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.

9 comments:

  1. Have you read The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan? Quite good, I think you'd like it. Same topic...ends well...lots of humor...GREAt perspective

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  2. Thanks, Laurie -- I am amazon-ing that right now! And I just started the book you sent! Love it! Darcy is dreamy! :D

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  3. I did notice your list of races, and I am completely amazed by it! It makes me tired just reading it. ;) I think I mentioned that I started running about 6 months ago. I'm up to about 4 miles. Nowhere near as impressive as your runs, but you are an inspiration to keep at it. =)

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  4. Rachel -- Good for you! I am so impressed that you are running! 4 miles is great! Just be sure not to go more than 10% over your level/ distance each week (I have to be super careful about this so I don't spark old injuries again!). Can either of the pups go out and run with you? It helps that Stella is my running partner! (And -- Isn't the wedding soon?) I am not anywhere near the front of the crowd when I do these races -- more like towards the back! But it's fun! :D

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  5. Thanks for your support! =) I'm being really careful with how I'm progressing - I only increase my runs by a minute or two at a time. It seems to be working so far. Ziva is still too young to run with me, and Jones is a bit crazy, but I hope to train one of them to go with me at some point. I would love to have the company! The wedding is May 28 - I can't believe how quickly it's coming up!

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  6. Rachel -- Defintely work with Ziva since she is younger. I got Stella at about 5 months old and didn't start running with her until she was about a year (maybe a few months older). We started with short runs and she usually can go to about 12 miles, except now since I am starting all over (so is she!). The hardest part was the first six months or so -- training her to run on my left side. She has it down pretty well now. We have two or three speed levels -- and obviously I am really careful to gauage how she is feeling (she has bad run days too!).

    PS: So .... I hope you don't mind me asking! Are you guys registered anywhere for the wedding?!

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  7. Wow, Stella is a stud! That's awesome she can run so far! I think I'll wait until Z is about a year old before I start working with her, as they say the repetitive impact can be hard on their joints while they're still young. We certainly don't need any more doggie problems than we already have! =)
    Of course I don't mind you asking. =) We're actually having people make donations to charities (we have 3 favorites) instead of gifts. We've lived in this house for a few years now so there's not much we need, and we both would rather people help out causes we're passionate about.

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  8. Rachel -- which are the three charities?! What a great idea! I wish we had done something like that!

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  9. They are the San Diego Blood Bank, The Nature Conservancy, and Coastal German Shepherd Rescue (no big surprise that we would support this!). The Nature Conservancy has been buying a lot of the native grasslands in the town where we grew up, and protecting them, so it's something that affects both us and our families. =)

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