Monday, November 4, 2013

November 2nd, 2013 – The Hard Rock Café Hollywood 5k

The continued prayer is, “Lord keep me focused. Keep my mind stayed on You. Help me to bring You praise. I know You believe in me. Please help me in my unbelief. Amen.”

This race meant so so so much to me! And I’m glad because it was WONDERFUL!!! It turned out to be 20 times more wonderful than I hoped it’d be when I registered for it.

First of all, I registered for it on or around the same day that my surgical team scheduled my Double Mastectomy. I felt like there were so many horrible things on my calendar, with all the testing and Pre-Op appointments. I wanted something that (1) I had just a tiny bit of control over and (2) was fun!!!!

There was a Half Marathon in my area at the end of October that I knew was too ambitious. However, this race date was well after my surgery and the distance was short enough that I felt like I’d be able to at least get to the Finish, even if I had to walk it….. slowly.

My doctors were ok with me scheduling the race at first, but then we didn’t get clean margins and I had to go back in. Shortly after the second surgery, I developed an infection. It was looking like I wasn’t going to make it to the Start Line.

My doctors told me to forget about it, that there would be other races.
They were right, of course. And Chris agreed with them. But…..

As any runner will tell you, once you’ve paid your race fees, something just takes over your brain!! Not doing a race that you’ve paid for just seems like the HEIGHT of ridiculous!!! Like turning down a glass of wine or saying, "Michael Jackson's not AWESOME!" It just doesn’t make sense!!!!

I didn’t want to hurt myself or set back my recovery, but I was determined to make it to the Start Line!!

After much rest, healing, being a good girl and whining about it at every appointment, I was cleared to start running a week before this race!! My Oncologist’s exact words were: “Yes. Run. You will be much happier if you run.”

At that point, I hadn’t run for 7 weeks and my fitness had taken a serious hit. I started out planning to walk it.

When I finally got my first run in, it really wasn’t that bad. Once again, Running showed itself to be far more faithful to me than I had been to it! After 7 weeks of complete rest and dense food (awesome!), my legs felt heavy but not horrible. I meant to go out for a 1-mile run, per my doctor’s instructions, but I really felt fine. I finished the entire 3-mile loop.

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t elegant. I took it very easily, allowed myself to rest at traffic lights and I got through it!!! After that, I felt like I could do it! I could actually RUN this race!

I started training to maintain a 12-minute mile. It didn’t start out well, but it got better and I was finally able to do it without excessive pain afterward. I felt good!!!

So then it was Race Day!!!

And it was WONDERFUL!!!

I woke up early, which is typical of Race Day. A 4am start was necessary, for there was much to do!

I was already packed. My clothes and gear were laid out the night before. I had to leave early to meet friends who were going to the race with me! And we were taking the train!!

This is quite a BIG deal for me, as I am most often alone at a race. This time my friend Paul had agreed to come with his husband, Marc. They had never been to a race before and agreed to be my entourage, take many pictures and carry my gear. You can't that!!!

I met them at their home and I gorged on blueberry pancakes, coffee and bacon!! Marc is an excellent chef! Mmmm…..

Then it was off to the race!!!

This is us on the subway!! A new experience for me! I had never been on the Subway before!

Of course Hollywood is a magical place with much to see! I had an eye out for only one person, The King of Pop!!

This was the inaugural event, but it was *very* well attended.

I was a little stressed and quite nervous. My body had changed rather drastically since my last race. Not to mention, the 10 extra lbs I'd gained! What if this new body wasn’t structured for racing? What if I just couldn’t do it? What if my new “mechanics” made it so that I no longer found joy in it? What if my new form made it so that I hurt in places I never did before? What if I just flat out didn’t like it anymore?!?!?!!

Running had become such a huge part of my life over the past 3 years. What if my recent illness had damaged our “friendship” or severed it completely?! What if my relationship with running had changed forever and I had to find something else to make me ME again?

These were the thoughts going through my mind as I was lined up, listening to final announcements and the “National Anthem”.

And then the gun fired (or in this case a horn blast)…

I was off.

