Running – faith, trust and pixie dust

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I really did have the earnest intention to blog while on vacation, but well… I was on vacation. Played hard in Disney World with Rich, Riley and some awesome friends for 4 1/2 lovely days and barely touched my iPad. And I’m not sad about that. But I’m having surgery in a few days, and I haven’t really said much about that (probably because I haven’t thought much about it), so I need to bring you all up to speed before I head into a drug-induced la-la land for a bit.

But first, Disney…

We went for the marathon weekend – planned before my hip figuratively went south, of course. Tessa was originally going to be with us too, but she ended up having a dance competition and stayed back with our good friend Christine. Saturday, four members of our group and I ran the half marathon. And yes, as you can see from the picture, I ran in a Minnie Mouse costume. I’ve actually run the half marathon and full marathon (called the Goofy Challenge when you do both) several times, and I’ve been Minnie every time. It might not be very aerodynamic (seriously, those ears are not good in a headwind), but it’s cute, and when in Disney you should always err on the side of cute. It’s Disney World, for crying out loud. Going into the whole deal, I had no idea what to expect from my body, since generally it is considered good preparation to actually run a bit before you race, and I had done next to nothing. One five mile run in the fall after my running embargo was lifted, and it hurt a lot so I didn’t do it again. I had full permission from my orthopedist to run this, so I wasn’t doing anything naughty, but this was a total unknown. I did know one thing, however: it could be my last race. I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to run after the hip replacement. So I decided that I would complete it, even if I had to walk the whole thing, even if I had to drag myself across the finish line with my lips.

It did sound a little crazy, especially when I heard other people say it. As we waited in the staging area before the race, someone asked me my goal time and I think I answered vaguely that I wasn’t sure. “She’s having her hip replaced on Thursday,” Rich explained. All around us eyes widened and eyebrows shot up, with varying expressions of awe, horror and oh-my-gosh-you-are-the-dumbest-person-ever. Yes, it sounded totally nuts.

But oh man, it was so fun. Turned out I ran just fine. Maybe my body just remembered how to run, maybe the euphoria of running a race again and doing it in freakin’ Disney World masked the discomfort. Maybe I’d found some pixie dust, who knows. But for 13.1 wonderful miles, I felt my feet against the pavement, the rhythmic swinging of my arms, the wind in my hair (and pushing against my very cute mouse ears, ugh). I heard the happy chatter of runners around me, the thump of music playing along the course and the at times deafening cheers of spectators. All around me was pure joy. Ok, a little suffering too, but mostly joy. And I loved every second. As the finish line loomed ahead I tried to look around and see everything, to take it in and memorize it all. Just in case.

As wonderful as it felt to run, walking afterwards was a different story, as it was then that my lack of training made itself known. My hip felt fine, but every muscle in my body angrily screamed curse words at me with each step. So, even though I was signed up for the full marathon the next day, I caved to my potty-mouthed muscles and skipped it. Not an easy choice, because it would have been marathon number 30 for me (I do love nice, tidy numbers), and the medal for doing both races was especially cool this year, but my John Wayne-esque walk was pretty solid evidence that it was a bad idea. And I’m so glad I passed on it, because it meant I had a prime spot at the finish line to witness my son finishing his very first marathon. It is so cool to see your kids come to love things you love. And pretty special that as I was potentially wrapping up my distance running years, he was starting his.

Ok so talking about the trip took longer than I planned. Tell you what – I’ll hit you with the nitty gritty on the upcoming surgery in my next post, is that cool? I know you’re all just dying to know all about it. I mean, what is more fascinating than a hip revision? Sexy stuff, I tell you. I won’t leave you hanging.

Until then, one final thought: birthdays. It’s my birthday today, and in Disney World they give you birthday buttons to wear around, so every cast member wishes you a happy birthday. It’s fun. I was, however, starting to bristle just a bit after the third or fourth cast member chirped cheerfully, “Happy birthday, ma’am!” Wait – “Ma’am??” Am I really that old? When did I become a ma’am?! But just as I started to look around for a cane to smack the next whippersnapper that tried that business with me, I was reminded of the revelation I had on my birthday last year: getting older is something not everyone gets to do. As someone with cancer I know full well how precious birthdays are. And more birthdays mean more wrinkles, more gray hair and yes, more “ma’am”. And that’s not only ok, it’s a good thing. A great thing.

I get to have another birthday today. So if you’ll excuse me, I have some celebrating to do…

A fan of Ann, some gratitude journalling and in praise of birthdays

Hi! Sorry it’s been a little while since the last entry, but 1, not much has been happening on the battlefront and 2, looking at a computer gives me a headache.

