Monday, March 23, 2009

Why we all choose to do this.

Today we received an email from our coordinator at TNT that two of our team members lost their Pap to the battle yesterday. Brian is my mentor for this year and is constantly giving me the weekly calls, how's training going, how is the fundraising going, etc all while he is trying to train, work and spend time with his family.

Brian is directly behind me in the picture and his brother Dave is to my right. To completely understand it all - I wanted to share with you Brian's bio and why he does it all. If you have 10 minutes - go watch the video - you will NOT have a dry eye by the time you are done.

I am involved in TNT because of my dad. I call him “Pap.” He was first diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 13 years ago. After a year of chemo he was told he was in remission and we all celebrated and went on with life. About 3 years ago, his cancer returned. My dad had been receiving chemo for about a year when I decided I wanted to do a triathlon and dedicate it to him. Mind you at the time I weighed over 225 pounds and hadn’t done anything physical in my life ever. I found a 5 month training plan and signed up for the Burnet Tri-Hard. My first workout was April 24th 2007 and my race was September 16th. The week of the race, my dad called to tell me that he was in the hospital for a blood clot in his leg. We were both upset. We had talked almost daily about my training and his treatments and we were experiencing the suffering together. He was looking forward to being there at the race to witness firsthand and receive the gift of “my best.” Well, a friend of mine showed up race morning with a video camera and documented the whole thing. (A friend turned it into a video and it is posted on You Tube. Click Here to view it.) My brother was also there and at the end of the race handed me his cell phone with my dad on the phone from his hospital bed. On the phone he joined me for the last few hundred yards of the run and we crossed the finish line together. I couldn’t believe it. It was such an awesome experience. I had actually completed a triathlon. The next month I gave my dad the video my friend made as his birthday gift.

Around that time, I began making plans for my next race. I had picked a race in Galveston to do in the Spring of 2008. While on the website for the race I saw a link to TNT. I read the info about them that said they train people to do endurance events in the name of an honored hero and fundraise. I thought, “I am already doing all of that except for the fundraising.” I went to an info session with my brother and knew right away I was in. I was 100% ALL IN from that moment. I couldn’t wait for Kick-off and to start training with the team and fundraising. About this time (Jan 2007) we found out my dad’s Lymphoma was back in a hard-earned remission. My fundraising last year for Cap Tex went great. I did a mail and e-mail campaign to friends, family, clients, and business associates. I was blown away by the response. So many people are touched by this disease and they really appreciated the opportunity to give and to be a part of the cause. My brother trained for the Sprint at Cap Tex on his own (not too sure about that whole fundraising thing-look at him now). I had an awesome experience with the Team, coaches, my mentor, and just the whole experience. I was so amped up for this race. I was so emotionally committed to it. I had committed to give my dad my best and knew that I would hold nothing back. I had a great swim and a great bike, and a not-so-great run experience. I completely bonked, dehydrated, etc. About a half mile from the finish line, I heard my brother’s voice behind me. Mind you, I was doing the Olympic and he was doing the Sprint, and here we were together. You couldn’t have scripted it any better. We plodded along together until the final few hundred yards which we sprinted in. Pap was at this race and had been cheering us on the run and got to see us as we finished. That was really special. We have a great picture of us side-by-side crossing the finish line. Once across the line, I decided I would stop by the medical tent to “get some ice for my knees.” Well, they took one look at me and threw me on a gourney. Unbeknownst to me I was not in very good shape. My heart rate was too high, body temp was too high, and I wasn’t making much sense when I talked (which I did WAY too much of). The best part was I got to see my team mate Tom in there! Hey Tom! After an IV (which I have since learned is the ultimate trick to a speedy recovery) I felt just fine.

I took a few weeks off after Cap Tex and was searching for “what’s next.” I had been on the fence about taking this sport all the way to an Ironman in honor of my dad. My ultimate goal would be to deliver an Ironman to him while he is living. I decided I would go ahead and train for a Half-Ironman, the Longhorn in October in Austin in pursuit of this goal. I had intended not to fundraise so signed on with a local training group, T3. This is a great group, but the experience completely lacks “heart and passion” when compared to what I experienced with TNT. Around 8 weeks before the race, a good friend told me her mother’s cancer had progressed to the point where she had no more treatment options. She was on her final medication and it appeared to no longer be working. They didn’t expect her to live past Thanksgiving. I decided in that instant that I would dedicate my Half-Ironman to her and my Pap. I would do it for them both. And, I would fundraise after all. Our former TNT coordinator was now with the LiveStong Foundation so I asked her to set me up a website to use. I went back to my donors (fully expecting a slow response given this was the second time in six months to hit them up) and would you believe they stepped up again? Some new people, some of the same people. But in the end, they again raised close to $4,000 to help me honor these two very special people. Pap and Charleen both were at my race. The run course was a double loop so I ran past them 4 times during the run. The whole day was a truly magical experience. It was a borderline Spiritual experience for me. Everytime I passed them and my family I was just lifted up. The whole run I felt good. Never did I feel completely exhausted or wiped out. Sure it was tough, sure I was tired. But I truly felt lifted up the whole time. After I crossed the finish line I went over to join them. There were lots of hugs, and tears, and thankfully pictures too. Sadly, 30 days after my race, I was at Charleen’s funeral. She was such a wonderful woman. Always so positive and full of hope. She sets a high bar for the rest of us to strive for.

Two days after my race my dad went to MD Anderson for a follow up visit and learned his Lymphoma was back. This time, it seems back with a vengeance. His kidneys have now failed due to all the chemo and he receives dialysis 3 days a week. Due to the kidney complications, they can hardly give him any chemo. So, the Lymphoma progresses, and Pap fights back as best he can. Dave and I train hard, giving our best, honoring our dad. I don’t know that my dad will be around to receive the gift of an Ironman while he is living. I was visiting him a couple weeks back and we had some time together sitting on the porch watching the sun rise. I brought up the Ironman and the possibility that I might have to do it in his memory. We shared some tears over this possibility, and then I asked him for a promise. I asked him to promise me that if I do the Ironman after he is already gone that he will promise to be there with me that day and stay with me throughout the race. He assured me he would.

Though losing my dad makes me sad, and Lymphoma is a horrible killer. I am thankful for each day we have together. I am grateful that we have the gift of knowing my dad is passing so we can have those talks on the porch together and we can work towards closure together. I have told my dad many times, in the end, I just want to have no regrets. So far, I can honestly say, I have no regrets. I train hard, I race hard, I live, love, and laugh hard. And I do it all in my Pap’s honor, and someday will do it in his memory.

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