Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Highland, IL, Memorial Day Biathlon

So what was the best part of yesterday's biathlon?! I got to participate in the event with my fabulous husband! I ran the 5 mile run and then Jim rode the 15 mile bike course. Our ending time was 2:04:09 -- and the best part is that at least three other teams finished behind us so we were not the last ones out there! Yeah!

If you were here in the St Louis area yesterday then you know that it was a beautiful blue-sky kind of day -- with a heavy dose of heat. So here is the run-down for the race: We got there at about 7:30 AM (start time was 8 AM). While Jim got his bike out of the car, I went to registration and got us set up with our numbers. The only confusing part was that I expected each of us to have our own number but, instead, I had to give him the number (with the chip, of course) when we did the transition after the run. We got the bike set up in the transition area and then I went over to wait in line for the porta potty. Yeah ... that didn't quite work out. The line was super long and going slow. But I waited until someone came over the loudspeaker and announced that the race would start in 5 minutes. I decided to skip the bathroom (though I had to go!) and ran back to Jim for my MP3 player and then got in the start area. I bumped into Irwin, this fabulous athlete who lives in our building downtown, but before I knew it -- the start gun went off!

And, of course, because I felt rushed I started too fast. The first mile was not bad but I felt the heat and my lungs by mile 2. Most of the course took place in the countryside just outside the small town of Highland -- not bad for a run but enough hills to kill you on a hot day. At the first water stop, I took one cup but then took 2-3 waters at the next two water stops since the folks behind the race were using this little mini-cups that held only a swallow or two of water.

By mile 4, I was back in the residential area of the town and then I noticed the darnest thing -- I could see the finish line about a mile ahead! Not good for one's psychology while running on a hot day. I feel like I eventually limped across the finish line and Jim was right there, waiting to take the number and timing chip from me. Except that my hands were wet and shaking and I couldn't get the darn thing off. But Jim managed to get it off and he took off! (my running time was approximately 52 minutes and 18 seconds) Unfortunately, I had to pull a Paula Radcliffe -- which means I had to take my own tiny (thank goodness) bathroom break while I was running (i.e. Paula Padcliffe, the fastest female marathoner had to do a #2 in her shorts while she was running in order to beat a world record a few years back, thus the moniker "to pull a Paula Radcliffe"!)

For the first ten minutes after he left, I just sat on the grass trying to breath. Then, I took our duffel bag and sought out the concessions/ water, a few hundred years away from the start/finish line. Holy crap! Free soda and beer for all the racers! After about 15-20 minutes, I made my way back to the start/finish line and relaxed in the sun (talking for awhile to the mighty Irwin who had already finished both parts!). I was so excited when I saw Jim! He finished strong but as soon as he hopped off his bike, he could feel all kinds of aches in his legs ... which perfectly matched the aches in mine from running! (our final time was 2 hours, 4 minutes, and 9 seconds!)

I hope we get to do this again -- I know we are not ever going to win something like this but it's fun to do ewvents like this together (since I almost always do the running and triathlon thing by myself). I want to be a better athlete -- and I would love to do this with my very best friend in the world, Jim!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quick Komen Post!

Just a quick link to my Komen home page -- click here -- almost up to $2000! Every donor will get a picture of me in a giant tutu with seperate ribbons dedicated to fantastic folks I know who have experienced all forms of cancer! I will post a pic of the crazy tutu as soon as I get the whole thing finished! :D

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Goin' to Get Muddy!

So you see that picture at the top of this blog?! I get asked about this one a lot -- Jim took it last year at the USO Mud Run over in Mascoutah, IL, about 30 minutes east of St Louis. I was freshly diagnosed when I ran this race last year -- I don't remember exactly what I was thinking other than how did other folks get their hands on pink duct tape and I only had gray -- but I am pretty sure that I still thought of myself as experiencing a "slight case" of breast cancer. Looking back at this time last year, I am pretty sure I was in shock mode for at least the first few weeks but I was focusing on remaining strong -- which I think the picture at the top of this blog captures quite well!

Anyway -- I just signed up for the run on June 4 (next weekend), a little late since I didn't think I was going to do it. I am not sure why I was reluctant at first (OK, maybe getting muddy isn't the first thing I would do if given the choice) but ... it's for a great cause (the USO!), it's unique (go mud!), and for some reason I feel like re-visting some of the races I did last year. So bring the mud on! (and I will go to Home Depot and track down that pink and purple duct tape -- which I will need to keep my shoes on!) Just in case you are interested, here is the "official" trialer for the USO Mud Run:

I am hoping Jim will be out there taking more great pictures (I didn't get as muddy as I could have last year because ... well, it's quite possible that Dianna jumped over course obstacles if there wasn't someone there "forcing" me to do it! I have a feeling that will be different this year!).

