Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just an ordinary day

Just a day just an ordinary day...
How often do we view an ordinary day as extraordinary? 

I feel like an extraordinary day for me is one that isn't jam-packed and filled with oh so many things to do and places to be. Lately that has been my habit. The last person I dated said I worked too much. At times, I have to agree.

So yesterday I had an ordinary extraordinary day. I had a walk/run around the neighborhood.I even picked up a prescription that had been locked in drug store purgatory.

*when a patient is unable for a string of days to get to the drug store during business hours, the prescription is held for several days....after which phone calls are placed to the customer, threatening the filled prescription to be returned to the shelf. Thereafter its return to the shelf the customer can then RE-refill the prescription...and if he/she is just as busy that particular week, well, the cycle begins all over again.

While jogging past the shops on Park Avenue I felt pretty good. There was time enough for me to enjoy this jaunt. There was time enough for me to look around and feel and just be. And just breathe. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and it was almost 60 degrees. If it hadn't been for the leaves crunching beneath my sneakers I would have thought this was a lovely afternoon in June.

It's funny how the brain works and processes sensory information when it's freed up from constraints. You don't even realize it then...but stopping to smell the roses is no pithy idiom. When the stressors, obligations and deadlines of a busy schedule hit from every angle it's pretty much impossible to even notice the more minor but enjoyable details of life.

I stopped to gaze at a window display, admiring the pristine detail of a lettered sign.

I noticed they are tearing up the sidewalk on Berkeley. I slowed to nod at the worker who paused from his shoveling as I passed. Working on a Saturday...

I noticed that Camille's Sidewalk Cafe* is now called something different. Hmmm...
Damned if I could remember what it IS called. Doesn't matter. I'll still call it Camille's for another few months.

My birthday's coming up*...funny that this should be the only time my head has been free enough to consider that. 
Maybe I better make that a footnote in this blog---so you assume that I am going to be the same age---without moving up a number. Strike this from the record.

All this reflection on how good that free time was yesterday is leading me to reconsider something. I am done writing this very blog. I've got free time to use...What am I writing this for? And why are you still reading...? 

Get out and enjoy your beautiful day!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

There's only one first one. Part Two

If reading from here first...scroll down and read the bottom (Part One) first.


As Forest Gump said "I just kept runnnnnningggg..."

Over parts of the way I had spotted this tiny little girl running in a witch costume.  Even early on I had seen her (when I felt good) and said “Isn’t this fun?” and she enthusiastically squealed YEAHHH! 

By mile #2, at the top of the reservoir, I was left running in a pack that stayed steady including the cute little witch, a 52 year old grandmother, a jailbird in black and white pinstripes and a fairy. 

The little half pint was running all by herself, no parent beside her.
It was probably a miraculous distraction because I began to worry about her, sidetracking me from my own perilous fears about my spiking heart-rate.

We asked the cute little witch if this was her first 5k.
 “OH NO” she said proudly, “I’m seven and I started my racing when I was 6.”
.My sister grabbed this shot later on on her run.
I just cut up.  We were all laughing as I took my glimpse at the beautiful autumn Rochester city skyline from the high vantage point.   

Suddenly a masked Spiderman came running up from the opposite direction up the hill toward us and outstretched his arms.

“Daddy” squealed the little witch.
Having, taken her under our wing, we (the jailbird, fairy and I) made sure the masked man indeed was her daddy. I thought he would scoop her up because her little legs looked as tired as mine but he grabbed her hand. The father told us he had just taken a top runner prize, but had come back to run along side his very confident yet weary little racer.

As father and daughter loped nearby I began to feel the wind come up.
“USE YOUR DOWNHILL” a volunteer called out. I was not far now. I really was going to do this. The hardest part was over.

