In an 15-16 month time period my father was diagnosed and ultimately lost his battle with leukemia, my daughter Isabella passed away and my wife was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with our son Jaden. These events shaped me. They led me to a life of endurance sports and charity. They led to the belief that blessings come out of the worst of times and now they have led me to the 2017 Ironman World Championships.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
2013 Super Bowl Grids
Posted by Christopher Wilno at 6:54 PM No comments:
Thursday, January 17, 2013
A Simple Reminder
I wanted to write a short post to recap a great day……an emotional day but a great one. In the scheme of what is going on in the world, this certainly is not news worthy but it does reiterate what I sing from the rafters…..that blessings come out of the worst of times. Today my 4 year old, Princess Thalia, had surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids. It really is a routine surgery but given our past, my wife and I were a little on edge about our daughter being put to sleep and the even harder part about waiting for her to wake up.
Nine and a half years ago, Thalia's older sister never woke up. That horrible day defined me and made me strong and led me to great things but I do not want to be defined again. I know I would survive. I know I would lift myself back up. I just do not want another day like that again.
Anyway, since Thalia was a baby, she sounded like an 80 year old man while sleeping. This was cute and funny at first. I took video to use against her at her wedding just to capture the moments. After a while though, it kicks in that this is not how a precious little child should sound. After a while you realize that despite the huge smile on your child’s face when she wakes up (Thalia wears a smile all day long….it lights up the world)………..she is tired. After a while you notice your child is sick much more often than other kids. After a while, especially given the sensitivity tied to the past, you notice that your child stops breathing every now and then at night. Sleep apnea is a very stressful thing. Watching your child literally stop breathing will haunt your dreams and keep you from sleeping. All of these things led us on a path to figure out the problem. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids were the culprit. We went from pediatrician to UCLA to scheduling surgery in a short amount of time. All doctors seemed to agree that this is what made sense and, as all parents do, we wanted the best for our child.
Today, January 17th was the surgery. There is no need to get into much of the detail about the day. The basics are this:
·We had made the decision not to tell Thalia too much about what was going to happen. At 4, she would not understand any of it and we felt too much knowledge would stress her out. What she knew was that she was going to be able to watch movies and eat popsicles and eat ice cream for 2 weeks after it was over. That made her happy.
·We arrived at UCLA at 10:30am. My wife and I were very nervous but we hid all of that and just showed our little one a good time. From the time we arrived to register for surgery until the time the anesthesiologist arrived, we played games and colored and laughed. Inside, my stomach was in knots but it is easy to set that aside and be strong for your child. I guess we do that for any loved one that is in a similar situation. I remember doing the same when my Dad was sick. In front of him I was confident that everything would work out but I would escape to solitude to shed my tears and deal with my fears that he was not going to make it.
·Around 11am, we went back into pre-op and this is where for a brief moment we could see Thalia get nervous. She watched people being wheeled by on gurney’s and it was easy to read her mind..... “what the hell are they doing to me? Ice cream cannot be worth all of this”. We quickly distracted her. Some nurses came in and dropped off a little princess sized gown for Thalia to wear. Our little one was being as cute as ever and the staff were all falling in love with her.
·Games continued with Crea and I each taking turns. When the surgeon came by I took on the task of distracting Thalia so that she did not hear all of the conversation about what was really going down.
·Next the anesthesiologist arrived and explained even more. They were all experienced in dealing with kids and did an amazing job. Thalia’s toughest choice was figuring out what flavor she wanted the gas to be that was going to make her go to sleep or which stickers and Hello Kitty Band-Aids she wanted as rewards for all she was getting ready to go thru.
·Next it was time for surgery. Only one of the parents could go with Thalia as she fell asleep so Crea took that shift. Truthfully, Crea is the stronger one for these things so she put on her own gown and off they went……Thalia still all smiles.
·Literally 2 minutes later Crea came back as Thalia had already fallen asleep. Apparently she got grumpy and tried to fight with the mask at the last second but the medicine did its thing……..off to the waiting room for us.
