Thursday, July 26, 2018

Tri for a Cure Triathlon

Hey, ho, been a long time since I've been here...

I'm still alive, just not doing much.  Still cancer free, still taking tamoxifen, still running.

Last winter, I was all gung ho about being a survivor when the registration lottery for the Tri for a Cure came out.  I signed up and thought I probably wouldn't get in.

But then I did.  So, of course, I thought it would be a great idea to do the race as a survivor.

Um, yeah.  About that.

Fast forward 6 months to when it's time to actually do the triathlon.  I did very little training for this race.  And by very little, I mean none.  I swam exactly one time in February and that was in the pool. I also biked exactly one time and that was 2 weeks ago.  So yeah, I was really at my best for this race.

Each participant is required to raise $500 to donate to the Maine Cancer Foundation.  I was able to raise $1850 because I have awesome friends and family that generously donated to my fundraising page!  Thank you so much to all of you!

The Tri for a Cure is a sprint tri so I wasn't too worried about my lack of training.  I mean, I'm in reasonable shape and I've been running and lifting regularly so I knew I could do it and finish it, so I didn't really stress too much about not doing any swimming or biking.  Well,,, the swimming part was giving me some stress, but I figured I could just back stroke my way through it if I had to.

One week prior to the race I started looking at the weather forecast.  We had been having sunny and 70* days with low humidity all week, but the day of the race looked to be the start of a rainy, crappy week.  Fabulous.

Of course, the forecast held true and Saturday (the day before the race) was sunny, cool, dry and perfect.  Of course.  Sunday looked to be a monsoon--grey, dark, pouring rain and mid 60's.  I was not looking forward to this.  There is not much more I hate than being wet and cold.  Add to that swimming in the ocean in the rain and cold and I was dreading this race.

I made myself sick thinking about having to get in the water and swim.  I am anxious anyway about OWS and have to talk myself down from a panic, and then to add dark and cold and rainy to the mix was not good for my mental status.

Pre-race check in was pretty uneventful.  There was a long line for bib pick up and bike check-in and somehow, I missed that survivors didn't have to wait in line... damn..  So I waited with all of the non-cancer people like a dummy.  Got my bib, #42, racked my bike and went to grab my prizes for reaching my fundraising goals.  This year you got a water bottle for $700 raised, an Alaina Marie bait bag for $1000 and a Sea Bag for $1500.  I got all three!

racked and ready 

They also had a banner for all survivors to put their footprint on.  That was pretty special to be able to add my print to the group of survivors.

 1.5 year survivor
also, Kate and Tricia have BIG feet..... 

 A whole banner of survivors

So I was pretty nonchalant about this whole race--and thankfully, my friend Sarah (also a survivor!), clued me in on some things last minute that I probably should have known about already--like there were 2 transition locations (who has 2 transition locations???), but good to know literally 8 hours before the race, right? So I made some last minute additions and was good to go.

5 AM wake up and I was off.

•bike--already in transition
•bike helmet and bike shoes--check
•race belt and bib--check
•food--check but can't eat because want to barf
•dry clothes for after--check
•towel for wiping off sand--check
•dollar store bin to keep everything dry at transition--check
•sunglasses--check, even though there was no sun but will be useful to keep the rain out of my eyes

Rolled in around 6:30 and made my way with all my shit to the transition area to get that set up.  I was walking near a group of women talking and a voice sounded familiar to me--turns out it was my cancer surgeon, Dr. Teller!  So awesome!  She was doing the relay with two survivors and her part was the swim.  So amazing to see her prior to the race, it really helped to ease some of my anxiety.

Ran into my survivor friend, Sarah, at the transition area and so many other people I know.  Everyone seemed so excited and happy but I was just a giant ball of nerves.  Literally making myself sick thinking about the swim portion.  I did not know how I was going to manage to get through it.

Around 8:00, everyone was to gather down by the starting area for the opening ceremony.  It was pretty touching to hear that we, as a group, raised almost $2 million for the Maine Cancer Foundation here in Maine.  Two Million Dollars!  Wow.  And all of that stays right here in Maine to help Maine patients.  We posed for a survivors picture, National Anthem was sung, and then it was time to go.

me, back second in from right--looking and feeling like I want to shit my pants

They called the survivors down to the start.  As we were walking down the rock stairs to get to the beach, I see a woman next to me wearing only a swim suit.  She was literally the ONLY person not wearing a wetsuit.  I touched her shoulder and said, I don't know how you do this without a wet suit.  I will never forget what she said to me.  She turned to me and said:

I've been through 10 rounds of chemo.  I am 10 months out.  I am alive.  This makes me feel alive!  We are alive!  We are so lucky to be alive!

I started crying immediately.  Here I was being a pussy about getting in the cold water because I was scared and feeling all bad for myself and this woman, this cancer survivor like me, was rejoicing feeling the cold and embracing it because she could!  Because she was alive to do so.

