Tag Archive | "chemotherapy"

LLHM 2014

Running From Cancer – Queen Of The Road

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 herePart 2  for a look at how I planned my running while going through chemotherapy here Part 3 for how I took things one day at a time here, and Part 4 how I returned to running here.

On Sunday, August 18, 2013, I took what would be the first of many tests in my cancer journey. I remember thinking “I have to pee” (I had to drink a boat load of water before hand) and wondering what they would find as I waited to take the ultrasound. I think at that time I still had some small hope that it was fibroids or something easy to fix. I got my first inkling that it was more than that when the technician (who didn’t have a very good poker face) made a comment something along the lines of “you didn’t feel uncomfortable or pain before this”? She wasn’t allowed to tell me what she saw but I knew then it wasn’t going to be the easy fix I’d hoped for.

The past year has flown by. It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in that waiting room with my mom, both of us scared but not admitting it to each other. So much has changed since then but so much is still the same. I am still the same woman who loves running and riding and reading but now I have fun stuff like hot flashes and a slower metabolism and doctor’s appointments to make life interesting. But really, the only thing that matters is that I am an Ovarian Cancer survivor and I am finally…thank goodness…finally getting back to some semblance of normal.

Fast forward one year from that ultrasound to August 17, 2014 and the Leading Ladies Half Marathon, my 27th half. That day had so much more hope and joy than the year before. It felt like my rebirth. I was a runner again.

Let me back up a little first. In my last post, I talked about finally getting back to running and racing again. Sadly, I didn’t make much progress after that post. My times were still slow and I still wasn’t losing any weight. I was still exhausted some days. I had to do something drastic! I had been thinking of joining 24 Hour Fitness and decided to make the leap. I not only joined 24 Hour Fitness, but I booked 12 weeks with a trainer! Yikes! I needed someone to push me and help me get my body back. My trainer asked me what my goals were and I told him they were to lose weight, and get total overall body strength so I could do anything I wanted to do – running, rock climbing, a pull up. I want to be ready for whatever adventure pops up.

The first sessions were hard and exhausting. I would get home at night after a training session and fall asleep before 8 pm. I had to do modified everythings because I had no core or upper body strength or balance. I just had some endurance. But I got stronger with each week that passed and I was losing weight! Woo!

2 weeks after I started with my trainer, who I affectionately call Phil The Masochist, I ran a 9 mile run to prep for the half and it took me 2 hours and 14 minutes. I was pretty embarrassed by that time. I’d had to do some walking and even sat down for a few minutes. 15ish minute miles? I was looking at a 3:15 half marathon time. That is not how I want to run a half marathon. And on top of that, I was exhausted the rest of the day. I must admit, I was a little depressed that day but also determined to not give up.

I kept working with Phil and asked him to keep pushing me. I was less exhausted as each week passed and could feel the changes in my body, including weight loss (13 pounds and counting!). And the next week, I ran a 10 miler in that same time as the 9. Then I felt like I was strong enough that I could add tempo miles and fartleks/surges into my runs and they were fun and really helped. And then the next weekend, I ran an 11 miler in 2:13. Things were definitely headed in the right direction! Woo!

So I ran 11 miles at 12:07 pace but I had stopped twice to eat some Clif Bloks and refill my water. And of course, I had little rests at the stoplights. 11 miles was also the longest I had run since 8/10/13 (my last half marathon). I figured I might need to do some walking during the half so I set a goal of 2:45. Just a few weeks ago, I had anticipated a 3 hour + finish time but was confident (mostly) I could make 2:45.

In my last training session before the race, Phil asked me if I was scared. I told him no and that was true. I knew I could and would finish the race. It might take me longer than I anticipated but the race had a generous time limit so I wasn’t worried about being swept from the course. I was more worried about oversleeping than I was about the race.

Race morning dawned cool and beautiful. We, the runners, boarded the bus that took us up Spearfish Canyon, SD at 4:15 am and headed to the start. It was dark and the bus ride was quiet. The race started a few minutes late and we passed the time talking races and states and running in general.

Once the race started, I took off like a bat out of hell. Well, not really. But the first mile was 10:36. Oops. I slowed myself down and ran 11ish +/- miles through mile 9. By then my stomach was feeling queasy and my legs were starting to tighten up. I let myself walk through 2 of the aid stations to grab/eat some pretzels but other than that, I ran the whole way. Slower than the first 8 miles but still moving forward. I really wanted to walk but talked myself out of it with distractions. Did I mention the course was beautiful?

