About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who will be my mom?

Jean-Marc, who is four, and I have a little cute word game that we play from time to time throughout the day. It is kind of based on the book, "Guess How Much I Love You" by Sam McBratney.  He'll tell me that he loves me up to the stars and back a hundred seventy eight times (the exact number varies each time...he's trying to get as high as he can go.) Then I'll top it. Then he'll try to make up an even bigger number, and so on. It's cute and inevitably ends up with hugs and him declaring that, "I'll always love you!" Or, "I'll never ever, ever stop loving you!"  Heart melting, to be sure.

Last night as I was getting him ready for bed, he started the Game. It's especially nice when he's fresh from a bath and getting all cozy and ready for bed. When he said that he would "never, ever" stop loving me, I made some comment like, "Wow...even when I'm an old lady?"

That stopped him in his tracks. His little lips started to quiver and he was visibly worried.  After a pause, his little voice asked, "But....but who will be my mom when you die?"  He was on the verge of tears, and this sudden turn of the Game almost had me there on a dime as well.

"Who will be my mom when you die?"

Who said anything about dying??  Oh man. I assured him that I wasn't going to be dying anytime soon and that even when I was old and he was a grownup, that I would still be his mom.  That satisfied him enough that we were able to settle in for a good telling of "Hop on Pop" before final goodnight cuddles and bed.

But I can't help but think over the question.  While I am not facing the death sentence that a recurrence would mean, it is always in the back of my mind. It's a constant threat that I live with. Having my innocent little four year old ask me the question that I hope he never has to really ask kind of freaked me out.

And while I'm okay, there are so many other women who do die and leave small children. My heart just breaks thinking about those little children who are left wondering who will be their mom now.

I pray that mine never have to.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Status update...all clear

I had my 6 month oncology checkup today.  Every April and October I'm supposed to go and visit Dr. P. Last April, they called me to set it up. This time, I didn't get the scheduling call. I put it off and finally last week called to make the appointment. I'm not a big procrastinator. It just stresses me out.

It's really strange to go back there to the internal medicine department at Kaiser. It wouldn't be accurate to say that it "reminds" me that I had cancer, because every day the thoughts of "what if it comes back" invade my thoughts. It's worst in the middle of the night when I have moments of sleep that are "less deep" (for lack of a better term) than others.  During those times, I have to call on the name of Jesus in order to fight off the fear.  Talk about a spiritual battle! The strange thing is, that I'm really still asleep while I'm doing this. Weird.

I managed to get my 6 mile training walk in before my appointment. I parked my car in the Kaiser parking lot and walked from there.  Training for the 3 Day certainly poses some challenges for life. It takes a long time to walk, especially after I got used to running earlier in the year. Our mileage plan for this week is 44...including an 18 mile day and a 15 mile day. So squeezing in doctor's appointments around the kids' schedule and my training schedule can be tough.

Dr. P never changes. Knowing that he does triathalons, when he asked me "What's new?" I told him that I bought a road bike. (This is old news to my Facebook friends.) We had a discussion about my speedplay pedals and he assured me that EVERYONE falls from time to time.  I told him about the walk training. He asked me if I wore enough sunscreen. Probably not, I told him. It didn't help that I was a bit flushed from just having walked 6.6 miles!  I like to tell him about my race goals and let him know how much I am able to do. Like it will put another notch in the "healthy" side of my file.

Looking at my medical record, he saw that I'm coming up on my 2 years on Tamoxifen in December. Now the decision is....do we switch to another hormone therapy that is for post-menopausal women? My estrogen levels were "low" last April. He suggested that I get them checked again in December and then we would probably switch to Anastrozole. I assured him that I haven't had a period since September 2010. Silver lining? Maybe. Maybe not, though, because I've been having hot flashes ever since!  This new drug has a potential side effect of muscle soreness and osteoporosis. We'll see how it goes.  I'm going to go for it as soon as I can because Dr. P has told me in the past that it has better outcomes than Tamoxifen alone.

After that, he examined me. Listened to my lungs, heart, etc. Felt around to see if there were any lumps or bumps that shouldn't be there. For the first time, he did not ask me about reconstruction.

And then it was over.

For another 6 months.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Complacent no more!

I'm happy to report my lymphedema seems to have gotten under control. All it took was taking the time to take care of it: doing the massage nightly; wrapping; and staying bandaged longer. I also started using "chip bags"as part of my bandaging on my hand and forearm.  I can once again wear my wedding rings without worrying that I will be unable to get them off!

It was a wake up call for me, though. I had spent most of the summer not massaging, and only wrapping a fraction of the time. Even with our trip to France, I was spared swelling. So I began to take it for granted. This latest episode has shaken me out of my complacent place. Especially now as my mileage for the 3 Day begins to increase. This week was a "rest' week with only 20 miles, but next week I'm in for 30! Keeping my arm bandaged for some of these long walks has definitely helped, although it has been difficult with the hot weather.

I was not so happy to see that I've crept up a few pounds on the scale today. Yikes. Another place of complacency that is being shaken. Considering all of my exercise, I haven't been careful about what I'm putting in my mouth, and the scale doesn't hide it! So I'm back to counting calories. I'll admit...the past couple weeks, I've indulged in wine, dessert, and too many snacks. (Like the huge bag of yogurt raisins I bought at Costco and pretty much finished off myself in a week!)  I've gone past my "no go" number by a pound and its time to get serious again. Its ridiculous considering the amount of exercise I do!  If I'm careful about what I put in, I should be feeling good again in a few weeks. (Just in time for my 25th high school reunion in October!)

I still am dealing with bursitis in my hip, but that I'm told takes a very long time to go away. I can't exactly stop using it. So I'm icing it, taking anti-inflammatories, and not sleeping on my left side. On the good side, my left foot/heel seems to be dealing with getting back into walking and running.  I've added foot stretches and rolling my feet on a golf ball as part of my cool down.  I guess this is another area where I am no longer complacent!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Status update

It has been a busy few weeks. The kids started school again 2 weeks ago. Isabelle and Jean-Marc are each doing swimming 2 times a week, so I find myself on the road being the taxi again.

My plantar facitis seems to have abated, thank God. However, when it first flared up in July, I compensated by walking on the outer part of my left foot, which caused my hip to have problems. I saw my chiropractor last week to make sure that it wasn't cancer. (I know, I know.) But Dr. P's way of monitoring in between check ups is to tell me, "If you have a pain that doesn't go away, come see me." This hip pain is officially bursitis.  My chiropractor nailed it right off by comparing my right and left side.  I also got a really good adjustment in the process. He did tell me that my foot felt much better than the last time I was in. Yay! Anyway,  Dr. Google tells me the remedies for bursitis are ice, anti-inflammatories, and rest. Hm.  Okay, well 2 out of 3 should help, right? If it got really bad, I could get a cortisone shot in the hip. I don't know if I would ever go there, though. I had one once...and it is a very traumatic memory. 

The thing is, I don't want to rest. I love to exercise. Plus, I officially started my 3 Day training a few weeks ago. While its not as rewarding as running (burning half the calories in twice the time), I do know that it is important if I want to be able to walk the entire 60 miles. So I've been walking a lot more the past few weeks. Rest really isn't an option at this point.  I'm in a groove! Here is my Garmin calendar to prove it for the month of August. 

