Saturday, March 6, 2010

We're moving!

Carmen's Cancer Marathon Chronicles is getting a new name and a new home. The final 10.2 miles will be published exclusively on the Facebook fan page "The Miles Ahead".

So if you want to keep reading about my embarassing running and cancer exploits, become a fan today! (And invite a friend or two or fifteen..)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mile 15 of My Cancer Marathon: Carmen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I have always been able to tell within the first 100 meters of a race whether it was going to be a good one or a gut-buster. Perhaps it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, or a little bit of clairvoyance, or just that I’m really self aware. Whatever the reason, I am almost always right.

I woke up on Thursday, February 18 with the same kind of premonition I get at the start of a race. It knew it was going to be, paraphrasing the titles of one of Dominic’s favorite books, a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

First, Porter decided to wake up at 1AM and party into the wee hours of morning. I finally got him, and me, to bed around 4:30AM. One half hour later, the alarm went off to prompt Vince out of bed and onto an early morning flight for a business trip. Starting the day off with a major sleep deficient always sucks.

I had my 6 month post-cancer checkup that day and needed to be downtown at the hospital by 7:45AM. I had a whole string of appointments scheduled (bloodwork, CT, X-rays, visit with oncologist and a visit with the orthopedist) and running late to one would throw the whole day off schedule.
To make that happen meant I had to scramble to get the kids ready by myself, hustle to daycare, and hope for a incident free drive in order to have adequate time to drive downtown. It was a tight timeline but it could be done.

But alas, the kids were dragging their feet getting ready (thanks in part to Porter’s late night antics). This put me in full-on crazy-ass screaming mommy mode. Admittedly not my best side and definitely not a great tone to set for the day.

Just as we were walking out the door I couldn’t find my cell phone. I wasted 20 minutes frantically searching the house and car for it only to realize it was sitting on the counter all along.

I finally got the kids, cellphone and myself out of the house and successfully executed a quick daycare dropoff. If I pushed the speed limit, I could make it to my first appointment at a reasonable 10 minutes tardy. But as was my luck that day, there was an accident on the freeway and I spent a good 30 minutes sitting in traffic. Eventually I got through the mess, and made it to the hospital a not so reasonable 40 minutes late.

I had been right – I was having a bad day. I just didn’t know yet how bad it was going to be.
My first appointment was to get my bloodwork done. It went off without a hitch (the only thing that day that did actually).

My next stop was to get my CT scan. I had had one CT scan before and knew the routine. You lay down on a table, get injected with a tracer solution, and then they move you in and out of a cylindrical machine, take a couple images and call it a day. It’s pretty routine stuff and they do millions of these a day without incident.

My only other CT scan was pretty unmemorable other than that the tracer solution upset my stomach for a few hours. So I was hoping for a quick in and out procedure in order to get regain some of the time I lost earlier.

The CT area consists of one large room where the scanner is and a small control room off to the side where the technician sits.

The technician injected me with the tracer solution, laid me down on the scanning table and returned to the control room to start the imaging.

Almost as soon as he started taking images I started sneezing uncontrollably. He came over the intercom and asked that I hold my sneezes as it was distorting images.

“I can’t.”

“Were you sneezing before you came in here?”


“I’m going to go get the doctor.”

Despite all the Xrays and CT scans and PET scans I’ve had, I’ve never met a bona fide radiologist. Radiologists sit in their little dark offices and look at images on a computer all day long. They never, ever speak to patients. That’s what the nurses and radiation techs are for. So I felt it I was pretty darn special to witness a rare spotting of a radiologist outside their natural habitat.

The doctor came into the room and introduced himself. He asked me about my symptoms and I let him know that in addition to the sneezing my head now felt extremely congested, like a bad head cold.
“You’re having a mild reaction to the tracer. No big deal. This happens all the time. We’ll give you some Benadryl and you’ll be fine. Next time, we’ll pre-medicate you and you should have no problem.”

