Oops… I Did it Again

What did I do, you might be asking? Well, I signed up for my second marathon.  I signed for the Indianapolis full marathon in early November, and training for this race begins soon.

I swore up and down that my first marathon would be a one and done for me, but yeah. I decided to give it another go now that I got over the whole, “Can I even do this?” I know that I can, so the new question will be, “Can I learn from my mistakes?”

When I signed up for Columbus, my primary goal was just to finish and the secondary goal was to finish in five hours. Well, I finished the marathon in five hours and 55 seconds (give or take a second or five). I came super duper close to coming in less than five hours and that has been haunting me.

For weeks afterward, I would think about my time and think, “Oh man, if I had trained just a little bit harder, I could have persevered and ran a sub-5.” 

I barely cross trained. I didn’t do any toolbox runs (ie tempo runs or speedwork). I swear on my pretty bonnet that I am going to do these and work my approaching middle-age tush off.

Once again, I have enlisted the help of a coach to help me reach the finish line. It’s a different coach this time around. The coach I previously worked with was booked, and I wasn’t going to be a burden to a busy man. I’ll be working with Sara, and I’m very excited about this.

So despite being busy with work and finding time to spend with my favorite fella who makes me grin from ear to ear, I decided to give marathon number two a real honest go. This is important to me, so I’m going to make time and shuffle my prioritites. Less TV, more running.  I’m so glad my fella understands how much running is important to me. He has even offered to go with me to these races in different cities. How lucky am I?

I plan on writing more about my quest for sub-5. It’s going to happen, my friends.

 

Lara Bradshaw

Recently, Facebook reminded me that it has been a year since my relationship with He Who Shall Not be Named ended.  Between this and hearing about the death of my first boyfriend, I have been thinking about my past relationships in a Carrie Bradshaw sort of way.  Step in because we are about to go down memory lane.

ab7a5bc5a0cf79b9caba4ddbf26aca4d

My first boyfriend died a couple of weeks ago after suffering a heart attack in his sleep. When I heard about his death, I wasn’t surprised at all. He was an alcoholic, and he battled alcoholism for a very long time. When he died, I wasn’t surprised and that made me feel guilty.

Aren’t you supposed to feel shocked when someone dies unexpectedly? I mean, even when a friend of mine who has had stage four breast cancer has taken a turn and died from the disease, I have felt shocked. I guess hearing that a middle-aged man who has had a horrible disease for probably two decades dies of a heart attack isn’t a shocking end to that particular story.

He was the first man I ever had the relationship talk with, and he was my first breakup. Boy, I did not take that breakup well. I pretty much reacted like a textbook jilted ex girlfriend, and the things I said and did are not anything I am proud of. One of the many lessons I learned from my relationship with him and the subsequent breakup was pretty much a list of what not to do the next go around.

I don’t want to paint him as an alcoholic and nothing else, because he was more than his disease. He had a good heart, and he loved his friends and family fiercely.  He had a pitbull for a long time, and she was his constant companion. If funds were low on his end, and he had to choose between him eating and her eating, he’d feed his dog first. I credit him and his precious pittie for why I love that breed.

I hope his family and any of his loved ones find peace during this time of mourning. I also hope if there’s an afterlife, he is there and he’s reunited with his favorite creature – Harpooa.

Then a week or so ago, my Ex told me he bought a house in an affluent neighborhood for himself, his girlfriend and her daughter.  I have no doubt that the man is going to beat me down the aisle, and that’s a-okay. I’m not in a Moving On competition with him.

After telling me his good news, he asked me how I was doing, like this would affect me negatively. I might have said too bluntly, “Why would I care? Our relationship has been over for years.”

Keep in mind, our relationship officially ended a year go.

I meant every word of it, including the emphasis on the years part. Him telling me that he and his new lady love were starting their new life together had absolutely no affect on me.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.

Elie Wiesel

It’s absolutely true that the opposite of love is truly indifference. When our relationship ended, feelings may have lingered for a couple of weeks, and looking back, I’m not even sure if that was because I missed him or change was just scary.

I did care for my Ex but well before our relationship ended, I stopped loving him the way you’re supposed to love someone you’re supposedly in a relationship with. When one or both parties aren’t committed to being in a relationship with each other, that type of love just fades away. Somewhere along the way, he stopped being my boyfriend and became a safety net, but I just didn’t want to admit that.

2-21

I learned the hard way that he wasn’t who I was looking for, and given his behavior, I certainly was not who he was looking for. He’s going to get the family he’s always wanted, and he just didn’t want that with me. I never came with a guarantee that I’d always be around.

