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, October 15, 2012

Spreading the word of survivorship & Sharing HOPE

Sharing my story has really been a way for me to reach out to others and give hope to those that may be facing a cancer diagnosis and a way to connect with other survivors in sharing strength. When you open up and share your life, others can really be inspired to be strong, be strong as a caregiver, and know that there is hope. Working for the American Cancer Society - I know there is hope, there are cures to be found and better treatments every day. When I was diagnosed, I felt armed with all the right information and that is so critical for survival on so many different levels.

Here is a shortened version of my story I shared in San Francisco before leading the group in the opening lap of the McKesson hosted Corporate Relay on Justin Herman Plaza right by the Pier. There were more than 400 in attendance in the crowd.  It was a beautiful Relay and so many great people opened up to me and thanked me. It is pretty great when you can make an impact on so many in a short period of time.

Check out the photos below that were taken that day by me and my husband Steve.... :) Congratulations to all those survivors out there and the many participants recruited --It was an incredible experience for me to be out there sharing the HOPE.

 Let's FINISH this fight!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is my favorite marathon. 

To qualify for Boston is a badge of honor. It is the "Grand Daddy" of them all. When you say you have run the Boston Marathon you can feel the deserved respect. It isn't an easy marathon to train for, even though the marathon distance is still just 26.2 miles. :)  Living in the Northeast, in the snow and the cold just gives it an extra challenge. I am an avid skier and  every weekend is coaching, teaching and skiing with my family. Running takes a back seat and I "give myself a rest" and slide down the mountain on skis instead. :) Ski training isn't a cross training choice for running and really doesn't compliment the regime, but skiing is my other sport and a family activity that we love so much!

The other reason I love the Boston marathon is the rich history. It resonates with me, being a history buff from New England. This year more than ever as I followed The Boston Marathon on Facebook.  The page shared photos of Johnny Kelley (who I met in 1993 in Athlete's Village - when he was in his 90's) & Clarence De Mar (we have a marathon named after him here in New Hampshire) & Joan Benoit Samuelson (I met her at the Tufts 10K for Women and taught her niece skiing at Mt Sunapee) and Bill Rodgers (I met him in Boston and at the Woodstock 1/2 marathon) and finally I got to meet & talk to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston this year at the Expo. How cool is that?! :) These names are famous in the running world and their stories are tightly woven in the history of the Boston Marathon. So cool to meet them in person!
Kathrine Switzer & I at the Boston Marathon Expo 2012

I would like to share with you a brief personal history of running the Boston Marathon:

The Rookie
Each year since I started running marathons in 1989 - my running goal has been to qualify for Boston. There were were some years that even though I qualified I didn't run because it was so hard to train in the winter - but I am proud to say I have now run the Boston Marathon 8 times! I qualified with my very first marathon - running the 1989 Montreal marathon in 3:35. It was so awesome that I qualified -- I just had to do Boston that first year! Sad to say the only thing I remember about that race was the blisters on my feet, and how I couldn't fit in my long runs in and just ran it to finish.:) I don't have any photos of me running, or the trip.  And I can't find the medal - I have moved so many times.... I hope it shows up somewhere. :(
  Finish time: 3 hours 51 minutes

The Basketball Player

I remember 1993 because I was coaching Varsity girls basketball at Woodstock High School in Vermont, and working at the recreation center as the Aquatics Director. My friend Christina Paugh and I had a great time on this road trip to Boston, stayed at a cheap hotel and bargain shopping in the city. I may have a few photos of this trip, but will have to look harder in my boxes that I seem to drag everywhere I go. :) Again, most of my training was sprinting with the girls at practice, no long runs, but I qualified, so darn it, I was going to do it! But sprinting with the girls just wasn't enough -- this one was tough! 
Finish time: 4 hours & 16 minutes 

The Marathon Mom

Baby Schuyler in his jogging stroller :)
This Boston marathon I ran 6 months postpartum.I qualified for Boston 2000 and was able to get a deferral because I was pregnant with my son Schuyler. Schuyler was born on 10/10/01 with a C section, where my lower stomach was cut so he could arrive to the world safely. I trained diligently through my pregnancy. I remember wearing a skin suit and riding my bike at 8 months pregnant with my friend Petra - she will tell you the story of how strong I was all the way through those 9 months. I would walk at a fast pace in hopes that my baby would come, but he was 5 days late! My training for Boston was hampered because of the C section being pretty painful recovery, but I did it! I was breast feeding Schuyler just prior to going to the start line -- it was one of the toughest marathons that I had ever run (at that time) & I boast my "Post Partum Marathon" quite often. :) I have a photo of Schuyler with Frank Shorter from the Expo -- but I just can't seem to fine it (Probably with all those other missing medals!) :)
Finish time: 4 hours 10 minutes