As they were getting the Benadryl from the supply cabinet I started itching all over. I resembled a flea ridden dog they way I was frantically trying to scratching myself all over. Trying to find the origin of my itchiness, I moved my gown aside and saw that I was covered in big red hives. They quickly gave me the drugs and the itching started to lessen and my head cleared up.

Satisfied that the Benedryl had worked, the doctor began to leave the room. Before he left though, he said, “That was just a minor reaction. We get worried when breathing gets involved. So if you start feeling worse, you must let us know immediately.”

No sooner than he had grabbed the door handle, my toes began to tingle and my head began to throb with a migrane like headache. And then I couldn’t breathe.

“Doctor, I’m not feeling so good”

He darted to my side and called for the nurse. The next moments were full of frantic but controlled activity as the nurse, CT technician and doctor completed the tasks of putting an oxygen mask on me, starting an IV and digging through the medical chest for the epinephrine.

My medical knowledge is pretty minimal but I’ve watched enough “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to know that epinephrine was the life saving drug administered to people experiencing serious allergic reactions. Without it, you’re a goner. But with just one shot of that stuff, you’re golden.

I got my shot and instantly felt better. My head cleared up, my breathing was back to normal and the tingle was gone in my toes. I felt astonishingly well. Everyone in the room breathed a collective sigh of relief. I laid down to rest a little and the medical team began to clean up the room and fill out paperwork.

But only a minute or two later, my toes began to tingle again. In a flash my head started to pound and my lungs seized up again. I eeked out an “I’m not feeling so good” which caused the doctor to whip around and rush to my side once again. I was having another attack. The first dose of epinephrine hadn’t worked.

They gave me another dose which momentarily made the symptoms subside. But a moment or two later my stomach lurched and I began to vomit. Per protocol, I had fasted for the CT scan so there was nothing coming up but some stomach bile and a few remnants of dinner the day before. Totally gross.

I could feel the anxiety in the room accelerating. Per their training, they were controlled and focused but I could see concern in their eyes and hear nervousness in their voices.

At some point another doctor joined the fray. He came in and introduced himself. Dr. Einstein. For real.

Despite my miserable state of body and mind, I totally latched onto the humor of that situation. I couldn’t help myself and made a bad joke about his surname. He didn’t respond to my feeble attempt at humor – I’m not sure if it was because he was focused on the emergency situation on hand or because I was I pretty much indecipherable through my oxygen mask. More than likely, he has probably just heard way too many poor jokes at his expense throughout his lifetime. Whatever the case, Dr. Einstein came in and took control of the situation, in total genius fashion.

Things got fuzzy after Dr. Einstein’s entry. I know I continued to have attacks and they continued to feed my epinephrine. I’m not sure how many times this happened but I was later told I had received a “considerable” amount of drugs.

At some point, the doctors made the decision to transfer me to the Emergency Room. They had pumped a lot of medicine through me and I had yet to stabilize. The limited resources of the CT scan room weren’t going to cut it. The ER would have more extensive facilities and a specialized team for my condition.

The Cleveland Clinic is a sprawling facility made up of numerous buildings. I was in the Cancer Center and the Emergency Room was in another building about a block away. So due to the distance and brutal Cleveland weather, the only way to get there was via ambulance.

The paramedics showed up, transferred me to a stretcher and wheeled me out through the waiting room of the CT office. The CT office is just your typical doctor’s office waiting room complete with outdated magazines and talk shows blaring on the tv. At this particular location, pretty much all the patients were like me (or at least how I was a few short hours ago) – in remission and perfectly healthy. So I’m sure the sight of me being attached to an oxygen tank and IV drip being wheeled off on a gurney was pretty disconcerting. I wonder how many people bolted out of there that day without getting their scans.

This was my first ride in an ambulance. Unfortunately due the short distance and my foggy state I didn’t really get to soak in much of the experience. If they knew, my boys would surely be disappointed in me. Riding in an ambulance is pretty much the pinnacle of awesomeness to little boys.

After my two minute ambulance ride, they wheeled me into the acute care unit of the ER. This is where the most severe cases go. No bloody noses or surface cuts here – just the good stuff like heart attacks, gun shot wounds and apparently seriously bad allergic reactions to CT scan tracer solution.

