I don't think we live in a very patient culture. Or maybe that's my way of saying that I feel impatient sometimes. Whatever it is, I can see that there's a long road ahead.
The idea of running a marathon sounds like a lot of fun (at least it does to me). I've wanted to run one ever since I finished my first half marathon with a friend in April 2004. I have yet to complete a full marathon--but Billy and I still talk about running one in Hawaii when he gets out of here!
In the meantime, I think I'm learning (or relearning) some things here that may help me in that future marathon training...
1. Initial Pace. With new runners, there's a tendency to "go out too fast." My cross country coach in high school (Ron Keller) used to talk about that all the time, as if we should know better. We needed to figure out the kind of pace we could sustain so that we could finish strong.
Every day, the surgeons come by and look at Billy's side. From day to day, the progress doesn't seem all that remarkable. But you know what? The pace is what Billy can sustain. And he's farther ahead every day! Today, the surgeon looked at his left side (where they made the incision on Saturday morning), and he commented on the lack of redness. :-) I saw it myself. There is a remarkable lack of redness on his left side! That's progress!
The surgeons are hoping that we'll be able to stop the antibiotics soon. Billy has been on two antibiotics (vancomycin and something else), and an anti-fungal. Today, they stopped the anti-fungal because there hasn't been any hint of fungus in his system. If they're able to stop the antibiotics without seeing a fever, it means that Billy's body is strong enough to fight the infection on its own. We're praying that will be the case.
The surgeon told us that we're taking this a little bit at a time. We're talking about slow progress--and quite frankly--we're okay with that.
2. The Realization that This is Going to Take a Lot of Work. You can't run a marathon by training for a day, or even a week. Training well means going out day after day, week after week, and putting in the time on your feet. And you can't heal from a serious infection and beat cancer in a week. This is going to be a long journey.
3. You Have to Figure Out a Way to Measure Progress. In running, maybe it means you ran the same route a bit faster this week than last week, or you increased your "long run" by another mile. Guess what! Billy has made progress. He got up and walked today! It wasn't far--but it was farther than he walked last week. (Last week, he didn't really walk anywhere.) And he even sat in the chair today. It hurt, but he did it, which is quite remarkable, because he has been stuck in bed all day.
4. We Need a Big Cheering Squad. And I think we've found one. People keep joining all the time. Today, we received a HUGE care package from Ft. Rucker--the place where Billy learned to fly blackhawks. There were hats, medals, t-shirts, notes...you name it. Billy's room is starting to look like a pilot lives there! :-)
5. There Are All Kinds of Reasons to Give Up--and You Have to Ignore Them to Finish. There are all kinds of people who might doubt you will make it, and there are a whole slew of excuses. I've never run a marathon before, and I could easily let that keep me from trying. But "I've never done that before" sounds like a lame excuse, and it's sure not one Billy is using. The doctors have told us the statistics. Few people--very few--beat gastric cancer, especially if it's stage IV. The "odds" are not good. But we received a card in the mail just this week from a woman who works with soldiers. And she told us about a soldier who was diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer last January. He was medevaced back to the States. Miraculously, his cancer went into remission over the summer! Billy wants to be able to fly again, and he's working toward that--one step at a time.
6. Sometimes You Have to Train "One Telephone Pole at a Time." Early on in my journey as a runner, I often felt like stopping. So I would pick a telephone pole ahead of me, and I'd tell myself that I could stop once I reached that pole. Just before I got to the pole, I'd pick another one, and I'd repeat the message. One telephone pole at a time, I'd finish a 3-mile run without stopping. Eventually, I finished a half marathon.
We're taking it one day at a time here. Billy's perseverance in the daily struggle is quite impressive! He's asserting his independence when he can [giving us huge eye rolls when the nurses step in to do simple things that he'd rather do himself. :-) ] His willingness to try walking--even though it was painful--is inspiring to watch. He's a fighter, and he has a huge WILL to live.
Thanks for everything! We couldn't do this without all of you.
Note: A number of you know that I love running, and I'm usually very committed to it. You've also known that it was hard for me to leave the hospital to go for a run. I didn't want to miss anything that was happening here. Well, you'll be happy to know that my running hiatus seems to have come to an end. I've gone on a run eight times in the last two weeks (thanks to the company of Bobby, Danny, and Rob)! And we're planning on training for a 5K. Maybe we could even get a group of us together to run a 5K for Billy sometime in the next month. If you're up for something like that--or if you know of a good 5K near Walter Reed--let us know!