With my foot problems, I've gotten into other forms of exercise more. I took 3 weeks off of any impact and for cardio did stationary bike riding and swimming. Now I'm all inspired to tackle a triathalon at some point. Yesterday, I swam 2,300 yards in an hour. 1,100 of them were freestyle, non-stop. This morning, a friend from church loaned me a bike that I can try out. I'm excited to give it a try. Cycling is a whole new world for me.  I half-jokingly told my parents this morning...I need a cycling outfit! Maybe something in pink? :-)

Anyway, one problematic issue that seems to have cropped up is my lymphedema. I had a small pain on my left hand for a few days. I'm not sure where it came from, but it definitely felt tender, like a bruise. It also has been very hot, and I have been walking, which tends to make me swell. I noticed last week my hand was puffy, so I started being more diligent about wearing bandages or my custom Juxta-Fit sleeve at night. I even did the manual drainage massage a few nights. But when I do, I'm not getting that "tingly" feeling that tells me that the lymph is moving. So far, it does not seem to have helped. I wore my nighttime wrapping/bandaging the last 2 mornings walking to no avail. Today, I'm wearing my compression sleeve and glove during the day. For the past year or so, I've only worn it while exercising. But I can tell through the glove (even more coverage/compression than the gauntlet) that my hand is puffy. I'm thinking that maybe I need to go and see my physical therapist to get "unstuck" from where I am. She's good at the drainage and can probably get it moving for me. It's not life threatening, but it is a bummer to look down and see my hand all puffy.  Eric and I measured my hand and arm today for the first time in about a year, and I measured a centimeter up at most points on my arm. Sigh. So I guess I need to get more aggressive with my bandaging. Great.

It's a pain, but its okay. I can deal with it. That's life, and it could be so much worse. I'm grateful that at least I know to be on guard for this and can spot it as it happens. I've been given the tools to deal with it too, which is something that many women do not have. In any event, any prayers that you all could lift for me on this would be greatly appreciated. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Being grateful

One song I enjoy running to is Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger."  I've always believed that to be true in life. Each situation we face makes us adapt, change and grow to deal with and, hopefully, overcome it.

I spent several years working with an birth education and advocacy group, The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN). My involvement grew out of my own bad experience with Olivier's cesearan birth in 1999. As I became more aware of the physiological and political issues surrounding the birth industry, I was able to go on to have two amazing home births with Isabelle and Jean-Marc. I got involved in ICAN, a group that I found much support and information from during my subsequent pregnancies. I like to think that I helped other women avoid some of the same mistakes that I made the first time around. My cesarean experience definitely made me stronger, but it took me a long time to get to the point of saying that I was grateful for that experience. But now, I can honestly say that I am grateful for my cesarean and for the person it forced me to become.

A new friend, (who found me through this blog), mentioned an interview with "Soul Surfer" Bethany Hamilton. Bethany was asked if she could do her life over, would she have not gone surfing that day or gotten out of the water before the shark came?  And she said, "No", because she has been able to reach so many more people to tell them about her faith and God's love than she ever would have if she'd remained a normal surfer girl.

That got me to thinking...will I ever be able to say that I am grateful for my cancer? Maybe not grateful, but would I ever wish that it didn't happen to me if I could have it all to do over?

Honestly, I don't know right now. Sometimes I look back on what I went through and it doesn't even seem real. Did that really happen to me?  It doesn't take long before I have a glance in the mirror and see my scarred body to confirm that, yes, it did.

If it weren't for the lingering specter of recurrence, I probably could get to the point of being grateful someday. Even with the lymphedema that will always be an issue in my life, I could probably get to that point.  But the thought of the cancer coming back at any time really plays games with your head, because its never really over.

That being said, I can think of some things that I appreciate having gone through cancer and treatment that I would not have necessarily experienced if I did not have the experience.  First of all, I have been able to experience the love, care and keeping of God in a way I never had before. It was experiential at times. It was palpable. I think of my biopsy or my surgery, when I could actually feel the presence of the Lord with me, keeping me, whispering scripture into my mind to bring me peace and calm.

I learned through experience that God's promises in the Bible are true. Things like, "I will not leave you or forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5-6) Or the promise from Joshua 1:9 that I wore on a necklace to every chemotherapy appointment: "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Even simple things like being able to sleep at night because "He gives to His beloved sleep." (Psalm 127:2)  I KNOW these things are true because He did them for me. Based on that, I can rest assured that the rest of the promises in the  Bible are true as well.  (Which really puts one in a place of peace during these crazy times.)  Even if the cancer comes back and is what ultimately makes this body die, I know based on the promises in His Word where I'll be, because "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Another thing I appreciate is the fellowship of other breast cancer survivors. What an amazing bunch of people they are!  Most of them not only have or are going through treatment, but they all try to help others in some way. Many do help through participating in walks or events and raising money for cancer charities. Others have informative blogs, or give back by volunteering to help run support groups and working one on one with women as they go through treatment.  We don't all see eye to eye on all issues related to breast cancer, treatment, pink ribbons, etc. But we all respect each other's experience and I always feel a genuine warmth from all of them.

Having had breast cancer has certainly put the women in my family on alert, as well as many of my friends and acquaintances. If it could happen to me at 40, it can happen to anyone.  Hopefully this heightened awareness will lead every woman to check her breasts regularly, know what they feel like, know what is normal so if there are any changes, she can alert her care providers immediately. I believe that is even more important than mammograms. (Remember...I had a "clean" mammogram a month before I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer!)

While I will never reach the celebrity of Bethany Hamilton, I hope that my experience has reached out and helped others. I hope that people can see evidence of God's love through my experience and be strengthened in their own faith.

So while I am not "grateful" that I had cancer, I am beginning to see how God has used it for good purposes.  I know that He works all things together for the good (Romans 28:8).  I pray that this list of things that I have come to appreciate grows as I reflect on the past 25 months and move forward in my "post-cancer" life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sidelined....and it stinks

I'm forcing myself to take a few days off of exercise, and its creating a very unsound mind in me.  

During our trip to France, we did A LOT of walking. But after 60 miles in 3 days and all the running I do, it should be a snap, right?  Well, all of those miles I did in stability running shoes. My tourist miles were logged in flat sandals with hardly any support whatsoever.  So it should not have been a bit surprise when, 2 weeks into our trip, my left heel started to hurt.  I popped a few Advil and kept going. 

France is the land of food. Literally.  It is seeped into the culture. My mother in law was determined to show my parents (who went with us) all that France had to offer in that department: champagne; limitless cheese; souffle; quiche; desserts......you get the picture.  I wanted to enjoy myself and not worry about every calorie I ate, so I set out to get as much exercise in as I could.  Besides, going on runs in new places is a great way to discover things.

I did get in some very excellent runs. An early morning 4.3 miles in a village in Normandy called Isigny sur mer was awesome.  A 7.7 miler in Strasbourg followed by 25 miles on a rented bike. My last run was 10k through the park attached to the gardens of the chateau in Versailles. That was awesome-to run through places where kings and nobles spent their time.  It was great, and I was keeping in as good of shape as was possible given our schedule. 

The problem was, at least 3 of my runs were done on my hurt heel. 

It didn't take long for my left hip to start hurting.  At first I blamed it on the old saggy mattress that we sleep on at my in laws house. But...duh.  I realized that perhaps I was compensating for a hurt foot by altering my stride. 

The first morning we were back home in San Marcos, I went for a run. Not a long one-just 4 miles and change. After such a long travel, I don't feel "normal."  Getting some exercise, getting my heart rate up, makes me feel like myself again. Not to mention work off some of the carb-laden airplane food from the day before.  

After that run, my hip hurt more than ever. I can't even sleep on my left side. So I took yesterday off from any exercise, hoping that perhaps today I could go for a swim. That is stress-free, right?  But it still hurts today. So I'm taking yet another day off and going to see the chiropractor to see what he has to say. 

Needless to say, this is NOT good for my mental state. Its not just the lack of endorphins, although that is part of it.  Another part of it is needing to work off some of the weight that I probably put on during our 3 weeks in Food-land France. But the real thing that really gets me is that I feel less healthy. After cancer, you just can't have a pain anywhere without wondering in the back of your mind if it is the cancer that has come back. Side ache? Maybe it's metastasized to my liver! Hip pain? Boney mets!  It sucks. I can't just be a normal person with a whacked out joint, I will forever be wondering if it is something I should call my oncologist about. 

Bummer for me. 

