Friday, December 3, 2010

Shoes of Patience -- Jack W.

It always has been the case in my life that when good fortune takes aim, it materializes in the form of a person. So it is with Jack W., who has been a mentor and co-worker to me for nearly eight years. His days revolve around the efficient and expert management of rugged stuff: machinery, grime, and sweat -- lots of sweat. It is in this industrial landscape of a "man's world" -- a harsh backdrop of enormous steel tanks and grease and pipes and valves -- where Jack has taught me to hold my own. While I only can guess at the true extent of patience he has expended in that eight-year-long process, I know the depth of my gratitude for it.

Jack is devoted to his family, his job, golf, and the Baltimore Ravens. He battles arthritis in his knees, his back, and a shoulder; yet, regardless of the very physical demands of his work, he perseveres through pain and discomfort with a perpetual sense of humor and a precise measure of no-nonsense professionalism. As co-workers, we've shared successes and disappointments; we've laughed with and at each other; we've lamented to and about each other; but, in good times and bad, Jack's patient support has not failed during my learning process.

To Jack W., my mentor and friend: tomorrow I will travel three miles in support of finding a cure for arthritis. If you don't mind, I'd like to borrow your shoes while I run. I know they will not fit my feet, because they already overflow with patience and perseverance. But, I will carry them with me. With every stride from beginning to end, they will remind me to focus on your example, and to hope for relief in our lifetimes -- relief that will allow you to climb the hill at work with pain-free knees, to gather up your grandchildren with a pain-free back, and to swing a golf club with a pain-free shoulder.

Here's to the next mile!

Oh, and Jack ... one more thing ... Go, STEELERS!

Friday, November 12, 2010

These Shoes Are Blue!

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 46.4 million Americans suffer from some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. In 2003-2005, that meant that 21.6% of American adults had doctor-diagnosed arthritis. With an aging population, the numbers are expected only to increase.

It's a relentless, miserable ache in the shoulder that keeps a grandfather from playing baseball with his grandson. It's a merciless pain in the fingers that keep your elderly neighbor from being able to open medication bottles, or even grasp a spoon tightly. It becomes disabling, and it's a devastating disease for families who have children that are diagnosed with arthritis, forever altering the manner in which those children experience life.

Slip on your favorite shoes and participate in a Jingle Bell Run or Walk in your area, or donate today to support finding improved treatments . . . yes, even a cure for arthritis. After all, you could be one of the next patients in that 21.6% of Americans who are diagnosed with the disease.

Just click on the symbol to donate!

I'll be looking for some worthy shoes to borrow for this run, so don't forget to leave a comment about someone you know who suffers from arthritis. I'll write a tribute, take his or her name with me across the finish line, and make a donation in that person's honor.

Here's to the next mile!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weapons In the Fight Against Breast Cancer

While researching the material for many of these tributes, I've discovered a multitude of useful weapons in the fight against breast cancer, either for patients or for those who wish to donate to end the war. So, before moving forward to the next worthy cause, I wanted to list those resources in a single post.

Prevention, Early Detection, and Treatment

Prevention and early detection cannot be overemphasized. GET A MAMMOGRAM. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year, and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Click here to begin learning about the procedure and the important role mammograms play in the early detection of breast cancer.

If mammogram costs are a hindrance to you, call your local health department, or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information about facilities in your area that perform the tests at low or no cost. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) also provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to women without health insurance for free or at very little cost. To learn more about this program, please contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-CDC INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit their Web site at

To find out how to perform a breast self-exam (BSE), go to Komen for the Cure. Or, try out WebMD or About.Com. The American Cancer Society also offers excellent guidance, as does BreastCancer.Org. One last site is worthy of mention because it also offers free shower card reminders. Go to HealthyWomen and download your free card, which was published in April of 2008 by the National Women's health Resource Center, Inc. Or, click on the image below for a larger version, print it out, stash it in a ziplock bag, and hang it in the shower.

But, hey, enough of that serious stuff. Check Your Boobies! No kidding -- that's the name of the organization, whose mission is to ". . . educate women about breast health in a frank, fun, and fear-free manner. [They] are dedicated to the prevention and early detection of Breast Cancer." And, if you're tired of Tupperware or Pampered Chef parties, make sure to take note of the resources and testimonials on this site for planning your very own "CYB Party."