And with the mud theme going on, I have a few pictures to share! I cleaned out my office at work and found two pictures from a mud run I did in 2005:

I like these pictures -- I was a "younger" runner then (I started running in 2002)! And these must have been just before I switched to running in skirts only(I am a huge fan of triathlete Nikki DeBoom's company "Skirt Sports" -- www.skirtsports.com) Is it odd that I keep searching the eyes of the pre-cancer diagnosis Dianna thinking, "Is there a clue? Is there a sign that this is going to happen?" Was it the million Diet Pepsis I drank? Was it the chemicals in the air? Was it ... ? (well, you get the point).

Anyway -- and on one more running-related note! The local Fleet Feet Sports store (I am a devoted fan!) just highlighted me in their most recent newsletter. I am deeply, deeply honored and they made me sound so strong! Click here to the link! I just can't say enough how honored I feel. Enough said.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Final Grades ... In!

So moments ago Dissertation Girl completed her final section of grades and submitted them to the higher powers that be here at SWIC. Yeah! I can't quite describe that feeling of being done-done! So, my readers might ask ... what's next? (especially given the fact that I am not teaching any summer classes this year)

1. Graduation tomorrow evening -- always a great thing to watch fabulous students celebrate this wonderful moment in their lives! This year, I have a bunch of students graduating so I am looking forward to being there for them! :D

*** note: As I menioned before, at this graduation ceremony last year I was reflecting on the biopsy I had just completed earlier in the day at St John's Hospital. I remember sitting there thinking, "Whew! That was not fun but at least it is over. And there's no reason to worry since breast cancer doesn't run in my family and the doctor at the biopsy said that I have an 80% chance of this being nothing." Well, we all know how that turned out. But at the graduation I was so sure that the worst of it was behind me. It's just a weird sensation to think of that Dianna at that graduation. What will the Dianna at this graduation be thinking?

2. Jim and I are flying out to Seattle on Friday afternoon. Jim will get the chance to connect with his best buddy Greg (which makes me happy). On Saturday Jim and I will be attending a get together of folks who loved Les at "the Lodge," one of the places I adored as an undergraduate at St Martin's (I spent many happy days there with fabulous people -- I even have a distinct memory of reading Wordsworth there on the beach during some retreat I must have been attending at the time). And my "other mother" Mary will be at this event -- and that makes me seriously happy! On Sunday Jim and Greg will probably go hiking somewhere and I will get to spend the day with Greg's very cool wife (Martha) and I am hoping we get to go shopping! (Martha is a master shopper and just a generally fun person to hang with!) The only bad part is that the trip is only a few days -- we will be back in St Louis late on Monday.

3. Dissertation writing will start in earnest next week! Since I have had unexpected pockets of reading time this past week (with finals and all), I am actually getting super exicted about some of the reading I have completed -- but not yet had the chance to write up in my "literature review."

4. Catching up with friends: OK, I can't be working on my diss 24/7 so I am delighted that I -- finally! -- get the chance to catch up on emails and notes to friends (Tanya, Laurie, Rachel, and Mary K in particular!).

5. And finally some home-cooked meals! I know I am not all that great at cooking but my schedule has just been so hectic recently that I haven't had the chance to make much of anything (other than soup). So Jim gets a part-time homemaker for the summer, an adventure I hope he survives!

6. Trip to Japan in July -- I need to review my Japanese language skills before we go. I am pretty sure that things will just fall in place but I know that I used to be a kick a** Japanese speaker after living there for four years. Now I just have to tap into my brain and figure out where that great vocabulary went to!

May 25 is next Tuesday -- I guess this is officially my first cancer anniversary. Though I don't think this is something I will be (obviously) celebrating, I think it's a date that signifies a lot at least this year. None of us really knows what is going to happen to us from day to day. But I guess May 25 is a looming symbol for me of how much I do tend to take life for granted. If I hadn't gone in to get that mammaogram when I did, what would have happened?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pinktober From a Teal Point of View

The following blog post is from blogger Carcinista, who, sadly, just lost her fight against Ovarian cancer. Her words are so eloquent and so aptly describe some of my own thoughts about Breast Cancer and the month of October:

October has become the month that strikes fear in the hearts of many. Not just because it’s the time of year we have to start paying for heat again, but because of the spectacular and pervasive marketing efforts of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and thousands of copycat hangers-on digging for your sympathy dollars.

