Kindness is a wonderful trait. It is a trait that every individual has.  How often it is displayed; however, depends on our mood, our situation, and our desire to do so. To be kind can be tough, because cynics attempt to squash the motives of others and moreover people tend to take kindness for granted. It is this lack of positive reinforcement that diminishes peoples’ desire to be kind. Therefore, I thought I would take a moment to heap praise on the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the people of San Francisco!

              If you have not heard about the recent superhero that has appeared in San Francisco, please meet Miles Scott a.k.a. “Batkid.” Miles is a five-year old boy who has fought Leukemia since his diagnosis at eighteen months old.  The fine folks at the Make a Wish Foundation bestowed upon Miles a wish… and what a wish it was! Miles’ desire was to fight crime like Batman and not only did he accomplish this feat, but the city of San Francisco delivered one of the greatest examples of kindness ever displayed. The city transformed itself into Gotham City and created numerous situations which only Batman and Batkid could undo. Racing out of the bat cave, Batkid saved a damsel in distress, dispatched the Riddler, saved the San Francisco Giants’ mascot and brought safety and peace back to the people of “Gotham.”

     At each step of the way countless people appeared to cheer on the pint-sized superhero. The attention this sensation spurred celebrities, including previous “Batmen” Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and the forthcoming Batman, Ben Affleck, to herald the efforts of Miles. Miles’ efforts were even recognized by the White House, including a vine message from President Obama himself.

Meanwhile, back in the city by the Bay, the Mayor of San Francisco presented Miles with a key to the city and proclaimed that it was “Batkid day forever more.” For those citizens of San Francisco who were unaware that their lives were saved by our hero, the San Francisco Chronicle renamed itself the Gotham City Chronicle and published thousands of newspapers to document the diminutive caped crusader’s adventures.

San Francisco Chronicle front page!

San Francisco Chronicle front page!

This story clearly demonstrates the good-hearted nature of people and the power of positivity. All of these are drastically important for those of us fighting any illness, or even the day-to-day grind. Please take a lesson from the people of San Francisco and the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make the dreams of the people around you come true, or if not their dreams, maybe just start with their day.

Tell me you didn’t think of this song when you read that last line:

If you didn’t think of that song maybe you’ll hear this song soon and think of this one:

http://www.gigwise.com/news/86193/Batman-composer-Hans-Zimmer-pens-theme-song-for-Batkid

Cancer Support Groups Provide Balance and Help

I’m very excited about today’s post! Recently, I was supervising this blog and was prompted to approve a post of an individual who wished to contact me. This isn’t unheard of, and often I’m excited by the opportunity to discuss the effects of cancer, cancer treatments, experiences, and most importantly how we as members of the cancer community can give back.

This post asked if I believed in allowing others the opportunity to ghost write. I think this is a great idea, because it allows more voices to be heard and an opportunity for readers to see the larger cancer picture. David Haas’ beautifully written post , which follows, thoroughly explains the availability of cancer support groups and the differences that exist between  the different styles of support. I hope that you enjoy his writing and appreciate his focus on the mental and emotional side of the broader cancer experience.

How Cancer Support Groups Help Cancer Patients

One of the fastest growing diseases affecting many people is cancer with some of examples being breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma. While the impact, treatment and life expectancy of each cancer may vary; there is one thing that stays the same. There will always be people to help you with the fight. Cancer is often dreaded because of the debilitating effects it has on the physical, emotional and social life of patients, families, friends and caregivers. However, with new treatment methods and successful support groups, survivorship and recovery have improved. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, becoming a member of a cancer support group to help you on your journey is critical to your managing the disease and living a fulfilled life.

A wide range of support groups and programs that cater to the different needs and types of cancers are available. In addition, there are special cancer survivor networks that are designed for men, women and teens, transportation, lodging and education classes. Cancer support groups play an important role in helping men and women understand and cope with this disease. These include people who have been diagnosed with cancer, those undergoing treatment, those who are in remission as well as survivors.

