Monday, December 28, 2009

Log: Week of Dec 21

Mon, Dec 21-Off (knee sore)

Tues, Dec 22-Off (knee still sore)

Wed, Dec 23-Treadmill run (20:04, 2.14miles, 9:22 pace)

Thurs, Dec 24-Treadmill run (20:00, 2.18miles, 9:10 pace)

Fri, Dec 25-22min strength

Sat, Dec 26- Trail run (icy, 34:03, 3.24miles, 9:35 pace)

Sun, Dec 27-15min swim

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Log: Week of December 14

Mon, Dec 14-45min swim workout

Tues, Dec 15-24min run

Wed, Dec 16-28min swim (continous)

Thurs, Dec 17-Off

Fri, Dec 18-26min run (2.65miles, 9:48 pace); 20min strength

Sat, Dec 19-29:14min run (2.54miles on snowy trails, 11:31 pace)

Sun, Dec 20-Off

Friday, December 18, 2009

Log: Week of December 7

Mon, Dec 7- 40min swim workout

Tues, Dec 8-24min run

Wed, Dec 9-25min swim (continous)

Thurs, Dec 10-Off

Fri, Dec 11-24min run

Sat, Dec 12-24min run on hills

Sun, Dec 13-Off

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Log: Week of November 30

Mon,Nov 30- 30min cycle

Tues, Dec 1-30minstrength, 30min cycle

Wed, Dec 2-30min swim

Thurs, Dec 3-20min run :)

Fri, Dec 4-Off

Sat, Dec 5- 20min run

Sun, Dec 6-30min lifting

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mile 13 of My Cancer Marathon - "Halfway There"

So I went running…

But before I dive into the details of the maiden voyage of the cancer leg post-cancer, let me bore you with how I got there. After all, I can’t just jump into the climax of the story. If my memory serves me right from 11th grade English every plotline needs an “Exposition” followed by “Rising Tension” before you can hit the “Climax” and eventual “Resolution”. (Ok, I lied. I didn’t just remember that – I Google’d it two minutes ago: http://elizaw.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/plot_traditionallayout.jpg)

So back track three days to Thursday morning. My first stop of the day was the Radiology for a checkup x-ray. I did the whole x-ray rigmarole – check in, wait, get changed, wait, get x-rays, wait, change, wait, blah, blah, blah. After you’ve waited for the millionth time, one of the techs comes out and hands you an oversized envelope containing your x-ray films.

I’ve had enough x-rays at this point that I’m pretty good at discerning the difference between healthy and unhealthy bone. If I had to judge myself, I’d say I’d be at a 2nd year of medical school level. Not too shabby for being self-taught via the internet.

Anyways, I was dying to look inside the envelope and see what my leg looked underneath the skin, muscles and tissue. But somehow it felt like it would be cheating – like I wasn’t supposed to see the x-rays until the doctor did.

It totally reminded me of elementary school when my teachers would give me notes to deliver to the office. I often got selected for this prestigious duty because I was the perfect combination of a brown noser (willing to step up the challenge) and shy (less likely to leak secrets). In a teachers’ eyes that’s pretty much the equivalent to a lockbox. Hence I was given folded notes (such as “Billy Green is a total pain and driving me nuts. Please arrange a parent-teacher conference ASAP”) to transport from my teacher to the office.

What my teachers didn’t know that I am the worst person in the world about keeping secrets. Seriously, never tell me anything you don’t want the entire town of Chagrin Falls, my out of state cousins and the checker at Giant Eagle to know.

The entire walk to the office I would be torn between my urge to discover what secrets might lie in my teacher’s handwritten note and my duty to be a diligent student. I must confess that sometimes my curiosity got the best of me and I sneaked a peek at the notes. But never the whole thing. I usually just lifted up a corner and read what I could. That was how I satisfied my nosiness without compromising (too much) the secrecy of the mission.

So back to the Cleveland Clinic. My curiosity got the best of me. I had to look at those X-rays RIGHT NOW and discern if my leg had made any improvement. So like a total dork, I whipped out the films right in the middle of the 7 story lobby of the building, surrounded by hundreds of people, and raised them towards the skylights to render my self-taught medical opinion.

After careful observation, Dr. Fontana’s professional opinion was much improved bone composition but with some areas still in need of healing. So with that intrigue subdued, it was time to go see what the real doctor had to say.

The doctor came in and peppered me with his usual barrage of questions. Any pain? Any soreness? Are you taking any pain relievers? Are you limiting your activity in anyway? When was the last time you visited the oncologist? When is your next scheduled appointment? What is the square root of 144? How will we ever stabilize Afghanistan?

Then he had me to do the catwalk. I call it the catwalk because he makes me walk across the room, pivot and walk towards him so he can check my gait. Once I have traversed the catwalk back and forth a few times, I end my one-person cancer leg fashion show by striking and holding a pose while he checks out my overall alignment.

The whole exercise is silly in many ways. First, my wardrobe consists on my regular streets clothes on top and a pair of humongous hospital issue scrub type shorts on bottom. Hardly couture. Second, I obviously walked into the appointment on my own two legs so is there really a question about my ability to move? Third and finally, it’s really weird to having someone staring at your legs as you strut about. It’s practically one step removed from walking past a construction site while wearing a short skirt.

I’m sure it will come as surprise, but I’ve decided that a life as a runway model is just not in the cards for me. My experience with the orthopedic runway has soured me on the profession. Sigh. I guess I will just have to find another career.

After the third degree and the catwalk, the doc went over the x-rays. As I had already diagnosed, the leg is healing well but will still need some time to get back to normal.
He said that I can continue what I am doing as long as I don’t have pain.

As he rambled on and on about follow-up visits and treatment protocols, I was about ready to burst. The words “WHAT ABOUT RUNNING??!!!” were lodged in the back of my throat dying to explode out of my mouth.

Finally when there was a gap in conversation, I hesitantly asked “Can I start running again?” For me, the question was so heavy with emotion and deeper meaning that it felt like it sucked all the air out of the room as I said it. So it was completely unexpected, and I was taken back, when it was met with a breezy “I don’t see why not” from the doc. He didn’t even look up from his clipboard. And with that the elephant in the room evaporated.

The doctor’s only concern was that I took it “easy” at first. The runner’s definition of easy is a bit different than the rest of the population. We’re the kind of people who say insane things like “I’m going for an easy 20 miler” or “I decided to take it easy and only run 3 mile repeats instead of 5”. So I asked for further definition, worried that he would spew crazy talk like no more than 10 miles a week for the next decade.

Instead, he said don’t immediately start running at level you were at before you got sick. Give it two months or so. I about peed my pants and was laughing hysterically on the inside. Like after not running a step for 10 months I was just going to jump into 60 mile a week 3:15 marathon training. Even I’m not that crazy.

After I got my metaphorical running permission slip signed, I pretty much bolted from his office as quickly as possible.

And with that it was time to plan my first run back. Like a tween plans their dream wedding, I’ve been planning my maiden running voyage post-cancer with careful consideration, attention to detail and no realism of when it would actually happen.

First, it had to be memorable. I couldn’t just slough off a few miles on the treadmill while mindlessly watching the scrawl on CNN.

Second, it had to be poignant. If you’ve been reading this far you know I am a sucker for repetition and ridiculous metaphors.

Third, it had to be for me. While I am so grateful for everyone who has assisted me on this journey, this is something I had to do on my own.

So instead of prince charming slipping a 10 carat Princess cut stunner on my left hand, a doc saying “I don’t see any reason why you can’t run” put my carefully orchestrated plan into motion.

My last run was on February 14, 2009 at South Chargrin Reservation park. 2:00 hours. Just me and the tree lined trails. It was only fitting that the run that would capnote by cancer journey and restart my running would be again at South Chagrin. Instead of 2:00 hours I would do 20 minutes (once again, even I’m not that stupid to try to run double digit miles after a 10 month break). And I would run by myself, totally for me.

The tears started falling pretty much in sync with my first footfall. With each step, a flood of emotions rushed through me. It was like I was reliving every moment of the last 10 months - from initial diagnosis, to chemo, to radiation to remission. I hadn’t felt this much raw uncontrolled emotion since the day the doc called with those fateful words – “We think it is a tumor”.

The weather was cold and miserable, a typical Cleveland winter day. Pretty much exactly like the day of my last run, minus a foot of snow on the ground. During the course of my cancer journey I saw winter turn into spring and spring into summer and summer into fall. And here it was, winter again.

- - -

I’ve shared my innermost thoughts and feelings with you during this whole cancer process but I’ve kept one huge secret from you. Ok, here it is: sometimes I give inanimate objects personalities and develop personal relationships with them. Weird but true. You now know every last dirty little secret about me.

For instance, I had a certain pair of warm, fuzzy socks that I regularly turn to after a tiring day at work schlepping along in heels. We’re pretty much BFFs (best friends forever). They don’t judge that my feet are all gnarly and covered in calluses. Instead, they ask how my day was and envelop my lower extremities in warm, fuzzy love.

On the other hand, my laptop and I have a strictly professional relationship and an agreement to tolerate each other but nothing more. My laptop is kind of a wimp and prefers that I delicately place him in my work bag. However, I can’t tolerate wusses so I throw him in the bag with no regard to gentleness. He in return gets back at me by throwing a blue screen of death my way. This power struggle goes on, back and forth, until we both declare a truce. Although the white flag has flown, we still continue to pull passive aggressive moves on each other. I pound on the keys a little too hard just too annoy him and he strikes back by makingthespacekeystick. You get the idea.

My MP3 player and I have a much more loving relationship although we can have our differences. It’s more of a sibling relationship. We may annoy each other at times but deep down we respect all we have been through together. My MP3player has been my constant companion on many, many hours of runs, keeping me from being lonely and providing motivation along the way. It also has a wry sense of humor. Like playing “Baby One More Time” when I’m about to keel over during a repeat workout.

But today my MP3 player seemed to understand the enormity of the situation and seem to specifically pick certain songs from its “random” repertoire:

O.A.R. . Shattered. “How many times can I break before I shatter?”

The All-American Rejects. It Ends Tonght. “When darkness turns to light. It ends tonight”

Chumbawamba. Tubthumping. “I get knocked down but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down."

Garth Brooks. Standing Outside the Fire. “Life is not tried it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire”

And as I was finishing up my run, it did the unthinkable. It played The Killers. Mr. Brightside. My absolute favorite song of all time.

