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"!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Marathon Experience - Marathon DAY! (Stage 2)

Here goes - time to finally chronicle the "DAY"....  I had a tough time with recovery from treatment this round and have been so tired and overwhelmed, my updates to you all haven't been there.  There is so much to share and I really wanted to do it right, so I needed to wait until I was feeling better.  Treatment started late because of our travel and therefore recovery was late too.  SO here I am FINALLy ready to report! :)


My Chicago Marathon - 10/10/10


I was happy that we got to bed at a decent time  -- dinner was fabulous and I was like a kid at Christmas, thinking the earlier to bed, the earlier to rise and then I can enjoy my presents!   OK - maybe not the best analogy but definitely anxious for the day to begin.  This marathon created less performance pressure because of my cancer and more focused on the fun and the completion-- so I was smiling and happy - knowing just crossing the finish line for me in Chicago would be an amazing success story in itself.


Palmer House, Chicago, IL (love this artsy shot with the side lighting of the sign) :)

I sent a text to Cara (aka: BatGirl) first thing in the morning to make sure she wasn't going to be late as Charlie had me all worried that she may be, but he kept her right in line with the time frame and they walked from their hotel to ours in the morning.  I couldn't find my glide, but finally did and covered my upper body where I normally get chaffed  - crazy as it sounds, my skin is so sensitive, I really need glide every race. Steve and I hit the lobby Starbucks for some great french roast coffee and I finished a croissant for a little carbo boost for breakfast.  No craziness for food in the morning for me, need to keep it simple so my body doesn't go crazy later!  Plenty of water and then we met Cara & Charlie and family outside the Palmer House.   We were quite the crew.  As I waited for Cara people walked by on the way to the start and commented "nice outfit" -- it was funny because we really look better together as they "Dynamic Duo".  Love the capes!  We decided we could handle the string and wear them the whole way because the look SO good!  My outfit was a little tight, but I really love the look -- so much fun once you get the suit on, I felt like a Super Hero!  Aren't we cute?! The "pirate hat worked (I honestly think having that hat has been a great disguise, so much that people don't even realize I am in chemotherapy.  Or least I don't think they can tell.... :)
We walked to the Elite corrals - Charlie was in Elite A and Cara & I (with David - who we met later) were in Elite B.  We wanted to be sure we were entering right as the time for the start was approaching quickly.   A few more photos as a group and we were on our way.  Steve is just so amazing, he was the tour guide, coordinator for the group to get around on the L and view the course, hoping to catch us with my camera along the course.  His energy and love I count on every minute, every mile.... I love this photo of us together, he is  my incredibly fit, gorgeous husband, and a balanced calming nature -- I love & appreciate him so much.

So we made it to this space and had to wait.  You see the three of us below - well we waited for at least 15 minutes.  I was getting a little nervous, but they finally let us and and it was smooth sailing from there.  People did try to climb the fence and they were immediately booted.  There were 45,000 people on that starting line in the different corrals.... it was pretty crazy!  We headed to the B corral, and said good luck and good bye to Charlie (he was hoping for a sub  3 hour marathon!).  It was truly fun how everyone commented and loved our costumes....  we smiled and waved and posed for photos- even in the start corral, racers pulled out their cameras and asked us if we would flank them for a photo.  SO much fun right from the start.  :)

And here we are after we met up with David PIttman  in Elite Coral B(LINK to his story on Chicago HERE)-- we all ran together in the beginning -- Cara and I chatting along and David just smiling!  
The ACS DetermiNation Dream Team was rocking Chicago!


Miles 1-6:  Feeling fast, energized, excited and pumped by the crowd cheers!  We were "flying" with our capes on and honestly had a hard time running slow.  Truly feeling like a SUPER Hero in cape and costume! (This is usually a problem for me - so honestly I was taking advantage of it - knowing I would pay for it later).  We stopped at every water stop because of the hot weather and looming dehydration and warnings out there because of the heat.  But the water in our system also made it so we had to stop early for that bathroom! :)  
Lucky for us - no line!  In and out quick, but it did slow our pace to stop.

Miles 7-14:  Chatting away, flying high, waving at the crowd and raising our arms to make them cheer louder was so much fun.  My face hurt from smiling so much!  The kids were the best, to see the look in their eyes when they saw the Super Heros running by.  It was so heartwarming to see all the families out there cheering on their runners.  We looked for the ACS DetermiNation folks along the way - found a couple of girls and got my photo taken, but thought I lost Cara!  :)  She of course was waiting patiently for me in a slow jog.  She PROMISED never to leave me -- so cute.  :)  I am glad she didn't.

