Sunday, June 1, 2008


Below is an awesome article written for a cancer support group newsletter by a cancer survivor...who just so happens to be my dad.

On May 15, I will be celebrating 10 years of life since my total laryngectomy in 1998. Just last week, on May 6, I celebrated an even more remarkable milestone .. 9 years since my right lung was removed, in a desperate effort to stop the 'terminal' spread of cancer. There has been much to be thankful for since then, but for now, I would like to share one story in particular.

Immediately following my pneumonectomy, I underwent 12 weeks of doctor-ordered pulmonary rehab at the local hospital. These sessions helped me so much that I took advantage of a voluntary, continuing program that meets 2 times per week. I've found this program (mostly aerobic exercise with weight training) to be an absolute godsend and, over time, have managed to increase my treadmill exercise to one full hour at 3.5 mph, at maximum (15%) incline.

Our daughter (who was just graduating high school ten years ago) is an RN living in Indianapolis, and for my 58th birthday last August, she signed both of us up for the Indy 500 Mini-Marathon, scheduled for May 3, 2008. As I soon learned, the 'Mini' is the largest half-marathon in the United States and is, overall, the eighth largest running event in America. I was comfortable walking 3.5 miles, but 13.1 miles? And, could I function in the sold-out, full capacity, field of 35,000 runners and walkers? This was to be Sue's third year in a row of walking in the event, but the previous two years had been with friends her own age, all of whom had two lungs and strong voices that could be heard in a crowd of 35,000 other voices. I warned Sue that I might not be able to do this, but she seemed to have more confidence in me than I did, and assured me that there were lots of emergency vehicles on stand-by, just in case.

It was not without apprehension (and moments of stark fear) that Sue and I lined up near the rear of the pack, in the chilly, pre-dawn gloom of 'race day'. Participants were staged into 26 different 'corrals', A through Z, and aligned across all 4 lanes of blocked-off Washington street, in the heart of downtown. Luckily for me, we were in corral Z, so I could see only the backs of a few hundred people in front of us, and another few hundred smiling (and noisy) faces behind us. It was not until later, when the local TV station posted photos, that I could see the starting line, and the sea of humanity that was 35,000 strong. As one who avoids crowds, I was happy that I didn't see this photo before the race!

From the starting gun at 7:30 AM, it took us just over a half hour to inch our way to the starting line, which meant that the top runners were already half finished before we even started! An electronic chip on our shoe lace triggered our starting time, and incredibly, the crowd spread out quickly, and we were able to walk at a fast (but comfortable) pace, as we bobbed and weaved past slower walkers (yes, there were slower walkers, lots of them!). We hadn't traveled a quarter mile when an unexpected cough caught me off-guard, and made a mess of the new filter in my hands free valve. Ordinarily, I am a very discreet 'cougher' and always use the privacy of a restroom or my own office at work, so this early set-back had me especially worried. Armed with two pocketfuls of Kleenex, it didn't take me long to realize that even in this crowd, people had better things to do than stare at me, and besides, I'll never see these people again! Our pace slowed only slightly as Sue noticed my difficulty, and allowed me to nonchalantly make the needed repair without breaking stride. It took a couple attempts, but I finally had the filter clean enough to resume normal breathing, and away we went, careful not to make that same mistake again.

The gloom of the early morning gave way to a beautiful blue sky, white billowy clouds, and the most pleasant breeze anyone could have hoped for. The route included a lap around the 2 1/2 mile oval that is the Speedway, residential areas and, eventually, returning in the direction of the impressive skyline of Indianapolis. High school bands, rock bands, country-western bands, and even square dancers and cloggers lined the route, such that we were not out of earshot of one before approaching another. Even in the neighborhoods, folks were sitting on their front porches, cheering and waving, and wishing us all well. It was an atmosphere that was so unexpected, that it is almost indescribable. To be among that many people of all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life, and each one smiling, laughing, and offering encouragement, was an experience I'll never forget.

Three hours, 14 minutes, and 14 seconds after crossing the starting line, Sue and I finished, hand-in-hand, tired but not exhausted, and with a feeling of accomplishment I had not felt in a long, long, time.

Officially, 30,082 people actually finished the 13.1 miles. Sue and I finished 25,032 and 25,034, respectively, and averaged just over 4 mph. The stats were further broken down by gender and age, and I finished 779 out of 932 males in the 55-59 age group. Those statistics probably aren't too impressive to most people, but for a guy who wasn't expected to walk out of the hospital 9 years ago, I am totally elated.

The 'Mini' has had a surprising and almost profound effect on me, due in large part to my initial worry and apprehension, but then followed so closely by a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration. It has also demonstrated to me, in a very real way, the value of regular exercise, and of trying something that you have been afraid to try. Add to all of this the beautiful weather, the friendly crowd, and the company of one of the people I love most in this world, and it could not have been a more perfect day.

Thanks for reading to the end, and may God bless all of you, as He has blessed me!

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Debbie said...

Awww! Great story, great picture! Very inspirational!

Staci said...

what a trooper!!! This is amazing and a true story of Gods grace mercy and protection of His children, we have a friend,whose wife is a fellow blogger, but someone i have known for years, whos father was diagnosed with colon cancer, God has done some AMAZING things in his life, and it has changed him significantly....Stacy writes about it in her blog.... again wonderful story!!