Friday, April 29, 2011

Quick Komen Update

I am shocked. Seriously shocked. I HATED selling Girl Scout Cookies when I was a kid -- I remember feeling bad about asking people to buy something. I'm just not a salesperson at all. So I wasn't sure how successful I could be at asking people to donate for my goal of raising momey for Komen (see the entry for April 27)

So here is the total this morning -- $535! How cool is that! I had a goal of $200 at first, then $500 and now the new goal is $700. I think it would be super cool to get to $1000 but that number seems so scary that I can't even type it in yet!

However -- I just wanted to give folks an update! People are awesome! :D

EVENING EDIT: I got brave and upped my official fundraising level to $1000 not long after I posted the above (and it's not going any higher -- that is my true goal!). I am pleased to report that we are up to $750 as of now! I am so excited to be spearheading something like this! And the goodness must be rubbing off on my running because I did a 5K in about 31 minutes earlier this afternoon after doing 13.5 miles on a bike. The run felt great and I know I could have gone longer and faster -- a feeling I haven't had since last year. But -- I don't want to push it too hard, especially since I wasn't wearing my running shoes (just regular gym sneakers) and Stella (the pooch!) and I are running a 5K for the APA on Sunday morning! But I am starting to feel better -- finally! -- when it comes to running!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quick Funny

I was reading posts from the WPA list serve this morning (WPA = Writing Program Adminsitration). For the last day, the discussion has been about whether the teaching of writing is more Liberal than other jobs. As a response, someone wrote this comment: "My Republican, older brother who is a rocket scientist (for real) always tells his friends that his sister is a prostitute. He believes that this is better than telling them that I am a liberal college professor."

I seriously thought I was going to die laughing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Komen Race for the Cure: June 11

As you can see from the image above, I have decided to run the Komen Race for the Cure here in St Louis on June 11. I know it might sound ridiculous but I have put a lot of thought into whether or not I should register for this race. It's a charity event so I should do it without hesitation, right? In the 11 years I have lived in the St Louis area, I have competed in this race a half dozen times -- and two years ago I walked in the race to support my sister-in-law. Never in a million years did I think this would be an issue that would impact me personally. In fact, I stopped running the race a few years ago because the crowds were just too much for me. I know this is for a great cause, but it was just getting to hard to run around the zillion people walking in huge groups, blocking the road (and I haven't been fast enough to get way in the front to avoid all the chaos!).

Last year on the day of this race, Jim and I were off to St John's Hospital for my MRI in preparation for what would become the first of two lumpectomies. I remember feeling so relieved that I was not going to have to face all those groups of PINK around every corner (since the race happens downtown and we live downtown). Embracing the pink ribbon was not something I wanted to do. And I am still not sure if I am up to hanging out with that damn pink ribbon now but I am realizing that I need to get past feeling angry every time I encounter a pink ribbon in my daily life. This anger is below the surface and it's not something that I talk about with a lot of people. Before breast cancer, the only association I had with a pink ribbon was with Faith, the wife in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" -- a story I often teach in my American Literature class. In the story, Faith represents Brown’s religious/ spiritual faith and his faith in others/ society; her pink ribbons stand for innocence. But that is not the pink ribbon I see in terms of breast cancer support -- that pink ribbon is not innocent. Besides the issue of the ribbon being used to sell products (Ah! Let's buy that cereal because it has a pink ribbon!), I think of the image in terms of the word "survivor." I see them both intricately connected. I understand that I dodged a bullet with this whole cancer thing, but what about my friend Kate from my cancer support group? She died a few weeks ago (from a blood clot, not actually cancer) and now isn't a "survivor." I know she wanted to beat this thing and I will always remember the beautiful scarves (especially the purple one) that she wore to group, often noting how she looked forward to getting her "new hair." We were both diagnosed within a day of each other last year and I guess that is why we would often sit next to each other and talk before the group started. Though she was much older than I, we bonded over something neither one of us ever saw coming.

So, I guess what I am trying to say (not so clearly!) is that I have a complicated relationship still with breast cancer and with the Komen race. I think the money raised is great, but there are so many other cancers and illnesses that don't get enough press and I don't want to contribute to encouraging the "glamorization" of breast cancer! BUT .. and this is a big "but" ... this event has become more personal for me. People need to get mammograms and we need to find a cure for all cancers. Those are the only two goals for me.

