Sunday, May 11, 2014

Treatment #13 knocked me down, but people pulled me back up.

Monday morning, my husband and I did what has become our standard pre chemo ten mile run. It was warm and sunny and beautiful. After facing months of treatments, chemo Mondays now seem to cause stress for both my husband and me. Since each week brings something different, the whole experience keeps me slightly off balance. I know Steve now worries going into Monday about how I will feel for the rest of the week. At the start of our run, I had butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to go home and crawl back into bed and hide out under the covers. By the end of our run, my stomach had settled down and I had regained that calm that I get from running.

Treatment went fine but nausea hit me shortly afterwards. Monday night I missed yet another landsharks meet. Tuesday brought some of the most intense nausea I have felt thus far. I felt like I was going to throw up all Tuesday afternoon and evening, and in fact, did get sick a few times that afternoon. I do not know if it is the fact that I am recovering from last weekends race at the Greenland 25k or if it is just the cumulative effects of chemo over months or both, but I felt so very tired all week. 

This week has been marked by probably as much hiking and walking as running. I enjoy hiking, but I see myself as a runner not a hiker. Feeling like I am not capable of running on certain days makes me frustrated and honestly even sad. But I physically just had to slow down this week. Slowing down a bit gave me the gift of spending time with both a long time friend and with a new friend who I enjoyed getting to know better. Slowing down allowed me to visit new trails I have never been to and truly appreciate the scenery. I also got to enjoy the beauty of one of my favorite trails more fully because I was not staring at the ground the whole time the way I typically do when I am running something technical.

I had two days this week where I felt like I was actually able to run my planned mileage. One of those runs I had arranged to meet a friend. For another, I had planned to run alone and happened to meet up with one of my regular running partners in the trailhead parking lot. Right now I am really enjoying company on my runs. Somehow through this whole process, I have continued to meet and make new friends and deepen existing relationships through time spent out on the trails together.  It is remarkable to me. Some people get overwhelmed and frightened by an illness and yet there are so many people in the running community who have embraced me during this really difficult period in my life. 

As a runner, I know I have been told after a race in which I ran well, "You are amazing!" While I appreciate the compliment, of course, I never quite understand the wording. More accurately, maybe running a specific time or distance is what we find "amazing". No one is "amazing" just because they run fast or far. That being said, I think that there are a whole lot of "amazing" people who also happen to run. Theses people are amazing not because of their running, but because of their kind, caring, compassionate nature. There is a big collective heart among many of the runners I have had the pleasure of meeting. That I continue to derive my emotional support from other runners, even on days when I can no longer run, is what I find amazing.

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I am not one for pomp and circumstance, but right now every day has taken on a new significance. Illness brings an intensity to every day circumstances. Every moment becomes important because you no longer have the luxury of believing you have an unlimited number of those moments left. I still do not want a fuss made over me. I often tell my family that I do not want presents. I do not want flowers or jewelry. I have always been a person who treasures simplicity and the gift of time. Yesterday I went for a run with my husband in the snowstorm. I told him that there weren't too many men who would have been willing to run and walk when I needed to walk these days, especially in driving wind and snow. Despite my circumstances, I know how "lucky" I am. Our family spent the rest of the day snuggled inside of our house. My teenage daughter baked. My husband grilled salmon in the snow because that is what I had requested. We watched a movie together and then had cake.

Riley gave me this present.

It was a jar with phrases she had taken from things I have written. On some of the slips of paper she had written snippets of my own writing and in some she added her own thoughts. As parents we try to give our kids the wisdom that comes with age and life experience. We do not always know if our kids are listening or absorbing what we say. Knowing my daughter has been reading, listening and hopefully tailoring my advice to her own life circumstances means more than anything to me. We want to know we are making an impact on our kids, even if it appears that they are not listening to us. I appreciate my daughter being willing to listen and hear me, as I hope she feels that I have listened and really heard her over the years.

On a run this week, I asked a friend how he and his wife had gotten through a particularly difficult chapter of their lives. He said, "It is really simple. We just loved each other so much". This simple but powerful thought has stuck with me all week. That is exactly how my family will get through our current obstacle: by just continuing to love each other so much. Tough circumstances can either tear families apart or bring them together. I know that in our home, and in our lives, there is more than enough love to carry us through this time. I want my daughters to always remember how much I have loved them and to lean on that knowledge to get through whatever life throws their way. No matter what happens in the future, no matter where life takes us, my love will always be with them.

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