Useful Services

For women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer, climbing out of bed in the morning can be nearly impossible, let alone trying to clean house. But, Cleaning for a Reason can help with that chore. Go to the site and apply!


For donors, nearly any of the sites listed above are looking for research funding. But, here's an easy one!

Visit The Breast Cancer Site. On the first page, a button will appear that looks like the one to the left. Click on it. That's all there is to it! Each time the button is clicked, advertisements from site sponsors are displayed. All of the money from these advertisers goes to the site's charity partners, who fund programs to provide mammograms to women in need. How easy is that?

For all you sporty types, one of the most creative fund raising efforts I've seen is sponsored by Major League Baseball Stands Up to Cancer! Go to the site, make a $5 donation, and own a virtual piece of your favorite team's stadium. Donations fund research in the fight against cancer! (Thanks to my dear daughter-in-law, Erin, a die-hard Pirates fan, for sending this one and Cleaning for a Reason!)

If none of these donating strategies appeals to you, have some chocolate! Purchase a bag of Pepperidge Farm® Milano® cookies, and they'll donate 50¢ to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (up to $50,000).

Breast cancer ... every 69 seconds a woman dies from it. Together, we can fight this devil by using the right weapons! Protect yourself through early detection, donate to research -- go the distance to find the cure!

Here's to the next mile!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shoes Filled With Dollars -- Jill Haines

When I began to write this series of tributes to breast cancer patients and survivors, I was determined to avoid pleading with readers to make donations to anything. The purpose of my effort, after all, is to highlight the extraordinary characters of regular people who graciously and tenaciously battle the demons of disease and misfortune. Instead, I had planned to set an example by making donations of my own to each featured cause, and hoped that others would follow suit.

But, today, I have changed my mind. I write to do that very thing -- to ask for money for breast cancer research. What brought about this change of focus? Yesterday, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I saw the faces of all those whose names are listed on this blog's "wall of honor." It was unmistakable -- their fear and determination, their agonies, hopes, and dreams, all mirrored in the faces of thousands of men and women, some survivors, some friends, and some family members of those who suffer from or have succumbed to breast cancer. During yesterday's Race for the Cure, a part of this country's eastern seaboard was awash in symbols of pink -- pink shoes, pink hats, pink gloves, pink banners -- all signals that the fight continues and a cure surely is on the horizon.

As I ran, I quietly recited the list that's been building here for many months: Emily Jean Thorn, Linda Ramsey Beam, Linda Jessee Mills, Libby Holter, Kaira W., Lynda Boyd, Vanny Mam Cain, Sue Michener, Betty Godby, Tricia Keegan, Jennifer S., and Jill Haines. And, it was that last name -- Jill Haines -- one of twelve companions to thousands of other names printed on people's backs, that changed my mind.

Some time ago, Jennifer S., who is herself a survivor of breast cancer, requested a tribute in memory of her dear friend, Jill Haines. Of Jill, Jennifer remarks, "Jill is an 11 year Stage IV survivor. As the years have gone by and the treatments have changed, she has shown amazing resilience in dealing with the side effects of the various chemos while living her life with incredible enthusiasm." Jennifer's tribute to Jill continues to reflect her deep admiration for her friend.

I am asking that you read her story and imagine that her story could be that of your mothers, daughters, sisters, or that of yourselves. Imagine her passion for this life and her vision of a world without breast cancer for all of you. I am asking that you take the time to read this, and pass it on to everyone in your mailbox and pass it on to your school or church group. I am asking that you take the time to confirm her belief in the power of one dollar. . . .

Recently, Jill and I had a conversation about the power of one dollar in regards to funding research. Jill is alive today because of the dollars that were donated for breast cancer research over the last 25 years. She is currently on a drug that was not available just a few years ago. However, she is running out of options, and her life, like so many others, depends on the continued funding of research for breast cancer. The drug that may save her life might be right around the corner.

As with most of us as we face our mortality, Jill is wanting to make an impact on this world before she leaves it. Its been a rough couple of months for her and she wants to do something that will leave a big footprint on this earth, with her name on it. Great minds think alike, because last year, when I was training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day, I constantly thought about the impact I could have, if I could just get one dollar from all the people driving and walking by.
It is no wonder that Jill was so compelled to promote funding for cancer research, even as she struggled through years of chemotherapy for her own illness. Jill lost many loved ones to cancer, and wrote about those experiences on the Komen website.