Suddenly, I was no longer a wife with chores to do. I was no longer a mom with faces to wipe and owies to kiss. I was no longer an employee with reports to finish and accounts to balance. And I was no longer a cancer patient who was unsure of her future.

I was a runner. The part of my being that I thought was damaged, perhaps beyond repair, was back. No body knew that I'd been sick. No body knew that I'd been cut open and gutted like a fish. No body knew that 6 weeks ago I wasn't strong enough hold my own head up or walk across my room. No body knew that 4 weeks ago I was paralyzed with pain and fear. No body could see my scars. No body could see my weakness.

All that could be seen was a runner.

Did I PR? Of course not. But I didn’t expect that. I hadn’t trained for that. That’s not what this race was about. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that I kept a 11:18 pace, which is 0:42 faster than I had trained for.

After the race, we took the subway back to Mark & Paul’s house and ate the rest of the pancakes. They were DELICIOUS!! I got to tour their house and enjoyed their company generally. They’re great!!

So this race was extra special for a good many reasons. A milestone, a good time, a good pace and good friends! Thanks Marc & Paul!! Much love to you both.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 28th, 2013 – Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS)

The continued prayer is, “Lord keep me focused. Keep my mind stayed on You. Help me to bring You praise. I know You believe in me. Please help me in my unbelief. Amen.”

It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted. In fact, I’ve never gone this long without posting. I’ve thought about it many times but…… *sigh*

Let’s just get started.

Many things have happened since my last post. First of all, I was diagnosed with early stages of Breast Cancer, Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS). Fortunately, it was caught very early. Still, I underwent a Double Mastectomy and had immediate reconstruction.

This was quite a blow for me. I am still dealing with it. There are times when I still can’t believe this is actually happening to me. I’m not sure how long denial is supposed to go on but I seem to have frequent recurrences.

Everything happened really quickly and really slowly. Once I was diagnosed, surgery was scheduled and both my breasts were taken. Then it was the long slog of recovery (which is still in progress).

That’s the story in a nutshell. The whole story is following:

Your life changes completely for a time, when a doctor tells you that you have cancer. It gets better after a while, but for a time CANCER is all you hear. Everything else just sounds like white noise. It’s a scary time.

You are faced with your own mortality and until you get more information, you don’t know how things will play out and the worst options present themselves with startling regularity. If like me, you are one who prays, you’ll find yourself praying the panic away constantly.

However, if you’re lucky like me, you have an army of friends who will be there to fight beside you. The pic at the top of this post is me with my good friend Christine, who upon learning of my condition, scooped me up for a Birthday Brunch in beautiful Westlake Village. While we were out, she set up a page on Sign-Up Genius so friends and family could sign up to drop off meals and even clean my house! It was wonderful!!! My family and I ate so well during my recovery that it’s a miracle I only gained 5 lbs (plus the weight of the new boobs).

The Muddy Dragons sent a beautiful card. I love those girls and I can’t wait to get out there and get dirty with them again!!!

They also sent these super awesome Under Armor running shoes! Pink, in support of Breast Cancer Awareness!! Cool!

My BIG Brother Frank, also came to be with me for my surgery. This is us, the night before surgery. I couldn’t eat anything after midnight that day, so we had a late dinner at TGIFriday’s. Frank and I also went running the night before surgery. It was just what I needed.

The next day was the BIG Day!!!

First I met with my Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Leslie Memsic. She is GREAT!!! I was referred to her by my gynecologist, where all this started.

Then I conferred with the medical staff at TOSH (Thousand Oaks Surgical Hospital). They are also great. TOSH is a wonderful facility.

I was to undergo a Double Mastectomy and immediate Reconstruction. I was scared to death!! The hope was that surgery would be 100% curative for me and I wouldn’t have to undergo radiation or chemo. I prayed with my family for a successful surgery, no surprises and clean margins.

A kiss from my best guy before I went in.

Long Story Short, the surgery was reasonably successful! We would learn later that we didn’t get clean margins and would have to go back in, but at the time, all was good! This is me at the hospital. Christine was one of the many many people who was with me while I walked through the Valley of the Shadow.