I just pray that this goes away soon, that the pain in my heel is NOT plantar facitis, and that I can at least start logging miles in the pool very soon!

Friday, July 6, 2012

They said it wouldn't last....

I remember when I was in that terrible time frame of knowing I had breast cancer, but not really knowing how bad it was. I was in the throes of trying to learn a new vocabulary, make decisions about treatment, figuring out how not to go crazy with worry.  I remember meeting with Kaiser's breast cancer care nurse, Judy. She coordinated everything for the newly diagnosed: breaking the news; surgeons; chemotherapy orientation classes; support groups; mastectomy products; post-surgery camisoles, etc. She was our first point person to ask questions of.

When I was diagnosed, we already knew the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes. Based on that, they were recommending chemo for systemic treatment of cancer. One of the first things I was told was that I would most likely lose my hair. When I met with Judy in person, she mentioned that when my hair grew back, it could quite possibly be curly. The "chemo curl" she called it, but she also added that it probably wouldn't last.

Sure enough, last year when it started to come back, my hair was in waves. As it grew longer, it was curly.  It was a new thing for me. I spent a lot of money in the 1980's and 1990's perming my fine straight hair into waves! I didn't do much with my new curls, other than trying to keep it from being too frizzed at the ends.  I always got lots of comments about the curls from people who knew me "BC" (before cancer).  Even though it was kind of wild, I kind of liked it. It was easy to deal with, for the most part.

I happen to be on vacation in France right now.  My mother in law happens to be a trained "coiffeuse."  That is, she has spent most of her life doing other people's hair.  After over 15 years of marriage, she had never cut my hair. She's done all the kids, but never mine.  This trip, however, the top of my hair was driving me nuts. It was clearly too long and I couldn't do anything with it. Out of desparation, I made a comment about it. She recognized the open door and offered to help.

What the heck. Even if I hated it, I figured it will grow back, right? Besides, I've been BALD. How bad could it be?  She took me downstairs, sat me in a chair and went for it.

She gave it a good whack, but had a vision in mind. In her words (roughly translated), she gave it a "shape." It is short, but again, I've been bald so its been shorter. The thing is....the curl seems to be gone.

So Judy was right.  The upside of it is that it kind of mentally puts me on the road of being another step past cancer and treatment. The downside is that I'm having to spend more time on it so it doesn't look ridiculous!  There are mornings when I wake up and its sticking straight up!  Not so easy when not at home with my own hair "stuff," no matter how long it had been since I used them.

They said it wouldn't last...and they seem to have been right!

On the Paris train with my new 'do

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tough Chicks

As a breast cancer survivor, I have several new "notable" days to observe each year. Not all of them call for a celebration.  On Sunday, June 10th, I observed the second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  It was the day I learned for sure that I had the disease.  I had to have had it for awhile, so it wasn't anything new to my body. But to my mind and spirit, it was a day that changed my life forever.

When I got off the phone with the nurse who broke the news to me two years ago, I went upstairs and did a Jillian Michaels level 3 workout. I didn't cry or freak out. I just exerted myself to nearly my max. I sweat like a dog.  When I got tired, the word "CANCER....CANCER...CANCER...." reverberated in my head. Each repetition was like taking a punch. As I was stretching out afterwards, I did shed a few tears. But my mindset was not that of being a victim. I had become a warrior.  Working out was training for the bigger battle for my life.

I learned through the course of my treatments that my strength did not come from myself, but it came from the Lord. If it were not for His strength, comfort, and sustenance, I would not have been able to cope with it all, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  That is why when I hear this particular song, "My All in All" I literally can break into sobs. It pierces my heart. It is like "our" song.  God's and mine, that is.  

You are my strength, oh God.
You are my help, oh God.
You are the One on whom I call.
You are my shield, oh God 
My life I yield oh God
For you will always be my All in All

Wouldn't you know it?  On Sunday, June 10, 2012, that was the last worship song we did in church. I couldn't sing, I just meditated on the words with my hands upraised in praise and tears rolling down my cheeks. There are no accidents. God was observing this day just as I was.

After church, mom and I drove up to Orange County to attend an event put on by the Komen affiliate in Orange County. It was a celebration of survivors with a luncheon and fashion show. One of the women I met doing the 3 Day commercial last fall invited us.  (It was so fantastic to see her again, and meet her family!) I can't think of a better way to have spent that day but in the company of dozens of survivors and co-survivors.  Some survivors had 20+ years. Others were still in treatment. But all of us were bound together by a common bond. One speaker referred to it as a sorority of sorts. Perhaps. I never was in a sorority in college. If it is, it is one with one heck of an initiation, to be sure.  You get a two survivors together, and they can talk for hours comparing their histories, their surgeries, and all that they have done against their common enemy.  And they genuinely care for one another. We live with so much in common.

One thing I am struck by so many of the survivors I meet is their strength. To get through the emotional, physical, and mental gauntlet of diagnosis, surgery, chemo, radiation, reconstruction in most cases and then living with the specter of possible recurrence requires strength. Especially to do it well.  We all do the best we can do. So many of the women I met and saw on Sunday are surviving with strength and panache. It was like IN YOUR FACE, CANCER!  It was so inspiring. Some of these women had battled cancer several times. One woman had a recurrence after 20 years and it was now in her bones. But she was amazing. She was a active, she was smiling, she was beautiful. She was kicking butt. I loved her.

It is one of the things that motivates me to push myself physically.  It's not vanity that makes me get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to run for an hour. Instead, it is my way of being stronger than cancer. To kick its butt. To show the world and cancer that it doesn't have me. I may have had it, but with God's strengthening and grace, I won.  Even if it comes back, I won. I won't go down weak.  Like other survivors, I am a tough chick!

Monday, June 4, 2012

In the can...

One of my goals for 2012 was to complete three half-marathons.

Yesterday, I was able to check that one off my list.

I ran in the San Diego Rock & Roll Half Marathon.  I had been planning on running with my best friend from my Junior and High School days.  Sadly, she let me know a few days before the race that the situation on her end just wouldn't work out to travel to San Diego for the race. Dang!  Now I had no excuse not to run fast!  I had been training all along like any other race, averaging about 30 miles a week for the past month.  My longest training run was 12 miles.  In the last week, my "hard" runs (the long run and tempo runs) went really well.  I felt strong!

My best time before yesterday was 2 hours 10 minutes, 30 seconds.  My minimum goal was to beat this time. I figured if I could keep my pace around 9:30 minutes per mile, that would be no problem.  Deep down, though, my ultimate goal is to complete 13.1 miles in under 2 hours.  A little part of me thought....maybe I could do it today??

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. I had been hydrating well all week, and adding a few extra carbs for the past few days.  It was hard to rest the night before the race. Partly because I didn't go down to San Diego to check in and get my bib and swag bag ahead of time. I paid an extra premium to be able to check in on race day.  I also got to park at the finish line (Sea World), and take a shuttle to the start line (Balboa Park).  I probably got only 4-5 hours of sleep the night before. That was the one thing that I wish I could have made different.  It's not for a lack of trying...I went to bed plenty early. But drinking 3+ liters of water in a day has its effects, if you know what I mean....

Anyway, I got down to the parking okay. The shuttle was uneventful. However, it took a LONG time once he got off the freeway. That clued me in to how crowded it was going to be. There were over 30,000 runners registered!  Everyone started at the same time...so you can imagine the congestion.

I managed to get my bib and timing chip. Once I got it on my shoe, I decided to make a pit stop at the porta potty. Even though there were dozens of them, the lines were incredibly long. I was going to have to go before the start in an hour. I figured I would wait in my corral, or wait in the toilet line!  It took a long time, and I realized as I got near the front that I didn't have any kleenex.  What if there wasn't any paper??  Oh man.  Something to bring next time. But, as I tell Eric....Don't worry about things that aren't going to happen!  There was paper, so it was all fine.  I checked my bag with my sweatsuit and headed over to the corrals.

