Monday, May 26, 2008

Kelly's graduation

A year ago, Laura and I attended Kelly's graduation at Cut Bank High School. It was a very emotional day for all that were in attendance. In the above photo, Kelly receives her medal of honor from Colonel Darryl Hensley. The ribbons represented his service to our country which included the Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan. I had the honor to speak with Colonel Hensley and thank him for doing that for her. He told me that she was his hero, that nothing he or I would ever do in our life would compare to Kelly's battle. I couldn't have agreed more. I told him she had been my hero for the last eight years. Kelly in her typical fashion received the medal with graciousness and humility. She was one of the sweetest people you could ever hope to meet.

Kelly was so determined to walk with her class and this determination was shared equally by her classmates. They had no intentions of walking without her.

When Kelly's name was announced she received a heartfelt standing ovation from the entire audience. Kelly was so loved by her community.

She was a hero to so many of us.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Need some inspiration? Lovelets-Megan's bracelets of hope

I stumbled across this today when I was at Panera Bread. I seem to find interesting things on their bulletin board.

Megan Dickey, who swam on Laura's club swim team passed away last summer after a battle with bone cancer at the age of 13. One of her friends has started an organization to provide gifts to children that are sick. She recently had a meeting with the CEO of children's hospital here in Denver. After Meagan passed away, she decided to make a difference. No moping around.

How awesome is that? I have no words to describe that. I am not sure how old Jenni is. I think she is 14 or 15, somewhere around there.

Please check out her website. For a 10.00 donation she will send you a special homemade lovelet bracelet or leave her a note of encouragement on her blog.

This all goes to benefit children. What a fantastic young lady Jenni is.

Marathon #1- May 23, 1999 San Diego California

Nine years ago today, I became a marathoner. I was in a select group of less than 1/10 of 1% of people that had the fitness to complete a marathon.

When I started training in January, my patient hero Kelly had just celebrated her 10th birthday and was in remission. In April, Kelly suffered a relapse and she and her family went to Seattle to begin another round of treatment. A colleague of Kelly's dad sent me an email informing me that Kelly had relapsed. I spent the day at work, wiping tears from my eyes.

Now nine years later and 14 more marathons, I can look back on that day and honestly say, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had trained and trained through painful shinsplints, arthritis in my big toe joint and made it to the start line along with 18,000 other hopeful runners and walkers. There was a sea of purple people wearing their Team In Training jerseys all with a common purpose, walking or running for someone facing a far greater challenge.
I don't really remember all that much about the day or the course. I think it took over 15 minutes from the time they started the race until we finally crossed the start line. Probably the best part of the course was in the early miles as we started in Balboa park and ran very close to the world famous San Diego zoo.

I remember some very friendly marines at an early water station. That was very cool.

Luckily for most of the marathon, we were under a nice cloud cover. I stayed with one of my TNT teammates for the first 20+ miles of the marathon and then sadly we got separated for the last 5 miles or so.

I remember thinking at the 23 mile mark, I am never going to do this again. 18,000 people plus bands at ever mile and I felt so alone. This isn't much fun.

However as I had done so many times in training and would continue to do so in the years ahead, I leaned on Kelly for support and inspiration. Her battle was so much harder and the finish line for her wasn't 3 miles away. I knew I could take the next day off, or the next week. Kelly was starting another round of chemotherapy the next day.

It was a very emotional moment for me when I crossed my first marathon finish line, seeing my wife and kids.

I was so tired, I couldn't even bend over to remove the timing chip from my shoe and tie my shoelaces. Laura tied my shoelaces for me and made such a big bow, it looked like something a clown would wear. We still laugh about that.

I would have never believed that I would do a marathon, let alone 15 as I have now. During my journey and evolution as a runner, I always had a clear purpose of why I ran. I ran to honor Kelly. My blogger ID is simply, Kelly's runner. I am so honored to say I am one of Kelly's runners.

She will always be my hero and I will always be one of her runners.

I love her and miss her so much.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Almost a marathon in years ago

Sue and I met 26 years ago today at a restaurant called the Peppermill. That restaurant has changed hands many times over the years and I am not sure if the building even exists anymore.

We were introduced by my next door neighbors at the time(Lynn and Louise). Sue worked with Louise and Lynn and I had just started a business together(K & M construction).

Sue had volunteered to help Louise lay sod at their house and Lynn and I had a one day remodel job which was the first paying job we had ever bid on as a new company.