“I’m coming out of my cage. And I’ve been doing just fine. Destiny is calling me"

Thanks MP3 player for having my back.…

I knew the run would be emotional and it was. What I wasn’t so sure of, however, was how it would feel physically. I’ve tried to stay active the entire time, especially the past few months, spending many a workout in the pool or on the elliptical. But running is a different beast and it hurts muscles you didn’t even know existed.

And of course, there was my irrational fear that my femur would snap in two and then a mangy dog would run up, steal it and run into the woods to never be seen again.

Thankfully the leg didn’t break and the wild dogs stayed at bay. It didn’t even hurt, so that was a relief. My muscles did stage a half-hearted revolt but I quickly but them in their place. I didn’t feel very fluid at first. My arms and legs just couldn’t get in rhythm with each other. By about 5 minutes in, though, they got their act together and I found my pace.

By pace, I don’t mean PR, tempo or even jogging pace. (BTW, runners never use the “j” word. But I had to use it for poetic emphasis here. Please forgive me.) This pace was a just stay in forward motion velocity, one hair above walking pace. But slowly the pace crept up, and towards the end even partially resembled running. I even logged negative splits, natch.

. . .

Yes, I love running and I missed it all these months. But not being able to run meant something much deeper. It meant I wasn’t completely me – the cancer had gotten me.Now that I can run, I can finally put this whole cancer business to rest. I can do everything I did before – I am back to being me. The cancer is finally gone.

. . .

It’s entirely fitting that this entry comes at mile 13 – the halfway point of the marathon. The first part of my story is about the cancer and hopefully the second part will be about much more. I’m not sure yet where the finish line is or even how I’m going to fill those miles between now and then. But I’m thinking and I’m hoping and I’m planning.

The first 13.1 was definitely not easy and something I would never had asked for in a million years. But I am grateful for how it pushed me to do more and be more than I ever thought possible.

I’m excited to see where the next 13.1 takes me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Log: Week of November 23

Mon, Nov 23- 30min swim
Tues, Nov 24-Off
Wed,Nov 25-40min elliptical, 20min strength
Thurs, Nov 26-Turkey Trot, 2mile power walk (23:30)
Fri, Nov 27-Off
Sat, Nov 28-60min elliptical
Sun,Nov 29-Off

Not a great workout week, I need to get back on track. I haven't been sleeping well which has killed my energy levels and motivation.

Log: Week of November 16

Mon,Nov 16-
PM: 35min cycle workout, 20min strength


Tues, Nov 17-Off

Wed, Nov 18-47min swim workout

Thurs, Nov 19-Off

Fri, Nov 20-
AM: 60min elliptical


Sat, Nov 21-
AM: 36min power walk


Sun, Nov 22-
PM: 15min swim

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mile 12 of My Cancer Marathon: Working outside the Comfort Zone

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for Carmen’s Cancer Marathon Chronicles or whatever this should be called. Life has been hectic as of late which is to blame for part of the delay. Nothing bad, just busy with kids, work and life.

In all honesty, though, the primary reason for the lack of updates is a bad case of writer’s block. Mile 11 was pretty meaty – how do you top an entry that includes both keg stands and remission? – and I was having trouble coming up with a topic that would compare.

I tooled around with several potential topics but none of them seemed appropriate for where I am at mentally or in the context of my writing. And I wasn’t passionate about them.

To step back, I’ll be the first person to admit that I am not a writer. The last time I did any sort of regular writing was high school when I wrote a column for our small town’s newspaper (Total Circulation: About 5 - my parents, my grandma and about 3 other people). The column was entitled “Warrior Weekly” and it covered such earth shattering topics as the theme of the homecoming dance and whether the Junior or Senior girls would win the annual Powder Puff football game. Heavy hitting journalism obviously.

In college I probably wrote less than 5 papers total. One of the dirty little secrets about engineering is that the professors make up for the horrendously difficult and time consuming practice sets by never giving writing assignments. So I escaped higher education without ever pulling an all-nighter to write a term paper. Crazy but true.

I do so some writing in my current occupation (Project Manager for a company that designs and builds custom websites) but it’s mainly brief and boring. The only time I write something for work that is not totally snooze worthy is when I am sending a collections letter to a client. I can get a little saucy then :)

So while I enjoy writing these entries, and enjoy that you crazy people enjoy reading them, they are something that does not come naturally to me. Every time I sit down to write I am working way out of my comfort zone.

Working outside the comfort zone.

This is a saying that I’ve caught myself saying a lot recently. I was on a panel advising female college students about the workforce and I caught myself telling them that they needed to pursue opportunities that had them working outside the comfort zone. At work I was reassuring a developer that while a new technology is tough, working outside the comfort zone will yield a better product later. We took my meat loving in-law’s to a vegetarian restaurant and assured them that while falafel might be outside the comfort zone, it was indeed delicious.

As I sat down to write today, I was uncomfortable but I knew if I just started typing the words would come together and a topic would emerge. And there it was, slapping me in the face for weeks but I was too busy avoiding discomfort I couldn’t see it.



I’ve always loved shopping at farmer’s markets and roadside stands. It’s a bit of an adventure peering into the booths to see what’s for sale this week and I love that it allows you to connect to your food in a way that browsing the aisles at Giant Eagle just can’t.

However, farmer’s markets were also a source of anxiety for me. I feel overwhelmed by the choices and intimidated by the vegetables I didn’t even know the names of let alone tried. I would watch as others would confidently survey the produce, expertly examine it and then with assurance swoop them up and place them in their bag (eco-friendly of course).

Meanwhile my bag would be filled with “safe” fruits and vegetables – stuff like corn, cucumbers and strawberries – easy to cook and kind of boring.

How did they know about all these different fruits and vegetables? What would they cook with them? As I watched these ”experts” I would find myself becoming enviousness. I wanted to be the kind of person who brought home zucchini and made muffins or the kind of person of brought fresh herbs instead of using the dried kind in a bottle. But I was too afraid to try.

You see, I have a reputation in my family for being a lousy cook. A really lousy cook. When it comes time for family holidays, I’m the one who gets assigned to bring the wine – and nothing else.

Like most newlyweds, when I first got married I had illusions of making gourmet meals daily for my husband. Let’s just say after a few remarkably bad attempts, we ate a lot of pizza our first year of wedded bliss. Domino’s was vital to the success of our marriage.

However, once I had kids I got more health conscious. It just made sense for our health and that of our children (and I definitely didn’t mind the 10 pounds I dropped as a result). So I made a concentrated effort to include more whole grains, organics and fruits and veggies in our meals. It’s difficult to eat healthy without being able to cook but you can get by and we did.

Once I got diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to really step up the quality of foods our family ate. Unfortunately, I was at the point where I needed to learn to cook.

So I was grappling with the desire to cook but the intimidation to do so when I was on my weekly trip to our local farmer’s market late this summer. Once again, I found myself picking “safe” foods and envying those picking more “exotic” items such as squash.

But then I had a moment of reckoning. I can’t live my life scared of vegetables. I faced and beat cancer for goodness sakes. Why are a few squirrely vegetables making me so scared?

And that’s when I started my love affair with the butternut squash. On that late summer day, when I put that odd-shaped vegetable into my own eco-friendly bag, I made a big jump out of my comfort zone and into the world of cooking.

I went to the library and checked out a whole stack of “Cooking Light” magazines. I googled “Squash” and learned the difference between summer and winter varieties. I created a recipe binder. I made meal plans. And I cooked and cooked and cooked.

Notice I didn’t say I cooked well. I’ve had some wins (“Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin” dubbed “very good” by my picky husband) and some epic fails (“Chicken Spaghetti Casserole” declared “absolutely disgusting” by aforementioned husband who also doesn’t mince words).

But I tried and I continue to try. Cooking, like writing, still isn’t easy for me and I have to force myself to do it. But every time I do it successfully, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction.

In running, the only way you can get better is to push yourself by running harder and longer. But doing so kind of sucks. Your legs ache, it’s hard to catch your breath and it’s not generally pleasant.

To a non-runner, probably all running seems unpleasant. However, after you’ve done it for awhile you build up enough stamina and speed that there is such thing as an “easy” run. Easy runs are fun and relaxing - frankly just a jog in the park.

While vital for mental sanity, easy runs don’t make you better. So that’s where tortuous devices such as intervals, fartleks, tempo and progression runs come in. They are not fun. But afterwards there’s a sense of accomplishment that you can’t get from an easy run. You pushed your body out of the comfort zone and as a result you made yourself a better runner.



I’m planning on bringing “Butternut Squash/Apple/Cranberry Casserole” infused with spices and garnished with walnuts for Thanksgiving. I’m excited to be bringing something other than wine for once and looking forward to showing off my new found culinary skills.

Whether it’s learning to cook, running (or in my current situation, aquajogging) faster, sharing my innermost thoughts through writing or conquering cancer, it sure is delicious working outside the comfort zone.

Log: Week of November 9

Mon, Nov 9-
AM: 49min swim workout


Tues, Nov 10-Off


Wed, Nov 11-
AM: 54min swim workout


Thurs, Nov 12-
AM: 25min swimming; 20min time trial (920y in 20:13, 20y pool, 174hr after); 5min easy


Fri, Nov 13-
AM: 30min cycle, 30min elliptical


Sat, Nov 14-
AM: 37min power walk; 1 hr hike


Sun, Nov 15-
AM: 15min time trial (15:59 for 750yards); Decided to re-do since the 20y pool the other day made it difficult to gauge my time)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Log: Week of November 2

Mon, Nov 2-
PM: 30min easy cycle

Tues, Nov 3-
PM: 45min cycle workout; 15min strength

Wed, Nov 4-
AM: 54min swim workout - Longest ever!

Thurs, Nov 5-
AM: 45min swim workout

Fri, Nov 6-Off

Sat, Nov 7-
AM: 1 hr power walk/hike

Sun, Nov 8-
AM: 1 hr power walk

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Log: Week of 2009.10.26

Mon, Oct 26-Off



Tues, Oct 27-
PM: 30min cycle workout



Wed, Oct 28-
AM: 39min swim workout



Thurs, Oct 29-
AM: 47min swim workout

Fri, Oct 30-
PM: 30min cycle workout, 20min strength

Sat, Oct 31-
AM: 30min elliptical, 15min cycle; 2 months ago I couldn't even due to the elliptical due to the pain and I did 30min pain free today - very exciting!