Finally, it was the last mile and I picked it up a little. I caught another woman who was walking and said “Come on, just a little more. You can’t let me beat you at the end!”. And she took off running and I used trying to catch her again as incentive to keep up the pace. I crossed the line in 2:33:42 (official) and was pretty excited to have finished and beat my goal. I felt inklings of the old racing Lisa deep inside. I felt good. I felt proud. I felt happy. I felt like the Queen of the Road! :) (by the way, that was the theme for the Leading Ladies Half this year, which I didn’t know when I signed up for it but is pretty appropriate because RIF #1 Josh (@bayou) used to call me the Half Queen!).

So…I am pretty happy with the progress I’ve made in the past 6 weeks. I am still way off my PR time of 1:57 but I feel like it’s not out of reach anymore. The weight loss has plateaued a little but I know it will continue to happen eventually. I graduated to knee pushups from wall pushups this week and am able to lift more. I feel good about things. I feel hope and I feel content.

I think probably the biggest thing that has made me less frustrated and a lot happier was coming to the decision to put marathons and ultras on hold for a while and to cut out some of the things that I no longer had fun doing. I feel less pressure and more relaxed and I am having a lot more fun now. I want to work on my speed and strength first before running longer again. If ever. I know it probably seems blasphemous saying that on this site but I am okay with it. I used to think I had to be the perfect cancer survivor, whatever that is. I felt like I was pressured to always be positive, always have a smile on my face, to be an ultrarunner…because that’s what heroic cancer survivors do. I don’t see myself as a hero. I am just a girl who survived one of the scariest things out there with the help of some great doctors and my family and friends.

I want to share 2 great quotes that I saw this past month that really hit home to me.

The first is by Gabriele Grunewald (@gg_runs), an awesome, inspiring runner and cancer survivor: “I don’t try to live harder, I just try to live more authentically. It’s not about just fitting more in, it’s about fitting in the things that are most meaningful to me.”

The other is from Kara Goucher (@karagoucher), another of my favorite runners: “I know that there are people that think I am done and that’s fine, they can think that. But I’m not running to prove anything to them; I’m running to prove everything to myself. I know what I am still capable of, and I know the last couple years haven’t shown it, but I know what I’m capable of and I know how my body is responding to the training. I guess, yeah, it is a comeback.”

The first one by Gabriele perfectly expressed the thing that surviving cancer taught me. Do what you love and what is meaningful to you and don’t let anyone tell how you should live or what you should do. It’s my life. I am not going to waste it on the things I don’t enjoy or don’t bring me peace. I’m not saying I’ll never run marathons or ultras again but right now, I don’t feel the need to prove my self in that way. More is not always better (unless it’s chocolate, pancakes, or burritos), at least not right now.

Kara’s quote feels like she is talking about me. For me, the past year was about surviving cancer and the year before that was dealing with the effects/symptoms of it. I haven’t been at my best running-wise for about 2 years too. I also feel like I’m making a comeback and I also know what I am capable of.

I’m going to prove it to myself.

Just watch!

***

Check back soon for the next chapter in my running from cancer journey! And don’t forget, if you missed earlier chapters, you can read them here:

Running With Cancer – Part 1
Running with Cancer – Part 2 The “Moderate” Runner?
Running With Cancer – Part 3 One Day At A Time
Running From Cancer – Part 4 Running Reboot…Again

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.

Posted in RunningComments (0)

Lisa Gonzales Fontana Days 5K

Running From Cancer – Part 4 Running Reboot…Again

 

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 and Part 3 for how I took things one day at a time here.

I changed the title of the series from Running With Cancer to Running From Cancer because I’m cancer free now! I found out for sure on April 7th that there was no more cancer in me. I’d beat it!

I was relieved and happy that I could go back to being normal. Woo!

It’s been more than 3 months since my last chemo treatment and I’m still waiting for that to happen. Sigh.

I never thought that 14+ weeks after I was done with chemo I would still be dealing with fatigue and an achy body or that my body would still have issues processing food…efficiently. I thought I would be in the midst of marathon training and on my way back to my former speedy self.

Instead I feel old, tired, fat, and slow. Especially when I’m running. Which totally sucks.

I had to take more time off of running to deal with some plantar fasciitis after my last chemo treatment plus some aching in my hips and legs and I feel like I lost whatever endurance I had started getting back during chemo. I am still dealing with all of that but I started again on May 11th because I missed it. I am so slow and so tired at the end of my runs! Argh! I thought for sure I would be over the tiredness by now. I thought I would be back to being peppy and speedy and running happily along. I just found out last Thursday that it’s not uncommon for fatigue to still be an issue by a tweet from Dr Robert S. Miller, MD (@rsm2800) “Fatigue often the chemo side effect slowest to resolve. Fatigue at 3m quite common”. Well, at least now I know it’s normal. Sigh.

