Friday, July 29, 2011

#354: Fighters, Survivors, and the Battle That Goes On

 Five of us, a cousin, a brother, an aunt, a friend, and a Pennsyltuckian all diagnosed with cancer within days of one another. Now there is only one left to tell our story.

Mrs P and Elvin
Cousin Elvin died last night. The cancer in his brain had been stealing him from the family bit by bit. He couldn't speak. Couldn't walk. Couldn't remember. His may have been the cruelest death of all. Elvin's life was joy itself. He was always joking, usually at his own expense. He laughed easily and when he wrapped his big arms around you, you knew you were being loved on. The day I met Elvin, he told the story of stopping by a farm to buy a calf. He had already given the man the money when he realized that he wasn't driving his truck, but his little "Datsun Car."  He flipped the passenger seat down and wrestled that calf in beside him while he drove down the red dirt roads with the windows down so the little gal could stick her nose out and give him room to work the stick shift. It sounds like too good a story to be true, but knowing Elvin, it was too good not to be true. Whenever we would stand next to one another, he would joke that Mrs P had to go all the way to New York City to find a husband bigger than he was. Bigger, maybe, but no tougher. Tough enough that he could never button the top button of a suit coat around his enormous chest. He looked like one of those old-time circus strong men who ripped phone books and bend crow bars with their hands. Tough enough that I don't ever remember him hugging me goodbye without whispering, "I love you." in my ear. I never knew anybody named "Elvin" before Mrs P took me to Kentucky for the first time. And I've never met a man like him before or since. May God bless and guide him home.

"Pa" with his pride and joy
Doug was Mrs P's oldest brother, but he loved me like his own blood. The cancer was so far along when they found it in his colon that they gave him just a few months to live. With courage, stubbornness, and faith in God, he outlasted that grim estimate by almost a year. He knew dying was going to be hard, but he knew he would not face death alone. The last time I saw him, lying on his death bed, surrounded by the people he loved, he raised his tear filled eyes to heaven and said, "It's all gonna be worth it." He knew that God would make good come out of this, even this awful loss. "It's nothing compared to what he suffered on the cross."

"Aint Cathr'n"
Aunt Catherine was a smoker, like so many in our family, and like so many of them, cancer took her lungs. It stole her breath, eventually even her laughter, but it could not take her joy, her love for her family, or her faith in God. Yes, she was happy, but Catherine was not a woman you wanted to cross. Once she accidentally cut a fellow off in traffic, and the boy was so mad that he tailgated her all the way to the Wal-Mart parking lot. Now she was sorry for cutting him off, but he finally got on her last nerve. She screeched to a halt, jumped out of her little sedan, marched back to the big pick up and rapped on the window. "Son, you just ain't had no raisin' at all, have you?" By the time she was done chewing on him, that good old boy was probably glad she didn't send him out back to cut him a switch. Catherine was always the one who showed up when anyone was sick or hurt. She could fill a room with her smile. She used to make fried pies for Mrs P and me when we visited her trailer house for breakfast. Catherine didn't own much, but she was one of the richest women I ever knew. Her treasury was so filled with love that she couldn't help but give it away. She always called you "Honey," and she always said goodbye with, "I love you, Hon." When I was sick, she prayed harder for me than she did for herself.

Bloody Alan
Alan was our friend and our vet. We used  to joke that our cats hated him so much that they called him "Bloody Alan." It was funny because it was so far from the truth. Alan loved animals with an almost missionary fervor. Healing them was his vocation, his sacred calling. He held our first cat in his arms, breathing into her mouth and nose, giving her CPR long after she had drawn her own last breath. He held our Kitten, Mo in his hands as he nursed the little guy back from the brink of death and sent him home with us for the next 15 years. Alan wasn't so lucky. He knew the cancer they found in his pancreas was terminal, right from the start. I was afraid I might die. Alan knew he would. But he never let cancer break his heart. He once wrote to thank me for my blog. He stayed a strong and faithful friend, right to the end.

