Nov 232014
 

Hello everyone! Great news from the running trails… our team is beginning to grow, and we have already put thousands of dollars on the board for for Gilda’s Club Nashville.

Wait a second.

You might not be aware of Gilda’s Club and their mission. Gilda’s Clubs are located in many cities around the country, named after the late and truly great Gilda Radner. Gilda, fighting ovarian cancer, wanted to do something for other people fighting cancer. So, along with her husband Gene Wilder, they decided to launch something great– where everyone would be welcomed warmly and aided in their battle against a wretched disease, which rages on, 25 years after Gilda passed. She died in 1989.

Gilda Radner, one of the original SNL cast members, would be smiling down if she got a glance at the Gilda’s Club in Nashville. The building sits on Division Street right off of Music Row. You may have heard that there’s a hotel going up right beside it (Lord knows we need more hotels, condos, apartments and overrated-overpriced-pretentious restaurants for the many who are moving to ‘It City USA’).

When I fought lymphoma I was actively involved with Gilda’s Club.  However, I didn’t want to be at first. The day I walked in, because a friend talked me into going, it was early on in my battle. I was skinny, weak and didn’t really want to talk with anyone.

I sat on one of their big comfy couches, my ball-cap pushed way down over my eyes, and the Gilda of Nashville, Felice, sat down next to me. I did not want to be there, but she was really nice, in a caring way. She asked about my cancer, what was going on, and how she could help. I told her I was visiting because I promised someone that I would, but that I probably wouldn’t be coming back. Even though I was pretty close to the grave at that point, I was still in that denial stage that hits a big percentage of cancer patients. I didn’t want to say the word. I didn’t want to be around a bunch of other people that were also dealing with cancer. I wanted to be in one place…bed.

I have forgotten so much that transpired during that period. Other memories are etched in stone, like a bunch of selfies stuck in my brain. This recollection happens to be one of those. “You promise me you’ll come to a support group here just once, and if you don’t like it you never have to come again.

When a passionate woman gives me an order I’m not one to fight, so I told Felice I would.

She wrote down the date and time of the meeting, handed it to me, and said she’d be expecting me. I almost backed out. The meeting was on the same day as a chemo treatment and I wanted to rest. But a promise is a promise, so I got myself there. After that, I went every week for the next 2-years at least, continuing until after I was in remission. Not only that, but no matter how sick I was on meeting day; I couldn’t wait to get there. Gilda’s became a ‘safe place.’ You could tell everyone you were sick of the whole stupid ordeal– or felt like absolute dog crap– they’d understand. We told each other our major fears and what we were angriest about. There was never any judgment or lectures, just support.

After I started getting healthy, I started running again. To say that was a long and trying process would be an understatement. I ran my first half marathon in my new life, in 2009. Almost exactly 2 years after going into remission. The battle to run again was not as difficult as fighting lymphoma, but pretty damn hard. I would jog for a couple minutes, my legs would shake…sometimes I’d fall from being dizzy. I’d get up—do it again—then it was 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and finally, a mile.

I think that anyone that wasn’t affected by cancer doesn’t understand and finds it difficult to wrap their mind around this one big fact; the damage from chemo stays with you forever, many symptoms don’t show up until years later. Eventually I did the half marathon and then other races. To date, I have run 6 full-marathons since going into remission. I have also raised a good amount of money, about $100,000. All of it went to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and their fitness program Team in Training. Later on I became a Coach, and became very attached to the program. And no secret here, in some ways, I still am.

When I was with TNT, I’d see Felice from time to time and I’d feel guilty (I grew up Catholic). Once she kiddingly said something like, ‘when are you going to raise a little money for us?’

Last summer I suggested to my running friend and good pal, Jim Brown (who lost his awesome wife Dori to cancer), that we try to start up a little team, train for a marathon, and raise some money for Gilda’s. Jim has already raised thousands for Gilda’s, and for TNT. But he immediately said he was in. From there we contacted other running friends/fundraisers, and started recruiting. My first call was to Ted Sanft because I can’t help start a team without Ted. I’m not very technical. He does all of that for me (including the posting of this blog). I thought that Ted, Jim and I would balance each other well. Jim is Mr. Positive; a great guy, fantastic fundraiser & recruiter, and always even handed yet passionate. Ted does all of those technical things I just mentioned and a lot more. He’s also a great fundraiser and recruiter. My role… is to be a major pain– make people feel guilty if they don’t join the team, fail to show up on Saturdays etc.

But here’s the deal. I brought them both in, we enlisted a bunch of teammates, chose a marathon to run (Louisville), and then I abruptly decided that this was not a good time for me. “I’m out boys.” Yes, I left my buddies holding the bag, after suggesting the whole thing in the first place.

Truth is, I’m not in the music industry anymore, and besides, I have tapped out my friends. I’ve been to the well way too many times. And I’m really in a place where a lot has to be worked out personally. I wasn’t up for raising money for anyone, no matter how great the cause, even Gilda’s.

Then I thought about Felice, promising her that I would raise money for them at some point. A promise is a promise, and even though a lot of people don’t want to hear about it anymore—I’m still a cancer survivor—stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I know that I probably can’t raise as much money as I did in my best seasons with TNT; $25,000 when I ran Dublin, $40,000 (with Ted), the year we were supposed to run New York (Sandy got in the way), plus $17,000 here, $11,000 there. I have bugged a lot of people for donations.

But what the hell.

They can say no—some already have. Other old friends just ignore, maybe even discard my emails. That’s not okay with me either…I take everything personally. On the other hand, many have already come through again. They’ve been there time and time for me. I’m hoping others will too. Like I said, I’m still a cancer survivor, so I’ll keep asking. Truth is, I don’t know how many more marathons I can do—we never know when it’s our last race. Also….Gilda’s is a great cause… and way, way, way too many people are still fighting cancer.