When I rounded the last turn, I heard the music and cheering before I saw the 3 Mile sign. My face was chapped and wet with tears. I thought of Chad and Amber who I had lost this week…and I thought of the guy whose racing dreams I carried inside my sneakers and whose name was on my shirt. I began to run faster---knowing I wanted to finish strong. I passed a couple people as my speed picked up. I didn’t even know I had it left in me.
I heard an announcer call out 38 minutes and something, something. I began to smile through the waterworks. Knowing my limitations, I had set my goal at finishing under 40 minutes and despite all my slowdowns along the way I was going to meet it.  

This was not going to be the time a hotshot would be proud of, but for me, with a pretty battlescarred lung and lots of hardwiring complications, it was something I could live with.

I hopped up from the road to the soft grass and caught sight of the big blue inflatable finish line and the familiar voices of my loved ones filled my ears. I ran through the finish with absolute joy.

After being assured that my tears were not from being hurt or in danger…hugs came from everywhere. I did it. Is this what it feels like? Is this why you keep at this whole running thing?

Then Zach’s parents hugged me. I can’t imagine their mixed emotions. They’d been there at the finish line for so many races. It's been almost two years since their iron-willed racer left us. If my chest felt full at that moment, it was surely not exertion, it was remembrance as I watched them. Zach's dad rolled the video camera and his mom snapped pictures..making sure to get a good shot of their son's name on my t-shirt.

My cheering section. Yes, Peter they got me my chocolate cake!

We all went out to breakfast afterward at Jines, ten of us in all.  After our table was a smattering of empty plates Zach’s dad handed over a box to me. Inside were some of Zach’s things. “We’ve been meaning to give these to you,” Zach’s mom said. I saw the Captain Caveman action figure I’d given him for Christmas,  a pile of photocopied articles about his racing, and inside meticulously kept and still in its box was his very high end triathlon level heart rate monitor. I didn’t want to cry again after all this, but I just had to hug them. 
“He would be so proud of you,” Zach’s mom said.

As I prepare with a very heavy heart to say goodbye to Amber today at her funeral with all of our TLC crew…I am reminded that no one really leaves this earth without a trace.  Love and remembrance are our way to hold on to the ones we love. As much as we miss them…we hold on tight to that which is ours to keep….forever.

There's only one FIRST one. Part One

Yesterday was probably a day of more mixed emotions than I have ever known.
The weather, although slightly windy, couldn’t have been more perfect for a run in the park. 
My first 5K: Pumpkins in the Park.
The starting line. I'm in there somewhere.
Picture from Fleet Feet Sports website

A couple friends were originally supposed to run with me, and at the last minute I found out I indeed would be running this solo (albeit with 466 other strangers). 

My fears came hard and strong…what if my lungs start giving out? 
Or my heartrate gets too high and I fall?  No one will know me or my situation.
No one knows me in this crowd. I'm just an anonymous runner.

I had to quickly squelch the fear. I stretched my legs and readied for  the start. I had prepared, I was ready and I was doing this for (and with) Zach. some ways it was prophetic, that I run this matter my disappointment.

By the time the start sounded adrenaline was pumping through me...and I just ran with the colorful crowd. Leave it to me to get lost in a crowd of butterflywings, colored wigs and zombies on my first race. Yet the beginning felt good. I felt the energy of everyone around me and kept a solid stride. By the time we rounded onto Cobbs Hill Drive I was still confident.
I am somewhere in this pack.
Picture from Fleet Feet Sports website
I'd run this little uphill neighborhood trail several times over the last two months since I'd found the course map online. The first mile was great, but as often happens (even in my workouts) I felt the rolling and winded breath fill my chest soon after the mile mark.  

I had stayed with the racing crowd but at over a mile I began to gradually lose those familiar costumed characters dotted around me. An umpalumpa, a princess, a wizard, and a runaway bride passed as I began to feel the heaviness in my chest thunder in.

My heart-rate was 187. I slowed to a fast walk.
This is nuts, I thought. What am I doing, trying this while still recovering from an upper respiratory infection and after having such a difficult week?

