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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

C. SO happy for you .... you've come a long way, baby!

Sounds like I missed a rockin' party!