So here we go people.

We‘re already out there on the trails—slogging it out. We ran 8-miles this morning. I use that word ‘run’ in the loosest way. To be honest, it’s kind of ugly—Lord knows I feel chubby…older…fatigued…etc. But life, as in fighting cancer, is about putting one foot in front of the other, for as long as we possibly can.

Also, the great news about this, our little team has already raised over $8,500 for Gilda’s Club Nashville. That’s awesome, and it’s mainly because of Ted and Jim B. I’m doing okay– I climbed over $1,000 this week. Plus…what I am really excited about, we have some very good fundraisers on our team. They are just about to get rolling. I’m really happy that we’ve got Erin Stryker with us…that girl can raise some money, and we have the great Carol Rolfes, my awesome friends Jenaca Smith, Kristen Parker, and many more that I’ll be talking about in future posts. All of these folks are the kind of people that chip and help, even if it’s someone else’s fundraising event, like a concert or auction. They’re really selfless, generous folks; the likeminded type of soul that gravitates to a journey like this. And that’s the best part about showing up early on a Saturday morning to bang out 10 miles or so, even when it’s 20-degrees and snowing.

We’re gonna make some noise with this group. It’s TEAM DORI by the way, named in honor of Dori Brown, Jim’s late wife. She fought this horrible disgusting thing with more dedication, strength, and grace, then anyone I have ever seen. I know Jim and his family miss her terribly. I only knew her a short time. But I do too. In fact the last time she texted me; shortly before she passed—she said, “keep raising money.”  And how do you say no to a tough passionate woman. You can’t.

Now I’ll ask you. Can you give a few bucks?

I know it’s the holidays—but it’s never a good time to ask for money. If you can give $5 or $500, we appreciate it just the same. Just click this link and give what you can to a great cause… and thank you!

Jim

Donate by clicking HERE!

Jan 222013
 

The current Team In Training season has been in progress now for seven weeks, not including recruitment meet-up’s, coaches meetings and other events that help us gear up for the new season.

This year is a little different in that all of our different groups are lopped in together- some are doing the half-marathon for Country Music, others are doing the full-marathon for Country Music—another group is doing the Flying Pig in Cincinnati and another bunch the Rock n’ Roll San Diego—it makes me a bit discombobulated just saying it.

The deal is though, that all of these fine, giving souls are raising money for the cause that I am strongly attached to—the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, where 74-100% of all money raised goes directly to research, to find a cure for blood cancers. As a lymphoma survivor I am extra appreciative.

There are a lot of new people wearing TNT Purple this year—that is beyond awesome (and how over-used is that word ‘awesome anyways!). At any rate I think most of these new people haven’t a clue that I’m a ‘survivor.’ In fact, for a lot of them, I think I’m just this guy who shows up on Saturday morning and tries to get everyone’s attention, while they fidget and try to keep warm, wishing that we coaches would shut the hell up, so they can get the run over with because it’s 7am and freezing cold!

This past Saturday, to be honest I was hurting—I felt weak and tired and being out there was probably the last place that I wanted to be. If this part of my message sounds ‘self-serving,’ that’s because it is.

For cancer survivors, it never ends—no matter how many years that you are outside of actually having cancer—there is always something that you’re dealing with—and I am sure that fellow survivors can relate here—while you don’t want to talk about it anymore, you want people to just understand, that you didn’t have a cold and you’re now over it—it’s a lifetime of complications, doctor and hospital visits, pokes, prodding, never ending prescriptions and side effects—and it can be really fatiguing.

For me– I had stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—it wasn’t a bad bout with the flu or strep throat- it was cancer!
If you have a cancer survivor in your sphere, try to keep that in mind—if they say that they’re tired, they’re probably exhausted. If they admit that they’re not feeling well—they most likely feel a lot worse then they’re putting out there.

So this cancer survivor, me, runs. That’s because I ran a marathon 3 months before I was diagnosed with lymphoma, and while sometimes I truly struggle with God’s plan for what I’m to do…this part I know—I am supposed to keep running, keep recruiting others to run, and keep raising money—until I can’t anymore.

At this point, getting people’s attention to donate seems as difficult as getting the group’s attention on Saturday mornings. They would just like you to stop talking so they can get on with their own deal.

And so that’s why, when so many others have been posting fundraisers on Facebook, Twitter, email blasts, direct mail and I’m proud of all of them—I have been pretty silent.

I tell my team to ask people til your blue in the face and if the people don’t like it… well that’s their problem—yet when it comes to me—I’m just a bit paralyzed so far this season.

But that needs to end. Now.

So, here we go—if I can’t raise one more dollar so be it, but this is my cause—what I’m supposed to be doing—so if I stop now it’s kind of like giving up in the middle of chemo treatments.

And that ain’t happening.

For all of the cancer patients, who are fighting for their lives as we speak-this is for them. And for me. Because I was one of them.

Even if it’s just $1 or $5 I would really appreciate you giving to LLS—there are a lot of causes out there—great causes- but this is mine and I’m asking.

Will you help!

Just visit www.runningtocurecancer.org and give what you can- please.

And though maybe I almost did a few times in the past several months…No Retreat, No Surrender.’

Thank you-
Jim

Nov 282012
 

Monday Morning, October 29th – Hurricane Sandy is expected to wreak havoc down the eastern seaboard, doing major damage, flooding, power outages, in other words, nothing good.

This is not the headline you want to see 7 days before your planned New York City marathon date.  While I was worried about the folks out there, I know how likely it was that the weather and news channels were again hyping up the weather, trying to create their own news.  Nothing is going to happen to delay or impact the marathon right?