By the time I got to my corral (#25), it was just about time for the race to start:  6:15 a.m.  When I signed up for this race, I had never run a half marathon, so I estimated my finish time to be 2 1/2 hours.  Based on that, they assigned me to the appropriate corral, which was farther back from the faster runners in front. Corral #1 got started right at 6:15 a.m.  Then every 2 minutes or so, the next corral would be let go.  I figured I could overcome my position by getting in the front of my corral. Then I wouldn't have to run around everyone who might be slower than me.  It sounded good in theory.

As we started to slowly creep forward, I began to think....Do I need to go to the bathroom again?  Or is it mental?  I waited awhile as they earlier corrals got started. I heard group #21 get let go and realized that I really DID need to go. If I didn't, I would have to go during the race, and that would affect my time. So I made a quick dash to another set of porta pots that lined the start line on Sixth Avenue. Even if I started with the next corral, it wouldn't matter.  My race would start when the timing chip on my shoe crossed over the starting line.

I got out and managed to get back in my proper corral.  But this time, I was more in the middle. Maybe I should have just gone to the front of #26. Who knows.  I decided to stay where I was assigned. (Am I not a good girl?)   By the time I got started, it was 6:52-over 30 minutes after the race had started for the elites.

During my past two half marathons, my strategy has been to pace myself. I wasn't sure I could even do 13.1 miles, so I started slow. This time, I was ducking and weaving in and out of people in my way. It was by far the most populated race I've ever done. I decided to change my strategy.  I decided to run fast when I could.  Usually, the first few miles are the hardest for me. Once I get 3-4 miles behind me, I go on automatic and, if its a good day, feel like I can go forever.  When my first mile beeped on my Garmin at a pace of 9:26 I thought...Yes!!  With all the zig zagging, I managed to make 9:26 and feel good. I can do this!

I had a really cool experience early on in the race. It was early on. I was on Park Avenue and I got this overwhelming sensation that people were praying for me. I was so overcome with emotion that I almost started crying as I ran. It's hard to explain, but it felt like a dump of Holy Spirit adrenaline. I found out later that a group of friends from church were indeed praying for me and another friend around that time. I knew my parents were praying for me, as well as other friends as well.  I felt it!  It was amazing!

The course itself was okay. I enjoyed the beginning when we were on city streets and running through Balboa Park. Every mile or so there was a live band playing music. It was great.  Around mile 3, we went onto the 163 freeway. That was fine, but around mile 5 it started to hurt. The street was never level, it was always at a slope. Plus, I continued to have to bob and weave in between slower runners.  I never realized that the 163 freeway between Balboa Park and the 8 freeway is an incline.  Towards the end, one of the singers with a band commented about how we were almost at the top.  Ah. That explains it. Its not that I don't do hills, but it does make it harder. (I live on a hill, so running in my neighborhood requires me to do hills.)

To make a sub-2, I knew I would have to be in the low 9 minute mile area each mile. The first several miles, I thought I could do it. I even clocked mile 4 at under 9 minutes!

I was pleasantly surprised around mile 8 to see my mom and dad by the sidelines, cheering me on. That was awesome. They parked at Qualcomm stadium and took the trolley. I knew they were planning on being at the finish, but I didn't expect them in the middle!

I kept pushing on, and felt like I was passing a lot of people. Of course, with everyone starting at a different time, that didn't mean a thing.

As the race went on, it got harder and harder. I just wanted it to be over. I still had a few miles to go. I knew I could finish...but at what time?  Having my Garmin was great-I could see where I was and if I needed to speed up to make that split a better time, I could.  But by mile 11, I was running out of gas.  I tore open a Gu that they had given me on the route. Strawberry banana. Kind of gross (I prefer chocolate or coffee flavors).  I had some and tossed the rest to the side.   Mile 12 was the worst.  You can't say that its your last mile, and the scenery wasn't that inspiring.  I even (gasp) gave into the mind and walked a few yards.  That mile was my slowest, as you can see.  By then, I could do the math. I knew that I wasn't going to make 2 hours, unless something utterly miraculous happened.  Honestly, me running like this was already pretty darn miraculous!

Almost done....I passed the Chinese dragon!
Those last miles were hard.  I found myself praying....Lord....lift me up on wings like eagles.....run and not grow weary.....run and not grow weary....You're my strength and my shield....You give me strength...set me up on high mountains....and stuff like that.  Scripture, really. Not so much original thought, other than ....God get me through this!

As Sea World came into view, I tried to keep up the pace. I knew it was going to be over soon. I decided to scan the crowd and look for my parents. I saw them right around the 13 mile mark. They were situated on a corner. I was able to wave to them long before I got there.  It really does give you energy to have a friendly face in the crowd.

I managed to have a little bit left in the tank to push it a bit at the very end---you can see my last split was under 9 minutes per mile.  But I was so glad when it was done!  I knew I would be glad to have done it, and I am. But man, a lot of it was hard, and hurt!  But you know, anything in life worth doing that is going to pay off is going to be hard. Otherwise, what is the point? If everything comes easy, then nothing will make you stronger.
Mom and dad found me after the race...a miracle!

Cancer made me stronger. It sucked. It was hard. It was scary. It has made me appreciate what I am able to do today. I never will be the same as I was before my diagnosis. It's always in the back of my mind. But I'm stronger for it. That's not to say if I could go back in time and divinely decide not to have it happen I would choose it. But God has a plan for me, and cancer was part of it. I hope I am able to glorify Him through all that I do because He has given me the strength to do whatever it is I do post-diagnosis. Whether that is recovering from surgery, making it to chemo, or exercising with radiation burns. HE is my deliverer!

So I finished.  I accomplished my first goal...to beat my time. I finished in 2:04:10.  I was a little disappointed not to break the 2 hour mark. But out of my age group of fortysomethings, I came in at 209th out of 1,443.  I can't complain about that!  In fact, I'm pretty exited about it.

Where do I go from here?

Well, this is my last "long" race of 2012. I've signed up for a few 5ks, and I've got the 3 Day Walk in November. The family and I are going to France in a couple weeks. Once I get back, I need to start to transition my mindset into walking rather than running. It's going to be hard. Running is so awesome. Not to mention efficient-I burn twice the calories in half the time.  This year, I want to keep running a little, even through walking season. I want to keep at least a 5k in me.  I've signed up for the Carlsbad 1/2 marathon in January, and I don't want to be starting from scratch!   I've also decided to do what's called the "Triple Crown" in San Diego in 2013. It's a series of 3 half marathons: Carlsbad in January; La Jolla in April; and San Diego (America's Finest City) in August.

People keep asking me....do you think you'll ever do a full marathon?  Gosh.  The idea of 26.2 miles seems way out of reach.  But you know?  Not too long ago, 13.1 sounded ridiculous!  Heck, I've walked  60 miles in a weekend!  So maybe in 2014, that will be a goal.  One thing I know for sure. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

What every woman should know

What every woman should know is....what her breasts feel like.

I'll be honest-I never was good about doing breast self exams. I never even considered breast cancer a possibility for me. None of my female relatives, save one of my dad's sisters, had it. I was young, I had breast fed three babies at least a year each. I figured I was "safe." I would fib when health care providers asked me if I did them.

But no one is safe.

I even had a clear mammogram!

When I did feel the lump under my arm (two years ago this weekend), I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't know what "normal" was for my breasts. Part of it was because I had lost 50 pounds and went from a D cup to a B. I figured that a good bit of the fat melted away to reveal lumpy breasts like I had heard my grandmother had.

But it was a cancerous lymph node. One of five, as it turned out.   The mammogram and its interpretation missed a 3.5 centimeter tumor in my left breast.  While I am in favor of mammograms, they are not the be-all and end-all in breast cancer detection. I know way too many women who had clean mammograms like I did and had breast cancer.

So feel your breasts, gals. Do it regularly. Know what they feel like so if you notice ANY changes, you can alert your health care provider.

