Monday, September 17, 2012

10 {Running} Questions

Dimity of Another Mother Runner tagged me to answer these fun 10 questions. I'd love to read yours too! If you choose to post it on your blog, please link it back to me so I can see it and also link up to Dimity's here.

1. Best run ever: It's a toss up between the two 13.1 races I did this year. I PR'ed at the Historic Half by over 10 minutes and had a fantastic running partner along the way. But in Annapolis I proved to myself that even with cancer I can make my body do some pretty amazing things. And I got to run with Dimity, and that. was. freaking. awesome.

2. Three words that describe my running: Adjust as needed!

3. My go-to running outfit is: Hmmm, that's tricky. I love my Sole Sister tank for steamy days...so soft and a nice wick to it...but my Nike shirt I got from a rep is great for warm days. That one has a flat neck seam which is perfect for my neck issues. I have to say my Saucony Ignite shorts are my fav. They are very comfy and make me feel fast. And there are no weird seams to get in the way of my water belt, which I always have. And even though I have several running hats and visors my Sweaty Bands Badass Mother Runner visor is my favorite.

4. Quirky habit while running: If the plan says 8 miles, I do 8 miles. Not 8.01 not 7.99. The Garmin has to be stopped on the exact distance. I have been known to run circles around my car to get it right.

5. Morning, midday, evening: Morning for sure. If I could get up early everyday to run that would make my day. But that would mean getting up early, like 4 am, which isn't happening unless the house is on fire. I settle for after the big kids are off to school and it's me and the littlest monkey.

6. I won’t run outside when it’s: Very hot and humid. I love running, but not enough to have a heat stroke! And I don't think there's enough water in the world to keep my mouth moist in that weather.

7. Worst injury—and how I got over it: Current injury, which I'm not over yet. It might be a stress fracture, still don't know. And I also have some plantar faciitis. Since being issued my DNR (do not run), I have been adjusting my goals and workouts as news comes in from MRIs and my ortho. I've been doing lots of swimming, non-impact cross training, stretching, and biking...and rest. Which is the hardest. But recovery is a process that you can't rush. Or something like that...I'll feel better about it once this is over.

8. I felt most like a badass mother runner when: See the answer to #1. Or when I run hills with the stroller. Or when I run hills. Or when I run without the stroller. Heck, if I'm running I feel badass because that means I was able to carve out some time for me!

9. Next race is: Nike Women's Half-Marathon on October 14th! I planned to completely rock the hills but now I will be very happy to walk the whole thing without pain.

10. Potential running goal for 2013: I'd really like to be injury free so I can PR the Historic Half again. There are a handful of other 13.1s I'd like to do but I think I'll take next year a little slower. Maybe I'll do a triathlon instead.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ortho

Today was my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. I was halfway expecting to go in there and him to say that the only way to deal with the tear was surgery, but he didn't! Since it's not bothering me and I have no pain, he doesn't want to mess with it. Fine with me! But if it does start bothering me later then I will probably need surgery. I was very relived to hear that surgery isn't in my immediate future. A year without surgery is a good year in my house!

Since I have no pain or distinct injury, he was kind of confused how we found this. I explained about the possible stress fracture that lead to the MRI of my knee which lead to finding the tear. He did an x-ray to see if he could see something since the MRI was not of that area of my leg. There is a small area of inflammation but nothing else. He can't rule out a stress fracture and gave me the option to do physical therapy and low impact cardio for a couple weeks to see if it improves or to do another MRI now. Which I wouldn't be able to schedule until next week and it may take a week to get it done.

So I am going the PT and low impact cardio route, which is basically what I have been doing. If it doesn't get better in two or three weeks then I'll be sent for another MRI. But honestly, after the last couple weeks of sporadic to no running that tender spot has improved. It doesn't hurt when I walk and you have to kind of dig around to find the tender area. So I am thinking a few more weeks of no running...as much as it kills me not to run...will probably be a good thing. And while I was in with the ortho I mentioned my plantar faciitis and he decided to have me do some PT for that too. Good, I'll just get my whole leg fixed!

I asked if it was too optimistic of me to expect to be able to at least walk the Nike Women's Half Marathon on October 14th. The doctor said there was no doubt that cardio-wise I'd be fine, we just need to make sure I won't damage my leg doing it. He didn't give me a definite yes and seemed to want to answer that question when I see him after a couple weeks of PT. I can live with that.

