Joshua Hale Fialkov

Purveyor of sheer awesomeness.

Joshua Hale Fialkov is the Harvey, Eisner, and Emmy Award nominated writer of graphic novels, animation, video games, film, and television, including:

THE LIFE AFTER, THE BUNKER, PUNKS, ELK'S RUN, TUMOR, ECHOES, KING, PACIFIC RIM, THE ULTIMATES, I, VAMPIRE, and JEFF STEINBERG CHAMPION OF EARTH. He's also written for NBC's CHICAGO MED and SYFY's upcoming INCORPORATED.

Photograph by Heidi Ryder

One Year Later

I don't want to die. 

I don't mean that in the sense that everybody wants to live forever.  I literally decided I didn't want to die.  I've had health problems pretty much from the time I was a little kid.   Some of that is rooted in my mom being unaware she was pregnant with me, while undergoing major back surgery (and the drugs that go along with that not being, ahem, great for the fetus...) to a massive bout of food poisoning when I was five or six years old.  I still remember the days (and what feels like weeks) I spent in the hospital on IV's because I couldn't take in solid food.  

I still have minor panic attacks when I see bees, thanks to my managing to get stung by about sixty yellow jackets (which I'm deathly allergic to) as a little boy, sending me into anaphylactic shock.  

I remember falling out of the hatch of a friends treehouse and catching my foot on the ladder, breaking my ankle but sparing my head.  And, for that matter, falling head first into an orchestra pit, and breaking my arm WITH MY HEAD.  

There's more things (hemochromatosis diagnosis in college, near diabetic coma a decade ago, I should really stop this list...) but, the fact is in spite of all the terrible things that I went through, and clearly had the will to fight through them, I always figured I'd die young.   It's something my friends and I have always joked about.  My buddy Tony Fleecs has always called me "Mr. Glass."  I've broken nearly every finger, toe, both arms, my coccyx, both ankles, and my nose.  I've been diagnosed with fibro myalgia, type '1 1/2' diabetes, osteo pinea, keratoconus,  a half-dozen kidney stones, a shattered vertebrae, and (famously) crippling migraines.  In other words, I've been falling to pieces pretty much from the jump. 

I figured, I work my ass off, I'll get the best work out of the way, and any time left over, that's bonus.

And then I met her.  Yes. It's that story.  I fell in love with someone so much better than me, so much more talented than me, and so much kinder than me.  When Tony made his first crack to her about my health, "How does it feel to know he's going to die before you?" And then, she started to cry. When I saw that look on her face, it started something.

I've been fat since the fifth grade.  At my top weight I was around 265, which for a 5'9" guy is... a lot.  I chiseled away some of that weight, and quit smoking (mostly), and managed to get my diabetes mostly under control.  And, as if to make damn sure things changed, she got pregnant.  And we had... her.  Hold on, let's get a picture of her in here for extra heart meltings.

But, even, then, primary to everything was getting enough work to pay for her to have the best life possible.  And I worked and worked, killing myself to get faster and better to make sure I could provide for her.

And then I got sick.  The migraines got worse. A simple flu would stretch out for weeks.  Slowly but surely, I came to realize that there are things more important than earning the most and working the best.  Things like her.  Both hers, actually.

And so, around two years ago, I bought a Fitbit and I started using a standing desk.  Then I started doing every phone call while frantically pacing my neighborhood like a crazy person.  Eventually I started jogging, and about one year ago today, I ran a 5k.  I did okay.  After that we (my wife has come on the crazy journey with me) started doing a race every month or so, all building up to the Disney Avengers Half Marathon.  

That kicked my ass, but, I did it.  I was the kid who used to walk around the track and smoke cigarettes while Gym class was going on.  And I ran a fucking half marathon.  

And then today... We did a 10k.  Which, technically, is not as impressive as a half marathon, BUT... I've been really, really sick once again.  I'm on week four of a cold, brought on by a change in my diabetes medication (as the one drug I've taken for a decade became suddenly ineffective).  Last night, I got home from attending Mary McCoy's wonderful launch party for her new book DEAD TO ME (name dropped only to help her sell a few books), and was about ready to die.  I was nauseous and dizzy, and ready to call it quits.  And then I looked at my daughter.  I looked at my wife.  I went to bed at 6pm, and woke up at 4am (which was really 3am, thanks to DST.)  I felt good enough to go.  Not great. Not 100%. But, I could do this.  Without having trained in a month, with an empty stomach and a cloudy head.

And I did it.  

In fact, I didn't just do it.  I beat my best time.  By a LOT.  Close to 5 or 6 minutes shaved off my usual time.  And I did it sick and tired.  And as I ran today, I felt shitty.  Really shitty.  I felt broken of spirit and weak of body.  

And then... I thought about them.  My two precious women, the literal wind beneath my broken, weak wings. And I ran. 

And so, in some ways, I've always been.  Before I was running towards death.  Smoking and eating my way to an early grave.  But now, I'm running away from it.  I'm running to make sure I'm here to watch my daughter graduate, become a Doctor/Lawyer/Marine Biologist (simultaneously) and to celebrate a retirement of some sort with my beautiful, regal queen of a wife. 

I'll never stop running. If things go bad, and I backslide, I know that it won't be for long, and it won't be permanent, because I have the most important people in my world there to support and lift me up.  

That's what today meant. That's what running means.  And that's why I'll be here for as long as humanly possible.