Thursday, October 30, 2014

on fall splendor and hilly marathons

Maine in the fall: makes me blush.

Thank you all for the outpouring of support about the rough month I had in September.  We were all glad to have that behind us so we could get on with the business of enjoying beautiful fall in Maine.

Way back in September, the kids and I ran the Color Run in Bangor, which really was the "happiest 5K on the planet."  The Bangor waterfront was hopping at 7:00 am with music, dancing, and millions of bubbles floating above us.  It was hilarious.

And after, they were green from head to toe.  Reed especially required some major scrubbing to get that hair clean.  For some reason, he looks really sad about it in this picture.

We have a newly acquired slice of heaven on Phillips Lake and we have been spending time there as much as possible.  Reed didn't care that it was only 60 degrees on this fall day, and spent most of the day in the water.

This happy crew got together at the Carvers to cook up an Indian feast for Ange's birthday.

 And every weekend in the fall featured soccer games for both kids.

 This is Skyler after she scored her first goal ever.  That smile says it all.

And after soccer games, we gear up in Husson colors to cheer for Ellis who is killing it on the football team.

 The kids love finding Ellis out on the field, and they equally love buying M&Ms from the concession stand during half time.

Skyler turned TEN and had an art-museum birthday party.

 The fabulous Ms. Eva at the UMaine Museum of Art led the kids through a gallery activity and then an abstract painting activity.

 On her actual birthday, the family joined together for Hibachi and singing to Skyler.  Look at my grown-up girl.

She got her first cell phone, a little flip phone, and now I get texts like these from her.  This is a birthday gift that is actually a gift for me.

Next up, my cousins from Germany came to visit.

Hubertus, his wife Ute, and their boys Henrik and Paul came for a week.  Tim and Hubertus became fast friends, no surprise at all.  

 And the kids didn't notice the language barrier at all.

During that weekend, Skyler broke her arm after falling on roller blades.  Her soccer season was over, and she was stuck in a sling and then a cast.

She was a trooper.  It was a pretty bad break and she handled it like a pro.

Hubertus, who reminds me SO much of my dad, is the salt of the earth.  I wish we got to see each other more often.  
There is so much to catch up on when you haven't seen each other in 15 years.  

Early October, we went to Bates to visit Hillary for parents weekend.  The campus is gorgeous, especially in the fall.  Hillary is a SENIOR this year, and is clearly so loved and so at home at Bates.  We ate lunch in the sun-drenched commons there where the food  (I ate curried veggie salads and sweet potatoes from the vegan bar) is in a different league from dorm food that I experienced. I can see why our girl loves it there so much.


And all of the sudden it was almost time for the MDI Marathon.  I haven't written about the training this time around, but I did get in all of my long runs except one around the time of my surgery.  I was able to mostly stay on track and I felt strong and ready, but realistic, about running the full marathon on one of the hilliest courses around.  Hillary and I ran our last training run on the treadmill a few nights before the race.

Marathoners, ready to go.  

 I have very few photos from the race, and my race report is short and sweet:  It was beautiful and hard.  The hills kept the run interesting because you were always going up or down. The scenery is some of the best in the country, ocean views and foliage in full color.  I felt fantastic until mile 8 when my legs were tired and the wind was making me unable to fully warm up.

I met up with Susan at mile 8 who ran with me to mile 18, which was a total blessing.  She kept me company through the hardest part of the race (mentally hard, and very windy).  At mile 18, I saw my mom, Tim's mom, and Skyler and Reed which was a huge pick-me-up.  After mile 19, I started walking more up the hardest hills.   Holy mother of hills.  I knew I could finish, but my legs were just exhausted from the long stretches of climbing. Oddly enough, the miles seemed to tick off in a fairly satisfying pace.  Every time I looked at my Garmin to check where I was, I was a .2 away from the next mile.  I looked at my Garmin (I swear) at 18.8, 19.8, 20.8, 21.8, and so on.  I was making slow progress, but I was making progress. Was I having fun?  Sort of yes, sort of no.