While I am still bummed that I can't lace up my new Brooks yet (got them the day before the no running order and they are so pretty! And yes, I did just describe my running shoes as pretty!), I am thrilled that I can get back to the rest of my normal workout routine.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ouch, sort of

I've had a pain in my left upper shin for about 6 weeks now, maybe longer. It's much worse after running and when I've taken a few days off (either on purpose or because of travel/doctor's orders/life) the pain has lessened. But it's in one distinct spot. A few weeks ago I decided to get it checked out just to stay on top of things. My primary doctor thought it was likely a stress fracture and wanted to do an MRI to confirm. He wanted to me stop running for a week, so I agreed to cut my distance until it was confirmed. I'm usually good at following doctor's orders but the pain wasn't that bad. He didn't disagree but I think realized that I'd run even if he told me otherwise.

Turned out I only ran twice in between that appointment and the MRI because of travel to Michigan again. When the MRI was done my entire lower leg wasn't imaged, only my knee. Which was frustrating but turned out to be a good thing since I have a tear in my left medial meniscus.

Ummm, what?! 

I am really on no running orders now. I have no pain and can't remember a knee injury...except for a few days in San Diego years ago that one of my knees bothered me, but I can't even be sure it was my left one. I see ortho Friday to find out what can be done. So I've been biking which is turning out to be a pain in the rear, literally. I need to get some better bike shorts if I have to keep this up!

And that possible stress fracture? Still don't know for sure, but my primary doc is pretty convinced that it is in fact a stress fracture resulting from my jacked up meniscus. Wonderful.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

32,905

When we traveled to Michigan a few weeks ago, I suspected it would be the last time I would see my Grandpa. He was diagnosed with leukemia last year and lung cancer earlier this year. And he recently celebrated his 90th birthday. I knew his time on earth was ending, but I didn't realize it would be so soon. We made another trip to Michigan last week after learning that Grandpa was not responding to medication for high blood pressure and antibiotics for pneumonia. Did I mention he also had part of his lung removed and was going through chemo? Grandpa is one tough cookie, but the multiple ailments proved to be too much for his body. Grandpa peacefully left this earth on August 1st. He lived for 32,905 days.

July 14th - the last time Grandpa would go fishing.
Taken at Grandpa's pond he built himself.

The sadness is overwhelming to say the least. Having some one close to you die is hard, but for me knowing that it was cancer that lead to all of this makes me scared. Even though our cancers are different, it still shakes me to my core. It reminds me once again how fragile life is and how devastating cancer can be. That I could be taken from my family in a moment.

Today is the 12,411th day of my life, just over a third of Grandpa's days. I have many more days to go and will not live them in fear.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Michigan

Here, Grandpa-Grandpa, eat this!

I spent a little over a week in Michigan visiting various parts of our family. We first spent some time with Ian's family on Lake Michigan and then traveled eat to see bits of my family. We stopped for the day at the Grandpa's farm and had a BLAST. The boys got to go fishing and experience many of the things I loved about visiting there when I was a kid. There are no longer pigs, corn bins, and fields of corn but there was still plenty of exploring and mischief to get into.

I am still sorting through the pictures of our trip (I am always so slow about doing this) but I had to share my favorite! I couldn't have gotten a better picture if I tried!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Won't Back Down

Check out this video...taken by Dimity while running ZOOMA Annapolis! Thank you, Dimity, for sharing my story so elegantly and reminding me that I am one strong, badass mother runner!



Monday, June 04, 2012

13.1 + 13.1 = Awesome

The last two weeks have been busy for me. Besides getting my head in the game for my Johns Hopkins appointment and wrangling boys through the end of the school year, I also tacked 13.1 miles. Twice. Not exactly the best plan I've ever made, I do not recommend running two half marathons so close together, but it was awesome!

The first half I took on was the Marine Corps Historic Half on May 20th. I ran this one last year and had a good time. This year I LOVED it! I just had fun and felt very strong nearly the entire race. I PR'ed (or PBR'ed - personal best race - as my brother, the beer lover, would say) with a 2:29 and was thrilled to get in under my goal time.


