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"!

Monday, August 30, 2010

UTC East Hartford Relay For Life - "I am a survivor!"

Steve and I traveled to East Hartford on Saturday for the United Technologies East Hartford Relay For Life.  This is the second corporate Relay that UTC has hosted, sponsored and provided support in volunteers, location & overall support.  We were able to attend last year's event and take photos & attend the dinner for the survivors and caregivers.  It was an amazing and beautiful celebration.

This year, I have been having a couple slow weeks, recovering from treatment and new side effects with Methatrexate that have just been making me so tired and unmotivated.  I got the great news from Wendy last week that UTC Relay was above goal and raised more than $100K.  Their team numbers are up and we were expecting a great weekend.  Terry, Carson & Turner came to visit to go to a Motocross National Competition in Southwick, MA -- so we headed to the UTC event in the morning as they traveled to the event.

First when we got there I brought Steve over to the Survivor Registration tent.  It was with pride that I filled out the registration and got the huge smiles and congratulations from the volunteers.  I got my first PURPLE tshirt with the word "survivor" on it.  Steve said "we aren't done with chemo yet"....  my reply "I lived another day..... I am a survivor"  :)  And YOU are my Caregiver -- the best one ever!  I helped him on with his sash, and he helped me with mine.  Pretty special moment, hard to explain the feeling but it was truly such an honor.  Then at the Opening Ceremonies I do my usual with the camera, catching as many faces and emotions of the event as possible.  :)  But now with my survivor sash -- people were smiling at me with warmth and care.  It was "different" than before, they were all connecting with me.  If they were a survivor, caregiver and all those around because that is why they are here, to celebrate survivorship and to honor those they may have lost.  It was amazing.

So we walked the "Lap" -- I took photos of people SMILING - HAPPY - CELEBRATING!  I took photos and walked on the outside to the front and then back on the outside on the other side of the track.  People must have thought I was crazy with my fancy camera bouncing all around the lap!  :)  It makes me laugh thinking about it.  Watching Steve's smile and love always fuels me, like I am not crazy, but just that I am me, and I continue to be me.  The one thing that I noticed more than ever was the support of the caregivers around their survivor.  The 2 girls in pink were so cute --- they laughed and smiled -- "SHE is my caregiver!"  :)  It was all around you - the love and caring people have for eachother.  And I can relate to them in my own way of being a cancer survivor, although all cancers and treatments are different, it is an experience that all these people have faced, and won, or are still fighting.  It truly made me proud.


From the lap all the survivors and caregivers got on air conditioned transit buses and were driven to the top executive level where you can overlook the football field at Rentschler Field.

 It was a beautiful setting with lots of windows.  It was a catered yummy luncheon with strawberry shortcake for dessert.  :)
The survivor speaker recently had moved to this area and was a friend of one of the committee members.  She had participated in the Virginia Beach Relay (One of our top Relay events in the country!) and she was so excited to be invited because she wouldn't miss a Relay.  Her speech was short and sweet, poignant and clear.  She is a SURVIVOR.  She celebrates because SHE IS HERE.  She fights because the gene she has for breast cancer could be passed down to her beautiful daughters and potentially her son's children.   I wish I could remember all her words, because it was so well said --- and it meant so much to me.  I don't know if I hear all these words differently because I have cancer, or she was just so great (I think it is for BOTH reasons)--- She encouraged us all to talk to eachother, share our stories, offer support and be strong.   I have a great photo of her and her family below.  Such a sweet woman and a great family.  I felt truly blessed to hear her speak that day.

  So great to see friends and colleagues.  I had the opportunity to speak with Don Gudaitis, the NE Division CEO - he has been so supportive since my diagnosis, offering any assistance...  and we also were able to stop by their table and speak to the CFO of UTC -- it was so nice to hear Steve tell the story from the beginning with pride to Don and the CFO.  I really enjoyed talking to the CFO's wife (so sorry I forgot their names --- can I blame chemo brain? :)) She was so caring and just really great to talk to....  It was a very special experience all around.  


We gave hugs to all those we met at the luncheon - "real hugs" of care and concern and hope.  It was truly HOPE full to be in that room with all that inspiration all around.  I walked up to the woman speaker and asked her if she had wrote her speech down, it was that good -- told her she really needs to write it.  I was inspired by her words.  I can make a difference.  She is making a difference, and all those there will go out and make a difference too.  We got a beautiful purple flower centerpiece from the center of the table and walked out smiling ear to ear.  

When we went back to the Relay, we decorated my luminaria bag, played a little football, entered a raffle (or 2 or 3..... :)) One was for these handmade wooden replica helicopters, so beautiful!  It was a fantastic event and it was so great outside rather than inside to enjoy the fresh air and get some really great photos of the participants walking the track, (although being in the airplane hanger last year was awesome too).  


