Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Breast Cancer Changed My life

Excerpt from my old blog:

October 3, 2007.

My mother has breast cancer.

Why is there never anything helpful to say about these sorts of things. "Sorry you're sick. Hope you don't die." "Hmmm, can I have all your stuff when you're dead?" It sucks that I sit there on the phone, gaping and just having no idea what to say. Maybe they should teach a college course on "shit to say that doesn't sound completely stupid in the face of a tragedy." I know I should have signed up for it.

Yes, they caught it early. Yes, breast cancer is survivable. Yes, it's still one of the leading killers of women in the United States. I know all this. I knew it even before she told me she had it.

And people keep asking me "If there's anything I can do..." and there's a bitter, nasty part of me that wants to scream at them... "What the FUCK do you think you can do? Because, really, if you're sitting on the cure for cancer just so you can offer it to me at a convenient time, you're a real jackass." I don't say that, though, because it's rude. And I do know that people love me and care, and they wish there was something they could do. And I'm not even mad at them, I'm just mad at the situation. Still... "What the fuck, man, what the fuck. No, there's nothing you can DO. There's nothing I can do. We have to just hope that there's something the goddamn doctor can do aside from sending my mom a BIG HUGE bill."

Ditto, I'm mad at my mom. One of the first things she said to me was "Don't tell your dad, ok?" Oh for fuck's sake woman. Look, I know she's vain and self-centered from time to time, but jesus h christ, get a stepladder and get the fuck over it already. She's been divorced for fifteen YEARS. It's about time that she stop giving a royal FUCK what he thinks. What does she think he's gonna do, anyway? Gloat? My dad may not have been the most wonderful husband on the planet, but jesus, he's not like that. And even if he used to be, he's not anymore.

I feel sort of alone in this... my friends don't really like my mom much. She's sort of neurotic and immature. I don't have any family support in this; I've disowned (and been disowned by) most of my aunts and cousins and the like. It might be nice to talk to someone else who actually cares about my mom, you know? My friends care about me, and believe me, I appreciate that. But they don't generally care about my MOM. That's ok, and I don't blame them for it, but gods, I do wish I had someone to talk to who does care about her.

I can't decide if the timing of the rest of my life is good, or bad. I have Darcy's birthday party this weekend, and Carol's baby shower next weekend, and I still have a ton of stuff to do, so I'm staying really busy. But I'm also having a lot of trouble focusing on the tasks at hand. I stood there blankly at the bank the other day for like ten minutes with my mouth open, disconcerting the teller, while I tried to remember why I'd gone there in the first place. (To get quarters.)

I dunno. I hate feeling lost and useless like this.

And I don't know what to do.

This followed a doctor's appointment in July where my doctor said "I'm not liking your A1C results... I'd like you to try to lose 10% of your body weight - about 22 pounds - by the time I see you in January or I'm going to be forced to put you on diabetic medication."

And was followed by this picture being taken of me.

I weighed about 227 pounds.

My asthma, my ankle, and my fear of falling down (every time I've fallen in the last few years, I've broken a bone... I have crappy bone density from years of steroid use, and I'm a klutz on top of that. All in all, it doesn't add up to a happy and safe life.) were my excuses to keep from working out. My attitude was an excuse to not diet ("diets don't work!" "I can't lose that much weight!" "It's pointless!").

But after those three things - and they say these things come in threes... oh, wait, that's celebrity deaths... whatever - I decided to change my life.

I might not be able to change my genetics - I now have breast cancer history on both sides of my family - but I could change my eating habits and weight.

My husband and I started "watching what we ate" just after November of that year. And started weight watcher's "officially" the first week of January, 2008.

You all know the rest of the story... my husband's lost 90+ pounds. I've lost 87 (ish) pounds. I started walking; he started running. We've changed our lives a LOT.

Two weeks ago, I walked the Susan G Komen 3-Day... sixty miles.

Today, I read this article in Fitness Magazine:
"Women think breast cancer is mainly related to family history," says Melinda Irwin, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale School of Medicine. "But in truth, only about 10 percent of cases are. That means 90 percent of breast cancer may be caused by environmental or lifestyle factors like weight."
It's a good article, and I highly recommend it. It's encouraging to think that - what I did in the depths of "I need to do something" fear - I made the right choice.

This is me, today. (Well, technically, two weeks ago.) And my mom. I weigh 134 pounds. I can walk sixty miles. My mother's been cancer free for almost 2 years. And her surgery scar is really minimal.

4 Ways to Beat Breast Cancer

1. Watch your weight.

If your BMI (body mass index) is 25 or above, work to lose 10 percent of your weight.

2. Get moving.

Exercise for two to three hours a week for the ultimate protection, says Melinda Irwin, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale School of Medicine. "Aim for 60 percent of your maximum oxygen intake, where you have to take a deep breath every other word if you're talking," she adds.

3. Schedule regular sweat sessions.

Chores don't have the same anticancer effect as working out, because "they tend to be start-and-stop," Irwin explains. "You could spend an hour in the garden and raise your heart rate for a total of just 15 minutes. When you exercise, you get continuous moderate-intensity activity."

4. Veg out.

Eat cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. They contain isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, compounds that may prevent the growth of tumors.


I've been enjoying my subscription to Fitness Magazine (I got to try it on the cheap through a special offer on my Sargento Cheese sticks...) I'm going to renew my subscription. When I do this, I'll be getting 2 free subscriptions to give away as gifts.

If you'd like to win one of these free subscriptions, leave me a comment!! Post about this contest on your blog!! Or twitter about this contest!! On November 1, I'll select two lucky winners and you'll get a year's subscription to Fitness magazine! (yes, if you do all three things, you'll get three chances to win!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

173,942 (Now What?)