When we were together, I thought I wanted a family, and I resented him terribly for never wanting that with me. I thought I wanted to have a family and be a mother, but months after he and I broke up, I realized that part of my desire to have a family with him was to have some sort of a connection with someone supposed to be in a relationship with me.

While I know I would have been a great mother, I honestly don’t feel like my life is missing anything like I did when I was with him. I realized that the empty feeling I felt with him was just… well, how I felt about him.

c80635d310a66fc655ebcf82cd3ab9da

Don’t get me wrong – I wish him well, and I don’t hate him.  Once again, the opposite of love is indifference. Hell, he and I still share custody of Boomer and Mal. I want him to be happy, and he and I took way too long in realizing that involved finding other people. The ex and I have a history and not all of it was great or fantastic, but it certainly wasn’t all bad.

Right now, I am a 37 year old woman with a condition that affects my adrenal glands and one ovary. That pretty much cements the fact that I am not having kids, which is perfectly fine. I love what I do for a living and want to keep exploring different aspects of that and growing.

Again, nothing feels missing from my life. I get to be an aunt and go home to a quiet house. Wait, who am I kidding. With my two dogs, my house is never quiet, haha.

While painful, the mistakes and bad choices I have made allowed me to truly understand what it is I want in a significant other (a nerd for books or pop culture, a partner who wants to go out and be active with me, and someone who wants to go out and have adventures – big or small) and what I did not want in someone (i.e., smoker, drinker, or exhibited any obsessive qualities).

Right now, I couldn’t be happier with the man in my life who I have told everything. I’m not kidding – I have told this man allll my deep, dark secrets. All of them. He even sent a cease and desist email to my stalker (a married man with a kid), who I have asked repeatedly to stop contacting me who felt like ruining my birthday by sending me a  message from a spoofed number. Yeah, asshole. I know it was you.

My boyfriend has my back and I have his. He and I have something really great going on, and I look forward to spending as much time as I possibly can with him whenever possible.

The Cost of Cancer

Given my own medical history—surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, lions, tigers and bears—I am beyond biased when it comes to talk about healthcare and its costs. My bias is so strong that I am pretty sure I’m physically incapable of listening to Speaker Paul Ryan talk about healthcare without having a rage stroke.

RYAN: I’m not. Number one, health care is a complicated and very emotional personal issue. And we completely understand that. The system is failing. We’re stepping in front of it and rescuing people from a collapsing system.

And more importantly, we’re keeping our word. That’s really important here, George. People expect their elected leaders, if they run and campaign on doing something, they expect them to do that. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re keeping our word.

And I would argue that we would spell disaster for ourselves, politically, if that’s your question, if we go back on our word. This is us keeping our word. But most importantly, it’s us trying to fix a real problem that real people are experiencing in this country.

Gosh, I loathe this guy.

Sure, Speaker Ryan, a great way to fix a “real problem” in this country is to cost 24 million people access to healthcare. Next up, y’all should fix the real problem of animal abuse by legalizing dog fighting, or fixing the real problem of the opioid crisis by shutting down drug rehab centers.

Meanwhile, having health insurance alone is not a guarantee that one will emerge from a health crisis financially unscathed. Cancer, specifically, will cost you. No matter where you are in life, it will cost you, especially if you are single and younger.

I often wonder if most (and by most, I mean politicians) understand the different costs that come with being diagnosed cancer and all that treatment entails: co-pays, deductibles, medication, transportation, parking fees, as well as loss of income whenever you have to take time off work for appointments or treatments.

When insurance companies work their absolute darndest to make paying out your claims an Olympic-level feat or the drugs you need become so expensive that you cannot afford it, then those other costs add up quickly.

Cancer drug costs themselves are astounding. The drugs keep going up and up and up, all the while your pay remains the same or lessens because of all the time you need to take off. A July 1, 2015 US News report stated that “Out of the nearly $374 billion Americans spent on prescriptions in 2014, $32.6 billion – about 9 percent – was spent on oncology drugs, according to the annual report by IMS Health Informatics,” and “Patients typically pay 20 to 30 percent out of pocket for drugs, so an average year’s worth of new drugs would cost $24,000 to $36,000 in addition to health insurance premiums.”

When someone is sick and cannot afford their medication, it’s not like the medication fairy comes down and gives them the medication regardless. If a cancer patient needs a treatment that may save their life but they cannot afford it because it’s not covered under their insurance, then it’s not like they are going to get that medication anyway. That’s not how the system works.