Cancer support groups may help cancer patients experience a better quality of life, which includes improved self-worth and interpersonal relationships with family and friends. People who are in support programs are likely to be less anxious and to feel hopeless. In addition, support networks can educate you on cancer treatments, challenges, recovery and coping methods as you learn from their experiences.

Regardless of your situation you should be able to find a cancer support group to help meet your needs. If you prefer the face-to-face interaction, you may join a group where members meet in person. However, for those who desire less personal contact and who may have difficulties traveling to meetings, there are online as well as telephone support groups where you can share you story and your feelings. You may also find support groups that are organized at the workplace, in the community and at medical facilities.

With the many cancer support networks that exist, it is important for you to find the one that best fits your needs. Here are some great online resources, which can help you find cancer support networks and groups:

American Association for Cancer Research – Article on how to choose a support group

Inspire

By: David Haas

I believe that Haas’ writing brings to life an important side of cancer treatment, one that is often misunderstood, and forgotten, that being the mental and emotional toll that cancer can take.  I believe that, often, we become obsessed with the medical aspect of treatment, that we  neglect the  lingering effects of this disease, and its impact upon the patient, the caregivers, and family/friends. Cancer takes its toll, and has been compared to war, and in many ways it is.  This is evident in the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) article on the effects of cancer, where they draw a comparison between war-time Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the development of PTSD following cancer treatments. The NCI’s recognition of cancer related PTSD further illustrates the importance that Haas discusses. Like Haas, I highly encourage cancer patients and their support structures to look into these forms of care, because the lasting effects on the patient and those that surround them will far exceed the diagnosis and the disease.

To supplement Haas’ links for cancer patients, I have included a link which provides support groups  for caregivers and families: Caregiver and Family Support Groups

I would like to thank David Haas for his time, and efforts and I hope that this article and the links provided will aid others in finding the help that they need.

Furthermore, if you enjoyed this article or wish to add a post, as well, feel free to contact me and we will hopefully work together to bring this terrible disease to an end.

One Last Stand

July 26, 2010

Yesterday ended an era.  Lance Armstrong, the 7-time champion of the Tour de France stood on the podium for one last time. The image was not nearly the same as it had been in years passed, the solitary figure, alone, wearing the Maillot Jaune (the Tour’s General Classification Champion), but it was Armstrong  surrounded by the members of his Radioshack Team each wearing  a customized black Radioshack Kit with the number 28 inscribed on the back and the name of each rider in yellow font.  This moment is the perfect finale to Lance’s career.  

Team Classification Presentation

Team Classification Presentation

 

Photo from the following link: Presentation Photo from Team Radioshack website 

Here Lance is surrounded by a team of individuals all working for the good of the whole, but at the same time working for each of the individuals within the team. The symbolism is breathtaking.  Each of these men was wearing a jersey that represented the 28 million people who are currently living with cancer. Each of those individuals fighting cancer feels isolated as they remain locked in their personal battle with cancer, but at the same time they are surrounded by a team of family members, friends, neighbors, nurses, doctors, and other medical practitioners each working for the good of the whole, but at the same time fulfilling their individual roles, similar to that of a cycling team. Each individual allows the darkness and bleakness of the disease to enter their minds at some point thinking of the grim possibilities, but their remains a light of hope in bright yellow rays that illuminates new cures, treatments, and possibilities. Therefore, the design of these kits with their black coloring and yellow lettering illustrates this concept and also, the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  

The questionable jerseys?

 

The link for the above photo: 28 Jersey Photo and article 

Team Radioshack’s finish also highlights an increase in cycling’s popularity  in the United States, as many Americans, became aware of cycling by hearing of the dominating performance of “the Boss” and his US Postal compatriots later Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team.  Now Americans are aware of names such as Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, David Zabriske, Chris Horner, Ivan Basso, Alberto Contador, Roberto Heras, Victor Hugo Pena, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton.  As American’s involvement in cycling rose so too did their involvement in understanding cancer and battling it as a collective. 

