Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's My Re-Birthday!

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my Re-Birthday, the day a basketball sized tumor was removed from my abdomen.

Before I went into surgery at 9 am, my surgeon told me it would take about an hour to remove the tumor and if they found cancer, it would be 3+ hours so they could make sure they got it all and clean my organs/lymph nodes.

When I woke up in recovery, the first thing I did was ask the nurse what time it was. She told me it was 12:30.

That's when I knew I had cancer.

To be honest, I pretty much knew before that but I was in denial. Hey, if there's no proof, it might not be cancer, right? But the signs were there...I just ignored them and/or didn't realize they were symptoms of ovarian cancer.

When the surgeon came to see me in recovery and told me that it was probably Stage 1 C, I was relieved. Worried about that C but relieved. It was caught early and he was pretty certain they'd gotten it all and they hadn't seen signs of it in the other organs. I was VERY lucky.

I can't tell you how scared I was that morning of the surgery. I really, really did not want to have it. I was afraid they would open me up and say "Too late". I planned for that possibility. I didn't really tell my family but I had cleaned up my apartment and made notes about things for them. I didn't have a living will but we had talked about what I wanted and they knew I didn't want extraordinary measures. I can't tell you how weird it is to make plans for the possibility you might not be here long.

I had to put on my big girl panties though and just do it. So I had the surgery and it all turned out okay. Though I had a bit of a scare in recovery. Before I woke, I must have had a dream because I "heard" someone ask about me and the nurse replied "She didn't make it." and I was trying to shout "Yes, I did. I'm here!" But no words came out! I think I must have fallen asleep again because the next thing I remember is asking the nurse what time it was and since she responded, I knew I was alive.

Thank God.

I was alive but it took me a while to feel like I was living again, first with the recovery from surgery, and then chemo, and then the recovery from chemo. It was more just existing and trying to get better. But it was that day - September 30, 2013 - when I started the journey back to me.

Today, I celebrated by going for a run and doing speed work (6x400s). I am finally strong enough and running well enough that I can do speed work and it feels wonderful. I feel amazing and I have to say I am really happy right now.
 
Sure there are things I wish were different or that I didn't have to deal with - like night sweats and hot flashes and a life time of worrying if it will come back. But I have finally put those small (relatively speaking) challenges in a place where I deal with them and move on.
 
You know, I also had a little bit of survivor's guilt this past year...still do, in fact. Ovarian cancer does not have the best survival rate. I sometimes wonder WHY I was so lucky. A few times I have gone to the doctor or urgent care and the nurse would see that I had ovarian cancer and ask me how I caught it so early. Because it's not usually caught until Stage 3 or 4. And I have to tell them dumb luck. If not for that tumor growing so big, so fast, I wouldn't have caught it so early.
 
I  also wondered/wonder if I have the right to call myself a survivor because I found out I had cancer AFTER it was gone (for sure anyways). I didn't have to deal with the knowing it was in me and trying to get it out with radiation, chemo, and surgery. It was gone and chemo was a just-in-case because the tumor had burst. In so many ways, I was lucky. I don't know why.
 
What I do know is that I DID survive and all I can do is live life to the fullest and do what I can to spread the word about Ovarian Cancer and it's symptoms. And hope that's enough.
 
I am excited to see what my future holds for me now!

Monday, September 29, 2014

San Dimas 5K

I ran the San Dimas 5K on Saturday. It was the bookend to the 10K I did last Sunday for my easy week. I think both races went pretty well and I hit my goals for both of them! Yay!

First, here are the stats for last week:
Running - 25 miles (6.2, 5.3, 3.1, 6.2, 4.2)
Cycling - 103 miles
Weights/gym - 5 hours
Bonus fun - 5 mile hike in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park on Saturday afternoon.

So my week was easy in that I cut back on a mileage for both running and riding but kept up the intensity. I ran the 10K on Sunday, did 10x100s on Tuesday's run, ran 2 miles at tempo on Thursday (1 mile with Tim, a superfast local runner who was luckily running a very easy recovery run or I wouldn't have been able to keep up!), and then ran the 5K on Saturday.

I was really excited to test myself on Saturday. This is a local race and I knew the course...or so I thought. I got there in plenty of time to get my bib, use the restroom, and warm up. Once again, I didn't eat before the race but did remember to drink water.

So I ran 1.1 miles for a warm up and then headed to the start line. My goal was to get under 30 minutes for this race. I knew there was a hill but I still thought I could do it in that time. There was no chip timing, just gun time so I also knew I would have to account for that. Luckily, it's a very small local race so not a huge crowd.