As I arrived in my room, I experienced my worst attack yet. My whole body began to tingle followed by the worst headache of my entire life. I remember grabbing my head as hard as I could and a deep, hollow moan erupting from me. My heart was beating irregularly and my blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. And I couldn’t breathe - at all. My lips were blue from the lack of oxygen.

At this point I was considered in anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is when two or more of your body systems react adversely to the invading allergen. In my case four systems were in chaos – circulatory (my heart), digestive (puking), respiratory (difficulty breathing) and skin (hives).

At this point I knew things were pretty grave. I was scared. Really scared. Probably 100 times more scared than I ever was with cancer. With cancer, death was a possibility but not immediate. But at this moment I knew death was not just a possibility – it was imminent.

The thought of my children growing up without a mother raced through my mind. But I pushed it out of mind as quickly as I could. Cancer didn’t kill me and I wasn’t about to allow a freak allergic reaction do it either.

Things were starting to get really cloudy at this point, but one of the last memories I had was of the cranky old man being treated in the room next to me. From the location of his IV to the type of bandage, he was complaining about anything and everything and his poor nurse couldn’t seem to do anything right. The worst part of it was he seemed to have no will to live.

I was so absolutely disgusted with him. I wanted to live so badly and, unlike him, was ready and willing to do whatever it took.

First, I knew I had to fight like hell. It was do or die time, and I had dig deeper than I ever had before. Deeper than any marathon, deeper than childbirth, deeper even than cancer.

Second, I needed to put complete and total trust in the doctors and nurses caring for me. I didn’t care if they stuck the IV up my nose and covered my entire body with butterfly bandages. If it meant I was going to live another day they could do whatever the hell they wanted.

My last memory was of a half dozen doctors and nurses working frantically above me. I don’t remember what happened next but my will to live combined with my medical team’s knowledge must have done the trick. When I awoke the room was empty of people but full of my own awe at my beating heart and breathing lungs.

. . .

Both the radiologist and radiation tech came to visit me in the ER after I awoke. (Sadly, no Dr. Einstein. He was probably busy working on some quantum physics problems or something. Ok, bad joke)

They were still visibly shaken from the morning’s events. The radiation tech kept repeating “It’s just not supposed to happen like that”. The radiologist declared that I was “never, ever, ever to get a contrast injection again”. It was a once in a million event. Something they knew could happen, but never thought they would ever see. And it had rattled them as much as it had me.

. . .

There’s a risk of the anaphylactic attack recurring for up to 6 hours afterwards. So they transferred me to an observation unit for the duration. Even though I felt pretty decent, I was on edge the entire time. Each time I felt even the slightest of twinge I braced myself for another attack.

Thankfully, I made it through the 6 hour window without recurrence. However, my blood pressure was lower than they liked. For most of the day my systolic reading hovered around mid to high 70’s and they wanted me at 100-110. So I was put on a continual IV drip in hopes of pushing it up.

Around dinner time, they made the decision to keep me over night for further observation. They were concerned about me going home with my blood pressure still running low. As much as the thought of spending more time in the emergency room bummed me out, I was kind of relived by the decision.

I was still nervous about a recurrence and found reassurance that I would have an experienced medical team at arm’s length for a few more hours.

So I spent the night getting fluid pumped through me and trying to get some much needed rest. Mid way through the night my blood pressure creeped into the mid 80’s and my morning I topped out at 92.

I was still a good bit below their goal, but at this point they had stuffed so much fluid in me I looked like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow (Wo)Man. In fact, I had gained over 10 pounds in that 24 hour period.

(And it wasn’t from the hospital food, by the way. I learned during my stay that there are different grades of fare depending on your location.

My only experience with hospital food previously had been my two stays in the maternity ward for my boys. Both times were absolutely fabulous. I received a menu and was allowed to order whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. A short time later a hot, delicious, made-to-order meal would arrive.

In the ER, not quite the same experience. All you get there is some nasty tv tray meal delivered on their schedule, not yours.

