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March 21, 2010 / elodie kaye

Practically Banal

The cancer I had began as a compact tumour about the size and shape of a grape, nestled near the top of my brain stem.  The brain stem is more or less an extension of your spinal cord; it’s the most primitive part of your brain.  Its job is to signal your heart to beat and your lungs to inflate.  This part is mostly independent of your control, but if a surgeon nicks it, you will logically enough, die.

In spite of the fairly aggressive treatments I’ve had, I generally don’t notice much residue, a couple of years on.  A few differences are emerging though.  I’m not more likely to catch a cold or flu than anyone else, but once I succumb, it seems to take me a little longer to get over it than the people around me.  Some of the students I work with had the flu before me, and most of them were well in 10 days, or a little less.  Right now, it looks like it’s going to take me two weeks or a little more.  I’ve had a couple of other bugs that followed a similar pattern, but what could I do?  Two data points don’t make a trend.

As for my running, I haven’t perceived any differences yet, apart from the slightly funky gait.  I do expect to find some, but I think maybe my training load hasn’t been enough to make those differences evident.  So far, there’s nothing special about the two injuries I’ve had; they can be traced to weaknesses, or too much speed or distance too soon.

I take the only approach I know.  I train the way I used to, looking for the same kind of progress.  This is why I don’t routinely put it out there that I’ve had cancer.  For most of my running, so far it’s irrelevant.



Leave a Comment
  1. saragracer / Mar 21 2010 10:54 pm

    Makes sense to me. Try, experiment, adapt when necessary. Not until.

    I am mad at myself for not running today. I could have. I was lazy and didn’t. Tomorrow it will rain, and I will feel like it’s a crime I didn’t take advantage of this fine day.

    • elodiekaye / Mar 22 2010 2:27 pm

      When I’m anywhere but CA, I have my running log set to open a weather page at the same time. I have to plan my rest days and key runs around the weather for the coming week or I might not get them at all. I know exactly how you feel today, but leverage it! Use it to urge yourself out the door next time. 🙂

  2. Keith Peters / Mar 23 2010 9:54 am

    Bodies are strang and complex things. I’ve had two odd diseases in the past few years. Sarcoidosis and Mastocytosis. Both immune system related and both very rare.

    The sarco makes your immune system randomly attack various parts of your body. For six months I had chronic fatigue, almost daily fevers, and joint aches so bad I could barely get out of bed some mornings. However, during the year or so it was active, I didn’t get so much as a sniffle. Go immune system! If sarco goes chronic or hits your nervous system or heart, it can be bad, but like most cases, mine finally went away on its own after a couple of years.

    Mastocytosis has caused small, apparently permanent, red dots on my chest, back, shoulders, and some itching. It’s extremely rare. Took several specialists and a biopsy to figure out what it was. The docs were very excited and even had me come in to be checked by about 50 med students on rounds to see if any could guess what it was. I think one guessed correctly. Again, it’s something that can get bad, but so far, it’s just cosmetic.

    Both of these had me pretty scared when the docs were trying to figure out what they were. Both took weeks of tests and visits, with me imagining all kinds of horrible things. So I count myself really lucky that both turned out to not be any worse than they were.

    • elodiekaye / Mar 23 2010 4:55 pm

      Wow, scary. Did you think when you got mastocytosis that you must have a big red target on your back? 😉

      I have to admit that my awe for doctors faded somewhat once I became seriously sick. They really know very little about how the body goes wrong, even less about how it works well. I think you’re right that it’s too complex a system to be reduced to a tidy set of principles. At least not ones that would be predictive in a useful way.

      It’s kind of amazing that training does work the way it’s supposed to now and then!

  3. Keith Peters / Mar 23 2010 6:46 pm

    Yes, I really understood that medicine is as much an art as a science.


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