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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My hope is that your boys look back on this time and remember the mommy that:

1) took them camping
2) had cancer and kicked its ass
3) took Dominic to the Cleveland Marathon to cheer everyone on
4) wrote from her heart to document this stage/phase in her life
5) continued to work as if nothing had changed
6) has a smile that permeates the grayest of snowglobe days
7) is always willing to help another soul out ... whether it be by suggesting "The Stick" (did you mention that in your dialogue of the gear?) or offering to help with meals during an overseas move.

Trust me on this ... your boys will have loads more to remember about you during this moment in your life than the little sidetrack called 'cancer'!!