The Runaway

PR - 7th Master - The Noreaster

Boston 2007 
It was quite a few years before I ran Boston again. But this time I was back with a vengeance. I was going through a divorce & running was my getaway. I ran before ski teaching & went to spin classes at 6 am. I was thin & feeling strong. I had just met the man of my dreams & Steve was waiting for me at the finish line. I could feel his energy. This was the year of the pending Noreaster that threatened cancellation of the marathon. It was raining at the start, cold, wet & everyone was piled on top of each other in the tent at Athlete's village. I remember the crowds were very small that year because of the cold weather and the finish line was very quiet. Steve found some "friends" and cheered me across the line. So in love. I placed 7th master, but didn't realize it until I got home just how well I did that year. It was so amazing and I have this beautiful crystal trophy engraved on my shelf to show my achievement.  This race is not only my PR in the marathon, but my PR in the half marathon with a 1:25.
Finish time: 3 hours 05 minutes 59 seconds

Fast Master!
Boston 2008

This was the year of the LOW number. Your qualification time determines your bib number and my time was SO darn fast I was crazy excited about my low number. 3800 -- how cool is that? I felt so out of place with all those fast girls in the front corral, but I was smiling ear to ear! :) It was great to experience the Expo with my true love, we had just married in October & crazy in love! As a top ranked master runner in the mountain running and marathon arena - I really had my hopes up for a fast finish. This early spring marathon is always I challenge as I have mentioned before, but this course really feels like home to me now

Finish time: 3 hours 19 minutes 35 seconds
With my true love - Boston Expo 2008

The DetermiNator
I ran my first American Cancer Society DetermiNation marathon in Burlington, VT that past year after missing Boston 2009 due to a family commitment to ski in Snowbird. :) This Boston was eventful as I met some of the most amazing runners through the American Cancer Society DetermiNation team. Charlie, Cara, & David will be friends of mine for life! It was so fun to be a part of this group & Boston was even MORE meaningful - dedicating my run to a friend & cancer survivor Mary Beth - who since has passed away. I had a fan following with the outreach I was making for the fundraising & it was a nationwide support of friends and colleagues that pushed me forward to the finish! Fighting cancer & raising money to create a world with more birthdays -- I was feeling the passion for running and for fighting cancer through my running! I remember dedicating each mile to someone who had been affected by the disease and carrying those names with me along the route for strength. 
The Dream Team 2010
Finish time : 3 hours, 23 minutes, 17 seconds
The gear

Spleen Free!
Many said I was crazy, pushing myself to run after my spleen being removed 6 weeks before this Boston, because they thought they found more cancer. It was the focus and drive of running that kept me healthy & sane during my lymphoma diagnosis & treatment. I was determined to run & again raising money for ACS and running for DetermiNation. It was tough missing 3 weeks of training, so I "banked" my miles early running 50 plus mile weeks.. It was mentally tough not knowing what I could do and if and when I would feel crappy. But the weather was ideal and I was very fit, feeling healthy once again after my 6 months of chemotherapy behind me. Charlie, David & Cara - The "Dream Team" was there to support me, and Matt & Jill joined the team and gave even more support. I was so proud to be a strong athlete cancer survivor and an inspiration to others. Can you see it in my smile?  I finished strong and happy!
Finish time: 3 hours, 30 minutes, 53 seconds
Boston 2011 "Spleen Free"


The Survivor 
Not only am I now a cancer survivor of not quite 2 years since my diagnosis, but I survived this crazy Boston Marathon 2012 - in the "Extreme Heat Year" where the temps were pushing mid 80s and everyone was searching for shade   . Pushing for a post cancer PR, my miles and training prior were in tune with a goal of 3:19. I really had the training behind me running all through the winter with a crazy 109 run streak and getting in 3 long runs too. It was tough out there. I had my Wonder Woman costume made by my sister, and the skirt was DRENCHED! The water tunnels, the water hoses from all the houses on the route, plus dumping the water from the aid stations on my body helped me to keep cool, and try to keep my pace. It was exhausting and I was bummed every time I looked at my Garmin to see the slower pace. My goal was adjusted many times, and I was happy to finish as well as I did. It has been a real tough one to recover from too -- my legs still hurt after 3 days now. But proud to have finished my 8th Boston Marathon with a "BQ" for my age group and impressive time  with the consideration of the crazy heat! 
Finish time: 3 hours, 47 minutes, 10 seconds
Boston 2012 - still strong at mile 8
DetermiNation Boston Team 2012