I kept checking back at my monitor---waiting for my heart to go down 30 before I attempted to run again. It was then that I was approaching the hardest part of the run, the reservoir—all uphill. I honestly don’t have any memory of getting up that hill….something took over. The next thing I remember was that I was cresting the top and some volunteer had seen my shirt saying Zach’s name and shouted something encouraging…and then his name.  I heard it and the tears came…I wasn’t going to stop because this is what I came here for.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Running with a broken heart

I've been staring down October 30th on the calendar for quite a few weeks (and months). 
I've been worried about a lot of things for this 5K, but it turns out they were all of no weight in the grand scheme of life. That's right. Life. Those worries are of little significance to what's on my heart right now. 

Chad was always in with the ladies!
I never knew that this week, the one leading up to my big race, would be one fraught with total heartache.

Two friends died this week...first, I learned of Chad, 32, a friend who passed away on the other side of the country. And just yesterday afternoon, it was Amber, a beautiful 18 year old young woman in our TLC program. 

Both of them were beautiful souls...with sparkle, vitality, energy, talent and loving hearts...and both were lost to cancer. 

One heartbreak is enough to sink a spirit, but two in a row have left me feeling incredibly hollow this week.

And in the midst of all this--- I'm planning on running a race? 

Amber and I just two weeks ago
Doubts abounded. Yet, maybe- just maybe this is the right time to run. My athlete friend and energetic cheerleader, Mary Eggers  posted on my facebook spurring me on. Even in this dark time, especially in this dark time---there is motivation.
She's so right.

As I take my mark among 500 other runners I will feel a lot of emotion. I'm still not aiming to make an impressive time because that would just be entirely unrealistic. I run with a purpose. 

I carry with me Zach and so many others whose lives have been interrupted, forever changed--- or ended by cancer.

I can't fight cancer. I can't cure cancer. 
All the marketing buzz words waving on banners can't annihilate this disease. Knowing that almost seems the definition of 'powerless'.

However, for whatever it's worth, I still feel there can be a vibration from the difference that one can make by doing somethingIt can't bring my friends back. Yet, in times of grief and tragedy we need a way out of powerlessness. I need to feel that even more now.

In some small way...I will carry the stories of my lost friends with me on my run. 

Having raised over $1,700 for young adults across the country who still struggle with their disease and seek the financial help of the SamFund...I know I did something. 

Thank you to all of you who have stood behind me and allowed me, not only to not give up but to push forward. There is no way I could have do this without you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In case you wanted to help me out...

As you know this 5K is also a fundraiser for the SamFund.
On October 30th I'm going to have a small cheering squad...but you can also cheer me on by donating....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Serenity Now

Another full day.  
Up at 5:30...out of first job by 3:30---> Home for a brief  few minutes-->   Head out to job #2--- 
At the center by 5:30pm..and at last back home by 9:30 PM.  
And then I do it again the next day.
I have not had a lot of time to think lately, or rest, or get myself together. I'm starting to feel like I'm watching the days blur by. They swirl together in a topsy turvy blender...and when I look back, I don't remember anything I've done distinctly.
This is the point where George Costanza would scream "SERENITY NOW."
Tonight serenity was mocha ice cream with chocolate cookie chunks (eaten from bed).

Yet as all this time passes the day of the race creeps up. I try to find a hole in my weekday schedule to place a run. I squeeze one in here and there...but when plotting it in between the two jobs, there is rarely enough time. Sometimes the run just doesn't happen. Yet, when it does, it feels like I am shedding a heavy skin, sloughing off stress.

Maybe that's my other serenity (besides the ice cream I mean).
If one's haven is technically a place then I've been finding mine in motion.
As hard as it is for me to work into my schedule, running has become my welcome mobile 'haven'.

Maybe it's because it reminds me of freedom.
Perhaps it's because standing still isn't an option.
Maybe it's simply escapist.
Whatever the reason, right now it's working for me.