Lance Armstrong may have appeared to be on  his trek as an individual champion, but in reality he led the rest of us into a deeper understanding of cycling and cancer,  both of which have the ability to reward the individual, but are based upon the combined efforts of the individual and the team that surrounds them. Therefore, the ending in Paris even though not what many (myself included) may have wanted was probably more perfectly suited to the analogy of the cycling and cancer movement. 

Side Note: Did you know that the organizers of the Tour de France fined Team Radioshack for wearing the black jerseys at the beginning of the final stage and threatened to disqualify them. The fine was approximately $6,000.  The organizers did say; however, this money would be donated to cancer research. 

Everyday we go through our lives purchasing some small convenience or another. For many it’s the morning Grande White Mocha  from the local Starbucks or Boston Creme donut, etc.  As we go through our day we make our transaction and receive our change. Occasionally, we fall short by just a few cents. We look down at the counter and there in a small rectangular dish is the our salvation. This redeemer often has some teenager’s handwriting in black sharpie that reads “TAKE A PENNY, LEAVE A PENNY!” We naturally gather up the needed coins and to finish our purchase and go about with our sugary goodness, quite content with our fortune.

http://www.riseoverrunmag.com/images/1108.jpg

image courtesy of: http://www.riseoverrunmag.com/images/1108.jpg

This type of action takes place everyday countless times and we generally don’t think much of the value of those tiny “copper” coins, because they are so the lowest part of the American currency ladder, so much so, that the United States’ government was actually thinking of discontinuing them, because they’ve become more expensive to make then the coin is actually worth. Here’s the USA Today article that discusses the possible dismissal of the Penny: Penny Value

However, today’s post doesn’t deal with the day-to-day interactions and the use of the penny, but more importantly the power that the penny actually possesses. Recently the penny actually went so far as to prevent a cancer patient from receiving the benefits of her medical coverage.  This woman La Rosa Carrington, a single mother of two, encountered this problem. The issue was that her medical provider Discovery Benefits would not continue her treatments for form of leukemia that requires 5 chemo treatments each week for the course of a month, because she did not pay 1 penny. The interesting part of this is the following: that La Rosa actually went through the process of determining  how much she was responsible for paying in her medical coverage since she had recently lost her job. She had calculated her payment to be roughly $161.15.  Discovery Benefits calculated the payment to come out to $161.16.  The actual math should would have determined it to be 161.1545. 

Now this, is where your math skill should kick in. When you were taught rounding… you didn’t round to the nearest whole number unless that number was a five or above… for example if you had an 89.5% in Math, you hoped your favorite math teacher would round that up to a 90%.

image courtesy of: craigtmonroe.wordpress.com/2009/10/ 

 However, if you were to receive an 89.4% you knew it wasn’t going to be rounded unless you went in and asked for extra credit.

Fortunately, since this story was printed and publicized Ms. Carrington has had her medical coverage reinstated. It still leaves many questions; however, about the medical profession and the pursuit of payment. This article is meant not as a malicious attack on the medical field, but more of an awareness for people undergoing medical treatment and those that are caring for people undergoing medical treatment to be aware and cognizant of the bills that are coming and the payments required.  Hopefully, some steps will be taken to care for those in trouble or financial stress. Furthermore, it goes on to prove that Every “Penny” Counts, not only to help those undergo treatment, but to aid those who are searching for a cure. 

If interested in the reading more about La Rosa Carrington, here is the original article written by the Gazette: Colorado Springs Article.

 

For the past few months I have been preparing for my first actual race of some sizeable distance: The Broad Street Run, a 10 mile jaunt down Broad Street, around city hall and ending in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. This race has been a little daunting. I’ve thought about doing the Broad Street Run, multiple times and each time talked myself out of it. However, this year was different a good friend of mine at work, Scott, a man whom I have coached multiple seasons with had cancer strike his extended family. Scott informed me that he was going to run Broad Street. Scott has been such a positive force at my school and coaching that I committed to running in support of Scott and his family. He and I have gone back forth over the last few months discussing our training runs, sending messages back and forth urging each other on to run. In fact there were days that I hated the idea of going to put in a training run, and there was Scott either heading to the gym to run or coming out of the gym from running. It was there that I would ask him, “How far did you go, today?” He would respond with a great distance and I would say internally, “crap, I have to go put that in or a little more.” This continued for a weeks, until we got close to the actual race. 