Most of us experience what is called financial toxicity, defined by StatNews.com as “the problem of paying for cancer.”  The article stated further:

According to the [National Cancer] Institute, when a loved one develops cancer, the family’s risk of significant financial hardship becomes startlingly high:

• Between 33 percent and 80 percent of cancer survivors exhaust their savings to finance medical expenses.
• Up to 34 percent borrow money from friends or family to pay for care.
• For those who fall into debt, the level of debt is substantial. In a study of colon cancer survivors in Washington state, the mean debt was $26,860.
• Bankruptcy rates among cancer survivors are 260 percent higher than among similar households without cancer.

A November 20, 2012 study published in The Oncologist examined the financial toxicity of treatment, and what it found, should make anyone who thinks the current healthcare system is fine just the way it is be completely ashamed of themselves:

Insured patients undergoing cancer treatment and seeking copayment assistance experience considerable subjective financial burden, and they may alter their care to defray out-of-pocket expenses. Health insurance does not eliminate financial distress or health disparities among cancer patients.

Let’s say that one again for anyone who may not be listening: Health insurance does not eliminate financial distress or health disparities among cancer patients.

Discussing the price of cancer drug costs further, A December 13, 2016 Forbes article stated, “Many can’t afford out-of-pocket cancer drug costs until they meet their insurance deductibles, so they don’t take their meds, skimp on doses or wait before filling prescriptions.”

Recently, a March 15, 2017 NPR article reported: “One-quarter of all cancer patients chose not to fill a prescription due to cost, according to a 2013 study in The Oncologist. And about 20 percent filled only part of a prescription or took less than the prescribed amount. Given that more than 1.6 million Americans are likely to be diagnosed with cancer this year, that suggests 168,000 to 405,000 ration their own prescription use.”

I would have been completely and utterly decimated by cancer treatment if it wasn’t for my ex-boyfriend who supported me. The bills would have swallowed me whole, and he is the reason I kept afloat and didn’t have to move back home with my parents. I missed a lot of work. Copays and parking fees added up quickly.

A May 16, 2013 article published by CBSNews.com stated that “people with cancer were more than 2.5 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people without cancer, with the likelihood even greater in younger patients.” The article further stated that “cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy were more likely to be younger, women and not white, the researchers found.” This is the part of the article that made go, well of course.

The authors point out that since a cancer diagnosis is often a sudden life event, younger patients’ bankruptcies may be influenced by preexisting debt, not having as many assets, having more dependent children and not having supplemental income of others in the household at the time of diagnosis.

When a young person is diagnosed with cancer, they are still waist deep in student loans. They haven’t been in the work force that long so their savings are slim to none and their salary can barely cover standard living expenses. When a catastrophic event like cancer occurs, how are they going to fully cover all the costs that come with a diagnosis?

A January 5, 2016 Reuters article reported that “one third of working-age cancer survivors go into debt, and 3 percent file for bankruptcy.” The article cited a 2012 survey using data from 4,719 cancer survivors between 18 and 64, and one-third had gone into debt and in more than half of those cases, the debt was above $10,000. The article indicated that three percent had filed for bankruptcy.

For all of those who believe that everything is fine and the system doesn’t need any intervention, I have a question to ask: have you ever been sick? Do you know anyone who has ever been sick or cared about anyone who has ever gone through a major illness?

Cancer is not a punishment. Cancer certainly does not mean you have some moral failing. Both good and bad people become diagnosed with cancer every day. Every day folks who were going about their days had their lives completely upended by this disease: infants, kids, teens, adults or the elderly. Anyone. Cancer does not discriminate.

This country has some pretty messed up priorities where we can people that they should lose everything they have and/or choose between medication or food (the modern day’s Sophie’s Choice, I guess?). Politicians and those right-leaning folks screaming how they don’t want the government involved in healthcare don’t seem to care or mind when their fellow citizens lose everything while insurance companies and drug companies make profits left and right.

Profits over people, huh?

How is this right? Please, someone tell me how any of this is right because I honestly do not understand.

Need Inspiration

I haven’t blogged in awhile, and there are so many reasons as to why. First one, I’ve been ridiculously busy with work and recovering from having a giant cyst removed from my lady area.  Plus, I have been spending as much time as I can with the new boyfriend because he is awesome and wonderful. Seriously, I am smitten with this guy. My personal life has been nothing but aces lately.

I feel like something is missing, though. I miss writing. I mean, I write every day at work. I miss writing and advocating. That’s what Get Up Swinging was supposed to be about, right?

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone say that government shouldn’t be in healthcare. then I’d be able to pay off my house. I know I’m completely biased when it comes to healthcare talk because of the whole having cancer thing.  I wish people would understand that healthcare is political, from the mundane to the major.

Get Up Swinging will start taking a deeper look into the politics of healthcare. I ask anyone who reads this on the regular to give me a chance and might be going, “Girl, I am here for your rants.” I’m a writer, a researcher, a patient, and biased as hell. I’m not even going to pretend that I”m not as I examine these topics further.

