Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Research associate

I have found myself in a job that is incredibly boring. I look through charts to learn about how we have treated people without white blood cells over the last several years.

I can only do this for a half hour at a time before I have to take a break (this being one).

I do learn from this. Once in a while, it can be fascinating to follow someone's battle with cancer in the chart. One woman, whom I met in the hospital two or three years ago, stood out. This was the patient that made me want to go into hematology; at least that's what I tell people. She was a young woman with kids who got leukemia and eventually died. I took care of her several times, during her induction chemo and during her complications. I remember blogging about her on my old, outrageous blog, hoping I wouldn't get in trouble.

Then I remember hearing that she had died. I got teary-eyed, while reading the obituary that was posted on the wall in the ICU. But at that time, having gotten a stem cell transplant at another hospital, she was no longer getting her care at our hospital.

Her tale is written in a chart that measures almost a foot in height. She got her transplant but relapsed quickly thereafter. Because she was so young, she enrolled in a trial with experimental chemo that, once again, wiped out her bone marrow. The marrow grew back but it was still leukemic. Her chromosome analysis was insanely abnormal, beyond any hope for cure.

She died at home with her family, seemingly at peace. But the last notes talk about her struggle with insurance problems and her continued will to fight, despite the lack of chemo options.

What I most strongly remember about her is one night when I was about to go home. I don't want to reveal anything that would identify her (I just deleted a big paragraph). I was called by the nurse that night with a new problem and I remember entering her room, which felt more like someone's living room. It was late evening and her husband and daughter were there, sleeping on cots. She felt like such an important patient at that moment.



The running is okay these days. The next big goal is a marathon in September. I guess the goal is somewhere around 2:40, which may be a little optimistic, but doable if I stay healthy and put in the miles.

My next race is a 5K on Saturday, which I have absolutely no chance of winning. I haven't run a race in years where I haven't thought I could, reasonably, win. Not that I'm that fast; I just don't think it's fun to run if there's absolutely no chance of winning. This 5K is sort of a fun run in that it's very low-key. It just so happens that all the runners and alumni from the local national championship college program come to run it. Last year, 10 people went below 16 minutes. The winner usually runs it in less than 15 minutes.

I plan to go out in a low-pressure group and step it up toward the end. I hesitate to state a goal; I'm in good long-run shape but I don't have the speed to run a good 5K. If I have to be honest, anything about 17 minutes would suck and anything less than 16:20 would make me very happy. In that 40 second interval, it's a spectrum.

Of course, the temperature is going to be really important. If it's 90 degrees and humid, 17 minutes may be all I get.

The Girl should be running a huge PR (after all, she is up against a triathlon split) but plans on running with the baby jogger. We'll see what she does.


SteveQ said...

The end of your post meshes nicely with your question on my blog. I, too, always entered races where I had a hope of winning; after a while, that meant some pretty crummy races. When I saw I could either win 5Ks in Podunk towns or finish 50th in a major race, I stopped racing. Then I found out that, if I wasn't training for a race, I don't run at all. I decided to try something where I was challenged without ever thinking about winning and that led to ultramarathons.

And then I won one.

Runningdoctor said...

Steve, from reading your blog, I saw a lot of similarities between us. I am definitely losing the little track speed that I had and am getting more and more interested in trail/ultra racing.

It's park cop-out, part aversion to the thought of ending as an "age group runner".

Danni said...

I knew a woman who died of melanoma and chronicled the whole thing on her blog. (http://tebspage.blogspot.com/ if you're at all curious or just that bored). Though I didn't know her that well -- she was a close friend of a good friend -- I felt what you are describing about her. Kind of a random thought I guess.

I think you would be better served running races where you have no chance of winning. Sometimes running against faster people gives you speed you never knew you had. It pushes you harder. What's the fun of an easy win? Eventually you might be able to make progress in the harder races which will be a greater achievement, no?

Good luck this weekend!

P.S. I really enjoyed our old blog, probably because it was "outrageous." ;) I'd never been so captivated by a blog. Talk about needing to know what happens/happened.

Runningdoctor said...

Danni, thanks for the comments. Let me just say that these races are not "easy wins" and I certainly don't win all the time. The good races are the ones where I could finish anywhere from first to top 10.

The area I live in is not packed with fast runners. At all. So pretty much every race, there is a small shot at the win if the right people don't show up.

Going out on a limb, I expect Montana is the same way.

If I lived in a big city with a competitive track scene, it would be a different matter.