And I’ll admit this right off the bat: I’m jealous. I’ve been fighting ovarian cancer for four and a half years (started Stage IIIc but now I’m Stage IV), and I’m starting to think that despite the best efforts of dozens of industry-leading researchers and doctors at one of the top cancer facilities in the country, I’m not going to win.

National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is September. Every year. Did you know that? Do you know that teal is the color of t-shirts, silicone bracelets, and ribbon pins worn by those observing Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? If you did, you’re in the minority. Ovarian cancer is the ugly stepchild of women’s cancers: it’s not in a body part that’s sexy, like boobs; it’s not easy to detect, like feeling a lump, and it’s damn hard to treat, like 65% fail rate.

That’s right – if ovarian cancer is found in the early stages, when the tumors are the size of peppercorns, it is nearly completely treatable. But when it’s found in later stages, with tumors the size of (insert the name of your favorite citrus fruit here), it’s fatal within five years in 65% of women. Not only that, but the majority of cases are found late, the main reason being that the symptoms are so ambiguous and frequently misdiagnosed.

I spend September beating the bushes, blogging about symptoms and awareness, and talking to strangers about my story and how surprisingly common it is, scanning publications for the slightest mention of OC Awareness Month, thanking my lucky stars for Andie McDowell’s PSA on Lifetime, and Kelly Ripa’s campaigns with QVC and Electrolux. My fellow OC patients set up tables at community craft fairs and in church basements, handing out symptom cards and trying to drum up a little recognition for the magnitude of this disease.

It’s a bit like being the opening act for the opening act for U2: no one’s really paying attention – they’re just waiting for the big guns to show up. Because before September is even over, stores are filled with pink merchandise. Magazines fill editorial pages, poignant survivor stories and photo spreads with breast cancer awareness. We’re swept off the surface of the earth by the waves of pink.

It’s not as if ovarian cancer awareness isn’t as important as breast cancer awareness; many of us would argue that it’s more so. While 200,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in a year, and 40,000 will die from it (a too-high rate of 20%), 21,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 13,000 will die from it (a staggering rate of 61%). And the last time I checked, women with breasts also had ovaries, which become even more at-risk for cancer once they’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. Do you know what the symptoms are?

•Persistent abdominal bloating
•A feeling of fullness or not being able to eat
•Persistent diarrhea, constipation, or bowel changes
•Pelvic or abdominal pain
•Frequent urges to urinate

There are ovarian cancer patients who are misdiagnosed for years by doctors who assume their symptoms are IBS, depression, or hypochondria, and prescribe antacids, anti-anxiety meds, or rest, and pat them on their little heads and send them out the door. There are patients who ignore their symptoms for months or years, assuming it’s weight gain, or lack of sleep, or too much fiber. You can’t tell me a little more awareness wouldn’t help.

There’s no “good” cancer: not lymphoma, not melanoma, not DCIS. Cancer is horrible, the treatments are often worse than the disease they are trying to destroy; having to prematurely confront your mortality and the devastating effects it can have on your relationships and your psyche is a punishment no one is evil enough to deserve. But on any given day as an ovarian cancer patient, with a five-year survival rate of less than 35%, it’s not hard to be jealous of the breast cancer patients with their potential for cure. Which we mostly don’t get. Ever.

So aside from pinkwashing consumer products and Walks For Whomever being pretty lousy ways to drum up funds for research; aside from the ubiquitous ribbons fooling people into thinking they’re doing some good in the “War On Cancer” that’s been failing miserably for forty years; aside from it distracting attention from preventing cancer by forcing corporations and governments to clean up toxic chemicals and environmental hazards, Pinktober overlooks the fact that there are other, deadlier forms of cancer in the world that could use some of the Pink Juggernaut’s P.R. clout and donation dollars.

It’s insane that there’s any competition at all between colors and body parts and the organizations that work to fund research looking for cures. In the absence of the kumbaya/world peace global generosity that clearly isn’t coming any time soon, I just want to point out that sick is sick, all cancer sucks, and to devote an entire month to fighting just one ridiculously unjust medical diagnosis is pretty closed-minded.

