A Run Down Memory Lane

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I just got back from the coolest trip. I met Zeynep Madak-Erdogan on twitter a year or so ago (thank you #bcsm!), and when I saw that she was a breast cancer researcher at the University of Illinois, we quickly bonded as I told her about my time there. In the months since, she has asked me to work with her on a few different projects, and she even invited me to come to campus as the Cancer Community @ Illinois starts a new cancer research advocacy group!

I’m going to get some of the “official photos” soon and I’ll share a little of the more science-y stuff I did there, but until then, the fun stuff! Zeynep and the rest of the cancer working group set up a great itinerary for me, but she was sure to ask if I wanted her to arrange any specific meetings. My only request was dinner at Papa Del’s, which apparently made me one of the cooler campus visitors and showed my UIUCroots to anyone who hadn’t already heard I was an alum. We drove around campus, and seeing the buildup of research park on the south farms where there used to be nothing but sheep was probably the biggest change. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) there are still some farms on the other side of First Street, so I immediately recognized the familiar smell of spring on the South Farms.

My other request was a slightly later start on the second day so that I could get in a run to visit some of my old haunts. Of course, as a student, I wasn’t a runner, so roller blading or taking the Red bus would have been more accurately nostalgic way to get around campus, but I enjoyed taking my new habit to my old stomping grounds.

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Of course I had to snap a quick picture with the Alma Mater and on the Quad, which like the Union and much of campus, were as I remembered them. (My apologies if this one is upside down. WordPress and I can not agree on how to make it right side up on all devices. Agh!) At one point, we were noticing all the new hipster food trucks near the Beckman Institute and I commented that the only food truck in my day was the weird smelling silver truck outside Noyes Lab. When we walked past that spot moments later, Derald’s Catering Truck was still there, as if it had never moved, save to get a snazzy new paint job on one side!)

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This is the entrance to one of the new buildings on campus– the Carl Woese Institute of Genomic Biology. Besides the cutting edge science that goes on inside the building, the art of science is prominently featured throughout the building with temporary themed exhibits. These three sculptures outside the building show tRNA at three different stages.

imageGreen Street looked different, too, with many high rise buildings towering up over the familiar streetfront stores and restaurants. But IGB is probably one of the shortest new buildings on campus, built only a few stories high because of its proximity to the Morrow Plots– the oldest continuously planted experimental cornfield in the United States. And as all my fellow Illini friends know, you can’t throw shade on the corn! (OK, it’s a long video, but gives you the whole story of the Morrow Plots and why the Undergrad Library is underground. The song starts at around 8:30.)

I had a great visit and especially enjoyed my run down memory lane. Stay tuned for some pictures of me dressed like a grown up and being all professional and everything to find out why I was actually there!

 

My Rock ‘n Rollin NED-iversary

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I know it’s a little overdue, but I thought I should show you how I spent at least the first few hours of my NED-iversary. Since Emma Clare had to be in Leesburg super early for a gymnastics competition, as soon as I fixed her hair, I kissed everyone goodbye and headed to take the metro downtown. It was a great day for running, and I was expecting lots of music and mayehm along the course. The Rock ‘n Roll series didn’t disappoint– bands most every mile and lots of people cheering, some from their stoops while drinking their (morning) beer! Besides all the water stops, there were plenty of people handing out water, champagne, beer, and even barbecue! But what really distinguished this half from the Nike half I did two years ago was the hills. Oh, the hills. The Nike course was so flat that the slight, barely distinguishable incline was the only “hill” I can remember. This course, on the other hand, had not only a steep hill that was over a half mile long, but lots of other decent hills, too. And of course, that one just before the finish. Awesome. But I ran this one without having to give myself any pep talks, and even made it up all those wretched hills, finishing two minutes faster than the last (much flatter!) half, so we’ll count that a win!

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I even got my first real medal! I love the Tiffany necklace I earned at the last race, but there is something pretty cool about a big, heavy medal!

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Not to be outdone, the rest of my family had a pretty good weekend, too! Emma Clare came home with four medals from her gymnastics competition, Turner finished out the basketball season with a celebratory medal, and Clay earned a special achievement medal at work on Friday! What a wonderful weekend for our family.