As I was complaining about the food, one of the doctors told me it totally depends on the department. For instance, the cardiology patients get delectable treats such as ice cream sandwiches.

So, if you are looking for a good meal, get admitted into a high profit margin part of the hospital. Definitely, definitely don’t go to the ER.)

They didn’t want to give my any more fluid and risk me bursting like a water balloon, so they gave up, called 92 acceptable and handed me my walking papers.

My dad took me home from the hospital. As I mentioned before, Vince had gone out of town for work. And he didn’t just go out of town, he was in the middle of freaking nowhere Alabama, several hours from the closest airport and basically a day’s trip away from Cleveland.

It’s just my luck that my husband would be a thousand miles away during an emergency. It would have been way too easy for fate to have had him working in Cleveland that day. But alas, we already know things were definitely not going my way. So thankfully my parents were able to make the drive from Columbus to assist.

I think my parents aged about 20 years that day. Not only were they called on to take care of two rambunctious little boys while their daughter was in the hospital, it just so happened that their only other child, my brother David, was scheduled for nasal surgery the next day.

It was just a routine outpatient surgery but after my not so routine appointment of the previous day, I know they were nervous and apprehensive. I don’t think they took a breath for two straight days - not until both their kids were home from the hospital, alive and ticking.

When I walked in the door and saw my own kids, it took all my strength to not start bawling. I had been given yet another chance to stay in their lives and be their mother.

When Vince made it home, it was if things were finally complete. Our family would be together yet another day.

. . .

Death has come to visit me twice now. He first came almost exactly a year ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer. And I took him down pretty easily. He tried a lot harder this time, but I was again victorious. He can keep trying but he should be forewarned that I intend to kick his ass each and every time. I’m not going anywhere with him anytime soon. I’ve got too much life yet to live.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Log: Week of February 8

Mon, Feb 8- .5m warmup, 3m @ 7:18pace, .5m warmdown (4 miles total)
Tues, Feb 9- 60min pilates
Wed, Feb 10- Off
Thurs, Feb 11- .5m warmup, 8x400m @ 6:18 pace w/ 400m jog recover, .5m cooldown (5 miles total)
Fri, Feb 12- 60min yoga
Sat, Feb 13- 6miles, 47:37 (7:56 pace)
Sun, Feb 14- 20min swimming

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Log: Week of February 1

Mon, Feb 1- 20min swim;sick and felt like arse
Tues, Feb 2- .5m warmup, 8x200m @ 6:20 pace w/ 200m recovery; .5m cooldown
Thurs, Feb 4- .5m warmup, 8x.2m @6:18pace w/ .2m recovery; .5m cooldown
Fri, Feb 5-Off
Sat, Feb 6- 5miles run on treadmill (41:11, 8:14 pace)
Sun, Feb 7- 35min yoga

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Log: Week of January 18

Mon, Jan 18 - 1mi swim continous (38:11)
Tues, Jan 19 - .5m warmup, 6x200m @ 6:07 pace w/ 200m jog rest, remainder cooldown (2.41 miles)
Wed, Jan 20 - 30min elliptical
Thurs, Jan 21 - 20x100mswim w/ 30sec rest
Fri, Jan 22 - 2.5 mile tempo run
Sat, Jan 23 - Off
Sun, Jan 24 - 2 mile easy run

Log: Week of January 11

Mon, Jan 11- 33min swim continous
Tues, Jan 12- Treamill run (20min, 2.54miles, 7:52 pace); 15min strength
Wed, Jan 13- Aquajog 30min
Thurs, Jan 14- Treadmill run (20min, 2.61miles, 7:39 pace)
Fri, Jan 15- Off
Sat, Jan 16- Treadmill run (31:05, 3.5 miles, 8:52 pace)
Sun, Jan 17- 25min swim

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Log: Week of Jan 4

Mon, Jan 4-Treadmill run (20min, 2.65 miles, 7:33 pace)