That said, here is my personal link for Komen. Click here! I have decided to run the timed event (we start 5 minutes before everyone else) so I may not get as stressed with running around the large crowds. And I want to get this run down to under 25 minutes. My PR for a 5K is in the 23 minute mark but it has been a few years since I have been near that time. I would be delighted, though, to get something under 25 minutes. I haven't even been close to that in the past year or so.

So ... gulp ... bring on the pink!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Washington University Sprint Triathlon!

As many of you probably know, we folks here in the St Louis area have been hit with numerous tornadoes and generally bad weather for the last two weeks or so. When I was at my conference last week, I spent one night in the basement of the old mansion (which is now a conference center) and we had no power for two days (which makes me feel like I survived an adventure at a haunted castle!). I came home late Thursday and then on Friday we had more tornado action here in the city (in fact, our airport was closed most of the weekend because one of the main concourses was severely damaged). And then on Saturday I competed in my first "almost all outside" triathlon of the year: The Washington University Sprint Triathlon.

The swimming was in the Athletic Complex on campus -- a serpentine swim for 400 yards. I always get quite nervous waiting to swim but this time I think I was more relaxed. I knew I just wanted to finish this race so I wasn't feeling too competitive or anything. By the time I hopped in the pool, I was just anxious to get this part finished so I could move on to the two parts I like better: cycling and running!

While we were in the pool, the rain started coming down harder. I don't have a bucket yet like my more experienced triathlon colleagues (I really need to get one soon!) -- so my stuff got pretty wet. But I hopped on my bike and headed to Forest Park for two loops around (with a total of just over 12 miles). I should mention that I fell on Friday night when I was trying out my new triathlon pedals for my bike (I am still using a mountain bike but the kind folks at REI "tricked out" my bike a bit to make it more competitive). Anyway -- I tried the new tires out on Friday night and -- not being used to cages on my pedals -- I went to stop and put my foot down and ended up getting mixed up and fell over. On my left hand. Not fun. My hand is still swollen today but on Saturday morning it was swollen and painful. I didn't notice this too much in the swim portion but by the time I got to the bike, I realized I couldn't use the breaks very easily. Not good news when (1) you have new tires you are not used to and (2) it's raining and hailing heavily. So, in short, I went slower than I probably would have went on a nicer day -- and if my hand were working better. But I did my two loops around the park and then headed back to the campus.

Once I left my bike in the transition area, I started the part of the triathlon that I hate every single time I do one -- the first mile of the run. At this point, I have no feeling in my feet and to add to the adventure, my running shoes are soaked through and "squishing" with every step that I take. By the second loop, though, I could feel my feet again and enjoyed the fabulous scenery of Washington University (which always reminds me of a Harry Potter movie) -- see picture below!

I ended up running the last mile or so with a nice woman who was visiting the area for Easter (she was from Chicago) -- I never got her name but we had a great time talking about the beautiful campus and imagining Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff -- and before we knew it, the "Finish Line" was in front of us! We ended the race with a hug and then I went back to my bike which was wet, along with all my "stuff". But by the time I got home, Jim welcomed me with a super clean house (I was having company later in the afternoon) and grocery shopping done for Easter!

PS: My online posted finish time was 1 hour, 40 minutes, and 58 seconds! Since I was shooting for two hours, I will take it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Conferencing I Go!

I am off to the 47th Allerton English Articulation Conference in just a few minutes (about 150 miles east of St Louis right in the middle of Illinois). I will be presenting some of my dissertation research on Thursday morning but in the meantime ... I get to relax by listening to other presentations and hanging out at the cool Allerton Mansion (where the conference will be held AND where I will be sleeping). Here is a link to the conference: Click here! I have been to this particular conference once before and LOVED the 14 miles of hiking trails and the amazing gardens (this place has been named one of the seven wonders of Illinois). Lots of great "intellectualizing" and lots of great running (I hope!). I will come back on Thursday night (and no school on Friday because of Good Friday!)

A new running movie will be coming out soon! This film documents three Native American young people who use running as a means of improving their lives and attending college on scholarship. Check out this insprirational trailer:

I am such a running geek! These young folks get me excited!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Need for A Longer Afternoon!