To learn how to do a breast self exam, check out this link.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


When it rains, it pours.

I've been having one heck of a time lately.  Things just keep piling on.  In the midst of it all, I have been having renewed fears of recurrence.

Where to start?  First off, an uncle that has been a part of our family all of my life died suddenly last week. It came as quite a shock, even though I had not seen him in many years. With Facebook, our family feels very connected, even if we don't see each other that often.  Of course, I wanted to go up to Oregon for the celebration of life and to spend time with the family.  Making arrangements is kind of stressful, especially when you are trying to coordinate with others.  That alone would be enough, right?

Jean-Marc has been having this cold that never ends. I'm usually very low-key about minor illnesses.  Last Saturday, his eyes started oozing and were red. I immediately thought...pink eye!  I started using some homeopathic drops that I have, as much as he would let me. He hates the drops and squeezes his eyes shut tight. But a little gets in, and it seemed to help. Nevertheless, I kept him out of Sunday school on Sunday and preschool this week. Right there, that upsets my "routine." I know it sounds petty, but I am a creature of habit. I have my workouts and things I like  need to do while he is at school. Like get out of the house and RUN.  Running is my way of feeling like I am beating cancer. The runs I did take were later in the afternoon and I just felt sluggish. I did the miles, but it was tough.

Today, Jean-Marc started complaining of a sore throat. Considering that I'm going out of town in two days and Eric is already grumbling about having to pull my weight as much as his, I thought I'd take him in to see if it was strep throat.  We spent the morning at Kaiser. Luckily, it wasn't strep. However, it was diagnosed as an "acute sinus infection."  Maybe I shouldn't have, but I opted for an antibiotic. With me going out of town for a few days, hopefully it will knock out whatever he is dealing with so he can be in shape for the weekend with dad.

Now for confession time. Our family has been battling head lice for the past few weeks. It's not a complete secret-the school knows about it. The whole 5th grade got checked the day I reported it and the news spread like wildfire. Poor Isabelle. But she coped with it pretty well. It is hard to see your kids be ostracized for something like that.  It isn't as disgusting as I thought it would be, but it is persistent, frustrating, and time consuming. It started with Isabelle. She had been complaining of an itchy head for awhile, so I took her to the doctor. She has always had dandruff, so when the doctor said it was that, I didn't second guess her. When the itch didn't stop, I e-mailed and asked for a referral to a dermatologist.  Another doctor responded with a prescription to a medicated shampoo called "Derma smoothe," saying that a dermatologist would prescribe that anyway. Fine. We did it.  The itch went away for awhile and we thought all was well. When the itch came back, we did another treatment. The next morning, Isabelle showed me the shower cap that she had slept in and there were dead bugs in it! Still in denial, I googled, "bugs in hair that are not lice."  Bottom line, there ain't such a thing.

Off we were to the pharmacy for the over the counter treatment. We did everyone in the house. The shampoo is the easy part. Then you have to stand there and comb out the nits. The first night, I spent nearly 4 hours on Isabelle. We checked daily for a week and then re-treated her 8 days later. It all seemed to be fine. We went ahead and treated everyone in the home. Jean-Marc had a few, as did I. I thought we had put it behind us, but then about 5 days ago, I notice nits in Isabelle's hair. This time, they are smaller and are slipping through the comb. We are spending hours a day at this, seemingly to no avail. I realized today that this has really taken a toll on Isabelle and I particularly. I found a service called "Hair Angels." They will come to your house and guarantee to get rid of it for you. Granted, its not cheap. But we've already invested nearly $100 in over the counter poison that we are putting on our heads. Eric hasn't consented yet. Hmm.  Let him spend a few hours this weekend with Isabelle's hair and maybe he'll change his tune.

For the past few nights in the middle of the night, I've been having moments of panic, even while semi-asleep. Fears of recurrence.  The first night, I tried a trick that has worked for me in the past. I just imagine Jesus. Or I'll repeat in my mind, "Jesus...Jesus...Jesus."  It didn't work. I just kept imagining the stitch in my side being an internal organ riddled with cancer.  (I did a pretty intense Jillian DVD on Monday that has made me sore all week.)  But this middle of the night battle has made me a bit on edge.  The strange thing, is that this all goes on while I am asleep. But I'm aware of the dialogue in my head. It truly is a spiritual battle and I am under attack by the enemy. He wants to destroy anything good and rob me of my joy. Last night,  I started mentally singing a song from church, "Jesus Messiah, name above all names, Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel. The rescue for sinners, the ransom from heaven, Jesus Messiah, Lord of All..."  I remember having to do this two or three times throughout the night. But it worked.

Today I realized all of this happening together is definitely a spiritual attack. Just being able to identify it as such has helped me cope, although I'm still frustrated with the hair situation. So please pray for me as I continue to battle on. He who is within me is greater than he who is trying to come against me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Teenager in the house!

My oldest child, Olivier, is turning 13 years old.

It is really strange to think I will have a teenage kid. I'm not old enough to have one of those, am I?

Many people see the aging of their kids as a sign of themselves aging. They don't like it because it reminds them that they are also getting old.  While it is a strange thing to see, I'm not one of those people.

It is bittersweet to remember those early days when Olivier was a little baby and toddler. He was a pretty easy baby and I learned a lot from his cesarean birth.  Now I see flashes of adolescence and in some moments, flashes of adult maturity. He's still a good kid, too. :-)

I realized a few days ago that I am happy to see this milestone come. Yes, I am getting older. But that means that I am still alive!  I remember early after my diagnosis reading stories of women who lost their battles with cancer and left young children behind. (I don't recommend reading these stories to the newly diagnosed....it was very upsetting, especially before I knew exactly how extensive my own cancer was.)  I wept over these poor families to lose a mom at such a tender age. Leaving my kids is the one thing that I don't want to do.  Personally, I'm not afraid to die. I know where I am going when this life is over. But I don't like the idea of how it would impact them not to have me around in this life.

I will never complain about getting older-bring on the birthdays!  I also will treasure each of my kids' birthdays and being able to see the people they are growing to become. Thank you, Lord, for this time!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where the wild things are

I had the greatest long run today. I had on my schedule to do 10 miles. The temperature has been creeping up this week, and I'm a wimp when it comes to running in heat. I don't need one other thing to make my mind want to give up! On top of that, I had an irritating morning. Eric got up at 5 a.m. and rather than quietly working in his office, he instead began grinding coffee beans and banging pots and pans around to make an egg for himself.  Of course, that woke up Jean-Marc, who comes into my room and begins his day of demands.  Sigh.  I really would like him to understand that while I love him to pieces, I don't want to see or hear him until at least 6 a.m.!

Being a little concerned about the heat, I decided to head to the coast. At least the temperatures would be lower and a change of scenery might be nice.

Bottom line, it was splendid. I've gotten used to running without music. My music today was the pounding of the surf and the squawking of the pelicans and seagulls. My view was the ocean, with surfers sitting on their boards waiting to catch a wave.  It was fantastic.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My six month date

It was very strange going back to the oncologist's office after a six month reprieve.  But once I was there, the old habits took over. I know exactly where to sit, (the waiting room shares space with cardiac and other internal medicine specialities).  I know to make a pit stop right after I get called in to get my vitals taken.  The vanity in me knows to wear flip flop shoes so I can shed those extra ounces before stepping on the scale.  Yes, I need an examination gown. I know where I'm going before being led there. Everything is still very much as it was when I left it.  Even the folders on the wall that say "hospice referrals." Yikes.

Dr. P didn't keep us waiting very long this time. I hopped right up on the table as he pulled up my chart. He asked how I'm doing and Eric referenced me doing "lots of miles."  That launched us into a conversation about running. I told him about the races I've done recently, and that I was training for the San Diego Rock & Roll Half Marathon in June. As it turns out, Dr. P runs a bit too, but he does triatholons. Cool!  I would love to get into that, but I would need a bike!  (Santa??)