Tues, Jan 5-Pilates, 35minutes

Wed, Jan 6- Treadmill run (20min, 2.61 miles, 7:39 pace)

Thurs, Jan 7- Off

Fri, Jan 8 - Treadmill run (20min, 2.68miles, 7:28 pace, includes 5x400m @ 6:40)

Sat, Jan 9- Treadmill run (29:43, 3.25miles, 9:08 pace)

Sun,Jan 10- 20min swim

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mile 14 of my Cancer Marathon: What's Ahead

Mile 14 marks the beginning of the second half of the marathon. From this point forward every footstep means that there’s more distance behind you than in front of you. However, the race is still long and you must be prepared, mentally and physically, for the long miles ahead.

. . .

I always love a new year. There’s something very satisfying about closing out one year and starting afresh with a brand spanking new one. A new year is full of new adventures to be had and new possibilities to ponder.

This year, more than ever, I was looking forward to shutting the door on 2009 and welcoming 2010. For obvious reasons, 2009 was a challenging year and one I don’t wish to repeat anytime soon.

I expect 2010 to be a challenging year, but in a very good way and one that’s of myown making.
I’m partial to setting new goals every time January 1 rolls around. Notice I said “goals” instead of “resolutions”. Resolution is a derivative of resolve. You resolve something when there is a problem. Thus resolutions initiate from a place of conflict.

Personally, I think you are setting yourself up for failure if you originate your actions from a place of negativity. Thus, I prefer the word “goals” which has much more positive birthplace.

. . .

Some years my goals are informal - just a couple thoughts I keep tucked in the back of my brain. Other years I get a little more formal and actually write them down (albeit usually on the back of a napkin).

This year I decided to really step it up and create a series of goals, set in stone in a neatly typed document printed on high bond paper.

Since I am obsessed with symmetry, I chose 12 goals to represent the 12 months of the year. I don’t expect to accomplish a goal per month (in fact some of the goals will take the entire 12 months to complete) but I loved the elegance of choosing that number.

It also fit well with my decision to focus on four aspects of my life – mental, physical, family and career. For each of those four groups, I have 3 goals making a total of 12 goals for 2010. Isn’t that lovely how neatly the math works out? :)

Usually I keep my goals completely to myself, and don’t share them anyone, not even with my husband or my cat Isabelle. In fact, I really didn’t share any of my deepest thoughts or feelings with anyone previously. But that all changed in 2009 (thanks cancer and Facebook!)

So without further ado, making their world wide debut: Carmen’s 2010 New Year’s Goals…


1. Finish Porter’s scrapbook.

A few years back I was invited to a scapbooking party. A scrapbooking party is just a crafty Tupperware party. You go to a friend’s house, eat bite size appetizers, sip white wine and listen to a lengthy spiel about the products.

I fell hook, line and sinker for the sales pitch. (I’m kind of a sucker for a good sales pitch. I own a Slap Chop, kind of want a Snuggie and was this close to buying a timeshare in Tahoe) It didn’t help that I’ve always aspired to be Martha Stewart, despite my lack of creativity and patience.

Thus, I bought way too many cutesy 12”x12” papers, special scissors that cut wavy lines and puffy pens in every color of the rainbow. I had to justify my splurges so I decided to make my first son, Dominic, the baby scrapbook to beat all baby scrapbooks.

My craft handicap aside, Dominic’s scrapbook actually turned our pretty cute. I was so tickled that my son would have such a lovingly assembled record of his first year I vowed that I would make one for all my future children as well.

But I am ashamed to admit that despite my best intentions, I was a total slacker when it came to a scrapbook for baby #2. I wish I could blame the cancer for my tardiness in making Porter’s scrapbook, but I was behind the 8 ball well before I got sick.

Having two little ones is a lot more time consuming than one, greatly reducing my free time for scrapbooking. And I fell into the stereotypical second child trap – somehow every blink and burp didn’t seem quite as noteworthy the second time around so I didn’t have nearly the stacks of photographs to choose from.

But this year, I’m going to right my wrongs and make Porter his own baby scrapbook to beat all baby scrapbooks. After all, I’ve got to do it now before he grows old enough to know he’s been shafted!