First off, let me say that my eye looks a LOT better this week. As one friend exclaimed upon seeing me, “Jen! You look normal!” Thank you. I don’t know that I’ve ever been called normal, so that’s cool. It’s still very obvious to look at me that there is something funky with my eye. It’s puffy, the lid is droopy and my eyeball is red (but not demon-like red like before, so I’ll call that progress). No, not quite normal, but much better, so I’ll take it. I was allowed to stop using the dilating drops on Monday, and those suckers burn going in, so it’s been nice to ditch that. It still took a few days to lose the startled lemur look in that eye, but now I think it’s looking better. As for the headaches, I’ve had some doozies this week, probably adjusting to the lack of dilation in the eye (maybe? Just a guess). I have had some double vision, but nothing too severe so far. And for whatever reason, looking at a computer screen gives me major eyestrain and headaches, but my iPad, phone, books and magazines aren’t nearly as hard to look at. Go figure.

I’m scheduled for my followup at Mayo on the 20th of this month. Apparently this was a tricky thing to get scheduled because my oncologist is only in the office for two days this month and those days just happen to fall during a trip I’m taking with Rich at the end of the month. Seriously, I will be gone for two business days, that’s it, but those are the days the doctor could see me. So, I’m seeing Dr. Chen, who is… I don’t know his exact title, so I don’t want to offend… Assistant? Associate? Fellow? Right hand dude? Whatever, I’ve met him and I like him, and he’s the one who did my second surgery since my main guy had scooted off to Miami by then. He’s totally competent I’m sure, but I’m still a little disappointed I won’t be seeing Dr. Pulido. Of course, I’m hoping there will be no complications and it’ll be a quick visit, so it probably won’t matter who I see.

So that’s the info for this week. As always, you can stop reading now if you were just checking on how things are progressing and all the other “newsworthy” type stuff. This is the part where I ramble about things, and if you don’t want to read it, I’m not hurt. Really, it’s cool that you were checking in on me. I appreciate it!

And now for some rambling…

Kind of a silly thing, really – I changed what side I part my hair on. I know, I know, this is not a big deal. People do it all the time, but I have parted my hair on the same side ever since the 80’s when I dutifully parted it in the middle (more height). But as I was walking into the salon to get my hair cut last week, the wind blew a big chunk of hair over my good eye and I couldn’t see. It was a little startling, really. But it got me thinking – if I’m going to lose even more sight in my bad eye, then I should really give my good eye as much of an unobstructed view of the world as I can. I walked into the salon and told my hair stylist, “I think we need to change what side I part my hair on.” She of course did not think this is a big deal. Because let’s be honest – it’s not. However, retraining my hair to go in the totally opposite direction this week has been tedious. I am constantly moving hair out of my face in a frustrated huff because the hair really wants to be aimed a different way. And I think, “Darn you, cancer. You made me change my part.”

Fine. Cancer 1, Jen 0. But I’m getting one back tomorrow – tomorrow we are holding auditions for “Godspell,” which I am directing. I am super excited to do this show. I’ve choreographed it twice, but never directed, and I can’t wait. So take that, cancer. I’m doing what I love anyway, and you can’t stop me.

You know what else I’m excited about? My health insurance. Nope, that’s not a typo, or even a double vision induced goof. It’s totally true, but really, when do you ever hear a cancer patient say that? Not a lot I figured, which is why I’m giving a little shout out to Health Partners and especially an extremely sweet, hard working woman there named Ann. She is working her tail off to get all of my Mayo bills covered, and I know this is not how things normally go. Usually it’s the patient making all the phone calls, dealing with all the jerks and the red tape, fighting every denied claim and having to advocate for themselves when no one else will. But I don’t have to, because I have Ann. She does that for me, which is such a relief. Because I have other important things to concentrate on. Like changing how I part my hair.

And really, I just have to say that with the exception of my diagnosis, things have gone extremely well for us. I’m not trying to be glib or anything – don’t get me wrong, getting cancer stinks. It’s awful and painful and scary, but we have been blessed in that we haven’t had to deal with anything else on top of that. Our health insurance is great, our friends, family and faith community have been amazing, the kids’ teachers have been incredibly understanding and gracious and Rich’s company has been so supportive it makes me cry. When Rich traveled for business this week, friends helped with grocery shopping, laundry bin hauling and dog walking (in frigid temps – thanks Jeannine!). Yes, cancer has been a tough thing to deal with, but there has been nothing compounding it, and I am acutely aware of what a rare thing that is.

Ok, I was going to write more, but my computer time is limited with my eyesight right now – I’ve already left and come back a few times, so I’m going to wrap things up. One final thought though…

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I just have to say that it’s really amazing what having cancer does to your perspective on aging. It wasn’t long ago that I had a very negative attitude toward getting older – it was something to resist, to mourn, to dread even. Now, I think aging is great. Getting older is a goal, something to be celebrated. After all, it’s a privilege that is not afforded to everyone. Tomorrow, I get to turn 43. I was previously thoroughly unenthused about this, but it’s odd how the threat of not having birthdays anymore can make you appreciate them. Even the weird, odd numbered ones that are so meaningless that you sometimes have to do the math to figure out how old you are. Even those ones.

I get to have another birthday tomorrow. And that is very, very cool.