Photos by Steve Cook --  we didn't see him here - but you can see we were working the crowd. :) 
 This is the award winning photo that I autographed for Doc Mullally
 (Thanks sweetie!)

Miles 16-20:  This was the tough section where it began - we stopped again at the Port a Pottie and my legs were starting to cramp up - either from Prednisone or dehydration or acccumulation of drugs, not sure.... :)  But it wasn't much fun.  It was much easier to keep running.  My fingers and toes were tingly, but didn't feel blistery yet.  It was awesome while in the race when other racers would comment that they loved running near us because we were getting so many cheers and encouragement.  They called me Wonder Woman - and Cara quickly told them my story, how I was a true Wonder Woman STILL in treatment.  Impressed the heck out of them all!  :)  I was starting to lose it with my stamina, so all this talk of strength and admiration of what I was doing kept me going!  

We truly were having so much fun with the spectators and all the suburbs of Chicago -- there was this one section where the band was giving FREE HUGS and we ran right for them!  :)  Then right after that the whole area including a block of water and Gatorade volunteers had a Wonder Woman theme - they were ALL dressed as WW!  This was my section and it was just so cool to be there smiling and psyched to have them there as my WW team!  :)  There was this one transvestite that was dressed in a Wonder Woman outfit down to the boots --- I stopped and said "I love your outfit!" and he said --"I love yours too!"  SO fun!  :)  This one runner actually kept running as he tried numerous times to take our photo - we were the stars of the day!  And anyone who would listen got a quick recap of my story and you could see the amazement  almost look of disbelief on their faces.  Once or twice I took my "pirate cap" off just to prove I was bald.  :)

Cara's BatGirl outfit was a hit!  She was in black so sometimes people didn't notice her beside my red and blue bright outfit.... they called her "Batman, Bat Woman, BatGirl an my all time favorite Bat Chica!" She looked so awesome in the black cape and always had such a huge smile on - people gravitated toward her positiveness.   She checked in with me constantly (or as much as I would let her) to see if I was ok and if I needed anything.   We said a few "Our Fathers" and felt truly blessed and watched over the WHOLE way.  Yes- I thank God for Cara.  We got to know eachother that day - talking the whole way (or at least until I needed more oxygen) - telling eachother our life stories and became the BEST of friends.  :)  The Dream Team for me turned into this dream come true of truly dedicated cancer fighters that have supported me through my diagnosis, treatment and supporting me in my love for running and marathons.  I truly have become to cherish my long distance friendship with each one of them - all of us in our own corner of the country! :)

Here we are at mile 21 (I was "DONE" but couldn't wait to finish)
Cara is in midst of telling a story!  :)  Looking pumped up and ready to finish!  Love her expression in this photo --- she talked the whole way!  Sang a little too!
 At mile 21 we stopped to say hi to Charlie's mom  & sis, get a "WOOT WOOT!" from Mama T - and a HUGE hug from my sweet husband Steve to feel the energy and love our our families !   Steve was so great to snap all these super photos of our adventure!


Off we go!  The Dynamic Duo - making the city safe one mile at a time.  It was pretty funny as this is what we commented to any of the police officers on the side of the course.  It brought a smile to their face as they applauded our efforts.  Cara continued to let them know that I was the real super hero - still in treatment and running strong.....  Her admiration, and confidence in me gave me strength!




Miles 20-26.2: 
Off we go to finish the race.  It has been said that the race begins at mile 20-22.  So as you can imagine with all the adrenaline gone and the body using up its energy that this is a point where you just need to dig deep.  We walked for quite a while it seemed right around mile 22 and drank a TON of water.  Each water stop I poured water over my head and in my face to cool off and add hydration to my body.  Walking was ok, but my legs were cramping up.
Crazy - but we stopped at medical to use a Biofreeze (Bengay type product) to soothe the muscles.  The next stop I went to use another and Cara grabbed an extra.  The medical folks warned us that there was only enough for one per runner.... Cara wasn't too happy with that and let them know I was in chemotherapy and that they really should make an exception.   :)  She ended up using one for herself and gave it to me.  :)  I showed them my bald head - first time exposing it!  They were impressed.   :)