Preparing for this 5k has forced me to be diligent...or at least work toward diligence.
 I'm still not "good" at running. I may never be "good" at it. I'm just totally in love with the feeling it gives me. As I close in on October 30th I am reminded that as much work as this has been...there was something truly meant to be...that running found me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Popcorn and Hooker Boots

Last night my friend Carrie and I went to the movies. We saw the movie You Again---not an Academy Award winner, but another score for the hot-again octogenarian Betty White. But that wasn't the most interesting part of the evening.

So as we were leaving the theater, walking the opposite direction toward the theater for the late show was--- a rather, ahem, head-turning couple.

Picture a middle aged man, conservatively dressed---- accompanied by a woman with long jet black hair and dressed in a low cut top, thigh high heeled boots and a micro micro mini with slits up the sides---an article that barely could be classified as a skirt let alone be worn in public.

Let's just say the whole ensemble was the kind of outfit not just meant for bold and brazen dressers, but the kind designed to grab attention from city blocks away (if you know what I mean).

I had to check the date on my cell phone--first thinking they had come from a Halloween party. 

Signs are pointing to two things :
A.) This was a woman of the night 
B.) This was a chick with extraordinarily bad judgement in situational dressing.

Or maybe my yoga pants and sweatshirt were a little too demure. Maybe I'm out of touch with fashion. I can just imagine in my closet I have some neon fishnets left over from a college costume party----next time I'll rethink. 

I digress.

Carrie and I probably got whiplash giving them a second look...but we weren't the only ones. People were literally doing the lightning glance of shame. In Henrietta NY---it's kind of an interesting oddity. There aren't a lot of Vivian Ward types roaming around this family friendly suburb. Which leads me to the question---
Do hookers get taken to the movies on their "dates"? 

I'm sure hookers go to the movies...I mean surely we can't assume that this pop culture pastime is lost on them. Now I wish I'd stuck around to see which movie they went to...
The new Wall Street movie...a Disney flick, The Social Network perhaps.
I apologize in advance just in case there are hookers who read my blog. 
Just simple curiosity, that's all. 

Now I want some of you readers to share your stories...
Tell me about your favorite "people watching" double take moment....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Strange how it hits you...

This past Thursday was September 30th. 
That was my C-day. Not D-day, but C-day, and no less significant.

To me that date used to ring in infamy, so to speak--the day that changed everything. Six years ago this week I was diagnosed with cancer (the first time). It was funny how I thought I would always be haunted by that date. 

I got the nicest email from a high school friend saying that she knew this was around the time that things had happened and she was thinking of me. It hit me that I had almost forgotten...again. Life has gotten busy...and a 'cancerversary' almost went unnoticed.  A look back to my previous posts on previous September 30th dates on this blog. It signified a similar trend. 

Perhaps the shadow of that day is softening or the outreach I do has put it into a different context. But in any case it haunts me less and inspires me to DO more. 

But I am well aware of so many of those I have folded into my heart who still can't put their own C-days behind them. I think more about my friends whose cancer battles still go on. I wish with all my heart that their C-days were just a commemoration of a past experience---and not a reality of every day. If I had a wish to grant...this would be it.

This morning I am briefly presenting at a conference of alternative medicine practitioners...and then going to a baby shower. How life has changed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How do I? What do I...? Can I?

My Dad did a little photo-shop magic.
I finally found the official course map to the 5K. As it turns out there is some uphill challenge to this...About 1/3 way through the race I have to round the Cobbs Hill Reservoir. Ouch. 

This weekend I tried a dry-run of the course. The top of the reservoir affords one of the prettiest views of the city of Rochester...but as I climbed up it for the first time, huffing and puffing as I went, I just kept thinking...
what am I doing? how am I going to do this? I'm not a runner...Am I seriously nuts for even trying? 

