April 2008

Gibtown Runner recently had a post on Why Do I Feel This Need to Blog? and tonight I think I can echo his thoughts. Some days are just, well, there, and you find it hard to get motivated to get out there.  Maybe for me it’s because it’s been cold, rainy and raw out here in the Boston area for the last few days, and well, my running shoes are (ahem) not really water repellant to say the least. And the thought of running on a treadmill just makes me want to go to sleep. Not that I’d have a chance of getting on one, when literally, every one in the gym seems to be taken on these types of days, but who can blame them?  Hey, no one else wants to be out in this crap either!  So I did a lot of the “Escalator to nowhere”/”stairmaster of death” (which, I’ve read, can be considered hill work, thankfully) and the stationary bike.  But, enough of that boring stuff.

If you need some positive inspiration to get out of bed in the morning, or to feel grateful for the little things, take a look at the page that Tim Morris’ friends put together for him after his accident last summer.   He was one of the personal trainers at my gym until last summer (I hear that they are holding his job open), and who is trying to get back to being able to walk.  Originally, the website was written primarily by his older sister, Chris, who you can tell just adores him.  Reading the posts written by Tim now, it’s just amazing the changes he’s made in the last 8-9 months.  This guy’s achievements definitely show you that the adage “mind over matter” can really mean something! It gives me hope and motivation, and I hope it does the same for you.


At first, I was worried I couldn’t get my page to work, but I am happy to say that I did after all, through the use of that nifty device, TinyURL. If you have a long URL, go to TinyURL.com, throw in your long URL, and then you’ll get the nice, shortened version that will still take everyone to your page. Awesome!

You can get to my fundraising page, by clicking here, or by clicking on the link on the right hand side of my blog, under the category of “My Fundraising.”

As I say on my fundraising page, any donation, no matter the amount will be greatly appreciated by me. You’ll get an online confirmation that you can use for your tax records, and if you give me your mailing address, I will send you a personal thank you. Imagine that, an actual letter in your mailbox, rather than just bills and junk mail! (Too bad that letter writing has gone out of style.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support!

My workout last night was nothing special – it had poured rain all day so I decided “what a good day to cross-train and lift weights!” 🙂 Too bad everyone else had the same bright idea, so my gym was quite crowded. So rather than bore you with those details, I’ll tell you about my friend Cheryl and her battle with cancer a few years ago.

When I first met Cheryl in 2001, she was actually my boss. I liked her instantly – when she called to set up the interview, she saw no point in delaying our meeting, knowing that I was being laid off. She said “how about today” in response to my asking when she wanted to come by. She was the VP of HR for a high-tech company.

My first day of work, she basically came out and said, “I have cancer.” Not knowing yet exactly how to react, I didn’t pry as to exactly what kind, but later found out it was breast cancer. She had a breast removed and started chemo right away, as some of it had already spread to her lymph nodes. She was a morning person, so whenever she had to get chemo, she scheduled it for a Friday, around noon, and then made sure she was in the office by about 4 or 4:30 a.m. (Yes, that’s right, she was already in the office at that time.)

We thought she’d caught it in time. We both ended being laid off in December of that year due to a company reorganization. I must say the company was quite good about her situation, as they made sure her medical insurance would still be covered for at least the following year. For the next nine months, she seemed to be getting healthier, at least on the outside if you didn’t know any better. She worked out A LOT and another former boss of mine, who’s in executive search, had met with her about some job prospects. Over lunch one day, he asked me “Did you say she had cancer? She looked amazing!” That’s how good she looked.

While she was looking better, she was also telling her doctors to check out her neck, as she just felt that something wasn’t right. Turns out she was correct. After about 8 months of testing, and testing, and testing, with nothing showing up, they did some test that showed she had stage 4 liver cancer. I think at that point, they gave her 2 years to live. She was 34 at that point, if my memory serves me correctly.

During the next two years, it seemed to me that her cancer was pretty much spreading everywhere. About 10 months before she died, it had gone to her brain. She tried the pill type of chemo, only to find it made her so nauseous she would throw up for hours until she passed out. The only other alternative that they gave her was to basically put her in the hospital and put her in a type of coma to administer the chemo. Imagine, you have to be put into a coma so that your body can handle its medicine. (I thought of her when I read that Sean Swarner book, Keep Climbing.)

During Cheryl’s last summer, I made an effort to go to most, if not all, of Cheryl’s chemo appointments with her. I would drive down to her house, about 50 miles away, and then take her back to her chemo treatments, then drive her home, hang out with her kids, and then drive home. I spent a lot of time in my car those days. She asked me once why I was doing it, and I just said, “I want to spend time with you” and that was that. Some of her treatments lasted for 4 hours. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be her, sitting there for that long, just having that stuff pumped into my veins.

