80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:
It’s hard to believe that this picture was taken almost exactly one year ago today, November 18, 2012. What a difference a year makes! I had just completed the St. Pete Women’s Half Marathon, my first, and I was riding high. Sweaty and disheveled, I felt no aches, no fatigue, just the pure rush of adrenaline and pride that comes with such an accomplishment. Little did I know that a monster was lurking in my body.
When I returned home to NC, I kept on running, but I noticed that I was getting tired a little sooner and not logging nearly as many miles. I chalked it up to the winter blahs, the post-race let down. I became a little concerned when I started experiencing Raynaud’s phenomenon on the really cold runs. When this occurred, the middle two fingers of my right hand would turn stark white and numb, remaining that way until I could get in a hot shower. I had enough medical training to know that this was usually a sign of autoimmune disease and definitely not normal. My immune system was working double time on something.
Flash forward to March, kaboom! The monster revealed itself in the form of Stage 3 breast cancer. In retrospect, I marvel at the idea that I was regularly running 10+ miles with a state of war going on inside me. I wonder if I would still be chugging along had I never found out about the “cancer”. It’s amazing how much the mind’s awareness can alter the body’s expression. I never felt sick or “diseased” until I knew it was a reality; I was just a little run down as we all get from time to time.
I guess I should say that I have been “chugging along” this whole year. I’ve endured a bilateral mastectomy, 4 months of chemotherapy, and half of a 6 week course of radiation to this point, but I’ve kept right on running. Not nearly as fast…or as far, but I can say with pride that I have only taken two weeks off completely. I’ve run with surgical drains attached to my body. I’ve run right before chemo. And I’ve even run with sepsis.
Running has been my friend in this long ordeal. It has been my constant in a sea of frightening new changes that I never asked for and never saw coming. It has given me some control in a life where things have been done “to me” on someone else’s schedule for the better part of a year. When I run, I’m not a cancer victim. When I run, I win.