Homestretch of the Marine Corps Historic Half

My dear friend Jody and I trained for this race together. She is faster than me but we trudged through our training runs side by side with strollers and kids. Jody, one badass mother runner, too had an awesome race, cruising through the finish at 2:03. a couple minutes short of her time goal, but awesome nonetheless. I mean, who pushes a stroller for 8 miles up and down hills and will runner slower just to hang with her friend? Only a badass mother runner!

It was during the training for the Historic Half that I learned my thyroid cancer had returned after a 6 year hiatus. Boo. Jody spent many miles listening to my fears, concerns, and giving voice to my irrational thoughts. One of those irrational thoughts was to sign up for another half. Not usually a bad idea, but doing it 13 days after the Historic Half? Why the hell not!


Two happy BAMRs - Historic Half- I do love the port-a-potty scenery
 


The next 13.1 I took on was the ZOOMA Annapolis Half on June 2nd. (Jody was smart and took on the 10k.) I wanted to do this particular race because the authors of my favorite running book (Run Life a Mother) were going to be there. For the 13 days in between the races, I wondered whether running both so close together was such a good idea. I PR'ed (or PBR'ed - personal best race - as my brother says) at the HH and thought I probably could PR again since Annapolis is a less strenuous course. Sure it has lots of rolling hills, but those were easy gentle hills compared to what I'd run on May 20th. I'd settled on getting in at 2:30 or better, but ultimately I wanted to prove to myself that even if I have cancer I could tackle it.

Jody and I drove up to Annapolis the day before so we could get our bibs and visit the expo...and meet Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. We brought our books for them to sign and while they were signing them I threw out the idea of one and/or both of them hitting the pavement with me. At first it was a no, then a let me think about it. I then threw out my cancer card, I was willing to use all my tricks!

Dimity accepted with a condition of taking some video and being able to write a blog about my story. I was delighted that not only would she be accompanying me on the course (without properly training, but that's the kind of BAMR Dimity is!) but she felt my story was worth putting out there.


Dimity bringing me home at ZOOMA Annapolis Half

I could go on about how great it was to have a cheerleader every step of the way and how easy conversation came with my new friend, but you really should hop over and read what Dimity wrote at Another Mother Runner. I am very touched and humbled by her thoughts and the comments left by others. If I am able to encourage even one Survivor to get up, get moving, and be strong then the all pain and soreness I felt after the second race was worth it!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Watchful Waiting

On May 31st, I had my much awaited appointment at Johns Hopkins. It was crazy driving to and from Baltimore, a 2 hour drive took at least 3 and a half hours. I was very thankful to have Ian with me to drive and be a note taker. Not to mention the support he gives just by being there! He has missed other appointments in the past because of deployments and I am grateful when ever he is able to be with me.

As soon as Dr. Ball walked in, I knew I liked him. He then took the time to go over my thyroid cancer history. And not just a brief overview, really get into the meat of it (thumbs up for tackling that!). It took over half an hour to get through my entire history and Dr. Ball not only looked at my copy of my medical file but also listened to what I said (thumbs up for understanding that I know my disease!). As we talked, Dr. Ball talked to me as an intelligent and educated woman (thumbs up!). I have never liked when doctors use all the simple terms with me, I want to know exactly what is up and how to talk about it. Having this doc treat me as a valued member of my care sealed the deal that he is the guy for me.

So the news I got was not fantastic, but it wasn't bad. We are in a "watchful waiting" mode. I'm in a gray area with my thyroid cancer right now. My Tg (tumor marker) isn't high enough to indicate there is bulk disease but there is in fact disease that just can't be found yet. So there isn't any treatment to be done at this time. You can't do surgery if you don't know what to take out and doing chemotherapy isn't an option right now. If my Tg continues to rise, oral chemo will be an option, but that may be years down the road.

Radioactive iodine, the treatment I've had in the past, is not a good option either.There are signs that my disease has become RAI resistant. I also had 3 stout doses of RAI so there's a good chance it won't work anyway. I have to admit that I am not sad that this choice is out...my experience with RAI was not pleasant.

I had a very thorough ultrasound done on my neck, about 45 minutes of pictures. We will likely do an FNA (biopsy) of at least one lymph node but both Dr. Ball and I suspect that it will come back clean. Better to be safe than sorry.