How in the world is it Tuesday evening already?!?! I am about to go and teach my evening class in just a few minutes. Basically, I spent all afternoon trying to clear off my desk with ... a little success! The review editor from the journal Teaching English in the Two Year College asked me about a month ago to give my comments on a review that was submitted to the journal and I had every intention of doing it right away. And I sort of did. I read the review, jotted some notes, and then it got stuck under the huge piles of papers on my desk. Boo. Anyway -- I managed to finish that little project today as well as reading some student essays, completing some paperwork for the honors program, and figuring out some lesson plans for this week (I think I have a plan to get students excited about pronoun agreement!).

But I need a longer afternoon! In exactly one week, I am off to the Allerton Conference (hosted by Northern Illinois University) and I still have major amounts of work to do for my conference presentation. I have a busy week until Friday (including taking a group of students to the Fox Theater to see the rock musical "Next to Normal" on Thursday night, a lunch get together at work, catching up on the reading for my literature classes, and a talk to a local "Girls on the Run" team here in Granite City on Friday afternoon). But the weekend? Nothing major planned and I am hoping to keep it that way!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Go! St Louis Half Marathon

So this morning I ran the Go! St Louis Half Marathon! My best time pre-cancer was 1:51 for a half marathon and, as you might guess, I am not back to that time. This morning's adventure was 2:20:41 (about 30 minutes off). I felt pretty strong for the first 6 miles or so (when the course, which had looped south to the AB Brewery, come back north and straight through downtown on Market Street and then Olive Street). But then some of the dang gas I have been having creeped in (the gas is from the hysterectomy for the most part). After a few more miles, it started to go away but then I started having heat issues (it was somewhere in the 80's I think with the usual St Louis humidity. It's hard to believe we had snow just three weeks ago!). Most of the water stops were having problems too -- I usually had to wait in line for a quick drink which kept making me stop, thereby making it harder to continue going). The last two miles were not fun (if you are not familiar with St Louis, we have a hilly city!) but I kept following the many bright green shirts I saw as I went up the last hill on Market (see the photo above to get a glimpse at this year's technical shirt; not sure if I like the color or not).

The Expo was crowded (much like the run) but I ended up treating myself to a few new tops (a run expo gets me just as excited as a bookstore, by the way!). Here is a new technical shirt I picked up:

And a new singlet with the race logo in silver glitter! (seriously, who could resist this?!)

For renewing my subscription to a women's running magazine, I got a free technical top!

And that's about it! I was a little bummed, by the way, when I saw the marathon folks leaving the course -- a big part of me wanted to follow them BUT I know that a marathon is not what I need to be doing right now. For the next few months, I just need to work on improving my PR in some shorter events (and triathlons) -- and hopefully these new tops will inspire me! :D

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

See the Little Tab Above?!

I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but a few weeks ago I added an "Upcoming Races" section to this blog so I can publically announce my running "life" and this will keep me from getting too chicken to back down on any of these goals (you all will make sure I keep to these running and triathlon plans, right?!). Well, I just moved the tab to the above section to make it more noticeable! Not only do I post the upcoming races, but I am going to use this page to keep a tally of my times and general comments about each race.

And as an extra bonus today, I have a quick book review of Gail Konop Baker's Cancer is a Bitch: Or, I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis. I picked this book up over the weekend when I was at the SIU bookstore and I connected with Baker's comments right away. She has an amazing sense of voice that I could absolutely identify with (and I love her kick ass title!) Baker was diagnosed with the same thing I had -- DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). Mine had invasive elements, though, so my treatment included surgery, radiation and chemotherapy while Baker's was just the surgeries. But it is still *cancer* and it's that word that still scares the crap out of anyone who hears it. As Baker laments, "How had I not appreciated my health all those years I didn't have a diagnosis following me everywhere like an annoying sibling, mimicking my every move, mirroring the parts of me that make me feel awkward, ashamed? My diagnosis, a brat, demanding center stage, forcing me to fill my calendar with appointments where I'm weighed and blood pressured and poked and probed, felt up and down and warned about risk" (15). Exactly.

