"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fellow Runners

Today I am grateful for the safety of my nephew Scott who was uninjured in a tractor rollover. And I am grateful for my fellow runners who supported me in various ways on Sunday.

How quickly things can change in our lives. Scott could have been seriously injured or worse. Life is precious. Life is fragile.

My favorite and most supportive fellow runner is my husband Darcy. But in an event like a marathon, strangers offer support in a variety of ways. I want to thank the thousands of half-marathoners who joined us for the first 10 miles or so of Sunday's marathon. They helped carry me along and they hid the hills from view.

I also want to thank the two women who were the 4:45 pacers. (Pacers hold signs with a finish time on it. If you want to run that time, stick with those pacers.) I typically don't run with a pace group, though I do like to keep certain ones in my view if I have a goal. On Sunday, I caught up with the 4:45 pacers at Mile 19 and chatted and ran with them the next mile. After a porta-pot pit stop at Mile 20, I decided to try to catch back up with these two. By Mile 21 I had caught up, and then I went on ahead, finishing just under 4:45 at 4:43. Those two women, nameless to me, helped me through a couple of tough miles.

Then at Mile 22 I talked briefly with a woman who was running her first marathon. Her oldest daughter had made a New Year's resolution to do a marathon, so she decided to join her. Her words at Mile 22 were something along the lines of "4 miles left, we can do four miles."  After you have already completed 22, four does seem possible, even if legs and other body parts are feeling exhausted. We've come this far. We can do this.

At Mile 24 there was a cheer squad and a woman running just in front of me did a little dance move and got the cheer squad and the rest of us fired up. It was just what I needed. I don't know where she summoned the energy, but I am glad she did.

Fellow runners helped me on Sunday. Fellow travelers on the road of life help me each day. Today I will try to be kind and gentle with my fellow travelers and myself.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fueled by Gratitude

Today I am grateful for another pleasant marathon experience and for time with my stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa. I am also grateful for safe travels as we covered 1200 miles over 4 days. 

I was fueled by gratitude in many different ways as I covered 26.2 miles of roadway for the St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Just getting to the starting line, physically able to pursue this ongoing goal is what starts the gratitude flowing. To be joined at the starting line, and at the start of many training runs over many months, by my husband Darcy provides plenty more gratitude. Here is a picture of us before the run Sunday, and a chance to see the new running attire I mentioned in a previous blog post:


We didn't look as fresh a few hours later, but we were both happy with our runs and our times. We ran together for the first 16 miles or so, enjoying the atmosphere and the ideal weather and running conditions. The last ten miles, I found other sources of support from fellow runners. More on that tomorrow.

It wasn't surprising that a road tour of St. Louis would include a brewery. We passed Anheuser-Busch not once but twice. I'm sure the smell of beer on our way by may have made some other runners thirsty. It just made me more grateful as I pondered the role of sobriety and recovery in my life's journey and as a factor in my overall health.

An effort I make during the marathons I run is to thank the many volunteers along the way. St. Louis had an impressive number at aid stations, directing traffic and keeping us safe, cheering us on. It gives me a little boost each time I can say "Thanks for your help" or "Good morning."

I was definitely fueled by gratitude on Sunday. More importantly, I try to keep the fire of gratitude burning every day. This blog stokes the fire. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Deeply.

Today I am grateful for phone conversations yesterday with my friends Jill and Jenny. They each went with me to chemotherapy treatment six years ago. That's a good friend. I appreciate the deep and meaningful conversations we can have.

Both Jill and Jenny are true friends. Kindred spirits of mine. Add to that list my friend Sheila who happens to be celebrating a birthday today. Happy  ___th Sheila!  I am deeply blessed to have all three of these women in my life. They have helped bring out the best in me, and for that I am so grateful.

I am feeling deeply blessed today as we prepare for marathon weekend. Feeling anything deeply is a gift. Yes, sometimes that means feeling pain. But without the pain, how would we ever fully appreciate the joy?