I also learn that I had extranodal extension (spread outside the lymph nodes) with my original tumor and lymph nodes in subsequent surgeries. Because of this it is much more likely that I will have nodes pop up with disease in the future. I will be having regular testing done to watch for this using CT and/or PET scans, maybe once a year. I will likely have ultrasounds through in there as well. My Tg will be monitored through blood work, with and without Thyrogen a couple times a year. It's a good thing that this cancer is slow growing but it's also frustrating! You have to wait for it to make it's move but the waiting could be years...for a girl who isn't so patient this is not a great place.

So that's where we are at. Watchful waiting. And while I'm not thrilled with the idea of more waiting, I have a plan in place and that is exactly what I need. To know that I am being cared for by an excellent physician who is committed to my health.

And the best part is that watchful waiting doesn't interfere with my life or running!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Truth of Reality

Since I learned of my thyroid cancer recurrence, I have been struggling with the reality of it. I was going through my normal scan-xiety because of the testing but I never really thought it would come back. Cancer wasn't on my to do list for the week, year, or even decade...I have kids to raise, a husband to spend time with, floors to clean, laundry to wash, meals to cook, and friends to drink run with!

Like any life altering experience, it always helps to connect with others who have been through it. In 2006, at the LIVESTRONG Summit in Austin, Texas, I met 3 lovely ladies who are also ThyCa Survivors. I was thrilled to not only meet other cut-throats, but young cut-throats at that! It was comforting to know that there were others in my crap filled boat too. I have been chatting with them over Facebook and email, and my friend Jenn, who is a 11 year Survivor, wrote to me:
In this crazy cancer roller coaster my story or my truth is the only thing I have control over, so I do my best at all times to have both feet in reality. That's what brings me comfort, even if it's the fact that I'm not cured.
And that's what I have been trying to do. Get both of my feet into THIS reality, even if it's not one I want to be in. It's MY story and MY truth that the cancer is back. When I was first diagnosed, I found strength (and thus comfort) in learning everything I could about this disease. It wasn't always pretty, but I finally managed back then to get both feet in reality.

So now, even though I didn't get the answers I wanted about my tests, I do want to embrace my truth. My body may never be free of this disease but I will still have a long, productive, joyful, active life. And no matter what Jack Nicholson says, I can handle the truth...because I am a Survivor.

Monday, April 09, 2012

9 years of Surviving

9 years ago today I learned to fight. Then came the realization over the following months that I was stronger than I ever thought.

I was told many helpful things, "this will not be the demise of you" or "it's a very treatable cancer." Good phrases meant to boost your recently dashed hopes. But no one could have prepared me for the number of surgeries that lay ahead. For the grief that would at times feel suffocating. For the isolation that comes with having cancer. For the anger that overpowers your life.

Source
I was blindsided by the diagnosis and then the slew of emotions that followed. It took me months, if not over a year, to be able to truly comprehend how my life had changed. I had all those crazy emotions, but I also learned to enjoy life. To take time to drink my coffee on the porch. To sit back and watch my kids dig in the dirt. To savor a quiet moment with my husband. To let the dishes sit while I take a much needed nap. I also learned to speak up for myself and get involved in my care. To find a new doctor if the current one isn't cutting it. To call as many times as you need until you get answers or copies of your reports.


And now as I am going through many of these emotions again, I am trying to remind myself of what I learned 9 years ago. Much of what I faced was quite difficult but there was some good that came from it as well. And I have to remember that.


9 years ago today I became a Survivor.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And now we wait...

There are times when Tricare, the military's health insurance, drives me absolutely insane. With the plan that we have (Prime) we have to get referrals to see specialists. That used to not be a big deal, and then I had cancer...once, then again, and now again. And kids who need specialists. It can get to be a handful keeping the expiration dates straight. But there are other times when I sing their praises because they have authorized me to see an out-of-network doctor, or they helped take care of a claim, or the fact that we have had to pay very little for any of my surgeries, treatments, or appointments (travel costs are not our responsibility).

Tricare has come through for me once again. Not only did they approve for me to go to Johns Hopkins, but they did it in lightening speed! I found out Monday it was approved and had to wait for the authorization information to be received by Johns Hopkins to make my appointment.

I was finally able to get an appointment set with one of the top endocrinologists in the field on May 31st. I was a little disappointment it isn't sooner but there is a waiting list so I may be able to get in earlier. Although with Ian going along it's almost better for it not to get moved, less juggling for him at work.

