There is an anger and a frustration that is hard to put into words.
The optimist in me of course is thrilled that such treatments are available so that my sister-in-law might beat back the beast and live a longer life.
But that optimism is balanced by a frustration that battling cancer seems to be the story of one sledgehammer after another and another... for all the millions of dollars we're spending on cancer research, the weapons and treatment we have still seem so crude.
Yes, I know intellectually that the treatments have come so far from what they used to be. I know that such research takes time and trials and more time and more trials before the benefits can be widely seen.
But emotionally I want the scanner device out of some sci-fi show that can just scan down the body, find the cancer cells and destroy them.
We're not there yet. Maybe we'll never get there.
And so we fight the battle with the weapons we have, crude as they are.
And my sister-in-law sits there with an IV drip slowly bringing incredibly toxic chemicals into her body...
Meanwhile, another friend around my age from Burlington, VT, fights a liver cancer that is not responding to treatment... and at this point may give him less than a year to live...
Meanwhile, my wife learned through Facebook that a sister of a friend is apparently entering into her final days of life after an aggressive form of breast cancer...
Meanwhile, someone else we know just finished up her four months of chemo in dealing with breast cancer...
Meanwhile... ... meanwhile... ...
Yes, all we can do is keep going on... putting one foot in front of the other and living out each day...
But still, there are days when all you want to do is rage against the scourge that is ravishing so many wonderful people out there.
Cancer - the scourge that keeps on taking.
An audio version of this post is available as an episode in my "The Dan York Report" podcast:
As has been my custom now for the past few years, I like to start my writing off in a new year with a post about a few "words" that I intend to use as guides for the year. They aren't "resolutions" as much as they are areas of my personal life in which I aspire to be active this year. In previous years (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010) I've chosen three words, following a meme started by Chris Brogan many years ago.
This year, I found myself struggling to reduce four words down to three... and finally said "Hey, wait a minute, it's MY blog... if I want to have four words this year, I can! ;-)" And so... here is my list for 2014...
Those following my writing here have known that running became an important part of my life over the last 3.5 years. I even recorded an audio commentary last year (while running) about how important it is to me.
But I suffered a real crisis in confidence - and enjoyment - when I ran an extremely frustrating half-marathon in September. I never wrote a response to my post about preparing to run the half-marathon... rather than "third time is a charm", it was more "three strikes and you're out!"
I'll write some other time about that particular race and the resulting mental fallout, but suffice it to say that I've had a hard time getting back out there. I know intellectually that I just need to get back out there and do it... and in 2014 I intend to once again make running a core part of a healthy lifestyle!
And maybe I'll get to where I do try another half-marathon.... (but probably at a cooler time of year).
UPDATE: - I started off the year on a good note here by running a 5K on New Year's Day on our treadmill that we'd relocated to our basement. It was fine as long as I kept my head straight up so that it stays between the rafters!
You wouldn't know it from any of my online writing or any of my activities on social networks, but religion and spirituality are topics I'm incredibly passionate about and care deeply about. My father is a (now retired) Methodist minister, as was his father before him, and so I grew up deeply steeped in a progressive Christian church.
Yes, I am a "preacher's kid." :-)
When I was in my late teens and into college I had a severe falling out with the Methodist faith of my fathers and spent a significant amount of time searching for a religious community where I could belong. Like anything I do, I plunged in and dived deeply into reading, visiting churches, etc.... but never found anything until a random invitation from a friend some 20+ years ago introduced me to the world of Unitarian Universalism. Many years (and many UU churches) later, I'm president of the board of trustees of our local Keene UU Church and in fact led the worship service there last Sunday giving a sermon/message about the challenges of being open about religion in the age of Facebook.
... but pretty much NONE of them say ANYTHING about religion.
There are a lot of reasons for WHY I have been silent about the religious side of my life in my online activity... and I'll write a post about that at some point (probably soon).
But I've realized that in being silent and hiding this aspect of myself I'm not really letting myself be truly whole.
So I'm going to start... I've been letting pieces of that side of me leak out into Facebook lately. THIS blog post is a huge step for me.
I'm not going to be "in your face" about religion or anything (that's not the UU way! ;-) ). But I'm going to stop hiding that side of me. I will treat it instead just as yet another facet of the complicated person that I am (and that we all are).
We'll see... this will, in all honesty, be a bit challenging for me... but is an area I'd like to grow personally.
