May 7, 2008
To my Outstanding Medical Providers,
A little over three years ago I began a journey towards living….because, little to my knowledge and little to the knowledge of those around me I was dying. Dying wasn't painful, it wasn't scary, as a matter of fact, it was easy.
What isn't easy? Living isn't easy. It is hard work. It takes will. And, a lot of the time it hurts. It hurt in my bones, it hurt in my heart, and it hurt to the bottom of my soul.
I went through MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, x-rays, 2 port surgeries, 6 rounds of chemotherapy, radiation to my spine, a mastectomy, and even a few highly encouraged counseling sessions.
I saw people come and go at chemotherapy, older people and younger people. I saw people cry when they got good results and cry when they got bad results. I saw people come in for one, two, and ten year follow-ups and be disease free. I saw families bring in food to the doctors and nurses who cared for their love ones up until they slipped away.
I learned that nothing in life is guaranteed and I learned that if you want something bad enough, you damn well better work for it.
I learned that life is too short to waste your time worrying about things that don't matter.
I learned that you need to embrace the good things in your life and try to rid your life of the toxic things that cloud your existance. And, I learned that 100 percent of the time this is easier said than done.
I learned that you can not run away from cancer, but trying sure makes you feel better.
I learned that if you are just crazy enough you can run 13.1 miles on a treadmill at the gym and it is healing on the mind and hard on the knees!
I learned that if you are lucky enough to have great family and friends they will applaud you for your acheivements and some will even rub your feet!
Most of all, I learned that strength and courage has to come from within. It can not be given to us by others, but the will to seek that strength within can be found when looking into the eyes of your children, or your parents, or your spouse, or a friend.
When I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, I felt like I had lost control over the only thing I felt like I was in control of- I felt as though I had lost control of my body. In a world where I often felt so out of control, at least I had control over my body. At the point of diagnosis, I felt that little piece of security melting away.
So, as I was going through my cancer treatments I thought about ways that I could gain that feeling of control back. Logically, or not, I went straight to the idea of running a half-marathon. I thought that if I could propel my body 13.1 miles, then I was in control!
I began training. I started out at one mile a day on a treadmill. Then I moved to 2, 4, 5, 8, and 10 mile runs on the treadmill. One time I even ran 13.1 miles on the treadmill. As it got warmer I moved my training outside and made it all the way up to an 11 mile trail run. I was set to run my marathon!
One and a half weeks before my marathon is when I found out that YOU CAN NOT RUN AWAY FROM CANCER. That is when I found out that what I thought was back spasms was really metastatic cancer in my spine. The pain made it impossible for me to run the marathon I had trained so hard for. And, cancer proved once again that I was not in control.
On the day before that 2006 marathon I went to the runners expo and picket up my race packet. I turned in my chip timer and took home the bib number that I was not going to be wearing. I cried on my way out of the expo and several other times throughout the next week. Then I started radiation to my spine and was once again content with my plan of treatment and set my sights on finishing a different kind of marathon. Radiation. Daily. 5-6 weeks.
After radiation was done and my energy started to return I started running again. My body was fatigued, but I was determined. Then came the compression fracture in my spine with vertebroplasty and a mastectomy. I won’t lie to you. Those were hard, and my spirits were down, and I decided that the 2007 marathon was not going to be in the cards for me either. The day of the 2007 marathon I did not leave the house. It was too painful to see all those people out doing what I so desperately wanted to do! I was crushed and I felt like I was losing.
Days went by, then weeks. Scan after blessed scan showed no progression of my cancer. I began to feel stronger and stronger. In November of 2007 I began training again! First I trained on the treadmill, but soon I opted for all outdoor runs. The runs were going well and I was running up to 8 miles at a time. Then came the knee pain. But I was going to run through it. If it couldn’t kill me, then I was going to run. I was NOT going to let another Lincoln marathon come and go without being a part of it.
As the pain continued I began to think that my training might be hurting me more than it was helping me. So, I went to the doctor to make sure that cancer was not playing a role in my training again. X-rays were taken, and my knee and bones looked strong, with no sign of cancer. I was relieved! I continued to run. Again, I wondered if I was doing the right thing by running through the pain. So, I had an MRI done of the knee. The MRI also showed that my knee was in good condition. So, I started physical therapy and continued with my weekly to daily chiropractic and acupuncture treatments. There was some question as to why I continued to run through the pain, but everyone soon learned that they were not going to convince me otherwise.
I reduced my running distance and frequency substantially, but I never gave up hope. I was going to be in control and I refused to believe differently.
In January 2008 I had what would be my last set of scans before the marathon. I was so nervous. I searched the internet for other marthons in the country that I could go run at a moments notice, because if my cancer was spreading, I was not going to start treatment until I ran 13.1 miles. Somewhere. Anywhere.
The scan results came back after a LONG weekend of waiting. But it was worth the wait! No progression! So, in March 2008 I signed up for the marthon and paid my fee. I ran a few times, here and there, but it took so much time for my knee to feel good again, after a run, that I didn’t run much.
On May 3, 2008 I went down to the runners expo, picked up my chip timer and my bib number and I headed to my doctors office for one last adjustment and a little acupuncture before the big day.
On May 4, 2008 I started, ran, and COMPLETED the 2008 National Guard ½ Marathon in Lincoln Nebraska! It was a monumental moment in my life, and I did it with my husband, children, and parents watching, and my friends by my side! And, at the finishline, I threw my prosthetic breast in the air. Because I had just proved, if to no one other than myself, that you can complete a ½ Marathon with one breast, cement in your spine, and cancer in your rib!
Been there! Done that! Got the t-shirt!
Thanks for all that you do!
“Attitude is everything!”
WHAT AM I THANKFUL FOR?!?! The opportunity to send this letter out to all those people that have taken such good care of me and helped me to my goal! LOVE AND RESPECT! I am also thankful for all the people that cheered us on at the marathon and handed out water!!! A special thanks to the people with ICE!!! (As you may have noticed, some of this BLOG was a repeat from a previous blog for the benefit of my medical providers, but gawd knows it was worth repeating!)