Sun, Nov 1- Off

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Log: Week of October 19

Mon, Oct 19-
AM: 47min swim workout - Longest swim ever!

Tues, Oct 20-???

Wed, Oct 21- Off

Thurs, Oct 22-
PM: 30min cycle

Fri, Oct 23-
AM: 45min walk
PM: 30min cycle, 15min strength

Sat, Oct 24-
PM:40min cycle workout, 20min strength

Sun, Oct 25-
PM: 15min easy swim

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Log: Week of October 12

Mon, Oct 12-
AM: 42min swim workout; 8min aquajog

Tues, Oct 13-Off

Wed, Oct 14-
AM: 10min elliptical; 30min cycling

Thurs, Oct 15-
AM: 32min swim workout; 8min aquajog

Fri, Oct 16-
AM: 30min walk

Sat, Oct 17-
PM: 12min elliptical, 40min cycle, 20min strength

Sun, Oct 18-
PM: 30min cycle

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Log: Week of 2009.10.05

Mon, Oct 5 -

AM: 29min swim workout, 16min easy aquajog



Tues, Oct 6-Off



Wed, Oct 7-

AM: 40min aquajog workout; 10min swim easy

Workout: 5min easy, 2x{7x1:30hard,:30easy} w/ 2min easy between sets, 5min easy



Thurs, Oct 8-

AM: 39min swim workout, 11min aquajog easy



Fri, Oct 9- Off

Sat, Oct 10-
AM: 30min hike

Sun, Oct 11-Off

Log: Week of 2009.09.28

Mon, Sept 28 -
AM: 39min swim workout, 10min easy aquajog
PM: 30min swim lesson


Tues Sept 29 -
AM: 40min cycle, 20min lower body strengthening


Wed Sept 30 -
AM: 45min swimming

Thurs Oct 1 - Off

Fri Oct 2 -
AM: 40min cycle, 20min lower body strength

Sat Oct 3 -
PM: 40min cycle

Sun Oct 4 -
PM: 40min balance ball workout

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mile 11 of my Cancer Marathon

Running is a solitary sport – that is if you don’t count teammates, coaches, race directors, spectators, training partners, race officials, volunteers, and a whole list of other people. Yes, it’s only one person who ultimately crosses the finish line and receives a medal. But the achievement wouldn’t be possible without the countless others guiding and encouraging from training to race day.

I’ve been blessed in my running life with amazing people who have supported me every step of the way.

I had great coaches in middle school (Coach Balmer), high school (Coach Dahlman and Heffelfinger) and college (Coach Hudson).

I had great teammates during my academic years. Go Watkins Warriors! Go CWRU Spartans!

I have great training partners in my adult life. I don’t dare name them by name or else suffer the embarrassment of forgetting somebody.

I have great parents who attended all my races from 8th grade through college and beyond. Even though they didn’t know a thing about this crazy sport called cross-country they quickly became super fans.

I have a great husband who cheers me on and watches the kids on Saturday mornings without complaint so I can get long runs in.

I appreciate all the great race directors, officials, volunteers and spectators who have the thankless of job of creating memorable experiences for each and every race participant.

During my cancer marathon, I’ve also been blessed with amazing people who supported me from diagnosis to chemo to radiation to recovery.

I struggled with the most appropriate way to recognize each and every one. I could have written countless thank you notes, but frankly I’m a little lazy. So I finally decided to throw a party in their honor – A Cancer Party!

Like me, I wanted the mood of the party to part fun, part pensive, part silly and part tongue-in check. I think the invitations I sent sum that up:

It’s a Cancer Party!

Cancer sucks but at least it's a great excuse for a party!

Seriously, we've been amazed and humbled by all the support we received from family and friends near and far. We figured the best way to start paying you back is to feed you unlimited hot dogs and get you drunk.

So come one and all and let's celebrate the coolness that is chemo!

Attire: Outdoor casual. Bald heads encouraged.

Drinks: We'll provide drinks that come from a faucet, juicebox and keg. And pop too (sorry Vince's family, soda isn't served in these parts). If you want something different, bring it.

Food: We'll have plenty of dead animals grilled to perfection. Good cooks are welcome to bring a side or dessert if you are so inclined. Bad cooks should just bring themselves.

Recreation: Sandbox, sprinkler, playground, water table, etc for the tykes. For the grownups: Cornhole, horeshoes, hillbilly golf and whatever new redneck game is all the rage.

Drugs: It's BYOB R-CHOP. Radiation will be available at the party for a modest fee.

I sent the invite out to everyone who helped me out along the way – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – and the guest list got pretty big pretty quick. I figured that most of them wouldn’t come considering it was summer and everyone had busy schedules. As I watched the RSVPs come in, there were more Yes’s than No’s. Apparently nobody wanted to miss a Cancer Party! (Or maybe it was the offer of free beer…)

The day of the party we had nearly 100 people slated to come. At this point I was in full-on panic mode. My house can hold 20 people tops. And 5 times that were coming. And there were supposed to be torrential thundershowers right during the party hours.

I was obsessively checking weather.com every 15 minutes, studying the cloud patterns and analyzing the hourly forecast. And amazingly 2 hours before the party, the sky cleared up and the weather forecast went from 60% chance of rain to 0%. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from cancer is that sunshine follows the dark clouds – and this time it was literal!

So with sunshine beating down on us it was time to party! The keg was tapped, the margarita machine was flowing and the dogs were on the grill.

The kids raced between the slip and slide and indulging in the dessert table. I was so excited to see all my favorite people I didn’t even notice that Dominic gorged himself on 2 cupcakes and 3 cookies. His stomach, accustomed to organic whole grains, was probably in shock from the sugar overload.

The adults, who were instead racing between the margaritas and the beer, were relaxing in the sun and catching up with old friends.

For me, it was almost like my wedding day. Everyone I loved and cared about was assembled in one place. All the people who shared the cancer journey with me. All the people I am eternally grateful to.

As night fell, the kids put on their jammies and snuggled up on a neighbor’s lawn to eat popcorn and watch a movie projected on the side of a house. They were so cute all sprawled across the lawn with their little eyes struggling to stay open to capture a few more moments of Kung Fu panda. I just wanted to bottle up that sight and keep it forever.

With the kids squared away, the parents returned to the important task on hand – kicking the keg. At first, we were just doing it the regular way, you know, pump, pour, drink. And then someone had the resourceful idea to start doing keg stands. One thing led to another and half the neighborhood was being dangled in the air with beer squirted into their mouth. I’m sure it would have been pretty funny to watch a bunch of 30 something so-called responsible adults act like college freshman!

And yes, I did a keg stand. I figured there was no better time than at your own cancer party to hop on the keg and celebrate!

If I had to sum up the Cancer Party in one word, I would say it was magical. Between the weather miraculously turning better, the gathering of everyone I cared about, and the joyful spirit of both the kids and the adults, it was truly a memorable night.



It would have been hard to top the Cancer Party, but I was able to a few weeks later. I had my first post-treatment checkup and got to hear the magical word – remission! Hearing that my tests came back clean and the cancer has been pushed into submission was a huge relief. It was a fitting endnote to the Cancer Party.



While I am in remission, I’m not at the Cancer Finish Line just yet. There’s a reason this entry isn’t entitled Mile 26.2. That’s because there’s still more work to do. My leg isn’t healed yet. I’m not running yet. I need to regain my fitness. I need to do a triathlon. I need to run a marathon. Until those things are complete, I don’t consider life back to normal and this race complete.

I don’t know how soon those things will happen, and I don’t know when I’ll reach Mile 26.2. The one thing I do know is that I’ve got an amazing support system that will be with me on every step of the journey.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Log: Week of 2009.09.14

Mon Sep 14 - Off; Sick


Tues Sep 15 - 40min cycle; 20min core



Wed Sep 16 - 44min swim; 10min aquajog; Longest swim workout yet



Thurs Sep 17 -
AM: 32min aquajog workout; 15min easy swim
PM: 15min aquajog easy



Fri Sep 18 -60min walk



Sat Sep 19 - 45min walk on hills



Sun Sep 20 - Off

Log: Week of 2009.09.21

Mon, Sept 21 -
AM: 41min swim workout, 10min aquajog easy

Tues, Sept 22 -
Off, leg was sore

Wed, Sept 23 -
AM: 41min swim workout

Thurs, Sept 24 -
AM: 40min aquajog workout (5min easy, 5x5min hard w/ 1min easy between, 5min easy); 10min easy swimming

Fri, Sept 25 -
AM: 60min walk

Sat, Sep 26 -
AM: 60min walk

Sun, Sep 27 - Off

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Log: Week of 2009.09.07

Mon 2009.09.07 - 30min swim; 16min aquajog

Tues 2009.09.08 - 40min cycle

Wed 2009.09.09 - 31min aquajog; 16min swim

Thurs 2009.09.10 - 36min swim; 15min aquajog

Fri 2009.09.11 - Off

Sat 2009.09.12 - Off

Sun 2009.09.13 -`60 min cycle

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Log: Week of 2009.08.31

Mon 8-31: 33min swim workout; 16min aquajog easy


Tues 9-1: 40min easy cycle


Wed 9-2: 36min aquajog workout; 15min easy swim w/ fins


Thurs 9-3: 20min easy swim; 20min easy aquajog; Totally dead today so opted out of a swim workout; My children really need to sleep through the night soon


Fri 9-4: Off; Still dead so took the day off


Sat 9-5: 40min cycle; 20min strength

Sun 9-6: 30min walk pushing kids in stroller; DH did the 5 mile race and I did the 1 mile fun walk; The walk actually wound through the county fair and the kids got to see the livestock getting groomed for today's competitions. They loved it. Afterwards, 3yo did the kids' race. It was almost 800 meters and he ran the whole way and looked like he could run more afterwards. We were very proud of him (and he was very proud that he was the only one in the family to bring home any hardware!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Log: Week of 2009.8.24

Vacation Week!