2. Remodel my childhood dollhouse.

I inherited a lot of my father’s traits – his nose, his compact frame, his work ethic and his disdain for tomfoolery. However, my father is also a skilled craftsman and can make pretty much anything out of wood. Dominic is already showing promise in the crafty area – he can pull together some pretty mean abstract art via pipe cleaners, pom poms, and some wiggly eyes. So perhaps the crafty gene skipped a generation.

My house is filled with my dad’s handiwork from candlesticks to a cherry dining room set and everything in between. The object that I cherish the most, however, is a large doll house he designed and built by hand when I was a little girl.

I spent many an hour arranging and rearranging the furniture and imagining different play scenarios with its doll occupants. Of course as I got older, I became more interested in music and boys and the dollhouse fell out of use and went into eventual disrepair.

Two or three years ago I rescued it from my parent’s barn. Time wasn’t kind to it and it needed a lot of repair. Cobwebs enveloped it, windows were broken and the wallpaper was faded and peeling.I started work on rehabbing it and was able to remodel a few of the dollhouse’s rooms. But like most of my projects, I got distracted and my initial enthusiasm tapered off.

My boys have shown interest in playing with the dollhouse and I’d love to get it fixed up for them. However, time is of the essence since the window for little boys to be interested in playing house is sadly short.

So if I’m going to once and for all restore my dollhouse, and preserve my childhood memories, I need to do it this year.

3. Schedule (and actually do) monthly date nights with my husband.

Like most working couples with children our lives move at a frantic pace. The alarm clock goes off at 6AM and the next hour is filled with filling sippys, pouring cheerios, taking showers, dressing kids, dressing ourselves, loading the car and commuting to daycare and work. Then’s it 8+ hours of working for the man.

When 5 o’clock rolls around the mad dash begins again. it’s time for picking up kids from daycare, feeding kids, feeding ourselves, baths, cleanup and bedtime routines. By the time we get the kids in bed we are completely and utterly exhausted. So most evenings involve us sprawled on the couch and spending our few precious kid-free hours in an exhaustion induced coma.

In 2009 I needed to spend a lot of time focusing on myself, rebuilding my mental and physical strength. Since 2010 will hopefully be free of cancer distractions, I’ll have more time to focus more on my family and particularly my marriage.

With monthly date nights I hope to get out of the couch lounging rut and spend some quality time with my husband. (And it will give me an excuse to expand my wardrobe…)


These are utterly and completely boring goals and I about fall asleep writing them so I won’t subject you to reading them. Next section please.


1. Do Yoga 52 times this year.

Back in the day,aka BDAP (Before Dominic and Porter), I had this crazy little thing called free time. And I sometimes even used that free time productively.

For example, I used to do yoga almost weekly. I’m definitely not a “Be one in yourself, Ommmm” kind of person but I surprisingly found yoga to be refreshing and peaceful. No matter how tired or stressed I was, after 30 or 40 minutes of yoga I felt reinvigorated and calmer.

In addition to the mental health benefits, yoga is great for strength slackers like me. I hate getting in the weight room so yoga was my shortcut to toning my upper body and core.

So I want to get back into yoga to regain my sanity and six pack abs (both are long gone, but I’ll try).

I’m also looking to yoga to help loosen up my left leg. For months before my diagnosis my muscles were working overtime to compensate for my cancer induced weakened bone structure. After diagnosis, I spent 3months on crutches. Those two situations have produced a super tight left hamstring and general tightness around my knee. This loss of flexability can impact my running and other athletic pursuits so I’d like to get it back to normal in the new year.

2. Read 24 books.

As a girl I read and read and read pretty much anything I could get my hands on including “The Babysitter’s Club”, “Nancy Drew”, the Sunday newspaper and the back of cereal boxes.

My love of reading faded during my pursuit of higher education, probably due to an over saturation of mind numbing engineering textbooks.

