Thursday, January 21, 2010

Run For Your Life

So, recovery has gone very well so far. It's been nearly a week since my skull reconstruction, and I feel very good...the headaches are gone, I'm off nearly all meds (only seizure suppression remains), and not in any pain. We're not completely out of the woods, as there is still significant risk of infection or other complications, but we haven't seen any signs of them so far. I look pretty good too:

No real swelling or discoloration to speak of. I also maintained my track record of being discharged from the hospital early. So, five surgeries in, I got to thinking -- is having brain surgery something you just get good at? Is a procedure so invasive, injurious, and with such a high risk of complications something your body just "gets used to"?

No way.

What makes my body able to handle these procedures with relative ease? Why do I recover so quickly? Why have my stays in the hospital always been cut short? After removal of the right frontal lobe, why was my stay in the hospital the same as someone who had their tonsils removed? Why am I still the only brain surgery patient in the recorded history of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to skip ICU completely? How can I have brain surgery and run a half-marathon six weeks later, or train for and run a full marathon while undergoing twelve months of chemotherapy? I've discussed this with my neurosurgeon here, and with those at Cedars and elsewhere...and the answer, quite simply, is fitness.

You all know by now that I'm a man of strong faith, and I believe God has preserved me in this world to serve Him and testify on His behalf. No doubt in my mind that plays a role. But, to bring this blog to a close, let me say it quite clearly:

I believe fitness -- running, in particular -- has saved my life. After my first surgery, I made a decision to put my body in the best possible physical shape to fight cancer, and I think much of my success in the fight is a direct result of that decision.

Would I have made it through five brain surgeries if I had been out of shape? What about 22 rounds of chemotherapy and 42 rounds of radiation? Had I not been in marathon shape through all of it, would I have recovered as quickly? Likely not. Would I have recovered at all? Who knows. Would I even be alive today? Perhaps not. A few months ago, I watched the movie "Run For Your Life," the story of Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon. The title of the movie indicates that running defined him, and was his primary reason for living. For me, it's not my reason for living -- it's the reason I'm alive. Don't miss the difference.


jen said...

Michael, I don't know what to say. All I know is that I have a lot to learn from you about faith, strength, and everything. You are an incredible man. :)

And a good-looking one, too! They did a great job on the noggin!

amy said...

Great post Mike. So glad to know you are healing quickly. Give A our best. Blessings, Amy

Alili said...

You never cease to amaze and inspire.

Snowbrush said...

Whoa, you have been through the mill, my friend, as have I in my own way, though nothing life threatening, at least.

faithrunner said...

After today, I just had to look up your blog page to see if you're still posting. See, I've been receiving iron infusions at the oncology treatment center at Duke Hospital. I get 2-3 infusions per week for about a month, I've had some set backs and my veins are not tolerating the drugs, so it'll take longer. Anyway, I thought and said a prayer for you today (even though you have no idea who I am and we haven't met). While in the lobby, there was a young man about your age and your build. He seemed to be very quiet, didn't say much to his wife when she asked him questions, but all that stopped when an older lady was wheeled in to the waiting room. She too was sporting a nice row of stitches across her skull, as was he. The young man immediately got up out of his chair and sat across from this lady and began to ask her about her brain cancer. The two of them spoke about all their treatments, options, time of diagnosis, etc. all within an ear shot of where I was sitting. I suddenly felt moved and wanted to join in their discussion, to really feel how they were feeling, but I couldn't. I couldn't feel their pain, couldn't relate to their experiences, couldn't understand their fears and apprehensions. I suddenly felt guilty for not having cancer, for being in that waiting room only to receive an iron infusion because I have an undiagnosed anemia issue. I felt even worse when the young man looked at me, with compassion in his eyes, and asked me what type of cancer I was being treated for. It caught me off guard, I felt sad and guilty, I had a hard time forming the words to say. So I thought of you and your wife, for what you've gone through, for the pain and fear you've conquered, for the stories you've shared and heard. I prayed that God would restore your health, be a light and encouragement to others that only you can do. I'm so thankful for my health, I know it can be taken away at a moment's notice, and I'm so thankful that I have it today. As I continue to run marathons, I will forget the complaints along the way and instead, focus on the triumph of both health and wellness. I'm really happy for you that you're winning, you're fighting this, you're succeeding.