When I was 25 I decided with a couple of friends that I was going to run in some fun runs, which quickly led up to trying out a half marathon. Throughout the last 9 years I have met friends around the country for quick weekend getaways planned around different half marathons – keeping in mind that getting in a good run allowed us extra calories for food and drinks while exploring new cities. For me these races were really about the company and the vacation and less about the race, which my friends know all too well as they each came to expect that I would not train. Each race I told myself I would train the next time around but in the end I knew it was more of a mental challenge than anything else, as long as I kept myself in decent shape. I always finished these races, some much harder than others, and yes I had more soreness than my well-trained friends…but in the end I met the challenge, finished and had great weekend experiences.
This past week has reminded me of running a half-marathon. I feel like I have just set out and have finally reached the three-mile marker. Reaching the three-mile marker for me is getting through the toughest part. This is when I’ve broken a sweat and I’ve realized that I now have to finish the full 13.1 miles — since I have already accomplished the first 3, there’s no turning back.
As for my current marathon, the toughest physical and mental challenge I have yet met, let’s start with the good news — my doctors have confirmed that they were able to remove all of the cancer, there are no signs of other tumors, and the lymph node tests were all clear! I could not have asked for better results from the surgery. I can’t sugarcoat it, a bilateral mastectomy is not a pleasant nor pretty experience, and it is going to take at least a year to complete the surgical process. I’ve also met with my oncologist and we are finalizing my chemotherapy plan, which will start in January. I know that this treatment is necessary and represents the miles required to get me to the last leg of the race, but I still really don’t know what to expect. Right now I am focused on healing as best as possible, to ensure that my body is ready for the next leg.
The biggest mental challenge this week has been accepting that a cancer which hadn’t yet begun to make me feel bad or unwell led to the major surgery that I now sit recovering from. I have lost all independence, which is not something that you can easily get used to. It is also difficult to swallow chemotherapy treatment with the knowledge that the tumor was removed. At the same time, I have read the research and understand clearly from my doctors that chemotherapy is necessary based on my diagnosis. So as you can see, this first three miles has really made me break a sweat, and has been tougher than I could have prepared for.
I could not have made it through the past seven days without my mom’s constant care and my friends’ and family’s support. I am thankful for the food train my colleagues have put together to keep me nourished and for my visitors, for just spending time sitting with me, even when I have a bad attitude. I did receive an A+ from my mother as a patient…most days. And she gets an A++ for putting up with my constant complaining (who invented drains after surgery anyway?). Without these water and Gatorade stations (along with my medication), I wouldn’t be sitting here today with confidence knowing that I can keep going.
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just five days away. I wish everyone the merriest of holidays, as you take time off and celebrate with your families. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!