A morning run along the creek

There is an old saying about wherever you go, you cannot escape yourself.

I run one morning, buoyed by just being on the trail and able to run.  God is so kind.  I didn’t realize that I once subconsciously wondered if my running days were over.  Dangerous bloodwork numbers once slapped me into an ambulance and two blood transfusions.  Several doctors huddled to narrow the possible scenarios.  I spent my first-ever night in a hospital bed.  One of the doctors flipped on my hospital room lights early the next morning with two huge needles and not nearly enough anesthesia for a bone marrow biopsy wakeup. There was no snooze feature option.  I ended up covered in sweat and learned a bit more about pain.  The pain experienced is different for everyone, but I felt radiating, electric pain down my legs and in my lower back as the needles went deep into the back of my hip.  When they extract the marrow, the vacuum the syringe creates makes me want to scream.  That afternoon, he came back for the appointment he’d set for Lisa and I.  He had a kind face.  He dropped himself into a spartan chair and drew the curtain around us with eyes carrying weight and sadness.

When you are with your spouse and the earnest doctor looks into your eyes and explains how you have cancer.  When you don’t even know what Multiple Myeloma is.  When that punch collapses your windpipe and there’s nothing to punch back at.  When the walls close in. When you have to remember to breathe and your chest tightens around your heart.  When you are partially relieved they finally know what it is, however terrible it may be.  When you sit in that bed, hooked up to those monitors and hold onto your wife.  When the tears begin to burn at the corner of your eyes.  When you have to ask your spouse to leave the room because you realize right then nothing on Earth can hold you.  When you begin to glimpse the horizon of losing your grasp on hope.

That’s when you run.  Run for help.  Oh please, help.

I ran right to my Father, like a child.  Just like when you were small and scared and you didn’t know what to do so you just dropped everything and ran for safety.

A few years back, we were enjoying a park with baby Luke at the end of a Reagan Airport’s runway in DC.  Luke was playing in the grass on that bright day and a plane took off seemingly right over us.  Ear-deafening noise directly over his head.  I just watched him because I’d seen the plane coming.  His face melted into pure terror and he forgot all about his toy and started tearing across the grass towards me as fast his little legs could carry him.  He wrapped himself around my legs, then looked up.  I will never forget it.

Many have a similar cancer story.  And everyone is dealing with something.  I know I am not unique in being challenged.

I now have scars to remind me.  Scars on my arms from the peripheral catheters they surgically installed.  They lay you down on a metal table and a surgeon spears your arm.  I later learned the catheter was over a 18 inches long and ran from the inside of my arm to just above my heart.  The peripheral catheter delivers the killing drugs of life.  Thank God for those researchers in their labs and the physicians that care for us all.

My lower back is marked by a few round biopsy scars.  I’m only at five bone marrow biopsies though, I’ve read of a man with over thirty.  The doctor or PA must find a large bone close to the the skin so they lay you on your stomach and go in through the back of your pelvis/hip at your lower back.  I am grateful for these scars.  Amazingly, they help me to remember.  How can I wander at all from those painful days?  The truth is that I forget sometimes.

When I was weak from recovery, I would see the runners on the road and would be so envious.  Running is freedom. Freedom from walls.  A temporary respite from the immediate in front of me and a chance to slow down time.  I wondered if I could get that freedom back.  Our home’s one flight of stairs would send the blood pounding through my ears.  During the nightly story, the kids would ask if I could read louder—I couldn’t.  I couldn’t draw enough breath to sing.  In church when the worship songs finished, I would immediately deflate down into my seat.  I would unsuccessfully fight off afternoon naps and I hated my fatigue.  I’d cram a pillow over my head to block out the days’ noise, struggle with my thoughts and try to relax for a few quick restorative winks.  I’d pray for energy and try not to extrapolate my current situation, baldness, and weakness into an infinite future.



So I run this morning along the trail, I just run and it feels like freedom.  And I try not to let my willing heart carry me past the strength of my legs.  Because it wants to.  What a wonderful time to be outside.

It is exquisite here, and quiet.  There is peace and the sound of water over rocks.  And despite the shape of these Alps, it could be a trail in New Jersey or Oregon or Nebraska or Texas.


Somehow, I can get concerned about saying the right thing, or doing the right thing or even what people might think, but then I remember I have a Father who loves me.  My thoughts can become my reality.  I build sandcastles in my head and forget they are not necessarily even true.  And then, I remember—but for the grace of God.  He was there and He knows.  He will be there.  I can’t ever be good enough and I don’t need to be.  Somehow He loves me though I don’t deserve it.  I will never fully grasp that mystery but it sustains me.

Near the end of the Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien has Sam ask the wise Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

What a beautiful way to try and paint the idea of a redeemer who exists outside of our understanding of time.

Ellie Holcomb’s “As Sure As the Sun” shines through my earbuds and I smile and run a little faster.  My shoes crunch the gravel but I look up.

There is good news
There is good truth
That you could never change
No matter what you do
You are loved
More than you know
More than you could hope for
After everything you’ve done

As sure as the sun will rise
And takes away the night
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

There is good news
There’s a promise
That no matter where you go
You will never be alone
In the dark
In the doubting
When you can’t feel anything
Oh, his love remains the same

As sure as the sun will rise
And takes away the night
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

Even through the night
Silver stars will shine
Hope of glory’s light
That will wake us once again

As sure as the sun will rise
And takes away the night
As sure as the sun will rise
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

11 thoughts on “A morning run along the creek”

  1. Louie Zamperini salutes you. Beautifully said. Beautifully lived.
    What an honor to have been welcomed into this amazing family.
    You guys are in our thoughts, hearts, & prayers.

  2. Beautifully said, perfectly photo documented. It sure helped me “smell the joy” when I woke up for an early run. An inspiration for all.

  3. Thank you for this. Your prose is close to poetic–powerful. So grateful my niece rread it and will share it now with a friend. Healing prayers your way. Catherine (Steve Bokmiller’s mom).

  4. Thanks for speaking this whole post, Brent. And for this: “Somehow, I can get concerned about saying the right thing, or doing the right thing or even what people might think, but then I remember I have a Father who loves me.”

  5. It is a scary thing to admit our dark thoughts & weaknesses. However your post is a great example of how “in my weakness He is strong.” My heart is lifted…thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>