Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 02 Jan 2009 16:27:52 -0500

Two-Month "Marathon"


[Photo: Christmas with two-year-old grandson Noah and my wife Barbara. My medical marathon was into its homestretch that day.]

My latest and longest marathon is done. This was a medical marathon of radiation treatments that began just before Halloween and ended today, the second day of the new year.

Either I had prostate cancer or have it. Which tense it is, past or present, won't be known until my next check-up.

All we (and I say "we" because any cancer involves more than the individual) know now is that the odds are favorable. My radiologist says, "Nationally the success rate with this type of treatment is close to 90 percent. My numbers are even higher."

While weighing the treatment options, I talked with Elaine Reese. Her husband Paul had chosen radiation.

"It went well for him," said Elaine. "He never missed a run during those daily sessions." Paul lived, and ran, another 17 years. He died, at 87, of something else.

This convinced me to take the radiation route, which has improved vastly since Paul's diagnosis in 1988. Running each of the 45 treatment days was one of several goals (or at least hopes).

The others were: no medical appointment unkept, no coaching session unattended, no writing deadline unmet, no diary page unfilled. I checked off every goal.

This wasn't heroic, or foolish. If pushing on had been a struggle, I would have cut back immediately.

Life went on as before because it could. The radiation was non-invasive to both body and normal routines.

Paul Reese ran across the United States two years after his successful treatment. He wrote in his book about the journey, Ten Million Steps, that its purpose "wasn't to say, 'Look at me, Mr. Genes, Mr. Macho. I didn't want to come off like, 'Boy, I had cancer and I'm a tiger now.'

"I was just lucky that my cancer was detected early. It hadn't metastasized. The early detection and my recovery are a tribute to modern medicine, not running."

On one run I plugged an iPod into my ears for the first time in almost a year. A song that popped up randomly sent tears down my cheeks.

It was "I Run for Life" by Melissa Etheridge, herself a veteran of breast cancer. Change a few words and the lyrics work just as well for the brother disease, prostate cancer.

Though the pain is miles and miles behind me
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask me why I am still running
I'll tell you it makes me complete

I run for hope, I run to feel
I run for the truth, for all that is real
I run for my sisters, my children, my wife
I run for you and me my friend, I run for life

And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember him, remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers, running for more

I run for hope, I run to feel
I run for the truth, for all that is real
I run for my sisters, my children, my grandson, my wife
For you and me my friend, I run for life
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