The many miles in my previous 11 marathons have brought deep feelings . . . some physical, others mental, emotional, and spiritual. Especially in the later miles when a person needs to dig deep to keep going. Those same miles have brought some physical pain. That can hardly be avoided. But the endorphins, the spectators, the city we get to see, all take the edge off the pain and add to the joy.

What do you feel deeply today? What are feeling deeply blessed for today?

I will be taking a blog break for a few days. I plan to be busy living life deeply and fully. I wish the same for you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Celebrating Life

Today I am grateful for time away from work and my friends at our local breast cancer support group.

I wore my Seattle Marathon shirt yesterday. That was marathon #11 last December. I like wearing my marathon shirts because they are reminders to celebrate life and gratitude. It's not about ego for me, and if someone else perceives it that way, I hope they read this. I am deeply blessed to be alive, to be able to run, to be able-bodied and alive. I don't run fast and I don't win age groups, but I live my dream and share it with my husband Darcy.

I could have died drunk in my late teens. I could have had a different cancer diagnosis six years ago. I am here, alive, and happy to be! I am mindful of this day as a gift.

What do you think of when you hear "celebration of life?"  If you are like me, one of the first things that comes to mind is a funeral being called "a celebration of life." That's a comforting and appropriate thing to call it, but let's not reserve celebrating life for only those times. Shouldn't we be celebrating life every day?

That's my goal. Gratitude practice helps me reach my goal.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal today:

"The days come and go, but they say nothing. And if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gratefulness gives voice and meaning to my days. Onward!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gloves of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the fresh fall air and breeze as we enjoyed Sam's last football game of the season yesterday afternoon. I am also grateful for my favorite cereal/banana combination.

The gloves in the picture below will serve an important purpose on Sunday when we head to the starting line for the St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. (Thanks to Sam for taking the picture for me.) We anticipate a little chill in the air and will be outside for an hour or more before we start the run. The gloves, though a little worse for wear, will help me stay warmer. I don't like cold hands. Once I start running, my hands will end up too warm with gloves on, and I will discard them.


It is fitting that these gloves will make this trip with us and be with me at the starting line. They are the same gloves I wore at the start of my second marathon-The WhistleStop in Ashland, WI on October 15, 2005, nine years ago today. (I didn't recall the date right away, but I went to look at my finisher's medal when I was preparing this post and it had the date on the back.)

I don't recall which one of us bought these, but my memory says it was a two-pack and my sister Ruth wore the other pair on that chilly morning. I was wearing a fanny pack, so when my hands got warm, I put the gloves in there and have had them ever since. I am sentimental that way. They are now worn thin and it is time to retire them. I can't think of a better send-off after these 9 years than to bring them from Marathon #2 to Marathon #12.

They will bring good vibes with me. Not only did my sister Ruth run the WhistleStop, so did my sister Zita. Zita hadn't been able to run the Chicago Marathon the previous year because she had just undergone cancer treatment. My high school friends Beth and Melissa (of the "Lake City Nine") also ran it. My sister Aileen ran the half-marathon and other family and friends were also running or there for support. It was a good weekend and a good run. It was especially meaningful to see Zita cross the finish line. Little did I know what breast cancer would bring to my running days over the next years.

There's a lot of good energy, fun memories, and large quantities of gratitude signified by those little gloves above. Run on!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Awareness? I'll Take Advocacy and Action.

Today I am grateful for the people I work with, both adults and young people. I am also grateful for what others have taught me about advocacy when it comes to breast cancer and taking actions to help end it.