Monday Night – It appears the weather hype-sters got this one right, Sandy punched harder than they thought, the folks out there are going to be in for a very rough ride, but this is New York and New Jersey, they will be back in business in a few days right?  Nothing is going to happen to delay or impact the marathon right?

Tuesday Morning, October 30th – The news keeps getting worse, more devastation and destruction, Sandy has brought New York City and New Jersey to their knees, people have died and the clean up is going to take longer than initially expected.  Mayor Bloomberg issues a statement, informing us all that “The New York City Marathon will be run as usual on Sunday!”.  Wow, this is great news, we are doing important things here: Jim, Sammi, and I have already raised a little over $27,000 for cancer research and we are set to fly out on Friday.  Surely the people of New York will understand why the show (or run as it were) must go on.

Tuesday Evening – The News keeps getting worse, Laguardia is closed, and will likely be until Thursday, thousands of people are stranded in New York that want out, and thousands are stranded out of New York that want to get in.  What a mess, by the way, lots of conflicting information but every minute the news gets worse and worse. Nothing is going to happen to delay or impact the marathon right? Running the marathon with all of this devastation around us is okay right?

Wednesday Morning, October 31st – Lots of conflicting information is flying around about the marathon, more news about the devastation in New York and New Jersey.  I am now having second thoughts about running the marathon.  Even if I go out to New York to run AND they hold the marathon, it will be a huge hassle, the entire trip will likely be a logistical nightmare, yet, we are doing important things here, raising money for cancer research, what do I tell the people that have so generously donated (AGAIN)?  How do I broach the subject with Jim and Sammi that I am contemplating bailing on them?  “Forget it”, I think, if the marathon is being held, I am running it, period, end of story.

Wednesday afternoon, Sue from Team In Training sends out an email confirming the race is still on, but if you choose not to go, you could re-position to a different event, including Honolulu in December.  I am a huge history buff, Hawaii would be AWESOME, I would still be running a marathon to “earn” all of those donations, and it would make for an easy decision to cancel New York.  Now to get Sammi and Jim on board with Hawaii….  Well that did not go well, Sammi AND Jim are adamant that they will running New York as long as the marathon was being held, period, end of story.  I completely understood and agreed with their personal decision, the motivation to run it was high, this is important, what is a little chaos on the trip?  We can run this thing and deliver on what we promised, end of story – I AM RUNNING NYC!!!

Wednesday Evening, I watch the news and hear the reports from Staten Island, they are still pulling dead bodies out of houses, just blocks from the starting line of the New York City marathon, I start to feel a little sick.  Yet, they would cancel the marathon if it was going to have an impact on those people, right??

Thursday Morning, November 1st – 24 hours to my flight to New York, I am feeling uneasy about making the trip, I am almost sure it is not the right decision for me personally, but Jim and Sammi are going, TNT Alums Mike (Scheduled to be my roomate) and Carey are going, surely I should go? Right?

Thursday mid-morning – I am watching a Today show clip, since I heard Mary Wittenberg from the New York Road Runners was to be interviewed by Matt Lauer earlier in the day.  The interview is horrifying!  Matt Lauer tells Ms. Wittenberg that EVERYONE he has talked to thinks having the NYC Marathon is a terrible idea, Ms. Wittenbertg’s only defense is blame Mayor Bloomberg over and over again.  She takes no credit or responsibility for the race being schedule as usual and very clearly is highly uncomfortable with the situation.  At this point I am fairly sure I need to cancel the race, I know Jim will not be happy about it, but it feels wrong for me to go, thankfully Jim was very supportive of me making the right decision for me.  I spoke to Mike (again) about potentially moving to the Honolulu marathon, and this time he was supportive of making the move (thank goodness!).  I called Sue at Team In Training and asked to move to the Honolulu marathon.  So say Sue was the epitome of efficiency does not do her enough credit, she was simply great.  She moved me over, helped Mike move over (even though he was just an Alum) and then transferred me over to equally efficient Andrea .  In an amazing hour, we were all set for Hawaii!

Thursday mid-afternoon – Flights seem to be running on time to Laguardia, the marathon is scheduled to go on, I am a complete idiot for making the move, I have a huge watermelon sized rock in my gut.  I feel horrible, I abandoned my teammates, I should be running the marathon, what the hell was I thinking?  (This conversation went on in my head for hours).

Friday Morning, November 2nd – I am ill, I am awake early and am aware of when my flight should have taken off, I am now fairly sure I made the right decision for me, but that does not really help.

Friday Afternoon – My phone rings, it is Mike – “They cancelled it, those idiots cancelled the marathon!!”  I was stunned, I was not sure if I heard him right, “You are kidding me right?  There is no way they cancelled the marathon on Friday!”.  I Googled it, no kidding, they waited until Friday, gave the lamest excuse ever, and screwed over everyone that had already departed for the marathon, I was elated that I had moved to Honolulu, for about 4.3 seconds, then I felt worse than ever, Jim, Carey, Sammi, and most of the TNT Flex team were already there, in fact, they were likely on their way to the inspiration dinner, oh man, does this suck bad.

This week was a complete roller coaster for me, but it was also a weirdly zen like week (For those of you that know me well, zen really does not enter my vocabulary very often without sarcasm).  I did think about myself and what I was doing and how I would be impacted, but I really spent more time thinking about the people of New York and New Jersey, my teammates, our donors, and the real victims in all of this, those people fighting with Cancer for their lives every single day, not just when a hurricane uproots their life.

I am SURE not going to New York was the right decision.  I am SURE going to New York was the right decision as well.  This was a horrible situation for everyone and there were no easy or right answers, only the best choices each individual could muster.