I had visitors galore!! Runner friends, Sarah & Kathy. High school friends, Rena & Sherri. My family: My Dad, Miss Monica, My Mom, My Brother. Of course Chris and the kids were there. Work friends, Paul & Lily came by too. Paul stayed and read the poetry of Maya Angelou to me while I was under heavy anesthesia (that’s a tall order for a White guy! Just sayin’.)

The girls from work had flowers sent to the hospital. My brother-in-law & his girlfriend also sent flowers. So did Kathleen from church. I was showered with love.

But it was time to leave the comfort, support and drugs of the hospital and start my recovery process.

Many things happened during this time. You’d get bored if I named them all so, I’ll just hit the highlights.

First of all, meals came from all over the place! My friends really stepped up in this area. Food started arriving on the day of surgery (September 9th) and didn’t stop for 4 weeks!! It was great!!

Shortly after I got home, after surgery and days on end of heavy painkillers, my body reacted as most bodies do and locked up!!! For 6 days, NO bowel movements! That might be fine for a day or two, maybe even 3 or 4. After 6 days, I was in considerable discomfort. After a brief Internet search, I discovered that the best natural laxatives are (1) Raw Organic, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar and (2) Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

I responded like most runners do. Balls out! I figured if one is good, both must be better! So having the ingredients on hand, I concocted this Vinegar and Olive Oil potion, poured it into a shot glass and threw it back!!

30 Minutes later, I was on the toilet weeping and moaning, but very much cleared up. It blew right through me. Awesome!

As I started to feel a little better, the first thing I wanted to do was get out of the house and get some exercise. I’d been told that running was out of the question for several weeks, but I’d been cleared to walk short distances as long as I didn’t move my arms too much.

At this time, I was still hooked up to a catheter with anesthesia pumping directly to the major incision sites and 4 drains, Two on each breast. I’d post a pic, but you *really* don’t want to see that. Instead, I’ll post this pic of me and Jayda, walking home from After Care. It’s about a half mile walk and was just enough at the time, as I tired quickly and extra movement generated more fluid. You can’t see all of my tubes & bulbs, but they’re there. The pouch at my waist is holding it all.

As I mentioned before, 3 days after surgery, I got the call from my doctor that we didn’t get clean margins. I would be given 2 weeks from surgery to recover and I’d have to go back in. This was a quick procedure and I was back at home on the same day, very tired and discouraged. This set my recovery back a few weeks.

But it was worth it! Three days after that surgery, we got the word that the margins were clean and I was completely cancer free!!!!

My father and Miss Monica happened to be visiting that day so we went out and I raised a glass with my Old Man! It was great!!!

Two Cancer Survivors! Praise GOD!!!


Now it was time for me to start recovering with a little exercise and my own brand of Physical Therapy.

First, and most horribly, I learned that a dear friend of mine had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt just as helpless as anyone else might feel when they learn that a loved one has cancer. All I could do, especially in my current state, was be there for her. She is super strong and has an amazing support system, so she will come through this with flying, beautiful colors. Her name is Cynthia and she is undergoing chemo-therapy right now. Prayers for her would be greatly appreciated.

I think an essential part of healing is loving and helping other people. Paying it Forward is easy with people as wonderful as Cynthia.

Secondly, I had to start learning how to function while on heavy painkillers. I was scheduled to return to work in about a week and I hadn't managed to stay conscious for more than about 4 hours straight. Also, my brain was so fuzzy, I was barely able to hold a conversation. If I was going to go back to work and be useful, I was going to have to train myself to employ high levels of concentration for long periods of time, while sitting and using my arms as I would on a computer keyboard.

To me, that sounded like….. A puzzle! And if I’m doing a puzzle, you can bet your last money, Michael Jackson’s gonna be the subject of it!!!

As I was getting stronger, I was able to go out a little more and actually dress like a girl. This is a pic of me, starting to bounce back a little. I still had drains attached. As you can see, I still have my pouch around my neck, holding the bulbs. But I’m starting to look like my old self!