The race started right on time and we headed out. Uphill. Not a steep one but a steady one for about 4 blocks. Then we turned to the right and I thought "Yay, it's done" but it wasn't done. We did a loop and then headed back up that same hill only for twice as long and then after the right, we went up another hill! That was not fun. I ran hard but I tried not to burn myself out.

Once we rounded the corner at the top of the hill, we had a smooth downhill. I let my feet fly. There was only 1.1 miles left and I knew I could keep that pace up. We had one more slight bump to get over before hitting the final stretch. As I got closer, I saw the clock was at 29:45 and I hauled a$$ to make it under 30:00. I crossed the line in 29:55! Woo! Yeah baby!

I was pretty happy with that. Can you tell? :)

Bonus fun for the day:
  • That was a post cancer 5K PR!
  • I am wearing my favorite Athleta skirt. Yay for fitting into it again!
  • I lost 2.2 pounds last week!
  • I had a training session with Phil The Masochist later that morning.
  • I got to do a fun 5 mile hike in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park in the afternoon.

Saturday was a great finish to a fun week! Hope you all had a great week/weekend too!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Five For Friday - 9/26/14

One year ago, I was doing pre-op for the surgery to remove a basketball sized tumor that would reveal I had ovarian cancer. Thankfully, I am alive and well one year later. I think it's only fitting that I start a regular feature I have been thinking about today...5 things I'm thankful for each Friday.

Here's my 5 for this week:

1. I am thankful that my cancer was caught early and I am still here one year later, healthy and happy.

2. I am thankful for this cutie who makes me smile and laugh every day.

3. I am thankful I get to see beautiful sunrises EVERY day.

4. I am thankful for new shoes which make running fun!

5. I am thankful I live in Southern California so I can ride to work and run outside all year.
 
What are you thankful for?
 
Have a great weekend! And happy running!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Girls on the Go 10K

Yesterday I ran the Girls on the Go 10K. It's a rest week for me so I only had 10K scheduled to do. This race popped up on my radar and it had a pretty medal so I decided to do it. I also thought it would "make" me do a little speed work/tempo running which I haven't been as diligent with as I should be. I didn't taper for it...

Last week's numbers:
Running - 33 miles (14, 5, 3.1, 6.4, 4.5)
Cycling - 121 miles
Gym - 5 hours

...and I wasn't expecting much, maybe 11 min miles? I'd set a post chemo 10K PR time of 1:08 and change at the Leading Ladies Marathon and I was just hoping to beat that.

So...I didn't eat breakfast or even drink water before the race because I got there too late and had to park too far away. I also didn't get to use the restroom. Oops. But it was in Bonelli and I always enjoy running thru there and the weather was perfect. After days of 108 (feels like 113...or a bajillion degrees) earlier in the week, overcast and 60s felt like heaven. I was ready for some fun!

The race started at 7:10 and they were right on time. Lots of women in the start corral, of course, but some men/boys too. It was great to see mothers and daughter in the crowd too. Once it started, I took off and weaved my way thru the runners ahead of me. The first portion has a little bit of an uphill and then a nice long downhill. I was flying. For me, anyway. :) I'd done this course many times and knew exactly what to expect. We ran along the dam and the shore of the lake and then had to cross a little stream. Usually, I just run right thru the stream but they had set up a portable bridge so I went ahead and used that. Then we had a short section of dirt and then we were back on pavement.

I stopped at the turnaround aid station and got some "Gatorade" but it was awful and I don't think it was Gatorade. I spit it out. Yuck! I was carrying water in my small handheld so just continued to drink that (I always race with a handheld so I don't contribute to the trash of a race). Anyway, after that there was nothing to do but put my head down and run. We had one large hill to get over and then it was on to the finish.

I was getting tired at the end but finished strong and quicker than I'd hoped - 1:05:10! Woo! That felt good and was a lot of fun. This is my medal:


Pretty, eh? I love that the writing and butterflies are in teal. Perfect for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (teal is our color). Yes, that's one of the reasons I ran it. I wanted to celebrate my 1 year anniversary (September 30th) of finding out I had Ovarian Cancer with something positive instead of something somber/depressing. What better way to do it than to race with women/girls this month?

I feel really good about my effort there. I will be running this same course again in November and I hope I can get closer to, maybe beat, my PR of 54:55 then. Cross your fingers!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Renegade Coyote

Last week was a pretty great training week. I hit all my workouts hard and I had a lot of fun.

The numbers:
Riding: 121 miles
Running: 32 miles
Weight Training: 5 hours

Plus some walking and stretching and foot exercises for 21+ hours. Whew, I'm tired just thinking about that. I need a nap!

