About Me

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What started as a little experiment in blogging has evolved into my renewed love for writing the raw, gritty truth. Running has always had so many parallels to life's ups and downs. As a new cancer survivor/fighter, running and writing has continued to be there for me in my quest to always move forward, always try to be better than yesterday. Find me: http://www.curetoday.com/community/kate or on facebook: running, cancer, and everything in between or on twitter: runliftbreathe

Thursday, December 3, 2015

So Alive

I am driving away from elementary school drop off, watching my middle and youngest head off to the school grounds. The middle and moody child immediately breaks into a smile when she catches up with her buddies...giggling and chatting.  It's a beautiful thing to see when she does smile. My eyes then follow my youngest as she skips off to hop on a swing at the playground before the bell rings signaling it's time to enter the school.

As I drive away, I feel my chest tighten up and out of nowhere, I feel like I can't breathe. I am suddenly about to burst into tears...I need to come up for air...

It's been 5 months almost to the week that I was laying in the hospital bed looking out the window watching the world go on without me...not having a clue as to where I would be and what my prognosis would be in 5 months. How far the cancer had spread? One of the hardest challenges was the unknown....the other was the feeling of being so alone.

This hasn't changed. I am feeling my way through living day to day. I am not crying once a day like I did when I was going through the many phases of diagnosis, and initial treatment and recovery. My faking it until I make it is finally paying off.

For the month of November, I have not had one doctor appointment, scan, bloodwork...no driving down to Boston...I am almost temporarily and literally removed from my world of cancer (until this 6 weeks ends & I'm back down to the city for the works in December).

With a cancer diagnosis, I don't think you ever get back a complete sense of security.  With time, that space in between those moments of feeling fine is longer. It may last for days or maybe weeks...but the thief is still there, waiting in the dark. For me, while I am driving or in some other unrelated moment...waiting to come up from behind & put me in a choke hold.

Cancer sucks. There is no cure, no real cure yet...so all of us cancer patients, survivors, fighters...whatever word you want to use...we are all waiting...waiting to be able to take a full breath.

This Thanksgiving, in normal fashion, my family went around in a circle before dinner to say what we are thankful for. I couldn't even begin to speak how I really felt so I very quickly said "my family" because I just couldn't go any deeper than that. The summer months of limping around and taking trips to Mass General every two weeks was not that long ago...I remember. I remember not knowing what could happen this fall, this Thanksgiving....I've read one too many stories of people like me who die from this deceitful and cunning disease.

And yet after these moments of feeling my life on the line...when I pull myself together...I realize that as much as this knocks the wind out of me...it reminds me of all the millions of wonder in my life. Life is moving on in every second that I breathe or gasp. I feel terror and beauty all around me.  And it's okay to feel them both...they've gotten me this far....

"I've never been so alone....and I've never been so alive" -Third Eye Blind

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Coin Toss

Surprisingly, I have taken the path of least resistance. I have not made my decision through emotion. I am not the warrior fully loading all my weapons. I am not exhausting all options. It's seldom that I surprise myself, but in this case, I have...I've left my own jaw dropped to the floor.

In sport, I have always done whatever it takes. If oatmeal and bananas are the best race day fuel, then, that's what I am eating on race day. If taking non-gmo protein after an intense workout will help me recover quicker, I am on it. I have been drinking watercress, kale and spinach shakes long before various media outlets deemed them super foods. I even have creatine supplement drinks for pre-workouts so that I can arm myself with every bit of energy I need to get faster, stronger, unstoppable.

I remember that fateful Monday clearly before I even got the news...I was out on a run, one week after running Boston, and I was feeling phenomenal...no post marathon fatigue for me. I was unstoppable. I remember thinking, "Geez, today's Monday...I wonder if I'll get the results?" And then, my mind went everywhere....as all distance runners know...I began to imagine, okay if it's is cancer? Screw, cancer...I've got this. I'll be the poster girl for cancer...for Melanoma...the cancer that people don't know enough about. I'll lead the war, arm myself with all possible aggressive weapons....and like Braveheart....I would hold, hold, hold....until I had my full army ready to conquer.

And hour later, I would be diagnosed with what my doctor guessed to be later stage Melanoma. I would go through the first surgery so naive, sure that I would be all set..."Oh, you mean it might be in my lymph nodes? It can do that?"

After the first surgery and the second set of bad news, yes, it's in the sentinel lymph node...we would move my care down to Boston. Let's break out the big guns, and take this monster down full force. I agreed to an experimental surgery (2nd one in the hospital), that was successful...and is the only reason why I was able to start jogging 6 weeks post surgery (I may have cheated a smidge).

We talked on several visits with my oncologist about the drug treament...my only option after the surgery. The thing is I thought I'd be all on that...fire it up, let's do it....arm my army with everything you've got. I am a warrior...I am an athlete...I am gritty, I will do whatever it takes.

And then, I found myself reacting logically...instead of with emotion, heart, and kick-ass attitude.  So you're telling me my only option is a 30 year old drug that was not made for Melanoma...offers nothing in terms of survival rate...and if it works, it would lower my recurrence rate by 4% but if it worked, I would have permanent arthritis, no thyroid function, osteoprosis....and a whole other list of other side effects. Then factor in daily lifestyle, being on this drug for one year, injecting myself after the 1st 30 days of daily intravenous...basically, chemo effects minus the hair loss for an entire year.... Oh, and statistically, it works for 3 out of 100 people....

