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:
It's her final Herceptin infusion. And it marks the end of our living life in three-week increments.
For the past 12 months, our pattern has basically been this:
And then... WHAM!... time to start it all over again.
This was how 2012 was... planning around "Herceptin weeks," knowing that they would effectively be written off in terms of my wife being able to do much at all.
And over the year it got worse, not better. We'd perhaps naively thought that after a few Herceptin treatments it might get more routine. But in fact there seemed to be cumulative effects... more fatigue... more pain...
Now, granted, not all of her condition can be attributed purely to the Herceptin. With each infusion they also give her "pre-meds" that are there to "help" her body tolerate the Herceptin. These include something like Benedryl and also a steroid.
Plus, around the same time that she started Herceptin she also started the joyous daily pill of Tamoxifen, which brings on chemically-induced menopause with all the hot flashes, joint pain, mood effects and a zillion other symptoms.
The combined effect of all the drugs, plus, I suspect, the lingering effects of chemo, hasn't made for a pleasant time.
As with many aspects of cancer treatment, too, it's not entirely clear that the treatment was necessary for so long. "The studies show" that 52 weeks of treatment with Herceptin lead to a decrease in recurrence of breast cancer of the type my wife has. But does it need to be for 52 weeks? Could it be equally effective in 26 weeks? Or 9 weeks?
The studies haven't yet been conclusive on that... and so we have to go with what is known. But my hope, certainly, for future women who need the treatment is that the researchers out there can zero in a bit more on what is really the optimal treatment time - and hopefully it can be less than a full year.
Today marks a milestone, though. We can stop thinking in 3-week intervals. She still has four more years of daily Tamoxifen pills, but at least these infusions will end. We're hoping that we can return to some degree of normal routines.
We're still "going on faith" that all this will help... hopefully it will.
UPDATE: A conversation with my wife on her way to treatment this morning reminded me that in fact the "3-week intervals" began even earlier, back in September 2011 when her chemo began. The chemo infusions, too, were every three weeks... so we are are SO ready for this all to end. :-)
As has become my tradition since 2010, I like to start the year off by posting my "three words" for the year. These are not "goals" or "resolutions" but rather words that I hope will define how 2013 will go for me. They are more guides for how I aspire for my life to be.
While last year I was trying to focus more on fewer things, 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. As an example, 2013 really needs to be the year I either reboot VOIPSA or just close it down. There are a number of other similar projects and activities that are stalled, including a couple of boards of organizations I am on where I have not been able to fully participate. There are some projects, too, around our house that I have been wanting to do for quite some time.
Now, in fairness, a lot of these projects have been stalled for most of the past two years because of the unwelcome intruder in our lives that has sucked up pretty much all of my time outside of work. My wife is and always will be a FAR higher priority than all these other activities (as will my daughters be). She and I are hoping, though, that with her last treatment in early January we can stop living our life in 3-week increments and get back to having a more regular life. We'll see how it all goes, but that is certainly our hope for this year.
Outside of projects, though, there is another aspect to "execution" that hits on a daily basis - it is far too easy to get distracted by social networks and online news sources. Instead of spending time creating content, I find myself reading about other people's content. I need to change the priority there and focus more on creating content first and THEN engaging with social networks. (As an example, it would have been extremely easy to get sucked into Facebook instead of writing this post.) I need to be executing on my content plans first.
In 2012 I came to a realization that... I really miss working with audio. As I have for the past seven years, I continue to contribute my weekly reports into the For Immediate Release podcast and I enjoy that immensely... but I have found a hunger to do even more again. There is something about working with the medium of audio that I just really enjoy. It is a wonderful way for telling stories, explaining topics, providing education and interacting with people.
I don't know yet the full form this will take this year. We've been toying with adding a podcast component to the Deploy360 Programme. I have been thinking about reviving the Blue Box Podcast, at least for some interviews. I am intrigued by SoundCloud and may expand my experiments there. I have half a dozen other ideas running around inside my head for new podcasts and other projects... all I know is that I would like 2013 to be the year I expand my usage of audio.
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?
That question stayed with me because in all honesty the last two years have really had to be all about surviving. In the process of just getting through each day, I haven't had the luxury of spending much time to contemplate the bigger picture. But as we move through all that, the question returns to my mind.
Obviously, as a parent a large part of this work involves the raising of our two daughters and giving them the foundation, strength, knowledge and skills to affect change in the world. That is perhaps the ultimate transformation that all of us can do as parents.
But is there something more direct... that can even involve them in some way?
Not necessarily something grand and glorious, but perhaps something simple and local... I have ideas... It all kind of comes back to that first word earlier in this post! :-)
What are your aspirations for 2013? What are your goals? Or guides?
Whatever they may be, may 2013 be a great year for you all - Happy New Year!
Youth Curling Open HouseCurling is a fun team sport that is open to pretty much anyone to be able to play. I play in an adult league on Tuesday nights and my 10-year-old daughter (pictured) plays in the youth curling on Saturday mornings. It's about a 45-minute drive for us from Keene, NH, but it's worth it to play on good ice and learn the sport.
Friday, December 28, 2012 from 1-3pm
Petersham Curling Club, Petersham, MA
You are welcome to come by tomorrow and try it out. The open house is free and directions are available on the Petersham Curling Club website.
If you can't make it tomorrow but are interested in staying up on future events like this, we also have a Facebook page for the Petersham Youth Curling that you can "Like" and stay connected.
We'd welcome any youth who would like to join us on the regular Saturday mornings... it's a great amount of fun!