This. Is. A. Blog.

I am tired of feeling helpless whenever I read the news or scroll through any of my feeds.  It’s time for action.

The Affordable Care Act

When I was six months old, I had three benign tumors removed from my body. According to my dad, I had one on the top of my head, on my back and in my groin.  Before I could even crawl or walk, I became someone with a pre-existing condition.   During my senior year of college, I had a benign tumor removed from my right breast. Before I even graduated college, I had established a pre-existing condition for tumors in my breast.

When I graduated college, I didn’t have a job lined up and worked part-time jobs in retail. My dad kept me on his insurance for as long as he could, and when I had to get off his insurance, I had catastrophe only coverage until I got a job in my field.

For as long as I could remember, my dad stressed to me that I always needed insurance because if I had a gap, I would have an impossible time getting coverage again because of pre-existing conditions.  Since my body had the tendency to form tumors for some unknown reason. I had a pre-existing condition since I was six months old.

I have wanted to go back to school for my master’s degree, but could never figure out a way to do so while maintaining health insurance.  I could not risk having a gap in my coverage. While I did not quite understanding the intricacies in health care insurance in my early- and mid-twenties, all I knew was that I could not have a gap.  I stayed at jobs that I didn’t want to because I needed healthcare insurance coverage.

Since 2010, I have undergone more medical tests and surgeries than most have in their entire lives. I have had the following: a lumpectomy, seven rounds of chemotherapy, full thyroidectomy, 35 rounds of radiation, a laparoscopic procedure to drain an ovarian cyst, a double mastectomy, four months of reconstruction, a tissue expander exchange surgery, a superficial cyst removed from my right fake boob, and a major surgery to remove my right ovary and the aforementioned cyst that grew back and doubled in size.  In addition to all of these procedures and surgeries, I have had countless doctor’s office visits and blood draws, as well as a handful of CT scans and MRIs.

My first chemotherapy – the least expensive option and the one all insurance companies insist that doctors try first – ended with me going into anaphylaxis. The remaining six chemotherapy treatments were the most expensive ones – Abraxane

I. Am. Expensive. To. Keep. Alive.

I never asked for this. I don’t revel in this, and I would trade this body of mine for one that does not do this. Seriously, I would trade in a heartbeat. My body forms cysts and tumors – sometimes malignant but the majority have been benign – without warning or explanation. Maybe there’s a reason or condition that I have, but as of right now, I don’t know.

A refresher on the ACA and the protections it was designed to provide:

This protection gave me the most peace of mind:

“Insurance companies can’t set a dollar limit on what they spend on essential health benefits for your care during the entire time you’re enrolled in that plan.”

My insurance company cannot drop me for being too expensive. I can focus on being healthy first and foremost, not worried that the next surgery will cost me my health insurance.

This protection gave me comfort and relief:

“Under current law, health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a ‘pre-existing condition’ — that is, a health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts.”

I am not married, and I own a home. Heaven forbid I lose my job (please God, do not let this happen), I am on my own. Sometimes events happen which are out of our control. Illness and chronic conditions are not punishments for misdeeds or moral failures. Sometimes bad things happen for no reason, and that is terrifying to admit and understand. I don’t know when the next cyst or tumor is going to come. I would like to think I am done with them but history has demonstrated that won’t be the case.

If I lose my insurance but still need a surgery or treatment to get myself back to good health, I either have two options: bankruptcy caused by medical bills or just not having the surgery or treatment because I don’t have a literal money tree in my backyard.  Men and women in the U.S. are forced into bankruptcy at an alarmingly frequent rate because of medical bills.

With or without insurance, being sick is costly. Co-pays, missed time from work, gas to doctor’s appointments, parking fees, deductibles, medication, so on.

When I come across comments online from other Americans who don’t know that “Obamacare” is also the same as the ACA, or believe that people without healthcare are just lazy folks who don’t work hard enough, part of my soul dies a little. Good health is a gift, not a guarantee.  I have yet to come across someone bitching about “Obamacare” who is lower- and middle-class and have gone through extreme medical trauma and hardship.

Despite having scars from literally the top of my head to my knees, I became a marathoner. I have finished 10 half marathons, one marathon, two 10-mile races, and numerous 10K and 5K races, well as other distances.

You know what made all of those races possible?  Answer: access to healthcare, which includes surgeries, medication, chemotherapy, radiation, scans, whatever.  If I have the ability, then I am always going to strive to be a runner first.  I know I’m always going to be the one who has “the problems,” or who seen as “sick all the time.” I don’t want to be that person. I want to be a runner who kicks ass and takes name.