In normal circumstances, I'd say let's do it...if sucking back beet juice will take one minute off my marathon time, I am in. If eating oats and greens will hold onto 1% of lean muscle, I am in. Instead, my husband and I talked numbers, logic...and it always came back full circle to quality of life. And what if I am in that percent it does not show up somewhere else? What if I win the coin toss?

With the flip of a coin, we chose to play defense. I go every 6 weeks right now for bloodwork. I am scanned every 3 months. I am under the watch and wait. Somedays, I am surprised that I didn't arm myself and start firing away. When people tell me how strong and brave I am...I chuckle in my head...I didn't have it in me to arm myself and attack. I chose a role I never would have imagined myself in sport or life.

I do sometimes wonder...but I always circle back and know, for me this was the right decision. I focus on the fact that I am on the other side of 50% that it may never come back...not that it could come back. I do have to remind myself that every single day. But today, I am here...I am out there on the field making big plays every day with my family, at work, with my running...with the flip of a coin, I become one with logic instead of reacting emotionally. I am less kick-ass, less brave...but more conscientious, listening, taking in all the facts...and for today, I have won the coin toss.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Take Another Step

  Take another step...I wish I came up with those words myself. They were my mantra training all winter for Boston in what were often unbearable conditions...and for myself and my life schedule, often unbearable.  It's funny how 5:45am seemed early this morning for me, when for 16 weeks I would be running by 4:30am on Fridays. Take another step....

  I am a big believer in ongoing growth and self improvement...as a mother/spouse/friend, an athlete, and a professional...good is not enough for me. I don't have to be perfect, hell, I make mistakes all the time, but my daily goal is to be a better person than I was yesterday.  I may be a little too honest, too gritty for some people's liking....but I am as loyal as they come....and always open, open to learn, open to improve...open to taking another step.

  I've used social media to find those same people...striving to be better, better than they were yesterday. The people I gravitate most to are the ones that have lived through darkness and understand what that's like....To me, they exude light in a way the average cooky cutter, picket fence, picture of perfection does not. They've lived...they've had to take another step.

  I found one of these people on social media....a runner...an ultra marathoner...who beat cancer...and his words and shares, and motivation...always made me think, reflect, learn...and force me to keep moving.

  Never in a million years would I have thought I would truly understand where he was coming from. I've had plenty of dark, imperfect times myself...growing up with an alcoholic parent as a child/tween, having a mother fighting breast cancer in college....disordered eating habits when things got really dark....as a grown woman, financial times when the world crashed in 2008. I know what it is like to be in the dark, I appreciate the light...

  I started following Jim Willet and The Optimist Revolution for so many reasons...mostly because I am a runner...and running is just plain hard and when you are out there and you hit that dark mile, you need light to keep you from quitting...you need to take another step.

  And then, I was diagnosed with late stage Melamona...cancer...just like Jim, who has taken another step...many, many steps since his diagnosis...including many crazy beyond what I can wrap my head around 100+mile runs...but I get it.

  When you are stuck in this shitty world of cancer, all you want to do is take another step...literally and figuratively. Jim says it best in a verbal piece of art...that I've played over and over again...ironically, I found it right after my diagnosis.

  Where I am today...I've taken several steps forward. On September 11, 2015, I sat in Boston traffic and sobbed because for the first time since my initial diagnosis, I had just left an optimistic appointment with my oncologist. The spot on the lung they've been watching is gone. My bloodwork is "perfect" as he put it. Nothing to indicate any sign of disease...of cancer. Granted, I'll be back in 6 weeks....but for now, one more step in the "training" log....

  Running wise, I've just started to feel my speed start to pick up...I might even be ready to charge up the Garmin and start holding myself accountable. I'm nowhere near where I was before my diagnosis...but I've taken another step...many, many steps in miles to get there.

  I've traveled where I hope people I love never have to go...in fact, I wouldn't wish this on anyone...but with it, I am learning every single day...that no matter what happens with this disease...no matter where I end up in my running...I am doing just fine...as long as I continue to take another step...

  "You shoot me down, But I won't fall"...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Partly Cloudy

  I've abruptly been yanked out of normal living today. You see, I went the entire month of August without one doctor's appointment...not one blood draw, cat scan, skin check...I didn't come near Mass General Hospital or any of their cancer care affiliates. I wasn't weighed, poked, prodded...I ran, worked, spent time with family, ate too much Mexican and drank one too many summer treats.  For one month, I almost forgot (minus the left over battle field scars and lymphedema)...but superficially, I lived a near normal life for one month.

  I have never considered myself a complete optimist or pessimist....more so, I have always coveted myself as a realist. Some may take this as being a pessimist....it is quite different actually than a pessimist...I see things as they are. I look for facts and logic. In certain aspects of my life, I do strive to do what might be seen as the impossible like in sport...and I do dream, but I am aware. I have to be, it's just how I'm built.

  Today I had the "routine" cat scan of my chest...in another three months (pending this scan is clean), I will have a full pet scan...and 3 months from then, another brain mri...and so on and so on. This is my actual normal living. This is a part of the plan when you've been diagnosed with cancer.  Just in case we forgot...the reminder that we have no guarantee...the black cloud that chases the sun....
  In July, I was still having a hard time walking...I worried that I may never run again. It was the hardest month of recovery. And it still has been an uphill battle...but I keep plodding along. I am out there, and it's not pretty...but I've finally gotten to the point that I am consistently running about 20 miles a week (far cry from what I was doing in the spring)...but I will take it. I'm starting to feel better on my runs. I have even recently had a few good ones where I could feel I am finally getting stronger and making progress to getting myself back into shape.
No clouds stealing this sunshine....