·Crea and I passed the time with Facebook and Twitter and conversation meant to distract us from the time. One hour. That is how long the surgery should last. If dog years are 6 to 1…….your 4 year old daughter in surgery is 100 to 1. It felt like forever and Crea even posted to Twitter that this was the longest hour of her life. When the clock struck one hour, I started pacing outside the door and many times thought of calling the number posted on every wall to check on our little girl. 2 minutes late, 3 minutes late………I remember this feeling the first time Crea went to surgery for her cancer. Things went much slower than planned and I was a mess. This was no different and my mind raced to all of the horrible things that could go wrong. Finally, though, the surgeon came out and her smile alerted us that all was well. Thalia was just waking up and we could go back to see her.
·I really do not think we needed directions to our little princess. We could hear her crying and raced to her side. She was a mess and not happy at all. She went to sleep with a smile and woke up to an IV and pain. She was scared and it was gut wrenching to see her so upset. We did everything we could to comfort her. I told her it was all over and I promised that Mommy and Daddy would not leave her side again. Nothing seemed to be working. She was very fidgety and we could not tell what was wrong. The doctor gave her some medicine to try and comfort her and also asked her if she wanted to be held and this is where the blessings hit home. I was the lucky one that got to hold Thalia in her time of need. The nurse unraveled all of the cords covering her and brought her over to a chair where Thalia folded into my arms. The world instantly felt right.......for her and for me. She laid her head on my shoulder and within minutes had stopped crying and was asleep. It is tough to describe that level of love and that level of joy. I have tried to explain it to folks that are not parents yet but it cannot be taught......it can only be felt. All the fear of the day was gone for both of us. Holding my little girl. Watching her instantly feel better. Feeling her breathing on my chest. I would not trade that feeling for anything. Thalia is a gift from heaven. I know much of that is a Father's biased opinion but she lights up a room and she lights up my heart. There is something angelic about her and none of that would exist if Isabella had not passed away. Crea and I were going to have two children. Isabella and Jaden would be the two but God had a different plan. The hardest day of my life led to this little girl I held in my arms today.....this little girl that I could not imagine life without.
Thanks for reading. I hope you can focus on what you have and the blessings around you instead of what you do not have and the hardships that face your life. We are meant to be challenged. Life is not always kind but I do believe that blessings come from out of the darkness. Today, I was reminded of mine.
Posted by Christopher Wilno at 10:18 PM 2 comments:
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
5th Annual Super Bowl Pool
In case you have never participated in a Super Bowl Pool..........it is very easy. Each pool has 100 boxes that are assigned a number for each team in the Super Bowl. For each $20 box you play, you will be randomly assigned two numbers........one for the AFC and one for the NFC. Using last year as an example, you may have been assigned a 4 for New England and a 0 for the NY Giants. If this were the case you are rooting for any score that has New England ending in a 4 and the Giants ending with a zero (NE 4 - NY 10, NE 24 - NY 0, NE 14 - NY - 30, etc, etc, etc).
The pool is a great way to spice up game day. As always, half of the pool goes to the winners and half goes to find a cure for cancer via a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Based off the $20 per box entry fee, $1,000 will be donated to charity and $1,000 will be split as follows:
- 1st Quarter = $125
- Halftime = $250
- 3rd Quarter = $125
- Final Score = $500
To recap the rules:* 100 Boxes per pool
* $20 per box to play
* We randomly place you in a box on a 10x10 grid. Each box contains two numbers - one for the AFC champion and one for the NFC champion. If the numbers match the score at the end of each quarter you win! Just to be clear, we literally randomly place your name in the grid and then randomly pull numbers for the grid. It takes a while but it is the most fair way to do it.
How to pay:
1) Email Lori Jomsky or myelf (we can DM you our email addresses if need be) how many boxes you would like. The more you buy the more chances to win and fight cancer. You can also reach out via FB or Twitter @lj3000 and @run2savelives (me)2) Give Money directly to Chris or Lori if you happen to know us IRL
3) Mail Check to Lori Jomsky: 4211 Via Entrada, Newbury Park, CA 91320
Thanks! And, Happy New Year!