Fat Man dying... 2008
Pennsy. So that leaves me. By 2008, the fat man in this picture had done everything he could to invite cancer into his life. Two hundred pounds overweight. Twenty years of cigarettes. Never slept right. Never ate right. Ignored his high blood pressure and the pains in his legs until his blood clotted from inactivity. Embracing his own shame and depression until his wife took him to a mental hospital to keep him from killing himself. Any rational captain would look at this crew and say, "throw that one out of the lifeboat. He's the one who will die of cancer." But I didn't. I'm the one who lived. You ever read about "survivor guilt?" I don't have to read about it any more. At one point in the play I'm rehearsing, my character describes the way he was saved from the 9/11 attacks. "If I hadn't run into that guy in the stairwell. Some guy with a flashlight. I don't know who that guy was. I'll never know... I'd be gone too. I should be gone, too."

Sure, I'm grateful to be alive. But it's hard to see much justice in it.

My nephew the Preacher says that God saved me for a reason. I hope he's right. I ask myself every day what that reason might be. Maybe I can give people hope. I can make my life an example, a witness to the fact that even the least deserving Fat Man can keep fighting. You don't have to give up. You don't have to be a slave to food or tobacco or work or your own guilt and sadness. Not even to cancer. You can find help. You can find love. You are not beyond hope.You can get up and run. I hope that's what people see when they see me running or acting or holding hands with my wife, or cutting up in the back row. I hope they find it here on FMR. I hope they see it, when I give them hell for smoking or invite them to join me for a walk or sit silently with them as they wrestle with their own fear of dying. I hope they see that they can fight for their own life, like the five of us did. We fought the bastard to the end. Today, our cancers are dead, but we are still alive. I'm still running, and Alan and Doug and Catherine and Elvin are "dancing around the throne of Jesus," like the Preacher says. None of us were perfect. I was the least perfect of all. I still am. But God saved me to tell our story. Maybe to be a small part of your story.

Cancer killed four of us. But it didn't beat any of us. It couldn't. We refused to give up. We were hundreds of miles apart, but we five still gave one another the strength to keep fighting. And God gave us the strength to help each other. I am here because of them. I can keep running because of them.

And now, so can you.

God, please bless Elvin and Catherine and Alan and Doug. You chose each for a special ministry in this world, and they did their best to serve you. They are with you now, and we are left behind to try to make some sense of the way they lived and the way they died. We are left to remember them with laughter and tears, and to honor them with lives that are better because we knew them. Lord, help us to keep their love alive as we share it with one another. Help us to fight against cancer and all the things that would rob us of the life you created in us. And Lord, if you have the time, please let them know that we love them. We miss them. That we can't wait to see them again. And especially, that we are so very, very grateful for all that they gave us during our too short time together. And please ask that calf to forgive old Elvin for stuffing her into his little Datsun car. He didn't mean no harm by it.


Amen

Peace,
Pennsy

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#353: My 50/50 Chance.

They gave me a 50/50 chance of seeing this birthday. Flip a coin. Heads, you live to be 51. That's the best the docs could promise me. But I had an ace in the hole.

Love.

Love made me want to live when I felt like dying.

Love knocked at the door, and helped me to laugh when I felt like crying.

Love made me Chicken and Cheddar Chowder, which is even more fun to eat than it is to say.

Love washed my belly when the stoma around my feeding tube leaked all sorts of creepy goo.

Love answered the prayers I didn't know how to pray.

Love picked me up out of the tub afterI  fainted there in the middle of the night.

Love gave me books on tape when I didn't have the strength to hold a printed copy up.

Love wept tears of grief when they told us I had cancer, and tears of joy when they told us it was gone.

Love insisted I get better so that I could act again, then waited for me until I was ready.

Love lifted me out of bed, taught me to walk, helped me to run.

Love found us a new home, when the bank said we had to leave the old one.

Love never left. Not even when I thought it was gone forever.

They gave me a 50/50 chance. Love rigged the game.