  I wish I could say the same when it comes to cancer. This is probably the part of the disease that I hate most. I know too many people that have been taken by cancer...their families are now left to bear the burden of that cloud alone. It makes me so angry when I start to count the number of families I know who are currently living this "normal" life of cancer treatments, surgeries, scans...this battle that is just another part of their life. It takes my breath away when I think of my own family and how they have seen me at my utmost weakest...not the vision of normal they were accustomed to seeing, and when they see I am off back to Boston for another scan & appointment instead of a marathon....the clouds come rushing in....

But, it is what it is. I have to continue on this new "normal living", trying to appreciate each day, each moment.  I am okay that they are not always mostly sunny which leads me to wonder...Perhaps being an optimist is not about seeing things half full or mostly sunny...maybe it is about appreciating a partly cloudy day...because it is still a day, one more day in my life where I take another step forward....perhaps I am the optimist after all....

Monday, August 17, 2015


It's funny how being a washed up athlete makes people think you are fearless...like somehow, you automatically seek out dare devil adventures and are always pushing to the extreme. Tied with this comes your mental toughness, bravery and courage in the face of hardship....in the face of having to kick someone or something's ass...in this case, cancer.

Every week there seems to be a new story of some athlete to the extreme...running a 100  mile race after cancer...running 3,000 miles to raise money for cancer as a cancer survivor...they all appear so fearless, strong, brave...I am willing to bet they are just like me...except they are running from their fears, appearing to be brave and fearless.

I am not fearless, I never was, and I sure as hell am even further from it now. 

Cancer is not all pretty ribbons and race for a cure events. You don't always come out a better person with perspective on life...or see pretty rainbows and unicorns at sunrise. Cancer steals. It steals people's lives, their loved ones, their sense of normalcy...it drains bank accounts, and pisses insurance companies off. It has one goal only, defeat. 

All over the internet, we can find motivational quotes...many to the effect of, "those whom have seen dark, truly appreciate the light"...and how "after the storm, we come out a better person"...etc, etc...I am just as guilty of looking towards some of these quotes to somehow try to cope with this thief.

Here's the truth...and I won't apologize for calling it like it is...cancer has stolen my sense of living in the moment. Think about this carefully...if you are truly living in the moment, you are not thinking about what lies in your future...you are in the now. If you are eating ice cream, you are thinking, man...this moose tracks is insane...your deepest thought beyond that might be: going to have to run extra tomorrow...or if you are running in the 90 degree heat  & humidity, you might be thinking, crap, I should have gotten up with the alarm...this is brutal. If you are yelling at your kids for doing god knows what, you are thinking, those little s**ts! Why don't they ever listen?! You are not having all kinds of lollypops and daisies kind of perspective...you are in that very moment as it stands. 

Cancer stole my in the moment...this is some of what I am left with. 

I am afraid all the time, I only just recently stopped planning my funeral, that's the truth.  I fear that I won't have time to ever see my house completely finished. I fear that my poor girls will end up without me when they need me most. I am afraid that I will never write that book I said I would write. I fear that I will never finally break down my emotional walls that I put up because I am that person, trying not to expose how emotional & sensitive I really am. I am really, really afraid of heights....jumping off things or falling off things is a recurrent nightmare I have. I wonder if I will ever run another marathon in the time I feel I am capable of. I fear that all the work I did to make myself believe I am beautiful looking in the mirror was stolen when I was left with my shark bites and potentially permanent thigh swelling. I am afraid that somehow that will pass on to my girls, my newer sense of insecurity...and that really pisses me off. I am afraid to put myself first, even though deep down, I know I have to. I hate that my husband has more than once checked if I was okay when he heard some loud bang in the house. I hate that he's afraid, even if he doesn't speak about it. I fear that I am never going to fully adjust to this new normal. 

I hate this disease. I fear that this disease might eat me alive...this lifelong subscription to a club I never wanted any part of. 

I am not fearless. But, despite all that this disease has taken from me...I will fight to take something back...I will fight to fear...less. I will look past all my scars, swelling, and try to see that I am still strong and healthy and still beautiful, only with depth and maybe a good story behind it. I will openly pipe up and speak my mind. I will sometimes just say, no. I might jump off something before fall ends. I will take some ski lessons so that maybe I can run the gates with my girls this winter. I will tell my husband to go suck an egg because he and I both know, I can still kick his butt in a race. I will love a little louder and laugh even harder. 

I will fear...less. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

50 Shades of Fine

  You just never know when out on a run, who you might come across and what they might teach you if you just open your eyes...unplug from your electronic devices, unplug from your own being and look around....

  At the time, it was one of the funniest moments I had out on a run in recent weeks. This past month while in recovery from two major surgeries, for some reason, I remembered this moment. I didn't get it at the time, but having been to the black abyss of pain, sorrow, and anger...I finally got it.

   I was on the corner waiting for the pedestrian light to flash.  Yes, most days, I am that runner that ignores the lights...but today, I was running from downtown and just enjoying my run, my life, my city...life was good, I paused at the corner to take it all in and wait for the light.

   A moment later, an older woman joins me, and in my happy, running through daisies, sing-song tune, I turn to her and say, "Hi, how are you today?"

  "I'm f*%#ing terrible. The rain makes my back hurt"......

  I was stunned.  I didn't know what to say so I muttered a "I'm sorry...I think it might clear up for tomorrow" and then, quickly jogged across the street to continue on my way.