When I stopped for the Port-a-pottie again, my calves cramped big time, so much I needed to stop and stretch.  I grabbed bananas and had paced out my 3 GU along the course for energy and ate oranges that were offered as well, hoping to help the cramping.  Once we got to 24 - I said to Cara... "let's just finish this thing!"  She replied "I can do that- let's go!"  I asked her if we could make the 4 hour goal and she said we could.... so then I just began to dig deep -- it was easier to run than walk, the cramping started to subside at least for the time being.  This is when all the interesting food comes out and there were people with signs that read "Dig Deep - You're Almost There",  "Smile if your Horny" and "They ran out of Beer at the finish" - we smiled as people cheered us on and we saw the same groups more than once (I remember specifically the Frog Umbrella people" and the girls with all their costumes and make up!  ;)  We had fans following us EVERYWHERE on the course.  :)


We ran those last 2 miles without walking - a 10 1/2 and a 9 min/mile --- it felt a lot faster than that.  Best part we crossed the line with a minute or 2 to spare in making that 4 hour goal.  I was elated.  It was overwhelming and tears came to my eyes.  I did it.  I just ran 26.2 miles - in under 4 hours, which is a BQ (Boston qualifier) and I am in the middle of chemotherapy!  Any doubters out there are now hushed.  It was an amazing accomplishment for me - one I will never ever forget.  Spiritually I felt connected and empowered by strength from above.   The skies were shining on me!


We got our medal, got a mylar blanket, and headed to the food / water/ gatorade and finisher photos.  Charlie found us and walked with us through the volunteers and got our free beer (which I of course couldn't drink because it just doesn't taste that great with the drugs in my body).  It was a little tough stepping up on the curbs and walking, but we headed   to see our families at the meeting area.  Once I saw Steve I was relieved and overjoyed.   He hugged me and held me and was so proud.  SO was I.  I was pretty tired, not real talkative, a bit worn out - my feet hurt (maybe a bit blistered) and I was definitely a little fuzzy!  But I was still smiling, so much that my mouth hurt!


The toughest marathon ever?
Yes indeed it was in so many ways both physical and mental.  - and now I can write about it and share my strength and joy with all of you!


Next:  Post Race - "The DetermiNation Experience"






Here is the mileage data is from my Garmin Forerunner 405 
Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary03:58:0326.5708:57
100:07:491.0007:49
200:07:331.0007:33
300:07:451.0007:45
400:07:391.0007:39
500:07:461.0007:46
600:09:011.0009:01
700:07:411.0007:41
800:08:111.0008:11
900:08:311.0008:31
1000:08:211.0008:21
1100:08:191.0008:19
1200:08:211.0008:21
1300:08:121.0008:12
1400:08:041.0008:04
1500:09:181.0009:18
1600:08:441.0008:44
1700:09:111.0009:11
1800:10:441.0010:44
1900:08:561.0008:56
2000:09:341.0009:34
2100:09:321.0009:32
2200:10:301.0010:30
2300:11:481.0011:48
2400:11:391.0011:39
2500:10:391.0010:39
2600:09:061.0009:06
2700:04:560.570





This truly was an amazing experience - it is hard to really share in words, but I really appreciate all the comments here, the notes, the cards, the letters, and the comments on Facebook.
Thanks for stopping by - please leave a comment!



6 comments:

KrisinVT said...

Nancy- This is beautiful, inspiring and awesome. I am in awe of your determination and guts. What a terrific race. YOU are a true champion. xoxo

Sarah said...

AMAZING!!! I am sooo incredibly inspired by you. This post made me laugh, it made me cry and inspires me to get out there and run. For not so serious medical reasons I was out of commission for two months this summer. I was cleared to run during our move transition. I've been running around the beautiful lake here in Canberra, ticking away and building back up my stamina. Thank you for the continued inspiration!!!

Alicyn said...

Such an amazing journey and blog post! I felt like I was there with you and Cara! I love all the pictures too. You are such an inspiration to me and many others!

Shelley said...

Oh, Nancy. I haven't cried about you in quite some time, but I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face. I'm SO PROUD OF YOU! Like Cara during the race, I also share your story with anyone/everyone I meet and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are an inspiration and the motivation for so many people. You are a testament to the beauty and power of the human spirit and the true definitions of grace and determination. I love reading your posts and I can't wait to read the next one. Thanks for sharing!

Sasha said...

Nancy you are one of the most determined people I know. You have triumphed in the face of adversity. Your undying spirit, your motivation and you positive-good vibe energy has been truly uplifting and inspiring. I have shed tears for you that were because of sadness, but after following you on your journey and reading this, those tears are now because of how proud I am of you and all that you have accomplished! Sending you a big hug! Way to go Nancy!

Jane said...

Wow, Nancy.....WOW! Words cannot express how incredible I think you are! I loved reading your story...amazing! I so hope I get to see you some time soon. You are nearing the finish line of your treatment - - - YEA Nancy!!!