 We got to spend some time with Wendy and her beautiful family (I got some great impromptu family portraits) and wish Schuyler was there with us to experience it all - because he LOVES Relay and all the fun and happy people that are there.  I am sharing a link to all the photos I took from Saturday -- hope you enjoy them.  I will remember this Relay in my heart as my first Relay as a survivor --- it will truly be a special one for me --- as all 5000 plus Relays mean something to all those that participate.  If you haven't been to a Relay, please consider finding a Relay in your area and sign up, join or start a team...  it is something you can do to make a difference, to so many of those of us with cancer and for our future of finding a cure.  


We will have our Cub Scout team again this year --- already working on promoting it early and planning our fundraising for the year!  At that time it will be one full year of cancer survivorship for me and I will definitely be celebrating!



Link on the photo below for the whole set of photos that I took that day.  All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.


Thank you for stopping by --- Please please please leave a comment if you can.  Thanks for thinking of me and supporting me through this journey.  Remember to celebrate life everyday..... 


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happiness Is.....

 Happiness is....
All those around me that give me strength...

My beautiful family.....

And just a sample of some beautiful people in my life who are also battling cancer.... and winning...
Ray


My friend Lynne's Mom

My friend Susan




Happiness Is...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Methatrexate: Treatment #3

My prescribed treatment is 6 Rounds of RCHOP chemotherapy and every other cycle (2,4,6) is this treatment where I get a treatment of high dose Methatrexate chemotherapy.  Total treatments = 9
To get the proper tests in a timely manner to make crucial clinical decisions the location for my treatment is at Mass Gener‎al for the Methatrexate.  They wanted me to go stay in the hospital overnight, but Steve & I really want to stay with each other all the time so we pushed for outpatient and it was available.  So yesterday and today has been our trip to Boston.  We arrived at 7 AM on Monday, actually an hour early, guess Chad knows we run late!  :)  Armed with all our electronics, computers, Ipads, Ipods, and snacks for 2 long days --- we headed to the room.  LA was our assigned primary nurse.  A very tan vibrant smiley young nurse just back from a vacation in the islands.  :)  It was great to see her bounce around the room with all this energy.  She also is an aerobic instructor!  Makes me smile just thinking about her.  She was so on top of everything and just a joy to talk to -- as you know I love to talk and she listened.... it was great! :)  And she LOVED my veins --- and got the needle with the cute pink color clip in the first time!  She listened to me talk about my running, my crash and more....  :)  She remarked how she can't believe anyone could mess up "sticking" me.  :)  Oh the stories I could tell.....


Quick insert -- the volunteers in their magenta colored coats would come around and check on you periodically.  They were all so sweet and brought food and drinks.  The first man (in his 70's) gave us the intro on the first day and let us know that in a while this 93 year old man volunteer would be by and handing out lollipops, and even if I didn't want one that I really need to listen to his story and have a lollipop.  :)  Well, it was so sweet, this incredibly energetic 93 year old man telling us the story how he had been doing this for more than 20 years, and he found out a long time ago that dry mouth that comes with chemo is best treated with a lollipop.  :)  He was even so nice to pose for a photo.  :)
It was a long day of poison, but don't worry it's safe! --- yes that is what Dr. Barnes said --- we are going to poison you -- keep you hydrated, you hydrate more so the levels are safe for you to leave after the anecdote is given on the second day and you go home!  The drug was a nasty neon yellow.  I was so hydrated from the 2 days of prep and the hospital hydration I had to pee all the time.  AND it was that same nasty neon yellow.
My urine collection was the same color as the drug, so I know it was surely passing through my body.  (Cute eh?)
My inspirational shirt of the day was my Nike Marathon shirt.  I will never forget that marathon --- starting in the dark in San Fransisco, hanging out in the elite tent, and running with more than 20,000 women!  The best part was of course when Steve met me at the finish!  I also wore my Boston marathon jacket from 2010 -- always great to make an impression with a hometown marathon jacket!  :)


 Before lunch, Dr. Barnes stopped in with an intern (a ski racer, so we had a bunch to talk about too) :)  It was great to see and talk to him too.  I love this place.  Well -- wouldn't be here if I didn't have to, but glad I am here because I know I am in the best care possible.  A truly great feeling.  I was a little fuzzy, looking REALLY pale --- but doing ok.  


