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Searching for Patterns

Brooke and I at the beach last summer


I gave up on religion a long time ago.  I still say a prayer every night before I go to sleep, but honestly, it’s more a combination of habit and hedging.  Lately, I am finding less and less reason to believe.  

***

It started a little over a year ago: a call from the nurse, a rush to the school.  Even as the events were described to me, I really could not visualize what had happened. Twelve days later, it happened in my arms – my worst moment of fatherhood and now I cannot not see it every time I close my eyes.

A visit to the doctor, a prescription and then…

…nothing.

Nothing for twelve days, thirty days, three months, six, the turning of the calendar, ten months and then…

…a speed bump…

A seizure?  Maybe.  We’re not sure.  It was something.  No, yes, we’re pretty sure it was a seizure.

A few weeks go by…

And then a late night event, stumbled upon because one of us heard something – something that could have easily been brushed off as nothing, something that thank God we didn’t ignore.

We up the medication.  Another couple of weeks and then…

BAM! BAM! 

An MRI, an EEG…nothing unusual, nothing abnormal, nothing to report. Nothing to tell us what to do.  A new medication…a new hope and then…

BAM! BAM! BAM!

And another one today; I literally ran to be with her…

Daddy is here, Mama is here.

Nearly once a week…for four weeks…no, five weeks, no four…

I hate that I can’t remember if we are at six or seven in the last two and a half months! How can I not remember?

I look for patterns, for triggers, for reasons.

Is it light? Is it sound? Is it the weather? The season? Her hormones? 

Is it her diet? Is it her iPad? Is it the water? The environment? Her…what?
Hey, GOD!!! What is it?  

Answer me! Tell me! Help me!!!…help her.

And then I remember: I stopped believing in You a long time ago.

I’m…scared.

***

And so I keep looking for patterns, for triggers, for reasons.  

Her doctor has recruited more doctors.  She now has a team.

I will be Daddy.  

I will hold her, and hug her and kiss her.  I will sit with her, be with her, love her.

I will look for patterns, for triggers, for reasons…

…and I will run.

***

If you are so inclined, I would be grateful for any donations to my New York City Marathon run to raise funds for the Epilepsy Foundation. You can donate —> here <—. I run because it is something I can do to help scientists and doctors find answers; to help them help Brooke. Your incredible support has already pushed me past $10,000.  I have set a new goal of $15,000, which would be over 30% of the team’s overall goal of $49,000 by November 5th.  You keep pushing me to push harder.

As always, thank you for your ever present support of Jess, me and more importantly to us, of Katie and Brooke.

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Every Moment

Brooke on my shoulders, taken almost a decade ago…


Every twitch, every shake, every sudden movement.

Every prolonged silence, every glazed look, every lost in deep thought.

Every loud noise, every patterned sound, every random anything.

I hold my breath, my heart jumps, my mind races.

Every phone call, every text, every email.

Every “Daddy”, every “Honey”, every “Hey”.

Every cough, every irregular breath, every moment…

I hold my breath, my heart jumps, my mind races.

Every race, every run, every mile.

Every push up, every pull up, every sit up.

I do because every moment…

I hold my breath, my heart jumps, my mind races.

Every moment…

Every, single moment…

Every…single…moment…

I hold my breath, my heart jumps, my mind races.

***

You can donate to my fundraising campaign to help end living in fear of the next seizure —> here <— .  Thank you for your love and support.

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300 Seconds

Timer set to five minutes…300 seconds


As a marathoner I was always counting: mileage, pace, time.

It was constant.  

Toward the end of a marathon, or any race for that matter, I would distract myself from the pain in my legs and lungs by constantly running the numbers of how far I had gone; how many miles were left; what my current time and pace were and what I needed to do over the remaining distance to achieve the time I wanted. With every step the variables would change, so I would run the numbers again and again and again.

It got to the point that I would find myself doing similar things when driving long distances.

Lately, the numbers game in my head has changed.  I haven’t run as much in recent years, and it has been over three years since my last marathon.  Recent changes to our landscape however, have forced me to have a different kind of math running through my head…and this math is ever-present.  Today the number that is constantly going through my head is 300.  Over and over again my brain begins a simple countdown starting at 300.

