Foundation.

Lea is doing well and her donor has agreed to meet soon. She's one year post transplant and emerging into new territory. Way to go, Lea!

The Kanzius e-mail below and link to the news speaks for itself. I'm eager for even more good news, aren't you? Check out the two videos.

In the next few days and weeks we will be posting announcements and research publications that will share our excitement with all of you, our loyal friends and contributors.

We have two new videos posted today that give John's personal update, and in the near future there will be much more fantastic news. Check the website often.

And remember, money buys time. Consider an end-of- year, or holiday memorial gift now. Your gift today can change the world tomorrow. Spread the Wave!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hotel Fitness

I've been on the road workin' for a livin'. One thing that seems to be a recurring theme in the hotels is the fitness center issue.

Whenever I'm in a part of town where running just doesn't seem smart (traffic or some other reason), I hit the hotel fitness center for a short run. Problem is, the treadmills are often broken or the belt is off, which can cause back issues. So the only option often is a bike. I'm looking forward to a run in my neighborhood tomorrow.

Work is great, but stresses elsewhere are on my mind constantly. Yes, I recall being in a different place last year with Dori's illness. I haven't forgotten, trust me. I'm dealing these days with issues that are mostly out of my control. It's amazing how other people's problems or behavior can dominate your life. Hopefully, some of these things will reverse soon.

And maybe someone will fix all these broken treadmill belts in the hotels. Lord knows there are folks out there who could use the business.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

7 at 7

It was cold at 7 this morning. 25 degrees, but no wind. I left the house in four layers, knowing I wouldn't be peeling any today. I was excited about my third run this week, expecting it to be every bit as enjoyable as my four-miler with Pepper a few nights ago.

At mile one, I saw a gaggle of runners and walkers, recognizing some fellow Team in Training mates. Around mile two, I realized I needed a restroom. Fellow runners, you know the feeling. I knew there was a mini-mart at 3.5, for which I was very thankful when I arrived.

Business taken care of, I returned to the road. I named the first part of the run, Revenge of the Frozen Pizza, and got back into a running rhythm. At mile six, I saw the TNT-ers socializing and decided to stop and say hello. I saw Mark, Stephne, Sammie, Joelle and Melissa. It was good to catch up.

I finished the seven-mile run feeling good about it. I hadn't run an intermediate distance over six miles since before the Nike.

My sister's art showing Thursday evening went extremely well, despite the tough economy. Maybe 200-plus people showed, and Anne's paintings looked spectacular as always. A good bit of the proceeds will be going to the Hematology Helping Hands Clinic at VUMC. Dr. Jagasia, Dori's outpatient doctor, stopped by and told me about a blood cancer patient who has been through 18 tough months with another tough year ahead. The man just had to sell his house to cover his debts.

Dori and our family went through much last year, but we have insurance so the blow has been cushioned. Our healthcare system is both wonderful (great care, breakthroughs every day) and demeaning (pre-existing conditions). We're responsible as Americans for a good deal of the problem because many live unhealthily. That won't change until more people learn personal responsibility or get active.

That said, I don't know anyone that doesn't think now is the time for some sensible healthcare reform.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


For the first time since spring 2007, all of Dori's blood counts are normal. Dori called me this morning from VUMC with the news that her "nemesis," platelets, are 150. WBC hit 7.2, while RBC hit 39, I believe. She weighs 125, and I couldn't be happier to announce my girl's weight in the blogosphere, though I might get a cussin' later. She was tiny and frail not long ago.

I'm not surprised about the platelets. Most of Dori's bruises are gone or fading. She still has a semi-whopper from the infamous shower fall more than a year ago. I'll never forget Nurse Blanche telling me as I arrived at VUMC that morning, "Now everything is going to be alright, but Dori fell in the shower this morning."

Lemme go Paul Harvey on everyone now and tell you the rest of the story. On that morning at 6 a.m., an exhausted, weakened Dori passed out and slammed to the floor of her shower, remained unconscious for an unknown period of time, woke up disoriented, and then crawled back into bed and decided not to tell anyone. Her entire right side was bruised and she had other bruises elsewhere. I was so alarmed I rounded up a group of friends and family to help post a 24/7 watch on Dori. I'm pretty sure today's good news, delivered by Dori, is part of the beautiful rainbow my Aunt Renee was talking about.

I tell you all of this, good friends, because every milestone is worth sharing. Every moment - even when difficult - is worth appreciating.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Several Run for Dori followers, some of whom are linked on this blog, are exceptional writers. These authors write clearly, confidently and with care.

Most everyone I know, yours truly included, is prone to butchering our language occasionally. Notice I didn't say "to occasionally butcher the language," which is a split infinitive. I could have said, "Most everyone I know butchers our language occasionally," and just have been done with it. That's the hell in which writers with pride (see anal-retentive) live. Applause please for not ending a sentence with a preposition.

Two recurring hatchet jobs I hear often make me wince. The first is most weathermen's misuse of "further." The cold front is not further to our north; it is farther to our north. Farther addresses distance, while further connotes degree. The second is the less-fewer issue. Tonight on the radio, a sports columnist for ESPN who used to write for our local paper said words to the effect, "He's got less options, less recruits and will make less money." The less money thing is spot on, but dude, it's fewer options and fewer recruits. Fewer is for quantity, while less is for quality and that which is unquantifiable. Don't get me started on all the kids who use double negatives. Unfortunately, our schools seem to condone slang and misuse of the language. Did I just say "dude?"

Back to Blood Cancer Land, Dori's visit to the eye doctor today went well. Radiation and chemo can cause long-term challenges, like osteoporosis and glaucoma. Dori's eyes weathered the storm well. She was jazzed when she called me today. I'm happy for her.

Dori has another doctor's visit tomorrow. I'm about to pray for good news there, right after I read more of the book she picked up for me last night at the library - Educating Peter by Lettie Teague. It's an appealing book to wine enthusiasts and wine novices because it describes wine appreciation and understanding with a depth that appeals to both audiences. Here, here.