I love the Boston Marathon, not only because it is "home", not only because of the crowds, or because of my own history with the race -- but because it is a statement about running. It is a statement that I am a strong runner - I can face the odds - I have the strength, not just to finish 26.2 miles - but to qualify - and then dedicate myself to finishing The Boston Marathon, the grand daddy of them all. Looking forward to next year -- Marathon Monday - Patriots Day - with the Dream Team - to run another marathon - another Boston Marathon.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dailymiler of the week: Nancy E

Guess who is dailymiler of the week! ME! 

dailymiler of the week: Nancy E.

Every week we pick one inspiring dailymiler to be featured on the blog. This gives you a chance to learn the stories of members of the dailymile community. Check out past dailymiler’s of the week. Do you know someone that would be a great dailymiler?Nominate them!
“No one can hold you back from doing all the things 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 a blessing – so make each day the best it can be.”

Those words of wisdom, put together on a run one day, have empowered Nancy E. Cook, our dailymiler of the week, through the tough times she has faced as she’s dealt with lymphoma these past two years. As she was beginning chemo therapy, she was planning to run the Chicago Marathon. The race was to be roughly two-thirds of the way through her treatments. A lot of people told her running through treatment was impossible. Nancy ignored the naysayers and continued training, listening to her body and pushing herself as much as she could. As the chemo treatments continued she got weaker and weaker, but she was determined to complete her goal.

“When I was in chemo,” she said, “I had bad days (usually three) and then slowly I’d regained my energy.”

Despite her difficult situation, Nancy made it to Chicago and ran a respectable 3:57 with her friend Cara. “I was in a Wonder Woman costume,” she reported. Cara was dressed as Batgirl.

Nancy was an accomplished athlete before cancer struck. She competed in her first triathlon in 1984. She went to the Olympic Distance Nationals twice and qualified for the World Championships for the 1/2 ironman once. She has competed in four Ironman triathlons. Her PR is 11 hours. “I kept trying to qualify for Hawaii,” she said, “but kept missing it by ‘one’ slot.”

She ran her first marathon in 1989. She finished 7th master in Boston in 2007 with a 3:05:5. Two years later, she was first master at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon. She finished third in the New England Mountain running championships. She also ranked in the sport category in New England mountain bike racing and competed in cyclocross when in Colorado.

Just after Nancy finished her cancer treatments at the end of 2010, she had a bit of a setback. Her doctors thought they’d found more cancer in her spleen so they removed it. The biopsy taken after surgery came back negative. She was cancer-free. She has undergone blood tests every four months to check for more cancer, but so far has remained in remission. She will continue testing for two years. Her oncologists say the chances that the lymphoma won’t come back are good at that point.

Is she afraid of a relapse? “I worry when my stomach feels weird and my runs aren’t up to par,” she said. Even so, she continues to live life, to tell her story and to run. “I run because many cannot even get themselves out of bed in the morning. It is for all those that are suffering from this disease that I continue to fight as hard as I can.”

She’s had ample opportunity to share her story. She has spoken on stage many times, spreading hope, sharing her struggle, inspiring many to get up and do the things they love to do despite their cancer. In a little over three years, as a part of the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation fundraising team, she has raised more than $10,000 for cancer research.

Six weeks after her spleen was removed Cook competed in the 2011 Boston Marathon. She finished in 3:30. This past September she ran her first ultra, the Vermont 50. She was the fourth female to finish, covering the 50-mile course in 8:30. “The ultra was the ultimate in endurance for me and showed that I can be the Wonder Woman that my friends like to call me.”

How is Wonder Woman doing now? “I am doing great!” she reports. “Positive attitude will get you there!” She surrounds herself with her heroes – her husband, who has been there for her every step of the way, her son Schuyler, stepson & daughter Stephen & Samantha, and her DetermiNation and Relay For Life friends. “There is nothing better than celebrating life,” she says, “and I do it all the time.” On dailymile and as a San Francisco Marathon ambassador she has truly felt the support of her virtual teammates!