At mile 23, I found Susan standing on the side of the road;  she had decided to run the last few miles with me, God bless her.  I needed some cheering up. The hills continue until the very end.  At mile 26.1 Skyler and Reed ran out to join me for the end.

I finished in 5:13 which was just fine by me.  It was my best time and my fifth marathon, and (GET THIS), I didn't even cry at the finish line.  I just hugged Tim and Hillary and then sat on the curb and drank the most delicious chocolate milk.  Someday I will join the under-5 hour club, but I have to find a flat marathon I guess. 

Tim and Hillary (first time marathon for her!) did amazingly and both met their time goals.
We all enjoyed cheeseburgers and fries with the kids and our moms after the race.  Another marathon in the books, and yes indeed I am thinking about the next one.  There is nothing like getting your body from point 0 to 26.2.  I feel so lucky to be a part of the marathon world.  

Fall is entering its mature stage, and the leaves are mostly down.  I love this time of year.  It feels like the whole world is settling in and quieting down.  

It's not over yet, though.  What remains still has so much color.

This week, we found an extra-good sunrise before school,  just one of the million things to be thankful for.

Next up:  Halloween festivities and just maybe, our first snow storm.  Thanks for checking in.  xo

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

if this happens, you might feel this way.

You find a suspicious lump while you are in the shower shaving your armpits, so you call your doctor and she fits you right in that very afternoon. You have your 9-year-old daughter with you, so you tell her it's just a check up, and she stays in the waiting room. When your doctor feels the lump, you hope she says, "oh, that's nothing," but she says what you sort of expect her to say, which is, that you need to go get a mammogram.

She sends you out to the waiting room where you read Beverly Clearly with your daughter aloud. The doctor comes out and hands you a note that says "Mammo tomorrow at 9:15," and she knows to do this on paper because you told her that your daughter knows nothing, and if she did, she would worry.

You are relieved that the mammogram is scheduled for the very next day so you don't have to think about this for long, but you definitely notice the fact that your doctor scheduled this mammogram so quickly.

That night, while you are cooking dinner, you stop yourself from letting your thoughts get away from you. You remind yourself to stay focused on the facts: you have a lump;  you do not have cancer.  Telling yourself you have cancer, or that you might die, or that your children will grow up motherless, is just you telling yourself stories that are not based in facts. You try to practice the mindfulness you are currently reading about. You try to "watch" and "notice" your worries and fears without letting them rise up in your chest or push down on the back of your neck.  You think of your thoughts as a waterfall, and you try to sit in that quiet space just behind the waterfall, just like the book you are reading is talking about. And how timely, you think, that you are reading this book just now.

So you go about your business and cook dinner and think about how ridiculous it is to think you could have cancer just a month after you are happily married and settled down into this incredibly rich life. And besides, you do not have time for cancer because these sweet potatoes need to go in the oven and your daughter needs to practice piano and your 7-year-old son is waiting for you to sit down and look at lightsabers on Amazon.

The next morning, you go to your mammogram and the nurses are incredibly kind to you. After they look at the mammogram images, they send you to a different room for an ultrasound, and they point and click and measure this thing in your body that you can now say for sure you aren't just imagining, because it is real enough to be measured and felt. You go back to the waiting room and somehow you know this isn't going to be resolved on this day, and sure enough, the radiologist wants to biopsy this lump, and so you take in this news while you change back into your clothes. You decide to focus on breathing deeply and not crying, because you don't actually even have time for this, and you have to get back to work to teach your next class.  You don't cry.

You wait three days.  You practice staying behind the waterfall.  In quiet moments, you google things you should not google, and sometimes, the waterfall crashes right over you.

At the hospital for the biopsy, the nurse explains the whole process and asks you how you are feeling about all this. You are trying not to think about how you are feeling, so you sort of resent this question, but she is so kind, and her eyes seem to know how you are feeling, and so you say "this is a bit scary," and she says, "I know," and you say "I have little kids" and she says "I know," and your voice catches so you leave it at that. She knows.

