#CancerBlindside

Any Survivor fans here? You know the blindside. That surprised look as the player’s eyes widen while his name is read over and over. Security in the game starts melting away as the realization hits that game time is coming to an end. The player stares straight ahead at Jeff Probst willing the next few slips of paper to show someone else’s name. Then the player looks around at the group with a look of ‘how could you do this to me?’ My first diagnosis twelve years ago was similar, except I didn’t have Jeff Probst to stare at, I had a doctor.

I was blindsided in discovering a lump. I returned from an amazing trip to Italy. I was healthy, 34 years old with no history of cancer in the family. I stayed active with lifting weights and cardio. And I found a lump. It was small, hard and non-moveable. So of course, I jumped on the internet searching for answers.

Just like the Survivor player whose name is read over and over, feeling the security of their alliances slipping away, my security in life was slipping away. I couldn’t grasp this happening to me. Try as I might to not draw conclusions so early in the cancer game, it was hard to do. One minute I would be certain it wasn’t cancer and the next minute I was sure. I hoped, prayed, begged and wished that this was not cancer. I contacted my doctor and he scheduled me for a same day appointment. This was the beginning of entering the medical system as a patient and not a healthcare professional.

The team of docs ushered me through the system ordering various tests. Mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy; all these tests I watched patients go through, and now I was the patient. . . and I was scared. I kept thinking it can’t be cancer. I was busy. I don’t have time for cancer. I worked and was in school. I didn’t see any possible solution as to how I would accommodate doctor’s visits and treatments into my life. I remember looking in the mirror at the gym thinking I was in the best shape of my life, this can’t be cancer.

In the end it doesn’t matter how much I bargained, prayed, wished or begged, there wasn’t any way to control whether the lump was cancerous. The little lump that felt the size of a peanut was cancer and it changed my life forever.

Are you a runner diagnosed with cancer? I’m here for you.

Do you know a runner diagnosed with cancer? Please share my blog. Let them know they are not alone in this journey.

You can find the schedule for Team FIERCCE group runs on Facebook. This is a running group for those impacted by cancer. I look forward to running with you!

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Running. Cancer. The hat and the National Anthem.

It’s interesting when being diagnosed with cancer hits me. Many times I go about my day not giving cancer a second thought. And every once in a while, bam, I’m instantly reminded of what cancer takes from me. Today is one of those days.

I ran this morning in the Honor the Fallen 5K. I ran for a DPS Officer killed in the line of duty and I had a Unites States flag to present to his best friend at the finish line. I was ready to go. I prepared by looking up the directions to the start line, figured out where to park, knew what time to be at the registration and noted that the National Anthem was going to be played. I knew I wanted to be there for that. I enjoy the Anthem and I always take off my hat and place my hand over my heart. I didn’t have any other thoughts that entered my head. Just a normal day taking off my hat while the Anthem plays. No problem. Until it is.

As I stood waiting for the race to start, an announcement was made that the National Anthem was to be played in about 5 minutes and to please remove your hats. I panicked. I couldn’t remove my hat. I was nearly bald. With a hat on I looked perfectly normal. My hair loss pattern and the length of my hair makes it look like I have hair and like I don’t have cancer. But if I were to take the hat off, I am obviously going bald. I looked at my friends and said “I can’t take my hat off”. I was bewildered and didn’t know what to do. I always remove my hat during the anthem. I was so upset I started crying. In that moment, I realized once again what cancer takes. Today, it took from me the security of one simple act: removing my hat. Today it took from me a traditional way of honoring my country. I felt I let down the individuals I was there to honor, the Fallen. And the USA. I choose to honor my country by removing my hat, and today I thought I couldn’t. Seeing my distress my friends came to my aid and said it’s ok, today you don’t remove your hat but put your hand over your heart instead. Today, that’s how you demonstrate honor. My friends support and encouragement helped in calming me. The Anthem started, I placed my hand over my heart and wore my hat. If I allow it, cancer can steal from me. It can steal vitality, security, and independence. I didn’t allow cancer to win. I embraced flexibility, resilience and friendship. And in this moment, I recognized once again the power of running fierce beyond cancer.

Are you ready to run fierce beyond cancer? I invite you to follow and share my blog. Do you reside in Tucson? Find the Team FIERCCE Facebook page for information on our group runs.

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I choose running fierce.

I must admit this is a challenging blog post to write. I have three posts ready to go and this first one I have been sitting on for weeks. Why? First, because many people will find out for the first time that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2017. Not only am I currently diagnosed, I also had cancer eleven years ago. Second, this opens me up to a whole new round of pity parties. You know, the pitying look and the standard “I’m sorry”. Though I’m sure this response is meant to convey empathy, please refrain from this automatic response. It’s not helpful and I truly don’t understand why you are sorry as you did not cause this offense. The following are a few responses that are supportive and not intrusive:

  • “I don’t know what to say.” This is a great response as people generally just don’t know what to say. And, that is ok. A life threatening disease is not something that one is generally equipped to deal with on a daily basis.
  • “Sending you positive prayers/wishes/thoughts.” Whatever spirituality you connect with, I accept all positive vibes from all religions.
  • “I am available to help you by (bringing meals, driving you to appointments etc).” Another excellent response that definitively provides an offer of assistance.
  • “I would love to run with you. Let me know when.” For me, this of course is the best response since I am a runner. If you don’t run, an offer to walk with me is excellent as well. There may be times I can’t run and walking will provide a much needed boost. And, just because you are not located in Tucson doesn’t mean you can’t make this offer. Technology provides ways in which to connect digitally all the time.

I am challenging all that read this blog to think outside the “I’m sorry” box. Take a moment, reflect on who you are and how you show up in the world, and then offer your authentic response.

One of the first questions to my oncologist was will I be able to run? Any physician I went to, this question was always in the top five. In fact, I didn’t so much ask if I could run, I asked how will this diagnosis fit into my running. It wasn’t a question of not running but how to align the diagnosis and treatment with my passion.

I found it challenging to find other runners diagnosed with cancer to connect with for support. I needed to know other runners who went through cancer treatment and continued to run. I wanted to connect with runners that made it through to the other side of treatment intact, still running and maybe even stronger than before.

I’m creating this blog so that other runners diagnosed with cancer will know that running and combating cancer can be achieved. My hope is that I inspire runners to live up to their greatness while combating cancer. The days where you don’t feel like getting out of bed you dig deep, find your inner strength, connect with your courage, and choose to be unstoppable anyway. Conquering cancer isn’t easy. Through connection we will find possibility and the power to be resilient. We don’t have to let cancer run our lives, we choose to run cancer out of our lives. I am running fierce beyond cancer. Today is your day to find your fierce.

Do you know a runner diagnosed with cancer? Please share my blog. Let them know they are not alone in this journey. Together we are stronger and will find a way to run fiercely beyond cancer.

Stay tuned for next blog!

I look forward to running with you!

#findyourfierce