For me, all I can do is move on.  Mike and I will be running the Honolulu marathon next weekend, Jim and Carey will be running the St. Jude Memphis marathon this weekend. We all have committed to running with TNT next season with Jim, Mike and I running the San Diego marathon next June.  Jim and I have added Mike to the team, and we are going to keep plugging away at our $100,000 goal.  Believe me when I say that we will meet our commitment to you donors, we only ask that you keep donating.  This running of marathons is not really about us, it is just a good way for us to focus on raising money to continue to fight against cancer.

Thank you for your continued support!

 

–Ted

 

 

 

Nov 122012
 

On the morning of Sunday, November 4th, the lobby of the Westin Grand Central was buzzing, full of people with their running clothes on—but something was missing. Only a few of the 100 or so runners gathered, were wearing their coveted numbers for the NY Marathon that was scheduled for that morning.

The reason of the cancellation of course was the horrific storm, Hurricane Sandy, which caused so much pain, devastation and too many senseless deaths in the New York, New Jersey areas. Because the NY Marathon is such a major event, it seemed like the cleanup for Sandy had not even started yet, when the media started beating the drum for whether the race would be cancelled and should it be cancelled.

Like every other person training for this race, I had been getting in my miles for months, and like many of the runners, I was not just running the race for the medal—we had been raising money for cancer research for Team In Training and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My little team of 3 raised about $28,000. There was more to this agenda than just running. Team In Training was started 24 years ago at this very NY Marathon- and to date we’ve raised almost $1 billion and helped fund about 37 drugs in the fight against blood cancers. There are many great causes…but this is my cause. And it’s personal. I’m a lymphoma survivor.

Team In Training contacted us early that week and offered a switch. We could transfer our funds to another race—and they were good ones—we could run either Paris or Honolulu. The discussions were on.

I went to bed that night thinking that the race may be cancelled anyways-that it probably should be cancelled. I felt a little selfish even. The next morning however, Mayor Bloomberg appeared on the Today Show. The race would go on—he was emphatic and emotional. It was to be a healing event for the city and its citizens.

The next day I made my decision. As tempting as Paris seemed—I have never been there—it would have to wait. I thought that even if the course was a mess—even if only half the 50,000 registered participants showed up- I needed to go—I had blogged about it, held fundraisers, bugged friends….and trained. I wanted to support New York City—and the people there. But mainly….mainly….I had to run for the people that I raised money for. If they were fighting for their lives against this wretched disease, the least I could do was get myself on a plane and run this race. I had no doubts that this had to be my decision.

When we arrived in the city, LaGuardia Airport seemed eerily quiet. I thought maybe we landed in Binghamton by mistake. When we got to the Expo and picked up our race registrations, the mood actually seemed upbeat-I thought we may actually do this thing—I clutched my race number in my hand all the way back to the hotel—I didn’t even put it in my bag—I wanted to make sure that it was right there in sight.

It was Friday night in New York City—we were going to walk about 7 blocks to the Midtown Hilton—the site of the TNT Inspirational Dinner—we were scheduled to gather in the lobby and meet the rest of our Teammates—many who travelled further than we did, some from as far as Alaska. As soon as I got off the elevator I saw that I had several texts proclaiming, “The race had been cancelled.” I thought it had to be a mistake but the texts flowed in….then phone calls—it seemed like the calls came all night. We had a quick Team meeting and I immediately felt badly for our TNT staff person there, Sue, who had to now put a positive spin on the field trip weekend we were about to have, after the letdown of finding out the race had been called off. Essentially, Sue did an amazing job—we ended up having a really good weekend—I think mainly because she wouldn’t allow any of us to be negative—we had to remember why we were going to do this in the first place and stop brooding!

First of all—none of us disagreed with the cancellation of the race—we disagreed with the timing—thousands of people had flown in—many of them if not most, from other countries! It seemed like a train wreck, a major one.

There was also a good amount of animosity from people in New York towards the marathon. I can understand that too. But I didn’t hear a word from anyone about canceling the NY Giants game in New Jersey that same night—how can that be—all of those thousands of vehicles using all that precious gasoline to get to the stadium? The use of all that electricity, while literally millions were without heat? Where was the outcry? There was also a NY Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and a NY Nets game in Brooklyn that both went on, not to mention Broadway Shows…etc….etc. So, I was a bit baffled about the outrage specifically directed at the race. It seemed to feel like many thought that we were all a bunch of prima-donnas who thought we were entitled to run our little race.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The icing on the cake was the hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts from running friends back in Tennessee….some who suggested “I told You so,” and others who sort of self righteously pounced on the situation with an “it should be cancelled!” This surprised, even saddened me a bit, because many of these folks are our TNT Teammates, who know our intentions.

We ended up going for a long run as a Team that morning that was to be race day—we ran the last 10 miles of the course, and then a loop around Central Park—when we entered the park we joined thousands of runners who seemed quite joyous. Many flew the flags of their respective countries—Italy, France, Norway and many more. I admired their spirit. And I admired the spirit of the many who boarded the Staten Island Ferry and went to the site of where the race would have started—but on this day they carried hammers instead of water bottles—many spent entire hours and hours helping citizens rebuild.

The folks with the NY Marathon are still trying to figure out what they’ll do, if anything for the thousands of runners who spent the $275 or so to register for the race, not to mention the money spent on expensive NY hotel rooms and plane fare and other expenses.

Most of the people I talked to think that they’ll try and come back next year and and make another attempt at this. I don’t know if I will or not—right now I think not but we’ll see-as we all know, a lot can change in a year.