We were going to install a set of double doors from a master bedroom that would open out to a patio area. The important thing to note is the word "double. Now this was 26 years ago and we thought it would take us 4 hours maximum to install the doors and the interior casing and the trim on the outside. We thought we were going to make 300.00 for a half day of work(37.50 an hour). We were going to be rich!

The lumber yard had quoted a price as a single door, not a double door so immediately the profit was almost entirely gone. We didn't want to go back to our first client and tell them the lumber yard had only quoted a price for a single door. We thought this was not the thing to do, so we went ahead with the job as planned realizing we weren't going to make much money, but we were hoping they would be happy with our work and possibly give us some referrals.

To make a long story short, we ran into some other issues, had to buy some extra material. Our 4 hours of work turned into 9 hours of work. When it was all said and done, the profit for the day was a whopping $16.00. We split everything 50/50 so our first day in business, we made less than 1.00 an hour. It was a Saturday so we still made 16.00 for our little company. Little did I realize at the time, that was an omen of things to come and our business together ended less than a year later.

While Lynn and I were off making the big money, Sue and Louise installed the sod at Louise's house. As a thank you, Louise invited Sue to come to dinner with that evening to celebrate our big payday. The first thing I remember about Sue was thinking that she was so cute.

Being a totally oblivious man, I had no idea that this was a set-up and Louise was off playing matchmaker.

Anyway, we had a great time at dinner and a couple of months later after being prodded by Lynn and Louise, I finally got up the courage to ask Sue out on a date. I was so nervous, just shook like a leaf as I stared at the phone. I finally got the nerve to dial the number and she had left work early that night and I had to go through the agony all over again the next night.

Happily, she said yes when I asked her out and here we are 26 years later, with two wonderful kids.

Sue, thanks for saying yes, even though you played so hard to get :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

A handprint on my heart

Check out this beautiful song from the muscial Wicked. This was a play we were hoping to take Kelly to this fall for the trip to New York. I started listening to this song right before I went to Seattle last February to see Kelly. There are times when it still moves me to tears.

I always felt like like Kelly was teaching me. I learned so much from her and I will always cherish her handprint on my heart.

"It well may be, that we will never meet again in this lifetime,
so let me say before we part so much of me is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart...
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine by being my friend... "

Please check out the video. The harmony is simply amazing.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Super Thursday for Adam & Laura

Today was a big day in the lives of my children. Laura turned 21 today and is now officially an adult. Adam graduated from high school at 9:00 this morning.

As a parent this is a day of mixed emotions, excitement twinged with sadness as my time with Laura and Adam has passed too quickly and the clock is running.

Sue told me I should give them so advice so here goes.

  • Pursue your dreams

  • Love what you do

  • Serve others

  • Never give up

  • Pay your bills first

  • Never accept limitations, from others or yourself

  • Believe in yourself

  • Work and play hard

  • Never stop learning, being curious

  • Take risks, A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.

I am very proud of both of you. You are both very talented with unique special gifts to offer to the world. I believe in you.

I told this to Laura during sobfest 05 as she calls it and I wanted to share that tonight with both of you.

You have everything you need to be successful. I want to be a part of your life for all of your life and I want us to be friends.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Livestrong Day at Denver University

I took the afternoon off from work yesterday to attend one of the many Livestrong events that were occurring across the country.

Lance Armstrong was coming to Denver University to speak during part of a whirlwind tour. Denver was the 3rd of 4 stop, he started the day in New York city, flew somewhere in Ohio, on to Denver and was then heading to Las Vegas for the final stop.

I have always been a big fan of Lance's not so much for being a seven time champion of the Tour De France. That is an amazing story that stands on it's own. It is really what he had done off the bike that inspires me.

Lance told us of the conversation he had with his Oncology doctor as he was being discharged after treatment. He had two choices, he could walk out of the hospital as a private citizen, and never share his story of his diagnosis or his treatment. That was his right. His other choice was the obligation of the cured. Walk out of the hospital and make it his mission for the rest of his life to tell everyone that he is a cancer survivor. He embraced the obligation of the cured, started the Lance Armstrong foundation, travels across the country raising awareness, uses his position in the bully pulpit to task Congress and the President of the United States to increase funding for cancer. He could have walked away from his responsibility. He is 35 years old, never needs to work another day in his life yet he continues to be relentless in his efforts to provide hope and inspiration. Now, I just need to figure out how to recruit him to run a marathon for TNT. That would be something.