If the politicians allow lifetime caps and pre-existing conditions to come back, then my dreams of running marathons in cities all over the country or world will disappear.  I want to live a life full of purpose, goals and accomplishments. If my insurance company is free to impose lifetime bans or drop coverage for me for whatever reason they want, then I will be the person that “Obamacare” opponents hate: someone on Medicaid.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Another Surgery, Another Scar

My right ovary: 1980 to 2017. Rest in peace.

The surgery has come and gone, and now I am walking around with one less cyst and one less ovary. They have been expertly removed from my lady parts, and I am the proud owner of a 5.5-inch incision. 

This incision extends from my belly button and an inch into my… special area. The doctor stapled the incision together, and my metal buddies will be evicted tomorrow. My scars tend to fade after two years so my vertical reminder of January 10 should be nifty.

img_4371

Not pictured: the entire incision because this is not that kind of blog.

For this surgery, I had my first experience with a nerve block. The hospital’s pain team sold me  on this by telling me the block helps minimize the use of opiods and speeds up recovery. 

Sold! 

I vividly remember tripping hardcore on morphine after my mastectomy. I remember that I had a conversation with someone who wasn’t in the room. After that happened, I asked the nurses to please get me off morphine asap.

My wish coming into this surgery was to not recreate that experience. Of course I didn’t want to be in pain but I’d rather not be tripping. It’s not fun. I wanted to find a less mind-altering pain relief than morphine.

Unfortunately for the nerve block to work, I still experienced stabbing pains in each side as they jabbed giant needles into me. I screamed and proceeded to cry. Learned later they didn’t wait long enough to let the meds make me all loopy and not care about the giant side stabbing.

Oh well.

I woke up in recovery and learned I was on a morphine PCA.  At least it wasn’t a drip but it was still the dreaded morphine. I vowed to refrain hitting the green button as long as the pain allowed. Because of the nerve block, I got my wish.

I stayed in the hospital for two days. My lady doctor told me she was impressed at my progress and eager to get out of bed. Thanks to the nerve block and a nurse who understood how much I wanted to get off morphine, I made a handful of trips down the hallway, shuffling with my two IV poles and then with  my consolidated and heavy IV pole.

img_4364

Seriously. It was a heavy pole.

She had no problem sending me home on Thursday. 

It’s been a week since the surgery, and I am doing better than I was led to believe after this surgery. I take Advil during the day and the pain meds at night. I don’t move much, and every time I sneeze, I feel like someone slapped my incision. When I get up from a sitting position, I groan like an old lady and have to take a second to straighten myself out.

My ex was kind enough to watch the dogs for me as I recover, and I am beyond grateful. I do not think I would be in as decent shape as I am now if my 50- and 100-lb dogs were around me. I get them back on Friday. I do miss their company.

I don’t know if I am going to be off the full four weeks and then part time the next two weeks. That all depends on my doctor and how she thinks I am doing. I imagine the insurance company wants me back sooner than she does. 

Part of me agrees with them because time off means my finances take a hit, while the other part of me is screaming, “conquer that ever-growing to read pile you created, you damn fool!”  

I guess I am not used to resting. What a “weird” problem to have. My job and running take up so much of my time that resting is so foreign to me. I always feel compelled to be doing something. I like being challenged.

Until I am told otherwise, I am going to chill out.

img_4387

What is this rest thing of which you speak?

blahhhhh

So, I am scheduled for a surgery on January 10, and I’m not a happy camper. Apparently the ovarian cyst that I had drained in 2011, grew back and literally doubled in size. The cyst cannot be removed laparoscopically and has to be removed surgically. I’m going to be the proud owner of a gnarly scar on my abdomen.

Welp, there goes my swimsuit modeling career.

ef7e1a1c01584dfba1f19576e27819a5

I knew I had this cyst, and I even mentioned that I probably had a cyst to my now-ex a year ago. I could feel it now and then. I could feel pressure in my right side, and sometimes I would have weird cramping feeling in my back. I knew something was there. I put it aside because I didn’t want to interrupt my marathon training but I didn’t think it would grow to this size.

i-immediately-regret-this-decision-anchorman

When I saw my oncologist a couple of months ago, I mentioned it to him, and he ordered a test right away. He didn’t doubt me or question me. He heard me express concern about something I was feeling and sent me off for testing without any hassle at all. I am eternally grateful to have a doctor who trusts me and my intuition about my body. Not everyone has this luxury.

I had a CT scan and then later, a MRI scan.

Boy, the MRI scan was a big pile of poo. The technician, who was prepping me and putting the IV in me, didn’t listen to my warning that my veins were shot to hell from chemo. I warned him that since I didn’t have a port (one of the biggest regrets of my life, no lie), that I have a lot of scarring. The tech inserted the needle and it didn’t take, so what does the asshole do? He left it and tried to dig around.