So now that is set and we wait...and wait. Not my favorite part of anything...but I know I'll be seeing a fantastic doctor.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Telling the Boys

Last Friday night as we finished getting the older boys ready for bed, we told them about what has been going on with me. I knew they both knew something was up...they are observant 7 and 5 year olds and kids in general have a radar about their parents feelings. We've had this conversation with them before with my previous experiences with cancer, so in some ways it was easier, but I still didn't want to break their sweet little hearts. Yeah we could have waited longer to tell them, but as I mentioned they are observant. I wasn't exactly being a perky mom and they could tell I was sad. I wanted to be honest with them and have them feel comfortable talking to us if they noticed I was sad or when they are sad.

When we talk to the boys about cancer, there are a few things I like to do (and these are just things that I have learned over the last almost 9 years, I'm not a child psychologist!):
1. Use the word cancer and not sick. The "c-word" may sound very scary to adults, but most children don't have that same frame of reference. If you tell them that the Survivor is "sick" they can make the connection to themselves being sick with a cold...and it's not the same thing. And to me, if you use one set of words to talk to the kids and another to talk to others, they may feel like there is something more serious going on and you are hiding something.

2. Use simple, age-appropriate terms. When the boys were 3 and 5, telling them I had cancer in my tummy instead of cervical cancer made more sense to them. And when I had surgery, we told them I'd get medicine to help me sleep, so the doctors could removed the cancer, the stuff that doesn't belong, from my body. We bring the disease down to their level. This time we have explained that the special tests are having a hard time finding the cancer, but the doctors will keep looking until they find it. No reason to go into detail about CTs, MRIs, PETs, etc; they'll just be letters they don't understand!

3. Explain there are different types of cancer. Cancer can be scary and people can die, but more and more people are living WITH cancer every day. And that's a more positive aspect of my type of thyroid cancer. We happen to know several people with cancer and we all get different kinds of treatments with different side effects. I think it's good for my boys to understand this so they can be reassured that I'll be around for a long time to remind them to clean their rooms.

4. Help them understand they can't catch it. Parents constantly remind their children to wash their hands so they don't get sick, spread germs, catch a cold. And in a child's mind cancer may fall right into this same category. What child doesn't want to be reminded that their mom can still hug and kiss them with spread disease?!

5. Be honest when they ask questions. I love to joke around with my boys, but I make sure they know that when they ask a question about cancer, they will get the truth. No matter what they ask me about cancer, I will answer them. Because as serious and as scary as this diagnosis is, they do need to know what will happen. And I feel that if they are getting answers, they will keep coming to us and not ever feel worried that they don't know the truth.

So once we explained that the thyroid cancer was back and it's very small so it's hard to find, Jack and Sam started plotting. They came up with a plan on how to find the cancer ("X-rays! All the way to the bone!" says Sam) and then go in and scoop it out (I'm imagining ice cream scoops here). I am certain they would tell my doctors the plan if given the chance. When I told them that my doctors have a very similar plan, they were THRILLED that they are as smart as my doctors!

Maybe I won't have to go all the way to Johns Hopkins, I have my own little team of doctors right here!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sometimes it's okay to be okay

This week has felt so long for me. Waiting for Wednesday's tests and then waiting Thursday for results. My phone was at my side at all times...I didn't even shower in fear of missing THE phone call. Cancer makes you do crazy things.

So here's what I learned:

The CT of the neck and chest both came back normal. The ultrasound of my neck, however, showed one lymph node that increased in size from 2.0 cm to 2.4 cm since February 2011. Not a huge change but a bit concerning and with the rise in Tg makes it suspicious. I was given three options: wait and see, biopsy the node, or surgery.
I decided on a fourth option...go to a thyroid cancer expert.

When I asked her about that, she was less than thrilled. She is a general endocrinologist and I need someone who does thyroids day in and day out. Who knows more about the disease than I do. I want some one who knows what to do, not give me three options even she isn't sure about. So as long as my insurance okays the referral, I'll be going to Johns Hopkins.

This recurrence doesn't change my prognosis...it's still a pretty normal life expectancy. And I actually do feel better knowing there really isn't a big honking tumor in there. Even though my Tg is a bit elevated, this is likely microscopic disease and there really isn't much to be done right now. So overall it's okay news. And amazingly I am okay with that.

But now I am back to living with cancer. And that part isn't okay.

Good thing I just got a new pair of running shoes, they are going to be logging lots of miles.
Brooks Trance 11 - my new shoes!