About three years ago I joined a book club in my neighborhood which spurred my re-interest in the written word. We take turns hosting each month and the hostess gets to choose the book for the following month. This leads to an interesting and very varied reading list. Thus I’ve discovered and enjoyed books and entire genres I probably would have never attempted before.

I’ve noticed the more I read the better my writing gets. There’s no better way to study good writing than to read good writing.

So this year I want to raise my game and read more than just my monthly book club book. I’d love to read many more than 24 (my Amazon wishlist is literally over 300 items long) but I’ve got 11 other goals to accomplish!

3. Finish writing my story.

I started capturing my cancer story as a means to communicate with others, work through my feelings and create a legacy for my sons.

In the process, I discovered (a) I kind of enjoy writing (b) I don’t suck that bad at it.

Just as the more I read the better my writing gets, the more I write the easier and more eloquent it becomes. The first few miles (like pretty much the first 10) were difficult for me. Each and every time I had to coerce myself into sitting down at the computer and start writing. While I relished the final product, I dreaded the process.

Lately I’ve been looking forward to my writing time. It’s the one place where I can be exhibit creativity, reflect on my life and explore my emotions all at the same time.

In the new year, I want to get serious about writing which means dedicating some time very day to it. And it means finish writing all 26.2 miles.

My story may never go farther than a bound journal to pass down to my boys. But I want to keep exploring this brand new hobby and see where it takes me.


1. Swim 2.4 miles at one time.

I plan on writing more about my newfound chlorine addiction in an upcoming mile. But in the meantime here is the condensed version:

Girl is a rotten swimmer. Girl gets cancer. Girl can’t run anymore. Girl starts swimming as an outlet for pent up competitive juices. Girl actually enjoys swimming and wants to keep doing it even though cancer is gone.

Just a few short years ago I could barely make it the length of the pool and now I can swim for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. I’ve never really gone farther than that, for no good reason other than I’ve never tried.

2009 was all about experiencing things I’ve never done before. I want to keep that theme going in 2010. Hence, I’m going to see how far this little fishie can really swim.

Why 2.4 miles? How come I didn’t choose a nice round number like 2 or 2.5 miles? After all, I already shared my love of elegant numbers.

Well, there’s this little race I’ve been dreaming about doing it. It’s in Hawaii. Maybe you’ve even heard of it – locals call it “Ironman”. No, it’s not on my goal list for 2010. Someday though, hopefully sooner than later.

The distance for the swim portion of the Ironman? 2.4 miles.

2. Run a sub 22 minute 5K.

21:59 is not even close to my PR in the 5K (which is 18:38, recorded 10 years and two babies ago). However, that time has always symbolized for me the difference between in shape and out of shape.

I know some people dream of running 3.1miles in 22 minutes so defining it as “out of shape” can come across as a little crass. I see it differently. Everyone has different god-given talents, ambitions and personal histories. So it’s impossible for everyone to have the same “good/bad” line. Some people work their tails off to do a 30 minute 5K and that’s just as admirable as someone who can pop-off a sub 16 without breaking a sweat.

So for me, and only me, I draw the line at 22 minutes. An elite runner could probably run backwards at that pace without breaking a sweat. On the other hand, some runners work all their lives and never achieve it.

But for me this is where I want and need to be. If I could run sub 22 this year, I can consider myself seriously back in the running game for the first time in many, many months. It would mean that I outran the cancer.

3. Finish a marathon.

I saved the biggest and baddest goal for last. Running a marathon is by far the most difficult thing on my 2010 to-do list. But it is something I have to do.

I was training for a marathon when I discovered I had cancer. Of course, I never got to run that marathon. Instead, I spent race day bald and hobbling along on crutches.

My hair has grown back and I’ve long since ditched the crutches. But the uncompleted marathon still looms out there, one of the last reminders of my cancer days.

So in 2010 I want to write the most fitting conclusion to my cancer story and finally finish that marathon.

I’ve got a long way to go to be ready for race day and I’m fully aware of how hard it will be. But with each footstep I take towards the finish line this year, I’ll be comforted to know the distance ahead of me is much less than the distance I’ve already covered.