The definitive answer to that last question has to be no. 
There is no other way around this. I need to do this.
I wanted a challenge--and baby, here I go.
I'm just 34 days away from doing something I never imagined I would do. 

Running taxes me earlier and more profoundly than most people who do it regularly--and at least from where I see it, effortlessly. Even with all this heart rate is still too high through most of my workouts. It's not rocket science. I had a mediastinal tumor. Aside from my legs, the anatomical center of everything that is running (heart and lungs) is the very location of my second cancer's battleground. This is not supposed to be easy. I just didn't know it would be this hard.

I have received a lot of support from a lot of people who mean a great deal to me. So many have encouraged me in ways that are keeping me emotionally fueled. Gratitude is so much a part of why I'm doing this, but gratitude is what's keeping me going. I feel it...and every bit of love that comes my way keeps me focused. I even have a few dear people who have offered to run this with me. One of them, Heather (Swifty)  is going to have to drive two hours from Ithaca to do so. Zach's parents will be there on the day of the race...cheering me on. 

So far I've raised over $500 for the SamFund in Zach's memory--raising money for grant/scholarship funding for young adult survivors.  

I've wanted to pay it forward for the help they provided me. Gratitude. 
I had a friend who changed the direction of my life and I want to carry his banner of hope because he can't. Gratitude. I have a reduced capacity to be a 'natural' at all things physical---but I can try... I haven't lost the ability to do so. Gratitude. 

If you feel so compelled you can visit my webpage and make a'll help me work toward my fundraising goal. But you already have my gratitude just for taking a moment out of your day to read this...because somehow my simple quest touched your heart.

No matter what lies ahead in the final month of preparation, I know that I'm going to give it my all. I have so much to be grateful for...Life isn't just like a's a big ol' road race....some of it uphill, some of it winding, and some of it a soft and gentle downhill slope--the kind you coast down feeling the breeze on your face.

 Life is like a road race...and I'll bless every stride.

Monday, September 20, 2010


This weekend I participated in the Rochester River Challenge as a pinch-hitter for the Cayuga Outrigger Team (from Ithaca). My friend Heather Swift, the glamourous redhead next to me in the group pic, introduced me to the sport that makes her tick...and now...I think I may be hooked.

Friday night I had called to chat up Miss Heather, a two-time cancer survivor herself, the night before...and found out they needed a paddler...

Who's in? Me! Me! 

However, I might have felt a bit in over my head though when I found out who we were racing against in our two 400 meter heats. None other than the RIT R.O.T.C. team! Nothing like going head-to-head with a bunch of buff 20 year old army guys to give you a good morning workout. Needless to say, they beat us...but we made them work for it!

Despite having had absolutely no experience racing an outrigger canoe they said I did really well. I just watched Felix, positioned ahead of me and tried to stay in total sync with his stroke. I think I picked it up fairly fast all things considered.
We paddled quick and strong...and when the steerer called "hut" and we all yelled "ho" and switched sides. It was an absolute blast!

I really think I believe my friend Val about this "re-athlete" thing. She an I both had to step out of our athletic lives when we were teens due to illness, and she coined the word
"re-athlete" as a way to classify a person who is pushing themselves back into the active life. 

I loved the adrenaline rush I got from throwing on a "Sha-Zam" t-shirt and jumping into a boat to race a bunch of tough macho college guys. Somehow it didn't even scare me that I was learning the call words and signals and all the rules of how to paddle an outrigger and how to race as we literally slid through the water to the starting mark. 

Isn't that what life's about...taking a chance and seizing an opportunity when it comes your way? 

Heather has this banner that she hoists at every race she does. You can see that it says "Never Give Up". 

This is a woman who has proven she never gives up... Even after cancer her resilience has been tested severely. A year ago she broke her neck and was told she would never be able to be active on the same level again. I think she's proving that prediction wrong.

Something is really magical about a life where you get to mix the blessings of extraordinary experiences with extraordinary people. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trip of a lifetime...