In a change from past years, I'm carrying a word over from the previous year. I did a great amount with audio in 2013, but in 2014 I intend to do more. I want to move forward with "FIR On Technology" and have a number of interviews in mind. I want to bring back Blue Box: The VoIP Security Podcast for some interviews... and I'm hoping to do more audio components in my daily work with the Internet Society Deploy360 Programme.
I'm excited... and "stay tuned" has never been more appropriate!
Finally, there is an exquisite irony to me that while my job title at the Internet Society is "Senior Content Strategist", my own personal content online is severely lacking a strategy. I am inconsistently writing across 8 or 9 different places online - and I'm adding more sites like the Monadnock Curling Club... and there are a few other projects in the works.
Yes, this is a bit of a case of the proverbial "cobbler's shoes", but in 2014 I'd like to pull some of this together a bit more and have a bit more discipline about what I'm doing with all my online content. I'm at least aggregating my online content at my danyork.me site, but this year I want to do more with getting more consistent with the creation of content.
That's my list for 2014. What about you?
What are you going to do this year with your one wild and precious life?
An audio version of this post is available on in my "The Dan York Report" podcast:
As 2013 draws to an end, I thought it might be appropriate to reflect quickly upon how I did with my "three words" for 2013.
I wrote in part:
this year I want to execute on some of the plans I have had for some time. There are some things I have been thinking about, talking about and even writing about for several years... but have yet to actually start. Not so much in my professional/work life, as I have been all about executing plans there, but rather in my personal life with some of my various side projects.
My record is a bit mixed here. I did dive more deeply into activities with a couple of boards that I'm on. I did start a few of the projects that I'd wanted to... but then others like rebooting VOIPSA are still out there lingering.
Here things have gone quite well! I've actually launched two new podcasts in 2013, experimented with another and have another couple of projects underway:
THE DAN YORK REPORT - What began as purely experimentation with SoundCloud as a platform for audio hosting has turned into a fairly regular podcast, "The Dan York Report", where I am commenting on a wide range of issues. I've recorded 55 episodes so far (and there were some before I formally had the name that could qualify, too), and I have ideas for doing more with this in 2014.
FIR ON TECHNOLOGY - Coming in just under the wire, I launched "FIR On Technology with Dan York" as part of the "For Immediate Release Podcast Network" and published the first full episode today where I interview a friend of mine, Randy Resnick, about how Google+ Hangouts On Air can be used by communicators. It was a great interview and I look forward to doing more of these in 2014. Having been a regular weekly contributor to the main For Immediate Release podcast since 2005, it's fun to expand out into some deeper episodes.
DEPLOY360 ON SOUNDCLOUD - In the "continued experimentation" stage, I started posting audio updates for the Deploy360 Programme on SoundCloud related to our work with IPv6, DNSSEC and other topics. I have some ideas of where I want to take this and am looking forward to it!
Beyond that, I confirmed a couple of people for some future Blue Box Podcast interviews, so there are some good things brewing there. And... well... suffice it to say I have some other ideas in the works. :-)
On this topic I wrote:
In a 2012 leadership workshop for one of the boards I am on, we were asked some questions that could perhaps best be summarized as "how are you using your life to transform the world?" To make it a better place? To bring people together? To strengthen connections and build stronger communities?
Here things have gone well. I've become much more active in a way that I'll write more about tomorrow. Our family is now helping out with some community breakfasts that are a very tangible way to feel that we're helping people in our community. And I've been helping out in some other ways that I'm starting to see are making a difference. And... I love that a large part of what I do for work is based on a clear mission focused on helping people out!
There's much more I'd like to do on this topic (and more on that tomorrow)... but I feel that I did make a solid start on this in 2013.
So that's a wrap for 2013... what will I aspire for in 2014? Find out tomorrow... :-)
In this holiday season, particularly for those of us in the U.S. around our Thanksgiving holiday, we talk a lot about "gratitude" and the importance of it. This year I stumbled upon this TED talk by monk and interfaith scholar David Steindl-Rast, "Want to be happy? Be grateful". The abstract is:
The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you're going, and above all, being grateful.
I enjoyed it very much... "Stop. Look. Go." Simple words to live by (in the context in which he phrases them.) Well worth a listen...
Make it through mile 12 and still have energy!
Both of the last two years I've done pretty well up until mile 12. In fact, last year I was running with a friend and we had a very constant 10-minute/mile pace all the way up through mile 10 and maybe even into mile 11.
And then we got to the mile 12 aid station and I walked through it to have a drink... and kept on walking. :-(
I did get enough energy back to run the final bit... but it was a hard slog and I looked like I was ready to collapse.