Honestly, it was just what I needed to hear.  I hugged that woman 3 times as we made our way to the water.  Thank you.  Thank you for helping me get my mind in the right place.  Thank you for reminding me why I signed up for this, why I wanted to do it.

Thank you, woman-with-no-wet-suit.  Whoever you are, I thank you.

me asking her about her suit--caught on the live new report

So after a few more tears and words, we were off.

The water actually wasn't that bad--it was 64* and the air was 62* so it didn't really feel awful.  It was dark and choppy though so it was hard to swim.  I managed a bit of the crawl for a little and then I started to feel tired and panicky so I flipped over onto my back and did the back stroke for awhile.  Well, basically until a kind kayaker advised me I was going the wrong direction.  Great. I redirected and kept swimming.  Trying not to panic the whole time.  Waves kept coming and splashing into my mouth and I was winded so it was really hard.  Somehow I managed to get to the first buoy and got around it.  Two more times I had kayakers tell me I was swimming in circles and the wrong direction, fabulous.  Turns out back stroke is probably not the most effective stroke to swim in a triathlon..... huh.  
I'm in there somewhere probably going the wrong way

I made the final turn around the last buoy and again, backstroked into a lifeguard person who, once again, told me I was going the wrong way.  But wait, she was standing!  Can I stand up?  Yes, you can she said!  Oh, thank you Jesus.  I was done with that hellacious swim.  

exactly how I felt

1/3 mile swim 19:20

I wish I knew how to add emojis to this blog because there would be a lot of them.  Grimace face, surprised face, laughing face, I could go on.  

Really this should have been around 12-15 minutes for my non-swimmers ass. Cripes, with all the swimming in the wrong direction and in circles, I probably swam a mile.  

They had strippers at the swim exit which is so awesome.  You just lay down on your back and the strip the suit right off of you! Grabbed my wet suit and off I ran.  My friend, Eric,  (ironman extraordinaire and sherpa to all) asked me if he could take my wetsuit for me.  Um, yes  please!  One less thing to carry during the 1/2 mile run to the transition area.  Thanks, Eric!  You rock.

I made a pretty quick transition to the bike, putting on my bike shoes (no socks) and grabbing my helmet and sunglasses.  I stupidly forgot to take off my shirt you see in the swim pic--I wore it to prevent chaffing around my armpits--but definitely did not want to wear it on the bike.  So I had to stop, take off my helmet and strip the shirt off.  I threw it into a grassy median to get later and took off.  

T1 6:07 pissed I lost prob a minute taking off my shirt

Bike was good.  I felt good biking even though I hadn't trained at all, I was able to keep my speed up around 16-18 mph for the first bit.  It was pouring.  And by pouring, I mean POURING.  So.  Much.  Rain.  But I wasn't cold and I really didn't mind the rain.  I was just so happy to be done with the swim.....  

I was doing pretty well on the bike, passing people who obviously were better swimmers than I... haha and that made me feel like I was making up some of the time that I blew away during the swim, and then I went to change gears and dropped my chain.  Fuck.  Unclip my shoes, try to put the chain on, hop back on and pedal 10 ft and it falls off again.  Double Fuck.  This was on the start of the Beach to Beacon stretch and a nice man who was spectating from the opposite side of the road came over and helped me get my chain back on.  THANK YOU!!  Then I was off again.

Second half of the bike there was a headwind.  And pouring rain still.  Biking was hard.  Pretty sure my average dropped a bit here as I was seeing a lot of 13 mph and even 10 mph on the hills.  Ugh.  But whatever.  I was still not swimming so I was happy.  

As I was coming in to the last mile of the bike, I heard my name and saw my friends, Stacey and Danielle!  I was so happy!  I knew Stacey was coming to watch me and I was worried I wouldn't see her and I was so pleased to see that she found Danielle and they were together.  Danielle was there for Sarah, but I was so happy to see her cheer for me too. :) Sorry I didn't see you at the end, Danielle. #sadface
all the rain 

Bike 56:29 15.6 mph average  not awful given the dropped chain and headwind

Bike finish was uneventful.  The announcer called my name as I came in which is always cool to hear.  I got myself into transition and quickly dried off my feet, put socks and sneakers on, grabbed my race belt and headed out for the run.

T2 2:41 much better!

The run was hard because my legs were trashed from pedaling against the headwind and the no training thing didn't help either.  Somehow I averaged 9:30 miles and I was pretty happy with that given that's about what I average lately just regular running.  I was pleased to see that I didn't drop slower even after the bike. 

My running pace has been at least a minute/mile slower than what it was before all my surgeries.  I have no idea if it's just because that's what my body is capable of now or maybe I'm just not training like I used to?  Maybe it's all in my head and I just need to work harder and tell my brain to shut up and that I can go faster.  I don't know.  I care a little because who wants to become slower? but I don't really care because I can still run, it's still fun and no one pays me for this so who cares.  