But I never let myself get to zero.

Wherever I go with Brooke – to the market, to a restaurant, even a short, five minute walk with the dogs – I carry her diastat (her rescue medicine) with me in a small backpack.  It is the the emergency medicine we administer to her if she does not come out of a seizure within five minutes.  That’s 300 seconds.  300 seconds during which the body is not breathing.  I can barely hold my breath for 90 seconds. Multiply that by 3 1/3.

As short as 5 minutes is, 300 seconds is a painfully long time-especially if you are watching a loved one go through a grand mal seizure.

300 seconds is an eternity.

We have a monitor in her room now, but she likes to move about.  Whenever she walk out of view of the monitor, or goes to another room, or if I have to shower, or she goes to the kitchen to get herself a drink, the timer in my head starts.

300, 299, 298, 297, 296, 295, 294, 293…

Even with the monitor, one has to stay vigilant.  If I’m studying, grading, reading, watching a show, I still have to check the monitor.  What good is a monitor if you aren’t using it? 

…292, 291, 290, 289, 288, 287, 286, 285…

To be honest, I never get past 2 minutes without…

“Brooke, you alright?”

“Yup.”

I imagine she gets tired of the constant check ins.  Sometimes I change it up…

“Brooke?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I will tell you this, the girl knows her daddy loves her.  

***

But the counting is constant.

The counting doesn’t stop.

Lord knows that if at some point I call out to her and she doesn’t answer because of a seizure, I have to know potentially how long she has been seizing.

The counting is constant.

The counting doesn’t stop.

I count ourselves fortunate in that we have had to use “the rescue” only once.  

The counting is constant.

The counting doesn’t stop.

***

As I work my way back into running, I know I will pick up my old math habits again-the habits that eventually went away.  

I wonder if I will ever stop counting the 300.

***

If you are so inclined, I would be grateful for your support as I raise fund for the Epilepsy Foundation.  You can visit my fund raising page —> here <—.  As of this writing, you have helped me raise over $9,500.  My current goal of $10,000 will need to be adjusted.  The New York City Marathon team as a whole is trying to raise $49,000.  We are just over $20,000 at this point, in no small part due to your tremendous generosity.  I am grateful for your continued support of our family and of the causes we champion.

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Changing Landscape

Brooke having lunch with Clifford after getting set up for “their” 24 hour EEG.


When Brooke was first diagnosed with autism, Jess and I sat in our car and cried.  We did not know what to expect.  We did not know what lay ahead of us.  Our journey would take us down the typical path of the time: fear, anger and then demands for a cure.  We would eventually come around to the realization that Brooke’s neurology was not broken; it was, scratch that, it is different.

In those early day I found myself looking for a purpose.  I was a stay at home dad whose world had just been turned upside down.  Honestly, autism scared the shit out of me. I felt helpless.  How could I help my girl?  How could I make her better?  Quite accidentally I stumbled into running (a story for another time maybe).  At first it was a stress reliever, but the more I ran, the more “running for a cause” began to creep into my consciousness.  I eventually hooked up with Autism Speaks and ran in three New York City Marathons and one Boston Half-Marathon raising awareness and thousands of dollars in the process.  At one point I was literally on billboards in different parts of the country encouraging people to sign up to “run with Autism Speaks.”

Ultimately, Jess and I parted ways with Autism Speaks (another story for another time perhaps).  Simply put, we had evolved in our view of autistic individuals.  We began to listen to autistic adults.  What they told us was that there were other ways, better ways to help.  We began looking for other charitable organizations.  

It was shortly after this time that Brooke began to show some signs of epilepsy.  We had all the tests done.  Nothing.  They told us just “keep an eye on things”.

Then last year on St. Patrick’s Day everything changed.  I was coming home from the grocery store.  As I pulled into the garage, Jess was on her way out.

“She had a seizure,” is all I remember.  I dropped my groceries and we sped to school.

There would be one more twelve days later before Brooke would be put on meds.  

Despite the other stressful things going on in our lives, this part of it, the Brooke part, would, with the help of medication, return to a distorted sense of normalcy.  That normalcy would be shattered almost ten months later.