I fainted in my seat, and I woke up to four or five nurses in my face telling me with great passion that I need to wake up. The one closest to me had smelling salts under my nose, and then she started thumping my clavicle pain, all while shouting, “Wake up, Lara.”

raw

I kept moaning that I was awake to get her to stop thumping me, but I guess I wasn’t coming to as fast and perky as they wanted so the thumping continued. It hurts like the dickens to get your clavicle bone repeatedly thumped, I’ll tell you that. It made me want to punch the nurse if I was physically able to return the favor.

A CT, MRI and ultrasound later, everyone came to the conclusion that this 10-cm interloper on my ovarian cyst had gots to go. It’s not cancer, at least.  All the tests, plus the multiple physical exams I have had, indicate this cyst is benign and not a mass.

I am so freaking tired of my body’s proclivity toward forming cysts. I really really really wish it would stop doing this because I’m tired of feeling like the human pin cushion. I’m covered in scars, and the more scars I receive, the more I want to get tattoos. I have no say in these scars, but I have every bit of say on what I put on my body. I have about three tattoo ideas, and they are going to happen.

There definitely has to be some weird genetic condition that would explain why I keep having these cysts. Hmm, I should probably look into this.

I’ll be out for six weeks, and I’ll basically have to start over as a runner, which is okay. I already ran a marathon, so it’s not like it cannot be done. Hell, I did it. I cannot afford to sign up for a thousand and one races like I have in the past anyway. It’ll keep me grounded and I love a challenge.

I am pretty sure the removal of this cyst and any other casualty body parts will contribute to a better quality of life. I have no doubt. Something this big isn’t supposed to be there, and I hope it means I’m new and definitely improved, even though my lady parts are supa dupa evil. Cancer or not, some things never change.

 

Marathon

My first marathon

Y’all, I am a marathoner. Straight up, after months of training, self-doubt and eating more than someone probably should, I ran 26.2 miles a month ago, and I have the shiny medal to prove it.

560770_239754026_xlarge

 

When I signed up for the marathon, I was apparently optimistic and slightly delusional about my projected finish time because I was assigned Corral C. I’m not a Corral C runner, more like a D or E. I probably annoyed the other Steel City Road Runners about my Corral place.  “Maybe I should be in Corral D? Or E? But if I’m in Corral C, is that okay?”

After patient reassurances, I went into Corral C. I moseyed on down to the back of Corral C, and I ended up starting with the beginning of Corral D.

At the beginning of the race, they had fireworks. Fireworks! I felt like a little kid. I may have even squealed.

Since this was the Nationwide Columbus Children’s Hospital Marathon, every mile had a patient child champion wearing oversized foam hands, like you would find at a football game. Despite not being someone who gives high gives, I high fived these kids whenever I could BECAUSE I AM NOT DEAD INSIDE.

One of the miles was a Memorial Mile, and another one was an Encore Mile, which featured children who were past patient child champions. I honestly thought I was going to lose it during the Memorial Mile when I saw all the families holding up posters of their deceased children but still cheering me on. We all had our names on our bibs, so these families were honestly going, “You are doing great, Lara!” “Way to go!”

During the encore mile, I high fived a bunch of these former child patient navigators, who were also cheering and telling me I was doing a great job. I fought the urge to cry like I do at videos of dogs reuniting with their owners after a long period of time. Ugly. Crying.

I know I have been through some shit with my own cancer. I am an adult, though, and these are children. These were children. They are innocent. When I got sick, it wasn’t pretty but it made sense. My mom got cancer young, and now so did I. When a young child is going through cancer, it’s just heartbreaking and shouldn’t be how the world works.  How do you explain when a child comes down with a life-threatening illness or injury? You can’t.

The first half of the marathon, I felt strong. Hell, I even had a mile where I averaged 8:45, like how is that even possible. Oh wait, adrenaline. When the half marathon and marathon split and most of the runners went left instead of straight, boy I felt a weird sense of dread, like shit just got real.

Around mile 21 or 22, that’s when the mind games with myself started showing up.

What happened? You were so strong in the half.

You are a sham of a runner.

Why are you doing this to yourself?

I was my own worst enemy and my greatest cheerleader.

It’s okay if you’re not as strong as you were in the first half. Give yourself a break.

No, Lara, you are awesome!

You’re doing this because not everyone can do this, but YOU can do this.

The last two miles were the worst. I had to stop and walk a handful of times. Every time I started running again, the words “mother fucker” escaped my lips. I had to psyche myself up before I could run again. I swear, I probably went through the five stages of grief during the marathon. Bargaining and denial did play a big part of the last couple of miles.