I was blessed by a visit from my Dad and Miss Monica. This time, they brought my Grandmother!!! She is my hero and my mentor. She had been praying for me the entire time. She has a special relationship with God and her prayers get answered. With her on my side, I knew all would be OK. She’s wonderful!!!

In mid October, I got my drains out! That was a wonderful day! It had been 5 weeks. They are awkward and cumbersome and nearly impossible to dress or sleep in. It was so nice to be free of them. Deny it if you want, but you know you’re curious!!! Here they are.

My doctors did a fine job. As I’m sure you can tell, they were able to spare the nipples, which is unusual for a breast cancer patient. Normally, they have to take all the breast tissue, which includes the nipples and often have to take quite a lot of skin. I was able to keep my skin envelope as well as both nipples. I was grateful for that.

These are Expanders, temporary medical devices, used after a mastectomy to stretch the skin and keep it from contracting, as it would instinctively do after large portions of tissue are removed. These will stay in until late December, then be replaced by the permanent silicone implants.

After the drains were gone, I had to wait a few days for the entry sites to close up. Then I was ready to start rebuilding my fitness. I wasn’t quite ready, but the Relay for Life walk was in town. I *had* to go! I was humbled and honored to be counted among the Survivors and wear a sash for the day. It was great!

I was still working toward getting back to work and training myself to do concentration exercises. Puzzle #2. Done!

After my first week back at work full time, I was ready to see if I could get a maintenance run in. At my last visit, 3 days before, I asked my doctor if I could go running. She finally cleared me to go. She said to take it very easily and to start out slowly. I was so glad to be geared up again and ready for my first run in MONTHS!!!

It was slow and clunky, of course. I could certainly feel the 5 lbs I’d gained while I was recovering. My legs felt heavy, as I knew they would. But it felt *great*!!! Wonderful to be back out there.

The weather had turned cold and the days had gotten shorter. All evidence that life goes on and time still passes, no matter what is going on in our lives.

I got another run in today. I may not be completely back to my old self, I still have a few more hoops to jump through, but I’m close…. And it’s nice to have come full circle.

Thank you to Everyone to who helped, served and prayed.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July 31st, 2013 – 2.18 Mile Run

The continued prayer is, “Lord keep me focused. Keep my mind stayed on You. Help me to bring You praise. I know You believe in me. Please help me in my unbelief. Amen.”

This was a just a quick run to settle my mind and my nerves before my biopsy today. I ran in the park which is unusual for me. It was a perfect day for it and I didn’t want to waste it. So I geared up and hit the door!

I didn’t try to make this run be anything other than a mental health activity. If I decided I wanted to rage and scream and sprint, I’d let that happen. If I wanted to just coast along easily and enjoy the birds chirping and the children playing, I’d let that happen. If I decided to just walk and contemplate life and death, I’d let that happen too.

Turned out, I just wanted to run. And run I did. It felt good. After about 20 minutes, I headed home.

First, I had to decide what I was going to wear. My instructions were to wear comfortable clothes and a loose fitting shirt. Sounds like running garb to me! So I donned my Boston Pride T-Shirt and pulled on some running shorts!

This is just another Finish Line. I got this!
Let’s roll!

Here I am getting my vitals checked.

Blood Pressure and pulse are a little high. Quite understandable, I’m scared outta my wits.

Wrist band ID, so I don’t get lost.

And here is the dreaded table, where I will be face-down for the better part of an hour while one of my Girls will be impaled by a professional. I will be raised about 3 to 4 feet while the doctor works underneath me, through that hole in the middle.

This is me, robe open in front and ready to go.

This is the biopsy machine. It’s a high-tech vacuum that will take 6 tissue samples.

This is me, face down on the table, locked in place, with a brave smile and Michael Jackson being pumped into my brain. Let’s go!

Well, it’s all over now and here is the mammogram after the biopsy. I can’t tell you what they were looking for, other than suspicious cells. Let us pray that they don’t find any.

They gave me some information on what breast calcifications might mean. I thought I’d share since this is a very prevalent issue and some might be interested.

Here I am, after being discharged. I’m waiting for Chris to come pick me up.

