30 years

This month, it’ll be 30 years since my mother died. Gotta say, it feels surreal that she’s been gone for this long. My mom, she missed pretty much everything in my life, minus my birth. She was definitely there for that one. After that, my mother missed my First Communion, Confirmation, high school graduation, college graduation, first job, first heartbreak, buying my first house, so on and so on.

She wasn’t there when I had breast cancer. More than anything, I missed her while I was going through treatment. I wanted my parent there so badly. Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean I don’t miss her and have a mom-shaped hole in my heart, which will never go away.

21765249_10156569252437195_7204708816991172891_n

This is what she just missed in my life. My two brothers, each of whom have kids, also missed out having our mother in their lives.

Metastatic breast cancer is a thief. It’s a dirty dirty thief. It stole my mother, and I’m doing something about it. Once again, I’m raising money for Metavivor. Every dollar you donate will go toward researching metastatic breast cancer. This year, I decided to run 30 miles this year – one mile for every year she has been gone.

That’s right – 30 freaking miles. I’m doing a marathon and then 3.8 miles before.  The date will be November 18 – be there or be square, and watch me hobble toward this bonkers goal of mine.

If you can donate, then you can do so here:

https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/larahuffman30

If you cannot, I understand and would be very appreciative of anyone who can share my story and my link.

Advertisements

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

 

Get Up Running – Kerry

I recently just “met” Kerry through another friend of mine, Michele, who has had breast cancer and runs races.   I am meeting a lot of women who’ve had breast cancer and who are also runners – awesome!  Anyway, here’s Kerry’s story.

Name: Kerry

IMG_462395857299064

Type of cancer and treatment:

Dx Oct 2008 @ 42 yrs, IDC, Stage IIIa, Grade 3   [ed note: breast cancer, for those who don’t know what IDC means – invasive ductal carcinoma]
Right Mx, no recon
FEC-T x 6
25 rads
Tamoxifen
Ooph
Arimidex (still taking)
3 years of Zometa, 2 x a year

Were you a runner before cancer?

No. I was always really active; I walked everywhere, hiked, canoed, gardened, etc, but hadn’t run since high school.

While I was in the middle of chemo, I decided I wanted to work hard at getting physically strong after I was done. Running seemed like an obvious choice. Chemo hit me quite hard. FEC made me throw up, and Taxotere gave me terrible bone pain, from which I was basically bedridden for a couple of days each round. I remember lying in bed feeling so terrible, so weak, and just wishing that I could feel strong again. I ended up hospitalized after my 5th round of Chemo (febrile neutropenia) and remember being taken from the ER up to a ward. There I was in a hospital gown, bald, IV pole, in a wheelchair, and I’ll never forget the look of pity and fear on the faces of people we passed. I never wanted people to look at me that way again.

I also did a lot of research about what I could do to increase my odds of survival, and time and time again I read that exercise would lower my risk of recurrence. It seemed like a no – brainer to prioritize exercise after active treatment ended.

I am also on an AI, one of the most common side effects is joint pain. I read one of the best ways to prevent this is, again, exercise. I do feel a difference in my body if I go a couple of days without running. I went through early menopause right after radiation, when I had my ovaries removed. I hope that running helps counter some of the negative long term cardiac effects of that, and some of the long term effects of chemo.

Did you run during treatment? How long after did you take it up?

I didn’t start running until after treatment ended. I walked during chemo, as much as I could, which towards the end was often just walking my kids to school and back. After chemo I started walking longer distances, and about 6 months after I finished up everything I started running a bit. (I live in Canada and had to wait for the snow to melt) I started off running small distances during my walks, and slowly increased how much I ran, until I was comfortably running 3 miles at a time. On a whim I decided to try and run 6 miles, which I did! Not long after that I decided to train for a half marathon, and about 7 months after starting running, (about 2 years after diagnosis) I ran my first half marathon. I have since run 2 more half marathons, and next month will run my 4th full marathon.

How has running helped you during and/or after treatment, both physically and mentally.

Physically and mentally it has made me so much stronger. I truly think running is saving my life, and my sanity.  I came out of treatment with some extra steroid weight, feeling pretty weak and hammered by everything. Emotionally I felt quite vulnerable, it is such a shocking thing to happen, and I was not particularly hopeful about my long term survival. I think that when you are in the midst of active treatment you are in fight mode, but afterwards I think running gave me something positive to focus on, like I was still doing something to fight the cancer.