Besides Lisa Bonchek Adams and Dr. Gayle Sulik, bloggers like Nancy Stordahl at "Nancy's Point" and AnneMarie Ciccarella at "Chemobrain . . . In the Fog" have taught me a lot about the right kinds of awareness, what true advocacy in the breast cancer arena means, and they do it with humor and grace. I also highly respect the work done by the organization Breast Cancer Action http://www.bcaction.org/

We have been lulled into some false sense of progress regarding breast cancer. Certainly, there have been advances in treatment. But when it comes to the ultimate goals of curing the cancer people already have and preventing others from getting it, we have been seriously sidetracked by pink stuff to buy, misleading pictures of triumphant warriors in pink, and efforts to save body parts with catchy names.

I am grateful to better understand how we are hurting our own cause, and what I can do to try to help. I am only one person, but I can do my part. It is all any of us can do. I am also grateful for the writing I have done that has helped me affirm where I stand. It has been both validating and healing for me. Here is a link to a guest blog post I did for "Nancy's Point" a couple years ago. It is titled "The Sum of All My Parts."

Here is a link to a post I wrote last October, which includes a post from two years ago. In it, I appeal to others to take action, the kind of action that is already making a difference by helping pick up the pace of research into what causes cancer and what can cure it. More helpful than the latest pink item anyone of us could buy but often doesn't truly help the right efforts.

The Health of Women Study and the Army of Women are both efforts of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. HOW now has over 50, 500 women signed up. I have completed a few online questionnaires for this and it has been easy. The effort is gathering data from both women who have had breast cancer and those who have not in hopes of figuring out causes and prevention. Check it out at healthofwomenstudy.org

The AOW is now almost 377,000 strong. This requires a brief sign-up process and then you are notified when new studies are looking for research subjects and you can join the study if you fit the criteria. It is also for both women who have had BC and those who have not. Check it out at  armyofwomen.org

Both of these efforts are totally voluntary and you choose what you wish to participate in. It is energizing to me to take actions like joining these two. I feel like I am trying to be part of the solution, to help move things beyond the stalemate we seem to be in.

Please consider joining one or both if you haven't already. You do make a difference.

Monday, October 13, 2014

For All Those With MBC

Today I am grateful for today, just today.

That is not oversimplified, it is the best way to live life. It is what I strive for. Staying in today, in the moment. I learned this in recovery from alcoholism and had it driven back home quite emphatically when I faced my own cancer diagnosis.

I am deeply grateful to be over six years out from my breast cancer diagnosis and have NED (no evidence of disease). I don't live in fear, but I also try not to live in denial. Cancer is wily and mysterious. It can come back in anyone at anytime. Today I am thinking of those who are living with what remains my biggest fear: late-stage metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Cancer that remains in the breast is not deadly. Breast cancer that spreads, or metastasizes, to other parts of the body is incurable and is what takes nearly 40,000 lives a year in this country.

Some are diagnosed with MBC at the time of their initial diagnosis. Others have NED for years after their initial diagnosis when MBC comes roaring into their lives.It is a valid fear for people like me; 30% of those of us initially diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will develop metastatic disease.

Hence the precious nature of today, the reasons to view it as the gift it is. Keep priorities straight. Put our time where it matters most.

Today is the 6th annual Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. In the midst of all things pink during the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to put aside the fluff and fanfare and zero in on those who need our help, support, and research dollars the most-those with MBC.

One such patient is Lisa Bonchek Adams. She is an amazing writer. And she is two years into her MBC diagnosis. If you want an understandable run-down on treatment options, side effects, clinical trials, and everything else someone with late stage cancer may be dealing with, check out Lisa's well-written blog at http://lisabadams.com/  Even more amazing, yet painful to read, are her posts written as a mother, wife, daughter, friend who knows she has limited time. Her words are very powerful.

Here also is a link to an essay written by me that appeared on Dr. Gayle Sulik's blog "Pink Ribbon Blues" in October, 2012. It is titled "Paralyzed or Catalyzed."

I have never met Lisa Adams, but I often think of her and others with MBC. A terminal illness must remind them often of how precious and fragile life is. Why wait for that kind of reminder? Appreciate the day and the opportunities it presents. That's my plan. All any of us have is today.