It Ain’t No Sin To Be Glad You’re Alive

There are no coincidences. A live version of “Badlands” (I always prefer the live versions of this song) came on the radio this morning as I was on my way to radiation #10 of 20, and it brought back a lot of memories.  I was reminded of all the Ironman races I’ve done, and the words to that song have carried me through.  I usually sing it to myself during the second half of the marathon.  Then I really thought that this is just like an Ironman — I’ve had my surgery and all that’s left is a couple of scars, I’ve finished chemotherapy with no hair and a lot of skin rashes and now I’m in the second half of my radiation treatments.  This is just another kind of badlands.

“For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside,
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place,
I wanna spit in the face of these…

Badlands, you gotta live it every day,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay,
We’ll keep movin’ ’til it’s understood,
And these badlands start treating us good.”

I’m left with the only choice that I’ve ever had — keep moving, till these badlands start treating me good.   That will only be when I’m out the other side of all of this.  I don’t like a lot about radiation.  My two technicians, Chris and Elena, couldn’t be nicer.  The facility is beautiful and the room is like stepping into the future.  It’s a quick process — 1 minute and 15 seconds to be exact.  A bit over two minutes when I also need x-rays (once a week).  Fortunately, I don’t actually see the bank vault type door which closes during the treatment.  When it was mentioned once and I actually noticed the door it made me feel very claustrophobic although the room is huge.  But radiation, different but in many ways just like chemotherapy, also carries with it a lot of risk.  But, it’s all risks I feel I need to take.  If cancer ever comes back I don’t want any regrets about the choices I made about my treatment.

I finished reading a book this weekend that was part of one of the many thoughtful gifts I have received.  Patty put together a box of books that were recommended by friends.  Aimee recommended a book called November 9, by Colleen Hoover.  Something towards the end of the book also really spoke to me.  It’s something that has been inside me since this journey all started back in March.

“But that’s the thing about cancer.  They call it the fight, as if the stronger ones win and the weaker ones lose, but that’s not what cancer is at all.

Cancer isn’t one of the players in the game.  Cancer is the game.

It doesn’t matter how much endurance you have.  It doesn’t matter how much you’ve practiced.  Cancer is the be-all and end-all of the sport, and the only thing you can do is show up to the game with your jersey on.  Because you never know . . . you might be forced to sit the bench for the entire game.  You may not even be given the chance to compete.”

This doesn’t mean I’m being negative at all.  But, it’s a reality I’ve had to face and there was something reassuring about reading it in black and white.

On the other side of all of this, I spent two days in Chattanooga this past weekend, at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.  I guess I could write about the excitement and pride I felt about being on Women for Tri board that helped shape some of the format surrounding two days of racing, an all-women race on Saturday followed by an all-men race on Sunday.  What was more exciting and really spoke to my soul was the people.  Triathlon has grown so much since I first got involved back in the 90s, and even more so since it’s inception of course.  But what I love about it and what keeps me coming back is the bonds that I’ve made over the years because of the sport.  I loved seeing so many friends.  And I’ll leave it at that, with some pictures from the weekend and a renewed desire to be back on a starting line soon.

 

Taking Advice

A long-time friend was also diagnosed with breast cancer just a short time before me.  Linda is currently undergoing radiation treatments half way around the world in New Zealand. We’ve been communicating online about our experiences, feelings, treatment regimen and the like. This weekend she shared some realizations that have helped her. It was one of those “aha” moments for me.

“. . . . I was PO’ed because this cancer situation altered what I was doing in my life as well as what I ‘wanted’ to be doing . . . .  I needed to look closer at my current surroundings and note others had it far worse than I did. But my BIGGEST problem is/was . . . .  I cannot stand it when someone or something gets in my way of what “I” want to do and cancer was standing right in my way of life….. and there was nothing I could do except alter my norm. . . . “

So, there you go.  Those of you who know me understand how hard it is to accept this new norm on a daily basis.   I do accept it in the big picture but it doesn’t stop me from struggling and wrestling with the day to day details.   Despite some minor discomfort at times I still feel and look 100% heathy. I have had lots and lots of bloodwork done in addition to an echocardiogram, all results are great.  It is reassuring to know I’m starting from the best possible place as far as my condition goes. It is unsettling to know that the assault on my body to get rid of this cancer for good starts tomorrow.  IMG_3084

 

Follow Up With My Surgeon

I got pretty much the best I could hope to hear last Friday in my follow-up appointment. Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 6.49.48 PMI did ask Bryan if he thought there was any chance that Dr. El-Tamer would tell me this was all a big mistake and there was actually nothing wrong with me. Bryan said not a chance in hell. Mass was 1 cm and my surgeon said he got clean margins. Very minimal (a trace he said) in one node which he removed, but that makes it stage 2. That’s the good news.  It is small and only present in one lymph node.

The bad news is it is high grade and necrotic. This means it is growing fast. As explained to me, the best course is to treat this with chemotherapy. Since it is growing fast it tends to respond better. If the tumor was limited to the breast, and not aggressive or invasive just radiation after surgery would have been proposed.

So . . . how do I feel?  Except for the ugly scars, I still don’t feel like someone with cancer.

I am healing well but a slight allergic reaction to the stitches. That should be fine. I can swim and I can bike outside but I can’t run for about two more months. No bouncing activities because of the surgery. I can do pretty much anything else except lay on my stomach. I meet with the chemotherapy oncologist on Thursday, April 27 and the radiation oncologist on Monday, May 1st.

My feelings — this Thursday is when the shit hits the fan — a treatment plan will be reassuring on one hand but scary on the other.  And it means this is all real.

Here’s what I woke up to this morning.  Thank you Erin, you made me cry.  But it in a good way!

“Today, I race the first of many races for my friend, Moira Easton Horan, since she is busy beating cancer! The red flower represents strength, and she is one of the strongest women I know! Your flower is coming, Moira! I picked it up yesterday 🙂
#teamcoeur2017 #hardcoeur #cancersucks
— with Moira Easton Horan.”

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Thank you all so much, please keep the thoughts and prayers coming 💕💕

 

 

The Boston Marathon 2017

Four years ago today I ran my third Boston Marathon and was blessed to be able to finish.

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I qualified again and ran Boston in 2014 and in 2016 and was supposed to be running it for the sixth time this year.  Instead, this Monday I will be in my surgeon’s office for my follow-up appointment and hope to find out more about what is to come for me and my treatment plan.

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I’ve been thinking all week about so many of my friends and teammates from the Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport Club, my Coeur Sports Team and my other fellow Newton Running Team members.  And truth be told, right now I’m feeling a little sorry for myself.  But, I will be thinking of each one of you on Monday and wishing that I was out there running with you.  If it’s your first, or your fifth or your twentieth — soak in each and every moment of it.  I love the excitement of Boylston Street in the days leading up to the race.  I love the energy at the race expo and number pickup and seeing friends from all over the world.  I love everything involved in Marathon Monday . . . . . getting to the start, hanging out in the athlete village waiting for my wave to line up, and running every step of the way.  Especially after the bombing in 2013 I made sure to look in the faces of the spectators who still come out and cheer for us, whether we were in the first wave or the last wave.  I love the signs and the families, the kids, the senior citizens, the college students and the music.  I even love the pain of the hills, and actually look forward to Heartbreak Hill.  Because it meant the hard part was behind me and I could look forward to the firehouse where my husband always watched for me at the window, and then the turn onto Boylston Street and that stretch to the finish line.

I wish each and every one of you the best day you can have.  I have one small favor to ask if you are running — when it gets hard, run just a little bit of it for me and I’ll do my best to get you to the finish!  902005_10152760851595521_1103218482_o