Toward the end, Cheryl slept most of the day. One of her friends said that if you put your hand against her neck, you could literally feel the tumors beneath the surface. I couldn’t bring myself to do that – that just sounded creepy to me. The nurses pretty much ground up her morpheine pills (she couldn’t take it through an IV for some reason without it causing problems), and fed them to her, sometimes in her sleep.

Cheryl was 36 when she died. She left behind a beautiful daughter and son. The little girl will have some good memories of her mom, but the little boy was quite young, and I don’t think he’ll have any memories of her when she was not sick.

I know Cheryl didn’t have leukemia, but she did have cancer, and many types. Cancer is a very UGLY disease. I couldn’t help her more when she was alive, so now she’s a big part of the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing now. It’s too bad that more of you couldn’t have met her – she was an awesome, amazing person that I feel very grateful to have had come into my life, even if it was for a short period of time.

Yep, that’s right. Me, the asthmatic iPod-wearing, solid middle-of-the-packer girl is going to run 26.2 miles if it kills me. It just might, but we’ll find that out for sure on October 6th. That’s because after going to an informational meeting with Team in Training yesterday, I decided to take the plunge and train for the Peak Performance Marathon in Portland, ME, to be held on October 5, 2008.

So here are some of the conversations I had with my family yesterday. Before I would commit to it, of course, I needed to talk to Bill. After all, he’s going to be the one being lonely on Saturday mornings while I’m out with the North Shore team, running for (what now feels like, an ungodly amount) four hours nonstop, as the race draws closer. He agreed if I was going to do this, that it made sense to do it and raise money for a good cause at the same time. My options were either the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, on October 19th, or the Maine event. Since I’ve never done this kind of fundraising before, we decided it was better for me to pick the event closer to home, with the lower fundraising goal.

I left a voicemail for Jamie – basically telling him I think I had temporarily gone insane, and could he call me back to welcome me into the Weirdo Club of people who run marathons. Of course, he did, and also said “I’ll support you every step of the way” which was like music to my ears.

I called my sister Annie, who was heading out for a much-deserved night with her lady friends, and when I said, “Annie, I think I lost a screw or bolt within my head today…” she responded, with a laugh, “don’t tell me YOU are going to run a marathon…Steven [her husband, and another marathoner] is going to love this!”

My mother just got the news. She’s asked me before, “why don’t you ever invite me to any of your races like Jamie does?” My answer has always been, “well, because they only last for about 30 minutes, Mom. At the most, about an hour [for me that’s a 10K].” So I told her, if you want to come and watch me in a race where you can actually see me more than once, in more than one place, come on and watch me in Portland, ME.” Her response, “well, alright, I can do that!” So yes, it might just be a family affair that day.

I think what made me change my mind was a few things.

  1. The coach at the meeting said that if I am already running 6 miles (that’s my long run, mind you) that I’m actually ahead of the game. Moi? I’ve never been ahead of anything in my entire life! They said it’s better off for me to train for a marathon and if I change my mind, go down to the half-marathon, rather than trying to switch it up halfway.
  2. Seeing Corey and Abi’s pictures really inspired me. I’ve asked Team in Training if I can be paired up with someone, and asked if possible, could I run for a kid. Although we’ve made leaps and bounds in medicine lately, there are still too many people who die from all types of cancer, leukemia and lymphoma included. Knowing someone else is depending on me will make me more motivated to keep on going, when otherwise i might just wimp out.
  3. I like the idea of training with a coach and a team of other runners, and the fact that it’s not competitive. I got enough of that in law school – I am not out to set records, just to set a goal and to achieve it. If I can do that and also help out someone else, then that’s what I will do. I also like the fact that they give you mentors. I already have Jamie as a mentor, having another person around locally sounds just like icing on the cake.
  4. Hearing stories of what other people had accomplished made me feel like anything is possible.
  5. Like I said, I think I lost a screw in my head. 🙂

Did I forget to add that they won’t let you wear iPods?! Bill has unselfishly volunteered to commandeer my Nano, take off all of my music, and put his on instead, as an act of “tough love.” Nice try, Bill…but think again!

So, look forward to seeing me promote my Team-In-Training fundraising website (hoping to get it done early this week), and to keeping you updated on my progress, both physically, mentally, and $-wise!

