Category Archives: Run

Race Report | Girls on the Run

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Almost two weeks ago, Emma Clare and I bundled up and headed back to the Girls on the Run 5K for the second year in a row. It was cold last year, but this year was seriously cold. Luckily, we ended up parking a lot closer to the starting area, so we stayed in the car for a long time, and we were able to get back to the car as soon as we’d finished running.  I was a little apprehensive about this year’s race. Of course, I’d been on chemo last year, but I’d been running faithfully, and was as prepared as I could be. No chemo this year, but I’ve not been doing a good job at running, so I was worried that I’d not do as well this year. How frustrated would I be to have done better while on chemo? Thankfully, despite the cold, we ran a good, strong race. My toes were numb and painful pretty much to the halfway point, but we managed to finish about three minutes faster than last year, and this year I was dragging Emma Clare along, instead of the other way around. I felt good, and I’m going to need that confidence as I start training for the Nike half!

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All the girls get a finisher’s medal, but we decided to forgo the photo at the finish line and instead snap one in the warmth of the car.  We also rode with a few friends this year, and that was such a special time getting to know them better. Between the poor preparation, the freezing cold, and the memories of insane traffic last year, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about heading to this race. But we had a good time, and I’m so glad to have had that special time with my big girl again this year.

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This Will Be the Year | Nike Women’s Half Marathon

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Last fall, as I sat in the initial consults with my doctors, I imagine they were surprised by my questions. I wonder if they thought I was in denial as to what I was about to go through. In fact, maybe I was in denial. I remember asking my oncologist if she thought I would be able to run a 5K with Emma Clare days after my second chemo infusion. I didn’t ask whether my hair would fall out, how severe the nausea might be, or whether my immune system would be so compromised that I shouldn’t go to the kids’ school on occasion or to church every Sunday. I wanted to know if I could run. Emma Clare and I had planned to run that race, and it was (frankly, probably inappropriately) important to me that I run it. Breast cancer was not about to take that experience from me.

Earlier that fall, Nike had teased the announcement of their inaugural half marathon in Washington, DC. Sally and I had decided we would enter the lottery to run that race in the spring. Having met the authors over the summer, I had my autographed copy of  Train Like A Mother already dog-eared to a training program and was looking forward to the race. In my initial consult with my surgical oncologist in October, I was already asking whether the prospective surgery dates would allow me to be recovered in time to run the half marathon. And I remember standing outside Ray’s Hell Burger, while my parents and brother ate inside with Sally, talking on the phone to Cami from my plastic surgeon’s office. I listened to her lovely French accent as she informed me that I would not be ready for a spring half marathon.

I’ve been having a hard time getting my mojo back when it comes to running, I’ve gotten a little too used to sleeping until 7! But perhaps making the cut for this year’s Nike Half Marathon is just what I need. I am now officially registered to run the race.  Breast cancer took away my 2013 half marathon goal, but this is my year to make sure that breast cancer doesn’t steal that goal completely. Perhaps I need to look at this race the same way I looked at last year’s Girls On The Run race. I planned to run this race, and I will run it.  Breast cancer may have delayed my plan, but it can not take this experience from me.

And so I’d better finish this post and get to bed. I’m going to need to get up early tomorrow. I’ve got some running to do.

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Running Towards “Normal”

Sally saw a post last week  and the photos alone gave her an idea.  So she gave me my very own photo challenge.  She suggested I bring along my camera on my first run after this last surgery.  She thought maybe I could document my run as I “get back to normal.” I love that she quickly added. “Ha.  Like normal is a thing.”

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I agreed it would be a fun post, and so after lacing up my running shoes, I snapped a photo on the brick stairs at my front door, and I continued to snap away as we ran along the Potomac.

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run lipstick chemo breast caner

run lipstick chemo breast caner

run lipstick chemo breast caner

As I haven’t been on a run at all in six weeks, and I was only running half heartedly at best before that, I welcomed any stop to take photos.  So did this little lady, who was eager to pop out of the stroller at any opportunity.

run lipstick chemo breast cancerAnd of course, no fun run with Sally would be complete without the requisite stop at Starbucks.  So glad to be running and getting back to normal.  Like normal is even a thing.