 I crack myself up sometimes....  When we were leaving and paying at the patient parking window on Fruit Street I go to look for my MGH bracelet for "proof" I am a patient and she says "Don't worry" ---- and I say "OH - the bald head gave it away" --  "I think I am going to start a trend, I think it looks pretty good don't you?"  --- She smiled and looked at Steve "Your husband loves you just the way you are, no matter what!"  We laughed and went to the elevator back to car, funny how the little things make others smile and how smiles are so contagious.  Try to make someone smile today and see how you feel inside.  :)  
But when I left I felt horrible.... like I had been hit by a bus.  Exhausted.  We checked in the Doubletree Bayside in South Boston on the Bay.  Beautiful spot.  I immediately fell asleep when we got back to the hotel. 


 Samantha came to go out to dinner at the Boston Beer Garden.  She is doing so well and it was so great to see her. We went to the Sugar Bowl for dessert and met the owner.  It was so funny, because even as sick as I felt... I started taking photos around and he thought I was from the Globe and going to make him famous.  :)  I took a photo of the group behind the counter.... Steve laughs and says "You collect people"  --- :)  "People love you". 


 It was such a nice compliment to me.  I love him so much.  He amazes me to the point where I often have tears in my eyes.  His love for me is so deep, so real, so true.  I realize that more now, today more than ever.  I AM the luckiest girl in the world.  Thankful for all that my life has to give.  More today - more than ever.


I woke up this morning all swollen -- my eyes, my legs, my feet -- I was 5 pounds heavier than yesterday.  From all that water, hopefully not from the Chicken Pot Pie and Rocky Road ice cream!  :)  Dr. Barnes promised it would go away..... YIKES.  Hated even looking in the mirror, my eyes were almost half shut.  Steve still thinks I am beautiful though.... gotta love that! :)   Steve hates this photo - but it shows just how bad I looked!  We took a walk out to the bay to get some fresh air and I could take some photographs.  It was nice to get outside between the 2 long days.


Day 2 is the Leucovorin the antecdote.  New nurse today -- she is nice, but I didn't see her as much as LA.  At the end she did some "education" so I would know how to handle the side effects and called herself the "Nagging Nurse.    Thinking this is not as scary and complicated as yesterday.  Waiting now for the lab results so we can go home and beat the traffic.  And take a nap in my own bed.  


I love the buttons that Amanda L. sent and had them on my camera bag:  "Chemo Sucks", "Nurses Favorite", "One Tough Chick" and "I love Pain Meds" 

The countdown continues ----  9 treatments total --- 3 treatments down ---- 1/3 of the way there.  Although the beginning of this felt so easy, so normal, now I am beginning to feel drained.  Feeling the "chemo brain" - forgetting things, and just not able to focus like I could before.  Need more sleep and I will try to keep hydrate.
My inspirational attire -- had to wear my 2008 Boston Marathon coat.  When in Boston - wear Boston.  Ask any fan.... Red Sox, Patriots, or Celtics!  :)  Boston is a very proud city.  Full of history, full of life.

Here comes the Nagging Nurse!  "The star patient has now gotten the go ahead" and we are out of here!  
And just to show --- again --- that I always look better with my "twin" -- my perfect match.... my love, and number one fan...

On facebook I was FULL of quotes today ---- they truly helped me through the day --- enjoy! 


"ABILITY is what you are capable of doing. MOTIVATION determines what you do. ATTITUDE determines how you will do it." - Lou Holtz










"We would never learn to be patient or brave if there was only joy in the world." - Helen Keller


"Surround yourself only with those that make you smile. Life is too precious to surround yourself with any negativity of any kind"  - Nancy Cook

Monday, August 23, 2010

Conquering the mountains one at a time









The Sound of the Trails


Energy, rhythm and balance.  
Lean into the hill, absorb its energy.
Land firmly on each foot, feel the rhythm.
Flow like water, stay in balance. 
Hear the sound of the trails. 

- Nancy E. Cook


Have I told you how much I love music?  I love to discover new genres and listen to new artists.  I have a range of music that includes Folk, Country, R&B, Pop, Jazz, Classical, Rap and Hip Hop.  Whatever mood I am in (or want to be in) I turn on that genre and it gets me in a zone of feeling either relaxed or pepped up.  I love how music can pick up your pace and in tune with your body, pick up your attitude.  Certain songs help me to run faster and keep the beat that is set.  I love the energy and the beat of certain songs and then as it plays I flow.  I create my playlists with a combination of beats and genre to mix it up enough but get them to a point where they actually push me with the beat.  It has been so fun to search for music and learn what "motivates" me to get faster.  