Mon 8-24: 32 min aquajog workout; Our rental house has a small pool made even smaller by the fact that only half is deep enough for deep water running; Many, many mindless laps of the pool

Tues 8-25: 40min cycle

Wed 8-26: 30min dunes hike

Thurs 8-27: 35min aquajog workout

Fri 8-28: 40 min cycle

Sat 8-29: 30min hike

Sun 8-30: Off

Thursday, August 20, 2009

REMISSION

I'll write more later but I just found that I am in remission. That's good news obviously. The race isn't over yet (still need to get the leg healed) but things are moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Log: 2009.08.18

AM Workout:
40 min cycling, 20 min lower body strength training

Notes:
It was a miracle in that I got through an entire workout without one of my children needing me!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Log: 2009.08.16

AM Workout:

50min cycle - outdoors

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Log: 2009.08.14 - MY BIRTHDAY :)

AM Workout:

40min cycle
20min lower body strength

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Log: 2009.08.13

AM Workout:
30 min swim
20 min aquajog

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Log: 2009.08.12

AM Workout:
28min aquajog
20min swim

PM Workout:
15 min aquajog

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mile 10 of my Cancer Marathon

The last few miles I digressed from my “cancer is a marathon” analogy in my updates (or is it a simile? I’ve gotten those confused since 4th grade) However, in honor of being 1/3 done with my Cancer Marathon I’ll bring it back.

For you eagle eyed readers you probably noticed that I’m on Mile 10 but said I’m only 1/3 done. If a marathon is 26.2 miles shouldn’t I have passed the 1/3 mark around Mile 8.7333?

Well, a marathon is divided into thirds but they aren’t necessarily mathematically accurate.

The first third of the marathon is comprised of everything I’ve already discussed. To recap: Anxiety and anticipation, nerves and nausea. Boring miles of just trying to get one foot in front of another.

I’ll explain the final third (Mile 20 through Mile 26.2) when we get there. For now, let’s talk about the second third.

Miles 10 through 19 are when the real fun starts – it’s time to start racing. The previous boring easy pace will gradually get harder mile by mile. Runners around you will start making moves, either forward or backward. The crowds that lined the course during the early miles have thinned out to a handful of people (and if you are really lucky some random person blasting “Eye of the Tiger” from their car stereo).

This is when the racing part comes in. To the uninitiated “racing” implies all-out sprinting. In a marathon, racing means something totally different. Racing is when you start focusing inward by giving great thought to every decision and engaging in an inner dialogue.

During these miles many race decisions occur such as “Should I attack this hill or back off?”, “Should I take a gel now or wait a mile?”, “Should I stay with the pace group or move ahead?” Every decision has consequences, both good and bad, and the miles are spent pondering the optimal responses to these questions.

Inner dialogue fuels and consumes these miles. The tone of the conversation moves up and down like the frequency of a yo-yo. During the “up” periods, things like “I can do this”, “My legs feel fresh”, “My training has made me strong” increase your leg turnover and reduce the labored breathing.

The “down” periods have the opposite effect by making limbs heavy and oxygen sparse. Negative dialogue (“Another hill?!”, “Everyone is leaving me”, “I still have 10 miles left”) can easily overtake the motivational version in a moments notice.

The key is to recognize the “downs” and proactively replace them with “ups”. Even when every part of your being, both physical and mental, is screaming negativity you must push through the positive energy.

Now that I am finished with my treatments, I feel like my life that was on hold for several months is ready to “race” again. I’m filled with possibilities and spend many an hour trying to decide “what’s next”. I’ve been given my life back and I want to utilize it in the best way possible.

It’s still going to be some time before I can explore big possibilities such as running marathons, doing trail races and tackling triathlons. (More on that later).
For now, I’m focusing on the small decisions that will add up over time to make me stronger, physically and mentally, and ready to cross the Cancer Finish Line in good shape.

These are a few of the small choices I’m trying to make on a daily basis:
More aquajogging and less whining about not being able to do real running
Less whole candy bars and more Whole Foods
Less US Weekly and more Newsweek (Ok, I can’t really go without the latest gossip on those crazy Twilight kids or Jon and Kate, so I’ll just read high brow journalism in addition to celebrity drivel)
Less stressing over getting everything done and more “me” breaks


Not every day am I successful in making all the right choices, but I’m try to make fewer bad ones each day. It’s not always easy to take the right choice, but I know it will pay off in the end.

As part of my “make good choices” phase, I have been stepping up my exercise regime. I was probably at my peak of post-college fitness when I was diagnosed and it was frustrating to see all that hard work erased virtually overnight. However, I’m trying to be vigilant about keeping my workouts and have seen results already.

I’m definitely not in PR marathon form but feel like I am at good place to start building from. I’ve climbed myself out of the ditch chemo and crutches put me in. Now it’s time to start getting in shape.

Disclaimer: I love reading other people’s training blogs. I do know that the vast majority of the population finds them a snooze-fest though. Thus, unless you are really bored (or a fitness nut) I suggest skipping the next few paragraphs.

So, my training looks roughly like this right now:

Monday – Swim workout (30min); Aquajogging – easy tempo (15-20 min)
Tuesday – Cycling (40 min); Upper body lifting (20 min)
Wednesday – Aquajogging workout (30 min); Swimming – easy (15-20 min); Aquajogging – easy tempo (15-20 min)
Thursday – Swim workout (30min); Aquajogging – easy tempo (15-20 min)
Friday– Cycling (40 min); Lower body pilates (20 min)
Saturday – Cycling or hiking (60min)
Sunday – Off

All that works out to 3 swim sessions, 4 aquajogging sessions, 3 cycling sessions, and 2 strength sessions. So at minimum, cancer has finally forced me to embrace the dreaded cross-training!

You will notice that there is no land based running on there. Sadly, the appointment at the orthopedist didn’t go as well as I had hoped. He said that the bone is still very unhealthy and needs more time to remodel. Long term the diagnosis is still good for the bone, it’s just that cancer and radiation took its toll on my femur and now I need to just let Mother Nature do her thing.

I will see the orthopedist again in 6 months and hopefully my puppy dog face and bribery antics will be more successful then.

It was disappointing to not get the green light for running but the thing I was most frustrated by is that this cancer nonsense will continue for at least 6 more months. I feel great and just want to get back to my life – all of it. Unfortunately, while I still have restrictions I will still have cancer looming over me.

In other cancer news, I will be having another PET scan next week. Depending on the results of the exam I’ll find out if I’m considered in “remission” or if I’ll need more treatment. So send “Cancer be gone” vibes to me next Monday around 10:30AM!

I’ll update my Facebook status and post a blog entry once I know the results (a few days later). Mile 11 probably won’t be for a few weeks but will definitely be a must read as it will recap my Cancer Party which resulted in some incriminating behavior by some (actually many) of my friends and neighbors. Who knew Cancer could be so fun?

Until then, I will be working on making good choices and challenge you to do the same!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Log: 2009.08.10

Activity:
Swimming: 29:00
Aquajogging: 16:00

Notes:
Seriously, if the schedule says the pool closes at 8:45AM I have every right to be swimming at 8:30AM without dirty looks from the lifeguard. I contemplated cutting my workout short because of all the dirty looks but decided that I had a right to be there. I was the only one swimming and the teenage lifeguard obviously felt I was a big inconvenience to her social schedule. So annoying.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Log: 2009.08.08

Activity: Cycling, Various strength exercises
Time: 30:00, 15:00

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Log: 2009.08.06

Activity: Swimming, Aquajogging
Time: 31:00, 15:00

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Log:2009.08.05

AM Workout:
30min Aquajog workout
20min Swim easy

PM Workout:
15min Aquajog easy

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Log: 2009.08.03

AM Workout:
30min swim workout
20min aquajog easy

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Log: 2009.08.02

Activity: Yoga (18 min), Stability Ball Workout (22 min)

Notes:
I thought I'd try yoga since I desperately need to tone my midsection for vacation (and bikin wearing) in a few short weeks. It's been awhile and I'm not as limber as I used to be. Unfortunately, all those down dogs put too much force on my leg so I cut it short. I'll try again in a month or so. Maybe I'll crash course Pilates instead for my awesome abs quest.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Log: 2009.07.31

Activity: Cycling (40 min), Lower Body Pilates (18min)

Notes:
I was just finishing up my workout at the gym when I saw the Child Watch lady walk into the weight room carrying my baby at an odd angle. He had a dirty diaper and I had no fresh diapers in my gym bag so that was an early end to my workout. Thankfully I had an emergency stash in the car.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Log: 2009.07.30

Activity: Swimming (30 min), Aqua Jogging (14 min)

Notes:
I really want to get between 50 and 60 minutes in the water three times a week. However, I arrived late at the gym and got a late start on my workout. The teenage lifeguard was chomping at the bit to get off duty exactly at 8:45 so I had to stop then. Seriously, would a few extra minutes killed her? It wasn't like she was ensuring my safety anyways - she spent the whole time fiddling with the radio and texting her friends. Kids nowadays...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009.07.29

AM Workout: Swimming (31 min), Aqua Jogging (19 min)
PM Workout: AquaJogging (15 min)

Notes:
This double brought you by my brand new AquaJogger Fit aqua running belt. Woo-hoo!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Log: 2009.07.27

AM Workout: Swimming (20 min), AquaJogging (20min)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Log: 2009.07.25

PM Workout: 2 mile Power Walk

Notes: Shot in the Dark Race. Even though I just walked the race I still beat 10 people in my age group. Some of which were even "running". LOL.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Log: 2009.07.24

Activity: Cycling, Lifting (Upper Body)
Time: 40:00, 20:00

Notes:
I got the job done today but my head was elsewhere. Looking forward to Shot in the Dark race tomorrow even if I'm just walking.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Log: 2009.07.23

Activity: Swimming
Time: 35:00

Notes:
That's three swimming sessions in one week for me - a new record! It helps that I started going to the YMCA 2 miles from my office every morning before work. The Geauga YMCA (my home membership) is way nicer but this place has water and is easier to get to on working days. So I'll suffer through the group shower and smelly locker room.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Log: 2009.07.22

Workout #1 (AM): Swimming, 31 minutes
Workout #2 (PM): Aqua Jogging, 15 minutes

I haven't aqua jogged since college and it's just as boring as I remember it. However, it's one of my only options considering my leg situation. The flotation belts are meant for plump aqua aerobics ladies of a certain age and mine was way too big and didn't fit right. I think I will order a "active" version since I forsee doing this for the time beaing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Log: 2009.07.21

Workout (Midday): Walking, 45 minutes

Notes:
I had planned on running this but my orthopedist had other plans. No running for 6 more months. Uggg. Will write more about this in Mile 10.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Log: 2009.07.19

Activity: Cycling
Time: 55:00

Took the boys to the trail. Dominic loved it, Porter hated it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Log: 2009.07.17

Activity: Swimming
Time: 20:00

Notes:

Swim lesson! The coach showed me some things I was doing wrong - can't wait to get back in the water to practice!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Log: 2009.07.15

Activity: Swimming
Time: 15:27

Notes:

Did another time trial. My fitness must be improving as I did 14 laps instead of 13 a few weeks ago. That's a positive sign. Let's hope it translates out of the water.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Log: 2009.07.14

Activity: Cycling, Lifting (lower body)
Time: 30:00, 20:00

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Log: 2009.07.10

Activity: Swimming, Lifting (upper body)

Time: 40:00, 20:00

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Log: 2009.07.07

Activity: Walking, Pilates (lower body)
Time: 60:00, 20:00

Notes:
Great walk at the park with Dr. L and Salty and their offspring. Can't wait to be able to run with them soon. Hope I'll be able to keep up with those speed demons!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Log: 2009.07.04

Activity: Walking
Time: 40:00

Notes:
5K race. I walked with the boys while DH ran it. My good friend and neighbor, B, and her son graciously joined me on the walk. It was too cut watching our boys "running" the race alongside us. Got to meet e-speed who is a great blogger and runner.