I have lost my surgeon to cancer and many friends. Also my parents. I turned to Komen 3 years ago because I lived the dream of hope and wanted to share. The first year is definitely the hardest, because of all the emotions that come into play and life style changes. Year number 2 is one of uncertainty. Every cancer survivor wants that year number 5. The magic number. Why do we count? Are we counting down the days, or counting the days we are alive. Before Cancer days didn't matter.

Sadly, Jill's days counted down, and on September 18, 2009, she was stolen from friends and family by this ferocious disease. But, her friend, Jennifer, continues to promote Jill's impassioned plea. What if everyone donated just one dollar to research for finding a cure for breast cancer? What if it was YOUR dollar that found the cure? What if it was YOUR dollar that saved someone's mother, sister, or daughter?

To Jill Haines, whose shoes I borrowed yesterday to run The Race for the Cure: they lifted me beyond a sore ankle and an aching knee. When discomfort challenged me, or self-doubt reared its ugly head, your shoes propelled me forward, and I considered the vastly greater discomfort of those twelve names that were listed on the back of my shirt. Even though it's likely we will have the distinction of being the very last runner to cross the finish line, still we made it, and I was so proud to take all of you with me.

But, one last race-related task needed attention. I needed to return Jill's shoes with appropriate gratitude. So, this morning, Jill's shoes are full of dollars in the form of a $100 donation to Komen in the fight against breast cancer.

Donate, donate, donate -- $1, $5, $10 -- it doesn't matter. Just click here. Cushion the way with dollars for all those who must travel a path fraught with breast cancer. The step you take by donating could be the one that finishes the race to find a cure!

To Emily Jean Thorn, Linda Ramsey Beam, Linda Jessee Mills, Libby Holter, Kaira W., Lynda Boyd, Vanny Mam Cain, Sue Michener, Tricia Keegan, Jennifer S., Betty Godby, and Jill Haines, thank you all so much for your inspiration and encouragement along the way. I will never forget you!

Here's to the next mile!

Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Diane, who contributed information for the story of Kaira W.'s fortitude, and the importance of breast self-examination.

Today, Diane, you are IN THE PINK as the winner of official Komen merchandise, a New Balance sackpack!

I'll be contacting you to obtain your shipping information.

Thanks for being such an important part of this effort!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Courage -- Courtesy of Tricia Keegan

I've been reluctant to assign shoes of courage to one particular person in this series of tributes, because each of the breast cancer patients or survivors named here marches foward in those shoes every moment of their lives.

But, all you have to do is take one look into her electric blue eyes, and you know Tricia Keegan is special from top to bottom. Tricia, from the east coast of Ireland, wears shoes that exemplify the definition of courage. She is a master at transforming fear into determination and doing what must be done, even when it is difficult.

Tricia was diagnosed at age 46 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), an aggressive form of breast cancer. Yet, she has endured surgery, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and ongoing treatment. That courage and endurance has paid out well, and recently Tricia celebrated her fifth year as a breast cancer survivor!

Tricia's life is full with her supportive husband, two grown daughters and a house full of beloved cats; yet, she never fails to offer support to those who share her cancer experience. The message boards on the Komen website are full of Tricia's knowledgeable and compassionate responses to questions or concerns expressed by members of her breast cancer family. She notes, "I'm a strong advocate for educating people on their diagnosis, and do voluntary counselling at our local cancer wellness centre along with moderating a cancer support site." Then Tricia adds, "While I never would have asked for this disease, it's brought some amazing people into my life...." What Tricia doesn't seem to recognize, though, is how amazing she is.

For Tricia Keegan, who is quick to point out the attributes of others and slow to recognize her own: tomorrow, I'd like to borrow your shoes. I know they will not fit my feet, as they are packed with courage already. But, I will carry them with me as I run, and when fear of difficulty or distance creeps into my mind, I will think of your extraordinary example, and transform those doubts into determination.

For you, Tricia . . . here's to the next mile!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mile Marker: The Big 3.1!

