Hey strangers!

It’s been awhile since I have updated anything on this blog, and I blame the new job. I’ve been there for eight months now, and I’m just now feeling a little more sure-footed at the same company. I definitely did not realize how hard and difficult it would be to switch careers at my age, but I am glad I did, despite missing investigating now and then.

Sometimes, it completely blows my mind to think about where I was three years ago and where I am today. Three years isn’t that long of a time period, but it feels like five or six lifetimes ago. I was at a job I grew to hate for a manager and supervisor who had me convinced how bad I suck at the job and life.

During my time at that job, I tried to move up or move to another department. Several times, instead of just promoting who they thought was best, the company held “try outs.” If I recall correctly, I tried two out of three times they held these tryouts while I was there. I even “tried out” to move to a preliminary researcher position, and once again, told I wasn’t good enough.

While I understand that I wouldn’t have gotten my last job (which resulted me in getting my current job) if it hadn’t been for the first one, I still think back to that time of my life and feel wonder. I resigned so easily to a position of mediocrity and allowed myself to believe that I couldn’t achieve more. It might take several more years for me to forgive myself for that.

I have had the absolute privilege working for companies who believe and encourage career development. They send their employees to trainings, so that these individuals can improve in their skills and abilities. I have worked with mentors at my last job. I have learned so much in these last three years, and confidence in your abilities radiates in the work that you produce.

A January 2013 Forbes article entitled “Why Employee Development Is Important, Neglected And Can Cost You Talent” stated:

Good talented people naturally want to advance, and appreciate meaningful support in the process. As the HBR study showed, capable ambitious young employees want training, mentoring and coaching. They want to gain skills. They want to become more versatile and valuable to an organization.

This could not be more spot on. Sure, not every employee wants to be an asset to a team and wants to collect a paycheck. I’m talking about those who want to gain skills and become a valuable asset to a company. Right now, I am studying to become a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist. After this, I want to become a Certified Fraud Examiner, and after that, it’s time to rule the world.

I wish it didn’t take me until recently to learn not to accept that I am how others perceive me. I did extremely well at my previous researcher job, even though my previous company had said I lacked the skills to do basic research. They weren’t right about me, and the only person who was hurt by all of this was me.

I didn’t believe in myself and my abilities, and it cost me greatly. The only thing I can keep doing is to move on, and never make that mistake again. If I don’t believe in myself, then who will?

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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

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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 😉

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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.