Mile 9 of my Cancer Marathon

Today marks my running-versary. 17 years ago today I toed the line at my first race…

The town I grew up in had an annual 4th of July 5 mile race. It was a tiny race, probably no more than 100 runners. The summer before 8th grade my mom challenged me to run it. Being a normal 13 year old girl with a compelling need to defy my mother, I decided to do it just to prove her wrong.

I’d been an athlete pretty much all of my short life to that point, dabbling in soccer, softball, basketball, tennis and golf. However, I had never actually run just to run.

I showed up to the race sporting scratchy wool/cotton blend soccer shorts and those K-swiss boat shoes that were all the rage back them. Probably not the best footwear choice but at least I looked fashionable.

I had no idea about pacing or race strategy and probably had no clue how far 5 miles actually was. So like Forrest Gump, I just ran and ran and when I felt tired I just kept running. Somehow I eventually made it to the finish line.

I have no recollection of my time or place but it must have been ok because the high school cross-country coach approached me after the race and encouraged me to go out for the middle school team in the fall.

My very first cross-country race was the Licking Heights Invitational. The two mile race wound through a cornfield and finished on a cinder track. (Seriously, can you get more stereotypical small town cross-country than that?)

I was just as clueless at this race as I was at the 4th of July run. When the gun went off I once again just ran and ran and ran, trying to pick off people as I went. It was a combined boys and girls race so I had no idea how I was doing. I just focused on passing as many kids as I could. After what seemed like an eternity, I emerged from the cornfield and looped around the track to the finish.

To the amazement of my coach, my parents and myself, I was the first girl to finish. I was so excited when race officials placed in my hand a tiny medal adorned with a picture of a runner. In fact I still have it – it sits in a place or prominence near my treadmill.

While having an aptitude for the sport certainly helped, it wasn’t the main reason why I quickly became smitten. In fact it wasn’t running at all – it was the people I met and the person I became because of it.

As mentioned already, I grew up in a small town. There are a lot of great things about small towns – knowing your neighbors, family values, etc. However, there are drawbacks to the lifestyle. For instance, once you become typecast as a “jock” or “prep” or “nerd” or “goth” there’s really no escaping until you leave town.

At 13 I’m not sure what my label was, but I knew whatever it was didn’t land me at the popular kids table in the cafeteria. I was a shy girl who got good grades and preferred playing sports with boys to dating them. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere and my self confidence reflected that.

I had played on the school basketball team the previous winter. Apparently all you need to make the cut on a 7th grade basketball team, is general athleticism as I lacked fundamental skills such as being able to throw a ball in a straight line and shoot a basket.

Basketball was a “cool” sport at our school and my teammates included some of the popular kids. I was hoping that the team setting would be my opportunity to finally fit in. However, I struggled to overcome my shyness and lack of self confidence to bond with them. I never was successful and spent the whole season frustrated and disillusioned.

The greatest disappointment came when I invited the entire team over for a slumber party. Only two girls showed up. I knew then that basketball wasn’t going to give me the sense of belonging I seeked so desperately.

But cross-country was different. Everyone there was an outsider – not quite a misfit but not quite a cool kid either. Our uncertainty of who we were attracted us and glued us together. It was assuring to know that in the scary world of junior high politics we had allies.

All of us, both boys and girls, became fast friends and had a lot of fun. We had a young coach, Mr. Ballmer, who contributed to the nurturing, reassuring atmosphere. For the first time in my formative years I had true friends. I remember wishing my mom would be late picking me up from practice so I could hang out just a little longer with my teammates. (Unfortunately, my mother with her constant punctuality thwarted my efforts. Why must she always be on time?!!)

It was during cross-country practice and meets, I started to develop self-confidence and overcome my shyness. I was a totally different person by the end of the season. I was even elected Team Captain, something I could never have dreamed of on the basketball team.

It was a great period of my life, one of which I only look back with fond memories. At the end of the season, I hosted a party for my new teammates/friends. The entire team showed up.

I played one more frustrating season of basketball where I scored a whopping total of 7 points and gained zero new friends. And then I traded my high-tops for cross-country spikes for good.

Everyone from my middle school team graduated with me to high school cross-country and our bond just grew stronger.

We had new coaches, Mr. Dahlman and Ms. Heffelfinger. There’s a special place in heaven for high school cross-county coaches. The thought of trying to instill discipline in two dozen loud-mouth teenagers, full of raging hormones and defiance for any authority, makes me want to break out in hives and run for cover.

As a whole we were a challenging crew, constantly pushing the boundaries with our coaches. The hard thing about coaching cross-country is that you are limited in you punishment for bad behavior. Football coaches make their athletes run bleachers and basketball coaches make their athletes run line drills. But if you’re already running 8 miles a day, a couple more minutes of running punishment isn’t going to discourage you from depants-ing your teammate during the group stretch.

Nevertheless, they were able to keep us in control (mostly) and we trained hard. We even realized some success including league championships and trips to the State meet.

Those successes, although, are fuzzy in my memory. In contrast, the fun we had remains pretty vivid to this day.

Every year we did an overnight trip to the Lexington Catholic Cross-country Invitational. We would all pile in a van and spend the long drive gossiping and being generally silly. We stayed 4 or 5 to a room in some dive motel, stayed up way too late and gorged ourselves on cookies and candy and then wondered why we didn’t run well the next day :)

Or there was he times we would tell our coaches we were going on a 4 mile run in the neighborhood across the street. Instead we went to a friend’s house and sat by the pool and sipped lemonade. After the equivalent of 4 miles of time had passed, we would trot back to school huffing and puffing about our “exhausting” run.

I haven’t kept in touch with my high school teammates like I should, but I still feel an intimate bond with them. They were my fellow outsiders, just trying to stick together as we navigated the turbulence of the teenage years.

When I went to college I was overwhelmed by everything – living in a city, the academic load, being away from home. My new cross-country teammates became a source of comfort and helped me overcome my home sickness. There’s a whole lot more to say about my running circa the college years but I’ll leave that for another mile. For now, I’ll just say that my college teammates remain some of my dearest friends.

Right before I got cancer, I joined a local running group for moms. Other than my immediate neighbors, I really didn’t know many people in my new adopted hometown and I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet people. Even though I barely knew these women but they immediately rallied around me when I was diagnosed and showered me with meals, notes and general encouragement. I can now count two dozen more members of my “running friend posse”.

From middle school to high school to college to adulthood, my running friends have always been a source of comfort and true friendship for me.

The general population doesn’t understand why runners think a 10 miler in the rain is fun. They don’t understand why we get up at the crack of dawn just so we can get a few miles in. And they don’t understand why we subject our bodies to the cruel punishment of 26.2 miles.

Whether a pimply pre-teen or harried 30-something mother, runners are always the outsiders and that’s what draws us together and creates such amazing friendships.



I finished radiation on this past Monday, June 29. It was pretty anticlimactic. I showed up, got my treatment and went home. Apparently, the radiation department wanted me to have a memorable last day so they had me wait an hour in the lobby (Grrr….)

I thought I might have a huge sense of joy or at least relief, at the completion of treatment. But I really didn’t. The only real emotion I had was happiness that I didn’t have to navigate downtown traffic anymore on a daily basis for my appointments.

I’m just hesitant to get excited until I have verification that the cancer is truly gone. I won’t have another scan until the beginning of September and there’s a still a chance that it will still show activity since bone growth appears similar as cancer activity. In that case I’ll have to wait a little while longer and have another scan. So right now, it’s just a waiting game.

I am excited that I have another orthopedic appointment in a few weeks. I am making a mental list of things I can bribe my doctor with (Fine wine? Swiss chocolates? Hooters waitresses? Although given his age and girth, he probably would prefer actual candy to bleached blondes named Candy.)

My plan is to use the bribery to weasel out a “Yes” to being able to ride a bike (that’s not stationary) again. And perhaps if the chocolates are extra delicious maybe he will even green light running again.

Let’s hope for a “go” on the running – I have a lot of friends I’d love to join on a run soon!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Log: 2009.07.03

Activity: Swimming
Time: 20:00

Notes:
15 minute time trial. Did 13 laps in 15:21. According to my book, that's equal to "Below Average" to "Poor". Guess I need to get those swimming lessons soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Log: 2009.06.30

Activity: Swimming, Cycling, Lifting (Upper Body)
Time: 30:00, 40:00, 20:00

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Log: 2009.06.27

Activity: Cycling, Pilates (lower body)
Time: 30:00, 20:00

Friday, June 26, 2009

Log: 2009.06.26

Activity: Swimming, Cycling
Time: 33:00, 20:00

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Log: 2009.06.23

Activity: Swimming, Cycling, Lifting (Upper Body)
Time: 37:00, 23:00, 20:00

Notes:

This workout was the most I ever swam in one outing as well as the most exercise I've done (80min) post cancer. I'm feeling good and hopefully that will translate to running fitness whenever I'm allowed again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mile 8 of my Cancer Marathon

We runners love our gear. For a sport as fundamentally simple as running, you would be amazed by the amount of running crap, I mean gear, available for purchase.

Every major marathon has an expo the day or two before the race. They open up a convention hall and invite companies to come hawk their wares. Runners just eat it up. I have to admit it is one of my favorite parts of running – it’s like going to a huge mall where every store is filled with only your favorite stuff.