Over the last few months we have had to deal with seizures that are occurring at an increased frequency.  Medication are being adjusted as we go, but we are still in a state of uncontrolled seizures.

This new landscape has brought back 11 year old memories.  I think about that scared father a decade past and I realize that I am more scared now that I ever was then.  Yes, there are challenges to being autistic for Brooke, but epilepsy is a whole new thing.  Anyone who has witnessed a grand mal seizure can attest to the ultimate helplessness one feels.

***

The landscape for us has changed.  We have learned to embrace Brooke’s alternate neurology.  We continue to fight for her right to access, but long ago rejected the idea of a “cure”.

The landscape for us has changed.  The impact epilepsy has on any given moment is overwhelming.

The landscape for us has changed; my body has changed too – I am no longer as strong or as fast as I was nearly decade ago.  But my determination to help make the world a better, safer place for my baby girl has not wavered.  I stopped running regularly a few years back – I’m not sure I ever truly bounced back from my 100-miler.  

My legs are older; my lungs are older; my stamina is not what it used to be.  My heart is heavy.  But as the landscape around me changes, I must do the same, and sometimes changing means returning to the past.  

Without really thinking about it, after one of Brooke’s recent seizures, I signed up to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation.  I will be running the 2017 New York City Marathon.  As of this writing, with your help, I have already raised over $9,200, nearly three times the required minimum and less than $800 short of my goal (with nearly seven month to go – perhaps I should raise my goal again?).

I had originally planned on returning the the marathon distance in two weeks at the Providence Marathon, but in my eagerness to get back into distance running, I injured my leg.  My run in November is too important to risk derailing my training this summer, so I am taking the time to let my leg heal.

I will not be as fast or as strong, but I will be as, if not more determined.  

This is what I wrote on my fundraising page:

No one should have to live in fear of the next seizure – not the one who suffers from epilepsy nor the loved one who can only watch, powerless, helpless. The next seizure is a fear that haunts every parent who has a child who suffers from epilepsy. 

Lives turn upside down; sleep becomes a rare commodity; relaxation a dream. Time is spent on the edge.

As a father these moments, these very worst moments of my parenthood, constantly linger at the edge of my consciousness. I am never not thinking about “the next seizure”.

It is exhausting.

I am tired.

But I know that I have to do something, something so my daughter, my family, my friends, you do not have to live in fear of the next seizure…the worst moments.

I know that we can’t solve epilepsy in one day or even with one fundraiser, but we need science to develop the tools to mitigate if not eliminate these worst moments. This is why I am raising funds to make a difference in the lives of people living with epilepsy.

This is why I am running again.

The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives. 

Please support this cause by making a safe and secure donation to my fundraising webpage. Giving to the Epilepsy Foundation means you make the world a better, easier, more manageable place for the 3 million people in the U.S. who are living with epilepsy and seizures like my Brooke. 

Thank you for your help and support.

Luau

This week won’t involve any running.  Jess and Katie are taking a week long trip that has been planned for over a decade.  Brooke and I will be doing whatever Brooke wants to do for the April break.  I’ll continue to rehab my leg and focus on core strength.

If you are so inclined, I would be grateful for any donations to my effort to raise funds for the Epilepsy Foundation.  You can donate —> here <—.

Thank you for your ever present support of Jess, me and more importantly to us, of Katie and Brooke.

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My shoes arrived Friday afternoon.  Because the delivery tracking has said they would arrive around 8PM, Friday night, my thought had been that I would wait until Saturday to take them out for a spin.

But they arrived in the afternoon.

Inertia and routine are a funny thing – they don’t like change…they fight change.  I stared at my cool, new, Boston Saucony Kinvara 7s.  I thought about taking them out for a run, but someone mentioned dinner and inertia and routine had their way…for the moment.

At dinner, I decided perhaps I would go for an early evening run, so I ordered light and skipped my usual beer.  I wasn’t going to let inertia and routine have their way with me.  They fought back.  About half way through dinner, the proprietor of the restaurant came to me an oversized bottle of Japanese beer.