But for now, there are races to run and money to raise. In a couple of weeks I will be doing the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis—mainly as a good faith measure to the many generous people who made donations to my fundraising for NY, but also and honestly, because I have run so many damn miles the last 6-months training for this, that I may as well do a marathon!

After that Ted Sanft, Mike Oland and I will be training for the San Diego Marathon and continuing to raise money for cancer research. We have to—too many people are fighting cancer.

The 2012 New York Marathon has been cancelled. Unfortunately, cancer has not been cancelled. A cure has yet to be found.

So the fight goes on.

Would you please make a donation….just visit our website and find the ‘donation’ button at www.runningtocurecancer.org. Whatever you can spare, even a few dollars would be greatly appreciated.

With sincere thanks-

Jim Asker

Jun 302012
 

I wonder how many times these words were uttered by passers-by this morning—“hey honey look at those idiots out there running in this heat…they must be crazy!”

Well, I’m proud to say, that I was one of those kooks out there running this morning, and there were a lot of us! We ran one of my favorite courses, Grassland, in the Franklin area, so there were lots of cyclists, runners, and big vehicles flying by like they were angry to see runners. It really would be nice for drivers to slow down when they see runners and bikers on the road—God forbid they run 30 seconds late for that biscuit at McDonalds.

Anyways, Ted and I, training for the New York Marathon, joined up with the Team In Training folks this morning. We’re not really part of the Team, but with the Flex program we’re doing we’re invited to join them. Coach Christopher and his Mentors and participants were all really nice and welcoming.

So, being the kind of runner I am, I sometimes have no idea how far I’ll do, until I get out there. I thought it would be either 8 or 10 or 12 miles. If you do 12 at Grassland, the turn-around is at this cute little white church where the nice people leave the doors open so we can use the bathrooms, and maybe say a quick prayer that you can make the 6 miles back to the finish.

I decided to run about 10 and a half miles, and ended up alone by the time I turned around—Alex, one of the mentors, who is a lot younger and faster, waited for me at the water stop, and was kind enough to tow me in the last 3 miles. By the end it was probably 92 degrees and felt like 110.

But guess what. It’s fine. I feel beat up and tired, maybe even a little discouraged that I have some weight to lose– but on a hot, syrupy day, when most people chose to stay inside in their air-conditioning, we were out there getting it done.

As I was running, I was thinking about one of my Wilco teammates, Sarah, whose grandmother is battling cancer, and is back in the hospital. Sarah was one of my favorite teammates. She’s just a tough cookie, and she ran the Country Music Half Marathon, 20-weeks into her pregnancy. She ran for her grandmother and I can still remember the Mission Moment that she gave, when she spoke so fondly of her. So I prayed for them as I ran, and was thankful, that I’m able to be out there, heat and all.

None of us know when it’s our last race. I’m a cancer survivor, and I don’t take it lightly that I am able to run for those who can’t. So yeah, a little heat, bring it. Things can be a lot worse.

And for a lot of people they are worse—so we run for those who can’t.

Ted and Sammi and I are running the New York Marathon and our fundraising goal is $100,000. We’ve raised enough money now where just about everything we raise goes to cancer research. For people like Sarah’s grandma and everyone else fighting right now.

We might not make that $100,000 goal by November 4th, the day of the big NY Marathon—in fact we probably won’t. I intended for this to be a ‘year’ of fundraising, so I hope to hit $100,000 by spring. And honestly, it’s tough out there. I have raised money before, a good amount in fact—so a lot of my friends, who have been so generous previously, have about had it. I understand.

So there will be other sources—the money will come from somewhere. It has to- or Ted and Sammi may never speak to me again for one since this figure was my dumb idea!

But we have to, because too many people are fighting cancer. Too many people have relapsed. We have to find a cure.

I heard the other night, that after the Supreme Court’s decision on health care, that both the Obama and Romney camps raised over a million dollars each—in one night. So, if people can kick in money, so we can hear wall-to-wall attack ads for the next 6 months—we can’t raise $100,00 to cure cancer???!!!!

Sounds crazy right? So yeah, we have to.

If you can’t give, please pass this along to a friend or relative or post the link on your Facebook page, Twitter it, etc, and please help us okay.

Maybe running 10 miles in 100 degrees is worthy of a $25 pledge—if so—please click this link, and know that we appreciate every dollar more then you know.

Thank you!

Jim

May 282012
 

While I feel that my raising money for LLS is important, sometimes I find it difficult to really define the “why” on a deeply personal level when others ask me about it.  I have lost friends and family to cancer and specifically Leukemia, but I really have not been in a situation that I had to live with the long term impacts of blood cancers and the ramifications of its treatment plan.  Devon Cox is one of many friends I have made running with Team In Training. Devon’s story resonated with just about everyone, and during one of our many runs, Devon was good enough to agree to be a guest blogger on our site to tell his daughter’s story.

My daughter, Story, was diagnosed with biphenotypic leukemia in July of 2010. She was four years old at the time. She was treated with two rounds of “high risk protocol” chemo. She was in complete remission after 60 days. However, because of Story’s particular diagnoses, we were advised that she needed a bone marrow transplant to have the best chance of long term remission, and her older sister was a perfect match. There was no guarantee that a transplant would work, and the process could even kill Story. The only thing we knew for sure was if we chose not to go ahead with the transplant and Story relapsed, the chance of successful treatment would be significantly reduced.

My wife, Christy, and I faced a horrible decision. There was no way to win. If we continued with another year and a half of maintenance treatments, there was a good chance Story could relapse. Her disease, a mixture of  T cell ALL and AML, is aggressive. It is also rare and little research exists to use as guidance. Relapse would significantly lower the chances of a successful transplant, or even of achieving remission again. If that happened, how could we live with ourselves?

