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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great list of goals!! I especially love the one about the dollhouse ... how cool is that??

Schedule those date nights now! We do them once a week when Todd is in town and it saves us ... literally saves us!

Great to see you ... you're a rockstar!