Sun 20 May 2012
I got a call from my dad a little over three months ago. “Dolores, I’m going to train for the Wichita Marathon.” This had been a goal he’d talked about off and on through the years. This time he was serious. What’s amazing about this goal is that Dad will turn 81 on May 23 and he hasn’t run since his fifties when he had trained with a friend to run 10Ks for a few years.
I will point out that my dad is in pretty good shape. He’s been physical his entire life having owned a Radio Shack Franchise and television repair business, he’s accustomed to heavy lifting. He had been on the roof not too long ago making repairs. But, let’s face it, training for a 10K is a little different than training for a marathon.
He had about nine months to train and he jumped right in. He started by walking and running—first a mile turned to two miles turned to three miles until, a little less than three weeks ago, he called to say he had run six miles without stopping. He was running about 30 miles a week at the time. I was astounded. He was actually on track to start a six-month marathon training program. I could hear the smile in his voice. “I’m going to run the River Run in May. I’m ready.” The River Run is a 10K in Wichita, Kansas. I was amazed at his progress in just three months and his determination.
A week later I got a shocking call from my sister, Linda. “Dad has a mass on his kidney. The doctor won’t know for sure if it is malignant until he operates, but in 90% of the cases, it’s cancer.” A chill went through my body. I had always imagined my dad would live forever. I pushed that thought from my mind and fought back the tears.
The doctor suspected it was transitional cell cancer, an aggressive form of cancer that manifests in the urinary system. Dad was scheduled for surgery only a week later which frightened all of us—except for Dad. He said he felt great. He was out mowing the lawn and running errands. He wanted to run, but the doctor put his foot down. I’d never seen anyone in such a good mood prior to surgery. They say attitude is everything. I was scared but encouraged by his sense of well-being.
He went into surgery on May 8 and one kidney was removed. The doctor said his level of fitness made a big difference during the surgery and he came through with flying colors. The doctor also said it looked like cancer but he didn’t think it had spread but we would find out for sure in a few days. His words were encouraging but now all we could do was wait.
Dad was released from the hospital three days later. He was making a remarkable recovery. The next day, the test results came back and we all breathed a big sigh of relief, the cancer had not spread and he will not have to go through chemotherapy. When I had talked to Dad that day, he sounded great but was disappointed that he wasn’t going to be able to run the 10K this month. He said he had asked the doctor when he could start running again but the doctor had just stared at him. Dad was forceful on the phone. “You don’t think the loss of a kidney is going to slow me down.” I smiled—I knew he could live a normal life with one healthy kidney—and he would take care of himself.
There is no doubt where I get my gut determination and perseverance to go after a challenging goal. It’s gratifying to see that no matter what age in life we happen to be, that going after a dream is what makes life meaningful and fun.
Did the running help bring on the symptoms that led to his early diagnosis? I don’t know. If it did, it was a blessing. His fitness helped him get through the surgery and is helping him achieve a fast recovery. Being fit is key to a fulfilling life as we age. Check out an earlier blog entry, “Stay Young and Smart as You Age—Run.” It is a fact, running extends life.
Okay, so Dad will probably not run the marathon this October. But we all know he will start running again as soon as he is able. The marathon story is to be continued… Nevertheless, his achievement of running six miles without stopping in three months ranks high on the scale. Kudos to you Dad! Way to go!