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


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


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

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

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


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


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).


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.