On the other side was transplant. Story’s sister, Lyric, was a perfect match. The chances of Story’s body accepting Lyric’s donation were good. Would Story be cured if the transplant was successful? NO, but she would have a better chance than without the transplant. Could she relapse anyway? YES, but the chance of relapse would be reduced and we would have a better chance at winning a second fight than without the transplant. To better the odds, though, Story’s life would be altered forever. She would go through more intense chemo, followed by four days of total body irradiation treatments. She would suffer horrible short term side effects. Long term effects are not fully known, but include a higher risk of developing:  all kinds of cancer (including non-related leukemia); eye problems; hormone problems at puberty; abnormal bone growth; greater risk of heart disease; bladder problems; kidney problems; liver problems; brain tumors; possible developmental problems, and probable infertility. How could we live with ourselves after doing this to our daughter?

We chose to better Story’s odds of long term remission and eventually, cure. She received Lyric’s bone marrow on November 8th, 2010. Story has been in remission since that day, however, Story had to spend six weeks in an isolated room in the hospital (including Thanksgiving and her fifth birthday) with Graft vs. Host Disease, a result of her body rejecting the new bone marrow. She had a “pain pump” so she could give herself morphine, and a vacuum to suck the saliva out of her mouth because she could not swallow. She had sores and blisters on the inside of her mouth and esophagus, down to her stomach. It is impossible to describe how it felt to see my daughter suffer in this way, and to know that Christy and I chosen this treatment for her. Did we make the right choice? It is a decision that I question almost everyday. The fact is, we will never know whether or not it was the right choice.

Based on what little research has been done, Story has a 60% – 70% chance of long term remission (5+ years). If it were your son or daughter, would that be good enough? Is it acceptable to you that current treatments for so many blood cancer patients cause horrific side effects? Is it okay to cure one disease, but cause many more?

By supporting LLS, we can help improve treatments and find real cures. We can improve the lives of blood cancer patients by ensuring that long term side effects are minimized. We can give parents better choices for their children. We can make a difference.

A big thanks to Devon for taking the time to share his family’s story, and as you can see, even as blood cancers become more survivable, we need to keep pushing for better and less destructive treatments for anyone with blood cancers (or any cancer for that matter).

On this Memorial Day, please donate to LLS and our team by clicking HERE.

Thank you!

 

May 232012
 

Spring is my favorite season, it always has been. When I was a kid, growing up in snowy and cold Upstate NY, I’d start the countdownevery year in December, right after the shortest day of the year. I was never a fan of winter, and spring was the beginning of baseball season, the home-stretch for school, and longer days. Even in grey Upstate NY, we may see the sun occasionally.

To this day, I still really love spring–just feeling the sun on my face lifts me up. However, since 2005, spring has a lot of emotional feelings that roll in with that big shiny sun.

I was diagnosed with cancer on May 23rd, 2005.

Today is my anniversary, and it’s a challenge to draw a picture for anyone else to see. And I hate feeling self absorbed anyways, so I normally choose not to bother people with it—but this year is different. So here’s a ‘snapshot’ of what would take 10-12 pages to tell the entire ordeal.

The 23rd is also my birthday. Yep, I was diagnosed with stage-4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on my b-day. I am hoping it was God’s way of icing the cake with a nice little cherry that will make for a fine book or movie one day and make me a boatload of money. Or, maybe it was the punch line of the ultimate cruel joke. I prefer the happy version.

At any rate, running is a diversion from just hiding under the bed all-day, as if I could fit anyways. So, I am hoping to go for a nice long run later. I think only runners would think that’s a good way to spend your birthday–to anyone else I would sound like a complete loon. But aside from just being a distraction, and fun, there’s lots of other personal significance to running.

In February of 2005, I ran a full 26.2 mile marathon in New Orleans. My oncologist said that the reason that I was feeling so sick that day was because I most likely had stage 2 cancer at the time. It was brutal and slow–but I finished–not knowing as I crossed the finish line that day, that I’d not run again for the next two and a half years.

During that 2 and a half year period, I remember one day in particular, while lying in bed and watching TV, I flipped to one of the channels carrying ‘live’ coverage of the Country Music Marathon. I turned it off immediately. It was too painful to watch. At the time I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to ever be active again, and honestly, I was envious of everyone there.

That was a moment when I thought that I really had no understanding of healthy people who didn’t like to exercise. What a waste of a gift. And I remember praying that if I lived, that I’d be able to run again.

The road back was not so easy. After going into remission I could only run 1-2 minutes at a time before my legs would give out, then I worked up to 3-5 minutes, then finally a whole mile. That was a big day.

So, today, training for the New York Marathon means a lot–not just for me, but all of those people in bed now who can’t.

That may sound self-serving to some people, but that’s okay. I know what my intentions are and why I do this, and if we based our actions on everyone else’s approval, we’d never get out of bed in the morning.

So the truth is–we run for those who can’t. I understand that well–I have no idea how long I’ll be able to do this. Pre-cancer, I never had physical issues. I had a good run!

But it’s different now.

Chemotherapy beats the living crap out of your joints, and the affects last for the rest of your life. A lot of people don’t get that part. But in the past two years I’ve had knee surgery, a torn hamstring and a torn calf muscle- and yes I know I’m crazy.

The NY Marathon is November 4th and together with my little Team NY, which is 3 people, Ted, Sammi and me, we need to raise $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. 

The money that you give goes to cancer research–and it works. I’m alive because of it- and now we run for those who can’t.

Will you do me a favor–pass this on to whomever you think might relate to this story- and maybe some nice, giving billionaire will put us over the top with one click of the link- that would be the best birthday present ever.

In the meantime, would you think about giving today?

Even if it’s 5 or 10 dollars-it all helps- and we appreciate you more than you know!