When I run in a race I don't run with music and as I raced Mt. Toby this weekend I had in my mind the music of the trail --- pinpointing my focus on the trail and feeling the energy.  I came up with the poem above while I raced with no music and really began to feel it --- and it got me up 1300 feet and down to the finish line in the pouring rain.  I was really proud of myself for finishing that race --- there is just nothing like conquering the trail.  And now in the middle of chemo treatments - fitting it all in is truly a challenge.  But I have set my mind to it and I am going to be successful.  I am a fighter, a survivor, and a winner. :)

Here is a link to more of the Mt. Toby story.  
Next is the Race to the Top of Vermont that I am hoping we make the trip north on Saturday for yet another mountain racing challenge.  There is NOTHING like a mountain challenge.  The feeling when you reach the top whether it is the finish or the halfway point is just heaven.

I will say that the music I listen to in treatment is much different than what I listen to on my runs.  I promise to share my favorites, but it is more jazz, more folk, much more mellow relaxation type music -- maybe to calm my nerves and hopefully to fuel my body for whatever stress these drugs have to give.








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ACS - the power of my colleagues & friends

"Where do you work?", I am often asked. Now in the midst of meeting new people, new nurses and doctors my answer is all that much more passionate.  Although to me my work is more of a passion, I answer, " I work for the American Cancer Society"

There is no question of what we do, who we are in this audience. The oncologists, the oncology nurses and health professionals are keenly aware and are very impressed with my affiliation and work with the Society. The American Cancer Society is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting cancer.
As the largest voluntary health organizations in the United States, the American Cancer Society is passionately committed to saving lives from cancer. We’re working to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays – a world where cancer never steals another year from anyone’s life. We combine our relentless passion with the wisdom of nearly a century of experience to make this vision a reality, and we get results. We save lives by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and fighting back. Thanks to this work, 11 million cancer survivors and countless others who have avoided the disease will celebrate a birthday this year. Read more here about the ACS.

I am so proud of all that I have done in my 15 years plus with the Society and making the trip to Atlanta last December and being recognized on stage for my years of service was one of my proudest moments.  To shake the hands of Dr. John Sefrin our CEO, Greg Bontrager, Terry Music, Otis Brawley and Joe Calhoun -- all the top leaders in our organization was truly an honor.   I boast quite often that it was the COO of the New England Division, Peg Camp, who hired me in my early twenties and who has mentored me through the years -- I value her passion, compassion and leadership and dedication to fighting cancer.  I love this photo of Sue Ann, Peg & I from a New England Relay University.  :)
When I was first diagnosed I reached out to tell Peg of my fate and even though she was on vacation she immediately offered her support and assistance and love.  She was the first to say that she really wished we all that commit to the Society would have a protective shield around us, but it isn't possible.  She has known me for these 16 years and knows how hard I will fight.  Her support means the world to me.

Sue Ann and I met and lead the "Cancer Control at Relay Catalyst" Workgroup back in my days with the New England Division.  We became best friends pretty quick and she has been through a lot of craziness in my life as one of my top supporters.  I don't know what I would do without her friendship.  She is Schuyler's god mother and always there for our family.


Judy Reichling was with Marty on the interview when I was hired for the National Relay Business Unit as a website coordinator and editor of the Relay Tracking.  We have run in every meeting location across the country back in the days I used to travel more.  She is a fellow runner and is always a great motivation!  Her friendship is true and has always been there for me.  Along with Sue Ann, Judy was one of the first people I told about my cancer and she calls me every day just to hear my voice and make sure I am ok :).  You can't ask for a better friend.  This self portrait photo above is her and I in the ER in Kansas City when I was so dehydrated after Boston Marathon 2007 (when I ran a 3:05).   I was peeing blood and she got me into a cab and off to the ER within minutes.  I had a plane to catch later that day to Utah and we had them all jumping to clear me and get me out of there!  :)  We have some crazy stories to tell about all our adventures!

I have some amazing supportive colleagues, the cards keep flowing in my mailbox, flowers to the door and an occaisional Itunes certificate from those who know my addiction to music. :)  I appreciate every singe bit of support --- it strengthens me daily.  Thank you all.

Last year at the All Staff Briefing in Atlanta I was honored to be with 3 of my Employer Initiative colleagues.  Amanda LaKier, Kevin Brunk and Shelley McAllister.  Kevin told his story of surviving cancer, overcoming the odds and a story of strength and success of 25 years of survivorship.  His Relay team this year's goal was to raise 25K because of his incredible milestone.  He is an inspiration to me.  A happy, loving father and dedicated American Cancer Society leader.
Photo:  Shelley, Amanda, ME and Kevin

Shelley MacAllister - colleague from the American Cancer Society -- she has run the QuitLine and is now running her first 1/2 marathon in my honor! In November she is running the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in San Antonio, TX.   It is so amazing to watch her training on daily mile and so happy to be an inspiration to her, knowing all the challenges she herself has faced.  She is incredible and I am so lucky to have met such amazing people through my work with the Society.  Check out the link to her page.  She and her daughter are making friendship bracelets with my favorite color for a small donation if you are interested --- please email her at smacalli@yahoo.com.  