Watch out, here I come! It happened today . . . the BIG one! No, not the big one I'd been worried about since heart surgery three years ago. It was the big 3.1 mile run -- a 5K! With help from Sue Michener's winged shoes, I smiled at every footstep for three point one miles!

Now, lest this accomplishment conjures images of human legs moving speedily forward with smooth, long strides, let me assure you, that is not the case. I . . . slogjog. That is to say, I jog very slowly. But, today, I slogjogged the entire distance! I see a Komen Race for the Cure in my future!

And that's all I have to say about THAT!

Here's to the next mile!

The Luck of Betty Godby

If ever there was a lesson in the value of early detection, it belongs to Betty Godby, who walks about in some very lucky shoes. Betty, whose cancer was discovered during a mammogram, is a co-worker of mine, and for my part, a friend. Like so many of my co-workers, she balances the many demands and deadlines of her job with the responsibilities of a family, including two children. On every occasion that I have needed to ask Betty for assistance, she has responded with unfailing patience.

Many tributes appear here in honor of brave and selfless individuals, but when I heard that Betty had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was, to put it plainly, heartsick. Her tribute is the first I've written about someone I know personally with the disease.

Can you imagine finding out you have breast cancer, and calling yourself "lucky"? That's how Betty sees it.

I am really and truly very lucky for the type of breast cancer I have. It is called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), which is a very common type of breast cancer and is very treatable and curable . . . not that that takes away from the devastation of having breast cancer, but I could be in a lot worse shape, and there are people out there that are in a worse case then me.

My cancer is a stage zero which is really good; the doctor told me if I was going to get breast cancer that this is the type that you would want. So I am very thankful for the condition that I am in....

Betty had a double lumpectomy on June 21st, 2010, to remove two 2mm tumors and seven lymphoid on the right side, and a third tumor on the left side. Later in the summer, she had a second surgery to remove additional suspicious-looking tissue. Yet, her optimism remains intact, and she has determined that "this is not going to beat me!!"

So, to Betty Godby, whose shoes are lined with good luck: tomorrow, I will borrow them for just a little while. With each stride of the run, I will be grateful for your good fortune, and hope that every stage of your breast cancer journey is paved with zeros!

Here's to the next mile!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Legacy of Sue Michener

When I think of writing a tribute to Sue Michener, whose home was in Illinois, I get a little nervous. It isn't because she was an adoring mother and grandmother to her son and his daughter. It isn't because she had a career as a computer support technician (although, Lord knows, I could have used her advice since computers seem to blow up or catch fire when in my company.) Nor is it because she loved to knit or cross-stitch. It's just that . . . Sue wore the funniest shoes.

In addition to all of her other talents, Sue was born a comedienne. Tricia K., Sue's friend, who is herself a five-year survivor of breast cancer, recalls that Sue "kept us all entertained while undergoing chemo, radiation, etc."

Sue posted frequently on the Komen for the Cure message boards. There, it is customary for members to include details of their diagnosis and treatment status in their signatures. But, Sue's sense of humor persisted in her messages right down to the last letter, and she signed off with the line, "recent Mammo...No new if I could just find my BRAIN...I'd be in business."

Tricia remarks that Sue was not only a dear friend to her, but also a "positive force in my life" and in the lives of many others. In fact, the affection felt for Sue so permeates the Komen forums that the members have made their own tribute of sorts, by arranging a page of "Classic 'Sue Michener' Posts." One of her messages -- about pizza, of all things -- had me in stitches.
SO, the phone rings, and it’s my ‘pizza guy’ calling to tell me that THEY ARE OUT OF WHAT I ORDERED.


HOW can a pizza place be OUT OF PIZZA? Have the planets become mis-aligned when I wasn’t looking? Did someone play the numbers engraved on the hatch in LOST for lottery numbers? OUT OF PIZZA?

I had to sit down.
Sue's "Shortage of Pizza" story is only one example of the way she sought to lift the spirits of her kindred breast cancer family, despite her own suffering. Make your way on over to Komen for the Cure, become a member, and click on this link to read about Sue's indomitable spirit in her own words.

Sadly, Sue passed away in August of 2008, at age fifty-two, only two years after her initial diagnosis. Though Sue's legacy continues to make us smile, the loss of her life and the ensuing absence of joy she brought into the lives of others has been devastating to all who knew her. She is yet another example of the hundreds of thousands of people from around the world who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, all of whom demonstrate why finding a cure for this disease is so very critical.