On this, my 51st birthday, I thank God for the love that saved my life. From Hell. From cancer. From depression. I don't know how many birthdays I have left. I hope there are many more. But no matter how long I have left on this earth, I am determined to never spend another second without the love that God has given me.

Take some for yourself. It's my birthday present to you.

Don't worry. I've got plenty.

Peace and Love,,
Pennsy

Thursday, July 21, 2011

#352: Living STRONG at the Y


On Monday, I started "LIVESTRONG at the Y" a pilot program at the Northside Y sponsored by a grant from LIVESTRONG. The program is designed to give survivors a chance to move, try different kinds of exercise, and learn the ways that physical activity can help them to beat cancer.This video is a very touching introduction to the work we're doing. There are a team of trainers who work with us. We are 8 cancer fighters in various stages of our battle. Some have been cancer free for longer than I. One woman had a radiation treatment this morning, before she came to the gym. The thing these folks all have in common is that they are all funny, courageous, and unsentimental about the disease. Fighting cancer, and living life are serious business for us, and we are eager to do both with more vigor and joy. We meet twice a week, and I have a feeling you'll be hearing a lot more about the group in the weeks to come.

Today, we did some gentle physical assessments. How long can you balance on one foot? How far can you reach your arm? What are your measurements? How much does a quick 6 minute walk affect your heart rate? Simple stuff. Once we were finished, I had to wait about an hour-an-a-half for Mrs P to pick me up, (we're down to one vehicle right now, due to a non-injury fender bender.) So, I went to the weight room.

What a nice facility! They had some machines that I've only seen on YouTube, and a couple that I hadn't even seen there.

Of course, my favorite station was the power cage. I flew to it like a bug to a zapper. It had been so long since I felt a real barbell resting across my shoulders as I dipped down into a squat. How long since I slipped 45 lb plates onto a bar and felt their heft as I lifted them off the hooks? I watched my eyes in the mirror as I squatted up and down, up and down, chest up, eyes up, squat down, press the heels into the floor, the rhythm of the movement leading me on as I breathed in to go down, then hissed the air out to go up. Three sets of 10 at 135. Not impressive by any standard, but it felt so good to be back under iron.

Then the dead lift. My favorite movement in the weight room. Load up the bar. Catch it in an alternating grip, one overhand, one underhand, to keep the weight from rolling out of your fingers. Dip your knees and feel the weight up your arms and across your shoulders. Eyes up, chest up. The a light hiss of breath as you push down into the ground and pull the weight up your legs to your hips You stand like a derrick with the bar across your front. It hangs there for a moment. Your hands are hooks at the end of taught cables. Then you slide your butt back, keep your chest up, and lower the weight straight down your legs. Bend your knees as the bar passes them. Wear long pants, or your shins will be sorry! The bar slides easily toward the ground as nearly every muscle in your body works together to control its decent. The edges of the 45 lb plates tap lightly on the mats of the gym floor, then the big muscles in your legs and butt and back "reverse engines" to push your body up, pulling the bar with you. 3 sets of 10 @ 135 lbs. I've lifted more, but it's never felt better.

I did some work with the dumbells, and did some woodchoppers at the cable machine. Then it was time for a cool down walk on the treadmill, and some time in a comfy chair working on lines and watching folks swimming laps. That really looked good. I don't think I'll be going to the Y without my swimming trunks again.

I haven't been going to the gym because I really wanted to run, and I didn't want to spend all my time working out. Today reminded me how much I love the feel of the bars, the clang of the plates, and the smell of steel and rubber and sweat that just seems like home to me. I had never set foot in this gym before, but I was welcome and accepted at once, when they saw that I was a member of the fraternity. I knew the secret handshake. I wiped off the bench when I was finished. Some kids came in from the basketball court to do bench presses. They wandered carelessly between lifters and mirrors. They joked. They jostled. They leaned on machines they weren't using. They pushed out some lifts, then ambled away again, leaving a wake of youth and testosterone. We lifters acknowledged one another silently. "Posers," we seemed to be saying with our nods and eye rolls. Real lifters are respected in the weight room, no matter how little iron they can move. We know one another without having to say a word. We share machines. We offer to spot. We leave things the way we found them. I didn't learn any names, and barely shared any words, but I made a handful of new friends today. We met in the weight room. We're going to be working out together for a while.