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Gettin’ My Groove Back

Starting a new habit is hard.  Breaking a habit? Not so hard. I hated the idea of not running for six weeks after my mastectomy, mostly because I knew it knocked out my chances for the spring half marathon I’d been looking forward to.  But once I knew that race was out of the question, I got used to the sleeping in.  When my six week mandatory stint as a couch potato was over, I was really enjoying that extra time in bed.  I went for a run when I could still sleep in, when it was fun, when it was convenient. Once school let out, though, there aren’t many convenient times to run that don’t involve getting moving early.  I keep rationalizing the sleeping in part– sleeping is still pretty uncomfortable, so isn’t every bit of sleep super valuable?  Knowing that I have another surgery coming up– another mandatory break from running– makes lacing up even harder.  I’ve had the best intentions the last couple of weeks, but busy mornings with camps for the kiddos was just the added excuse I needed.  And so this weekend, I decided the excuses, the rationalizations, the good intentions were all over. It may be hard to get up and out the door, and I’ll probably just really have my groove back when I head back in to surgery, but I’m just going to have to get over it.  So Sunday, my favorite morning for a run, I took the hardest step.  That first one, out the door.  And I’ll just have to keep taking that step over and over, until I’ve really got my groove back.

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In a Bit of a fog…

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This is a blurry look at my life line lately.  My calendar is filled with appointments, school activities, after school events, and a few fun things too.  I’m constantly referring to this just to be sure I haven’t forgotten something.  Notice all the scratch outs?  And then there are the things that are circled so that I won’t over look them.  Lately, I’ve been having a hard time keeping my schedule straight.  Some things I’ve written down wrong, some things are written down right but stuck in my head on the wrong day.  Luckily I haven’t totally missed anything (that I know of!), but it’s been close.

After coming home from the hospital, Clay gave me our copy of Scientific American to check out—the whole issue was on cancer.  The most interesting article was actually on a phenomenon called “chemo fog.”  (They blogged about the same topic here.)  Chemotherapy drugs actually don’t usually cross the blood-brain barrier well, but somehow cognitive deficits are well documented in chemotherapy patients, some for months and years after treatment.  It’s a phenomenon that’s hard to study in people, you can’t really do a trial of cognitive abilities before and after chemo (who isn’t rattled just after finding out they have cancer?) and you can’t withhold chemo from some patients to see if they remember things better than those who got the drugs.  The study they referenced in the article used mice and established memory and concentration problems with chemo treatment.  Interestingly, they found that exercise helped exacerbate** the cognition problems, so I’d hate to see what I’d be like if I hadn’t run all through chemo!

All that is to say that I feel like my calendar is sometimes fuzzy in my mind just like it is on this screen.  Of course, it could be harder to keep straight just because it’s so full!  The end of the school year gets pretty crazy.  But just in case I forget something that’s important to you, please forgive me!  I’m blaming the chemo.

**oops, that’s not the right word! In fact, it’s completely opposite from the right word! I’ll leave it, it illustrates the point well. What I meant to say is that exercise helps combat  the cognitive deficits from chemo.

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Running from Fear

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Saturday a woman was attacked near one of my favorite running spots.  Thankfully, she wasn’t seriously hurt.  But the attacker took something from her.  I can’t imagine how long she will struggle to go running by herself again.  It turns out, the attacker took something from me, too.  He stole my favorite run of the week.  There’s something that I really love about my Sunday morning runs.  I can get up as early as I want to go as far as I want before hopping in the shower to get ready for church.  I don’t have to worry about being in the way while Clay gets ready, and I don’t have to worry about getting the kids to the bus stop.  Everything is quiet on Sunday mornings.  My house, the streets, the trail.  I’ve seen deer, foxes, bunches of bunnies, and the occasional cyclist.  There is one older gentleman who runs every Sunday morning, too, and no matter how far I’ve run, we always pass at just about the same spot, when I’m about to get off the trail, to head through the neighborhood back to my house. He was there every Sunday morning when that was my weekly 6 mile run as I prepared for a race a year and a half ago, and as my mileage dropped after that race, I’d still pass him in the same area.  Last Sunday, I only managed to run two miles, but they were strong, and it was so reassuring to pass him again.  I imagine he’s been there every Sunday morning the past few months, when chemo and surgery managed to convince me to forgo my favorite run.  I wonder what he thought as we passed last week—did he ever even notice that we used to pass every week?  Did he notice that it had been a while?

Did he notice that I wasn’t there this Sunday morning?  That attacker took my favorite run from me this week.  Instead of heading to the familiar peace of the trail yesterday morning, I decided to stick to the neighborhood roads. Man, my neighborhood is hilly!  Even though it was daylight, I took my flashlight, which I affectionately call my face shredder, just to be extra safe.  (A friend in law enforcement suggested I get one—his best bet for personal security.) Really, I should be so thankful that I have such a nice place to run—lovely homes, well cared for sidewalks, friendly neighbors.  But still, my ability to make my own choice was taken from me, and that made me angry.  When I was running during chemo, I used to imagine what I’d say if someone approached me while running, made me feel threatened.  (I should say that I run in a very safe place, but still the mind wanders…)  I used to imagine how empowering it would be to rip off my hat and tell someone that I was on chemo—stronger than cancer, stronger than them.  And if that didn’t work, I’d threaten to spit on them—the chemo nurse made sure that we knew that our saliva was toxic for a day or two after treatment!  Yesterday as I ran, I was thinking how mad I was to have made it this far, past cancer, past chemo, past surgery, only to have my run thwarted because my safety was threatened.

