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Friday, June 05, 2015

June Athlete of the Month

Support Groups are a very powerful tool to help anyone overcome the challenges of clotting incidents.

I can't get enough of the interaction clot survivors have with one another as their attempt to navigate the obstacles they share.

Blood Clot Survivor groups in Facebook or through can provide incredible insight that is capable of pulling individuals out of deep-dark holes of fear and intimidation that a blood clot diagnosis can bring.

Many of the Athletes I have had the honor of featuring on this blog come from those existing support groups and June's Athlete of the Month is another individual with a remarkable story that is worth sharing.  Many of us can learn something from the words written below as they are closely associated to a personal experience which does not have a quantifiable value as it relates to the wisdom it brings.

Please allow me to introduce to you CHUCK BANKS who is the JUNE ATHLETE OF THE MONTH and who is presently battling the rigors of training for his last marathon which will be his 30th... simply put a fantastic nice round number in which to stop running the long distances and perhaps find something else to keep him fit...

Please read on and enjoy!

1)   What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
Running. Not lifting. Not stretching. Not cross training. No sports that require left or right or sudden start and stop movements. Just straight ahead steadily until done. Always outdoors - treadmills are medieval devices of last resort. And glad the question was sport of choice and not one I like to do. I hate running but I love being a runner and grateful for all it does for me physically and mentally. That said whether a run is five, fifteen or fifty miles I have never ever wished it was longer. I love being done and I love the day in between runs when I get to rest on my laurels (and keister).

2)  How did you get started in that sport?
Broke a bone in my foot playing basketball in the Army while living in Germany in 1981. Took up running to stay in shape. Read the Jim Fixx books, enjoyed running through vineyards and here I am!

3)  What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did)
Just finished running 15 miles in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon this fall - my seventh MCM and 30th ( and final) marathon. My career highlight - completing the JFK 50 miler two years ago and hugging my wife at the finish. Given my medical mess over the past year every run is a step forward in the road to recovery.

4)  Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
Despite successful surgery for tongue cancer last summer, hereditary factors and poor nursing care landed me back in the emergency room and a better hospital five days after discharge. Lungs to legs "severe" clotting. Although in pain from the throat surgery I was actually relieved to have excellent nursing care and encouraging, supportive treatment in the hospital.  My INR stabilized in four days and while the staff apologized for wanting to keep me a fifth day to make sure, I had no problem with it. Amazing what good medical professionals can do for your soul. Eleven months later I'm still on Coumoudin (3mg) and my hematologist wants to take me off to see what happens, without an updated ultrasound. I refused. Looking for a new doctor now.

5)  When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time? 
After six weeks on Coumoudin I was given the green light to resume running, provided I eased into it. I started by walking a mile, then two. Suited up in my running clothes and GPS watch and moved out. Honestly, I used to secretly ridicule fit looking people who were walking when they should have been running. I don't do that anymore. First, who knows their story, and why they're walking? Maybe they, too, are recovering from an illness I can't see. Second,  just getting outdoors and soaking up the sights and sounds of the footpaths through my neighborhood boosted my mood tremendously. Before that I sat on my deck for hours wallowing in the uncertainty of my failing body. Walking made me feel alive, and I realized if I never ran again but could walk for an hour, I would be okay. Last, I realized that I am such a slow runner, my brisk walking pace wasn't all that slower than running, and my heart rate monitor told me I was working almost as hard! Now that I'm running again I always wave to the walkers I meet, not just the runners. I wished they would wave back more. I really sincerely appreciate their effort.

6)  What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity? (Bike brand, running shoes, perhaps a running singlet or the Clot Buster's Running Polka-Dot Technical Shirt...)
(Editor's Note = Perhaps getting his very own CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dot shirt shortly in the mail may swing his decision on question #6.  Surely he is waiting to receive it to make sure it make me him look fast...)

7)  How much are you getting out doing your sport?  (Everyday you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week)
I'm running three times a week, preparing for a marathon much as I did before the clots. On bad days my thigh and calf hurt from the clots. Stockings help a great deal. Not sure what I will do in the heat. Calf sleeves worked for my 15 miler last weekend.

8)   What is your favorite food?
There is no more perfect pre-race food that the unfairly criticized Pop Tart.  Has all the nutrients of a Cliff Bar and doesn't taste like mulch.

9)  If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
Antarctica. With my daughter. She wants to see all seven continents and will reach six with her Australia trip this summer. Had the doctors given me really bad news on the tongue cancer, I would have booked us immediately. Tied really with New Orleans with my adult sons. Have to admit the music and the booze with my boys would be sweet.

10)  What would like to say to someone who is going through a clotting episode, perhaps very similar to yours?  How can people return to do what they enjoy? Tells about your concerns and what you look out after as you got back.
Reading others' stories tells me we all came from different places with our fitness and hobbies before our illnesses, and we have different experiences and severity of misery. That said, we all want relief from the physical pain and uncertainty, and hope that we will return to what we once were. We don't want to be scared and we want clarity on what is happening to us and what we can do about it. I haven't cracked the code by any means but I do think there's value in revisiting what our priorities are and what "healthy" means.  My clots were put into perspective by my cancer. I worried so much about dying from cancer my clots were a serious nuisance  and setback, but not fatal. That said, on bad running days I am convinced clots are breaking loose and racing north to kill me. I can be melodramatic.  My advice is simple. Find medical professionals you trust and do what they tell you. Say yes when friends and family offer to help. Pursue every avenue to ease your mind - prayer, meditation, comedy, song, writing, television, volunteer. Endless pondering on the misery and unfairness of it all will leave you feeling, well, miserable and like a victim.  Limit your internet research on the illness or you will become a hypochondriac like me. Soak up all the blessings around you and take absolutely nothing for granted. Our lives have changed but they are not over.  Move forward as best you can and appreciate progress, no matter how small.  And remember that we are now extended family and hopes and fears no one else may understand will be understood here.

Well said Chuck!

I very much love the advise you are providing on Question #10. 

I am looking forward to see ample coverage of you throwing down with the 26.2 Miles on your final marathon.  Your extended CLOT BUSTER family will be rooting for you. 

Never stop doing whatever is that you love doing despite the challenges ahead of you!

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster 

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!