So, to Sue Michener, whose legacy of comedy and kindness in the face of adversity remains vivid in the memories of those who love her: tomorrow, I'd like to borrow the shoes you left behind. I already know I cannot wear them, as they are affixed with the wings of angels. But, I will carry them with me as I run, confident that your comedic spirit will fly me to the finish line. There, we will chuckle about Kramer, pizza and mammograms.

For Sue . . . Here's to the next mile!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mile Marker: Week 6 -- The iPod Glitch

Six weeks ago, if somebody had said, "By July 4, you'll be running two consecutive miles," I never would have believed it. But, it has happened! After borrowing some very inspirational shoes from Linda Boyd and Vanny Mam Cain, my feet have covered that magical hurdle many runners experience at about the two mile mark. And, there was another factor involved -- there was the iPod glitch.

I must admit, I am one of those old fogies who mumbles frequently about the way technology seems to complicate our lives. "Who needs an iPod?" I'd ask myself. "What's wrong with my little half-pound walkman? Defrag and download . . . Blueray and Blackberry. My brain already is a high-def, unsynchronized, technological frazzle." But, I kept hearing how runners love iPods, and decided to give one a try. Now, I don't want to run without it -- except that running without it turned out to be the very thing that propelled me past a critical psychological barrier.

The Week 6 schedule required four nine-minute jogging segments (a total of thirty-six running minutes), interspersed with two minute recovery walks. On the last day, near the end of the first nine-minute segment, the iPod died. Good grief. I didn't realize how dependent I'd become on that teeny little gadget. I might as well have run out of gas in the middle of the desert! For a second, I wasn't sure how to proceed, not only because I love the distraction of the music, but also because I constantly utilize the iPod's stopwatch feature. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep time accurately, so for about an instant, I considered returning home to recharge the thing and start all over. Then, I took about ten seconds to consider whether the recovery walks were really critical. In the end, I decided just to slow down when necessary, recite the names of the seven individuals on the "race for the cure wall of honor," and to keep plodding forward. It worked! I jogged an entire two and one-tenth miles, and I wasn't even really breathing hard. I was ecstatic!

Next, on to Week 7, which requires four eleven-minute running intervals with one-minute recovery walks. By the end of the week, my running distance will be well over two miles. Looks as if the training plan may need to undergo some major adjustments.

Now, if only there were fifty names on that wall of honor . . . .

Here's to the next mile!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Double Dose of Selflessness -- Vanny Mam Cain

Vanny Mam Cain's life has taken her around the globe. She has traveled from Cambodia to Japan, lived in France and England, and crossed the Atlantic to the United States. Her feet surely have slipped in and out of many different shoes along the way. Yet, two of the pair she has worn recently are of the most extraordinary kind.

Vanny used up one pair of shoes trampling down her first diagnosis of breast cancer. Then, when the adversary raised its ugly head a second time, she had to go shopping for a second pair. But, she must have discovered exactly the right one, because as Dennis, her husband, recalls, "We decided to live." He adds, "She has gone through the shock, the chemo, second shock, surgery, radiation, and now medicines." And, despite Vanny's own suffering, Dennis remarks that many people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the same time as Vanny were uplifted by her spirit. "She still has a heart for her friends that she met in treatment."

Vanny's shoes are fashioned with humor and altruism. Although she studied nursing formally, Vanny is a homemaker, and has spent many years selflessly devoted to the care of her son and husband. As Harold B. Lee once said, "The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes." So it has been with Vanny's work.

Today, Vanny's son is grown. Her husband, Dennis Cain, is a candidate for the State of Georgia's Commissioner of Insurance. Vanny supports her husband's endeavor with her characteristic humor and faith, and is doing quite well, I'm told.

To Vanny Mam Cain, whose shoes have guarded her past a course of double jeopardy: if you don't mind, I'd like to borrow them in the morning, just for a little while. My feet will not fit in those shoes, for they already overflow with a double dose of selflessness and faith. But, I will carry them with me as a red sun slides out of the darkness and into the eastern sky. There, I will see a reflection of your unselfish example, and it will lead me forward into the distance.

Here's to the next mile!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Give and Get Pink!