Last night, I finally managed to figure out from some small news items that the place the woman was attacked wasn’t actually on my trail.  There is a whole series of trails around us, and the one she was on was more isolated and close to a road to allow an attacker to flee. I wasn’t going to stay away forever, but I guess that means I’ll head back out on the trails for my very next run.  I’ve never been one to let fear rule the choices I make, but perhaps I’ll start taking my face shredder, even when it’s not dark.  And while I’m sure it’s probably the wise decision, feeling it in my hand will only remind me of why I need it, and that just makes me a little bit sad.  But if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that I’m stronger than fear, and so I’ll keep on running.

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Little Rewards

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I’m a big fan of rewarding myself—I’ll frequently set little goals with little rewards for completion.  When I was trying to get into the habit of running, I didn’t really have any running gear, so my first real running clothes weren’t purchased until I’d run three times a week for six weeks straight.  Things like weekly mileage or a longer “long run” earned me more. A couple of weeks before my surgery, Sally and I stopped in Zoe Boutique after our run.  Our friend, Susan, owns the shop, and we’ve become friends with the manager, Tara, too, so we love stopping in anytime we’re in the neighborhood.  They were getting ready for the annual Old Town Warehouse Sale, and looking through the racks they were preparing to take along, I saw it.  My mastectomy reward.

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One of the lesser know “perks” of reconstruction is the ability to wear backless or sheer-backed tops without worrying about pesky straps.  I would never have considered this lovely blue Alice and Trixie top before, but I decided to try it on.  I loved it, and I bought it.  Because I could.  I was excited to wear it last week when Sally took some photos of me, and since we were using Zoe Boutique as our “home base” while we took pictures around Old Town, we decided to do a few outside our favorite old town shop!

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Lipstick: Funny Face by Nars
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Missing Cancer | The Bald Head

how we roll
Glamorous, I know.  The week before surgery I ended up with pink eye, so on top of the bald head, I had to wear my glasses.  A post-run shopping outing with a toddler on my back?  I couldn’t have felt less fabulous.  But how could you not smile at this scene?  And I love all those smiles!  Babies and really little kiddos were a little afraid of me at first, and elementary kids tended to stare for a while, and I can’t blame them for that.  But as soon as I’d smile and act normal, they got over it.  Thankfully, I never felt like I got too many pity-filled glances from adults.  But what I loved—the young adults who told me I could really rock a bald head, and the old ladies—they were the best.  I’m betting many of them saw themselves or their friends in the first glimpse of my bald head and smiled to encourage me.  Little old ladies love a bald girl, but it turns out they’re a little less enthusiastic when they’re trying to figure out if I’m growing out my post-chemo hair or if I’m sporting a lesbian-chic look!  I don’t get nearly as much old lady love now that I’ve got enough hair to put product in!  (And speaking of hair, Sally and I went on a photo session/adventure yesterday, I’ll be sure to post some pics of my sleek new ‘do when she passes them along!)
This is the first in a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.
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Back in the Game

back in the game

Six weeks past surgery and I got the official go ahead—and I didn’t waste any time heading out for my first run.  Sally and I met up in Old Town and ran along the river.  I don’t know that either of us realized how much we’d missed that time until we started running.  Meeting at least weekly during chemo to run was so much fun, we caught up on a lot of things and solved lots of the world’s problems.  We weren’t fast—but ran the first mile pretty hard before taking a break to walk.  After we finished our four miles and stopped at Starbucks, I could already feel my legs getting sore.  But it’s a great sore.  In the immortal words of Sally, I’m back in the game y’all.  “Cancer can suck it.”

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Morning Coffee

morning coffee

I’ll keep this brief, but surgery went well.  A note of caution, if your surgery is not the first one of the day, expect some delays!  We started late and it took a bit longer than usual, so I wasn’t awake and in a room until 10pm!  Just as well, though, as I was starving and they wouldn’t let me eat until morning.  I’ll do more of a recap later perhaps, and I will definitely include some must haves from my packing list.  There are a few things I’m so glad I brought along!

While Clay was getting the kids ready and off to school, Sally stopped by with coffee and treats.  And you know we couldn’t let such a monumental visit pass without snapping a quick pic!  After having pink eye last week, I was so happy to get my contacts back in and be able to wear eye makeup that my mascara was on as soon as the sun came up!

(For those inquiring minds, the marks on my collarbone there are not incisions!  The plastic surgeon was very precise in his marking procedure, and those lines were landmarks from which he took many pre-surgical measurements.)

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