If it was just fatigue and achiness, it wouldn’t be too bad but probably the most frustrating side effect that ovarian cancer had for me was the weight gain and my current inability to lose that weight. I was warned about possible weight gain during chemo school. They stress that you should not lose weight and that the steroids in the nausea meds might cause weight gain. The fact that I was also thrown into instant menopause because of the cancer didn’t help since it decreased my metabolism (not to mention hot flashes, mood swings, and trouble sleeping). Still, after having lost so much weight before, I SWORE I wouldn’t gain any. In fact, I secretly planned to keep trying to lose weight. But that didn’t happen and I was horrified to see my weight creep up. I would cringe whenever I went to see my doc because for sure she would yell at me for gaining weight, right? But no. Apparently she was fine with that. It was expected.

I thought once I was done with chemo that I would be able to lose weight but that hasn’t happened. I tried being casual about it but the scale wouldn’t move. I find myself obsessing now and keeping track of calories and adding more protein to my diet but it’s sticking to me like glue. It just won’t budge. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. I have lost 5 pounds in the past 2 months. Which is good but I need to lose about 50 more and I don’t want to wait 20 more months to get rid of the weight! It’s not helping with the slowness and the achiness and really, I just hate being like this again. Ugh.

The problem is that I don’t know what is still from the chemo and what is from menopause. I’ve looked at forums for answers to both and the things I’m experiencing other women are experiencing because of chemo OR menopause. So maybe I won’t ever be the same Lisa I was before cancer again. Maybe I need to figure out a new normal and how to make the best of it. I need more information! Why isn’t there more information out there? I know. Because everyone is different.

BUT…I am running again. And I am “racing” again. On May 17th, I ran a 3 mile trail run and on Saturday, I ran a 5K. It was my fastest mile and fastest 5K post chemo!

And while I’m happy that I’m moving in the right direction, the fact that it was 6+ minutes off my 5K PR of 24:59, that I needed 10.5 hours of sleep that night, and that I’ve been as sore as if I ran a marathon since are a little depressing. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep running (and riding – great cross training for me because there is not impact soreness after) and I know eventually I’ll get where I want to be. In the meantime, I think I need to stop signing up for races and just concentrate on getting healthy and finding the fun again. I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself to be super marathoner/ultra runner Lisa again and my body is obviously not ready for that yet.

I know I sound like I’m whining. I guess I am. Part of me is still so angry about the cancer and that it continues to affect my life. A friend made a comment to me when I said I was still fighting it along the lines of “wasn’t I happy to be alive”. Yes, I am happy to be alive. Yes, I know I’m lucky that I survived. But everything is not all rainbows and unicorns now that chemo is over. I thought that would be the case but it’s not. Everyone deals with things differently, especially cancer and chemo. I have seen stories of people who ran marathons and ultras while going through chemo and I put pressure on myself to be that strong. And when I wasn’t, I felt like a failure. Like a wimp. Like I wasn’t good enough. But I did the best I could. I’m still doing the best I can.

I just have to remind myself of that and the fact that I do love running and it IS fun and it IS good for me… as long as I listen to my body. So I keep running. Because I am NOT going to let cancer have the last laugh!

***

Check back soon for the next chapter in my running from 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?
Running With Cancer – Part 3 One Day At A Time

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.

 

 

Posted in RunningComments (0)

Happy Run

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.

Posted in RunningComments (0)

Examples per ACS

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

 

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.

I’ve focused on running throughout my whole cancer journey. Okay, I obsessed over it. When I went for my 2 week follow-up with the surgeon, I asked him first about when I could run again and left out all the other questions about work and driving! Oops! Same thing with my initial visit with my oncologist – I wanted to know if and when I could run.

Why was it my priority? What made it so important for me? Mostly for the reasons I stated in the Part 1 post but also because it gave me a sense of control…over something, anything instead of feeling controlled by cancer. It gave me something to focus on when I was terrified they would find cancer and what stage it would be. It gave me something to focus on while I was recuperating from surgery. And it gave me something to focus on when I learned I would have chemotherapy. I felt like my life was out of control and running gave me something I COULD have control over.

So now I could run again but what could I do? What should I do? I had told my oncologist about signing up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon (which would happen after my fourth round of chemo). She didn’t shoot that idea down and in fact, she thought it was  a great one. She said she loved when her patients were marathoners and half marathoners. Okay, great!