Without runners’ pocketbooks could you imagine how much worse our economy would be? And don’t get me started on triathletes. Annually, they account for more gear purchases than the GDP of a small to mid size European country.

It all starts with your first pair of real running shoes. Once you realize that the $49.99 pair of trainers you bought off some 16 year old at Foot Locker give you insane blisters, you break down and go to a real running store.

At a running store they will treat you like a Kenyan Olympian even if you better resemble a Biggest Loser contestant (pre-Jilian smackdown). They will do a gait analysis, measure your arches, check for pronation and a myriad of other tests. Then the shoe consultant (no sales people here) will go into the back room and emerge a few minutes with the perfect pair of shoes. You’ll slip them on and like Cinderella your life as a runner is forever changed.

Once you’ve unleashed your inner Carrie Bradshaw and dropped three figures on a pair of shoes, there’s no turning back. First, you’ll notice that your paint speckled cotton shorts look shabby next to your fancy new shoes. So you’ll by true running shorts – the short ones you swore you’d never be caught in.

Next, you’ll notice that free t-shirt you got in college for signing up for a credit card looks a little threadbare. So you’ll buy a technical shirt made of synthetics you can’t even pronounce.

And so it goes. It’s like the shoes are a gateway drug. Once you’ve taken a hit of brand new shoe smell it’s a slippery slope. Next thing you know you’ll be at an expo throwing your credit card around like there’s no such thing as a recession just to get your next gear fix.

There’s even special lingo related to running gear. We don’t refer to things by their true names – it’s all in code, only decipherable to those on the inside.

A few examples:

Nutrition. Not the food pyramid. Actually refers to a ridiculously overpriced supplement. It’s packaged in a tiny foil packet and its contents resemble dishwasher soap in both consistency and taste. Also called “Gu” or “Gels”, it’s supposedly filled with electrolytes and the such in order to reenergize yourself mid-run.

Garmin. Not your car’s GPS system. Actually refers to a ridiculously overpriced wristwatch. It resembles those old school calculator watches the dorks wore in elementary school. It gives you data on every element of your run thought possible including and not limited to pace, elevation, calories, and distance. Despite my engineering degree, I have yet to mater but the simplest of settings on it.

Bob. Not your Uncle Bob (I do have an Uncle Bob and he is a very nice man BTW). Actually refers to a ridiculously overpriced jogging stroller. Hey, if you have share your run with two whiny kids you might as well do it in style. The Bob comes pimped out with adjustable suspension, alloy rims, drink and snack trays and even a cell phone pocket.

Belt. Not the thing that keeps your pants up. Actually refers to a ridiculously overpriced contraption that wraps around your waist and holds miniature water bottles and aforementioned “nutrition”. They come in a variety of colors and configurations. It’s a matter of hot debate to have a belt with one large bottle, a belt with two medium size bottles and a nutrition holder or a belt with 4 miniature bottles. (For the record, I prefer the latter)


And yes, I have each and every one of these. In fact, I have two BOB’s – the single and double versions. There goes my sons’ college tuition.

Cancer Patients also have an affinity for gear, just of a different type. There’s the pick ribbon lapel pins and the ubiquitous LiveStrong yellow bracelets. Cancer ladies of a certain age love to sport the paisley print head scarves and big floppy hats.

I’ll own up to having Lance Armstrong’s biography but I haven’t given in to the “straw hat adorned with artificial flowers” look quite yet. I’m more of a “black Nike Dri-fit baseball hat” kind of girl.

The most common piece of gear, however, is also the most unassuming – the Cancer Binder. Just look around the lobby of the Clinic Cancer Center and virtually everyone will be clutching one.

The binder itself is non-descript – simply a 3 ring binder picked up at the local OfficeMax. It’s what’s inside that makes it so desirable. The Cancer Binder is usually stuffed with business cards of doctors, print outs of blood counts, pamphlets on various cancer treatments, copies of appointment schedules and other essential pieces of information.

You’ll spot Cancer Patients clinging on to their Cancer Binder as if it contained the country’s nuclear codes. While probably not quite that important, the Cancer Binder does serve a significant purpose. It gives a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic situation.


You’ll probably find it curious that I don’t own a Cancer Binder of my own. After all I’ve already confessed my love of gear. And I’m one of the most anal people about organization you’ll find. (My soup can labels all face forward, my clothes are organized in my closet by season/purpose/ROYGBIV and my dream job is to work at Container Store)

I’ve tossed most of my cancer literature, lost most of my lab reports and haphazardly stuck the business cards on the fridge using a letter “P” magnet.

The only explanation I have is that I am once again sublimely telling myself that I’m not sick and this cancer thing is just a passing fad. If I were to create a Cancer Binder and carry it around I’d be one of them – a Cancer Patient.

I know there’s nothing wrong with being a Cancer Patient – it’s just not a title I’m ready to own up to yet. I’m a wife and a mommy and a runner and those are the monikers I’ll stick with for now.



This weekend marked a major milestone – Porter’s first birthday. All mothers proclaim that the first year goes too fast. But for me it felt like it went super sonic speed due to the craziness that was the last few months.

Porter has spent a third of his life with a mommy with cancer and this is the one thing that truly makes me bitter. Because of the cancer I had to be on crutches and couldn’t carry him for weeks. Because of the cancer I had to wean him before I was ready. Because of the cancer I was exhausted and couldn’t play with him like I wanted. It’s just not fair that he had to share his mommy with cancer and it’s not fair that I had to miss some of his life due to cancer.

I’m also bitter that I haven’t been 100% there for Dominic either. However, it just seems more pronounced with Porter given his age and how quickly they develop their first year. Additionally, Dominic is old enough that he can compensate for not having all his mom by leaning on daddy. But babies need their mommies.

I have all the typical mommy guilt – that I have a career, that I don’t feed them enough vegetables, that I sometimes let Dominic watch SpongeBob Square Pants. And now on top of that I have guilt I haven’t been the best mom possible for my boys due to my illness.

At the end of the day, I just repeat to myself the same thing every mom across the country says: “I did the best job I could do under the circumstances and I love my children and that’s all that matters.”



In addition to the birthday celebration, we took the boys camping this weekend. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to take a 1 year old and a 3 year old camping in a tent for a weekend, but I’m going to pass the blame to Vince :)

The boys had a blast but their parents needed some Valium. Dominic was too excited to sleep Friday night and Porter was cutting teeth and refused to sleep in the Pack and Play. So all four of us ended up squeezed on an air mattress fighting for covers all night long.

Like clockwork they were up at 6AM and took the honors of being the first up at the campground. Thankfully we chose a spot far from other campers so no one was too annoyed by the early wake up call.

We spent Saturday bouncing from one activity to another in hopes the boys would crash and take a long nap in the afternoon. So we crammed pancakes, showers, a hike, a trip to the zoo, feeding the fish and a picnic into one single morning. Vince and I were sure a leisurely afternoon of reading and lounging awaited us as the boys slept peacefully in the tent.

Ha. The boys powered through nap time and our leisurely afternoon was anything but. Two young children working off a sleepless night and no naps is a very scary thing. There was one meltdown at 4PM involving Dominic pilfering a bag of marshmallows from the food bin that I was sure was going to lead to the Park Ranger calling Child Protective Services on us.

Finally, Vince and I decided enough was enough. We had paid to stay two nights but decided instead to pack it up and leave after dinner Saturday night. This ended up being a genius plan as both kids fell asleep instantly in the car and stayed asleep as we transferred them to their beds when we arrived home. We got our leisure time and got to sleep in a real bed with no additional companions!

As exhausting the camping experience was, it was so worth it to make memories for our kids. I already know it had an impact on Dominic. When I picked him up from school on Monday he was playing “camping” with his little friends.

I am so glad I am healthy enough to have these kinds of adventures with my family. When I first got sick I was petrified that I would never be able to do these sorts of things again. But thankfully I can.

My hope is someday Dominic and Porter will look back at this period of time and remember the mommy who went camping and not the mommy who had cancer.

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness. --Seneca

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Log: 2009.06.16

Activity: Cycling, Lifting (Upper Body)
Time: 30:00, 20:00

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Log: 2009.06.13

Activity: Hiking
Time: 60:00

Notes:

Fun family hike for Porter's first birthday. Too much mud though - had to wash everyone's shoes when we were done.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Log: 2009.06.12

Activity: Swimming, Cycling, Pilates (Lower Body)
Time: 30:00, 20:00, 20:00

Notes:
70 min straight of activity - YEAH! I'm slowly getting back in shape.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Log: 2009.06.09

Activity: Swimming, Cycling, Lifting (Upper Body)
Time: 30:00, 18:00, 20:00

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Log: 2009.06.06

Activity: Hiking
Time: 40:00

Notes:
Family hike. The toddler walked by himself the whole time - what a trooper!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Log: 2009.06.05

Activity: Swimming, Cycling, Lower Body Pilates
Time: 28:00, 15:00, 15:00

Notes:

This is my first hour long workout since getting sick (not counting walking workouts). It felt good and I am going to keep adding a little more each time I hit the gym. My goal is to get to 3x1:30 each week by my next ortho appointment. That should give me adequate recovery between sessions but also help improve my fitness. I plan to keep it as a mix of swimming, cycling, walking, upper body lifting and lower body Pilates to get a nice well rounded regime.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Log: 2009.06.02

Activity: Swimming, Lifting (Upper Body)
Time: 30:00, 20:00

Notes:

Swam went well. Lifting, not so much. Our gym has a circuit of machines that are all tied into a computer system. You log in at each machine and it tells you how much to lift based on your last visit.

Well, my last visit was June of 2007. Oops. I didn't realize it had been so long. Those machines kicked my butt. I got nowhere near what I lifted (reps wise) two years ago. It was humbling. I could blame it on cancer but I know a lot of it was just not lifting like I should pre-cancer. Time to get my guns back!

Mile 7 of my Cancer Marathon

There’s one common personality trait among runners – we’re never satisfied. We’re always tweaking our training, nutrition, strength training, rest, gear, etc. in an effort to run faster and longer. Every time we toe the starting line we expect to run faster than before no matter the difficulty of the course, the weather, our lack of training or some other potentially limiting factor.

A perfect example is my good friend who I will call “Lisa”. Lisa ran her first half marathon in over 3+ years recently. She ran great and was only 3 or 4 minutes off her PR. She has spent 2 of the 3 past years not really running at all due to two high risk pregnancies and subsequent c-sections. Nevertheless, after the race she was bummed she didn’t break her PR.