I also think that having gone through some pretty aggressive treatment, that cancer has helped me as a runner. I have often thought during a hard run, if I can get through chemo, I can get through this. I think it has given me the strength to not quit when the going gets tough.

What did your doctor say about your running?

My onc says it’s the reason I am doing so well. He is totally supportive.

What is your biggest challenge running after cancer?

Ha, well, I didn’t have recon, and sweat and a silicone prosthesis don’t mix! I had a couple of near embarrassing situations before switching to a foam prosthesis. It makes me look a bit lopsided if you looked closely, but I really don’t care.

I have had bursitis twice in my heels which I blame (possibly unfairly) on Arimidex.

I also have had occasional hand lymphedema after very long runs.

What would you say to someone just out of treatment who may be intimidated to take up running?

Well, I would say to start slow. You don’t have to be out running marathons. There is a huge benefit of just exercising for 30 minutes a day. Consistency is the most important thing. Start out with an easy, non-threatening plan, something like couch to 5k. Don’t worry about speed, don’t be afraid to walk. Just get out there and do something. Think of exercise as a key part of your treatment plan, the survival benefit is similar to chemo. And it’s far more fun 😉

IMG_462350052611564

Another 11 miles

I did.  I ran another 11 miles.  Double-freaking-digits.  While this is my second double-digit run, this run was even more significant due to the fact that I have been a sickie again, living in Purgatory health.  For the last four to five weeks, I have been fighting off one illness after another.   It started off as a cold, then I had a stomach virus that completely wiped me out, then a sinus infection.  The Boyfriend has been sick, and then it seems I get it, and then so on.  Unfortunately, he has seemingly been hit harder than me with all these illnesses, and I’ve been bouncing back, while he has been splat on the ground.

Training during a period of time where you just want to lay down, curl up with a pair of crazy mutts, and watch bad reality television is challenging.  I want to run.  I want to go to yoga and get my stretch on, gurrrl.  The idea of resting when I’m so close to the half marathon?  No, I can’t!  I rested for two years, and I’m tired of resting.

I ended up listening to my training group’s advice to give it a rest.  Illness and training do not go hand in hand.  More like hand-to-hand combat.  The couple of times I tried to run when under the weather yielded terrible results.  When I went to yoga even though I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, horrible idea.  Finally, I threw my hands up, went to the doctor to get some much-needed antibiotics, and didn’t run for more than a week.

Today was my first long run in two weeks, and I felt pretty great until mile 9 when the IT band pain hit again.  Since I had two miles to go, I wasn’t going to quit.  Those two miles were tougher than the first 9 (I can’t believe I actually wrote that sentence).  When my watch beeped at the 11 mile mark, I resisted the urge to yell, “YES!”  I was also secretly overjoyed that one of my mentors said I was a “strong” runner.  SOMEONE CALLED ME STRONG AND IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HAVING HAD CANCER.

I wish I could spread the message to other people who just finished cancer treatment that they, too, can run.  (Of course, always get a “go-ahead” from their oncologist.)  I haven’t even been running for a year, like 9 months, and I’m weeks away from running 13.1 miles.  I’m not an athlete and well, have never been athletic.  It’s like all my surgeries and treatment have flipped a switch in me.  I know what it’s like to feel like you’re choking to death, or so sick and in pain that you have to have help walking up stairs, or so zapped of energy that you can barely get out of bed.  I have been pushed to my limits during cancer treatment.

Now I am being pushed to my limits but in a so much better way.

11 Miles

On Sunday, I accomplished something I never thought I could do – I ran 11 miles in two hours and three minutes.  When I began Fleet Feet’s No Boundaries program last July, I wasn’t even sure if I could run a 5K.  I thought to myself, “Okay, you signed up.  That’s the first step.”  I ran the Pittsburgh’s Great Race 5K in 31 minutes, and I was so proud of myself afterward.  When I saw that Fleet Feet was offering a training program for either the half marathon or full marathon, I hemmed and hawed about it for days.

No way I can run 13.1 miles.  You are out of your damn mind.

After I shook those “I can’t” thoughts out of my head, I signed up for the training group, and I have no idea why I ever thought I couldn’t do this.  Now that I have an 11 mile run under my belt, I know that I can run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon this May 4.  I am going to do it.  Even more so, I am going to run the Pittsburgh Half in two hours.  That’s my goal.  Whether or not I meet that goal, I’m going to be proud that I crossed that finish line.

Cancer is something that my body does.  Running is something I choose to do.

When I cross that finish line in just over a month, I hope my mother is looking down from wherever she is, shouting, “HUFFMAN RULES.”