A year later I've been running a good bit these days, although not as long as a half-marathon, and in talking to multiple people it seems my issue is most likely all about a lack of fuel inside my body. A friend who runs full marathons (and longer distances!) said that our livers have about 2 hours worth of fuel in them to power our body... and, gee, it's right about the 2 hour mark that I'm fading!
I did eat a bit during the race last time, but not that much. So this time I'm going to make that a regular part of the running... plus I'm doing some pre-race fueling, too.
We'll see how it goes on Sunday... as we often say, "third time is a charm!" (Of course, we also say "three strikes and you're out!")
P.S. There's still time to register to run if you want to join in - and they do same day registration as well. This year they are also offering a 2-person relay race option, too.
Build people up - or tear people down. Your choice.
I have been reminded of this several times lately in choices I have been confronted with. One stark moment was a few weeks back when we here in New England were being hit by an incredibly unseasonably cold spell. On Facebook, my newsfeed was full of friends in the region complaining about having to turn their heat on, about how strange this was, etc.
Now, a couple of friends of mine in the region maintain a fairly constant stream of political posts on Facebook and have a rather hardline conservative view of the world. Their posts are full of extremely negative text and links about President Obama, Congress, Democrats, "liberals" and pretty much anyone else that doesn't fit their worldview... usually delivered with a VERY heavy degree of sarcasm and anger.
They take it to such extremes that I often do find it hard to read their posts, but I haven't "hidden" their feeds on Facebook primarily because I don't want to be stuck in a self-affirming "echo chamber" of views like mine. I keep their posts coming because I want to be reminded of the many divergent views we have... but that's a good topic for a different blog post...
Anyway, one of these friends wrote on Facebook about how unseasonably cold it was and just expressed his surprise at having to turn the heat on at this time of year.
My immediate reaction was to click in the comment field and start typing the snarky reply:
What? You haven't figured out how to blame Obama yet?
And then I paused before hitting return and publishing the comment.
Just a few days prior to this I'd been having a couple of different discussions with people about the divisiveness within our society, the lack of civility, the way that sides within our political world here in the US seem to be getting more deeply entrenched ... and just about how there seemed to be acrimony and negativity online.
And here I was... about to add to that.
I deleted the text and cancelled adding the comment.
Sure, the comment would have been "fun". I would have enjoyed leaving it. It would have been enjoyable to poke a little bit at the fact that yes, indeed, some things out there are beyond the control of even your bitterest enemies.
But was it really necessary?
Here was a friend writing about his current condition. No politics. No name-calling. Just stating how things were.
I could have been empathetic / compassionate and joined him in commenting on the strange weather. Or I could have done what I was about to do and get a dig in (where there wasn't one) and add to the divisiveness.
Build people up - or tear people down.
A day or so later I saw on Facebook a graphic circulating that attributed to Sufism three questions to think about before speaking or writing something:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?
I haven't been able to find a definitive source for these questions - the closest seems to be these sources in a Daily Kos article - but regardless of origin, the questions are good ones. And in this particular case my proposed writing failed #2 and #3 in a big way.
The good news is that I did pause, reflect, and pulled back from that instant response.
Now, to be honest, in another recent case I did send an email response I probably shouldn't have and while it was true and perhaps necessary, it wasn't really kind.
Every moment. Every action.
Build people up... or tear people down.
The choice we make, in each moment, defines the kind of world we want to live in.
I knew I needed to change.
Our second daughter was a year old and I realized that I had to do something for my health to ensure I was going to be around for my wife and our two girls.
So my wife and I started walking every day, or as close to that as we could. We have the privilege of having a beautiful large cemetery near us that has roads and trails through it where you can walk for quite some time.
Soon walking led to "jogging"... which led to (gasp!) running!
Running was something I swore I'd never do because I never saw any runner smiling. But slowly... very slowly... I became one of those people.
It was an iterative process - I started saying "let me see if I can run from the entrance to the cemetery down to the first fork in the road. Then it was "let's see if I can run to the flagpole." Then "beyond the flagpole to the next fork."
Then, the BIG step... could I run from the entrance all the way up that big, enormous, huge, daunting, terrible hill to the chapel?
From there it was a test of looping the cemetery - and then starting to run into a second, attached cemetery (Greenlawn) that has another huge hill. And then it was looping both cemeteries... and then looping through the other side trails.
Ultimately it became a question of doing TWO loops through both cemeteries to get to a 5K distance.