Here is her write up from her fundraising page:

In July, Nancy  was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma.  Watching her process the diagnosis and begin treatment with the grace of a lady and the heart of a champion has been an amazing life lesson for me and everyone around her.  Nancy ’s spirit is just incredible.  She’s still training for the Chicago Marathon in October and is running more than I run right now – in the middle of her chemo treatments!  I’m constantly impressed with her tenacity and confidence.  A mere mortal might curl up in a ball and just wait out the treatment in a fetal position, but not our Wonder Woman!!! 
I’m dedicating my half-marathon in November to Nancy and to every other mom out there right now fighting cancer.  Thank you for your support! 
p.s.  My daughter and I are making friendship bracelets using Nancy 's favorite colors (pink, purple, and black.)  If you'd like one, please email me at smacalli@yahoo.com.  I know so many of us have Nancy  in the forefront of minds right now so I thought it would be nice to have a momento we could wear or hang up near our workspaces as a reminder. 


Along with Jane, Shawn, Kyla, Naomi, Kelli, and many, many others all across the country--- my ACS family rocks! I cherish all of them and am so lucky to have this kind of support.  And this is just the beginning....  as a true ACS staff person --- you are only as successful as your volunteers are strong and the volunteers I work with are number one!  I am truly blessed!

Thanks for stopping by -- please leave a comment! 






Super Heroes

"The heroes in your life are those that get you through the tough times, your family, your friends. And as a cancer patient, you learn that your doctors & nurses are the super heroes that put it in high gear when you need them the most."   - Nancy Cook on cancer survivorship
It isn't easy being "sick" --- I hate being "less than perfect" period....  I will do whatever I can do to heal myself from within, listen to my body, figure it out and get better.  I hate even taking aspirin or advil or tylenol.   I believe the power of your mind and your faith will help you heal. Before all this I went to the doctor for my ACL knee surgery, and for all my check ups, routine mamograms, PAPs and annual visits, as well as anything that would just not "go away" -- like a bad case of poison ivy or excema.   Having cancer means getting used to going to the doctor.  It means if something is "off" and the symptoms become more than tolerable you need to call.  I am really not too good at that part, and will push the limit.  These last week I was not doing well, fevers, chills, aches, nausea, heartburn and really tired to the point where I couldn't focus.  All the worst symptoms at the same time.  We found out this week that people in chemo have died from low grade fever one week out and decided that we won't ever push that limit again...

And on top of all that - my mouth is BURNT where I can't taste anything, therefore eating is difficult and my energy is low.  I hate writing about the bad stuff, so of course all you hear on this blog is whatever I can do to pull myself up and out of it.  Steve stayed home again this past a couple days to be at my side.  I have been so tired and weak at times that I haven't had the energy to write and trying to keep in a positive mindset fighting the latest challenge with the insurance at the same time going through the aftermath of RCHOP #2.

I titled this post "Super Heros" for my docs --- feeling so incredibly blessed to have the best in charge of my care.  It was a rocky road in the beginning -- but once all was on course we had connected with these amazing doctors.  So here are some recent experiences to describe my "Super Hero" Docs -----


Dr.  Sean Mullally - my oncologist (Cooley Dickinson). 
He is my advocate that came a little late into my care, but this man has he been a shining star. I look forward to talking to him with Steve at his office, during treatment and when he returns my calls.  He always asks me about my athletics and life in a way that shows he really cares. His positive outlook and encouragement has been unwavering.  Working through the insurance issues of going to MGH for treatment was our latest hurdle and he has spent many hours on the phone to the insurance company, the insurance company physician and with Dr. Barnes to coordinate the referrals.  We were denied, but then approved at the last minute, but only for one of the 3 treatments.  He continues to work his contacts for all the options and we are still hoping for our  original plan and best case (and only case) scenario to go back to MGH.  There was one point where it was mentioned that I may need to change my care to another doctor and it really had me worried.  I don't want to change.  Make that happen.  I am so happy where I am and it hasn't been easy getting to that point.  Please whatever it takes - keep me in your care.  He was happy to hear that and said thank you to me.  "You are worth it" are words that he has said in the past and it really shows in his care.  We (Steve & I) have clicked so well with him and couldn't have asked for more.