Get in the pink with a giveaway!

This functional (and really pink) sackpack by New Balance folds up and stores away into an attached pocket the size of a coin purse. Just unzip the purse, pull out the knapsack, and turn the purse inside out for an extra zipped compartment. Great for day trips, it's light enough to sling over your shoulders for biking or walking. It is brand-spanking new official Susan G. Komen For the Cure merchandise and bears the organization's logo.

Around the end of September, the sackpack will go to a randomly selected commenter who has given the time and effort to help me write a tribute to a breast cancer patient or survivor. The name of each person featured in a tribute goes onto this blog's "race for the cure wall of honor," and will be printed on my race day T-shirt.

It would be my privilege to write tributes to 50 of these extraordinary people and to carry all of their names with me across the finish line on October 16. Please give a name, get in the pink and help me reach my goal by leaving your comments today!

"Get In The Pink" graphic courtesy of

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Get In the Pink With a Bambino!

Looking for some refreshing relief from the summer heat? Get yourself a bambino! No, not the kind that immediately comes to mind. Instead, it's a watermelon, and every purchase helps support breast cancer organizations!

The bambino website is full of serving suggestions and nutrition information. Additionally, the site states, "Bambino watermelons were developed by Seminis, a worldwide leader in the fruit and vegetable industry, to meet customer demand for a nutritious, better tasting, more conveniently sized watermelon with no seeds. Time magazine called the Bambino melon one of the top 100 inventions of 2004."

Small and round, with an emerald green exterior, these lucious fruits bear a sticker like the one displayed above. The seedless interior is dark pink to red. The bambino I tasted was the sweetest, juiciest watermelon that has ever cooled my tastebuds. They are available in the produce section at select WalMart, Sam's Club, BJ's, Food Lion and Nash Finch stores. Best of all, as the sticker advertises, a portion of the proceeds is donated to breast cancer organizations.

Get one of these babies, grab a spoon and dig in. You'll truly be "in the pink"!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Sturdiness of Lynda Boyd

Lynda Boyd, from Dundee, United Kingdom (Scotland), tells me she is "a very scared woman." I have no doubt that is true. But, I also know that she wears very sturdy shoes as she travels through some scary places in this world. Lynda, who will be 41 this year, was diagnosed in 2008 with breast cancer. She has endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and continues treatment with herceptin, which will be completed in September of 2010.

As I considered Lynda's story, I was compelled to wonder what that means. What is it like, exactly, to be treated with herceptin? For breast cancer patients, herceptin is a treatment that is administered in tandem with or subsequent to chemotherapy. BreastCancer.Org explains that currently, treatment of breast cancer usually involves one of three "targeted therapies." As one of these preferred therapies, herceptin works on certain cancers by arresting growth of the cells. "Cancer cells grow in an uncontrolled fashion. Herceptin works on the surface of the cancer cell by blocking the chemical signals that can stimulate this uncontrolled growth." (Click here for a full discussion of herceptin and other treatment options.)

Herceptin is administered only intravenously. So, at intervals ranging from once a week to once every three weeks, a patient must spend somewhere between thirty to ninety minutes at the doctor's office, watching the medication drip from a little plastic bag, into a tube, and through a needle inserted in a vein. And, as with other cancer treatments, the more immediate result of the process may be undesirable side effects, such as fever, chills, muscle aches and nausea.

What would you do during those minutes, if it was your life connected to a tube, above which dangled little droplets of hope? Would you read? Work crossword puzzles? Pray that the cancer "stays away"? This is Lynda's life, after a mastectomy and radiation. This, after a long day's work, or in the middle of one, or perhaps before the work day starts, because Lynda, despite her suffering, stood resolutely in her shoes and returned to her job in November of 2009. After all, she remarks, "money plays a part in life," and, there are bills to pay.

It is because of this astounding sturdiness that Lynda’s influence has become trans-continental. Along the journey, she befriended a young woman from the United States. Heidi W., a mother of two young children, has been influenced profoundly by Lynda’s resilience. “Even though she’s been through so much,” Heidi observes, “she still gets up and goes to work every day."