I was given very strict instructions to NOT run home after the procedure. The Breast Center is only 2.5 miles from my house and my original plan was to just go ahead and run home afterward. No dice. The doctor said, no running for 48 hours. *sigh*

Here is the cute little pillow they gave me to hide the ice pack that was currently stuffed in my brassiere over my incision and bandages.

And here I am, recovering at home. It’s not as bad as the bandages make it appear but there is some bleeding and a little soreness for several hours afterward.

And here is a bottle of my very favorite wine and the goal is to get to the bottom of it.

This was a major milestone for me. Precarious footing on a path I’d never taken before. I’m still on that path and I have no idea what’s coming.
Am I afraid? Yes.
Do I feel powerless? Absolutely!
Do I feel hopeless? Never!
For I have built my hope on things Eternal and I know He watches over me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 24th, 2013 – 8.66 Mile Run

The continued prayer is, “Lord keep me focused. Keep my mind stayed on You. Help me to bring You praise. I know You believe in me. Please help me in my unbelief. Amen.”

This was a rough run. But we’ll get to that later.

It’s been quite a while since I last posted. So I gotta bring to you up on the summer I’ve been having. For the most part it has been GREAT!!!! I have had a great time with friends and family. Keeping extremely busy!!!

Last month I went on a cruise with my friend Sherri!

This was, of course, amazing fun. I’d never done a Girl Trip before. And I must say, I highly recommend them. Sherri & I have many things in common. However two of my favorite things are: Mad love for Michael Jackson and we both value health and fitness. We worked out every day that we were on the ship.

Some might say that would have ruined the trip for them. For us, that made it awesome!

Then of course, June 25th was Michael Jackson’s Death day, which I had to recognize. So I dressed up as MJ for the day. This is me at work. What?!

This month has been crazy busy too!
Chris and I went to the BET Experience Concert at The Staples Center. We got to see R. Kelly and New Edition. But the big draw for me was THE JACKSONS!!!!

That was fun. Hanging out with my best guy and seeing a great concert. You just can’t beat that!

Then we took the kids to Hurricane Harbor! Their cousin Logan was in town, so we got to take him too. That was a blast!

Yes! A busy busy Summer and I’ve been trying to get a run in anywhere I can. Jayda even ran with me once. She is my sweetie. I love her!!!

Now, about this run….

This one was a cleansing run. I was given some less than great news from my doctor. I had an abnormal mammogram. I was supposed to go into work afterward, but when we got back home, I just geared up and headed out the door. This run was less about time and distance and more about crying and praying.

The first half was pretty rough. I was just trying to run until I felt like myself again. At about mile 4, I was at the end of my fuel, which is typical for me. So I stopped at CVS and bought some GatorAid and a pack of nuts. I sat on some grass under a tree and wept.

Tears are not normally how I would express myself but I was out of resources by then. I was exhausted and in pain, both physically and emotionally. So I just let the tears come.

Up until this point, I was listening to my Speed Workout Playlist, which consists of Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Eminem and many others. But on the return trip, I had to call on Jesus. I put on my Gospel Jams Playlist and headed home.

It helped. It always does. I can’t say that it helped my run, but it helped my mind-frame. I discovered I was afraid, and ashamed of myself for being afraid. A child of the King should never be afraid. Then one of my favorite songs came across my playlist:

You don’t have to worry,
And don’t you be afraid.
Joy comes in the morning,
Troubles, they don’t last always.
For there’s a friend in Jesus,
Who will wipe your tears away.
And if your heart is broken,
Just lift your hands and said,
“Oh… I know that I can make it.
I know that I can stand.
No matter what may come my way,
My life is in Your hands.”

I wept more. But I felt grounded and grateful that God already knows how this is going to turn out. He knows what I can handle. He knows what my family can handle and He’ll be with us no matter what.

Later that day, my friend Paul showed up with enough ice cream to choke a horse. Gotta love Paul.

So what happens now?

I keep going.
I keep living.
I keep doing.
I keep loving.
I keep playing.
I keep laughing.
I keep smiling.
I keep praying.
And I keep running.

Biopsy is set for next week. I’ll letcha know how it goes.
Prayers appreciated.