I'm having PMS. Post-marathon Syndrome.

Otherwise known as the "now whatism".

For the 3-Day event, I trained for over eight months. I raised a lot of money (no where near the amount that one woman did... she got the taj matent... $24,000... impressive.) and basically had one driving goal for most of a year.

In the process of meeting that goal, I also lost another 22 pounds, worked my endurance up, whittled myself down to a tiny size 4 - I'm still astonished by that, just so you know - did 200 squats, 100 pushups, 200 situps. Walked countless miles. Wore through three pairs of shoes. Bought a sleeping bag, ground pad, and a crapton of gear for the event.

At the event, I met a bunch of really wonderful women (and a few pretty cool guys, too...). I felt strong, impressive, happy, sad, angry, frustrated, empowered, triumphant. I walked all 58.5 of the route miles, plus quite a bit more wandering around camp, crossing the pit stop stations multiple times to go pee, get food and drink, and stretch. My total steps for the weekend were 173,942. As my stride length says it takes me ~2200 steps to get a mile, that's ALMOST 80 miles over the course of a weekend.

I got to see my mother for the first time since right after her surgery. I carried a dozen or more rally flags. I met survivors, both of breast cancer and losing someone they loved to the disease. I danced on street corners. I made the same two jokes about 40 times each. ("I spy with my little eye... something that is pink!" and "I live in a swamp! I'm not used to hills. Where I live, the only hills are the man-made ones that are on the golf course, and oddly enough, they don't let me walk there!")

And now I'm home again.

And I've been here for two weeks.

And I don't really know what to do with myself.

I mean, seriously. How do I top this?

Some of my friends are being a little funny about it. "Why do you have to top it?" Me, "Well, because I'm only 37 years old... if this is the pinacle... wow..."

My husband was more like, "Well, what was the really big part of it for you? The endurance training, the fund raising, or the emotional aspect? If you can figure that out, you'll know which direction you want to head next."

I've been considering doing Hershey's Tour de Pink next year, if I can get a bike.

I don't know. I just feel a little... down.

It's hard to go back to doing the dishes after you've spent the weekend feeling like a goddess...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

0 to 60 in Three Days

Watch this space for updates... there will be some, and I have a ton of stuff I want to say about the Three Day, but right now I'm digging my house out of complete pit-dom (ok, not complete... Thomas DID do dishes while I was gone - much to my shock!) and recovering from the inevitable "I spent 3 days around a bunch of strangers and now I'm sick as all fuck" that happens whenever Thomas takes vacation.

But this is me and my mommy at the Dupont Cheering station on Day Three and has now become my most favoritist picture of myself. Ever.

I am strong.

I am awesome.

I have endurance.

I have hope.

I am a goddess.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Picture Pages

Have some photos.

This is the hat I'm wearing for the 3-day...

And here as some scenic pictures from my training walks...

One of Lady Bump's cousins... Astonishingly enough, the wild turtles act the same that she does, which is to say looking up at me pleadingly so I'll feed them.

When I say "hills" around here, I mean, small heaps of dirt with grass on them, like this... Chesapeake is FLAT flat flat.

But there's LOTS of water...

This is one of my favorite spots on my walk. I don't know why, really. Maybe it's just the big rock seems incongruous with the rest of the scenery.

Scattering of leaves
As if trees threw a party
And forgot to clean.

The local library... I love the round side of the building. It's just nifty.


I also saw a river otter, but he was a fast little bugger and I didn't manage to get a picture.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When Properly Motivated

I can run very, very fast.

Last night, Thomas, Darcy and I were out for our usual Thursday walk (ish about a two-miler.)

One part of our walking path takes us along the "lake". It's not a lake, it's a hole in the ground where water collects. There's a lot of that around here. I do live in a swamp (part of the Great Dismal Swamp, actually...) and there's a lot. LOT. of water around here. (As a further note, I actually live in one of the highest points in the city, 18 feet above sea level. That's NOT very far, really.) Anyway, our view here is to the left side, water, to the right side, the backs of a bunch of condos. We're walking and we see a white and brown spotted dog running around, leash dragging merrily on the ground behind him.

A few minutes later, a woman pushing a jogging stroller trots up, looking furious, and calling for the dog. The dog, being a dog, ignores her completely and continues tearing around, peeing on trees, sniffing bushes, and generally acting dog-like.

Eventually, said dog notices us and comes bounding over, so excited that not only is its tail wagging, but the whole back end of the dog is wagging.

Thomas reaches down and snags the leash.

"Oh, thank you," says the lady. She leaves the stroller where it is and comes over to collect the dog.

Darcy is busy petting the dog, who is now slobbering all over my child and wiggling ecstatically. (Both dog and child. Are wiggling, that is. Darcy gave up slobbering a while ago.)

"He's very excited," the woman comments, taking the leash. She and Thomas talk a bit about the dog. I... don't much like dogs, so I'm trying to dodge the animal and keep an eye on my daughter and occasionally glancing at my watch wondering how long we have to make small talk before we can keep walking. We're supposed to go to Target after our walk and then I need to cook dinner and I'm hoping that things won't run too late because...

I glance over at the stroller to realize it is ROLLING BACKWARDS DOWN THE HILL TOWARDS THE LAKE.

"Jesus," I comment and take off flat running. I probably covered about 20 yards in 3 seconds, grabbed the stroller handle and turned sideways to keep the entire thing from flipping over on the rough ground. The baby, inside, is a red-headed little girl who is... fast asleep.

"Mom's saved the baby!" Darcy yells, jumping up and down and cheering.

"I stole her from a stupid Dikini while he was taking a pee pee," Thomas mutters under his breath.