So on behalf of Team New York, and Sammi, Ted, and everyone who wears Team in Training Purple, thank you for helping to find the ultimate finish line– a cure.

No Retreat…No Surrender!

Now please click this link and give!

Thank You!!

May 032012
 

This past weekend 30,000 runners converged on Downtown Nashville for the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon.

Out of those 30,000, 24 were my folks, the Williamson County Team In Training Team–the mighty Team Wilco!

We have been training together, since November, and have met as a Team, every Saturday morning for the past 6 months. I must say that in that time span, we managed to develop a bond that I’ve not experienced to this degree previously, not collectively like this.

We were all pretty proud of our group and probably a little territorial. I think I became a ‘den mother’ along the way, and on race day, as I stood in my place on the course, at times I was truly like a worried mom. It was hot as hell and muggy, and you know… those hills! Also, I knew a couple of them had been sick- really sick.

Both Bethany’s and Morgan, and Joe were all battling illness but they gutted it out like the true champs that they are- I love you girls (and guy), for that fighting spirit. You might not have gotten the race-times that you wanted but you finished a hard race, on a tough day, while you were sick! You are true rock stars.

Keep in mind that most of our training was in cool to cold conditions, and of course, come race day, the temperature was turned on big time and it was humid!

But it was a glorious weekend. The Inspirational Dinner was Friday night, and I must say, my Team looked fantastic– the women had flipped a dollar bill in my living room to decide whether it would be “dressy” or more of a “runners” look for the affair-“dressy” won and the girls looked great- the boys did too to be honest. Traffic was horrendous getting to the Doubletree, which is a nightmare to get to on a good day, and my team, runs late when there’s no traffic– but somehow they all made it.

I was asked to be one of the speakers for the dinner, and though I tell people I would just wing it- friends who know me well, know better. I prepared for weeks. The reason I wanted to do well was mainly because I didn’t want to choke in front of my team- most of them had not heard my cancer survivor story, so I wanted to knock it out of the park for them. There was about 500 or so people on hand- TNT runners and guests from all over the U.S.

I think it went fine, except they said I needed to keep my talk to 10 minutes. I just go from notes and never time these things, so I figured I went overtime by a couple of minutes. I got back to my table and asked Ted, one of my 3 awesome Mentors, how long it was- I was sure he’d be timing me, because it’s Ted…of course he would time it- so, he goes, ‘ do you really want to know?’ And I was like, of course- “18 minutes” oops.

Before I got up to speak they announced the top 10 fundraisers– the participants who really shot the lights out. My teammate Sarah Thomas was 2nd in the nation and #1 for Tennessee– she raised $8,000 for the research of blood cancers. Sarah ran for her grandma who is battling cancer- lots of the Team Wilco folks, unfortunately, have a direct connection to the cause.

Over the course of the season I became fond of every member of this Team, and I was Sarah’s number 1 fan– I mean what’s not to love about a woman that’s 20 weeks pregnant, showed up almost every Saturday, and raises all that money–she ran a great race too. She’s amazing.

I’m a fan of everyone on Team Wilco – I’m so happy that they all finished- they all crossed the finish line!

So that’s it for the mighty Team Wilco.

Great job people– Every one of you- so let me thank some of them right now.

Ashley, my awesome mentor who I recruited personally a long time ago- you rock Ash- Glorisa my awesome Mentor, who I recruited last fall- great job Glorisa– and Ted, one of my partners in crime (along with Sammi), for the New York Marathon, who I also recruited, and who I depend on for so many things- tremendous job Theodore.

These Mentors don’t get enough thanks and most Saturdays they’re helping the other runners. They are giving volunteers for TNT and for Team Wilco, I could not have done this without them. I know I was a pain sometimes, but I loved my mentors!

So thank you Mentors- you rock in all ways!

And thank you Team! Amanda, Amber, Angela, Bethany A, Bethany L, Carissa, Christopher, Danielle, David, Devon, Florian, James, Jill, Joe, Lee, Mike, Morgan, Pat, Sarah, Tonda, Valerie, and Veronica.

I mention them all, because they were all part of the very best Team a new Coach could ask for.

I know bands get together for reunion tours- I don’t think a TNT Running Team ever has done a reunion- but if it were ever possible– I would love it for TEAM WILCO to gather once again and take the journey– for they are a very extraordinary, sort of rebellious, a bit rag tag, more often than not tardy, ass kicking, giving, thoughtful, selfless, remarkable, and totally  ‘bad ass’ team of teams!

So long for now Team– I love you and miss you already. Shot block omelets and pancakes with blueberry Goo at my house soon!

And now on to the next journey– for Ted, Sammi and me, it’s time to rock this fundraising into high gear. We will be running the New York Marathon this November, and trying to raise $100,000 for LLS, so we need your help big time!

If it matters, I ran 18 miles chasing my Team around on Saturday– and if that’s not enough, I’m doing a little 26.2 mile practice run at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati this weekend—so I hope that would warrant a $25 donation right!

I mean really…we’re curing cancer here!

So in honor of the great Team Wilco, who just completed a journey with grace…. please click this link!

And thank you!!

Jim

Apr 292012
 

As most of you know, I signed up for Team In Training in 2009, shortly after my Grandmother passed of Acute Leukemia. I really enjoyed being a part of the TEAM as a participant, and I made a few friendships that have endured the test of time. In October 2011, one of those TNT acquired friends, Jim Asker told me he was going to be the Coach of the Williamson County (Wilco) Team (my county), he then asked me to be a mentor. I found out that the 2010-2011 year was not a good one for the Wilco team, and there were plans to NOT have it in 2011-2012. Jim was going to try to put it together at the last minute and he needed help. Frankly, I did not want to do it. It sounded like it would be a lot of work and I was not sure I would enjoy it. 7 months later, I can tell you that it was one of the best things I have ever done.

