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Constance Alexander: Compared to dealing with cancer, triathalon doesn’t seem so tough

On a frigid Sunday morning when turning off the alarm and going back to sleep made the most sense in the world, Lisa Reisman got out of bed to swim a half-mile loop in the Long Island Sound, cycle fourteen miles, and then run four more through slicing winds and driving rain.

Not exactly a fun time, but compared to the challenge she’d faced ten years earlier – when a grade-four glioblastoma threatened her intellect, her mobility, and her life – that first triathalon was merely a self-inflicted struggle.

On Wednesday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m., local runners Susan Davis and Laura Miller, and Marshall County’s Dr. Julia Lyles, will discuss Reisman’s book, “5 Months 10 Years 2 Hours,” in the meeting room of the Calloway County Public Library.

The panelists will talk about their reactions to the book, as well as their own experiences training and competing in Murray-Calloway County Hospital’s Half-Marathon, upcoming on April 22.

The community is invited to join the discussion, and to share their reactions and reflections to Reisman’s book and its related themes, including the impact of a devastating cancer diagnosis; uncertainties associated with debilitating medical treatment; and the insights gained through interactions with family during a crisis.

Lisa’s story does not begin with the triathalon in 2008, but stretches back a decade to July 31, 1998, when she was an attorney in Manhattan. Disillusioned with law as a career, she had plans to quit her job and drive cross country in a flame-red convertible. Once the case she was working on was settled, she would slip into her Plymouth Valiant and take off.

“One more week,” she told herself that night after having drinks with some of her colleagues.

The next morning, after a 5-mile run in Riverside Park, she came back to her apartment, had a brief phone conversation with her sister, Luke, and decided to take a nap.

“That’s the last I remember,” she says on page 2 of her memoir.

Throughout the book, Lisa’s story weaves back and forth between assimilating the news of a deadly brain tumor and competing in a triathalon ten years later. Dealing with both situations demanded grim resolve. Although there were times she wanted to give up, she had to move forward, no matter what. Up until then, all her training in life had led her to believe in the importance of finishing strong.

There are no platitudes or pink ribbons in the book, no easy aphorisms. Best-selling author Rosellen Brown says of “5 Months 10 Years 2 Hours,” “This is as up close and honest as any testimony I’ve read, about the humbling that comes with terrible illness and the ways in which family – as always – plays its complicated role in a young woman’s life.”

One of the sub- themes in the book relates to Lisa’s younger sister, Pip, profoundly autistic, mute, and living in an extended care facility. In the midst of Lisa’s aggressive chemotherapy, spending time with Pip created an island of calm. Ms. Reisman’s next book, she tells me, will explore the lifelong impact on family caregiving for an adult with disabilities.

Sponsored by the Calloway County Endowment for Health Care through an Arts Access Grant from the Kentucky Arts Council, “5 Months 10 Years 2 Hours” was chosen for a community read in collaboration with the Calloway County Public Library. The grant funded purchase of multiple copies of the book, and those interested in borrowing one may visit the CCPL Circulation Desk.

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Register to attend the book discussion at the library’s Circulation Desk or by contacting Mrs. Sandy Linn, Community Relations Coordinator, at 270-753-2288, Ext. 111. The panel and group discussion is free and participants do not have to have read or finished the book to attend.

For more information about the Murray Half Marathon, Relay and 5K Run/Walk, go to the website at http://www.murrayhalfmarathon.org. For information about the week of events leading up to Half Marathon, contact Keith Travis, Vice President of Development for the Murray-Calloway County Endowment for Health Care.

All proceeds go to the Anna Mae Owen Residential Hospice.


Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray, Ky. She can be reached at Calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit her website.

Read all posts by Constance Alexander on KyForward

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