In preparation, I decided I would run the Gener8tion run in Fairmount Park, a very nice 8k and then follow it up the following week with a 7 1/4 mile run back home on a local high school track. Those two distances were the longest I used to prepare for the Broad Street Run. I was intimidated, the idea of running with 30,000 people, most of which have probably done this race before, or have run this kind of distance on a regular basis. 

Fortunately for me, my friend Adam, a regular of distances this long had returned to our wonderful hometown and acted as my unofficial mentor through the last few days of preparation. He and I hung out on Saturday and drove down to the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, where we found our racing bibs and wandered around the running expo. From there we went over and watched Roy Halladay pitch a complete game shut-out of the rival New York Mets. The day was a complete success. The concern now was what was going to happen the next day.

The morning came early and I was off to pick up Adam and drive down to Citizen’s Bank Park where the race would eventually end (relative proximity.) For me, I think the wave of excitement truly hit me as we piled onto the subway and raced off to the beginning of the race.  Arriving at the beginning, I started to feel the flight of butterflies in my stomach, thinking again, that maybe I have bitten off more than I could chew, but at this point it was too late to turn back. The starting gun was going off and I could see and hear each corral heading off on their arduous journey towards the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Our turn came and we started off. No matter what happened, I was sticking with Adam, figuring that our times sounded close in our discussions of running so I should stay close and we set a great pace, approximately a 9 min mile pace. The issues for me started a mile 2. I felt a sudden twinge of pain in my right calf and I new this was way to early for me to cramp up, but there was little I could do.  The mission became either fight through it and hope that it worked out or simply try to fight through it.  I kept racing on and luckily my calf loosened up.  I pushed on and raced a 46:42 half. I am pretty pleased with that.

 However, my issues were not finished. Mile 7 and 8 were painful and I hated each and every step. I think my issues with drinking water and Gatorade while running finally caught up with me. I haven’t mastered this whole drinking while running. I’m just not good at it, I choke, don’t get enough water into my mouth, spill half of it all over me… who knows, I’m a delinquent when it comes to this. Mile 7 and 8, I lost it… just became increasing drained. I got to the point where I had to walk the water lines because I think I knew I was drained. Then I saw it… mile 8. From here I mentally kicked things into gear… I just kept thinking about it like I do when I practice on the local track: 8 laps… 8 laps…by the time I looked up it was mile 9 and then there was no way in hell I was stopping, walking, I started to pick it up and really run. By the time I had entered the Navy Yard, I was in mid-sprint, just trying to will myself to the end. I crossed at 1:40:04.  I don’t consider this an awful time, for my first major 10 mile run and in the weather that was beating down.  I considered it a challenge and motivation to run the Philadelphia half marathon in September. In fact, there is a half marathon at the end of the month. So we will see. 

For the most part this was a great success (Yes, do your best Borat impression here!) I was very happy with what took place and even happier that I had the opportunity to share the experience with Adam, who eventually did lose me in the race and finished at 1:38:17 a full 1:37 a head of me. And most importantly that I had the opportunity to run in support of a good friend and his family who ultimately, ran in memorium of their loved one. To Scott and his family, you did everyone proud with your efforts and I look forward to running with you again!

Random positive that came up, prior to the race: I was randomly complimented that I could look like Chase Utley or at least his brother…. I will definitely take that compliment!