  That week, I told this story a dozen times...to my colleagues, to my running buddies...we all laughed...we couldn't stop...the shock of a complete stranger telling the truth so raw and open.
  In retrospect, what else could she say...that she was fine?  And what was it that made me so uncomfortable with the truth?

  A story that made me laugh so hard one day... could literally make me cry today. I am queen of the "everything's fine." The past three months, I have lived it. I'm tired of saying that I'm fine...that I'm myself...that I feel good....normal....when I am nowhere close to fine or normal.

  It has been a hard transition at work for me. I manage a health club...I am the face there to help people feel better, look better. I pick them up when they come in, and hopefully, send them off feeling even better when they leave. They ask me endless questions about what classes or workouts I do...how did I qualify for Boston, what do I eat to keep my energy?

  Now, I walk across the parking lot into my club, and I want to hide in the back, because I'm afraid one of my beloved members is going to ask me how I'm doing, and I'm not going to be able to pull of the "I'm fine." I might turn and tell them about the chronic pain and inflammation I have during the day, whenever it feels like rearing it's ugly head. How I am still battling infection in one of my 5 incisions. How I can barely pull my left leg up in any kind of position without using my hands. How sometimes I can't feel an entire part of my leg, and I'm not sure if that's permanent. That I don't want to be a negative Nancy, but it is exhausting trying to keep everybody else positive about my progress...when really, I am not fine. 50 shades of nowhere close to f***ing fine...

  To the general public, I probably do look just that... fine. And to many cancer survivors, newly diagnosed, and current fighters...I am doing fine...there are people in much worse scenarios.  I do, however, fight my own battles on a daily basis...physically and emotionally.

  If I was fine, I would get up at 5am...go bang out 7 miles, shower without using the antibacterial soap and have to re-bandage everything post shower. I would throw on anything I felt like wearing...my cute cuffed jean shorts, or my orange ones, or whatever called to me that day. I wouldn't put the dreadful hospital grade nude sleeve on my leg. I wouldn't have to wear a dress or skirt in case the swelling hits while I'm at work. If I was fine, I wouldn't be thinking about my odds of recurrence and statistics of life expectancy.

  I haven't quite figured out my "new" fine...Right now, physically, I am watching for signs of lymphodema, draining from one of my five incisions, and just scheduling all my appointments, scans, mri's...trying to move forward in this new fine.  Emotionally, I am praying before brain mri's, blood work, and everything else...praying that my family will have me for as long as they need me...

  I think back to that woman on the corner and wish I had been more aware and less self absorbed. Maybe I would have noticed her in visible pain...maybe I could have offered her an arm across the street? I don't know...maybe she just needed someone to hear her. Maybe the next time someone says fine to me, I will look them in the eyes and see which kind of fine they really mean.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tough like Ty

  "I'm bullet-proof, nothing to lose...fire away, fire away...."

  How do you thank someone who is no longer here...someone who no matter what happens with your outcome of this vicious and conniving disease, saved your life...saved your family's...gave you time, precious time...time that could be generous or brief...but time none the less, well-spent.

  I don't have the words to articulate what I want to say about Ty and his story. I don't even know his whole story...but I know he was the son of a man I admired greatly when I was a young teacher and coach. I know he made his father proud. I remember stories of him when I was teaching 7th grade, and Ty was in 7th grade at another school.

  Ty is the reason I made that appointment for a biopsy. As fate would have it, I heard his story...brief details...but the kind of story that you cannot get out of your head.  As it would turn out, I was diagnosed with the same primary cancer. I, later, found out that we share the same oncologist...someone who is making some ground with this disease that has had no real cure or treatment the past 30 years...someone who is making a difference.

  Today is Ty's one year anniversary. Cancer sucks. Cancer takes the tough ones too...it's not always mind over matter...sometimes, the disease just beats the toughest and most positive...cancer does not discriminate.

  I want to yell at the top of my lungs...this cancer that has long been ignored...no progress, no race for a cure, no ribbons on people's jackets....
A cancer that's finally on the brink on making some progress in treatment...that's great news right, but I sit on the sideline...unwilling to participate in the 30 year old treatment option that doesn't work. I flip the coin, willing to take the risk..... and I wait, wait to qualify at Stage 3a for a clinical study....if it comes back some place else, if, if, if....

Melanoma is as sneaky as they come. A shadow...my lifetime shadow....like a stealth and quick footed ninja, it comes, disappears & reappears with only one goal, victory.  But I will keep yelling, telling my story...sharing, educating and telling others what "skin cancer"  is capable of.

Ty, I can only hope I am as strong and tough like you so that I can continue to spread the word, and hope that I can help people the way you helped me.

Tough like Ty,


Monday, July 13, 2015


  Maybe to have a good life, a real good life,  all we need to do is start to peel back the layers, so that we can become who we really are meant to be...and if we never fall down, and scrape off that first layer...would we ever know there is anything deeper?

  I have lived a charmed life...relative to charmed for a modern day family. My parents are still married, but they have scars that only those who have lived through would know. I, as they would describe, somehow ended up "normal."  I would guess that their version of normal would mean someone who tells it like it is, doesn't bullshit unless it's necessary to boost someone up who needs it most or to get out of trouble with the law. Normal being someone who loves openly, laughs too loud, and asks a lot of questions, never afraid to teeter between two sides of left and right, because really the correct answer is probably somewhere in the middle anyway. My parents are completely imperfect and perfect. And maybe, if we all get past that first layer...we, somehow, are able to find who we really are...that perfect mix of imperfect and perfect.

  Physically, at 40 years old, I have nothing to prove. I was the high school all star...handed a full scholarship to play a sport I never really thought I would play again after high school. I was the "Spirit Queen" as well that senior year....well-liked, good grades, funny...picture perfect, but still missing something, wanting more.
  And so, in college, I went on to bigger and more exciting adventures.  And with some of those most amazing adventures, I had some of the most painful times.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a boyfriend who drank too much, whom I couldn't save, though I tried, god I tried so hard.   I was also the three time volleyball captain who made the academic honor roll every semester. Picture perfect...minus the eating disorder I thought I was hiding. When I did finally get some help for that, I was finally really the picture perfect person I so sought after...I was in amazing shape,  had a great senior year season including some all conference honors and academically, my grades were the best they ever had been. Picture perfect...

  But, I still had not found myself yet...I went on to graduate school to become a teacher & earned a scholarship to work as a teaching assistant while in school. I did get a job before I even graduated with my masters...pretty unheard of these days....and was able to easily pick up a full time, well paid with benefits, teaching job at 24 years old...with a part time job as a college volleyball coach. But, I still hadn't filled that perfect mold I was striving for.

  I had the perfect wedding...and I really did marry the perfect guy...he has been there for me in good times and bad times, right from the beginning, when we were just babes in college. We have three beautiful girls.  We are not the perfect parents, that is for sure, but we try to love them, keep them safe, and build them up to be strong, assertive women someday. I love our life...our ups and downs, we have had a perfectly, imperfect life together...and thank god, because who would have thought we would have to hurdle cancer as well. But, like a good training program, we continue to ride the waves, weather the storm and keep keeping on with a smile of our face...even if some days we've had to fake it until we make it.

  Today, it hit me...the most random unplanned moment...I had someone who I see on a regular basis at  my job tell me, "you touch people"...she has been following my blog and knows my current story...3 girls, marathons, cancer...and now, in recovery mode from two back to back surgeries. I could have cried...but because I'm that perfectly, perfect strong girl, I held it together.

  Sitting here now, I realize, all I have ever wanted to do is make a difference...touch someone in a way that maybe brings them comfort, relief...or allows them to unpeel all those layers they've built over the years so they could become the person they've been searching for...peel back the layers so that they too, could be perfectly imperfect and proud. I thank that friend for pointing that out to me today. And while, I have many, many loved ones, acqaintances, and other friends I could thank as well...today, I will relish in thanking myself for having the courage to be myself...too honest, too strong, too sensitive, too crude in humor, sometimes too inappropriate, and sometimes, too imperfectly perfect that I'm able touch someone...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


  The Merry-Go-Round goes around and round...

  Pace is the place where inexperienced & experienced runners alike can struggle. The average new runner thinks that the more they run, the faster they get....they don't understand that by doing the same run at the same pace, each and every day will do nothing for their pace. They remain stuck at that pace, and it can be a hard and frustrating place to be until they are willing to learn.

  So what happens if you are an experienced runner & coach, & you know all about pace...how to get faster...how to build endurance for different types of runs....and now you face an unfamiliar and new life where you have no control over pace...

  I have been stuck in all realms of my daily life since June 10th when I had a lymph node dissection of my pelvis for cancer. I was stuck in that damn hospital looking out at what was probably a $350 day per night view overlooking Boston Harbor....watching the duck boats go by...stuck. Anxious to return home, I was then, stuck in bed/on the couch for two weeks of rest and recovery...which meant I was also stuck in my own head.

  My recovery continues, and I still feel stuck...I feel like that inexperienced runner...stuck in a pace that is not where I want to be, but not quite sure what to do in this new place, how to improve. I am tired of doing everything I am suppose to do in my recovery, only seeing minimal improvement...moving at a snail's pace while the world passes me by.

  Worst of all, I feel emotionally stuck ..this world of metastatic melanoma...where there is no cure...no guarantee...only hopes of days, weeks, months, & god willing, years of N.E.D....no evidence of disease. This is a lifetime...so how do I continue moving forward when I have no control over it....I can't do a damn thing...other than to show up to my doctors' appointments, get my mri's & pet scans...get my blood work drawn...for the rest of my life...that is it...this world of cancer...a pace and a place I am not comfortable with.

  Like all runners...sometimes you do have to look back and reflect upon how far you've come in order to take a step forward & realize your pace has in fact improved. I remember being that inexperienced distance runner and having some races that were just plain awful. I learned from those difficult times, and eventually had that perfectly paced half marathon that rewarded me with a personal best. Soon after, I was able to draw upon that race to have a near perfect full marathon.

  I can also look back on some tough days in this race against cancer... that day I really felt like I might die, of excruciating pain...when I physically couldn't push myself off of the bathroom floor. And, I thought more than once...how much longer do I have, how far has it metastisized. I have, in fact, come far. I'm not stuck on the floor or on the couch..I went for my first walk around the block yesterday...granted, fair to say at this pace, it still was with a slight limp...but it was a step forward.

  In running and life, keeping pace emotionally is more difficult than physically. The piece I'm struggling with is keeping my momentum...I need to keep moving forward, while facing this new reality day in and day out...while the rest of the world continues on their hectic merry-go-round ride...I am on the bench watching...trying to be optimistic and moving forward...but afraid of being stuck with no pace...or worse, going backwards...

But perhaps, like that new inexperienced runner...I've been wrong about pace all along...maybe, just maybe...while it goes round and round...maybe I'm right where I should be...maybe the best pace and place depends on me ditching the garmin altogether and enjoying the only run we are all given...taking it all in...enjoying the view off of the merry-go-round.....

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Sweet Spot: a runner adjusts after multiple surgeries for Metastic Melanoma

  The sweet spot in running is what I refer to when you are racing, and you are cruising along at that perfect pace you've been training for & everything feels smooth, easy...so easy, in fact, you have to hold yourself back...you've done the training, it's race day, everything is perfect. You run at your race pace feeling like it is effortless....the sweet spot. Runners pray to the running gods before each race for this moment...it's a beautiful place to exist.

  My sweet spot right now cannot be found out on the pavement...it's in my bed probably about minutes before I awaken from sleep. I'm conscious of my body, but I am not yet fully awake. I feel no pain. I don't feel the drain hanging from my leg that makes it near impossible to be comfortable in the night. I don't feel the swelling above my leg where they removed all of my lymph nodes...that during the day feels like I've survived a horrible fire. My legs don't feel heavy, filling with lead with every half limp step I take. For a brief moment before I fully awaken...I feel like myself...my former self before cancer...cruising along, light on my feet, passing people as I go...just smooth and easy.

  When I do wake, I am brought back to reality...snapped right out of the sweet spot. It's almost immediate, & it still surprises me each morning when it shakes me right back. I am no longer smooth and easy....even paced...passing people. I can't walk without a limp right now, and that's a significant improvement these past two weeks...me walking, without help.

  I've won little victories along the way...driving down to Pic n Pay to pick up a treat from the bakery for my kids....all the while, trying to maintain composure as I limp across the parking lot. I've had people stare at me, either from recognition wondering what the heck happened to me, or complete strangers concerned asking me if I needed any help. "Oh no, I am fine, thank you"...as I limp, hobble back to the bakery, back straight, head up high..as if they are crazy that this is anything but normal.

  You know that person in a race, the one who is not running even paced in the sweet spot...the one who is way in the back...in obvious pain, but refuses to walk it off. The volunteers offer up water, ask if he/she needs a medical tent..."No"....he/she usually responds and continues on. He will probably be the last one to finish the race, but he will finish....

  My reality as I continue in my recovery is just like that person in the back of the pack in the marathon....barely hanging on...in so much pain, but refuses to quit...refuses the medical tent....is determined to get to that finish. It has not been easy to maintain that kind of perseverance.
It is a roller coaster of a ride daily to hang on to that kind of determination...the will not to quit....

  I do still think on a whole, even before my diagnosis, that I have always had an excellent perspective on life...these past two weeks, though, I have gained some new perspective...I've walked in other people's shoes. I spent one night on the bathroom floor vomiting for 14 hours straight. I've had to have two grown adult men help me into my daughter's school for graduation because I was too weak to walk on my own. I most recently fought back tears behind my sunglasses as I tried to walk across a parking lot with my girls on our way to a movie. I've looked in the mirror at my swollen thigh & hip & cried, wondering if anyone could ever look at me and see someone strong and beautiful. I've been to that rock bottom dirt floor, wondering if maybe, if it does come back and it's to the brain.....I would be better off just dying a respectable death in Vermont or Oregon.

  I have learned that perspective is not just your view on life...perhaps a good perspective is being able to see it through any eyes. Perhaps good perspective is also acknowledging the struggle, the struggle of others.....the uneven, often painful to watch...but gutsy grit and fight that all kinds of people go through all the time, often unknown. Perhaps my sweet spot will change....because of where I have been, and what I have yet to still conquer...perhaps this new set of eyes will not only allow me the strength to persevere, stronger than ever...perhaps it will help me recreate a new sweet spot.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Perspective, perception and the marathon....

Funny how getting diagnosed with a very real and very scary disease can evoke all kinds of words being tossed around...all with good intent of course, but being the one sorting through all this...the diagnosis and the good intents, you really start to overanalyze every little detail...right down to use of language and words. This diagnosis of Metastic Melanoma (no, this is NOT a f*&%ing journey, adventure, or bump in the road)...this is cancer...and ironically, as I deal with cancer daily, it reminds me of running a marathon.

 For one thing, yes, I do believe that attitude is everything...but let's make something very clear...I did not need to be diagnosed with cancer to have a good perspective on life. For the record, the definition of perspective is "a point of view used to look at things or attitude towards things." Anyone who has ever ran or been any kind of competitive athlete with any kind of success...has good perspective when it comes to their sport (running, team sports, etc). I have ran only two marathons...the first one to qualify for Boston, the second, running Boston. It's fair to say I have a great attitude towards the ups and downs of my running and the ups and downs of life. I never would have made it through the training to begin with if I didn't have a good perspective to begin with.

 Perception, however, is another word...often used interchangeably with perspective. Perception is the interpretation one gives through his awareness or a process of being aware through the senses. The perception of marathons from the average person is pretty fair...I will tell you that marathons and marathon training is not easy. It is hard, it hurts, and many, many times you will want to quit. Every sense you have will be taxed...and then, there are the emotional ones...you'll have good runs, horrible runs, and all other kinds in between. Physically, you'll be sick to your stomach, be ravenously hungry, cramp so bad you're not sure you can walk...let alone run...that is your body perceiving what is real stress on it. It is aware of how taxing marathon training and marathons are.

 As I sort through this diagnosis...and yet another surgery next week where they will do what's called a pelvic dissection of my lymph nodes...my perception of my body has changed....my body is stressed physically....and emotionally, I don't know when I will run again...there's a chance I may not be able to safely run ever again....and that brings the kind of emotional pain only a runner would understand.