Here it is three weeks after one of the most amazing trips I've ever taken...and I'm just now posting a blog?
You know the I was busy. Shame on me.
This is just but a mere glimpse of the beauty that I saw in Colorado. Above is a picture taken at the Colorado National Monument in Fruita Colorado (just outside of Grand Junction).

The drive there with Joy and Robin was just as incredible as the trip that would follow. I think I've fallen in love with yet another place. There are so many vistas that take your breath away...and I feel lucky in life to have added Colorado's landscape to that list.
I am sad to say that my camera misbehaved half-way through our four day trip and I only got a few images before it conveniently decided to expire. Bummer of all bummers. But luckily, several of the good friends I made will be sharing their pictures which will make their way into my collection. I will share what I do have with you...

We arrived at our camp site...fourteen single cancer survivors, two guides and a massage therapist-- ready for adventure.

I was so excited to be meeting a whole new batch of friends...and of course, hanging with some friends from way back. Juliana Carvatt(a pal from '08 at the LiveStrong summit) and Sean Swarner were there. Sean hooked us up with some sweet Marmot tents to use!

We paddled out on Friday morning from Fruita. The weather couldn't have been more perfect than if we had ordered it that way. The sky was a magnificent turquoise blue. We paddled into our next campsite late in the afternoon and right on schedule!

We camped on a bank near Black Rock...opposite these beautiful ancient metamorphic formations. Pretty cool.

        In between paddling we had a good deal of "down-time". We ate meals prepared in the "tipped canoe kitchen", had some luau night fun and just chatted around the fire at night, watching the moon rise up over the canyon.

      There is something about getting to know people out in the great outdoors, no showers, no running water...that bonds you. Call me crazy, but it does. There's also something about being freed from technological distractions that makes it a sweeter experience. With one exception...Sean's constellation finder iphone app was fun to look at the stars with (until the battery died).

          On the playground of a riverbank along the most famous river in somehow accept missing the comforts of home. Okay, I'll be honest the groover (makeshift bathroom) was something I took some time to get used to

         Our creativity and fun-loving spirit as a group kept things interesting. One of the nights we sprinkled some aloha spirit on our canyon river fun...And you can't imagine what mischief happened when the train came roaring around on the other side of the river bank. Think high school antics....and you might guess what that was about.
Looking back at these snapshots makes me laugh.

Tracy, our fearless leader with the boys!
       Aside from the fun on this trip, I think I challenged myself more than I expected. Traveling a thirty plus mile stretch of river, (and paddling it with little other experience than what I've done on the tranquil and predictable Salmon River)...really tested me.

       Climbing up a canyon, the same giant layered formation that I had been gazing at from our camp circle---was scary--and was amazing. Looking out from that great height when I made it to the top (with the help and encouragement of some amazing friends),gazing at the river winding around columns and ribbons of red sandstone as far as the eye could see---that was something I never will forget.
               This trip, Canoeing and Connection-- was a labor of love and the brainchild of my very good friend Tracy Maxwell. She had a vision and a passion to make this trip happen. When she asked me to sign on to the committee, to help get it off the ground, there was no hesitation. I knew any idea she had cooking was bound to be a winner. And it was...

Thank you Tracy, thanks to everyone on this trip who gave me memories to fill a lifetime.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Here in DENVER!

I arrived yesterday afternoon in Denver. I had purposely picked a window seat when I bought my ticket, so I could see the mountains when we landed, but yesterday's haze hid the view.
I could see just the thinnest trace of the legendary peaks.

After a slight baggage guffaw(please note: gate checked baggage doesn't always appear miraculously where you expect it to post flight), I was on my way to Tracy's car, already packed with gear for the upcoming trip. Canoeing and Connection- 17 single cancer survivors venturing over 3 days on the Colorado River- is finally about to happen.

Lots to do before then. Today was a doozy. Tracy, Kat (one of the guides) and I just got back from a huge restaurant supply superstore. This place is only for the SUPER serious. Normally you can only get into this place if you own a restaurant---but Kat had a connection.