And it feels great.

But man, are my glutes gonna be sore in the morning!

Peace,

Pennsy

Friday, July 15, 2011

#352: First Comes the Word...

It's a quiet end to a quiet day. The first of either in a while. Time to reflect on my first love.

Some things, you just don't talk about
There are rules in the theatre. You don't whistle back stage or sing in the dressing room. You don't quote the Scottish Play unless you're producing it. You don't criticize your leading lady in public. You don't make your dresser mad. And you don't gossip about what goes on in rehearsals.

It isn't easy to write about preparing a play. At least not publicly. There is a special kind of trust that you have to have in a rehearsal hall. You need to know that you can try something that fails miserably, and not have a bunch of strangers read about it on the internet the next morning. I've often thought about blogging about the process, but this unwritten code always stops me. For the next couple weeks, I'm going to try to open up this part of my life with the gentle respect I feel it deserves. No griping about the director. No gossip about my fellow actors. But I've shared so much of my life here. I don't want to leave my art out of the mix.

I spent most of the day doing character analysis for my next role. I'm playing Arthur, a husband and dad whose heart and mind have been broken by the events of 9/11. As I fall apart, my family falls apart around me until one day when an unlikely teen-aged deliverer walks through the door dressed as Elvis. It's a beautiful, insane, very funny, and I hope very moving story. Nice to spend a few hours doing the kind of work I love, busting a script down into little pieces, scattering them on the floor, and looking for the patterns. I love this part of building a character. It's all about the words.

If a script is a body, the verbs are the muscles. A few nights ago, while sitting backstage at the Arboretum waiting for Richard III to go up, I was pouring over my script when I felt one of the younger actors peeking over my shoulder. "You've underlined some words. Why?" The first thing I do when I start a new script is to get a pencil and a highliter. I highlight my lines so I can find them through my ever dimming eyes during early rehearsals when we're still "on book," walking around carrying our scripts. Then I take my pencil and I underline all the verbs. All of them. They are the action in the language of the play. The verbs keep the story driving forward and the characters moving toward their individual climaxes. Ideally, I have this done before the first table read-through. I never want to read the script without the lens of action before me.


I once worked for a director who was obsessed with "The Three Lists." He had played with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He taught me so much about acting that when I direct, I often find myself repeating his catch-phrases and affecting his accent. He was a maniac about the three lists. After the first read-through, we were expected to have them written and be ready to read them, line by line, out loud.

1.) Everything I say about myself;
2.) Everything others say about me.
3.) Everything I say about others.

I'll bet I haven't played five roles as a professional without doing this work. It is a tedious, hand cramping chore, and it reveals more about a character than any other technique I know. Today, I dug into Arthur's words about himself and learned quite a few things. He says he's sorry a lot. He talks only about himself for quite a while. He makes promises. He makes excuses. He is tired all the time, especially when asked to do something. He says "I don't know" over and over. He hasn't eaten or slept or changed out of his pajamas for a long time. He wonders about what things mean. You start to see patterns when you look at a character this way. Why does he always ask, "What time is it," when he wakes up? What makes him say that he's hungry for the first time? What changed that enabled him to say, "She hates me," or "Take me back," or "I love you so much. Both of you." These are the questions that you use to start filling in the heart and soul of a character, and they all come out of the words that the playwright chose.

Acting is a lot more than just literary analysis. Playing a role is more than just learning the words. But the words come first. Knowing what they mean. Knowing how they're put together. Knowing what the playwright tried to tell you about this person by choosing the vocabulary, phrasing, and thought patterns that are on the page in front of you. A good actor needs a good mind, but you can't just think about a role. You have to have a voice. You have to have a flexible, well conditioned body. You have to have emotional tools and a sense of timing, talent, and taste. You can't really be an actor without all of that.

