There I was, February of 2011, having just completed my first 5k, the Frostbite. I was giddy with excitement, like a schoolgirl with a big secret. The secret was that I could really do this. I could really run with the big dogs and, while I certainly didn’t finish first, I didn’t finish in the back either, which had been my biggest fear in competing. Now, with a solid performance under my belt, I was “officially” a runner. I would go on to bigger and better challenges, and also to insidious challenges that would nearly level me.
It was almost exactly 2 years after this happy day that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I had completely changed my lifestyle. I was eating a healthy diet and probably in the best shape of my life. I almost laughed when they tried to give me the results of the biopsy. I thought they were making it up or perhaps had been looking at the wrong chart. It’s funny how healthy you feel when you’re blissfully unaware of the truth. I was running 15-20 miles per week and had just come from the gym to the mammography clinic. And they were seriously trying to tell me that I was in the clutches of a monster, living on borrowed time?
Well, the news eventually did sink in, and I realized that I hadn’t been feeling quite as well or as robust as in the early days of running. The long Sunday runs were taking it out of me. Sometimes I would have to come home and just collapse on the couch, asking for help with bathing my youngest and getting dinner on the table. I just chalked it up to stress and trying to keep too many balls in the air. But deep inside, I knew. I knew that something was off; I was trying to keep it in my denial box. That box tends to stay pretty full.
And so last year I began an odyssey. Not a journey of my own choosing, but one that I endured kicking and screaming the entire way. I was poked, prodded, poisoned, and irradiated. Every outward sign of my identity as a woman was stolen…my hair, my breasts, my hormonal rhythm. I was, for all intents and purposes, chemically castrated. Cancer is certainly not for the faint of heart.
After all was said and done, I came through the other side alive. Forever changed, perhaps a bit more cynical about the promise of the future, but just as stubborn as ever. Now I’m taking back control of my life, and a big part of that will be my return to racing. Today, I will participate in the Frostbite 5k once again. I’m sick as a dog and feel as if I have an elephant sitting on my chest, but I won’t be denied. This is my year to tell cancer, “Take that, you son of a bitch! You may kill me one day, but you will not own me.” Only, I ‘m going to say it really quiet, in case he’s listening. Cancer is very vindictive.
Tomorrow I’ll let you know how I did and give you the first glimpse of the new me. Stay tuned.