But…neither my oncologist nor my surgeon gave me specifics on what I could or should do. What I’m comfortable with was just too vague. But I couldn’t really find out a whole lot except that exercise was encouraged for cancer patients because it helped combat the fatigue and tiredness from chemotherapy. Could I do TOO much? Should I be cautious? Should I run as fast as I could or slow as molasses? What is an excited runner girl supposed to do?

I started looking around and I didn’t find a whole lot. There was this from the American Cancer Society’s Answers To Common Questions section:

“Research strongly suggests that exercise is not only safe during cancer treatment, but it can also improve physical functioning and many aspects of quality of life. Moderate exercise has been shown to improve fatigue (extreme tiredness), anxiety, and self-esteem. It also helps heart and blood vessel fitness, muscle strength, and body composition (how much of your body is made up of fat, bone, or muscle).”

So I knew that I should do something but what does moderate mean? Is running slow moderate? Could I run tempo runs? Could I lift weights? I found more information on their Guidelines page:

Be physically active
• Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
• Children and teens should get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with vigorous activity on at least 3 days each week.
• Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
• Doing some physical activity above usual activities, no matter what one’s level of activity, can have many health benefits.

Okay, more information is good. But still…what is moderate? What is vigorous? They also had this chart to help figure that out:

According to this chart, running is vigorous. Hmmm…

Running slow and easy doesn’t seem vigorous to me. I decided to consider it moderate and see how I did. I found another article from the American College of Sports Medicine – Exercise During Cancer Treatment that gave more specifics about what to watch out for:

Individuals undergoing cancer treatment should:
•Obtain approval from their oncologist (cancer doctor) before starting an exercise program.
•Have vital signs (temperature, pulse/heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate) monitored regularly. If participating in moderate-to-vigorous exercise, have their blood pressure and heart rate monitored before, during and after exercise to ensure that participation in exercise is appropriate and safe.
•Exercise with a partner, caregiver or exercise professional for safety reasons.
•Avoid public fitness facilities and activities (e.g., swimming), where there may be an increased risk of exposure to viral and/or bacterial infection.
•Avoid swimming if undergoing radiation therapy treatments or if they have an indwelling catheter (a tube that goes in the body), such as a central venous catheter or peripherally inserted central catheter.
•Stop exercise and contact their doctor if they have any of the following symptoms during exercise or after an exercise session:
– Disorientation, dizziness, blurred vision or fainting
– Sudden onset of nausea, vomiting
– Unusual or sudden shortness of breath
– Irregular heart beat, palpitations, chest pain
– Leg/calf pain, bone pain, unusual joint pain or pain not caused by injury
– Muscle cramps or sudden onset of muscular weakness or fatigue

And also from that page, this section on when to take precautions:

•Anemia (low red blood cell count): If the red blood cell count is low, the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the tissues is reduced. Exercise may need to be scaled back and possibly avoided.
•Neutropenia (low white blood cell count): If the white blood cell count is low, the body’s ability to fight infection is reduced. Exercise should be avoided if there is a fever above 100.4°F (>38°C).
•Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count): If platelet count is low, there is an increased risk of bruising and bleeding. Avoid contact sports or activities with high risk of injury or falling. Report any unusual bruising or symptoms, such as nose bleeds, to a doctor.
•Side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea, and symptoms such as swollen ankles, unexplained weight loss/gain, or shortness of breath with low levels of exertion may make exercise unsafe. Check with a doctor before exercising.

Ok, great. I could all that. I now felt like I had enough to go on. I decided that 2 5K runs during the weekday would be good and I’d let myself do a longer trail run on the weekends. While the combination might be more time than I’d been allotted per the guidelines, I hoped the combination of “moderate” 5K runs and more vigorous trail runs would be okay. I would just listen to my body day to day and do what I felt I could. But I have to tell you, I sometimes wanted to do more!

This was the plan through mid-January and it went pretty well. I wasn’t pushing myself too much and really just having fun. I was tired but not overly so, though I sometimes felt the same kind of tired after a 5K run that I used to feel after a 20 miler which was frustrating. I ran when I could and rested when I felt I needed it. Mostly, the pattern went like this:

  • The day after chemo I could run and feel tired but okay.
  • Then chemo would hit me and I would take the next 4 or 5 days off from.
  • Then on the 6th or 7th day after chemo, I would feel I could run again.
  • Then I would resume the schedule I set above.

But in mid-January, I got the racing bug and started thinking about my plans for 2014. What if I did more? What if I added pilates or yoga or weight training? What if I ran a little faster sometimes? What if…

***

Click Here to read Running with Cancer – PART 3: One Day at a Time  

And don’t forget, if you missed Part 1, you can read it here:

Running With Cancer – Part 1

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.

