At the Starting Line – December 29, 2011

I’m a runner.   Not one of those runners who has been running all my life and won in my age category. I’m just a runner.  I run because I like the endorphins and it allows me to eat whatever I want.  I started in running 2009 when I finally had the courage to finish my first marathon.  Years before I actually signed up for a race but didn’t go because I was so nervous.  I tried running before but it seemed that my ass always held me back.  Not only was it lazy, it felt like there were bricks in my shorts that slowed me down.  For some reason I thought running the Portland Marathon would be fun and since I spent the summer riding my bike, I realized I built up some muscles I lacked previously.   Since 2009, I’ve completed 2 full marathons and 10 half marathons.  Each race makes me feel like a super hero – Wonder Woman to be exact.  I don’t race with a golden lasso though but maybe I should.   

 At the start of each race my heart pounds.  I check my shoe laces multiple times.  I go the bathroom again and again so much that I start wondering if I have a problem with my  kidneys or worse.  I worry about falling down and everyone staring at me.  I worry about being last. Not that there is anything wrong with being last, someone has to be last.  I look around at all the runners beside me and wonder how much they’ve trained.  What is their story?  Why do they run?  Are they scared just as much as me?

 In addition to being a runner, I’m 36, wife, daughter, sister, and I’m a kickass Project Manager for a software company.  I basically try to plan every aspect of my life.  I envy those folks who can just fly by the seat of their pants.  Those folks who can just buy a plane ticket to anywhere and figure out where they’re staying after they get to their destination. I’m not like that.  I like to know what’s going to happen before it actually happens.  I want to be prepared. 

 Just about everyone in my life and including my job help me to stay accountable.  I realized in 2009 that I wasn’t doing a very good job with being accountable.  I was faking it, faking life and just going through the motions. Someone pointed out that I’m more of a talker and not much of a doer and I have a tendency to do things half way, this upset me because it meant that people knew I was faking it.  I basically felt stuck; stuck in my marriage, stuck in my job, and stuck with few friends.  I needed a hobby.  I needed to be a better wife.  I needed for my life to revolve around something other than work. I used to love setting goals and making them happen, I thrived on it.  I think in the last few years I’ve lost sight of what I used to enjoy and I’ve gotten too comfortable with all of my surroundings and take too many things for granted.

 In October 2009, I ran the Portland Marathon.  It was my first marathon and originally my plan was to run a mile, walk a mile.  Funny thing happened though; I ran all 26.2 miles and finished with a smile on my face.  One of my friends commented on one of my post race photos and said this must have been before the race because you look awesome.  With that comment, I realized that running makes me pretty.  I know it sounds weird but positive feedback helps me stay positive.  So I signed up for the Vegas Rock n Roll ½ marathon 2 months later and learned if I ran Phoenix a month later, I could earn the Rock n Roll Desert Double Down .  This is where I decided what my new year’s resolution would be…at the starting line.  If running makes me this happy, then why not try to make a year of being happy and positive.   

 In 2010, for the first time, I created a New Year’s Resolution and stuck to it – I made sure it was something that would help me combine my passions and would help me accomplish my goal of staying accountable.  I set the goal of something that was a stretch but also doable. I didn’t want to be that person who after February forgot about those resolutions. I didn’t want to go back to my friends and family and say once again I failed.  I decided that I would run or bike – two of my favorite things to do – in an event for every month in 2010 – 12 events in 12 months.  I was healthy enough and I knew I could do it.  I wanted to be able to say at the end of the year that I did something and I stuck to my goal and I didn’t have to fake it.   2010 was going to be my year – and it all began at the starting line…

 At the start of 2010, I ran the Phoenix Rock N Roll half marathon.  One down, eleven to go. I was trying to outline my year of events and already having a hard time figuring out all the races or events.  I had to go to Jacksonville, FL in February and decided to see if I could combine my work trip with an event.  I did an internet search and as it turns out there was the 26.2 with Donna to end Breast Cancer.  I knew I couldn’t run the 26.2 and walk the next day for work but I could do the ½ marathon.  It was weird being there all by myself with no friends, no family, no one waiting for me at the finish line cheering me on.  I met an amazing couple in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at.  They noticed I was by myself and we struck up a conversation as we waited for the shuttle to the starting line. The woman wore a survivor shirt and I asked her how she got through treatment.  Everyone I knew barely survived cancer.  She told me she ran.  She ran everyday through treatment. WOW!   I thought to myself that if I ever have to go through something like that, I hope I can run too. 

 As I ran through the course, I saw tons of women wearing survivor shirts, husbands, mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, and friends – all running for someone they knew with breast cancer.  I thought who am I running for?  I could say I’m running for my grandmothers, my aunt, my cousin – all who fought breast cancer but I didn’t feel comfortable.  I didn’t know them very well during their treatment and my grandmother and aunt both died so early.  So I just let it go… except for that lump I found in my breast a year before.  The one that my doctor told me was probably just a cyst.  I wasn’t concerned because I was running a half marathon.  If I had cancer, I couldn’t run, right?