But first, comes the word...

Peace,
Pennsy





Thursday, July 14, 2011

#351: A Dawn Run for a New Day

No seriously, RIGHT NOW!
Since Clare woke me up at 4:30 with her "I need to pee RIGHT NOW!" whine, it was easy for me to get out for a cool morning run. First I checked my email, and learned that an article I submitted has been published on Viewshound, a site that accepts contributions from writers and bloggers all over the world. It's a post that regular readers of FMR have probably already seen, but it was cool to get validation from strangers. You know how I love applause.

I hit the street just before 7:00. Today is a speed day on my training schedule. I've arranged my program based on three runs a week: an easy run at the beginning of the week; a short, hard run on Thursday or Friday; and a long, slow run on Saturday or Sunday. That long run increases gradually over the course of my training period, leading up to the half-marathon in October. It's an easy schedule, not exactly designed to win any gold medals, but based on Jeff Galloway's program and intended to get me from here to the finish line without getting hurt on the way.

I checked Swackett to see how the weather was doing. The air was a clear 65 degrees as I stepped out of the driveway. After days of brutal, humid heat, it felt amazing to be breathing air that was cooler and dryer than my own body. I did my usual warm-up, which is a walk around the block, gradually mixing in a few strides of running until I am jogging back past the front of our house. I pressed my tempo right from the start. I would like to break a 10:00 mile this month, and I wanted to find out what that kind of speed feels like. I didn't get all the way down to 10:00, but I did run both miles at the same 10:26 pace: fastest ever for me. Since I knew I'd be tiring quickly, I cut my Run/Walk ratio in half, running 5:00 and walking 0:30.

It wasn't long before my mind was clear and my attention focused fully on my breath and footfalls. As I finished, I realized that I really didn't remember much about the run. My thoughts were all about maintaining my rhythm, pressing back up to tempo when I slowed down. I came home after this short, hard run feeling energized and ready to start the day. After a long one, I usually want to take a nap. This morning, I'm ready to take on the world.

On the home front, we are finally, really out of the old house. I went over yesterday morning and scrubbed the floors. The place is not exactly pristine, not by a long shot, but it's ready for the new folks to come in and start making it their own. We had a lot of troubles and a lot of joyful times in that house. I hope we left a little love behind for the young couple who will sign the papers today. I always called that house "MarthaPark" because of all the trees. I've named our new home "SummerShade," in honor of the little town in western Kentucky where Mrs P grew up. Here's her post about our move. It sums up our feelings well.

We have lots of big plans for the rest of the summer. A race to train for, a couple of trips to plan, a play to rehearse and open, and of course many, many musty boxes to sort. We'll thrown away most of it, sell some, and keep what we need or want. It's a liberating project. And I'm really looking forward to getting all those cartons out of here so I can have my garage/porch/carport back. (Lurkers contemplating a burglary run... save yourself a trip. It's all junk. I'd throw the whole mess away if Mrs. P would let me.)

Today feels like turning a corner. Closing the sale of the house is a milestone we have been looking forward to for a long time. I'm sure we both doubted it would really come. Now that it's here, we can move on to "the next big thing," whatever that turns out to be.

And I know I'll be ready for it. Heck, I've already got my run in today.

Peace,
Pennsy

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#350: Letter From Camp

Dear Folks,

Sorry it has taken me so long to write this letter. Camp is very busy this summer. I am having fun this summer. I hope you are, too.

Running is going great! I have finished some 5K's and a 10K. I keep getting faster and stronger. I sure do like running. Even though it is pretty hot sometimes. Once, I ran in a rain storm. It was a little scary, but fun. I want to run a half-marathon in October. I talked to two ladies at the YMCA who are going to help me get ready. They work with cancer people, so I get to go for FREE! (yesss!)