For more information on ovarian cancer, its symptoms, and how you can help, visit www.ocna.org or www.ovationsforthecure.org. For more pith and vinegar from me, visit www.carcinista.com.


Anyway, as I near my one year anniversary of getting a biopsy (May 20) and my one year anniversary of getting the diagnosis (May 25), these words seem important to share. I think I always knew that cancer sucked but I was never aware of how much it (1) truly sucks and (2) is capitalized on by companies. I do think the Komen folks are using money to find a cure (and my number one reason for supporting is the use of the money to help local women without insurance) but why is breast cancer the "sexy" cancer to get? Ovarian cancer is more deadly yet I hear so little about it. Please, everyone, get regular checkups for everything. I barely knew blogger Carcinista but today I mourn for her.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Running in Pink!

So as my fabulous readers can see from the image on the left ... I made my new goal and then some! I continue to be amazed at how generous people have been! I never, ever, ever, ever, ever want cancer again but it is sorta cool that my experience has created an opportunity to help in some small way. I know $1400 isn't a ton of money but it's more than I ever thought I would be able to raise. (on a side note -- I had to reschedule my upcoming mammogram this morning because of my doctor's schedule -- they sent me a letter asking me to call them! -- and the soonest appointment was in November. Uhh ... I don't think so baby! I want my next mammogram ASAP just in case, you know. To make a long, complicated story short, I finally got my new appointment -- June 27 -- but I won't see the surgeon again until December. However, I have upcoming check-ups with my radiologist and my oncologist so I don't think that's a big deal that I have to wait. But this morning's adventure on the phone reminds me of how much I HATED all those doctor's appointment during the last 12 months!)

To make things a bit more interesting -- and silly -- I have even decided to wear a pink tutu while I run! See below!

I found the tutu on Etsy.com but this size is for a child so I shot the artist a convo request and now she is going to make an adult sized one for me to wear! (and hopefully it doesn't fall to my knees when I am running!).

It sorta feels like a Friday afternoon since today is the last day of scheduled classes. That's it -- semester over! I still have an American Literature final tomorrow (and finish up grading their revised essays), a Friday morning collecting portfolios from my writing students, a group assessment activity all day on Saturday, an honors luncheon on Tuesday, and then a final on Tuesday night -- but then I am 100% done for Spring Semester 2011.

Other than our upcoming trip to Japan, I will be "Dissertation Girl" all summer! Bring on the writing! :D

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Whoops! I almost forgot to blog about the APA Fast and Furriest 5K this past Sunday! Nothing dramatic to report ... except for some Shin Splint issues on my end. I don't usually do a lot of stetching before any run; my first mile or so in any event is usually done at a slow enough jog to serve as a warm-up. Sunday's race, though, had some unusual aspects. Like Stella being there and racing with me. For the 30 minutes or so before the start (at beautiful Tower Grove Park, by the way!), Stella and I were chilling with the other runners and their dogs. By the time the race started, Stella was jumping up and down and so excited to get the race started. So when the horn went off, she took off like a shot and everytime another dog and racer would pass us, she would get even faster! My first mile of the 5K was probably somewhere in the 8 minute zone, so pretty fast for me.

After that first mile, I noticed my left shin was killing me. I didn't think about it being a shin splint but that is what it was -- a dull aching that would not go away no matter how much I slowed down. We managed to finish the race but the aching stuck around for the next few days (and it probably didn't help that I ran more mileage on Sunday evening because I wanted to go downstairs to the gym in our building and watch a TV show!).

Anyway -- I finished in 30:12 which wasn't bad for having a shin problem! I wish I had a picture from the race but you will notice that this blog post starts with a picture of my training partner (when she is not racing and sitting still!) :D

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So I stole the image above from my personal Komen fundraising site! How cool is that?!?!?!?!? I started this whole adventure being so nervous about raising money (and asking my loved ones to do so!) but this is the result! I am almost there! It's just so shocking to me that one person *really* can make a difference. Not only will 75% of this amount stay here in St Louis BUT it will help someone (or more approximately, "someones") with having access to a mammogram!

It's impossible to describe how I feel about this effort (which looks like it will be successful!). I've never really raised money like this before but I could get used to this feeling of feeling just darn great! I know some of the most generous people ever and I hope that all this goodness results in a cure for something that has been screwing up peoples' lives for way too long. Cancer research *has* to find a cure soon. Let's make this darn thing history!

Oh, and here is my fundraising link again, by the way! Click here!