Lester: How an Arlington Heights shoe repairman juggles cancer, Ironmans

Fighting leukemia is an all-encompassing endeavor. So is training for an Ironman race.

Imagine doing both at the same time.

Running (sometimes literally) around the state on assignment, I've taken a number of pairs of heels to

Greg George at Randhurst Shoe Repair in downtown Arlington Heights over the years.

But only in recent weeks did I learn about George's dual quest.

Energy boost

George, 56, of Barrington, completed chemotherapy two years ago. However, in recent months, he learned cancer had come back, manifesting in tumors in his chest and abdomen.

Chemotherapy had previously left him exhausted and drained. So this time around,

  Randhurst Shoe Repair owner Greg George says his energy levels are up after trying a new experimental drug to fight his leukemia. Bob Chwedyk/

George tried an experimental drug called Imbruvica that he says has kept his energy levels high enough that he's been able to train for two marathons and two half-Ironmans in the last year. He's planning to compete in the Ironman Arizona Nov. 15. That's a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.

George is finding his times have slowed a bit, but he's still quick enough in his marathons that he's qualifying for Boston in his age group, running roughly a 3:30 race. (Note: That's my pace, on a good day.)

'Still whole'

"I was feeling good, and you feel like you still need the challenges. You just don't want the disease to beat you.

"It's a way to prove to yourself you're still whole,"

  Randhurst Shoe Repair owner Greg George of Barrington. Bob Chwedyk/

George said. He's devoting 20 and 25 hours a week to training and eats roughly 6,000 calories a day of what he describes as a "low-fat diet." Roughly one-fourth of those calories come from breakfast cereal.

Gliniewicz spending detailed

In my years as a journalist, I've always loved to watch our newsroom come together as difficult stories break, like the news that Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz's death was a carefully planned suicide as he was about to get caught for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars intended for a youth program. Wonder where the money went? Text messages police attributed to Gliniewicz reveal $624.70 spent on a flight in June and $2,377 to fix the truck of someone referred to as Individual #2.

'Conflict of interest'

  Rob Sherman Joe Lewnard/

Rob Sherman, the Buffalo Grove-based atheist and activist, tells me he plans to call Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and demand that GOP state Rep. Jeannie Ives of Wheaton be removed from the House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee for having taxpayer-funded kids activity books printed amid the state budget impasse and then sending some to her children's Catholic school.

The Illinois Constitution forbids using public funds "in aid of any church or sectarian purpose," but Sherman says his main concern is the books went to a school her children attend.

Ives calls Sherman's complaint "complete and utter silliness" and says the books cost a total of $130 and have been distributed to children throughout the district. The ones given to the Catholic school, she says, were left over from a kids boot camp she sponsors each summer at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. She also noted she annually returns thousands in office funds to the state.

Cheddar curtain

Speaking of kids, I asked Sherman about his daughter Dawn, who's followed in his footsteps as an atheist and activist.

She graduated from the University of Wisconsin last year and is working as a medical researcher "north of the cheddar curtain" in Madison, he said.


Here's Advocate Condell Medical Center's

Here's Advocate Condell Medical Center's Chris Dimitrov Vicik, right, and Lance Buhrman, both of Mundelein, with Jay Leno before his performance at the Paramount Theater in Aurora last Friday. "He was so nice and generous with his time," Vicik says.

Chris Dimitrov Vicik, right, and Lance Buhrman, both of Mundelein, with Jay Leno before his performance at the Paramount Theater in Aurora last Friday. "He was so nice and generous with his time," Vicik gushed.

A national model

I caught up with state Rep. Lou Lang this week, who mentioned that two congressmen and a U.S. senator have approached him about using his Illinois heroin legislation as a national model. At this point, he says, it's too early to disclose names.


Congratulations to Northern Illinois University Professor Doug Boughton, who will be honored Friday in Lisle as the 2015 Higher Education Art Educator of the Year. Boughton, of St. Charles, is known for a method of teaching art that explores everything from drawing and painting to television, comic books and the Internet as artistic media.

In-person plea

Hat tip to colleague Susan Sarkauskas, who tells me West Aurora District 129 plans to lobby the Illinois State Board of Education later this month for clearance to borrow money at reduced interest rates through a federal program for its $84 million construction plan. The program, created as part of the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, covers most of the interest costs on borrowed money. Officials say it could save District 129 property taxpayers up to $750,000 for every $1 million borrowed.

• Got a tip? Send them over to or call me at (847) 427-4603.

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