He asked if there was anything he needed to know about. Nothing bad to report, I said. I used to talk about my paranoia about recurrence, but all he offered before was a referral to a support group or therapy. I think running is my therapy now.  So I didn't mention that this appointment had me a bit anxious for the past two weeks.  He did an examination: feeling the lymph node area around my collarbones; listening to my heart and lungs; examining what is now my chest for anything unusual. As usual, he asked if I was going to do reconstruction. Nah.  Being a runner now, it actually is convenient not to have breasts. Besides, I'm not interested in harvesting other muscles to make a couple of boobs. Just my personal choice.

The subject of my Vitamin D levels was brought up.  Actually, Dr. P was the one to bring it up, although I would have if he hadn't beaten me to the punch. He was looking at my results from 6 months ago when they were around 42.  He said that was really good. Is it? Says who?  He said its an inexact science. I told him I would like my D levels tested again. He asked me how much Vitamin D I was supplementing. I looked at him with a twinkle and told him the truth...6,000 IUs a day. His eyebrows rose as he said that was quite a lot. In fact, he recommends that I cut it back to 2,000.  I thought to myself that 6,000 was actually conservative considering I had been taking 10,000 before! Really, my levels were shockingly low a year and a half ago. The low end of "normal" was 30. I was at 14. He didn't think a re-test was necessary. I gently insisted and he said he would order it.

We also talked about switching me over from Tamoxifen to the post-menopausal drug. He said that younger women with breast cancer still may have some activity going on in the ovaries, even in the absence of having periods. Since I was having blood drawn for the Vitamin D, he ordered an estrogen level test as well.  I asked him if it would be worth considering having my ovaries taken out. He said there is a clinical trial going on right now to determine if that is of benefit to women taking Tamoxifen, so he couldn't answer definitively. I've known him long enough to know he has opinions. So I asked what his was. He thought that it probably did help outcomes. Well, we'll see what my hormone levels are and talk about it at that point.

All in all, everything looked as normal as one could look given everything my body has been through. It's as clean of a bill of health as I can get.  I still wonder if I would have more peace of mind with an MRI or a PET scan. Maybe.  Maybe not. I don't know. Does it matter? If it comes back, as he said before, it won't be curable. Talk about having to just trust God with everything!

Even though he's a man of few carefully chosen words, Dr. P is a nice guy. On my after visit summary he wrote, "Good luck with your running."  Nice, huh?   But even thought he's nice, I hope I don't see him until October!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Life goes on, right?

I have my six month oncologist check up next week. Friday the 13th.  Good thing I'm not superstitious, isn't it?  I can't help but feel a bit anxious about it. Jennifer Griffin, the Fox News correspondent/breast cancer survivor, likened it to having a meeting with your parole officer.  You live in the world, doing the things that you are expected and supposed to do. You get your kids to school, dinner on the table, and errands run. On the outside, you look normal.  Most of the time, you feel normal. Some days several hours go by without thinking about what is now a part of my life: cancer. But you have this appointment that takes you back to the reality that for the rest of my life, I need to be on guard for the disease to rear its ugly head again.  Just like going to a parole officer would remind an ex-con that he was in a bad place and isn't really yet free.

Isabelle and I at the Carlsbad 5000 last weekend.
I have no suspicious symptoms.  I feel strong. I'm running 25-30 miles a week. I'm planning activities and things assuming I have a long life to live. I'm signing up for races-I signed up for the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January 2013. I'm working on my fluency in French.  But just the fact that I have to go back to see Dr. P triggers a little bit of anxiety. After all, when I was diagnosed, I felt great too.  

What if? What if? What if?

I can really psych myself out.  Dr. P said if I have pain that doesn't go away, that's a concern. The mind is such a powerful organ. If I think about it, I can actually feel sensations that I don't think are there.  I'm pretty sure its not real because if I think about it and take a few deep breaths, it goes away. I'm getting better about the paranoia. The bible study from Hebrews really helped me in this respect.  One of the "take home" principles I learned was that regardless of what my circumstances may be, God has promised me many wonderful things in His Word. Eternal things. Things that will last, unlike this life. (Cancer or not.)  When I start to feel anxious, I simply remember one of the many promises from the Bible.  It could be "No eye has seen nor ear has heard  nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)  I'm so grateful to have the Word of God!

There are a couple things I want to ask Dr. P while there. I've been taking Tamoxifen for 15 months now. He originally had said I should take it for 2 years, and then they would "see" if I am officially post-menopausal.  Then they would switch me to a different medication, Arimidex, I think.  I asked him why, and he said the outcomes were better. I'm wondering if we can just "see" now if I'm ready for it.  I also want another Vitamin D test to see what my levels are now. I've been supplementing 6,000 IU every day, and experimenting with a liquid form. Has it made a difference? 

I'm expecting a routine appointment with him asking me how I feel, if I'm going to get reconstructed.  The things he asks every time. I have no reason to think otherwise. But still...I'm not really free.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two down, one to go!

One of my goals for 2012 was to run three half-marathons. Yesterday, I made it 2/3 to the finish line.

I ran in the Inagural San Diego Half Marathon.  It was a bit rough having it scheduled on the morning of the Spring "forward" time change. The race itself started at 7:15 a.m.  I was carpooling with a group of runner friends from church, so we met at 5:45 a.m., which meant I needed to get up at 4:45 a.m.  Fine and dandy, except my body thought it was 3:45 a.m.!

It was fun to go down with friends. Before we left the parking garage, we prayed together.  The guys left us in the dust (they ran under 2 hours), but I ran with a new friend. We've been a part of the church together for nearly 10 years, have boys the same age, but never had an opportunity to really get to know one another.  We ran together.

It was a pretty fun event. My primary goal was to beat my time from the Tinkerbell half marathon, which was 2:17:56.  A secondary goal was to keep my average pace under 10 minutes per mile.  I'm pleased to report that I acheived both!  My overall time was 2:10:31, and my average pace was 9:58.  The course was hillier than Tinkerbell, so I feel pretty good about it overall.  The last couple miles were downhill, so it felt like we were flying. In fact, at that part, our pace was under 9 minute miles!  It felt amazing.  When it got hard, I would chant in my mind, "Wings like eagles...wings like eagles....run and not grow weary....run and not grow weary..."

My quadriceps are a little sore this morning. I thought ahead for once and booked a massage for today. That will feel good!  I'm going to take more days off of running this time too.  Last time, I started back on Wednesday and had some knee issues.  I'm going to give my body a chance to recover for a couple days and then ease back into some cross training later in the week.

My next race is the Carlsbad 5000.  Isabelle is signed up for it too.  I will run in the masters division race and try to PR. Then I'll run for fun with her in the young people race.  I need to focus on running faster for shorter distances now.  I'm not sure how to do that, but there are plenty of resources out there, especially on Runners World.