With less than a mile away, the 5 hour pacer ran by me as I was walking. I thought to myself, “I need to run harder and beat her!” (Denial.)

Ten seconds later as I huffed and puffed, I thought, “Don’t be stupid. Just finish.” (Acceptance.)

For some reason, I stopped about ten or so feet from the finish line. I didn’t cross the finish line all strong and yay, woman power.  It was more like I crossed the finish line all crying and hyperventilating. With my hand on my chest and my emotions boiling out of me, I walked over the finish line with two medics waiting for me.

560770_240050455_xlarge

“Are you okay?”

Instead of responding, “Of course not, I just ran a marathon,” I replied, “I think I might puke.”

I didn’t puke, though. I just hyperventilated and cried, and let this young man escort me about 20 or so 30 feet as I walked to the best of my ability.

So, I did it. My official time was 5:00:58. Seriously. I was one minute away from seeing four at the beginning of my time. One freaking minute. Maybe if I didn’t stop short of the finish line to have a mini-panic attack or outpouring of emotion, then I could have been under 5 hours. I could have trained harder. I could have had a better diet and been stronger.

Who knows?

When I began training for this marathon, I was going through a breakup of my 7.5-year relationship. It set me back, of course. I bounced back in so many ways. At the beginning of my training, I was in a horribly dysfunctional relationship that had been dead in the water for two to three years.

Even during a short period of time, things can always change for the better. How do I know? At the end of the marathon and outside the athlete area, an amazing man who has made me so happy and treats me like I am the cat’s meow waited for me . . . with a big smile on his face and a congratulatory hug.

I was never an athlete as a kid. I stunk at soccer, basketball or softball. I would rather be reading a book or watching television. I never had a competitive streak as a kid. If me and someone else were going for the ball, my first instinct would be to go, “eh.”

Running just has me competing against myself, and right now, I will probably do another marathon . . . just so that I break sub-5 hours. I will do it, too.

Huffman rules.

560770_240102067_xlarge

 

Yo, yo, Get Up Swinging readers. I am back, kind of. A lot has happened since I last updated and if you’re interested, keep on reading.

The primary reason why I went on an unintended blog hiatus is the fact I started a new job. In mid-October of last year, I resigned from the job that I had been at for more than 9 years. It was a long time coming, and I could not be more excited. I made a lot of wonderful friends at my old company, and I wouldn’t be at my new job if it was not for this nine-year stint.

Boy, though, I could not be more excited and relieved to be moving on. I had plateaued at that company years ago, and there was nowhere for me to go. I had been getting negative reviews for three years in a row, and I wasn’t given any type of raise. I felt like I was repeatedly running into a wall hard, getting up dazed and then running back into the wall again.

When the opportunity for this new job for more money, opportunities and the chance at a real career path, I jumped at it. Did I ever. I was so unhappy and miserable at my old job, and my life had to change. There was drama when I left and I got threatened with a non-compete. That’s why I remained pretty much silent for the last nine months because I was afraid of being accused of doing anything untoward. Now, my non compete period is over, and I feel free to share about my life, especially my professional life, without threat of litigation.

I am happy at this new job. Sometimes the hours make me want to curl up into a fetal position and whisper to myself “it’ll be okay.” I am at a job that pays so much better, offers career training and opportunities and has expanded my skill set in ways I never could before. I’m grateful. I’m being challenged and at the same time, appreciated.

I honestly feel like a completely different person since I switched jobs.  I don’t wake up feeling a suffocating sense of dread.

enhanced-15090-1452270657-2

The other big change in my life occurred a couple of months ago. My boyfriend of 7.5 years and I broke up, and he moved out. Sigh… Things that cannot be undone were done and now we’re done.

tumblr_michmphbmk1qf9mevo1_500

Our relationship was not right for two years, probably three. I knew something was not right for at least two years, and I should have ended it back when the signs were there. The signs were neon, blinking and in all caps.

RELATIONSHIP IS OVER.

I was not ready then. I was scared. I was scared to live on my own and without him. I also wanted it to work out, and I tried so hard to make it work. He was with me during cancer. We had gone on so many adventures together. I went skydiving with him. My longest relationship before him was 10 months.

When things become bad for a long period of time and you find yourself in relationship purgatory, then both people need to want to leave it to ever go anywhere. He never wanted to leave the purgatory. We were stuck. We were not being completely honest with each other, him definitely more so than me. We avoided the truth staring at us in the face.

It’s done now. I could hate him, curse his name and tear up all his pictures. Frankly, I used up all that jilted ex girlfriend energy in those two years since I knew he was not on the level. Now that it’s over, there’s a sense of relief and sadness. I can and will forgive hi, because how else could I ever move on?

