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One Month!

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The 2011 Boston Marathon is now exactly one month away! I just wanted to take a moment to send out a huge "Thank You!" to everyone who has donated to the American Liver Foundation in support of my run. The end is in view, and and I'm well on my way to achieving what I've set out to do.

For training I have so far:

  • Run more than 500 miles over almost 200 hours.
  • Run between downtown Boston and Newton and back 8 times (including once in a snowstorm).
  • Consumed 66 energy gels and 33 cups of gatorade.
  • Done 900 lunges and squats.
  • Run around the MIT indoor track 400 times.
  • Worn a pink tutu while running 17 miles from Natick to Back Bay.

As you know, I'm doing all this for the American Liver Foundation with the hope that more people in the future can successfully combat liver disease like I did. I only have little over 100 miles more to run before Patriots' Day, and a tad less than $1,000 to raise in order to reach my goal.

if you haven't done so already and have a few moments and shekels to spare, please make a donation in support of my run.

How Did I Get Here - Running

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For those who've known me over the years, learning that I've become a runner and am training to run the Boston Marathon probably provides a much bigger Holy Shit Moment™ than learning that I survived hepatitis C. I did a decent amount of outdoor athletic activity in my teens and early twenties (skiing, hiking and canoeing), but nothing significant. In school I was always the last kid picked, and liked it that way. I satisfied my high-school athletic requirements by being a team manager or through intramural softball or volleyball. During my professional life I've been a member of many gyms and health clubs, but a regular visitor to few. Running? I've always hated running. Always.

But Francie loves running. She's been a runner for as long as I've known her, picking up the habit/hobby/avocation in college. She runs a few days a week, week in and week out, and becomes noticeably frustrated when she isn't able to get a run in at least once a week. My gosh, the other day she ran 6 miles on the treadmill in our basement, which is something I still can't comprehend. Sleet, snow, sub-zero wind chills I can deal with - staring at a wall, or, worse, Fox news on those damn overhead TVs in the gym for 6 stationary miles is closer to hell than I ever wish to get to.

So, a runner married to an anti-runner. Opposites attract, and all that. But, you see, I got this virus, and then I got rid of it. But I still had a wife I loved. And two daughters I loved. And 250 pounds of me I knew I didn't really need that much of. So, step 1, I knew I really had to do some kind of exercise. Regularly. And for the rest of my life.

I joined the gym and did the usual elliptical and bike stuff. It wasn't bad. OK, it sucked, but it was doable, and I really did begin to feel good doing it after a few weeks. Both physically and mentally. But it did suck.

Then Francie signed up to run the 111th Boston Marathon. A long-time dream for a long time runner - running the Boston Marathon. She got a number through the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester. So what do I do? I promise to run the last five miles with her.

I managed to run a half mile one day. Then a mile on another. Then two. Three on Mondays and Wednesdays. Then the Friday Five. All at the lightening speed of 4 miles an hour - 15 minute miles. Meanwhile, Francie's running 10, 12, 14, 16, finally 21 mile long runs on weekends. In rain, sleet, snow and bitter cold in the middle of winter. All to run a foot race (and raise some money for a really good cause). And all of this at 9-10 minutes per mile.

Have I told you that I'm in awe of her? Well, I am.

But I had to break my promise. I only ran the last mile with her - the only distance I could keep up with her, even after she'd already run 25 miles. One mile, but I was hooked.

Today the Friday five is the Friday 10. How did that happen? Well, just like that. One mile at a time. One foot in front of the other. One day after another. Just like surviving liver disease, I guess.

How Did I Get Here - Hepatitis C

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I found out that I had hepatitis C in the summer of 2004. A routine blood test detected elevated liver enzymes - a sign of liver damage. The life insurance company then kindly ran additional tests that revealed the presence of the Hepatitis C antibody. Apparently there's only one reason the Hep-C antibody would float around in the bloodstream of someone that doesn't know they're infected with the hepatitis C virus: because they are infected with the hepatitis C virus.

But how did the virus get into me?

The most common cause of infection is purposely (in the case of drug use) or accidentally (in the case of health care workers) getting stuck by a needle previously used by someone who already has Hepatitis C. I've never used intravenous drugs, and have never worked in the health care profession, so that weren't it.

Other causes include: Sharing a razor, toothbrush or nail clipper with an infected person (not that I know of); Exposure to unclean tattooing or body-piercing instruments (nope - unless rub-on tattoos count); Unprotected anal sex or exposure to multiple sex partners (uh, no - and let's just leave it at that).

Oh, and before 1992 there was a risk of getting hepatitis C from blood transfusions.

So, this is where I should probably share a bit of my medical history. When I was young I was diagnosed with a blood deficiency called Hypogammaglobulinemia (trust me - it gets easier to say with practice). Basically I wasn't good at making gamma globulin, a basic blood component that helps you fight viruses. The common treatment was regular injections of gamma globulin to replace what what's missing and hopefully prod the body's immune system to start make its own (priming the pump, so to speak). The source of injectable gamma globulin is human blood provided by generous donors - human blood donations that weren't tested for the hepatitis C virus until 2002. I began getting gamma globulin injections in 1969. I received my last gamma globulin infusion in 1989. One of those thousands of CCs of gamma globulin came from someone infected with the hepatitis C virus.

If it weren't for that generous blood donor, I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today - training to run the 2009 Boston Marathon.
Injecting a few cubic centimeters of mystery juice into your fatty tissue is not really a matter of concern to the typical Hepatitis C patient. What's troublesome is what happens next. It's what happens eight hours later when you go to bed with aches and chills like the worst winter's flu. It's what happens twenty four hours later when waking up is hard to do. Really really hard to do. It's what happens forty eight hours later when the spouse and children you love more than anything in the universe become the most annoying thing in that universe. It's what happens seventy two hours later when you want to rip the head off of the boss who's also one of your best friends because he had the temerity to say "Good morning, how are you doing?"

It's a really big deal when you don't know who the fuck you are anymore, but you do know it's pretty much all because of that interferon shit you shot up a couple of days ago and plan to do again in a couple more days.

And you go through all that on the coin-toss chance that it will actually make a difference.

That's the biggest deal of all.

There once was a man...

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dchead01_180.jpgThere once was a 250 pound middle-aged couch potato who found out that he had hepatitis C. Today that guy weighs 180 pounds, runs 20 miles a week and is considered medically cured of the viral infection. Oh, and he's entered to run in the 2009 Boston marathon for the American Liver Foundation's Run for Research team.

Back in 2004, the odds of him successfully ridding his body of the Hepatitis C virus were 50/50. The odds of his running in the Boston Marathon were astronomical.

This blog is the story of that man's journey. And he promises to never write of himself in the third person again.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Life category.

Health is the previous category.

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