Dr. Jeffrey Barnes - Oncology lymphoma specialist (MGH)
We had the sincere pleasure of seeing Dr. Barnes again this past Friday as a pre-visit to the high dose Methatrexate that I am getting at MGH.  As much as the trip is a trek across the state of Mass, it was actually really great to see him and get all of our questions answered.  He answers them without you even asking.  :)  That is how good he is. :)  A walking cancer encyclopedia --- just FULL of facts and figures and stories and history and MORE!  Steve & him click in that department (for some reason - not sure if it is the stress of knowing it is me dealing with cancer that gets me all fuzzy.... and I can't focus as well) -- Steve takes notes and asks questions --- it is always quite informative.  :)  So they are poisoning me and giving me the anecdote  - "Don't worry -- it's safe!"  :)  But that was all I heard.  That and I need to drink 4-6 L of water a day through the weekend, to the point where I will be cursing him because I have to pee all the time.  Such humor from such a smart man.  :)  He has this great smile and jumps on your questions to answer them plus more.   I feel confident, safe and secure in his hands and recommendations.  Although he sort of advised me not to run Mt. Toby this weekend.  He said I needed to drink so much water that it would be inhibited.  I looked for another race on Saturday to replace it and couldn't find anything.  I had it in my plan (which I have a hard time deterring from) and did it anyway.  He smiled today when he walked in the room (Steve said he probably figured I would run anyway) and saw my black and blues and scratched up arm.  He appreciates my dedication and drive - I can tell.  :)

My positive experiences from the beginning with all the doctors that have helped me along this journey have truly been amazing....
 - Trish - the front office at Dr. Levheim's office worked so hard on my case, making calls, putting through referrals and appointments and following up on everything - She is amazing!
 - Dr. Levheim -- always making herself available and following through on all that we need to get this done!
 - Dr. Marvelli - the surgeon we saw in case we needed a CAT scan fit us in at a moment's notice twice and we never did need to use his services.  He checked up on the CT guided CAT and was really so great to be an advocate right from the beginning when I was still so scared of this situation.
- Dr. Hartnell -- just makes me smile!
 - Dr. Ed Mullen -- put my mind at ease and talked to us for more than 1/2 hour when I really didn't know if I was going to live or die.
 - Dr. Len -- made himself available for conference call, education, and really helped us advocate for my care.


All these doctors have been sent to us from above and we so very blessed. 


On the boat with my #1 hero & caregiver - my husband and true love - Steve  





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I love to hear from everyone and read every note.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nancy Quotes of Inspiration & Hope! :)

Looking through Lance's quotes ---- I began thinking I should come up with my own....

I went for my trail run today and hit my head.  I thought I should write down some of my thoughts and put them in quote form.  Funny how a knock on the head makes you think....   It was a great exercise once I got into it and came up with six great quotes.  


 Always remember to keep your eyes forward, lift your feet up, and duck when you have to..... 
and if you fall... roll with it, stand up and do all you can to keep going, 
because no one is in a better place to help YOU than YOU. 
 - Nancy Cook - on trail running, cancer survivorship and life

 You can believe it that strength & beauty come from within -- 
just imagine yourself completely bald, with heartburn, throwing up 
and thanking God for yet another glorious day of life. 
 - Nancy Cook - on cancer survivorship

Get up in the morning, check the state of your body, choose your attitude, 
put one foot in front of the other and get it done - live life each and every day.  
- Nancy Cook - on running, cancer survivorship, and life

 If you can do it, do it,  If you think you can't, you won't.  
Be strong, set your plan, make the commitment,
because only you have the power to meet your goals 
whatever they may be. 
- Nancy Cook on running, cancer survivorship and life

 No one can hold you back from doing all that you want to do.  
Just keep your goals in sight, listen to your body, and take one day at a time.  
Some days will be better than others -- but every day is blessing,
so make each day the best it can be.
- Nancy Cook on running, cancer survivorship and life

When and if you do get lost, find your center, 
look around and find the highest point, keep it in sight, reach for it each day,  
and don't forget to breathe.  
You will find your way when you have faith.
- Nancy Cook on running, life and cancer survivorship



Trail running is like any obstacle in life- 
you need intense focus and extra push to jump over the rocks, sticks, 
and get through the mud to beat it.  
- Nancy Cook - on trail running, cancer survivorship and life

I hope you like these as much as I do --- Please leave a comment if you stop by.  Here is the photo of the day!  My Mom & sister Laura came to visit from Northern Vermont and they got to see me ski!  It was a glorious day.  I love my life.  :)

Thanks for stopping by!