Last night I thought I might try to run on some flat paths near the Charles River. I got frustrated after not being able to find a parking space since I’m not a Cambridge resident and thus, don’t have their city sticker, so I gave up and started to drive toward South Border Road. Finally got there, even with Friday night traffic, and well, here’s the thing. I felt stronger overall than I did the last time. But I do feel like I need a little bit more mental confidence to get through that 4.1 miles without stopping to walk at all. I need to get to that point in my mind where, when I see a hill, I say, “so what” and just keep on going, without it mentally making me feel more tired.

Heading out this morning to the Team-In-Training informational meeting, and then I have to figure out whether I’m doing speed work or another  long run today. I’m reading John Bingam’s Marathoning for Mortals right now, and they say that if you miss a workout, it’s gone forever.  (He’s the guy that refers to himself as “The Penguin” in Runner’s World.)  Well, what if you can’t exactly follow a plan to the umpteenth detail? Not everyone can say that they have the exact same workout days available each week! Anyone out there have suggestions? I have to work the next two Sundays so I need to change my speedwork and long run days around, which will mean I’m doing long runs, then the speed work.  That is probably not the way you are supposed to do it, but what do you do in that situation?

By the way, this is good news… my little brother Jamie just volunteered to run a half-marathon with me!  You have to understand, this is a big deal, because it will be run by him so much slower than normal…that is a great idea! With him running next to me, I know I will want to keep on going, and going, and going! (yes, like the pink Energizer bunny)




I had to work the late shift tonight so I was unable to run again. Ordinarily, I would have tried to run in the morning but I had a couple of medical appointments to attend instead. I had a mammogram and an ultrasound done.

Don’t worry. Everything is just fine, as I thought. My doctor was just being cautious which is what I really like about her. Better safe than sorry.

The reason I’m even mentioning all of this is because I wanted to talk about a person I met in the waiting room. I found myself sitting next to a very pleasant lady who I could tell was nervous or tense about the exam. I told her that I was trying to not get all worked up about it since some people had told me it’s fine and others, not so much. I was choosing to not worry about it until I might have something to worry about. Anyway, to make a long story short, I am grateful I had some time to speak with this woman. It turns out, her son is in the Marines, and just received a promotion last week. That’s the good news. He is also being deployed to Iraq. She mentioned he has to go to California in the middle of May, where he’ll be for three months before heading over to Iraq. She said that she worries about him, of course, but that she accepts that he feels this is what he needs to do. His platoon has already gone over, but he didn’t go with them at the time. He was allowed to stay in the States because his father was diagnosed with Alzheimers, and then she had fallen ill. She told me that she can no longer drive because she suffers from seizures.

As this lady was talking to me, she was trying to put on a brave face and smile. Here was a lady that is slowly losing her husband, to what I think is one of the most cruelest diseases, both to the victim, and to the family. She’s worried about losing her son as well.  I said to her that she seemed to have the right attitude, and then I rephrased that and said, that “she seemed to have the best attitude she could have, under the circumstances.” She said that was absolutely right, that she was trying to have the best attitude possible.  We chatted a while longer and then they called my name, at which time I told her I had really enjoyed talking with her, and wished her good luck.

After I got called into my exam, I thought to myself, now that’s someone I’m glad to have met. There are many positive people in the world, and many not-so-positive ones.  I do remember being one of the latter, and am glad I am no longer that way.  I am finding more and more that those of us who exercise regularly seem to have more positive attitudes in the long run. I am going to think of her and send her good mental energy vibes on May 17th, when her son leaves for California, the first leg of his year-long deployment.

I certainly hope my fellow patient’s exam came out the way she wanted it to. She certainly deserves it.

As I started thinking about all the races I want to do this year (I figure it might be a good way to work in some speed workouts), I thought about all the things I wish for when I run a race.

  1. To finish.
  2. To not let myself walk.
  3. To catch up to that person who flies by me at the beginning, only to see them walking later on.  Then I try to blow by them, and keep on going.
  4. To not be beaten by someone running with their dog, especially if it’s a small one.
  5. To not be passed by someone wearing a costume, because well, it’s just embarrassing (although I should just realize that those people are usually in awesome shape, otherwise how would they not be afraid to run a race in such a get-up?)
  6. To not be passed by someone pushing a baby stroller. Yes, this is something I have still not accomplished.  When I do that 3 mile race in Newton every fall, Paddy’s Road Race, I generally do get passed by a stroller. Usually they beat me. By at least 5 minutes. 😦
  7. To get stronger and faster every time.
  8. To not let any hills defeat me.

I can’t come up with a 9 and 10 (sorry, I’m not a writer for David Letterman) because honestly other than these thoughts and the iPod there’s not a whole lot of time to think about anything else!

Yeah…it’s been a slow night for me, blog post-wise. I’m trying to entertain myself while my husband watches the Celtics (who are finally good this year) demolish Atlanta.

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