For Lynda Boyd, whose shoes bear her up across a rocky trail: tomorrow morning, I'd like to borrow them for a little while. I know I cannot wear them, as they are too full of courage to accommodate my feet. But, I will take them with me as I run. Just for the morning, we will conquer all fear and pain, and think only of your sturdiness and resilience. All we have to do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Here's to the next mile!

* * *

For readers who are Facebook users, click here to write Lynda an encouraging message. She'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mile Marker: Week 3 -- A Challenge!

Thanks to Linda Jessee Mills' inspirational example of courage and wisdom, training for Week 2 was a breeze. Week 3, in contrast, was tough. The jogging intervals doubled in length from two minutes to four minutes during week three. Also, the number of running days increased from three to four. For some reason, that third of the five jogging intervals was kicking my butt, and I couldn't manage to slog through more than about two of the four minutes. Yet, intervals four and five were not a problem.

I decided to take a close look at the terrain to see if there is any particular reason why that portion of the route was so difficult. After all, I live on the coast, and most of the terrain is flat, flat, flat. I drove down to the area where the third segment usually begins. Sure enough, there is a nearly imperceptible rise in the road, but it stretches along a far distance. This was confirmed by one of my favorite running resources, a handy-dandy little tool on the web called "Map My Run," which revealed that over the course of the last three-quarters of a mile or so, the elevation gradually increases from three feet above sea level at the lowest point on the route, to around thirty-nine feet above sea level. No, it's not a mountain, but the elevation increase certainly explains the difficulty I was experiencing. I do have this modified (but, improved!) ticker issue to address.

With that information in hand, I employed an old trick. When the third segment began on the last running day of the week, I slowed the pace. I mean, I really slowed the pace. Onlookers may have wondered why I bothered to "run" at all. I could have walked as quickly. Then, instead of looking far ahead, I looked up only occasionally, just to be aware of traffic. Mostly though, my eyes were planted on the road just a few feet away. I thought of nothing but Libby Holter, Kaira W., and quite literally, putting one foot in front of the other. With Libby Holter's vision, I imagined a clear view of reaching the desired goal. And, by drawing from Kaira W.'s fortitude, I saw myself accomplishing the task, no matter what was required. Thanks to inspiration from those ladies, not only did I complete that most difficult third segment, but also easily finished the fourth and fifth segments.

Which brings us to the end of Week 3. That ominous old training calendar is filling up with more and more green slashes!

And, in case you're wondering just how much mileage is actually involved, I've done the math. The whole route takes approximately 35 minutes to complete. 20 of those minutes are spent jogging, so that's 57% of the time spent jogging. Map My Run tells me the distance of the route is 1.9 miles. Oh, yeah! I'm jogging 1.083 miles!

Today's cross-training will involve an energizing bike ride, which, to my surprise, I've come to enjoy. I'll also catch up on a little strength training, since I ran out of time on Wednesday. That's an example of the beauty of this particular training schedule. It's very flexible, and if one day's activity is missed, it can be combined with another day's activity.

Then, on to Week 4, where the walking intervals decrease to two minutes, and the jogging intervals increase to five minutes. It's a piece of cake, right?

I'm just lovin' my shoes . . . so, here's to the next mile!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fortitude, As Known by Kaira W.

I was surprised to learn recently that a continuing controversy exists within the medical community about the value of breast self-examination. But, don’t tell that to Kaira W., who discovered a lump in her breast while performing a regular self-exam, and subsequently was diagnosed very recently with breast cancer. Yet, Kaira wears shoes that are lined with fortitude, propelling her forward with a remarkable will to endure, no matter what is required.

Kaira, a 32 year-old mother, whose three children all are under the age of 6, was faced with having to make critical decisions about her future and her family’s well-being. She immediately scheduled a double-mastectomy. As Kaira’s friend, Diane, describes, Kaira felt this aggressive solution to her illness was “the best way to protect her and her family's health.”

Diane admits that she is “awed and amazed” by Kaira’s extraordinary bravery. Despite her own dilemma, Kaira ". . . makes sure to get the word out on every step of her journey so that people understand it could happen to them and that we are not too young to get this horrible illness.”

With an eye toward supporting Kaira’s effort to “get the word out,” this tribute would be incomplete if it didn’t address breast self-examination, or BSE. As previously mentioned, the medical community seems to have divided into two camps: a) those who believe BSE has little or no value; and b) those who believe BSE is one of the primary instruments in the early detection of the disease.