The other part of his message yesterday was stressing the importance of this year's election, encouraged all of the young people on campus to register to vote. If you want change, you have to demand change and that change starts in rooms like this across the country. I think that is a great message for young people. Both of my children will be voting in their first presidential election this fall.

The other cool part of the day, is I almost bumped into Michelle Kwan who is a graduate student at Denver University. She is so tiny, instantly recognizable. I got to see two famous people in one day.

Kelly also embraced her obligation of the cured when she was in remission after her second stem cell transplant. Kelly volunteered for additional testing, blood draws. She wanted to help her doctors understand why the protocol was effective as she wanted to help other cancer patients. She could have easily said, no more. That was not in her nature. Kelly was so strong, but she was also such a kind and gentle person and exemplified the motto of the Lance Armstrong foundation to Live strong. She wanted to give others the chance to Live Strong.

One last thought-Do you live strong like Kelly and Lance?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Colorado Rockies run for the Homeless

For Mother's day, Adam and I let Sue sleep in and we went and did a 5K run that the Colorado Rockies put on as a benefit to end homelessness in Denver. Adam tried to convince Laura to come with us, but he couldn't talk her into it. Every race participant gets a voucher for two free tickets to a baseball game so it is a good deal.

Adam goes to two 5K's a year, this one and Fans on the Field where you start at Invesco field run into Coors field, inside the Pepsi center where the Avs and Nuggets play and then run on the sideline at Invesco Field where the Broncos play.

That is one of the cool things about the running community. Almost ever race raises money for a charitable organization.

We almost had to change our last name to Mckinney as Miss Colorado, Maggie Ireland was the volunteer assisting with registration for people with last names beginning with M.

The gal that sang the national anthem before the race was awesome. I still get goosebumps now when I hear our national anthem sung. It has always had a much deeper feeling for me after 9-11.

This run has an interesting twist as you get to enter Coors field and run along the warning track from Left field towards home plate and then back up the first base line to right field and back out of the stadium.

A young guy that was running near me pretended to leap up near the left field wall and snag rob someone of an imaginary home run. He got quite the ovation for his athletic feat.

After the race, you get to come back in the stadium and get free hot dogs (very gross at 8:00 in the morning) and lemonade squishes. Adam ate two hot dogs, guess you can do that when you are 17. The thought of eating hot dogs right after running was repulsive to me.

Huge turnout at the event this year. The concourse was quite crowded, almost felt like you were at a game minus the baseball players.

Perfect running weather yesterday, nice and cool at the start. The sun felt great afterwards.

This was my first race in 8 weeks and amazingly I did fairly good and best of all was this was a rather hilly course and I had no problems with my knee!

Adam and I had a great time and bonded together on Mother's day while the girls slept in :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A call to arms, and legs for Kelly

Today was the kickoff meeting for the upcoming Team in Training fall season. I gave the welcome on behalf of the chapter board and also took the opportunity to explain my connection to the program. There were about 200 participants at the meeting. Approximately 30 in the Triathlon group, 15 cyclists and the rest being marathoner's and 1/2 marathoners.

The Team in Training program is vital to the fundraising efforts of the society. The Rocky Mountain chapter will raise 3.2 millions dollars this year with half of that coming from the TNT program.

I can't remember everything I talked about, it is kind of a blur. I had mentally rehearsed for days what I wanted to say, had even tried to write more of a formal speech. I never end up liking when I write about my feelings for Kelly. I never feel like I can do justice to her story in just a few minutes. I decided this morning to leave what I had prepared at home and speak spontaneously and let that take me wherever it led.

Here is my attempt at a recap of my talk from this morning.

Welcome to Team in Training. You are about to embark on a life changing experience. I wanted to share a little bit about why this is important to me, the connection that I have.

I never quite know where my emotions might take me as I am up here talking. This is the first time I have spoken at a kickoff meeting since my patient hero passed away on March 17 after almost a 12 year battle against cancer. It feels different now, no less important, but it does feel different.

I came to Team in Training 9 years ago. I had no connection to the society, didn't know anyone with a blood cancer. I was so incredibly lucky to have a wonderful young girl, Kelly Grubb assigned to my group as our patient hero. Kelly was 10 years old when I first began running in her honor. I always felt so close to Kelly and was so attached to her. Over the years we shared family vacations together in Disneyland and Calgary, there is even a picture of us dancing together at her sister Marcy's wedding, one of two known pictures in existence of me dancing. My son Adam and Kelly went to prom together during her junior year. It has been such an incredibly rich experience for me and my family.