Mrs P and I have almost finished our move. The old house is empty now. It just needs some scrubbing. I have to scrub because Mrs P says she has to go out and make money so we can eat and get Clare her operation next month. I hope the new people love the house and make a nice home in it. Our new house is very nice, but there are lots of boxes. They smell a little bit like the old basement. I want to just throw them all away, but Mrs P says that some of them might be good stuff. Sometimes I sneak things into the garbage when she isn't looking! (Ha ha!)

I am doing two plays this summer. The first one has closed. It was called Richard III and was about a very bad man who kills lots of people. He chopped my head off! Well, my character's head. They put in in a basket and carried it around on stage. It was really weird to see my head in a basket. The second play is in rehearsal now. It is called End Days. It is about a family who are very sad about the end of the world, but then they feel better by the end. The other actors are really good, so I have to work hard and be sure I don't stink!

My cancer is all better. The doctors say that I don't have any more of it in me, and that it is ok for me to exercise and stuff. I am going to try to go swimming later this summer, but my baggy stomach will look pretty funny in a swim suit. I hope I can still float without all that fat! (Ha, ha!) Seriously, I am skinny enough to wear XL clothes now. My sweat pants fall down if I try to run in them. This makes me very popular with the girls, as I'm sure you can guess, though my bum isn't very tanned.

Everybody is happy, even the dogs. We have had a couple of sad times, but the preacher says that sad times just make us closer to God and to one another. I think that's true.

We'll, I have to sign off, now. I have a couple of chores to do like unpacking stinky boxes! Mrs P is in Georgetown, so maybe I'll throw some more stuff away before she gets home. (Just kidding.)

I love you and miss you very much. Please send a cake for my birthday. I would also like some new running clothes, especially socks. The dryer keeps eating mine! Speaking of clothes, I am out of quarters for the dryer. And the washer. Can you send me some, or should I mail you my dirty clothes to wash? I have plenty of boxes to pack them in! (Ha, ha!)

Goodbye Folks. I'll write later, again.

Peace,
Pennsy

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#349: A Special Opportunity for Bluegrass Cancer Fighters

I met today with Melissa Bellew, a personal trainer at the Lexington Northside Y on Louden Ave. They have a grant from LIVESTRONG to develop a program to help cancer survivors get back on their feet after treatment. I am participating. It's a chance to help build something that might be of value to cancer fighters like us for many years to come. Here's the text of her email, explaining the program... Pennsy

I have a unique privilege to frame the start-up or pilot program at the North Lexington Family
YMCA called "LIVESTRONG at the YMCA." This grant-funded program
provides a 12 week, FREE, exercise & personal care program for cancer
survivors, including a Y membership for the survivor's family during the
training & discounted rates thereafter. The program covers exercise,
holistic health, nutrition, group exercise classes, weights, yoga, pilates,
zumba, & other disciplines. This program's goal is to help survivors
regain health, thus increasing survival odds, and bridge the gap from
post-treatment to daily living.

The pilot program looms with a start date of July 11, with the possibility of a
week postponement to attain ten survivors for the pilot. After the pilot
& its subsequent tweaks, the 12 week program will remain on the Y's
programming schedule.

We have four participants to date & need more. If you know anyone who
might qualify for this program & would help us in the pilot by
participating & offering feedback, please send them my way. The class
will meet on Mondays & Wednesdays from 2pm - 3:30p. You can use my
email (mdbellew@hotmail.com) or call me at the Y at 859-258-9622.
Also, any callers could ask for Chris Andrews, North's Wellness Director, at
that same number. Please ask the caller to say that they are calling
about the "LIVESTRONG at the YMCA" program. I would need to
organize an intake interview & assist the person in getting some release
forms signed by doctors.

If you know a cancer survivor in the Lexington area, let them know about this program. If you live somewhere else, give your local Y a call. They may have a similar program in the works.

Peace,
Pennsy

Thursday, July 7, 2011

#347: Opening Night and a Rambling Recovery Run

I'm a huge fan of rest. Love it. Can't get enough of it. But waiting three days to get back on the road after Monday's 10K seemed like an eternity. True, my legs didn't really feel like running until today, but the rest of me was jonesing to get out there. I know I'm addicted now, because I start getting restless and irritable when I go too long without a run.