“Mr. Matt!  I spilled a little of this when I opened it for a customer, so I can’t give it to them.”  There was still at least 90% of the beer still in the bottle.  “So, here you go!  On the house!”

What was I supposed to say?  I poured a glass and took a few sips.  I love beer.  I really, really love beer and after a long week, those few sips went down nice and easy.

Inertial and Routine rubbed their hands together, smiling…an evening run drifted from my mind…but only for a moment.  Half a glass later, I put it down and asked for the bill.  My beer loving friends would be horrified, but I was not going to let the Universe win this one.

Upon returning home, I was determined to get myself out for just a short run.  I picked up the shoes and headed upstairs, but as I passed the front door, I looked out.  It was raining.  Inertia and Routine were throwing up one last hurdle.

“How bad do you want it, Luau?”

Ugh! Do I really want to take my brand new shoes out in the rain, I asked myself ridiculously.  Seriously, I asked myself that question.  Inertia and Routine are insidious.  I balked, decided I’d go anyway and balked again.

Finally, I realized that I need to heed the same advice I give to my clients – if not now, then when?  The problem with tomorrow is that it rarely, if ever, arrives when it comes to getting things done.

So I gave Inertia and Routine the middle finger, put on my running clothes, found my earbuds, and went out the door.  What followed was an uncomfortable 3 miles that was surprisingly even paced (the last 2.5 miles being paced between 4:28 and 4:30 1/2 miles – final time was 27:23).  My average heart rate was 147 bpm…way above what it used to be for a run at that pace.  After spending this morning with clients, I followed up yesterday’s run with another 3 miler; this one at a little zippier 23:31 (mile 2 even coming in at 7:29), but with an average heart rate of 166.

It’s a start, but I’ve obviously got a ton of work to do if I want to even think about contemplating the idea of running a BQ (3:25) again.  What I do know is this: round 1 of my battle against the universe, specifically inertia and routine, goes to me.

The battle continues…

Stay tuned!

~Luau

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
-Lao Tzu

Or, in my case, the journey of 26.2 miles.

Every year, twice a year, once in mid-April and again in early November, I feel the pull.  The gravitational waves of the marathon hit me, remind me, call me.  This past weekend was no different.  Though I was away from Boston visiting family, I still saw the feed of marathon photos on Facebook, reminding me that I have been away too long.

It’s been three years since I’ve run a marathon of any kind, full or ultra…and I miss it.  Yes, I miss the crossing of the finish line, but I also miss the training – the sweat, the pain, the flow, the highs, the lows…there is something about running, about marathon training in particular, that is meditative…an almost zen-like journey of self-discovery.

Life has little by little nudged me away from running and I don’t like it.  So today I took a proverbial first step of what I hope will be my journey back to 26.2 miles…I ordered a fresh pair of running shoes, the newest iteration of my favorite running shoe; the one that took me to my 3 fastest marathon times.  They arrive tomorrow, just in time for a weekend run.

I hesitate to call it a comeback…it’s still early and I’ve had a few false starts over the years, but maybe if I start writing about running again, that will help too.

Don’t call it a comeback…not yet anyway.

Stay tuned!

~Luau

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Amy Roe, a fellow runner, one I do not know, recently wrote this for the Guardian:

I was ordering coffee when I noticed a well-dressed woman staring at me.

“You look like you just did a class,” she said, giving me the once-over. I had no idea what she meant so I said nothing.

“Or swimming?” she offered, with a tight smile.

Oh, that. I’d just run 12 miles and the hair sticking out from under my hat was wet. It took me a moment to formulate an answer.

“Um, running,” I mumbled finally. “I just … sweat a lot.”

I took the paper cup of drip coffee and hustled past the condiment bar. Screw the half-and-half; I’d drink it black.

Once safely inside my car, I threw off my damp running cap and flipped up the hood of my sweatshirt in embarrassment. I wanted to dive deep into that Lululemon Scuba and never come back up for air.

Eventually the caffeine kicked in and it hit me: I’d been sweat-shamed. Sweat-shaming is when someone points out your sweatiness as a way to signal disapproval.