 For you timing geeks like me, here are my splits per mile according to my Garmin for both races:


Friday, March 2, 2012


I can't seem to focus for my blog right now. I've started a few different posts, but just can't seem to get them finished. I even started a post on the whole controversy about Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood, but didn't get around to finishing it.   So this post is going to be a stream of consciousness, random listing of stuff that has been floating around my head.
  • I'm training for my next half marathon, the San Diego Half Marathon, which is coming up on March 11th.  I'm hoping to keep as close to a 10 minute mile pace for the duration of the race. I'm excited about the race. Races are so much more fun than training!  The shirt we get looks cool, and even cooler...Meb Keflezighi (2004 Olympic silver medalist, 2009 New York City Marathon winner and Team USA’s #1 Marathoner at the London 2012 Olympic Games) will be the honorary starter.  
  • I'm tired of all the Komen bashing. Yeah, they made a mistake which ended up making EVERYONE mad at them. Many of the harshest critics were critics before the brouhaha over affiliates being able to grant money (or not) to Planned Parenthood. The whole thing made me really examine whether or not I was going to continue to support them by walking in the 3 Day this year. I decided that I will.  Komen has done a lot of good in advancing the conversation about breast cancer, in educating the public, in bringing awareness to the disease. Maybe they don't spend their money the way critics would like. This is America. Komen is a private charity. They can spend their money the way they see fit. If you don't like it, support another charity. But above all, everyone....PLEASE BE NICE!  (And no flames, please.)  
  • If you do want to support me in the 3 Day, I need to raise at least $2,300 by November 16th.  You can go to this page and donate online.  I'd really appreciate it. 
    Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day
  • If you are a pro-life person and are concerned that supporting to my 3 Day effort will raise money that will go to Planned Parenthood, fear not.  I did some research on the San Diego affiliate's website. 75% of the funds raised stay local and are doled out to grant applicants. 25% of the funds go to Komen national where they grant research money. Planned Parenthood is NOT a grantee in San Diego.  You can learn more about where the local money goes and local funding priorities here
  • I'm really sore today!  I did an 11.3 mile run on Wednesday, my last long run before the next race. Then the next day (yesterday), I had a session with my trainer at the gym.  She had me do this one exercise that was a doozy.  Try it!  Lay on your back with your hands under your tush. Put your legs straight out, and lift them off the floor several inches.  Now trace the alphabet in the air with your feet. A to Z.  Keep the feet up in the air!  She had me do it 3 times!  My hip flexors have never been so sore!  But its a good sore...it is making me stronger! Hoo-ya!
  • My bible study in the book of Hebrews has been wonderful.  I've been given the opportunity to do a little teaching every other week.  It has been a little scary, but by the grace of God I've done it.  Amazing how much I've learned about God by going through breast cancer.  Amazing how much more there is for me to learn!  
  • I keep feeling like I need to write a book.  Not just a re-hashing of this blog, but something relevant that will help other people facing breast cancer themselves or in a loved one.  Pray for me to have insight and wisdom as I consider this. 
  • My brother, a Captain in the U.S. Army, is set to deploy soon to Afghanistan.  The coverage I see on TV about what is going on over there sickens me.  Please pray for all of our troops, and for wisdom in our military leaders.  If it were up to me, I'd bring them all home.  I fully supported the effort back in 2001, but enough is enough.  I don't think man can ever solve the problems that are so deeply ingrained over there.  I'll stop there before I go off on a political rant. 
That's all I have time for now.  I hope to be more faithful about updating the blog.  In a way, no news is good news, right?  

Friday, February 24, 2012

How did that happen?

As I was running this morning, I realized the date. February 24, 2012.  How did that happen?

As a cancer survivor, there are many dates seared into my consciousness:  June 11th;  July 22nd;  December 3; and February 17th.  It's already the 24th of February.  The 17th came and went without me noticing!

February 17th is notable for me because it was that day, a year ago, that I had my last radiation treatment. This was my first anniversary of it, and it totally slipped my mind!  I look at the calendar and see that it was a week ago.  What was I doing last Friday?  I don't even remember!  Okay, if I think about it I can remember that the kids were out of school, so I went on a run with Isabelle.  To get the kids out of the house so Eric could have some quiet time to work, I took them to the park where we played and flew a kite.  Then we went to have frozen yogurt.  I came home and cooked dinner. Don't ask me what I made, that I will not recall!

February 17th for me this year was life.  Nothing outrageous, nothing noteworthy. Just another day in a life.  My life.  I thank God daily for it and want to live it to the fullest, glorifying Him every step of the way.

Here is to having those other dates fade out of the forefront of my mind, and allowing life to take over in their place.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I am a runner

I am many things.  A daughter. A wife. A mother. A child of God. A lawyer. A survivor. Today, I can add something to my list.

By the grace of God, I am a runner.

This morning, I got out of my hotel bed at 4:26 a.m. in order to get outside and stand in line for 45 minutes with 11,000 other people to run 13.1 miles.  At about 5:45 a.m., we got moving. Sound nuts?  A few years ago, I would have heartily agreed. I remember when a friend of mine began running half marathons a year or so ago. I couldn't believe she could run 13+ miles at one time. It blew my mind. Last May, she challenged me to run the Tinkerbell half marathon at Disneyland. I took her up on it.

I logged over 213 miles since the 3 Day last November training for my first half. I had no idea what to expect. My last long run was over a week ago. My last easy run was 3 miles on Thursday. Then I took 2 days off of exercise completely. (Unless you count walking around Disneyland all day yesterday as exercise!)  I was getting similar "gut checks" that I would get late in pregnancy before going into labor. The feeling of...."Oh my gosh....can I really do THIS?"

Got our bibs...we're ready!
Mom, Isabelle and I drove up to Anaheim on Friday afternoon to pick up our race packets and check into our hotel, the Paradise Pier at Disney. Isabelle was registered to run the kids 1 mile race on Saturday morning. She killed it. She ran it in 9:26 and didn't even break a sweat. We spent the rest of the day at Disneyland. We had a great time, but it was a bummer that my mom had a broken arm and couldn't do most of the rides.

Other than walking around Disneyland, I did pretty much everything "right" yesterday to prepare. I drank a lot of water. I abstained from alcohol. I had some pasta for dinner, but not too much. I got to bed at a decent time. This morning when I woke up before the crack of dawn, I ate a hard boiled egg white that I had brought from home, carefully refrigerated in one of my kids' lunch boxes with cold bags, a banana, and some of my green tea. I got dressed, laced up, and was ready to go.

There was no question of where to line up once we left the hotel. The street was packed with literally thousands of people, mostly women, walking in one direction. We just blended in with the rest of them. I was supposed to line up in corral "B," which was the second of 5 corrals that would send runners out in waves. There were lots of cute costumes: fairy wings; princesses; Peter Pans; etc. I was all business. This was my first half, and I wanted to wear something that I had road tested on a long run! Mom and Isabelle had to leave me pretty quickly, the corrals were for "runners only."

As I stood there shivering in the dark, a lady next to me reached into a baggie and threw some glittery confetti on me, saying it was "pixie dust" for good luck. I told her that was great, I needed it, because it was my first half marathon. We got to talking during the 30 minutes we were waiting for the race to begin.  Leslie is a veteran runner: 38 years, 9 marathons, and other races under her belt.  We chatted about lots of things, I told her a little bit about my coming to running, the cancer, the 3 Day, and so on. As the race time approached, she suggested that we run together since she didn't have her music with her. I said that would be okay, but she shouldn't feel obligated to stick with me if she wanted to go faster. My target pace was going to be around 11 minute per mile. She had mentioned that hers was going to be 10. Besides, I have never run with anyone before, and I didn't know how I would like it. It could be good, but it could be bad too. It wasn't something I had "tested out" before to know how I would like it.

So we started out together. I had my Garmin on, so I could tell what our pace was. The first mile we took really easy at 11:18, warming up and finding our place on the road.  The course was great, especially the parts when we were running through Disneyland. It was daybreak, the sun was just beginning to turn the sky from dark, but the park was alive.  But empty from all people other than the runners. As we looped around the various areas, they would have the appropriate music playing. Like the theme from "Sleeping Beauty" as we ran through the castle, or country music playing when we ran by Big Thunder Mountain. Of course, there were characters everywhere. Many runners would top and wait in line to take pictures with them, but we didn't stop. In Fantasyland, King Arthur's Carosel was spinning, and the Lost Boys from Peter Pan were on them shouting and waving at us. It was so cool!

After running the park, the route took us through Downtown Disney, then out to parts of Anaheim. In the town, it wasn't as scenic. But there were a ton of people lining the streets to cheer us on.  About 50 women in red hats and purple clothes; high school marching bands and cheerleaders; family members with home made signs; a troupe of hula dancers; even a U.S. Army band with soldiers in their BDUs! It was amazing.