This addiction to always doing more is not limited to veteran runners. A high school friend recently took up running. He wrote me after his first race: “[I started thinking after the race, what if] I had warmed up more or run harder from the start or started closer to the front of the pack and so on...a few hours later I was still thinking about it “

I think the addiction comes from the fact that there is no pinnacle of excellence in our sport. If a NFL player wins the Super Bowl and is named MVP, he drinks champagne until he’s silly and declares he’s going to Disney World. After the game none of the ESPN announcers talk about “If he had only thrown one more touchdown”.

Last summer, when Usain Bolt demolished the 100m world record and won Olympic Gold all the running press could talk about was how much faster he could have run had he come out of the blocks better/not let up at the finish line/had more training.

It doesn’t matter that you set a world record, you can always run faster.

The only thing Usain and I have in common is that I honeymooned in his homeland of Jamaica (anyone who has seen my sprinting speed, or lack thereof, can attest to that). Nevertheless, now that I’m off crutches and done with chemo side effects I’m totally in the “Gotta Do More” mentality again.

Each day I’m trying to add one more element of my old life back.

On the homefront, I’m back to taking the kids to school, making lunches, cleaning house and doing laundry. I’m not cooking quite yet but my family does not seem to mind. Hmmm.

Athletically, I’m growing gills from all my time in the pool. I got a book from the library on fitness swimming and I’m trying to do a harder workout each time I hit the water.

I’ve started lifting again. Upper body wise, I can do pretty much anything my scrawny arms will allow. Lower body I’m just sticking to Pilates because I’m not confident in my leg just quite yet.

As for cancer…

Last Tuesday I had a PET scan in the morning and met with my orthopedist in the afternoon. The ortho doc reviewed the latest PET and said it showed “significant reduction in suspect activity”. For those of us without the initials “M.D.” after our name, I believe this translates to “there’s a lot less cancer in there”. So that’s all good.

Of course I couldn’t leave his office without having the “Doing More” conversation. It went something like this:

Me: Now that I am off crutches what can I do?
Doc: What would you like to do?
Me: Everything including and not limited to swimming, biking, and running.
Doc: No.
Me: (Makes adorable pouty face that always let me get my way with my dad as a kid and later as an adult with my husband. Doc doesn’t budge – his heart is obviously made of concrete)
Doc: You can’t break your leg during the month you are on radiation.
Me: Oh, ok. I was planning on smashing my left femur with a sledge hammer but I’ll postpone it to next month. (Ok, I didn’t say it but I did think it)
Doc: So you can swim and stationary bike. No road cycling due to chance of falling. No running.

Oh well, at least I am now cleared to do one more thing (stationary cycling).

Radiation…

I met with the radiation oncologist who advised me I will be doing 22 treatments. Treatments are every day (M-F). Radiation can have some nasty side effects when done near vital organs. However, since I am doing a peripheral site they will be relatively minor – fatigue and skin irritation.

The preparation for radiation is pretty high tech. First, they give you a CAT scan and the doc outlines the treatment area on the computer. Next lasers come out of the ceiling and outline the area on your skin.

The actual marking of the skin is pretty low tech, however. The technician gets out a big ole green Sharpie and traces the laser’s path on your skin and the slaps a clear sticker on top of it.

So now I have 8 huge green X’s on my legs. Pretty sexy. For about a half second I thought about wearing capris until treatments were over. But then I thought: “Screw it. Cancer has been a big enough inconvenience as it is – I’m not going to go without shorts in the summer. If anyone is weirded out by it that’s their problem, not mine. I’m going to rock the shorty short/big green X’s look this summer!”

The actual radiation treatment is quite disappointing. You lay on the table and the techs line up the machine with your big green X’s. Then they leave the room and the machine makes some grunting noises and 2 minutes and 43 seconds later you are done. (Yes, I am a dork and timed it with the stopwatch feature on my Nike watch)

No light beams. No burning heat. No whirring machinery. Nothing. I thought the machine was broken the first time. Quite the let down.

So far my biggest complaint about radiation is that it’s inefficient. You drive 45 minutes to the Clinic, spend 10 minutes finding a parking space, 5 minutes walking to the room, 5 minutes to get dressed and wait to be called, and 5 minutes to get aligned correctly. Double that to account for leaving and we’re talking about 140 minutes of effort for 2:43 of treatment. Not a very good return on investment.

Nevertheless, I am glad that my biggest concern right now is that radiation is a waste of time :)

So, all is well in Carmenland. I’m looking forward to keeping doing more.

Never be satisfied.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Log: 2009.05.31

Activity: Walking
Time: 1:15

Notes:

Took the boys to a new park and pushed them in the double stroller. There was a big hill at the end and it about killed me. I took my pulse at the top and it was 170! From walking! That double jogger can be a bear to push on hills.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Log: 2009.05.29

Activity: Swimming, Lifting
Time: 26:00, 20:00

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Log: 2009.05.25

Activity: Walking
Time: 60:00

Notes:
After a year of trading emails, I finally met fellow runner/blogger/mommy Salty in real life. We had a nice walk and I look forward to running with her soon with our BOB's and boys.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Log: 2009.05.24

Activity: Walking
Time: 60:00

Notes:

My DH did a 5mile race and I did the 1 mile fun run with the boys. I really wanted to be out there!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mile 6 of my Cancer Marathon

Last mile I spoke of the moments of brilliance that occur during a race. Those moments are pretty awesome but my running friends know quite well they are often accompanied by periods of darkness.

Dark moments can happen anytime during a race and creep up on you without warning. One moment you are merrily running along and then – BAM! Your legs are heavy, your feet are made of concrete, you shoulders ache, your arms tighten up and what once was easy is now hard.

Self doubt creeps in. I’m thirsty. I’m tired. I didn’t train enough. I over trained. The weather sucks. The guy next to me breathes too loud. I feel a blister coming on. My shorts are chafing. I’ll never be able to keep this pace. I’ll just slow down a bit right now and make up for it in a mile or two. They mismeasured the course because that last mile was way too long. I hate this course. I hate running. I can’t do it.

And as predicted, a period of darkness crept up on me as I was still basking in the glow of mile 5 of my cancer marathon.

It started with this dry hacking cough I developed right around the time we were in Cincinnati. I would get into this coughing fits that would rattle my whole body. It felt like I had an itch at the back of my throat that I just couldn’t satisfy. No matter how much I coughed, no matter how many cough drops I consumed, it would still be there. So that was annoying.

Then I developed neuropathy which for me presented as numbness in my fingertips. (Chemo can also make you get it in your toes but so far I’m all good down there) You know how your finger feels a day or two after you smash it? That’s neuropathy but in every single finger. It’s not a big inconvenience (doesn’t impact my ability to Facebook, for instance) but just a constant reminder of the cancer. So that was another annoyance.

So I went into my last chemo treatment a little agitated about this whole stupid cancer thing. Per usual I met with my oncologist prior to the treatment. Since it was my last chemo treatment, we started discussing next steps i.e. radiation and testing.

The radiation protocol was what I expected and I’ll get into that next mile. The testing discussion, however, catapulted me into the darkness. My doc explained that bone lymphoma are tricky in terms of testing because the bone regrowth will show up as activity on the PET scan. This activity can be difficult to distinguish from cancer activity. So long story short, I won’t get my final PET scan to determine if the cancer is gone for at least 4-6 weeks AFTER radiation is complete.

I’m a checklist kind of girl. I keep a detailed to-do list for both work and home and get deep satisfaction on checking things off of it daily. Because of this mentality, I’ve been dreaming of the day when I can check “Beat Cancer” off my list. So it bummed me out that it might not be for some time that I get a definitive answer on whether the cancer is gone or not.

That got me thinking, which is always a bad thing. You’re technically not cured from cancer until you’ve had 5 years of clean scans. My little baby Porter will be in kindergarten before I can truly claim I am through with this whole cancer nonsense. That just seemed insurmountable.
So for a week or two I was in that dark place. Unhappy. Discouraged. Angry. Wanting to quit the race and go home and eat ice cream on the couch.

But as often happen in a race, something happens to break you free of the chains of darkness. When it does, it’s like your whole body and mind opens up and screams “Running demons - You may have had me down, but I’m not out, there’s a race to run and I’m going to do it”

In my case, that something was getting off crutches. I may or may not have got off crutches a little early than prescribed by my orthopedist but we’ll keep that between us. Let’s just say it’s not realistic to have a mommy of a 3 year old and a baby on crutches for 12 weeks. Obviously, my orthopedist is a man.

I had a little pain at first but it quickly subsided. I think it was the muscles readjusting to bearing weight again. I no problem doing a good bit of walking a few days after being freed from the walking sticks.

I feel like a new woman without those crutches. I can now go wherever I want whenever I want. I can carry my baby and care for my kids without assistance. I’ve visited my basement which I hadn’t done in two months. I don’t have to worry about landmines on the floor, also known as matchbox cars and Little People. Stairs are my friend once again.

And most of all, it’s one less reminder that I have cancer. I’m closer to my old self now and I like that.

In addition to being a total pain in the ass, the crutches were kind of signal to others that something was wrong with me. While I lost the hair on my head, I never lost my eyebrows or eyelashes. I also did not loss any weight (seriously, couldn’t I have gotten at least one positive benefit from cancer?!). So with a baseball cap on, I didn’t have the “cancer look”. I looked totally normal with exception of the crutches. Now that the crutches are gone, I’m one step closer to being back to a regular person in my own eyes and in the eyes of others.

On a related note, when I was at my last chemo treatment they had a therapy dog visit the patients receiving treatment. I’m not a dog person but the dog was cute and well-behaved so I relented and let it come into my room. I even petted it. When the dog and its handler left I thought to myself, “Well, isn’t it nice they do that for all those sick people”

It was probably 15 minutes later that I realized that the cute dog was there for me – I was one of those sick people. That’s how it’s been for me – a mental struggle between understanding I am sick and also wanting to get on with my life and be normal.

I’ll continue to grapple with that but for now I’m glad I’m out of the darkness and back in the light. Next mile will be Mile 7 or “How Carmen became radioactive” :)

Carmen

"It’s always darkest before the dawn."

Log: 2009.05.21

Activity: Cycling, Lifting
Time: 30:00, 20:00

Notes:
Thought I'd give cycling a try now that I'm off crutches. I kept the resistance low because I figured too much tension would put too much pressure on my femur. No pain, so that was all good.