Name That Bib | Rock and Roll Half Marathon

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According to the website, as I sit and type, there are just over 4 days and 9 hours until the Rock and Roll Half Marathon for which I am registered. I can hardly believe it was six whole months ago that the idea to run this race was hatched as I ran with a friend through the district on a lovely, warm Columbus Day. As we talked it out, I went from a little ambivalent about the prospects to downright convinced that I should register for this race. Held on March 12, the race is just one day short of marking three years since I had my bilateral mastectomy. Though technically, the chemo had already killed the cancer in my breast, we didn’t know for sure, so that is the day that I officially consider myself to be cancer-free. Now here’s a little cancer speak technicality for you. People really “in the know” don’t like the phrase cancer free. Because really, you can never know. If you would have given me a form to fill out on September 15, 2012 and asked me to describe myself as either a cancer patient or cancer free, of course I’d have picked the latter. In fact, that wouldn’t have been accurate, I just didn’t know.

So in the cancer world, my status is technically NED for three years– No Evidence of Disease. There’s probably no cancer there, but we don’t know for sure– it could just be too small to detect. But as far as we can tell, there is no evidence of cancer. Which makes March 13 my NED-iversary. Catchy.

That’s all background for the question I have to pose. Back in October, I was stopped in my tracks by the option to personalize my bib. The only thing that fit in the character limitations that marked such a celebration was “cancer free.” But even without the hangup of cancer free vs. NED, I didn’t have the confidence to put that on a bib I wouldn’t be wearing for another six months. A lot can happen in six months. But nothing happened! I’m still just as NED as I was in October. Back then, I decided not to personalize it, leaving myself the option for a custom job with a Sharpie on race day. So, friends, help a girl out. What should my bib say? I’m leaning toward (NED)3, but knowing that people sometimes cheer for you based on the name on your bib, I’m not sure I want to be known as Ned. Makes me think of Ned Flanders, and then words like okely-dokely start popping in my head… Comment here or on Facebook, all reasonable (family friendly!) options will be considered! And the countdown is on– 4 days, 9 hours, one minute…

 

Running, Motherhood, and Breast Cancer

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I won’t rewrite the whole post here, but be sure to check out my new post on the Cure Community page. It’s a little bit about running, but a lot about the realities of being a mom with cancer, all inspired by the Melissa Etheridge song, I Run for Life, which randomly popped up on a Spotify playlist a few years ago. (Kleenex alert: Mom, you might want to skip this one. You know, the realities of having a child with cancer and all…)

Summer Writing | Women’s Running Magazine

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I can hardly call it writing, but the next summer project on my list just showed up on newsstands! The first thing I did when I got a request this summer from Women’s Running magazine was call Sally to make sure that I was right– this is a legit magazine! Like one you can buy in stores and everything! They asked to feature me in their “Bloggers on the Run” series for October. Because breast cancer. Ironically, they took the text from some interview questions they asked me, and there is no mention of breast cancer in the piece! But since it’s sprinkled in between pictures of women showing off their pink running gear and pages of ads featuring pink ribbons, I’m guessing anyone who’s interested will make the assumption. I didn’t really get to share anything new or shocking, but it was fun to see my face (on a bald head, no less!) in a running magazine (who’d have ever guessed?!?) and perhaps it will give a runner facing chemo the confidence to keep on running. Head to your newsstands and check it out or read it here! (I picked up my copy at Barnes and Noble, since the selection at my local drugstore was too small to carry anything not related to home decorating or fashion and makeup!)

Road Trippin’ | Seatbelts and Mastectomies

imageSo it turns out that seatbelts and mastectomies don’t always mix well. A couple of years ago, fresh off my mastectomy, I found this little gem at an auto parts store and found that it really did help me be more comfortable. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since that discovery. Since that surgery. I’d hoped I might “grow out of it,” but I still have some nerve issues that make a seatbelt cutting between my breasts (especially on the driver side) irritating. It’s not that big of a deal driving around town, though I find that I pull the seatbelt away from my chest instinctively at this point most of the time.

As we headed out on our first long road trip this summer, I knew comfort was going to be key, so I put on a loose comfy tee and a pair of running capris, and we set out. I quickly figured out that a loose tshirt and a seatbelt, even with its cushioning, was a bad combination for me. By the time it was Clay’s turn to drive, I thought I was going to come out of my skin. It took nearly my whole shift as passenger to get comfortable again, and then I had to shift back to the driver’s seat.

Thankfully I had taken along a sports bra or two in case I wanted to get in a run (ha! It was WAY too hot!) and so I put that on for the ride home. The difference was HUGE! I don’t have to go for a lot of support, but the way that a sports bra creates sort or a flat surface keeps the seatbelt from getting between my breasts and irritating me.  While I still pulled the seatbelt away reflexively, I was actually comfortable even when didn’t.  I’m not convinced that I need a sports for actual sports (though it feels too weird not to wear one!) but apparently, they’re my new must have for road trips!