My new friend and I stuck together. I actually really enjoyed having someone with me.  It was so great to have this experienced runner take me under her wing (fairy wings?) and show me the ropes. As we ran along, she gave me tips about where on the road to run and so on. About 5 miles into the race, she said to me, "You are a runner."  I would ask her questions about recovery time and training for the next race and she would say, "You don't need me to tell you...you are a runner."  But then she told me anyway!  At one point around mile 10 she stopped to use the porta potties and told me to keep going, she would catch up with me. I did, and she finally did catch up. I'm glad she did, becasue that time alone started to allow my mind to wander and focus on the little discomforts that were starting to pop up.  We talked about other things too: our families; health histories; careers; etc.

My new friend and I at the finish!
For the last 2 miles led us back into Disney areas. The race wound through Disney's California Adventure, both backstage and through the park. I was feeling great. Our pace had been picking up throughout the race-we were in the low 10's for most of the race. When we passed the mile 12 marker in California Adventure, I said to Leslie, "Wanna pick it up a bit?"  We ran that last mile at 9:28.  We saw mom and Isabelle cheering us on right before the 13 mile marker. We were almost there! Was it over already?  When we saw the finish line, Leslie urged me to sprint. For the first time ever in a race, I had it in me to do just that. I went as all out as I could. I crossed the finish line in victory! I introduced Leslie to my mom and Isabelle at the finish and she was so sweet to tell my mom about how I was the one to urge us to go faster at the end.

My final time was 2 hours, 17 minutes and 59 seconds. My average pace was 10:20 according to my Garmin.

It was so much fun. I can't believe that I did it and felt so good. Now as I write this several hours later, I do feel the after effects. The back of my legs right above the knees is a bit sore, and I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow.  But I did it, and I did it well.  My goal was to be under 2:30. I had no idea if that was realistic or not.  Now that I have a PR, I can try to beat it at my next race in March.  I don't know if I can, but I'll sure give it a try.

Because I am a runner.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

God is my strength!

I resolved that 2012 would be the year of the half marathon for me. My goal is to finish 3 of them. I've made the first step by registering for three:  the Tinkerbell in Anaheim on January 29th; San Diego half on March 22nd; and the San Diego Rock & Roll half on June 3rd.

It is now only 10 days until my first half marathon. I've been working hard at getting in condition for it. I use an app from Runner's World called "Smart Coach."  It basically tells me each day how far to run, how fast, and whether it should be a steady (easy) run or with some speed intervals.  I've been averaging about 27 miles a week for the past few weeks. Once a week, it has me do a "long run." The long run started out at 7 miles in December. Yesterday, I did 11!

The long runs can be a challenge.  Two weeks ago, I attempted to do 10 for the first time. At about mile 8, I literally ran out of gas. I couldn't even run on a zero incline.  Walking up the hill to my house, I had a few moments of wondering if I would even be able to get home! I've done a lot of thinking about what happened so I can avoid hitting that wall again.  Now when I have a long (or hard) run, I make sure I have a dinner with some carbs the night before. It doesn't have to be a lot, just some.  I also have started to have my "running breakfast" of an egg with 1/4 cup of egg white and a bananna along with my green tea. A friend who has run a few half marathons also suggested I get some "Gu" energy gel. I had tried to use fruit leather as a pick-me-up, but it didn't help me on the day I hit the wall.  I also carry a "fuel belt" with two 8 ounce liquid containers. I put water in one and some electrolyte mix in the other.

Yesterday, I killed my 11 mile run.  The course I run has a lot of hills. You can't get away from them where I live. I figure it is good training. All in all, the elevation increase/decrease is almost 1,000 feet. As I set out, I didn't care about my pace. I just wanted to run the whole thing.  I ran from my house, past Isabelle's school, through the back trails to Discovery Lake. I did 4 laps around the lake, then ran home. I took the Gu at about mile 6.75.   I did it.  Not only that, but it felt GOOD.  I felt like I could do 2 more miles.  It would have been hard, but I could have.  When I got home and checked my average moving pace, it was under 11 minutes per mile.  (Okay, it was 10:59....but that is under 11!)  It took me 2 hours, 3 minutes to do the 11 miles.  I can't believe that this girl who HATED running day and would walk 4 laps to get a C in P.E. at Alvarado Jr. High just ran for 2 hours straight!

As I finished out the run for the last couple miles, I kept repeating, "the Lord is my strength....the Lord is my strength."  I ran across a new verse this week during my bible study: The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's [feet], And He will make me walk on my high hills." (Habakkuk 3:19)  How perfect is that?  Of course, the verse from Isaiah 40 also runs through my mind: "Those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint." As I repeated this mantra, I could feel strength increasing in my legs as I ran up hills.  Running is a way for me to put cancer behind me. The more I run, the stronger I am, the further away cancer seems.

The end result from yesterday is that I feel totally ready to run 13.1 miles in 10 days.  The course is going to be much flatter than I'm now used to, so it should be pretty "easy" in comparision.  Yesterday was my last "long run" before the half marathon. I have one more hard run on Saturday-a tempo run where I am supposed to warm up for a mile run hard for 5 at a fast pace and then cool down for a mile. 7 total. I do those on a treadmill so I can keep track of my pace. A 10 minute mile on the treadmill is much more difficult for me than a 10 minute mile outside. The treadmill is relentless!  After that run, its shorter distances of 3 and 5 miles next week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's not about the boobs

One thing that kind of bothered me during the 3 Day walk last November. It isn't isolated to the 3 Day, not is it a Komen issue. It is a part of much of the "breast cancer awareness" hoopla. I had seen it before, but was immersed in it to a much greater degree during the walk. Walking 20 miles a day gave me plenty of opportunity to think and explore my feelings about it.

Its the emphasis on breasts.  The over-emphasis. In one way, its kind of a "duh" statement. Of course there is talk about breasts...its breast cancer.   You can see this in many of the slogans and team names for these awareness events:  save the ta-tas;  save second base; boobie crew; you name it. I've even seen pre-pubescent boys sporting bracelets that say "I love boobies." Presumably this helps raise awareness among the middle school crowd?  (As if middle school boys weren't aware of breasts, even if a little afraid of them!)  Or how about men wearing shirts declaring themselves "official inspectors," offering their "services" for women who need help with their self exams.

Is the goal of all of this is to save a pair of breasts?  Have we failed if breasts are not saved?  Does life cease being meaningful without them?

During the 3 Day walk, as well as the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, there were tons of signs saying things like this, people wearing huge fake breasts, making a joke of it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not against finding levity in a bad situation.  In fact, I would venture to say I have a pretty good sense of humor and let a lot of stuff roll off my back.  One series of signs got to me, it said:

"Imagine a world without boobs." 

As if it were painting a picture of some worst case scenario, apocalyptic world. Yeah.  Well, its not so hard for me to imagine.  I don't have them, and I'm probably not ever going to get them. I'm flat as a pancake.  But you know what?  Its not the end of the world not to have had them "saved."  They key point is that I'm still here.  Here's the thing....even without breasts/boobs/ta-tas/a rack, breast cancer may still come back and claim my life.

You see, its not about the boobs. It's about women's lives. Trust me, you can live without boobs.  Breast cancer in the breast(s) isn't what kills women.  It is when it metastasizes to other body parts that her fate is sealed.

I know that our society will never get away from these silly slogans and over-emphasis on breasts.  It brings out a little pre-pubescent silliness in everyone. Perhaps this is the first level of "awareness."  20 years ago, people were ashamed to even say "breast" cancer. I suppose this is some form of progress.  I just hope we can move beyond this adolescent level of addressing the issue and realize that its not about the boobs....its about the women.  Finding a cure means more than saving breasts.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My TV debut...

Don't blink, or you may miss me! Here is one of the ads that I'm in for the 2012 3 Day Walk.
If you are interested in reading the story of the day we shot this, you can read about it here.

'United' TV from Komen 3-Day for the Cure on Vimeo.