Nancy will be back in Boston next month, toeing the line for her eighth start in Hopkinton.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Crazy Survivor - Giving Back - Sharing HOPE

It will be 2 years in July that I was in the doctor’s office and I heard those words “You have cancer”. It has been a little more than a year that my chemo treatments ended, they thought they found more cancer in my spleen and removed it.  It could be that I continue to be in denial and “running” has helped me deal mentally and physically with being faced with cancer. Am I running away from reality? Maybe.
But maybe not. Maybe that is the best way I know how to deal with the stress and working to make my body healthier. People thought I was pretty nuts running throughout my treatment, finishing the Chicago marathon 2/3 of the way through chemo and then finishing Boston 6 weeks after they took my spleen. Maybe I am crazy. A crazy survivor that is!
Everyone deals with this disease differently. Most get scared, some get depressed, some get angry, and some just want to fight back. Or in my case and most cases we experience all of the above. And when do you call yourself a survivor anyway? In my mind, any day after you hear those words --- you are a survivor. After you walk out that door no matter what the next months bring, you are a survivor. After you are done treatments – you are a survivor. They killed it all and they say there is no more cancer? You are in remission and now it feels like it – you have earned your wings – a survivor
So what does it mean to give back? Why give back as a cancer survivor?.  I remember after finishing Boston last year with all that adversity and still a healthy 3:30 finish time (20 minutes faster than my age “BQ” – Boston qualifier) – I amazed myself – dressed in my Wonder Woman outfit and all. After “it” was all done, I didn’t continue to blog much, I felt my story was “over” – but what I realized is that my story was taking on a new life. A life of a survivor. Fighting Back & Celebrating Life.
What message can I send to others as a cancer survivor – a STRONG survivor. One of my quotes through my cancer journey was “If you have hope, you can share hope, and if you inspire others they will in turn inspire you”. This past week in Dallas – I read it on a Relay For Life Survivor tshirt “I AM HOPE” – Loved the message! I want to inspire and spread hope. This is forefront in my mind. I want to share my story and help anyone that may need my words to build up their own hope- I want to share it.  In less than one year I have felt the strength of spreading hope. Not just from speaking and sharing my story, but from first hand experiences. First I reached out and encouraged my friend Barbara who had breast cancer a few months after my diagnosis.  Then another friend from college, Cheryl was faced with stage 4 breast cancer and a double mastectomy after her chemo. Both of these women proved to be amazing “Wonder Women” in the face of cancer. I was so proud of them. My friend Sasha was stricken with grief when she lost her friend Crissy. I reached out to comfort her and carry Crissy’s ribbon on my “Cape of Hope” Again just recently my friend Susan informed me she is facing a breast cancer diagnosis and is “joining the club”.  Then at Mount Snow I was introduced to my friend, a fellow ski coach Mike's mom. She was so worried and stressed with her diagnosis. After talking to my husband and me she felt so much better and had hope that everything would be ok - and she would be able to get through it. Last but not least I found out today that my dear friend Lily, the sister of fellow Dream Team Boston marathoner, Charlie, was diagnosed with cancer this week. This news struck me hard this time. When will it stop! :( Each and everyone of these people have truly inspired me and have made me even stronger and so blessed to have them as friends -- and I am so glad to be a live to be there for each one of them & share that there is hope.
Wonder Woman in Chicago 2010 
We need to keep fighting. We need to keep raising the much-needed funds to find a cure and give strength and answers to our friends, who ever they are to get through their own battle with the disease. We need to advocate for affordable health care and laws that support the fight against cancer.
Please continue to raise the dollars and share your story of why you run for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation  team. Share the hope of more birthdays for more people. It will be my 8th Boston marathon, my 27th marathon and my 8th DetermiNation effort.  So far we have raised almost $8500 as the Dream Team !  I looked at the group of people who are running for DNation in Boston -- at least 3 other cancer survivors in addition to me - are sharing their stories, sharing hope ---- on the line to raise funds for the Society and fight back. The others all have a personal connection -- very close connection -- and are repeat runners -- fighting each year to find a cure.
Charlie & Lily at Boston 2011

Wonder Woman in Boston 2011
The Cape of HOPE