I would encourage everyone to make a connection to the mission of the society whether that be with your patient hero, a teammate, maybe a coach or your mentor. The more personal connection you build the more meaningful your experience will be.

Lets all remember that this is the day, we officially put blood cancer on notice. We intend to call in your loan and put you out on the street. We need to do this to honor Kelly's life and for anyone that is battling a blood cancer. All of us on the board and the staff for the Leukemia Society are totally committed to this. We will continue to be relentless for a cure and in our efforts to provide support and hope to those that we love and honor.

Kelly has been my hero and inspiration for the last nine years and always will be. Her courage changed my life. Knowing her has changed me forever. I love her so very much.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming here today, to join the fight against blood cancers. What you are doing is so important. It matters so much to me. You are all heroes to me.

Go Team!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Totally random event or is Kelly keeping my heart open?

Okay, here is the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say and it is a long story.

I ran out of gas in my "mystery car" on the way home from a board meeting a couple of weeks ago. The idiot light never came on, in fact the gauge said I still had almost half a tank.

Since I have a habit of running out of gas, I had a one gallon gas can in the trunk of my car. I put a gallon in my car and now I can't get the car started. The car acts like it is flooded. The mystery continues. At that point I decide I will go for a run and come back and see if I can get it started. This gas station doesn't have a public restroom and I am already feeling uncomfortable, but a lot of times I can ignore that when I run. It is a rather chilly night in April and it now begins to snow and the wind begins to blow. I am freezing for the first 10 minutes of the run, this is really fun. I get back to my car about 45 minutes later, put another gallon of gas in the car and finally the "Mystery car" starts.

I stop at a gas station close to home and decide to completely fill up the tank and see if I was really that low or did I have another issue with the car(Since gas has started it's upward spiral, I hate filling the car up).

I decide to go inside at this point and use the bathroom as my condition is becoming quite painful. There is a sign that says for customers only, but since I am filling up the car I can use the bathroom. Phew.

When I come out, the attendant asks me how my day is going. For some reason, I actually told him about all of my trouble getting home, running out of gas, how the car wouldn't start.

He then asked me if I was a runner which was a weird question out of the blue, but this is a strange night. I told him I indeed was a runner and in fact I had gone running earlier during this adventure in getting home. He then proceeded to ask my why I ran, what do I get out of it? This is getting weirder.

Anyway, I told him I just enjoyed running, particularly enjoy running outside. Running outside was in some ways a spiritual quest for me. He kept probing for more information, what made me start, what was I really seeking? Was I finding it?

I told him a little bit about how I had started running marathons for the Leukemia Society back in 1999 and had developed a special bond with Kelly. So you started running to help people was his next question to me. He kept asking me more questions and for some reason I kept trying to answer him. He never quite seemed to like my answers. Why did I continue this conversation? This is too strange.

He returned again to the question, what was I looking for, was I finding it, is your life working?

I told him, I wasn't sure what I was looking for. I hadn't really found it, I was searching, trying to make a connection to a higher power. I was still looking, that was the most honest answer I could give this gas station attendant.

Finally he told me, that the only way to the truth I was looking for was through Christ. That was the only way to make my life work, to find peace, to make that connection.

I was totally blown away at this point. I kind of stammered and thanked him and tried to back out of the door. He asked me what my name was, introduced himself to me and told me once more the only way to make my life work was through accepting Christ as my savior.

I have thought about this a lot for the last couple of weeks wondering about all of the things that transpired that day to bring me to that gas station where I had to venture inside to use the bathroom. If I hadn't run out of gas in the first place, if the car hadn't flooded, if the first gas station had a bathroom, if I just put 10 dollars in the car instead of filling it up, if I wasn't feeling so vulnerable from the board meeting, if I hadn't answered the first question about how my day was going? Why did I do that? Totally out of character.

Is Kelly keeping my heart open to God? I have always felt that God wanted Kelly to be in my life and I never looked beyond that incredible gift. Now I have to ask did Kelly and her family come to my life because God wanted to be in my life?

Don, Patty, Travis and Marcy-I would love to hear from you about this. You can leave a comment on my blog or just send me an email.

Health fair adventure

I had an interesting adventure during a heart screening during a health fair at work today.

I had signed up for a cholesterol screening where you get the results back in 4 minutes. This was a test that you didn't have to fast for, just got a simple prick of the finger.