The sick irony of it all is now that we have laid all the ugly truths on the table, he and I are closer than we ever were in the last couple of years of our relationship. I don’t know if this honesty is the result of a sense of freedom now that the commitment ties have been cut. Like, why not just say it because it’s not like we can break up even more so than we are? Ah who knows, maybe I’m being cynical and this openness is the result of two people who learned the value of each other too late.

We are going to try to be co-dog owners unless it gets too fraught with emotions of the negative variety. I’m already dating, which some might say is too quick since my relationship has only been over for a month or so.  I don’t think so. I had been mourning the loss of this relationship for a long time, thinking about dating a lot toward the end. Now I’m here. It’s not that I’m not sad or am throwing parties that I’m single. It’s that I’m a social person who loves being around people.

I’m not going to let the end of this relationship make me a cynic, I won’t. I still believe in love and part of me will always love the Ex. He and I weren’t right for each other. I don’t see us ever getting back together but I can’t see a life without him in some manner. Maybe that’s early break up thoughts dancing in my head right now but that’s the mentality I have at the moment.

There you have it. I’m at a new job that pays me so much better and has an actual career path. I’m newly single too. Lots and lots of change here in Get Up Swinging land. Hopefully more positive changes will keep happening now that I’m no longer in relationship purgatory or at a job where I was going nowhere.

I’m going somewhere for once. It’s pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to who I meet along the way and who might want to go for the ride with me.

anigif_enhanced-31813-1431444944-26

We Need to do Better

Most readers of Get Up Swinging know that my number one priority to my breast cancer is more money for research for metastatic breast cancer. You know, I do it for my mom, who died at age of 40, only two months shy of her 41st birthday. I’ve also had breast cancer myself, and I live with the knowledge that my disease can have a metastatic recurrence any time for the rest of my life.

All of that’s true, but there’s more to why I do what I do.

For my friends who have metastatic breast cancer and young children, I know what it’s like to be that young child. I see the pictures they post, and when I see the early elementary school children, my heart breaks. I see myself in those faces. When you’re a kid, you know something sad and serious is happening but you can’t quite understand actually what is going on with the adults.

I read about my friends’ anguish about just wanting to see their children grow up. I think to myself, “These are the thoughts my mother had as she endured treatment after treatment with three children in elementary school.” I can understand their fear in a way because I am frightened of a recurrence and what is my greatest source of anxiety, is their day to day life.

I know what I’m about to write is going to scare the almighty shit out of my metser friends: I do not have any solid memories of her. I would describe them more like snippets of a dream I’m trying to remember but cannot with any certainty. Years ago, my dad played a recording of her and he had to tell me which voice was hers. I look like her and have the same disease, but I don’t remember her. She’s more a presence and not really a reality. I imagine this was something she feared and did not want to happen, but it did.

There’s a mom-sized hole in my heart that appeared when she died. It’ll never go away. I can fill it up with other sources of love and happiness but it’ll never quite fill the hole left behind by her death. It certainly shaped the person I am now, and I often find myself guided by the thought, “What would Mom would have done?” I also find asking myself when I’m blogging or sending out tweets advocating for change, “I wonder if she would be proud of me.”

When my friends pray for their current treatment to hold out for as long as possible, I think about my high school and college graduations, which she did not see. She did not even see me reach middle school. Those living with metastatic breast cancer want to see their milestones. Research into better treatments is the only way these moms and dads can see the milestones, big or small, happen. Metastatic cancer is smart and cunning, and it’s constantly thinking of ways to make it so the current line of treatment fails for the patient.

Holley Kitchen had a goal, which was to see her youngest son turn 5.  She missed her goal by two days.  Two young boys will be growing up without their mother, and that’s something I know all too well.  Please read Susanne’s blog because her perspective drives home the frustration.

CYnBPjGU0AAiLWS

Credit: Metathriving.com

To my metser friends with children, please know that your children’s memories may fade to what mine are now, but know that they will never forget the love. I don’t remember my mom, but I know she loved me and my brothers more than anything. Your children will know that you did not go willingly and understand the ugly reality of cancer. Please please, do not avoid being in pictures with them if you can help it. You may think you look awful but your children will only see you. Trust me.

I know what it’s like to have cancer and live with the fear of recurrence. I also know what it’s like to grow up without your mother and have no solid memories of her. I would never wish either on my enemy.

That’s why we need to do better. Donate to Metavivor. Don’t buy pink ribbon products. Listen to those who have the most to lose because I promise you, they are the ones telling the truth, not the ones who want to sell tchotchkes.