Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's Not About Me

Here's the deal, it's not fun asking all of your friends to give you money for your cause.  It's not easy training for a marathon (possibly a bigger understatement than the first sentence).  And when I'm exhausted from doing both I remind myself of this - it's not about me.  Not this race.  This race is about fighting a terrible disease and wiping out blood cancer.  For me blood cancer has a face, the face of a spunky, sassy blonde haired girl named Tanner.  I've asked her mom, Beth to tell you more of their story.  After you read it, be sure to visit my fundraising site here and make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Hitting the Wall - By Beth Page, Tanner's mom

Here's Tanner at five years old.  She was a happy, healthy kindergartener riding bikes, playing soccer, taking dance lessons.  But, within a few days of this picture being taken, she started complaining about back and leg pain, which is pretty odd for a five-year-old.  Within the week, her school had a one-mile fitness test at Pinkerton Park and Tanner came in dead last, limping across the finish line.  Our pediatrician agreed that she had probably strained something at field day or her dance recital.  Several weeks after this picture, she woke in the night screaming inconsolably that her back hurt.  This started the two-day process of determining that our spunky, sassy girl had leukemia and would only live a few more weeks without chemo intervention.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer, and Tanner’s low risk factors made her situation the best case scenario for treatment.  Even so, she would go on to endure two-and-a-half years of chemo, the standard protocol for a girl with ALL (boys do an extra year).  It is truly the marathon of cancer treatment.

The first six months of treatment were brutal.  She had weekly IV chemo, and other chemos delivered any which way you can imagine:  19 lumbar punctures with chemo delivered into her spinal column; chemo injected in her to thighs through simultaneous, painful shots; oral chemo; massive high-dose steroids; chemo we brought home and nervously administered through her port, and on and on.  Her body went through incredible changes.  She gained 15 pounds in the first month from steroids and was, literally, unrecognizable.  Then, over the next few months, the weight fell off of her, along with her hair, and she became emaciated, pale and frail. 

But, Tanner never gave up.  She never stopped dancing and singing, and playing with her brother.  Just like a runner hitting the wall, she kept going, even though her body begged her to stop and she, eventually, triumphed and came to a better place.

After six months, Tanner entered the maintenance phase of treatment for nearly two years.  She was able to go back to school during this time, although she still missed a lot of class and I found myself at school often, bringing painkillers or anti-nausea medicine.  Maintenance was easier, but still no picnic: daily oral chemo, monthly IV chemo and steroid pulses; and the dreaded lumbar punctures every three months.

About a year into chemo, when her school once again had their one-mile fitness run, Tanner asked on the way to school that morning, “Mom are you and Dad coming to my fitness run?”

“Of course, ” I replied, then added, “You know Tanner, you don’t have to run if you don’t feel like it.  We could bring pom poms and cheer on your friends. “

“I want to run,” she said.

“Okay, well just know that if you need to stop, that’s okay.  You just run as far as you can.”

 “Why wouldn’t I run?” she said, confused.

I paused for moment before answering, “No reason.  Go for it!”

And she did.  She ran and didn’t finish last despite a year’s worth of chemo in her small body.  That spirit and resilience continue to serve her well today.

Tanner today
Tanner is now a healthy, active ten-year-old.  August 6, 2013, marked two years off of chemo for her and she is playing soccer, loving 5th grade, acting in local children’s theatre, singing and being her spunky, silly lovable self.

We are so grateful to people like Emily, who choose to use their passion for running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  They have been a vital force behind Tanner’s survival with the research they have sponsored in the past.   LLS continues to sponsor promising research to improve outcomes and find ways to treat leukemia with less side effects.  We hope that you will consider donating so more kids can ask, "Why wouldn't I run."

And just in case you need the fundraising site again, go here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Break Down Here

For the last couple weeks I've had a song stuck in my head.  It's from several years ago.  "Break Down Here" by Julie Roberts.  And why is this song stuck in my head?  I'm pretty sure it's because I feel like my body is breaking down.  Every run the last 2 weeks has been a struggle. A slow struggle. Now before you panic on my behalf, this feeling is part of the process.  And probably my body is breaking down, but it has to break down in order to get stronger.  Personally, I'd rather just skip over the breaking down and go straight to stronger.  Being strong physically, is only part of what is needed for a marathon.

Let's skip right over and talk about the other part of marathon training - mental toughness.  Here's the deal, the marathon is at least ten times more about mental toughness than it is about physical strength.  You can train your body to do almost anything.  I completely believe that.  The mind seems to be less easy to train.  This is going to be my third marathon.  But this is going to be my first marathon that has a half marathon option.  In my previous marathons, everyone ran 26.2 miles. In this one, lots of people will veer off around mile 12.5 and be receiving their pretty blue Tiffany box when I am only half way through the race.  Talk about mental toughness, it will take a lot of digging deep to keep going past that turn.

Today has been a crappy day.  And that is saying it nicely.  I have a lot of bad words I could use to swear at this day.  I felt this way about my long run 2 weeks ago.  It was terrible, awful, no good and very bad (yes, that's a children's book).  On terrible days and awful runs I try to look for the good.  I can't help it.  Sure, I like to gripe and complain a lot especially for effect, but deep down I'm optimist as pure as they come.  I came to the same conclusion today that I did at the end of that run a couple weeks ago. I am grateful.  

I'm grateful that I am strong and healthy enough to run.  When I first got involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society over 4 years ago, I had no personal connection to cause.  At that point I'd only met one person who had a blood cancer and that was when I was a kid.  And that's reason, I got involved. Because no doctor had ever had to look at me and tell me my child was sick.  I have no idea how it feels to have to take my child for cancer treatments every week for 3 years (standard treatment for a boy with Leukemia). And for that I'm extremely grateful.  When I want to give up on a crappy run or feel like this is the worst possible day (this one is particularly crappy), I remind myself that I'm lucky.  And I continue to beg and plead with my friends to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so that when a mom gets the unthinkable news that her child has cancer or when a coworker's mom gets diagnosed with a blood cancer I know that there's an organization fighting for a cure. Please join me in fighting for a cure by making a donation on my team in training page.