Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Bad Guy & How I Learned to Love Running

I've been thinking about my "bad guy" and wanting to write about "him" for a while now. And then GunDiva's recent blog entry asking for running tips got me thinking about how I came into running.

The two are very closely related - and it's a long story. So here we go.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned previously that I've never really liked running, and that I used to say the only need for me to run would be if someone/something was chasing me.

So how did I learn to love running? Stress. Unbelievable body-numbing-weight-of-the-universe-on-your-shoulders-can't-carry-on-any-longer STRESS.

My Bad Guy is a Brain Tumor

2010 was a seriously screwed up year.
In late January of that year, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 34. He was perfectly healthy (other than a few extra pounds) up until the day that he was on location in another state, giving a sales presentation to some potential clients, when he dropped and had a grand mal seizure. He had another one in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Even worse, his emergency contact info with his employer was out of date, so it took them several hours to find the right number to call me on.

By the time someone finally got a hold of me, my husband was coming out of a cat scan, and the doctor is telling me (over the phone - remember I'm over 600 miles away) that there's something strange on his CT scan, and they're going to do an MRI of his head.

The next phone conversation I had was with a neurologist that told me there was a mass in his brain.
I spoke to my husband briefly, but he was really out of it from the seizures, and wasn't making much sense (nor does he remember the conversation). I was terrified, and thinking the worst.

Somehow I managed to get a flight to the city he was in, find someone to take care of my daughter and fur-kids for a few days, pack a bag and go. My father in law drove and met me there - we couldn't put hubby on a plane because of the seizures. Hubby was "stable" but they advised immediate surgery to remove the "mass." (They absolutely refused to call it a tumor.)  NO WAY could I handle him having surgery - brain surgery - 600+ miles from home. Against their advice, we brought him home and began the search for a neuro-surgeon in the city.

We found a neuro-surgeon that we clicked with, and surgery was done in early February.
My husband is a non-emotional kind of guy, but that morning, he was SO nervous, and admitted that he was convinced he wasn't coming out of surgery alive. They wheeled him away to prep him and I began the terrifying wait. What was just a few hours felt like a lifetime, but when the surgeon came in and said the surgery was successful, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Hubby was only in the hospital for a few days after that, and then was released to come home and continue his recovery. We had quite a few bumps in the road over the next few months - everything from severe allergic reactions to medications, being taken off of steroids too early and brain swelling, to shitty second opinions - before we found a neuro-oncologist that didn't want to immediately sign a death warrant.

In May of 2010, hubby started a year long course of chemotherapy. Pill form, with 7 days on, then 21 days off. No IV's or sitting in a chemo center for hours on end, but all the lovely side effects that went with it. He found that working out helped rid him of the excess chemo chemicals and helped him feel better faster. In August or September, he started up martial arts again, and he was doing pretty well with his treatments.

Then in October, he tore his ACL in his right knee.

Several years earlier, he tore the ACL in his left knee, but never did anything about it. So now he has two busted up knees, and HAS to get them taken care of. Another surgery.
He managed to talk his doctor into doing a bi-lateral ACL re-construction - that's right, both knees at the same time WHILE he was on chemo. That surgery was also a success. Lots of physical therapy to get him functional again, but in May of 2011, he did something amazing.

He ran in the inaugural North Texas Head For the Cure 5K.
After a year of chemo, and just five months after his knee surgeries. He didn't come in first, or even in the top 10, but he did place in the top 50 in his age group (there were over 2400 registered runners for this race), and most of those runners were not cancer patients. I was totally and completely inspired.

Prior to that, I was so incredibly stressed out I had trouble functioning on most days. I'm a worrier by nature, and this whole situation had me what-iffing to an extreme. I was spending all my time worrying, and shuttling him back and forth to doctor's appointments, and trying to keep up with work, a teenage daughter, and sanity - some might say I've lost that last one.

One day I thought to myself, "I need a release. I need to do something for ME." I initially thought of kickboxing. Surely beating the crap out of a heavy bag would do it, right? Problem was, the only thing nearby was cardio-kickboxing, which just isn't the same. So I put on my tennis shoes and went for a walk, which left me time to think - which was BAD at this point. I walked faster and faster and suddenly I was running. And I kept running until I was ready to fall down.

When I stopped, I felt lighter, somehow. Oh, I hurt, but the endorphins I felt made up for it.
I wasn't running on a regular basis, and had no goals in mind. I was only running when the stress built up and was too much to handle.

A few months ago, he started talking about this year's race. I decided that this year, I was running it with him. I found a training program, and got started. I've slacked here and there, and I'm not sure I will finish my training before the race. But I don't care. I will run what I can, and walk the rest. But I will be there as a participant instead of a bystander.

My bad guy is a brain tumor. He threatens to crush my world on a daily basis.
And some day he will win.


  1. I now understand your comment on my blog. And I'll forgive you for the zen-like crap :)

    I am not dealing with what you and your family has had to deal with, but I do understand that kind of soul-crushing stress and the release that exercise can bring.

    Just wish I could find that zen-like state - it would make this running business so much easier.

    You're pretty amazing, 2A Mama :)

    1. I don't think I'm all that amazing, but I do think I'm a lot stronger than I acknowledge or give myself credit for. ;) Ya just do what you have to do to keep on truckin' - because the alternative is no good.

      For me, it's turned into kind of an obsession. I want to do it just to prove that I can.

      I hope you can find your zen-like state, too.

  2. Wow. What an inspiring story. Stick with it!! Life is too precious to sit on the sidelines.