I had to push my Thursday run to Friday because of some major DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from Tuesday night's leg workout with Phil. It was a killer butt & leg workout but I really needed it. We've found that my left leg is a lot weaker than the right leg so we are working to balance the two. The plus side of killer leg workouts is less soreness after long runs, like Sunday's 14 miler. Score!

In other news...

Look...it's me running! LOL, not really. I don't run barefoot (though I should try to go more minimal again). No, I feel free because I shed even more toxic waste from my life. And I've gone renegade coyote. I'm on my own now. I thought I would feel sad about it but surprisingly, I'm not. I feel free and like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I was talking to a Twitter friend this weekend about training and stress and how it can affect us. When your mind is heavy, it affects all areas of your life - training, sleep, health, and eating (for me). Shed the toxicity if you can people! It's not always easy, but it is worth it. Your shoulders and your mind will thank you for it.

Oh...part of feeling lighter is because I lost another 4.6 pounds! Woo! I am now no longer Moderately Obese (per BMI). Now I'm just overweight. :-/ LOL. Still not good, eh? I am at 183.4 lbs and need to lose another 16ish lbs to be considered "normal". Normal is boring, right? Right.

BUT...being normal when it comes to weight is MUCH better than being overweight. Because overweight means your chances of cancer increase. I'm already at an increased risk for breast cancer because of having ovarian cancer. I don't need to up that risk and that's why I'm so determined and focused to lose the weight I gained the past year.

The side benefit is that I'm able to fit into my old clothes again! The size 10s are fitting again! Hello cute skirts (both running and work) and dresses! Oh, how I've missed you. :)

This week is another killer week and I'm running a 10K on Sunday but then I get a rest week. I'm really looking forward to it. Rest is good. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Hate You...and Ovarian Cancer Too!

"I hate you!"

I never thought I would be happy to hear those words but they made me smile. Because they were said to me by a coworker and were immediately followed by:

"You've lost so much weight!"

Woo!

I haven't actually. I've lost 26 pounds since I started focusing on it. Which doesn't FEEL like a lot because I still have 38 that I want to lose. But I have lost inches and started to tone up thanks to Phil The Masochist. :) And people have been noticing, like my coworker and one of the girls at 24 HR and one of the girls at Fleet Feet. That makes me feel good and makes me want to work out even harder. I do much better with positive reinforcement like this.

So, let's see...last week's workouts:

Running - 30.3 miles (5 runs - 12, 5.3 (2 miles at tempo), 2.5, 6.2 (8x100s), and 4.3)
Riding - 122 miles (1 fun ride, 4 bike commutes, 1 fun trip to the gym).
Weights - 5 hours in the gym

I also did a little bit of walking. I try to take a 15-20 minute walk during lunch every day except Wednesday when I go to the gym at lunch.

I would say that training is going pretty well. I am still too slow for my liking on the run but am working on that. I am less sore and feel less tired after the long runs now. My foot is doing great and my legs have a lot less DOMS after the longer runs. I ran 13.1 yesterday and though the heat got to me at the end, I felt pretty good during it.

So now that the training stuff is out of the way...

Hey, did you know this month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? Friday was Wear Teal Day and I wore a shirt I bought and also made a headband to help control my crazy curly hair. :)

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this past year and how ironic it is that I found out I had ovarian cancer on Sept 30th last year. I knew nothing about ovarian cancer then. I guess I had my head stuck in the sand because I HAD the symptoms for it. I just didn't know that's what they were symptoms for. I think I kinda sorta maybe didn't want to know. But it is WAY better to catch ovarian cancer early. The survival rate is much better in the early stages. Ovarian cancer can be deadly when caught late.
I think the problem is that most of these symptoms happen to women throughout their lives. The key is that if you are having them at the same time and they are persistent for more than 2 weeks, they may indicate a problem and you should talk to your doctor about it. And it doesn't just strike older women either, though the majority of the women seem to be in their 60s and up. But I was 45 and I have talked to women in their 30s with it. And sadly, I have seen women in their teens and 20s who have gone through this on the message boards. So don't mess around! And please make sure all the women in your life are aware of it. The older generation especially.
 
Lastly, I would like to thank my friends Donna (@runslikephoebe), Josh (@bayou), Dallas (@smithbend), and M (@readeatwriterun) who wore teal on Friday to support me and all the other women affected by ovarian cancer. Oh, and my niece Maddie! You all rock!