 I have to back up and let you know about my family history because not only does it play a role into who I am, it played a role in my 2010 goals.  We have a long history of cancer – especially on my dad’s side.  My dad passed away on March 1, 2000 of prostate cancer which was the worst day of my life, he was my best friend. He was 63.  His mother died of breast cancer at 34, his sister died at 34 also of breast cancer, and her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 when she was 30 – she is a 10 year survivor.  So when I found the lump on that Saturday night watching TV in May 2009, I thought oh shit! One of my fears was coming true.  My mom was right, if you think something bad will happen then it will. I let my husband confirm what I was feeling.  It wasn’t like he wasn’t going to take the opportunity to NOT feel my breast. Sure enough, I wasn’t imagining it.  I decided to wait a month till my yearly appointment with my gyn because I didn’t have a primary care physician AND it takes forever to get an appointment with my gyn – I figured they wouldn’t try to bump up my appointment.

 The next month, I went to my appointment filled with dread, as always and let her know about the usual stuff and casually mentioned the lump.  She felt around but didn’t really feel anything.  She said “Women your age get lumps and often they will go away on their own.” She also told me that even with my family history; I wasn’t at risk because all the cancer seemed to be on my dad’s side.  She said it so confidently so I believed her or at least I wanted to believe her. She went to med school, not me so why shouldn’t I believe her.  I didn’t want cancer, especially at 35.  However, my gut wasn’t quite satisfied with that answer.  I really wanted more substantial evidence that it wasn’t there and it wasn’t cancer.  I wanted to her to order a mammogram, at the very least. I wanted proof I wasn’t at risk and I had nothing to worry about. I decided I would just keep an eye out for this lump that seemed to have magical powers to disappear. 

  I searched for a doctor for a year that I felt comfortable with enough to bring it up again.  I found a doctor based on recommendation from a friend and set up a ‘wellness’ appointment.  I canceled several times because life just kept getting in the way and plus I wasn’t sick.  I could still breathe, run, etc.  I finally ran out of excuses and gave in mid May.   She was really awesome, super friendly, caring, etc.  She even let me go on about my how my toe was bothering me.  I explained I had some races coming up and didn’t have time to be slowed down by a silly toe injury. Of course when I told her about the lump, she was on it like there was no tomorrow.  She said “I don’t think this is cancer but let’s just go through the motions – just to be sure.”  She ordered everything – mammogram, ultra sound, and biopsy.  At every phase, they kept saying you’re too young for breast cancer, we’re so sure that this isn’t cancer.  Well I wish someone would have told that to that growing lump because after the biopsy, the nurse’s tone said anything but.  It WAS cancer. 

 We went in the next Monday.  Yeah, I’m not sure why they have to tell you bad news on a Friday.  “You have cancer, have a nice weekend!”  They also say don’t google it…yeah right, I have all weekend what else am I going to do??  And of course, you only find the horror stories, the ones where the absolute worst has happened.  When you’re newly diagnosed, you don’t want to hear that.  You want to hear that someone your age, someone active, healthy, someone just like you survived because if they can do it, you can do.  You can survive.

 As it turned out, I decided to get a second opinion.  I didn’t like the fact that the surgeon I was seeing could not only cut off my breast, order chemo, and radiation but he could also operate on my foot.  I went to a specialist, someone who specialized in boobs and cancer.  I will never regret that second opinion.  I never thought I would get support for my new year’s resolution from my doctors.  My oncologist turned out to be a runner too.  In fact she was at the 26.2 Run with Donna in Jacksonville, FL – the same race I had run just a few months earlier.  I do believe we are in the right place for a reason.  For me, it was meant  for me to be at that race in February.    

 I had a double mastectomy at the end of July and found out I would have to go through chemo. This was not part of my original plan for 2010.  I explained the importance of my goal to my doctors and they explained the importance of living through 2010.  I knew if I didn’t complete my goal I would be depressed.  I didn’t want to be depressed.  I wanted to feel those endorphins running through my blood – not poison.   I remembered that woman at the breast cancer race in February “I ran through treatment.”  If she could do it I could do it.  And with the support of my doctors, I did.

 

  • January 16, 2010 Rock & Roll ½ Marathon – Phoenix, AZ
  • February 21, 2010 Run with Donna ½ Marathon – Jacksonville, FL
  • March 13, 2010 Shamrock Run 15k – Portland, OR
  • April 11, 2010 Daffodil Classic  60 miles – Orting, WA
  • May 16, 2010 Olympia ½ Marathon – Olympia, WA
  •  May 23, 2010 Willamette Big Hill Challenge 50 miles – Salem, OR
  • June 19, 2010 Tour De Blast 82 miles – Toutle, WA
  • June 26, 2010 Rock & Roll ½ Marathon – Seattle, WA
  • September 25-27, 2010 Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60 miles – Seattle, WA
  • October 10, 2010 Portland Marathon – Portland, OR
  • November 7, 2010 Women’s Half Marathon – Scottsdale, AZ
  • December 6, 2010 Rock & Roll ½ Marathon – Las Vegas, NV

 

 

 

 

 

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