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chicago Marathon Countdown: 61 days! Runner Profile

2010 BANK OF AMERICA CHICAGO MARATHON
RUNNER PROFILE
Every runner has a story. Please tell us yours!
We know you’ve heard stories that have inspired you to run 26.2 miles. Now it is your turn to motivate others. Share your story by completing this profile and it could be featured on our Web site, in our print publications or used in our communications to the media. Please fill out the personal contact information section below and answer the applicable questions or submit a brief essay on the reasons why you have decided to participate in this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. When completed, please forward the document to: runnermail@chicagomarathon.com. We will contact you directly if we are able to use your story.



FullName: Nancy E. Cook

 Age (on race day): 46    Birthdate: June 22, 1964


Current City of Residence:     Belchertown, MA

Occupation:  National Director, American Cancer Society Relay For Life National Corporate Team Program

Employer/School: American Cancer Society

 Number of Previous Marathons Completed: 24 

Charity Affiliation (if applicable): American Cancer Society DetermiNation

_
What specifically was the determining factor in your decision to run a marathon in 2010? 
As a competitive runner I train and race 2-3 marathons a year.  I love running fall marathons because of all the summer training --- much tougher to run and in the spring living in New England.


Why did you select the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in particular?
I have run Chicago 2 times (2006 and 2007) and my friend Judy was excited to get together again and run Chicago.  It is such a fun place to visit and the marathon is so flat and fast.  A great goal to run this marathon again and hoped to PR my marathon time.  

What is your ultimate goal for this race (e.g. PR or specific finish time, fundraising dollars, weight loss, etc.)?
At first it is always about the time.  My PR is a 3:05 at Boston in 2007 -- which has been very difficult to beat, but I have been truly at the top of my game.  Then in early July I was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  It has been a crazy journey of doctors, treatment and more symptoms, aches and pains than I could imagine.  Being in the top shape in my life has really helped me with this battle, but it still is so incredibly draining for me.  But I continue to keep my eye on the goal.  What goal?  To finish.  I haven't had that goal in a long time, and maybe that finish will be fast, but it may be tough --- I need to listen to my body --- and if it wants to perform, it will.  But I will run or walk across that line victorious finishing 26.2 miles --- I know it in my gut.  I have not stopped since feeling that lump, getting that CT scan and hearing those words...  "you have cancer".  I will not stop.  I run for hope.  I run for life.  

If you are running for a cause or in honor of someone please explain the association and why doing so has special meaning to you.
I am running for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation program and run in memory and honor of a LOT of people.  I like to dedicate a mile to each person that makes a generous donation to my efforts and carry those names with me.  But this year --- on the line, mile one and mile 26 are for me - in honor of me -- victorious!


Have you had to overcome any personal challenges in your training (e.g. injury, illness, loss of job, loss of loved one, etc.) that will make finishing an even more significant success?
This lymphoma has truly been the biggest challenge that I have had in my life.  Training through treatment has been a challenge.  I will still be in treatment while running the marathon on 10/10/10 -- as it will complete in November.  It has been a drain on my body, but every ounce of effort I have in the morning I put into that run.  The long runs have been really tough, but I am getting them in despite the recovery time being much more than I could have imagined.  But I am doing it.  I have some amazing incredible support of friends, colleagues and family that will and has carried me through so far.  


Are you trying to improve your health or change your lifestyle? If so, please share your short and long term goals and plans to achieve them.
I love mountain and trail running and was 3rd in my age at the New England Trail Championships.  I won my age group at  the Marine Corps marathon last  year.  I think my best running is in my masters and am really proud of my results.  The trail running and racing has been an amazing way to accomplish new "heights" --- no pun intended.  :)


Share any humorous or inspirational training stories. If you have run in previous Chicago Marathons please share your memories of the experience(s).
My first Chicago marathon was right after my son Schuyler's 5th birthday and my sister had made me a Pink Power Ranger outfit for his party.  It was made of lycra and was long sleeve.  I brought it with me planning to run in costume.  My goal was a 3;15 and my friends thought I was crazy as a fast runner wearing a costume, but I had it in my mind and off I went to the elite corral with my pink outfit.  It was the greatest experience with all the kids smiling, people cheering me on --- "Pink Lady", "Cinderella" and once or twice a REAL fan would say "Hey mom!  That's the Pink Power Ranger!"  ---- I had such a blast!  I ran a 3:15


The next Chicago I wore tiger ears and a tail, not as many remarks and cheers, but I finished and it was that crazy marathon that they "cancelled" --- we saw everyone walking down a side street after I was complaining about my finish time to my husband Steve (I ran a 3:26) - - and thought there was another walk in town, but there were so many people.  It wasn't until then did I know that the race had been cancelled and people were encouraged to walk because of the heat.  I was pretty proud of my time afterall! ;)


This year my friend Cara, a dear friend of mine that I met through ACS DetermiNation at the Boston Marathon in April is going to run with me as my "pacer".  We are both pretty fast so we will be in the Elite Corral B.  But most importantly you will see us because my sister is making us costumes!  I am running as Wonder Woman (OH YA!) and she is Bat Girl (AMAZING!).  