Let me tell you- this place makes Sam's Club look like a roadside stand. We are talking orange jackets that they supply you with so you can roll your industrial cart through the giant meat freezer. Here Kat and Tracy pose with only some of the stuff we then carted off and packed into Tracy's SUV. The final bill was probably about half what we would have paid in a typical grocery store.

Tracy and I just finished stuffing everything into every inch of freezer and fridge space she had and threw the rest in coolers filled with ice. Pheewww!
I guess it hit me that the trip, a plan that's been in the works for months, has finally arrived. Tracy is a total wonderwoman---I'm just trying to keep up with her. She dreamed up this program on a wing and a prayer and gathered all of us together to help her achieve it. We've got such a fun adventure ahead. Tomorrow we will put our canoes in a town called Loma. Our final destination is Westwater Utah. Below is a map of our basic route.

This is going to be it for a while...pretty hard to blog on the river, folks... but I will surely update when I'm back home safe and dry. Hope everyone is enjoying their own last "summer hurrahs."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Does illness make you tougher?

Read my subject title and answer the question posed in it to yourself...
Sure, the way it is written it almost tricks you to answer in the affirmative.
However I bet before I framed it that way you wouldn't have thought that.

Sure, people always told me I was "strong" for having fought for so many years...but physically strong? I learned to let go of that identity. It's only in the last few months that I have I been fighting for that physical strength again.

In my quest to run my first ever 5K my eyes have opened. There are so many of us who begin to realize that coming out of illness we want something more.
Many times that comes in the form of an athletic challenge.

I found out one of our i[2]yers here in Rochester Peter Kull has run two triathlons in the last month or so...and he is only a year out from diagnosis...GO PETER! And you read about Val in my last post.

But today I want to share with you a little bit about a fellow cancer comrade from Ithaca. Maki's story will blow you away... and I asked her if I could share it with you.
She is pictured here with her husband Jeff (they had just finished the Cayuga Lake Triathlon)

I first met Maki two years ago at our first Stupid Cancer boot camp in Syracuse (formerly called the OMG cancer conference). I hadn't gotten as much of a chance as I would have liked to talk with her and at the time she was going through treatment for lung cancer and slipped out of the conference early.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago while flipping through a fitness magazine when I saw her face, and read her name that I knew solidly she had beaten her disease beyond all expectations! As I read the article I immediately began to tear up. I was so incredibly in awe of her iron will and determination. And you will be too.

Whether it is possible or not is not what is important---whether you have a stellar time on the clock or a ribbon or a medal, or prance around with an elite crowd of competitors is insignificant. That is not the success story and that is not the point. Afterall- we can't all be Lances. It's not even about getting to the finish lane.

The thing about cancer or illness that can make you tough is that when you re-enter life you have to start seemingly all over to 'figure it out' again. You have to push yourself. It's when you push yourself and redefine who you are supposed to be--that's what takes your breath away. The path is often more winding and more challenging---but you keep keep believing.

When you get a second chance in life---it's hard to resist that urge to try. bet...pretty damn tough.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making a splash

It seems I'm not the only one with an athletic challenge ahead. My friend Valerie is taking on something amazing this weekend (when you consider her story you will agree).

Valerie and I are living parallel lives it seems. Living in a suburb of Los Angeles, she and I trade war stories from the dating front and of course we share an understanding of illness. Strangely some of our life goals and interests have aligned in an odd symmetrical path, as though we planned it that way. Val's latest quest is no exception.

This weekend Val will compete in the Crum Pier to Pier 2 mile ocean swim in Manhattan Beach in California.

Two years ago my Val pal and I met in Montana as participants in the survivor retreat at Camp-Mak-A-Dream. We did the Hollywood thing and she drove me all around the rich and fabulous homes of Beverly Hills while I was there on the west coast also visiting my friend Kevin for the week in Playa del Ray. And in 2009-- did we ever cause some trouble in Vegas!