Now, maybe it’s that as I get older, I get less tolerant of this kind of bullshit.  Perhaps, because I’m a man, I have gone through life sweat-privileged.  Perchance, there really is a thing called “sweat-shaming”…but this, dear Amy, this, you Special Snowflake, was not that.  This was someone making friendly conversation while she, like you, was waiting for her over-priced coffee (mind you, I love my Starbucks…Italian Roast Clover…zing!).

What you did, Ms. Roe, was what we call “Friendly Conversation Shaming”.  Well, that’s not really a thing either, is it?  Maybe you were “Well-dressed Shaming”…”Observation Shaming”?  I digress.

Had she said, “whew!  YOU stink!” or “Ew.  How can you walk around like that.” you might be on to something, but this:

“You look like you just did a class,” she said, giving me the once-over. I had no idea what she meant so I said nothing.

“Or swimming?” she offered, with a tight smile.

Um, no.

Your reaction was more a reflection on how YOU feel about sweat; how you think others feel about sweat.  It has nothing to do with that well-dressed woman.  She was making small talk.  Perhaps, wanting to start an exercise program of her own, she was inspired by you?  Well, you’ve killed that now, haven’t you?  Maybe she liked your $120 hoodie and wanted to know what brand it was?  Speaking of which, why you felt the need to point out that you wanted to bury your head in your Lululemon Scuba, I have no idea.  It screams, “I’m white, I’m wealthy, I’m privileged and Waaaah!”

It’s possible that she simply was trying to make the world a friendlier place by finding a topic you might have in common (maybe she’s loves taking exercise classes).

Roe goes on to write:

If I were to re-imagine the sweat-shaming incident as a music video, it would play out like this: a spotlight comes down, and maybe a disco ball. Baristas dance back-up around me.

“I don’t think you’re ready for this sweaty,” I belt out, to the tune of Bootylicious.

It’s just a fantasy, but it helps me see how I might react differently. I’ve got another long run this weekend and afterward, I’m going to sit down with my coffee, all sweaty and transgressive.

The stigmas surrounding women’s bodies are powerful, but they’re no match for how powerful I feel after running.

Several things – first off, how old are you?  Seriously!  14?  Because that is how old you sound.  Perhaps you need to look in the mirror and sing “I don’t think you’re ready for this sweaty,” to yourself before doing it to random strangers, even if it IS in your own fantasy.  Second, a better response might have been something along the lines of, “yeah, just did 12 miles.  Tired, obviously,” as you point to your hair, “but totally worth it.”  Third, transgressive? Really?  You’re going to sit with your coffee, all sweaty and transgressive?  Nothing like responding to a perceived wrong, and I emphasize perceived, with an actual wrong.  If you are actually really sweaty after a 12 mile run (I know I always am), don’t sit on the chairs at Starbucks…that’s just rude, and again, you’re revealing your own insecurities and immaturity.  Finally, you say that “the stigmas surrounding women’s bodies are powerful, but they’re no match for how powerful I feel after running.”  Your own post contradicts this.  After a long run, I am generally soaked.  I wear that sweat like a goddamned badge.  I do feel powerful after I run, no matter how tired I am.  And if I walk into a Starbucks after a long run, if anything, I am “You’re-Not-Working-Out-As-Hard-As-I-Am-Shaming” everyone in the place.  Crawling into your $120 Lululemon hoodie does not bring “how powerful I feel” to mind.

Get a grip.

Let’s be clear, you say, “Strong may be the new sexy and fit may be the new skinny but sweaty is as gross as ever.”  Wrong.

Sweat. Is. Sexy.

I give you…

Serena...

Serena…

tn-gnp-sp-0812-rousey-pg-014

Ronda…

Alex-Morgan

Alex…

9524926b80919875b847796f03041e86

Lindsey…

3763076286_2a4f7560b7

Gina…and many, many more.

I rest my case.

Projecting your own insecurities onto others does nothing to move society forward.  Assigning “Sweat Shaming” to “You look like you just did a class,” is immature, insecure and most likely, narcissistic.

Own it, Amy.  You are not a Special Snowflake and not every comment is an attempt to “shame” someone.  This post, however, is.

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