I liked the run route even though it was still pouring.  There were puddles everywhere and my feet were soaked within seconds of leaving transition. The views would have been beautiful if visibility was more than 5 feet.  Oh well.  Nothing really exciting happened on the run.  Oh wait, my shoe did come untied even though I specifically made sure to double knot them.  Seriously, how does that happen??  #soannoyed

As I came into the finish shoot I could hear my friends, Stacey and Danielle, and I was so happy to be done!  I wish I could embed the video but it won't link over from Facebook.  dammit.  
 this would have been a pretty shot if there wasn't so much fog.....

coming in to the finish line

Run 28:51 (9:37 pace)

Total 1:53:26 
30/88 age group
267/622 overall

Overall, not horrible.  

I got my medal and somehow found Stacey who was crying and hugging me and telling me how proud she was of me.  I got all teary and crying again because really, she was so awesome to come and support me and I can't believe she stood in the pouring rain to meet me at the finish.  It felt good to be done and with my friend.  

Once again, I am reminded that I can do things that are scary.  Even if I am not good at them.  Even if I am not the fastest.  I can do them.  Getting in the water to swim was, once again, one of the scariest things I've done.  But dammit, I did it.  I sucked at it, I drank more ocean than I should, I swam in circles and off-track, but I finished and I didn't die.  My body with all it's missing and fake parts can do amazing things if I want it to.  

And like we all do when we finish something like this, (or like having a baby...) you forget or downplay the misery you went through and think, huh, maybe I'll do this again next year.  I KNOW I can do better if I train harder.....

So maybe I'll do this again next year.  I do have an automatic entry because of my fundraising.....

Stay tuned. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

One Year Later/One Day at a Time

Today marks one year free from cancer.

It's funny to think that just one short year ago, I was preparing myself to head into a major surgery to remove both breasts and the cancer that was in one of them.

A year goes by both so fast and so slow.  How does time work like that?  How can it be a whole year since all that happened and it feel like it was a lifetime ago but also feel like it was just yesterday?

I can remember exactly how I felt when I was being wheeled into surgery--scared and crying like a fool from the anesthesia that they had given me.  I remember what it felt like to wake up and how it hurt like a mother but my whole family was there so I wanted to be happy to see them.  How the drains itched and were constantly poking me and keeping me from having a shower.  That feeling when they were finally all removed.  The expanders as hard as rocks and then the implants really not much better.

All of it.  I remember all of it like it was yesterday.  But it was not.  It is a year later and here I am.  Fake tits and all.  Almost like nothing ever happened.

But it did.  And I'm reminded every day about it.  Medication to keep the cancer at bay, which thankfully, gives me little to no side effects that I'm aware of.  I haven't had a period in 13 years and that hasn't changed.  For 12 years it was from the IUD, now I don't know what it's from.  The IUD was removed so the estrogen would not encourage the cancer to grow and I kinda thought I would get it again, but nope.  I have no idea if it's because I'm 47 and have gone through menopause or if it's from the tamoxifen mimicking menopause.  I suppose it really doesn't matter though, does it?  My baby-making days are over.

Never sleeping on my stomach again because it feels like lying on softballs.  That one has been hard.  no pun intended

One stupid pointy nipple all the time because I can't feel a friggin thing there anymore and stupidly did not think to ask the surgeon to remove both to be symmetrical.

Less financial stability than I had just a few years ago.  Not directly due to the cancer, but it certainly played a role.  Rising health insurance costs that I MUST pay for--no way I could consider going without health insurance now.  It's daunting and overwhelming to think about.  Is the cancer going to come back?  How long do I have?  Do I have enough time to create financial stability for my kids?  There are no answers to these questions.

And yet, I really have nothing to complain about in regards to my cancer.  Others have it so much worse than I did/do.  I have my hair (as thin and blah as it is), I did not have to have chemo, and I don't carry the gene that could potentially give it to my kids.  I'm working and will continue to work.  I feel good (although I never felt bad!) and overall I'm not much worse for wear.

My friends (you know who you are!) have been incredibly supportive for everything--from food after surgery, to picking up and dropping off kids, to listening to me cry and complain about whatever is going on in my life that is giving me stress--I don't know what I would do without them.  I have therapists in many forms--running buddies and cancer buddies and the very best sister-in-law ever--they keep me sane.

I was having a particularly bad day one time and was furiously texting my friend a million different what ifs, doing what I do best and overthinking and worrying about what may or may not happen 2-10 years from now.  And she was like Whoa, Michelle.  Slow down.  Just take it one day at a time.  That's all you can do, right?

So that's my mantra now and I'm stealing it from AA.

One Day a at Time.

So cliche but such good advice, really.  But that's all we have really is just today.  No point in worrying about the past because that can't be changed.  Worrying about the future doesn't do any good either because whatever is going to happen is going to happen whether you worry about it or not.  That phrase, as silly as it might seem to others, keeps me going.

So today I'm going to work as usual, watch my kid play some basketball, I'll probably clean my house and play with my dog and hopefully, get a run in.

Just one day at a time.