My journey - battling lymphoma

Recently I celebrated my 46th birthday. I love celebrating birthdays! Then I participated as a co-captain for our local "Quabog" Relay For Life and the Pack 57 Rocks! Cub Scout Team. This was the time frame that I had discovered an uneasiness in my stomach and growth in my spleen and stomach. After weeks of monitoring, my husband Steve took me to the doctor who felt the lumps and ordered a CT scan. The CT scan showed a massive area, my spleen enlarged to twice its size and an additional growth lower in my stomach. Next was the localized CT guided biopsy and subsequent PET scan. The biopsy showed positive for lymphoma and most likely Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma.

This is my online journal sharing my experience through battling this cancer that has abruptly entered my life for no apparent reason. The story is documented here if you want to start from the beginning, you can check the archives on the side bar.

As a top competitive master athlete this year winning my age group at the Marine Corps Marathon and placing 3rd in the New England Trail Running Championship I have been truly excited with my results of late and am a truly driven athlete. Driven by goals.... my goal right now.... to beat this "thing"!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Applefest Half Marathon - a TRUE Challenge

Hollis, NH
September 25, 2010  -- 10 am start
This was my third time competing in this half marathon in 3 years.  My friends had always told me what a great half this was to run and I love the foliage time of year to be running long training for a marathon.  Fitting this in has been perfect in my training schedule in the past.  They reward the top finishers with a free entry to the race and I have been fortunate to have my entry waived 2 years in a row.  The race director is awesome, the awards are fruit baskets (of fresh local fruit) and home made apple pies. The post race "meal of apple crisp and great food galore is a grand treat at the finish line! It is truly a fest of Apples!   I registered early and the field closes out about a month out from the race, so only serious runnners are there in force.  It has a 2 person relay component to it so there are close to 1500 runners that start.  


Saturday was a warm day --- temps were in the 80's and the sun was shining bright.  We were a bit late leaving the house and pushed our trip to be running late overall.  It was a bit stressful, because you have to ride the shuttle bus from the middle of town - it took a little extra just to get to the school.  I showed up at 9:50 to get my number and race to the front of the start and meet Steve who had my camera.  I love all his photos and shared my faves below.  

Runners - ready - set - go!  And the gun went off and we were running down the hill to town... I was smiling for Steve and pushing my pace right from the beginning.... untill I felt sick... my legs were heavy... my stomach not so great either....  I couldn't get my breathing and my pace ....  I felt horrible...  I kept going, but thoughts in my head like I really shouldn't be here, this is crazy, I can't do this, kept going round and round in my head.  I kept going thinking I would know when to quit.  I felt like quitting, but I could still do it.  I saw Steve at mile 2 and was beat.  I didn't know if I could keep going for the whole 13.1 -- I was a little freaked out.  But I kept going, giving myself a break.  SO used to seeing the pace on my Garmin read low 7's for a race that it was really hard to let myself go slow - take a break.  JUST FINISH.  You can hang out and be in the back, you don't have to be in the front  -- I kept telling myself.  And then I did just that - I relaxed and gave myself permission to run slow.  I paced about 8's on the flats, 9's otherwise and once in a while I hit a 10 minute mile on the hills.  I talked to some people along the course and cheered them on.  There were a few that helped me relax and breathe too.  People are so nice in races --- at least where I was on Saturday!  :)   Steve came out to the 6 mile mark (probably thought I needed a ride) - and asked if I was ok.  He caught me on a downhill, so I was fine!  Gave him a quick kiss and kept on going...  It was crazy hot for a long race, finishing around noon was not so much fun...  I saw Steve again with less than 3 miles to go and was thinking, "do you think anyone knows I have cancer?  How hard this is for me?  That is am in the middle of this craziness in my life?"  We all run our own race, in our own arena -- rarely do you connect with others at these races.  But boy I wish I could have yelled my story from the roof tops -- what I had accomplished as I hit the last climb to the finish line.  Yay --- I did it.   I was ready for my speech!

In perspective, my time was about 20 minutes slower than last year - I was third woman in last year's race.  This year I was 10th in my age group and in my mind a much bigger champion than ever! An 8:46 to me was LIGHTING fast - especially during "treatment week".  See the full results below. 

The doc is right.  This chemo stuff is accumulative and the longer I am in treatment the more tired I am going to be.  It seems every appointment he asks me if i am still running and I say yes (like there is no other option for me) - It keeps me sane, gives me spirit and I feel alive.  I have this goal to do the Chicago marathon and I will finish.  But honestly when that is done - I am taking a break!  :)  



169 of 889 finishers - Top 20%!
10 out of 48 in age group:   F4549 
Overall time: 1:54:44   8:46 min/mile
Nancy Cook             46 F  1256 Belchertown MA  

FEMALE AGE GROUP:  45 to 49
Place O'All Time     Name                     Age Sex Race# Hometown                
===== ===== =======  ======================== === === ===== ======================= 
    1    52 1:41:13  Karen McAdam              48 F    1105 Hudson NH               
    2    87 1:44:58  Rebecca Arsenault         47 F     893 Hudson MA               
    3   107 1:46:35  Diane Fowler              47 F      71 Andover NH              
    4   109 1:47:16  Barbara Drislane          45 F    1059 Salem NH                
    5   156 1:51:50  Lauren Barakauskas        46 F     417 Cambridge MA            
    6   158 1:52:05  Pam Triest-Hallahan       49 F     406 Nashua NH               
    7   165 1:52:37  Maggie Ramos              49 F     826 Peterborough NH         
    8   169 1:53:01  Kirsten Vernon            46 F     815 Amherst NH              
    9   182 1:53:43  Julie Kopser              45 F     535 Hollis NH               
   10   195 1:54:44  Nancy Cook                46 F    1256 Belchertown MA  

"Just Breathe"

"Not sure who is crazier --- this guy or me?!"

"Less than 3 miles to go at this point --- do you think anyone really knows how tough this is for me?   I took off my cap to share my "beautiful baldness"!  But boy does that head need a tan!"  :)

Headed up the last hill to the finish line -- I love this photo -- I am so happy - so proud that I finished!  It was incredible, a tough course, a hot day and I finished even though I am currently in treatment for lymphoma and only 1/2 way through chemotherapy.  

My sweetheart, my caregiver, my number one fan (and the best Nancy photographer out there!)  At the finish!  Everything I do - I do with his support and love.  I am truly blessed.

THE Finisher Medal - this medal means so much to me..... I have run only one other race (Mt. Toby) while in chemo.  Now only 2 weeks till Chicago -- it has been truly a HUGE challenge for me!  My running really helps me to keep my spirit, my sanity, my drive, and my mental state in tact.  I am so happy I am in as good shape as I am to be able to sustain my training and continue to pull out these races - despite it all.

Thanks for stopping by --- please leave a comment - I truly appreciate all your support!  
Cheer me on at the  Chicago Marathon!  
10/10/10
10 days and counting! 



3 comments:

Ashley Sisk said...

Congrats Nancy...these photos inspire me. You're so incredible.

Jane said...

Wow, what a story.....unbelievable spiritual and physical strength...tenacity! I am awed! Keep it going, girlfriend! XXOO, Jane

Heather Goss said...

Great story Nancy! I think of you each time I set out to run. Your passion and dedication are an inspiration!