At one point, after a couple of lumpectomies, Baker notes: "I glance down and see where the virgin skin deadens into the wound. I wish it wasn't like that, wish I could undo the damage, but I can't. Can't change it, can't change what is, what happened. This is my body. The scar is me and I am the scar. And it's a symbol of what I've been through, a reminder that I've survived, and it makes me exactly who I am now" (198). I love what she is saying (tons of self confidence) but, quite honestly, I am not sure who I am now. I want to say everything is back to normal -- or at least that I can get back there. But reminders of what happened jump out at me every time I take my clothes off or bump into somebody who wants to talk about what transpired the last few months. Cancer is always there even if I don't want it to be.

Later in the book, Baker talks to friend who has also been diagnosed with cancer, and they argue that a diagnosis makes life "a little clearer and sharper, more intense" (167). I get that. I don't want this to come off as a cliche, but I know that I am teaching differently right now. I think I am more conscious of what I am doing. Connections with people are even different -- I feel almost desperate to be more socially responsible and aware of other peoples' pain and struggles.

But it is her comments on her marriage that get to me the most. Baker mentions "the oversized beat-up duffel bag" she has "dragged into the marriage" (231) and I know exactly what she is talking about. I know coming into my marriage as an "older bride" (I was 36), I didn't get married because I *had* to or I felt obligated to start this next chapter (so it goes) -- I got married because I love Jim more than any other man I have ever met. He loves me and I can feel that everyday in every word he says or action he takes. But, like pretty much anyone else, I didn't come into this marriage "innocent" or without "a past." I had an "oversized beat-up duffel bag" of crap -- body issues, fluctuating levels of low self-esteem, etc. And the one thing cancer does -- from my experience -- is highlight that baggage. Instead of the duffel bag always being there under the bed (present but not always acknowledged), it feels like that duffel bag is out in the open -- it's in the openness of the room and we keep tripping over it.

The book did make me more aware of the biggest fear lurking in my mind recently -- though I never thought about recurrence while going through treatment, I think a lot more about the possibility of getting cancer again. My next mammogram is in August -- and it terrifies me. What happens if they put me in the "special" waiting room again? (last time I was in the dark about why I was placed in a different room). But ... all I can do is wait.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Graduate Student Conference at SIU

Well, it's done. I managed to participate in a conference yesterday and, I think, do a half way decent job. I know I was nervous because of one crucial fact -- lack of being 100% prepared. But there was also this lingering doubt of being able to "come back" post-cancer. It's this feeling that feels something like cancer (and the forced menapause from the hysterectomy) has taken away parts of my mind, sort of like the flesh out of my breast, the damaged hair from my head, and the energy I used to have pre-cancer. Doubts about being a "good" grad student were there before the diagnosis, but it sorta feels like they got intensified now that I am starting to "come back" into some version of "normal."

Jim and Stella both made the 2 hour + car drive south to SIU Carbondale with me. Jim dropped me off on campus while he and Stella drove to a wilderness area to go hiking. My talk was one of the first -- during the 9:00 AM session slot. I was the second speaker so, as you might imagine, it was hard to concentrate during the first speaker's talk (which was actually quite interesting -- a creative writer mashup with ESL theory). And then it was my turn -- I passed out the handout/ booklet I brought (outlining how a teacher can use race in the classroom, including a syllabus and five different writing assignments) and just jumped into my talk. I think it made me feel better that I could see people nodding their heads throughout and I made sure to keep eye contact the whole time. And voila! My 20 minutes had finished (thankfully, all the practicing on Friday and the drive down had perfected the time -- but poor Jim for having to listen to my talk a million times!). The next speaker was fascinating (a talk about using group conferences with basic writers) and then I tackled a bunch of questions from audience members. Really a fun time!

I'm not sure how to articulate this feeling that I might know something that other folks could be interested in -- at the risk of sounding like a complete nerd, this gets me excited in a way I just can't describe well. In a nutshell -- It's motivating. It pushed me to be the teacher-scholar that I so desperately want to be!

Anwyay, I was able to stay at the conference for another session and lunch but by then Jim and Stella were done with their hike and we started back to St Louis (he and the dog got quite muddy from their own adventures, by the way!).

A huge part of me feels relieved that I was able to talk about dissertation stuff and feel at least a bit knowledgable ... now I will use this energy to jump into a new section of the Literature Review that I need to start this week!