Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Crummy

It is nearly 6 months since I underwent my craniotomy. Last week I put my final thank you cards in the mail for the gifts I received while I was at the hospital (including thank you cards to my boss and another co-worker who bullied me into taking the ambulance).  I have two final thank you cards ready to go out in tomorrow’s mail to my neurosurgeon and ICU nurses, telling them the good news about my half-marathon.

Six months post-op, I’m now at the benchmark where my neurosurgeon said I would be in my recovery and almost healed.  Six months to a year he said it’d take for me to heal completely. I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt.  
The future has more than marathons… I have more MRIs, more doctors visits, more surgeries. The surgery is hard to get past. I have pushed so much to get here, to be able to do another half-marathon, even though the overall time was abysmal.  Friday marked my second EMMY celebration since moving out here… The first nomination was for a Public Service Announcements I co-wrote, and now one of the shows I work on was nominated. It’s a very surreal thing to be able to say this.

I have a deeper and clearer understanding of life and despite my happiness with my current state and looking to the future, there are shades of grey. Despite the excitement of this and knowing I had years and years of physical therapy growing up, it’s hard not to get trapped into the spiral of, “well what’s the point, they could screw up and I might not have the ability to run again.” I feel like I’m trapped in the Molasses’ Swamp, almost unable to get out. My neurosurgeon was judicious and now, one of my doctors is suggesting another craniotomy. I knew at some point the craniotomy would be necessary since it was impossible to remove the entire tumor without causing damage to me. I was hoping that I would be able to pretend to have a normal life, despite trying to live it in an any but normal way. Normal to most is go to work, come home, flop on the couch, eat dinner, watch TV and go to bed. Regretfully, my life has taken on a shade more like this, but I’ve been running, and despite the facade of Los Angeles being uber-fit, it isn’t. We are like most cities- Pay a gym membership but try to get the closest parking spot to our destination. I’ve tried not to be “normal” but I’ve tried to be above average in my existence.

I want to do so much and make a big difference on this world. Now, that I am getting closer to my normal of work + run + friends + bigger goals, I am told that all that again may have to be put on the back burner AND I may have to go to a different hospital. It is odd to say, but I have a very warm place in my heart for the ICU at Providence St. Joseph’s.  Now, I have over a year to stress about the surgery wonder if I’m making the right decision… even though there really isn’t a decision because the residual tumor needs to come out.  I have a year to get mentally and physically prepared. I want to be in the best shape of my life- I want to be able to walk the day after surgery.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Workout DVDs- How Good Are They, Really?

Ugh. The Perfect Pregnancy Workout is not so perfect. I haven’t seen any improvement from when it was shipped to me to today. I suppose that there is more to unwrapping it and using it three times. Despite being fatigued when I return from work, I have to give myself credit for actually doing the excercises and not sitting down with a glass of red wine on the days when I did pop it into my DVD player.  

Part of my resistance of use is from time and energy constraints. The other portion is inclination restraints. I am not inclined to work on my abdominal tone. I’m more inclined to go out and run. It’s an odd position to be in since I hated running in the not-to-recent history. I was slow then, and I still at what I like to call my own “Turtle Pace.”  When I took up running, I would not have been prepared to run 10 miles “just for fun,” and I know I need to approach the abdominals with the same attitude: Do it because it’ll satisfy a larger end goal. Thinking of long-term health and fitness goals will do a lot more to motivate me than making sure I can blend in with the rest of the California girls on the beach. Despite living in the heated (or hated as Zach Morris would say) Valley, baking at the beach is not something I’m inclined to do.  I would rather walk to the local frozen yogurt shop and get something to eat than go to the beach. BUT, beach going or not, abdominal strength is needed. A phrase that has held me in good stead is, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” So despite my hatred of the ab workout, I need to do it.  Despite my fatigue and lack of commitment to do the abdominal work because it’s hard and/or inconvenient, I need to invest more time and energy.  There is no end date- just to be more healthy. You never know when the next race (or surgery) will be.

Monday, June 6, 2011

13 of 1 OR Half of Another…

“It's not about how fast you go. It's not about how far you go. It's a process.” - Amby Burfoot, The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life

I’m a multi-tasker; I can’t help myself.  If I can do one thing, but add another activity to either enhance the primary activity or cut down on the time it will take me to do activity #2, I’ll do it. This is how I ended up completing my 3rd post-op MRI and 6th Half-Marathon in the same weekend. I figured since I was already in San Diego county for my MRI, I might as well do a half-marathon.

With every race, you learn something. Part of my lesson is- I will never again say, “just a half-marathon.”

A best friend, Rachel- Who has been
with me nearly every step of the way,
from the ER to the half-marathon.
I knew I couldn’t set a PR (Personal Record) at this race, but I did this race to prove something to myself- that I have more power over my life than my brain tumor.  My realistic goal was sub 3 hours; I figured with a little pushing this would be possible. To make sure I didn’t focus on time, I left my Garmin at home.  At Mile 8, my feet felt bruised and at mile 8.5 my hip-flexors were sore. Somewhere in there, a girl passed me wearing a Philippians 4:13 shirt.  (This happens to be a friend's go-to Bible passage for when things get rough and on his first run back after the his difficult marathon, we did a 10-miler together and he shared this with me.) My body still ached but I pressed on. The bands nearly every mile fed some energy to me and the other runners, but the stretch along the sloped 163 was void of crowds and bands. I buckled down and sang from a song another friend burned for me  “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ ‘Till You See What God Can Do…”  It has helped with just the normal healing process and helped here to get through the less eccentric areas of the race. 

There were portions of the race where I just couldn’t run, and hobbling several yards was the best I could do. From mile 10 to mile13.1, each mile was 3 min slower than my starting pace, which was slower still than my old training pace.

I am not a gifted athlete. I love what I do and I try really hard.  My found love of long-distance running is what made me a great patient and helped with my initial recovery. I’m not going to set the world on fire with my pace, but I will always be grateful that I can put one foot in front of the other and run 13.1 miles (especially on 6 months post-op).  

It’s not “just a half;” it’s a journey. It’s a journey that took me 2:50:00 to complete and a heck of a lot of post-race Ben Gay.