I decided to "ramble" today. Left the driveway with no particular distance or route in mind. If anything, I wanted to explore some streets and paths that I hadn't used before. All I knw for sure was that I wanted to go sloooow. At the end of Monday's race, I pushed myself. Hard. It felt great, but I have no idea what that long sprint (if I can call it that with a straight face) might have done to me. I just wanted to get out and move my feet for a couple miles. Just get the blood flowing.

It was hot. Like 85-89 degrees hot. Like 101 degree heat index hot. I was careful to drink plenty of fluid before the run, and checked in frequently to make sure that my head was clear, my vison sharp, and my skin sweaty. My mouth did dry out a couple of times, but that happens to me a lot thanks to the false teeth and the damage the radiation did to my salivary glands. I kept a slow enough pace that I didn't over exert myself, but stayed just fast enough to keep the breeze blowing against my face. I don't think that the heat affected me much one way or the other.

I pulled the Nike Pegasus Trail Runners out of the shoe shelf today. I haven't run in them for a while, and while they're pretty old and squishy, I like the way they feel and like to use them now and then. Today I discovered that they can rub me a little wrong. I had on very short socks, like a little pom-pom short of being what Mrs P calls "footies." Ordinarily, these are just fine, but the tongue and welt on these trail runners are a little higher than my other shoes. The lining rubbed my skin and while I didn't get any blisters, I did get a couple hot spots on the back of my heels and the top of my right ankle. My toes seemed to be getting on one another's nerves a lttle, too. I may try putting a little Aquaphor on my feet before my next hot run, just to see if it helps.


Fat Man Acting...
"Woe, woe for England..."
Richard III opened last night to very kind notices. I'm not usually a fan of reviewers, but Candace said something nice about me, so I'll be eating out of her hand for a few more days.Of course, if she hadn't mentioned me, I'd be calling her an idiot right now. Let's not get carried away. A critic is still a critic, after all.

I was a little surprised at how positive the review was. I have a sort of sick, maybe even pathological reverence for Shakespeare. I'm never as hard on myself and my colleagues as I am when playing in one of Will's little worlds. I am so focused on perfecting my work, I can only see the flaws. Kind of nice to have an outsider look in and say that she enjoyed what she saw. It doesn't keep me from trying to improve the authenticity and clarityof my playing, but a little applause can be good for the soul.

I'm looking forward to tonight's show for a couple of reasons, but particularly because I just had this nice hot run in the part of the day that I usually fill with a pre-performance nap. At the moment, I feel a lot fresher than I do when I've spent an hour asleep in the afternoon. It will be interesting to see if that lasts until the curtain call... or at least until they cut my head off in Act 2. I'm going to be doing a lot more playing and running in the next few months. How great it would be if I find them starting to compliment one another?

Peace,
Pennsy


Monday, July 4, 2011

#346: Pennsy's First 10K, For All of Them

1:11:35 (official). Fastest mile, 5K, and 10K I've ever run.

I had a mantra prepared, it was a gift from a friend on "The Loop", a runners' forum on Runnersworld.com. She told me to "Run Happy." I reminded myself to do just that many times during the race. I was so happy to be able to run. So happy to be running with 3000 other people. So happy that people in the neighborhoods came out to ring cowbells and wave signs (my favorite: "Suck it up, Princess.") So happy to run under the water when some homeowner stood at the curb offering to spray us with a garden hose. I was so happy to be alive, upright, running. Yeah, I ran happy.

And I had another mantra. One I hadn't prepared. the last thing Mrs P said to me when she dropped me off as close to the starting line as we could get was, "Run it for Doug." Doug was "Brother." He fought cancer hard, harder than I ever had to. He did not survive the battle, but he never gave up. Doug was a winner. He was a finisher. He ran a great race. He helped me to run my best.