Posted in RunningComments (0)

Thanksgiving

Running With Cancer – Part 1

RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales

Note: I am going to be doing a series on my bout with ovarian cancer and how my running was affected by it and helped me deal with it.

2013 was supposed to be a big year for me. I had big plans – streak through at least October to complete a 1 year running streak, run 3000 miles, and lower my marathon PR to sub 4…and hopefully qualify for Boston. 2013 was going to be stellar!

Or so I thought. Things didn’t go exactly as I’d planned. Life is funny that way.

2013 started off okay. I wasn’t getting where I wanted to be  though so I hired a coach and that helped. But I was tired most of the time. I felt like I was overtrained even though I wasn’t really doing that much. I was frustrated. I kept telling my friends I was tired and nauseous and that something didn’t feel right but it never felt serious enough to go to the doctor.

Then in July, I found a bump in my abdomen. It felt about the size of a lemon and I went to have it checked out. By the time I had an ultrasound and then an MRI, it had grown to the size of basketball! I had surgery on September 30, 2013 to remove it and that’s when I found out I had Ovarian Cancer.

The C Word.

Damn.

However, I was one of the lucky ones. Every year, about 22,240 women are diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and 14,400 women die from it. There is a 93% 5 year survival rate if it is caught in the early stages but only 15% of the women are caught this early. I am one of the 15%. My cancer was Stage 1C. I was very lucky.

I haven’t always felt lucky. I have had the “why me?” thoughts. I’ve been resigned and numb. I’ve been scared and sad. And I’ve been angry. So very angry. Angry because my life changed in one instant. Angry because I’d been doing everything right – eating right, exercising, taking care of myself – and I was still caught in cancer’s vicious web.

One reason I was angry at cancer was that it took running away from me. Everyone said that my health was the most important part and that I could/would run again. But here’s the thing. Running is the way I deal with emotions and stress. At the one time in my life when I needed it most, I couldn’t run. First because my doctor was afraid the cyst would burst and then because of the surgery to remove it. For 10 long weeks I couldn’t run. I had no outlet for all the things I was feeling. I couldn’t do anything but go for short walks and sit on my backside.

I felt trapped.

And of course, running not only helps me wash away the sucky parts of life but it is just plain fun! There’s nothing I love more than running trails and exploring new places and meeting new people. Running is how I celebrate life! I had to give up 3 marathons and a half marathon I’d signed up for. Because of cancer I missed out on the opportunity to explore Utah and Tennesse and to have fun on Halloween. I missed seeing my friends from around the country at those races. It took so much from me. Did it have to take the fun too?

No, running isn’t everything but at a time in my life when I was scared and angry, it would have been nice to have the joy running and breathing in fresh air. I especially missed being out on the trails. Oh, how I missed the trails.

My surgeon released me to run on November 26th and I may or may not have done a happy dance. His advice to me was to do what I was comfortable with. I had already talked to my oncologist about running and she encouraged me to run through chemotherapy. I decided I would start running again on Thanksgiving. It seemed like the proper day to restart running. I had a lot to be thankful for but I was most thankful I could finally lace up my running shoes again.

I didn’t do much that first run. I’d told myself I would take it easy and run walk for a mile or two depending on how it went. Well…I might have been a LITTLE bit excited and ended up running the whole first mile. Oops! But I did smarten up and run/walk the mile home. The pic above is from that run. Was it easy? No. Did things hurt? Yes. Mostly I was surprised at how tired I was. And maybe a little sad at how slow I was. But I was happy too.

I felt free again!

Just one run and already I felt lighter. And I felt relief. I felt like I was me again. It felt so good to be outside and moving and breathing fresh air. It was wonderful.

But oh, I had so much work to do. I was basically starting over. I’d only been out from running for 10 weeks but most of August and September was just 1 day streak savers (because I’m stubborn and hoped I could finish the year!). I had a long way to go to get back to where I was when I set my PRs. In some ways starting over is easier than starting from scratch because you know what to do. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.

In some ways, it’s harder though. Because I remember what it was like to run 20 milers. I remember what it was like to run sub 8 minute miles (fast for me). I remember how much fun marathons and half marathons and a so hard you want to puke 5K are. I’m impatient to be that runner again. I want to feel that strong and fast right now.

But I am ready to do the work. Bring it on!

The big problem is…what does that work look like? How do athletes with cancers train? Should they train while battling cancer? That is the 24 bazillion dollar question…

Running With Cancer Part 2: The Moderate Runner

Posted in RunningComments (0)



Run It Fast on Twitter

twitter button free

Archives