And then my running left the cemetery and was out the roads...
The process took MANY months... and a lot of fatigue.
The good news is that running in the cemetery was very peaceful. There were generally no cars or road crossings. And very few spectators watching this fat guy huffing and puffing as he tried to make it up the hill.
Plus, on a morbid note, I always thought that if I died while running there, they could just dig a hole and toss my body in it. :-)
Three years later I ran that same loop yesterday at a pace around 9 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. And I've routinely run loops through that cemetery now AFTER having already run 5 or 6 miles. I don't even notice either of those "ginormous" hills that so intimidated me.
I had in fact hoped to do a 5 mile run around Washington, D.C., this morning (I'm here on business travel) but sadly left my running shorts back in N.H.
I have become a runner.
And here's the fascinating part to me: I love it!
In fact, it's now almost like a drug. I often feel a need to run. It helps clear my mind at times - and it just helps physically. As I've written here, I've enjoyed a number of races... and I'm looking forward to my 3rd time running the Swanzey Covered Bridges Half-Marathon this September (with the goal to not fade out at mile 12).
A beautiful effect, too, is that when I have to move quickly in an airport to catch a plane, I'm generally not boarding my plane looking like I am about to have a heart attack! (That used to be how it was...)
Running has been a savior of my sanity on business trips, too, getting me outside of the hotel rooms and conference centers. I recorded an audio segment about this a while back:
Given that I spend FAR too many hours in airplanes, running has provided an antidote to all the endless hours of sitting I do in airborne tin cans.
Running has also let me quickly see a bit of the places I've visited. Normally with the travel I do I wouldn't see much beyond the airports, taxis, hotels and restaurants... but going out for a run in the early morning has let me see the surrounding area. I've had the privilege of running around Red Square in Moscow, in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, along back roads in Mumbai... and so many other places. Getting outside has been so critical - and running has enabled me to do that.
Along the way, I have lost some weight. Losing the first 45 pounds turned out to take about 6 months or so... and then I've been stuck in a plateau for most of the last couple of years:
This wasn't all through exercise. I also moderated my eating. A friend from back in Ottawa once wrote about his "S" diet:
No Seconds or Sweets, except on Saturdays and Sundays.
And I remembered that over all the years, and decided that it was a simple mantra to follow - and in particular the "no seconds" was a rule that I adopted.
Now, as that chart shows, I've not been entirely faithful. The travel I do presents meals where it's not always very easy to make the healthiest eating choices. And I freely admit that my willpower fades in the presence of the siren song of a chocolate chip cookie (and wilts completely when presented with a tray of said cookies!).
But I keep at it... and I keep running so that I can have a bit of wiggle-room on the eating. (Another friend says he runs specifically so that he CAN eat!)
And today, I celebrate the health I do have, and this new love of exercise that has so changed my life on so many levels.
If you are out there thinking about doing more exercise, I'd encourage you to get started... find a place where you can start walking, and start setting small, obtainable goals.
Perhaps soon you'll find yourself out there like me, doing something you never thought you'd do... running.
And doing so with a smile on your face! ;-)
Beyond the fact that I had a conference in Dublin, Ireland, there was a second and much more powerful reason why my wife accompanied me on this trip. You see, it was two years ago on May 16th when a doctor told us that Lori had cancer.
It was in July 2011 when she had her surgery and it was shortly after that when they told us she had invasive cancer and would need chemo and much more... but the date of May 16 will be forever remembered by us as the day that everything changed.
At this stage, the treatment continues - she has four more years of daily Tamoxifen pills with all the glorious fun of chemically-induced menopause, joint pain, ongoing fatigue and all the other side effects. As a spouse of someone going through it all, it's very tough to watch all that she is going through - all with the hope that it will be enough to keep her cancer away.
So on May 16th, we left my conference in Dublin behind and set out to explore Ireland and see what we could see... no plans, no schedules and not even any hotel rooms. Just the two of us and a rental car.
Each day we continue to seek out "the new normal", whatever that is, and to learn to live with this very unwelcome guest in our lives. This trip was our way to celebrate a dark anniversary and say in our own way that we will not let cancer win.
Very cool to see and I hope some folks in the region will come on over to the PCC to try out curling!
P.S. Curling also got a brief view in the fourth segment where the "mystery town" was revealed to be Petersham. (Pronounced "Peter's ham".)
I enjoyed this presentation very much... and it's interesting to think about the processes he describes toward the end that relate to "rewiring our brains" to focus on the positive and to move us toward more happiness: