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

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.....