  This is reality...this is not me having a bad perspective on my diagnois...this is my perception of what could happen based on what the surgeons have told me regarding recovery, complications and the after. My perception has already told me that this is going to suck...I already am still healing...still in pain from one of my 3 inch incisions...some days it hurts to sit, stand, walk & just be. My perception is that frankly, cancer does suck...and anyone who has been through it or loved someone who has been through it or is going through it and has an inkling of what they are physically going through...they have an accurate perception on this disease, and they will tell you, yes, it does suck....and that's without getting into the whole emotional side of what cancer does to you.

 But like a marathon, with a cancer diagnosis, you gain new and different perspectives through each mile...each one can evoke a different emotion...some moments I want to cry...cry because I physically am in pain and have no control over it. Other moments I want to cry because like the oncologists commented at my last visit, "so basically, other than this...this cancer...you can run circles around everyone"....a compliment yes, but all I can think is right now, yes, but what about after my surgery...when I'm told I cannot do anything with my lower body while I recover....and what if, what if, what if...

 When I come to the good miles, and there are some good miles...I think f&*k the doctors, the surgeons....all of them...they don't know me. Don't tell me statistics...don't tell me what I can and cannot do...you don't know me....I have a great perspective on life...I always have. I don't need cancer to give me good perpective...I just need me...becuase I am a fighter, and I don't do what everybody else is doing...I run to the beat of my own run...

 Because of cancer, my perception of the world may have changed...it is a cruel reminder that people, real people go through horrible, horrible things all the time...someone, somewhere is fighting a battle of their own...in pain physically and emotionally.... That line...of where the world is good and where real people are going through real battles...it's so fine...you just never know when you might end up on the other side.

 Before and after the diagnosis, my perspective, has remained unchanged. I am not always strong...I cry like the best of them...but I believe that overall, in most moments, I have an excellent attitude, good times and bad.  My job on this earth is to set an example for three little ladies...my goal for them is that they will always have a good perspective on life, through the good times and bad...through tears and laughter...through all the miles of the marathon...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Running towards Cancer

  Three Mondays ago, I was running the Boston Marathon. Two Mondays ago, I got the call that my biopsy was positive. This past Monday, I got up, ran, brought kids to school, went to work...etc, etc...except this past Monday I knew I had cancer.
  Life continued to go on, as did I as I plowed through my normalcies of the day...all the while waiting for the end of the week...when I would go to the hospital to have my pet scans...checking to see if the cancer had spread to my vital organs.
  I've always ran from things...when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer...I ran. When I dated a guy with a drinking problem...I ran. When I couldn't look in the mirror without seeing  imperfection...I ran.
  I ran yesterday when I couldn't stay in control of my emotions...that pendulum you swing on when you've been told it's positive...going back and forth from fear for my kids to brave, I'm going to kick this cancer's ass...to just plain annoyance because I don't have time for this.
  I can't run away from this one. I have to face it head on...I will continue to run because that's what I do...but I won't run away from my feelings of being scared, frustrated, & annoyed.
  I also won't run away from the world and pretend like this isn't happening. It is...and I will run to as many people as I can and maybe my embracing and running towards the truth will help them save someone they love or themselves.
  Today is Thursday night....I found out just a bit ago that my pet scans look clear. I do know I still have some hurdles to run towards face on...a surgery or two...and those results will dictate the path of treatment. I won't be able to run for a little bit after these surgeries...but I will still be running, hurdling each step as I come to it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Boston: A Story of Compassion

To steal a line from my upmost favorite movie of all times..."Love, actually is, all around"...This has never been truer for me than at the Boston Marathon...
As a spectator in the past, I was aware of the energy and excitment...as a runner, I experienced the love & compassion...there are good, good people...you just have to stop and look around...love is really all around....
Of all the stories I could tell of my first experience at the Boston Marathon as a runner...the most powerful and most emotional one happened well after I had crossed the finish line.
The weather was a high 30's, low 40's...I had been poured on in my coral while I was waiting to start...the rain continued along the route from Hopkinton to Boston. I rung my shirt out at each water stop...by the time we hit the city...the winds had really set in.
When you finally cross the finish line of a marathon....and stop...that's when everything starts...your body temperature drops,  your hip flexors start firing...if you haven't had any cramping yet...you will, somewhere...the nauseau sets in...you need liquid, salt, anthing to try to get the body back in balance...and as you are going through this...you are desparately searching for your person...your family...the people who will help carry you to the car so to speak or sometimes quite literally...
I stood out at that family meeting area for B (as in Beland) for over 30 minutes...the wind was whipping my post finish blanket around...two separate people stopped to try and help me, and call my people...noone answered their phone. A man even wrapped me in his coat until his person finished...I assured him I was okay & gave him his coat for his wife...& proceeded to try and find our 2nd back up meeting area. The only minor problem was that now I was violently shaking & began to feel a little disorientated...all I could see was tall, massive sky scrapers...and strangers everywhere...I made it over to the wall of one of the buildings to hover against from the wind with tears streaming down my face...
Another woman must have noticed me & asked me if I was okay...all I could mutter was Boston Common (that's where our 2nd meeting place was)....I remember the officer coming over & I insisted that no I didn't need a wheelchair or medical help...that I just needed someone to point me which direction to go...
The officer was on security duty of the family area...He cursed that he wished he had his cruiser otherwise he'd drive me over right then and there. Instead, he did what he could and he guided me away from the area, we crossed some traffic and he pointed straight away to the Common...there 3 people stood outside their hotel and I remember them talking with the cop & then, taking over.
I don't remember their names...two of them were a couple from DC...the man was suppose to run the marathon but was sidelined because of a vein thrombosis...they joked and made light of this, something about 6 feet under...the 3rd person was their friend from Vermont....
They wrapped me in coats, & wrapped their arms on both sides of me...walking me along the city blocks to the common. They called my husband...got me into a parking kiosk/shelter...one rubbed my quads the other was rubbing my hands and fingers...while the 3rd, told jokes & kept trying to make me drink water.
I  know tears continued to flow down my face...but they are tears of gratitude...here when I couldn't find my family to help me...three complete strangers became that...they recognized I was in trouble, they came to my need...all I could do was thank them when my husband finally came to the spot they had directed him to over the phone....they gave me huge hugs and kisses on the cheek & told me congratulations...and then, they were gone.
I can't even remember their names....and I'm not sure I would recognize them if I saw them....but that moment, they were my family...
Boston is such a special event...there are so many acts of love, kindness and compassion along the way...every person is there with one intent...to support someone...I'll never forget that feeling...that feeling that there is so, so much good in the world...so much love...all it takes is one samll act of kindness.
I will never forget my Boston family...they reminded me that love actually is all around...and all it takes is one simple act of compassion...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