Posted by Christopher Wilno at 11:35 AM No comments:
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
A Short Reflection on 2012: A Big Chapter Closed
I went out for a 90 minute run this morning and tried to get my arms around 2012. The picture above is how DailyMile captures the past 12 months and there is certainly a story within the miles. The bigger story, though, is outside of the miles and I will get there in a bit. For the workouts that actually made it to DailyMile, I totaled 2,667.19 miles. Within those totals you could capture the following:
- Only 21.9 miles were from swimming. This in part is attributed to my hatred of swimming but it also ties to the fact I did not have any races in 2012 which I guess brings us full circle back to my hatred of swimming. I will always run….whether I have a race or not……but swimming only makes the calendar when it has to.
- The first 3 months of the year were very light from a workout perspective. This is because my wife, Crea, was doing all the work with Team in Training as she prepared for Lavaman 2012.
- The last 3 months of the year make up close to half of my total miles and if you add one more month, September thru December account for 58% of my total 2012 mileage. This directly relates to my decision to train in honor of Ryan Mattingly. I am racing 216.8 miles for this 19 year old who is currently battling Non-Hodgins Lymphoma. The first 26.2 miles are in the record books so what is left is the American River 50 in April (my first ultra) and Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June. As I said at my post announcing this plan (216.8 Miles For Ryan), I literally have no time aspirations with these events. My goal is to stay healthy, raise as much money as I can and smile as much as possible on the race course. On that note, if you would like to donate, my fundraising page should be listed above but given some recent technical difficulties, I am listing the link HERE AS WELL.
These items within the miles are the easy things to decipher. The more challenging things require a look deep within. What was really important this year? What am I proud of and what am I not proud of?
- What I am most disappointed about is something that is always a point of contention with myself. I struggle to let my important friends know they are important to me. I go through my busy life hoping they know but I failed to make the proper amount of time to tell them and to show them and to hang out with them. I would say this fault is not necessarily because I am a bad person. It is because of tough decisions I have to make and you could argue it is because I am a good person…..at least I like to think so. My family comes first and for the sake of this comment, my family means my immediate family…..wife, son, daughters, Mom, and, of course, my wife’s family. Because they come first, my job has to come first. My job takes up a big part of my week. My job and the hours I put in are solely with my family in mind. I do not choose long days because I choose work over family……..I work hard because of my family. The hours that remain during the week are split among actual family time, charity and working out…..the latter two largely go hand in hand. I could come home and go straight to meet friends and get in a run or a swim but that would cost me time actually seeing my family during the week so I make the tough decision to swim on my own after my children go to bed…..hop on the trainer in the middle of the night or before they wake up or hit the streets at those same odd hours to run in the darkness. This brings us to the weekends. This is where I must do a better job making time for friends. I again could work out with the many friends that are running or riding or swimming on Saturday and Sunday but so far, I have not found a way to escape my routine of running very early to complete my long run by 9am or beginning my rides as the sun crests my garage. I stress about starting too late and missing my children’s soccer games or baseball games. I do not want to be the Dad that has to learn about his children’s milestones via photographs and Facebook updates. I want to be there for them and this requires tough decisions. This being said, I do need to manage weekend time better. My friends……….which I still hope they consider me………..are amazing people. I am better because of them and I need some time with them.
- I mentioned above my wife competing in Lavaman 2012 as part of Team in Training. That was a huge moment for my family. My wife stared cancer in the face two times. On both occasions she came out the victor and this race was a testament to that. She competed and completed an Olympic triathlon on a very hot day in Kona and, along the way raised over $10,000 and was able to podium as a top 10 fundraiser for the event………..keeping the Wilno streak alive at 4 years for one of us being a top fundraiser. I could not tell you Crea’s time which shows that your race time is sometimes meaningless. In my eyes, Crea won the race on April 1, 2012.
- What the miles logged at DailyMile do not show is the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Westside Marathon team raised to beat cancer as part of the Summer 2012 season. Some remarkable people came into my life. We taught each other a lot along the way and in June……in either San Diego or Alaska…….these amazing people completed their journey of either 13.1 or 26.2 miles and brought us closer to finding a cure for such a horrible disease.