Remember...TEAL - Take Early Action & Live! Let's do what we can to help defeat Ovarian Cancer's reign of badness on women! Cancer sucks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Leading Ladies Half Marathon Recap

One year ago, I was having an ultrasound done to determine what the bump in my stomach was. I remember how scared I was about what the ultrasound would find. I had no clue then what the next year would have in store for me but let me tell you, the six weeks between that ultrasound and the surgery that removed what we found out was a cancerous ovarian tumor were hell. People would sometimes tell me that I looked terrified at the start of a race and sometimes I was a little - when I was about to race a new distance or a difficult trail race. But not anymore! Racing is easy compared to cancer. Never again will I be afraid to race. As a friend reminded me last month "It's just a race." Whatever happens, happens. If it doesn't go well, it's not the end of the world. So I was pretty relaxed for this weekend's adventures. Maybe too relaxed.

Yesterday, I ran the Leading Ladies Half Marathon. I'd originally signed up for the marathon but fatigue and foot issues derailed my training and I asked if I could drop to the Half. I'd run the marathon there a couple of years ago and thought it would be a good one to come back with. It's pretty small, only for women, and really beautiful. I also didn't get to see a lot the last time I was there so wanted to go back.

Because my kitten, Jenks, is still pretty young, I didn't take the long weekend I'd originally planned and just did a quick Saturday/Sunday trip. So I packed A LOT into Saturday. My flight arrived at noon on Saturday and I immediately headed over to the race expo to check in. Picked up the beautiful bib and cool shirt and the chip and then headed out to do some exploring.

First, I went to the Spirit of the Wild Sanctuary. It's an animal sanctuary for lions, tigers, bears, and other wild creatures who were in captivity or as pets but not able to be taken care of anymore. I took the tour which took about 2 hours and was pretty cool. I even saw a coyote cousin there. You should have heard one of the mountain lions screaming. Gave me chills. But then there was this cutie in a tree. Almost makes you want to hug him. Almost. 

After that, I drove to Devil's Tower National Monument. If you've seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you've seen Devil's Tower. It is amazing and weird! It's also pretty popular with climbers.

I did the short 1.3 mile hike that goes around the tower. It was beautiful and I got to watch some climbers for a while. I didn't see any aliens though. As I was driving out of the park, I stopped to take photos and one of the stops had a large field across from it filled with prairie dogs! They were cute and fun to watch.

Then I drove back to Spearfish to check into my hotel, stopping once to watch the sunset for a bit. I tried going to sleep but tossed and turned all night. I'm not sure why. I wasn't nervous.

I got up at 3 on Sunday and got ready to head over to the park to take the bus at 4:30. It was cool but not too cold. I got to talk to some women while we waited for the start and I met a woman who knew me from my blog. So wild! We were supposed to start at 6 but didn't start until about 6:25. I hadn't had breakfast except a Lara bar and then a gel about 15 minutes before the start.

Finally we were off! I tried to hold back because I was planning a 2:45 finish but felt good and ran a faster pace than I'd planned pretty much until mile 9. I only stopped once to take a pic of Bridal Veil Falls (which I missed the last time because you had to cross the road and go out on a deck). I tried taking pics as I ran but only 1 came out. I guess I need to practice that. Hmmm...

I had another gel with me but ended up not taking it because my stomach was unhappy starting about mile 9. I walked thru 2 aid stations to grab some pretzels to see if it would help and it did a little. I never really found my pace again so the brief glimpse I had of a 2:30 finish faded away. But besides those 2 aid stations, I didn't walk at all which I am very proud of. The unhappy stomach and my legs being sore were voting for walking and settling for 2:45 but I outvoted them! I distracted myself from them by trying to remember how many races I'd done that were a half marathon or longer (53 including this one) and just counting steps. I finished strong and was really happy to see I made it in before 2:35. :) They gave me my medal, a rose, and a warm, lemon scented towel and then I headed over to the pizza cookies which were just as yummy as I remembered.


Then I headed back to the hotel to shower and pack for my flight home. It was a SHORT but sweet trip!

I probably could have done a few things better. Like having a good dinner the night before and not doing all that walking with the running thru airports, tour, and hike. I could have also had a real breakfast. And remembered to bring salt pills. Oh, and I didn't taper. I really thought I would be doing some walking so hadn't done the usual pre-race rituals. Next time, I'll be better about it!

But maybe I wouldn't be better about it. I would hate to have missed the sanctuary or Devil's Tower. I mean, that's the whole reason I race...to see new places and explore this incredibly strange and wondrous planet we live on. So I wouldn't change that part. But the nutrition part and the tapering...yeah, that I have to work on.

One final thought...I definitely do need to lose more weight and get stronger all around because my legs and back were pretty sore after. If I'm going to run hard, I better make sure my body can handle it.

I still have a lot of work to do!