Can't wait!


51 days and counting...


Here is a link to my personal fundraising page -- please help support me in the fight ---- and my fight against cancer !
http://main.acsevents.org/goto/nancyrunschicago


What are your local news outlets that might be interested in learning more about your participation in the Chicago Marathon?
- OR -
The Sentinel 
The Republican


Write your own personal essay as to why you have decided to run the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in the space below:
Thank you for sharing your story with us. If we are able to use it in our communications outlets or with the media, we will contact you. Good luck in your preparation for the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's NOT about the shoes.... or the skis.... or the bike...

Have you read Lance Armstrong's book "It's Not About the Bike?"  --- I read it back in my bike racing days (Cat 4-5 in Killington in the 90's).  If you haven't you should.  It is really inspirational his journey with testicular cancer and all of his challenges that he overcame throughout that time in his life.  I didn't know then what I know now - about what it is like to have such a challenge in your life, although everyone can relate to his story and feel it.  The lesson I have learned now going through this "cancer" is that it isn't about what shoes you have on your feet (although my Nikes rock!  and my new Inov-8 trail racing flats are amazing!), and it isn't about the skis (I really really want some World Cup Slalom Rossi's --- I know I will ski better!) and it isn't about the bike (my mountain bike is just wrecked - in the garage and barely makes it to the bottom of the driveway).  It is about your heart, your will, your desire and your determination to be what you want to be and accomplish all that you want to in your heart.


My favorite Lance Quotes below:   (these have been a great sense of strength for me)  


"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?"
— Lance Armstrong (It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life)



"What ever your 100% looks like, give it."
— Lance Armstrong



"This is my body, and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it; Study it; Tweak it; Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I am on. What am I on? I am on my bike busting my ass six hours a day; What are YOU on?"
— Lance Armstrong



"What is stronger, fear or hope?"
— Lance Armstrong (It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life)



"Knowledge is power, community is strength and positive attitude is everything"
— Lance Armstrong



"For most of my life I had operated under a simple schematic of winning and losing, but cancer was teaching me a tolerance for ambiguities."
— Lance Armstrong (It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life)



With that said --- I am training for the Chicago marathon - 53 days and counting....  Being diagnosed in the middle of setting this goal to run Chicago made me think maybe I shouldn't run.  My athletic history is on the sidebar here --- and this will be my 27th marathon and my 4th in less than 2 years....  When I was diagnosed, I was in the best shape of my entire life, running faster than ever in my masters.  Completely on a runner's HIGH.  My mileage for those  2 weeks was really low, with the sick feeling of that lump in my stomach and the stress of not knowing what was wrong... but then when we talked to Dr. Barnes & Dr. Mullally --- I had so much hope, that it is truly possible to "finish".  Maybe not my best marathon (at this point  a 3:05 is pretty hard to beat!) - but I could still do it.  Just listen to your body & rest when you need to.  Yesterday knocked me over --- flat on my bad, achy, chills, headaches, fever, back pain, dehydration, blurry vision --- it had me in tears.  I haven't felt that bad -----ever.  At least that I can remember.   What to do? Rehydration, tylenol, rest & meditation and a lot of prayer (thanks everyone)....

And now - I feel better today.
Ran this morning.
Feeling on the "upswing"

Last week we hosted these 2 - 21 year old coaches from England for Schuyler's Challenger Soccer Camp in Amherst.  I was nervous and Steve wasn't sure we should take on the extra burden, especially since it fell within "treatment week" - but I pushed and thought it would be a good distraction, great for Schuyler and some good energy to have at the house.  We showed up on that Sunday to pick up a coach, ended up hosting 2 coaches (Matt & Dom) and had an amazing week.  I had a great routine going to get their breakfast & lunch stuff out in the morning - and then dinners each night.  It was so fun for Schuyler!  We got out on the boat twice and included Coach Marian from Brazil.  What a great week.  :)  Here is a link to some of my fave tubing shots for a "hair flip" post on my other blog.  And they got used to me "bald" with my hat on and switching back & forth to my blonde "look" too.  :)  I wore my bathing cap on the boat - boasting my Olympic Medalist look.  :)  Here are some "ME" shots from our adventures on the boat (the ski photos Samantha took 2 weeks ago)....