- Most people know I have raised a lot of money to fight cancer and that I consider myself blessed to be a coach for Team in Training. What most people do not know is one of the things I am most proud of about my cancer fighting is that I started it all during a time of great personal financial hardship. I could have walked away from the world and got selfish but I took a different approach and tried to give when I literally had nothing to give. On this note, a huge part of 2012 for my family was overcoming this chapter of the story. I did not win the lottery. I cannot retire tomorrow and travel the world. I did however end a very long and painful journey that I rarely speak of. I will not go into much detail here…….I may never go into much detail (perhaps if I write that book)…..but the basics also tie to the story I have shared many times. It is the story about my Dad and my daughter and my wife. The emotional hardships are well chronicled here but I never speak of the financial hardships surrounding it all. It is not the medical bills like you might think tied to my Dad being ill or my daughter passing away or my wife being diagnosed with cancer. Truthfully it is all a blur at times but, in a time of great duress, I made some bad business decisions. I thought I could fix things and instead made them worse. I had people take advantage of me and I was not in a financial position to fight back with a lawsuit. At times when people tried to help, the real estate market crashed and made things all that much worse. I also found myself in a position of ‘wanting’ to take care of my Mom. I am an only child. My father passing away left her alone to fend for herself without much financial security. My Dad did a million things right…….this is one situation where he could have done better but I like to think he knew I would find a way. I specifically say ‘wanting’ here because I need my Mom to know I did not step in to help out of obligation but out of love and appreciation for all the sacrifices she made for me in her life. The short conclusion to all of this is that once upon a time I woke up every day not knowing how I would keep a roof over my family’s head. I literally thought and often had visions of my family living in a box on the streets of Los Angeles. At any moment in time, with one tiny wrong move, the bank would come for my house. I had to borrow from credit cards and get creative so the bank would not even want my house if the time came and I had to seek some help from friends. I am not talking about $25,000 of credit card debt…….more like half a million problems hanging over my head beyond normal expenses and mortgages. It took years and years of fighting back. It took some tough and risky career moves. It took hope and it took strength and it took an inability to give up. I felt like a failure to my family. That was the hardest part….looking in the mirror and feeling like I let everyone down. It was tough to live with but all I could do was push forward and this year, I closed the door on the story. In my own small way, it was the end of the Wilno Rags to Riches story. It is why I sat in a theater all alone watching The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. Times were dark then. I watched that movie alone and cried my eyes out not knowing where the light at the end of the tunnel would lead my family and I. My wife could have given up on me. She did not and I am grateful. My friends could have turned their back on me. They did not and while I can financially pay all of them back……..I can never truly repay any of them for their generosity
- Another big event of the year were the struggles of my son, which I talk about in the Post Running from Ritalin. Second grade was tough. My son was in the principal’s office every week if not every day. It was a battle and ultimately my wife had to quit her job…………a tough financial decision but a very easy decision……..to be with Jaden at school every day helping him to see some success. My son now finds himself in the third grade. He is not perfect. He is the quirky kid that struggles socially but he is doing much better. He has a teacher that will allow Jaden to be more of himself rather than try to fit him into a mold of how all 3rd graders should act. He has been to the principal’s office one time this year…….just once and that is a huge step forward. We are not out of the woods. My son is crazy smart but still has focus issues. As a wise friend once told me though……it is not as if he is just drifting in class……..it is that he is fully present elsewhere.
The year was full of many other special and precious moments. It would take a book to list them all so I am going to cut off this post for now. To all of those a part of my life in 2012……..in real life or virtually……..I am grateful for you…..truly grateful. It is now on to 2013 where I want to be a better person, a better Dad, a better friend, a better cancer fighter, a better employee (although I do pretty good here boss!), a better inspiration to others, a better motivator, a better trail runner, a better s’more maker. I hope 2013 is everything you want and hope for. In sharing this wish, I must also tell you this………behind want and hope has to come a lot of drive and hard work and goal setting. What you have accomplished through 12/31/2012 has no bearing on what you can accomplish in 2013. Set your goals very high. Set out to achieve what you want…….not what you think you are capable of. If I can help you, reach out to me because I will do everything I can to try and make a difference.
Posted by Christopher Wilno at 12:09 PM 2 comments:
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