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The Unspoken Rules of Being a Badass: A Runner's Guide

Running With Cancer – Part 3 One Day At A Time


Note: I’m writing a series on my bout with ovarian cancer and how my running was affected by it and helped me deal with it. You can read Part 1 for a little history on my running and cancer here and Part 2  for a look at how I planned my running while going through chemotherapy here.

Note #2: Today is World Cancer Day. I wish more than anything that we didn’t need a day for this terrible disease. I am a survivor of Ovarian Cancer and the color for that is Teal but today I am Purple to support World Cancer Day.

I wish I could describe how horrid chemotherapy is but until you go through it, you can’t know what it’s like really. I had to take a class at the cancer center before I started and they gave me a long list of symptoms that I would have to manage, foods I could eat, foods/liquids I should avoid, what medication I could/couldn’t take, daily tasks that I would need to do, how each round I would need to do blood work, it went on and on. It was overwhelming and scary.

Then I started chemotherapy and WHAM! I felt like I had been hit with a bus. Even with chemo school, I wasn’t prepared. Chemo made me feel like I was losing me – that my mind and my body were…not all there. I can’t explain it.

I had arrogantly thought I would be strong through it and continue to have a normal life. Ha! That was a wake up call. You feel loopy and foggy and so tired you feel like your bones are noodles. Food tastes horrid and you learn really fast that you have to be careful what you eat or you will have issues…with nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. Even with taking multiple meds for it, nausea reared it’s ugly head and would be a constant companion for the first week after chemo. My skin felt like it was crackling. I had to start taking a shot for my white blood cell counts and it made my bones ache like arthritis. I had trouble focusing and I couldn’t remember words and names. I did things like turn the stove on high instead of turning it off or putting my cat’s litter box lid on backwards. They call it Chemo Brain and when you pride yourself on being a smarty (some people would say smartass), not being able to remember a word or forgetting why you walked into a room is scary. Add all that up plus the fact that I was moving so slow and I felt like I had aged 40 years overnight!

And did I mention I lost my hair? God, how I miss my curls. I miss my pony tails I used to wear when I ran!

I know what you are thinking. A 45 year old woman should not be wearing her hair in pony tails. But to me, running was the fountain of youth. I didn’t start running until I was 40. People (non runners) would tell me running was bad for my knees but I felt better and healthier at 40 than I did in my 20s and 30s. Way healthier. Like I could conquer the world. On foot. 🙂 Running was fun and it made me feel like a kid again.

Running, for me, is most fun when I’m running fast! I had been running soooo slow and easy since I started back after surgery to be careful and not tire myself out. I’d had moments of what it felt like to be fast when I was running trails and would get to a fun downhill section. I didn’t push the pace for long but it was enough to make me smile. For the most part though, I was running slow. And when I say slow, I mean 12-14 minute miles…slow for me anyway.

But last Saturday, I felt like seeing how fast I could run a mile. I wasn’t going all out but I wanted to get into the 10-11 min mile range. During my 5K, I pushed it and did a 10:50 mile! Woo! Happy Dance time!

I knew I had to be sensible about my training but I figured I could start laying a good base for when I could really train again. I had already bought a couple of pilates and yoga DVDs and pulled out my weights and started working on my whole body (I couldn’t do any core work or lifting for 3 months after the surgery). I had lost what little muscles I had before and now I was ready to build a stronger all around Lisa. But wow, pilates (I haven’t tried yoga yet) and weights was tough. And not as much fun as running but I am determined to do them and see if they help me get stronger. One thing for sure, I am not flexible at all, right now. At. All. For sure, I need to work on that.

For motivation to keep up with the pilates and weight training, I made a goal to try climbing by the end of the year! Yikes! It’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to try but was a little scared of. No more sitting around waiting and wishing for things. You have to get out there and do it. I also signed up for the Leading Ladies Marathon in August. I think I can be ready by then. I don’t know how fast I’ll be but I’m sure I can complete it. I had hoped I could PR but that might be wishful thinking, I hear. I’m sure I’ve seen other runners who are battling cancer run half marathons and marathons. I think. Haven’t I? I had looked for an ovarian cancer support group when I found out I had cancer but there wasn’t one near me. What I really wanted though was a Runner’s With Cancer support group so I could see how others were dealing with it and what they were doing.

I also wanted a coach who trains cancer patients. I wish I’d had one from the beginning. I didn’t think they existed but I had a couple of Twitter conversations with some other cancer survivors about that and it turns out there are coaches who are trained for that! Who knew! Thanks to @RunEatWriteRun and @AleneGoneBad who let me know that the American College of Sports Medicine offers a certification for that. And they have a Pro Finder to help you search for coach with that certification in your state! How cool is that?! Too bad I didn’t know about this last November instead of when I’m almost done with chemo. It might have helped me do the Tinkerbell Half that I’d had my heart set on. But then probably not since it fell on one of my hardest chemo round days. Sigh.

Anyway, I start round 5 of chemo on Thursday and will probably miss some days of working out. I think that having my scheduled interrupted  is one of the most frustrating things as a runner. Routine is key, I feel, toward succeeding at a goal. A routine without chemo will be bliss. I can’t wait until February is over.

But for now, I’m just taking it one day at a time.


Check back soon for the next chapter in my running with cancer journey! And don’t forget, if you missed Part 1 or Part 2, you can read them here:

Running With Cancer – Part 1
Running with Cancer – Part 2 The “Moderate” Runner?

If you’ve been through cancer and chemotherapy and are a runner, I would love to hear how it went for you. Please let me know in the comments or email me at the link below.



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This post was written by:

- who has written 717 posts on Run It Fast®.

Lisa (RIF Club Member #5) has completed 27 half marathons, 13 marathons, 5 50Ks, 2 12 Hour races, and 1 100K. Her favorite races to date are the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Leading Ladies Marathon, the Bataan Memorial Death March, and the Jackson Jackass 50K. You can follow her on Twitter @runlikeacoyote

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