As I ran, I thought of all of them. Catherine, who never stopped praying for me, even as lung cancer ate her up. Alan, who wrote me and followed my blog even as cancer destroyed his pancreas and finally ended his much too short life. Elvin, who fights even now, as the tumors in his brain rob him of his humor and his memory, but not of his spirit. The men and women in my head and neck cancer survivors group who have lost the use of their arms, their sense of taste, parts of their jaws and faces, their teeth and hearing, but not their courage. They are still fighting, still running, still winning. I love all these people. Cancer gave them its best shot, and they spit in its eye. A little over 2000 people finished the race ahead of me this morning, but cancer didn't beat me. It didn't beat any of us. We are not just cancer survivors, we are cancer fighters, and we will fight it to our last breath. These people are fighting for life. I felt them all around me as I ran today. I ran for them all.

Next comes a half-marathon. I have one picked out, and will register as soon as the glow from today's race wears off. I'm going to use the race to raise money to fight cancer. It's the least I can do for them. They carried me 6.2 miles today, faster and farther than I could ever have gone on my own.

We are running for each other's lives.

Peace, and LIVESTRONG, y'all,

Pennsy

Friday, July 1, 2011

#345: What Running is Doing to my Body

Today being the start of a new quarter, I have revised The Tale of the Tape...







1/20/084/27/087/20/083/17/117/1/11Change
Weight 405 366 357 292262 (143)
BMI 49.3 44.5 42.9 35.532 (17.3)

Body Fat %
43.8 31.1 31.4 29.1 24.5(14.7)

Lean Mass
228 231 245 207 198(30)

Resting HR
87 70 68 64 62(25)

Neck
19 18 18 17.25 16(3)

Shoulders
59.5 55.5 59.5 55 52(7.5)
Chest 58 57 58 50 46.5(11.5)
L Biceps 15.5 16 18 13.513 (2.5)
R Biceps 16 16.5 19 14 13(3)
L Forearm 12.5 12.25 13 11.5 11(1.5)
R Forearm 13 13 13.75 12 11(2)
Waist 59 52 50.5 46 43(16)
Hips 61.5 57.5 56.5 51 48.5(13)
L Thigh 29.5 30 26 27.527 (2.5)
R Thigh 30 30 26 28 27(3)
L Calf 20.25 20 20 1818 (2.25)
R Calf 20.5 20 20 1818 (2.5)
 
So, what's happened to my body since March? First of all, I've lost a lot more weight. I'm giving cancer credit for the first hundred pounds, but the rest is mine. 10 pounds a month. That's a pretty good pace. The BMI is coming down, too. just a few more pounds and I'll be classified as "Overweight," not "Obese." That will be a first. Then there's the Body Fat percentage. I'm encouraged by the way it keeps coming down. I want to get to 20% by the end of the summer, but you can tell from my Lean mass numbers that I've stopped lifting weights. Yes, I'm burning a lot of fat, but I'm also losing some muscle mass, especially in my upper body. I'm not going to fret too much about that. Right now, I'm focused on training for the next couple of races, and I have chosen not to spend so much time in the gym.
 
Overall, I can't help but be pleased. A stranger meeting me for the first time would probably still see a fat man, but the people who have known me a while see a changed man. Soon, I'll be able to buy clothes in a department store! How nice it will be to get all of those multiple Xs out of my closet.
 
So what am I learning? It's never to late to change direction. Patience works. Long, slow runs. Gradual increases of intensity. Consistent training. Mindful eating. Sleeping right. It all works together to make you stronger, faster, and fitter. If a middle-aged fat man can do this, you can, too!
 
I think I'm going to drop the old 2008 numbers from this chart. They really are from a different life, a pre-cancer life. "Pre" a lot of things, come to think of it. I don't really know what the numbers were on the day of my surgery, other than my weight, 397. That was April 16, 2010, a kind of new birthday for me. That was the day I became a survivor, a cancer fighter. That fight, not so much the fight against cancer, but the fight for life is the reason I'm training. I don't know what God has in mind for the rest of my life, but I want to be ready.
 
Peace,
 
Pennsy
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