Broad Street Run

March 16, 2010

The Broad Street Run, which is fast approaching (May 2nd, 2010) , is a 10 mile race down Broad Street in Philadelphia. I have never had the distinct pleasure in running this race before, but earlier this year, I promised that I would do so in support of my friend and colleague Scott and his family.  They are currently in their own family struggle against cancer and as you all know the cancer community doesn’t back down from a collective fight.  Therefore, I committed to running the race as the one and only  gameoncancer, but with the mission in mind of supporting Scott and his family, all the while still honoring those that are fighting, have beaten cancer  or for those whose memories remain with us.

It’s interesting; however, as much as I’m running in support of Scott, I’ve been finding myself supported by Scott. For he has been my motivation over the last few weeks to get out and run.  Everyday, I see Scott head down from teaching to the gym to put some miles out on the treadmill and everytime I see him head that way it stirs me to make sure that I’m heading down the same path to put my own miles down.  I’m eager and intimidated by this race. Yes, I know that it is a fast course and downhill and all the other stuff that people tell me about, how this is an esay run, but at the same time I’m leaving a comfort level of small and intermediate runs.  This isn’t a small race, it’s going to be packed with approximately 30,000 people! 

Therefore,  I think this race will be a true test of will for me. It’s my mental form of battling cancer. Now, I’m not trying to say that this is in anyway comparable to fighting cancer, but it reflects for me the pure test and determination that a caregiver or combatant against cancer must have.  Each step on the road, in my head symbolizes that fight.  It will get harder as the miles rack up and I’m sure there will be many times that I will want to walk or stop all together. But I need to be determined and continue to push on, much as I attempt to tell others to push on. At the end of the day I hope to be standing at the finish line triumphant as I hope many of you will be with your personal battles. 

If you are thinking about coming out to run for Broad Street, do so!  I would be more than happy to see you all out there and cheer you on.  If you can’t make it, send me names and I will make a shirt to commemorate you or your loved ones as I run.

Either way, today, I wanted to give a shout out to my friend Scott, who has been driving me over the last few weeks to make sure that I get my chubby butt out on the road to run and more importantly for the effort he is putting out to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to run for you and yours.  

New Beginnings

January 3, 2010

So Long 2009

 I have never looked forward to the end of a calendar year as much as I’m looked forward to the end of 2009.  This year has been an absolute emotional rollercoaster. Starting in January with my father’s diagnosis with an undetermined form of stage 4 cancer.  Those three months felt like an eternity. I remember vividly the commutes from Downingtown to Doylestown, to King of Prussia to Philadelphia to King of Prussia back to Downingtown. The trauma of late night researching. The emotional toll of believing unequiocally that things were going to improve and having that dream shatter like that of a pane of glass.  I remember each of the nurses, doctors, technicians, custodians: their faces, their names, their stories, the smell of each hospital and the layout of every room.  I remember the positive influences of the above mentioned people and definitely those whose care and concern were not evident. These memories where sometimes positive open the flood gates to relive the entire experience, but at the same time it has also led to the crusade that was to follow. That mission:  to eradicate cancer from the global health map and to be a constructive force in the lives of others who are undergoing this terrible and heartwrenching disease.

The acceptance of that mission is clearly evident with the creation of this blog, the Gameoncancer team and the events that we have planned and are planning. Those goals and the people that have entered my life or reemerged have meant the world to me, they have acted as my motivation, my driving force, because it has been driven home, how much impact we truly have upon one another if we choose to engage in selfless behavior.  The cancer community has been so accomodating, and open that I cherish the opportunity to become one amongst their ranks, a soldier in a war I will gladly wage. 

The year progressed into the tumultuous sale of my home, the return to Downingtown and to a gruelling schedule that has followed. I’m trying to remain upbeat and fight the demons and people that are trying to hold me back. I believe a great mental obstacle has been hurdled simply by the calendar changing and that great crystal ball falling signifying the end of 2009.

Better things have to begin and I’m going to do my best to make them happen, because I believe that no matter how bad things will get, I must not give in. I believe Winston Churchill, the former prime minister of Great Britain,  put it best, ” Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I hope that you all had a wonderful, happy and safe New Year.