Sue gives blood all of the time at Bonfils, not sure how much she has given(some ridiculous amount, she even has a 5 gallon pin or something like that). They always give her a finger poke to make sure she isn't anemic so I thought this shouldn't be a big deal.

The technician started pricking my middle finger and then started complaining it was going to take too long to extract the blood and asked if she could poke my other finger. She poked my ring finger and for some reason I began to feel very hot and lightheaded. I put my head between my knees, I felt like I was going to faint. They wheeled me in a chair over to a couch that was in the room so I could lay down. My skin was clammy and my shirt was soaking wet at that point and this is a person that almost doesn't ever sweat even when I am running.

They hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor to check my pulse and blood pressure. My heart rate was down to 30 and my blood pressure was very low. They kept me on the couch for 30 minutes, got a cool washcloth to put on my forehead. She kept telling me to take deep breaths, breath in through your nose, exhale out through the mouth. Okay, this is just like being at Yoga, I can do that. I closed my eyes and practiced the Savasana pose which is always the final pose at every Yoga class I have ever been at. This time I was among my coworkers so it was a bit hard to achieve a state of deep relaxation.

Eventually my blood pressure returned to normal and my heart rate also normalized. I have no idea what caused this to happen.

After all that, I found that my cholesterol was better than it has been in years. They suggested I exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes. That will help your numbers! I thought that was quite funny at that point.

I think I will skip the health fair next year.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Keegan's first Furry Scurry

Laura, Keegan and Adam having fun.
Rocky completes the obstacle course challenge! Proudly prancing.

Keegan gives Rocky a hug.

Adam, Laura, Keegan and Harley

Today was one of our favorite things we do together as a family and hopefully we started a new tradition that will include our great nephew Keegan.

One of my favorite charitable organizations(Denver Dumb Friends League) has an annual walk each year to raise money for their shelter. We have adopted several of our pets from this shelter. It is a wonderful event that we have been attending since 1988. It was originally called the Doggie Dash and had to be renamed to the Furry Scurry as some people felt other 4 legged animals were being discriminated against.

It was a beautiful sunny day today, I am sure they must have had a new record for attendance.

We walked with our two dogs, Harley, a Maltese and Rocky, a standard poodle. Rocky loves seeing all of the dogs. He is so excited and happy the entire time. Harley is a bit nervous around all of those bigger dogs, but he does fine.

Keegan had a great time, pointing out all of the dogs to us. He is such a joy to be around. Getting a hug from Keegan is the best therapy for those moments when I feel sad about Kelly.

Rocky even went and did the obstacle course they had set up after the two mile walk. He nailed the fifth challenge, which was to sit in a big blue box. He is an excellent sitter. It was funny to watch him do some of the more challenging stuff. He was very proud of himself after completing it the first time and went back and did it again.

We had a wonderful time as a family today. Some of my favorite memories with my kids when they were younger were at the Doggie Dash and the Furry Scurry. More great memories and now a special one with Keegan.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Second of Firsts

Two weeks ago I went to my first LLS board meeting since Kelly's passing. I have sat on the board with many of the same people for years so they were well aware of Kelly's cancer journey and the impact she had on my life. I felt strange seeing them now. It didn't feel real, this wasn't how it was supposed to play out.

The TNT campaign director gave me a big hug at the end of the meeting and told me she wants to create some sort of ongoing memorial award in honor of Kelly during each TNT training season. Since Kelly started with the Rocky Mountain chapter, she wanted to do that for her. Oh my gosh, how that touched me. That is so nice to know that Kelly's life and her spirit will continue to be inspiration at the Rocky Mountain chapter!

I made it through the board meeting, quickly exited to my car and cried most of the way home. On a side note, I ran out of gas and had an unusual conversation with a gas station attendant that will be a topic on an upcoming post.

Last Monday I went and spoke at a Team in Training info meeting for the Rocky Mountain chapter's fall season.

This is something I have done so many times over the last nine years as part of the volunteer work I do for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I am always honored when I am asked to give the mission moment at these meetings, sharing Kelly's story, connecting people to the mission.

Again, the feeling was different. I don't know how to describe it. I stumbled a bit, my voice quavered as I shared my feelings with a small group of strangers, asking for their help to put an end to the loss of these young people like Kelly and Laiken. We all have to be more relentless in our efforts than this disease. We have to do this to honor their lives. It's up to us.

Seven of the ten people at the meeting signed up before they left, seven more people to carry the fight for Kelly and Laiken. The battle rages on, but reinforcements are on the way.

Cancer-You are on notice, be very afraid....