During the needle biopsy, which involves two nurses and a doctor and a bit more intensity than you imagined, the nurse that prepped you stands next to you and squeezes your arm every time the needle goes in. She squeezes it hard, and you wonder if she always does this or just knows that it feels really good to you to have your arm squeezed really, really hard. The doctor says a few encouraging things that you latch onto and will repeat to yourself over the next few days.  He says that the mass has "smooth boundaries" which you learn to be a good thing.

Three days later, your doctor calls and you wait for the word "benign," but what you hear instead is that the biopsy was "inconclusive." You don't cry. You are referred to the best breast surgeon in the area. You are told that she can see you in three weeks, and this does not feel okay to you, so you call the office and the secretary is incredibly kind.  You tell her that three weeks will kill you, and you add "I have little kids," and she says hang on, and let me call you back.  She gets you an appointment for three days later because she probably has little kids too, and she knows.

This has now gone on for two weeks and you have tried to carry on with everything and keep things normal. You have, for the most part, stayed behind the waterfall, and you have been busy with shuttling kids to piano, guitar, soccer, and cooking dinner and packing lunches. You have also kept up with your marathon training, because you find that while running, you aren't thinking about where this all could be headed. You also know that stopping marathon training would be admitting that there was some reason you might not run the marathon.

Your appointment with the surgeon is at the Cancer Center and your husband meets you there. You try to smile and chat but your heart rate is flying. When the doctor comes in, she does another ultrasound to look at (and click and measure) the lump, and within a few minutes, you just ask what she is seeing, and she says that she does not think it looks like cancer, but that she wants to take it out anyway. When she leaves the room, you finally cry. You cry because you are relieved, and because this whole thing has sucked so much, but you are counting on this doctor to know what she is looking at. You cry because both your parents had cancer.  You cry because this is still not over.

A week later, you walk to the hospital at 6:45 am to have your surgery because you want to feel strong and capable and breathe in some fresh air before it starts, but as soon as you walk through the doors of the hospital and enter into the same waiting room where you sat while your mother had both breasts removed because of her cancer, all the benefits of the fresh air are gone. An hour later, you are wheeled into the operating room and the last thing you remember is the oxygen mask going on your face, and the next thing you remember is you are now in a different room.

The lump is now gone; you are thick-headed and sleepy, and you are left with a tidy, half-circle scar. You stay thick-headed and sleepy for two days.

On the third day, the surgeon calls; you answer, and she very quickly says the word "benign" and now it really is over, and except for letting the incision heal, you are done.

You sit on the couch and cry while you copy and send the same text to the ten or so dear people who are waiting to hear the word "benign." Your husband, who all along said that together you could handle any news, just presses his hand on your forehead.

When you pick up your kids from school the next day, you sort of watch yourself, as if from above, when they both come skipping out of their buildings and grab your hand. You just keep saying to yourself, "You are here for them. You are right here."

They have no idea about the implications of all of this, except to be gentle on the right side when hugging Mommy. You take them home and unpack their backpacks and cut up some apples for a snack before soccer practice.  You put ice water in their water bottles because you know they will be hot and thirsty during practice. You remind them to complete their reading logs for the day. You make a to-do list for your daughter's birthday party. You count days to determine when you will go for your first post-surgery run. You realize the weight of the fact that you get to think about these details, and not other details, like radiation appointments or surgery options.

You are surprised that even though it's over, you are still sad.  You are behind the waterfall, but you feel the spray.

You feel strangely guilty for your positive outcome. You know there is no real reason why you were spared this time.  You know you are not protected, just lucky. You can't stop thinking about the moms who get a different phone call. You hear them saying:  "But I have little kids."

You feel exhausted. You feel grateful. You feel your husband sleep a little more deeply. You feel the sweaty heads of your kids when they hug you after practice and ask "Momma, what's for dinner?"