To My 3 Daughters,

I know my training sometimes takes a toll on you that I don't always realize. I am sometimes tired, and I get distracted when you're telling me what you did at school...or the amazing book you just started from the library...for that I am truly, deeply sorry...sorry for not always being as attentive as you need me to be at that moment...x the three of you.

I am so sorry I forgot to remind your grandparents about your history project presentation. I forgot to pack two snacks because in 4th grade you have snack 2x. And my littlest, yes, I keep falling asleep when you are practicing your amazing 1st grade reading skills.

What you may not realize, that someday I hope you will see...all my training, all my running...every time I set out to conquer something new...I do it for you.  Well, it is for me first...but 2nd most important...Iam trying to teach you in the only way I know how...so that you learn all the things I wish I had known. There are so many things I want you to know, so many skills for you to learn, so that you can be the strong, independent & world changing women I think you will be someday.

So here's my list of what I hope for you some day...and how I got to be the person I am today...someone who sometimes is distracted, or limping down the stairs....or signing up for a race I have no time or business training for with my only 80 percent well body...believe it or not, I do it all for you....

1. Don't ever, ever take "you can't" as the final answer when it comes to your abilities. I started a running career based on "you are just not built for long distance running." Use that to fuel you when you are about to give up...on a run, on the field, in the classroom...wherever...nobody can tell you, you can't, except you...and if you choose to give up, it's your choice. But, remember this...you have my stubborn persistance...so it will sit better with you to try and fail than to give up.

2.  It's okay to put yourself first sometimes...you will need to learn this an adult and especially when you are managing your own family some day. I know you wouldn't believe this now but some day, you will realize I probably should have put myself first more often. Training for Boston right now, is so hard. With all your ski racing, basketball, and now LAX starting up...the one time I do put myself ahead of you all is when it is bedtime...when I've crawled into bed at 9pm and fallen asleep immediately. Can you even imagine what it's like training for a marathon while trying to fuel your own kids' dreams of Olympic Ski Team? I do get cranky when you need to be in bed...because I am exhausted. When you take care of yourself first, you are able to help many more people around you. Remember this. And whether you become an Olympic skier, an artist, or a politician...sleep is the cure for everything.

3.  You are beautiful....I am still running a lot & running hard trying to figure this one out. I hope for you that you realize that just because you don't fit into the "norm" doesn't mean you aren't perfectly beautiful. I've wasted a whole half of my life fighting this one...you are going to be very tall. You are likely going to have beautiful strong shoulders. I know you will have very long, very strong legs....you are beautiful. Just the way you are. You will not be of normal height or build. You won't blend in. And you probably won't be a 120lb supermodel (thank God!!!) If I had taken up running earlier in my life...it might have saved me a lot of heartache and health problems. I run now because it is the one time I do feel beautiful and can embrace my strength and be at ease with it....even when I am not completely well...inside or out.  I hope you will always feel beautiful for who you are no matter what you are doing....because you are perfect exactly the way you are.

4.  You have no limits...Bdawg, right now you want to be an Olympic ski racer, archeologist, and have your own business (that ski sled for race day equipment should be patented! Like now before college!)....you can do it all. All it takes is hard work. And maybe you my middle...will surprise us all...you with your little technical brain...trying to create websites and playing chess and out skiing the whole family....the world is at your finger tips, you can, you absolutely can. And my big baby...my little Gronk...always smiling, easy...you could be a world famous artist while "out playing" your whole family at any sport..I just know with your organic and clean eating habits..once you find your sport, you will out play and out muscle us all...all while keeping us entertained with your comic ways.

5. Be proud to be yourself...I will never run as fast as one of dear friends. That's okay. I may never run another marathon after Boston...and that's okay. I am a squeaker...I qualified by the skin of my teeth...but I did it. I won't be breaking any PR's on April 20th...but I will hold my head high because I got the golden ticket to start & no matter how long it takes me, I will be proud to finish. And I will be thinking of you girls the whole time...because on many of those lonely 18, 19, 20 mile training runs...I thought of you...and how proud I am for the girls you are becoming. I am so proud of all three of you...for being you, just the way you are.

I love you all so very much. I will see you after the finish...and I will try to give all three of you my utmost attention and not fall asleep when I get home after the race.