And when the doctrine of "mutually assured destruction" meant that we didn't practice hiding under desks, as our parents might have, because we all knew that if the Soviets launched their missiles, we'd launch ours and the world as we knew it would end. (How many movies were made on this theme in the early 80s?)
Of course, the only "Russians" we really knew of were the evil villians of the James Bond movies and countless spy thrillers... or the state-sponsored "super athletes" that we saw in the Olympic Games and who we understood to be intent on showing how Communism was so much better and would triumph over Capitalism.
In many ways it was a much simpler world-view.
The Russians were the enemy.Period.
I thought of all this tonight as I strolled along through Red Square taking photos. Drinking in the magnificent beauty of St. Basil's Cathedral. Taking photos of the walls of the Kremlin. Stopping to look at Lenin's Tomb.
How could I ever have even remotely imagined that I would someday be here?
Moscow... Red Square!
Granted, we were also the generation that watched as glasnost and perestroika took hold in the Soviet Union under the reins of Mikhail Gorbachev. We saw the Berlin Wall fall. We saw the opposition under Boris Yeltsin. We saw the Soviet Union dissolve and simply cease... to... exist. We saw multiple nations and economies emerge.
We watched as the story we'd been telling and retelling for so long was shattered into a million shards... to be reborn anew into new stories of new nations... of a new worldview... of new threats... of new powers.
It's been 20 years now since Russia was reborn, and no sooner do you arrive than you immediately understand that this is a vibrant market economy full of energy and full of passion. I've had the privilege of spending the last two days in a room full of technologists and business people, of marketers and politicians ... all focused on how to make the Internet more capable within Russia and the surrounding countries. To make the Internet faster, better, safer, more secure, more powerful... and more open. It's been an outstanding event where I've both learned a great deal and met some truly remarkable people.
Yet still... I am a product of my childhood.
As I went for a morning run looping down through Red Square this morning... and then walked back there tonight... I could not help but be utterly amazed by how our world has changed. How different it is today from those decades ago.
Alas, I will not get to explore more. This was my typical business trip where I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, spent two days inside a hotel and now will leave in a few hours to go back to the airport to fly home. My morning run and evening walk were the only times I got to see anything beyond the hotel walls.
But I have learned much from this visit - and would welcome the opportunity to return.
Perhaps there was no greater sign of the change in Russia... at least for those of us grew up in the 70's and 80's and can appreciate the exquisite irony... than this, an advertisement for the latest James Bond film, prominently displayed on the sidewalk in Moscow:
Our world has indeed changed. And this is a good thing.
It will also be the start of my second year coaching as I'm helping out with the "Little Rockers" who are between the ages of 7 and 11. (Including my now 10-year-old daughter, pictured in the photo accompanying this article.) I helped out last year and didn't realize how much fun it would be to do! On a certain level it shouldn't have been a surprise given my love of teaching, but I didn't expect how much I would enjoy it.
I'm looking forward to getting back on the ice this weekend and seeing what we can do this year with the kids.
If you are interested in learning more about the youth curling league and live in the area of north central Mass. or southwest NH, you can check out the web page about the youth curling or you can contact me directly. The Little Rockers curl every Saturday from 9:30-10:30 from now through the end of March.
We'll probably be having an Open House soon where people can come and check it out... stay tuned for more info!
Tomorrow, Sunday, September 2, 2012, is the Swanzey Covered Bridges Half-Marathon, also known as "Elijah's Race".
Last September this was my first - and so far still my only - half-marathon, as I chronicled first in a post about the upcoming race and then in a post about the results which photos and charts.
It was a great race and I really enjoyed running it. It was fun to put the "13.1" sticker on the back of my car when it was all over.
However, I had a severe problem with my running pace that I hope to change this time around.
If you look at the image to the left with the map produced by my Nike+ iPhone app, you can see the problem. It's showing the pace of my run and you can see from the color legend at the top the speed at which I was traveling going from fastest (green) to slowest (red).
I started out at the very fast (for me!) pace of about 7 minutes a mile... and then...
... I nearly collapsed at mile 12.
In fact, I walked through the water station at mile 12 as I had been walking through all the aid stations... but then I just kept on walking!
After what I remember was close to a half-mile, I said to myself that I "just" had a half-mile or so left and that I really should run that final bit. So I picked up my feet and struggled to the end.
My issue was that at the very beginning I had positioned myself in the middle of the pack of runners and so when they all took off... I took off with them all! Running very fast! My "normal" pace is about 10 minutes/mile and so dropping it to a 7 minute mile was a definite - and unsustainable - speed increase.
Added to the situation was that for a short bit near the beginning you run over a trail by some power lines that is quite narrow with little room to pass. So once you enter that section it is really a "channel" through which everyone must go and it's hard not to run fast with people right behind you.
This year my goal is to do the "tortoise approach" and run slower and steadier for the whole race. If I can run it all at around 10 minutes / mile that would be an excellent outcome. If I could even do it a bit faster in between 9 and 10 mins/mile that would be even better. Last year the official results had my overall time as 11:13/mile and I would like to do better than that.
My strategy, such that it is, will be to start out at the back of the pack so that I don't get sucked into the adrenaline-fueled initial surge. I also have a friend of mine who is running with me... and said he'll make sure I run the whole thing! ;-)
I've also had an entire year more of running, along with a set of other races (although none this long).
Regardless, I'm looking forward to the race!
P.S. If you are in the area (or want to travel here), information about the race is online. Online registration is closed but I believe you can register on the morning of the race.
Sometimes we need to tilt at windmills... and let the universe perhaps reveal the value at some later date.
Image credit: brianscott on Flickr