Now the lifting was another story. I struggled lifting upper body today. Not sure why but I can't blame it on cancer - just being a weakling.

On a side note, I looked pretty hot at the gym with my bald head and radiation leg markings. I'm sure everyone was jealous.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Log: 2009.05.20

Activity: Swimming
Time: 26:00

Notes:

I've been just swimming at the same speed for as long as I have time/energy. Which is kind of dumb really. I wouldn't do the exact same distance and speed every day running so why do it swimming? I always tell new runners to follow a training plan and I wasn't even following my own advice.

So I got a book from the library, "Fitness Swimming", which has a bunch of great swim workout plans and incorporates some crazy drills to enhance my form and speed. This was Day 1 and it went well - definitely made it less boring.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Log: 2009.05.17

Activity: WALKING WITHOUT CRUTCHES!!!!
Time: 1:00

Notes:

Took my 3yo to the Cleveland Marathon. He loved it and so did I!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Log: 2009.05.12

Activity: Swimming, Lifting

Time: 20:00, 20:00

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mile 5 of my Cancer Marathon

Onto mile 5…

During a race you can have moments of brilliance, and of course its counterpoint, periods of darkness.

During the brilliant moments your body feels good and your mind is content. You can’t help but think ahead to the finish and extrapolate what your time will be if you keep the pace. It’s not quite a runner’s high but it is a satisfying feeling. These moments are what makes running so enjoyable and addictive.

I’ll save an explanation of the dark periods for another mile :)

Last 3 week cycle was pretty tough as I was sick from various illnesses and very tired. I started this cycle off pretty tired as well but started feeling much better into the second week. It helps I didn’t come down with any illnesses this go round. Of course, I’ve had several people (those with a sick sense of humor) ask me if I’ve come down with Swine Flu yet since I’ve managed to catch just about everything else these past two months!

I mustered up enough energy to start exercising regularly which made me feel amazing, both physically and mentally. After a month and a half of being a couch potato it was nice to feel like a human being again.

I started out with Pilates. After my bone biopsy surgery I lost a lot of range of motion in my left leg which made it difficult for me to do any sort of activity. My orthopedist wanted me to see a physical therapist to work on regaining it. However, due to scheduling I couldn’t get a PT appointment until after my first chemo treatment.

Incredibly, at my first chemo appointment the drugs went to work on my leg immediately. My leg started feeling looser while I was still sitting there with the drip in my arm. By the time I got home that night I had a lot of my range of motion back and by the next day I had full range of motion back.

I still went to the PT appointment the next week. My physical therapist confirmed what I already knew – my range of motion was fine and I didn’t need to be there. Coincidently, my therapist ran distance at a rival college and we competed against each other back then. She’s a marathoner so she totally understood when I told her the PT exercises she gave me for strengthening my leg were lame. So she said it was fine for me to do pilates as long as it wasn’t weight bearing.

So I started doing 20 minutes of Pilates every day I felt up to it. But of course that was not enough…

I got the nurse at my orthopedist’s office to agree to swimming. But I first had to run it by my oncologist. He said that he’s never actually had a patient swim during treatments but he saw no medical reason why not. So off to the YMCA I was!

I started out slowly with a 12 minute swim. I quickly worked up to swimming 30 minutes straight. I’m no Michael Phelps so 30 minutes straight is huge for me, cancer or no cancer. I felt great in the water but was definitely tired later in the day. But it was so worth it. At minimum, just to see the faces on people as I hobbled into the pool on crutches with my bald head. LOL.

Shortly after I was diagnosed I contacted the Leukamia and Lymphoma Society to see if I could get involved with Team in Training. TNT is basically a fund raising vehicle for the LLS. In return for raising money for blood cancer research you get free coaching to complete your first marathon, triathlon or century bike ride.

They asked if I would be an “Honored Hero”, i.e. someone would do their marathon in honor of me. Or so I thought. I went to the TNT kick-off last week and found out that ALL (not just one) the TNT runners for Akron Marathon would be running in honor of me. Talk about pressure! Now I can’t be a whiny wimp about cancer because 30 or 40 people are running 26.2 miles for me! :)

Seriously, it’s a very cool thing and I am honored that I get to share such a personal experience as a marathon with them. I told them to keep me updated via email about how their training is going. I hope they do so!

This past weekend my husband and I headed down to Cincinnati for the Flying Pig Marathon. This was the marathon I was training for when I found out I had cancer. So it was a little weird to be there as a spectator instead of a competitor.

My husband and my two friends from college all did the half marathon. It was fun getting together and I loved watching them race. They all tore it up out there despite a challenging course and some rain. I was so proud of them! My husband hasn’t had much time to train and my friends are both working moms so for all of them to finish so well is quite the accomplishment.

For as much excitement I had for my husband and friends, I have to admit I had a little bit of bitterness for the other competitors. I guess since I didn’t know them, it was easy to project my anger at the cancer on them. As the strangers ran by I couldn’t help but wonder if they were truly appreciating the fact that they could run and compete. I’m sure they did but I couldn’t help being a little resentful.

Nevertheless, being at the marathon totally inspired me and I started making a mental list of the races I want to do when I get better. Just daydreaming of running makes my heart race and my legs tingle! I can’t wait to kick cancer’s ass and get back on with my life!

I’ll leave you with a saying that was on one of our cross-country team t-shirts during college: “I like to run, it makes me smile. I think I'll run another mile.”

Log: 2009.05.04

Activity: Pilates, stretching
Time: 20:00

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Log: 2009.05.03

Activity: Walking (on Crutches)
Time: 1:00

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Log: 2009.05.02

Activity: Walking (on crutches)
Time: 1:00

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Log: 2009.04.23

Activity: Swimming
Time: 20:00

Notes:
I felt great in the water but exhausted afterwards. I wasn't sure if I had enough energy to make it from the locker room to my car. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm still on crutches so walking that distance is twice as hard. But I did it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Log: 2009.04.22

Activity: Pilates, Stretching
Time: 20:00

Notes:
I got sick AGAIN. So annoying. Well, at least I got some activity in.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Log: 2009.04.21

Activity - Swimming
Time: 12:00

Notes:

MY FIRST REAL ACTIVITY IN A MONTH AND A HALF!!!!! Ok, it was only 12 minutes but I felt human again. Pure bliss.

Mile 4 of my Cancer Marathon

Mile 4 of the marathon is the start of the “easy” miles. It’s only called the easy miles because the pace is comfortable. But heck, you are still running a marathon, and that’s not easy! It’s important to be careful during this period to not push the pace too much or you will feel it later. And of course, be on the lookout for any hills or other obstacles that might pop up.

I had my first round of chemo on March 26. After each chemo infusion, you get a 3 week “rest” period. I use quotes around the word rest because it’s not like you are sipping pina coladas by the pool during this time.

The first few days afterwards you get predosone, a steroid pill, to boost you up. I was really hoping the ‘roids would give me the sprinting speed of Marion Jones or the capacity to go all ‘roid rage on annoying clients at work, but I really didn’t notice their impact at all. Bummer.

You are supposed to feel progressively better over the three weeks. I did not and actually felt worse as time went on. I probably did too much and caught a bad cold from my germ monsters, I mean children, which turned into a sinus infection. Normally, these maladies would be an inconvenience but due to the circumstances they knocked me on my butt.

The impact was both physical and mental. The physical can be dealt with with good drugs but the mental is a little tougher. I’ve had several minor illnesses since my diagnosis and they have all been really tough to deal with mentally. I think my mind is an all-out war with the cancer and there’s just not much more fight for anything else. So even a minor setback can send me in a tizzy.

The week I was diagnosed with cancer I also got an unrelated eye infection. Here I was dealing with cancer but the only thing I was dwelling on was the fact I couldn’t wear my contacts lenses. I was a total spazz for the two weeks I had this minor eye infection.

My hair started falling out about 2.5 weeks after my first treatment. I had got it cut short a week or so before so it wouldn’t be that traumatic when it started showing up in the sink. When it started falling out, it did so rapidly so I just shaved it off. All in all, not nearly as emotional as I would have guessed.

As I tell people, it’s my Britney Spears look, circa the crazy years. I’m sporting a wig for work and ball caps for when I am just out and about. Interestingly enough, my leg hairs continue to grow. Of course, the one place where you want to lose hair you can’t.

The only other major symptom I am feeling is fatigue. It’s cumulative, so it gets worse every day. This has been the most frustrating for me. Maybe if I had been sick before it would be easier to embrace. However, I was full of energy, training for a marathon, chasing after two small kids and working. But now, I spend most nights on the couch, can’t work a full day and have to take breaks after spending short periods of time with my children. Annoying.

I watched the Boston Marathon yesterday. It’s hard to imagine that two years ago I was making the trek from Hopkinton to Boston. I wasn’t sure how watching the race would make me feel. However, if anything I was more determined than ever afterwards. I can’t wait to get off my butt, get back in shape and make that journey again. It really lit a fire in my belly and I can’t wait to beat this cancer into submission.

I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me 4 miles before I thanked all my supporters in this race. In all honesty, I have been so overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of love I haven’t known what to write. But the words came to me at 5AM this morning, and here they are:

THANK YOU to:
- Friends and family near and far, for letters, emails, phone calls, prayers and glasses of wine. Some of you I speak to daily and others I hadn’t spoken to in years, but the common thread is that your words uplift me every day.
- Chagrin Valley Mom’s Running Club for the meals every Monday. Each and every member has an amazing story and is an awesome woman, mom and runner.
- My neighbors for meals, babysitting and friendship. I live in great neighborhood and I know if I ever needed anything a half dozen hands would fly into the air instantaneously.
- My coworkers for letting me say I don’t need any help, pretending that I don’t need any help and then filling in for me when I do need help.
- My inlaws for their prayers and constant encouragement. While they live far away, I know they are with me in spirit. And they packed our freezer with food during Easter – score!
- My brother and sister-in-law for the babysitting, yard work and ice skating lessons for Dominic. They also live far away but have been with me every step of the way.
- My parents for laundry, babysitting, installing lights and being my personal slaves. They should be on a beach somewhere enjoying retirement. Instead, they are making weekly trips from Columbus to help us out.
- And lastly, but certainly not least, my incredible husband. It’s not easy caring for a sick, whiny wife, managing two small children, keeping a house running and working a demanding job. But he is getting it done with grace and ease. I am in awe.

Keep the focus!
Carmen