Val was diagnosed with aplastic anemia as a young girl and underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Her struggle didn't end there as life threw her a series of curveballs--lasting side effects of the treatment and even a hip replacement at the age of 21- and age when most of us are aligning other more liquid aspirations, if you get my drift.

And what makes one decide to swim two miles in the ocean?
Her desire to help someone else. And I'm sure in the end Val will say it challenged herself in a way she never would have imagined. Overall though, I think it's Val's big heart that is the true selfless gift she is giving for a friend's daughter-- that is what is driving this pursuit.

I am so proud of Val. We've been both cheering each other on in our respective timezones.
We hit each others facebooks and blogs to track progress. And this weekend as she swims her heart out---I'll be sending my mental good vibes to her.

I will let her tell you the whole story and why she does this because she says it best.

If you feel persuaded to give her a donation...than you can't go wrong. But if you just want to read about someone worth knowing--a kind soul I call my friend...then take a look and marvel.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Perspective is everything

My lungs are stronger now than they've been in a long time, but this is getting tough. Really tough.
One mile? Am I really tapping out at one mile? There's a little more than three months until my first scheduled 5K. I'm not progressing the way other people do who train for's taking me three times as long as they recommend.

The other day I began to beat myself up mentally--angry and frustrated at my own limitations. And then I paused...

I take my mind back to early April...Then an active lifestyle had been so far from my line of vision. It was so far down on my priority list that my five year old sneakers looked as new as if they were out of the box. Shameful. I would gasp for air even attempting to run a couple hundred yards. That struggle is still fresh in my mind, yet there is so much mental distance from then and now.

Instead of bemoaning this stalled mile mark as a defeat-- I choose to see it as a victory.
So what if it took me this long to get here and so what if it takes me much harder work ahead of me to get to the next mile?

I'm a better version of me than I was 100 days ago and many thousand ambitious and quick steps ago. That's what counts.

We're all running our own race. That's a mantra that comes to mind from a friend's recent advice. In other words: I can't measure myself stride for stride with others who attempt the same thing. They may not have come through the same hoops. If it hurts, I slow down. I listen to what my body is saying that day. There are days when I can feel a gentle breeze lift me and it seems to whisper to push harder---and on those days I listen too.

Today my reality check came with a check-up.
Heading to my three month oncology appointment I walked through the sunlit hallway at Wilmot. I spotted a young woman with a colorful scarf wrapped elegantly around her head heading toward me. She was laboriously rolling an oxygen tank with a LiveSTRONG sticker emblazoned on it like a team jersey. She too is running her own race.

We exchanged smiles hello and when she walked past I realized that I had slowed my own gait and cut back the bounce in my step. It was guilt, the heavy pang, one that I feel as a now healthy young woman returning to the cancer center, a place where I cross paths with others still fighting to get where I am now.

So many people I know are currently running against this most cunning opponent in a most arduous race. It makes a 5K look like a piece of cake. It makes a marathon or any other imaginable athletic feat pale in comparison. Truly, it does. I don't say that from a place of disconnected analogy---I've been there and this will never be as hard as that time was. I have incredible gratitude that I can be here to bemoan what I can't yet reach.

When I see those wheelchairs being pushed or the weary looks on the passing faces my brain shifts almost instantaneously to just a couple short years ago. I see the me of the past where they stand or sit--the faint shadow of who I am now (back in vivid color and fully in focus). I am grateful that I am here...but silently wishing for them to get to "here" too.

We can't run the same race at the same time. This is the mystery and unique pattern of human lives. Some playing fields can't be leveled. Perhaps they see me and want to trade places, but could I have even imagined back then that I would be here? Surely not.

I am reminded that there is no place without challenge if you are always in pursuit of something else. Something higher...something deeper.

And so I'll just keep pushing on...