Let me tell you about my little team:

David – I meet David at the first recruiting meeting we had in Williamson County. David liked the idea of raising money for TNT, but he was pretty sure he could not actually do a half marathon, and he doubted he could raise his minimum commitment. I was not sure we would be able to keep David active on the TEAM at first, but I KNEW he could do it, and after the first of the year, David really got into the groove and become a huge part of the team. Not only showing up to do the work, but coming out and support the entire team at nearly ALL of the fundraising events our teammates had, whether at Chick-fil-a or the Good Cup. Yesterday David completed his first half-marathon and he was above the minimum commitment before his company adds another $200 to his account!

James – (Sorry, I was going to do the names in alphabetical order, but I had to talk about James, before I talked about Florian). James has had the experience that makes everyone nod their head and say, “Yup, that is why we keep asking people to donate to LLS”. You see, 5 years ago, James’ daughter Katie was diagnosed with Leukemia. Katie was placed on a special chemo that quickly wiped the cancer out of her body. For those of you not as familiar, the 5 year mark is huge, since if you make it 5 years without a recurrence, the Leukemia is considered CURED. James fought through plantar faciites and finished the half marathon yesterday! James also had another huge (or maybe just tall) contribution to the team: Florian

Florian – During one of our first Group Training Sessions (GTS), James had an extremely tall young man with him. Florian is an exchange student from Germany, and he is about 6’7″ (hard to miss this guy in a crowd). Florian’s first run was pretty incredible, he shot out ahead of the group, running 8 minute miles and looked like a tall gazelle. Florian made it to several GTS’ with James, then one day, he signed up with Team In Training, you see he also had a connection with cancer, but his did not have the happy outcome of James’. When Florian did his mission moment, I was so inspired, I wrote a full blog post about it. Florian was adopted by the team and looked upon as our younger and taller brother. Sadly, Florian had a mishap with a trampoline, causing him to break his ankle, preventing him from running the half-marathon, but he still came out to the start and finish lines to support the rest of the team!

Joe – When Joe first joined the team, he was not sure he could make it to any of the GTS’s, since he had a previous commitment at church. Fortunately, Joe was able to clear his schedule and start running with us on Saturdays. Joe in famous (infamous?) for almost always asking “Are we there yet?” when we have taken less than 20 strides on whatever training run we are doing. Joe kept form and asked us as we crossed the start line of the half marathon “Are we there yet?”. Despite having been very ill for the 4 days leading up to the half marathon, Joe struggled through and finished the half. I hope to be half of the runner Joe is when I am his age.

Lee – Lee really did not want to do this Team In Training thing, but his wife (Tonda) wanted too. Lee is a full time teacher with an active family life, and Lee is studying to be a lawyer (Yup, a little busy). The first time I ran with Lee for a distance was right before the end of last year, and he was tired. I kept trying to get Lee to talk (it is a good way to judge if you are running too fast), but he was silent coming up a couple of hills, yet he hung with Mike and me. Suddenly after coming up a particularly long hill, Lee started talking and joking with us, and I could tell he had turned the corner as was starting to enjoy running. Lee completed TWO half marathons this year, first by running the Tom King Half, then by completing the Country Music Half with Tonda.

Mike – Mike has been my running buddy for 11 years, he makes me run when I don’t feel like it, and I do the same for him. Mike has been a great teammate for the half marathon, and he has figured out a way to run the New York City full marathon with Jim, Sammi, and me! Mike will even be fundraising, though this time for another charity he feels close to, wounded marines. I know with Mike as my training partner, the NYC Full will be accomplished and we will run it well. My wife commented that when watching the live updates on the half marathon, Mike and I were crossing each checkpoint at the same second! Mike and I finished the half marathon at the same time and I cannot wait to do the same in New York City!

Pat – It took me awhile to get to know Pat, he seemed to be a really nice guy, but usually by the time I got done running, he was long gone! Pat is a speedster and was running 2-4 minutes faster than me on his long runs. I kept track of him, and he was doing great as a fundraiser. In the last few months I was lucky enough to spend some post run time with Pat. He is working full time and studying for his RN degree (final test is 4/30/12!!). Beyond that, he is an 8 minute per mile runner, and he crushed the half marathon, running it sub-2:00 at 1:54!

Sarah – Sarah’s first GTS sort of classified the type of person she was. She showed up, was nice to everybody, then went out there and ran smoking fast. Sarah was a little concerned about her fundraising goal, and I had to talk her into raising it to $2,000. After a mission moment that particularly hit home delivered by Glorisa (one of our mentors), Sarah emailed me and said she was super motivated after the mission moment, and she asked me to proof read a letter she had written to her family and friends. I knew when I read her letter that $2,000 was way too low of a goal. Sarah not only was #2 nationally as a fundraiser, she ran most of the season pregnant and she finished the Country Music Half at 20 weeks pregnant!

Veronica – I still am a bit amazed at Veronica. She had previously run in a Team In Training event in New York, she move here in January and joined our Team in February. That is a very short window to get her training and her fundraising in. Veronica not only hit her minimum early, she proved to be a very good runner and a great teammate. She fit in right away and was certainly and asset to the entire team.

All in all, I find them to be an amazing group and amazing individuals. My only concern about being a mentor or coach in the future is that these folks set such a high bar, I don’t know how I could ever have a better team. It was an truly incredible experience for me and I look forward to continuing the friendships I have established!

Even though I cursed him a bit early in the season, I want to thank Jim Asker for talking me into the mentoring job, it really has been a wonderful experience!