As I considered the results of my own review of a number of articles on the subject, the dissenting conclusion seemed to be that BSE is of little value because:
  1. women don't do it; and
  2. women don't do it.

In her article Value of Breast Self-exam Questioned, author Elizabeth Smoots, MD, describes some of the difficulties women experience with this task: "Besides being difficult to do well, it’s hard to keep performing BSE consistently each and every month." Similarly, Mary K. Salazar and William B. Carter reported in their 1994 study entitled, A Qualitative Description of Breast Self-Examination Beliefs, that fewer than 40% of American women perform BSE with any regularity, and describe a variety of attitudes that contribute to that outcome, including ". . . too much time to do, too difficult, embarrassment about self-touch. . . ." Some estimate that the number of American women who do not perform BSE could be as high as 80%. Finally, there is consistent mention throughout the dissenting literature that those women who do perform BSE regularly often find benign lumps related to transient, cyclical changes, resulting in a higher rate of unnecessary biopsies.

So, what are practical options for women under the age of 40 who are not encouraged to have regular mammograms? Regardless of discussions to the contrary, much more information is available that underscores the importance of performing BSE regularly beginning at age 20 as part of a three-pronged approach to early detection. This comprehensive approach also includes clinical breast examinations (CBE) performed by a health professional every three years (or annually as we age), and mammograms, as discussed in a previous blog.

Multiple sites provide fabulous and detailed information for performing a BSE. In addition to Komen for the Cure, try out WebMD, About.Com, the American Cancer Society, or BreastCancer.Org for excellent guidance. One last site is worthy of mention because it also offers free shower card reminders. Go to HealthyWomen and download your free card, which was published in April of 2008 by the National Women's health Resource Center, Inc. Or, click on the image below for a larger version, print it out, stash it in a ziplock bag, and hang it in the shower.

Regardless of the guidance you choose for BSE, a number of common threads run through them. The first one is an emphasis on familiarity. Through regular BSE, you will become familiar enough with your breasts to recognize changes or symptoms that should be reported to your health care provider. Other common themes include the following:

  • Always discuss with your health care professional the types and frequency of screening appropriate for your history, risk and age.
  • Always combine BSE with CBE, and when appropriate, with mammograms.
  • Perform a BSE the week after your period, or on the first day of the month if you no longer are menstruating.
  • Perform BSE consistently, so that you are familiar with what is normal for your breasts.
  • Try to perform the examination in the shower. If that is not your preference, perform it lying down.
  • Check areas outside the breast, from the armpit to the collar bone, and below the breast, in addition to the breast itself and the nipple.
  • Report any changes in size or breast shape.
  • Report lumps, hard knots or thick areas.
  • Report swelling or redness.
  • Report any puckering or dimpling of the skin or nipple.
  • Report itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple or skin.
  • Report sudden discharge from the nipple.
  • Report new and continuous pain in a specific spot.

But, hey, enough of that serious stuff. Check Your Boobies! No kidding -- that's the name of the organization, whose mission is to ". . . educate women about breast health in a frank, fun, and fear-free manner. [They] are dedicated to the prevention and early detection of Breast Cancer." And, if you're tired of Tupperware or Pampered Chef parties, make sure to take note of the resources and testimonials on this site for planning your very own "CYB Party."

So, for Kaira W., who is compelled to spread the news about the importance of BSE: I'd like to borrow your shoes in the morning, though I know I cannot wear them. Instead, I'll carry them with me and draw from the fortitude that fills them. Together, we'll go forward, no matter what is required.

Here's to the next mile!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mile Marker: Give and Get Pink!

Get in the pink with a giveaway!

This functional (and really pink) sackpack by New Balance folds up and stores away into an attached pocket the size of a coin purse. Just unzip the purse, pull out the knapsack, and turn the purse inside out for an extra zipped compartment. Great for day trips, it's light enough to sling over your shoulders for biking or walking. It is brand-spanking new official Susan G. Komen For the Cure merchandise and bears the organization's logo.

Around the end of September, the sackpack will go to a randomly selected commenter who has given the time and effort to help me write a tribute to a breast cancer patient or survivor. The name of each person featured in a tribute goes onto this blog's "race for the cure wall of honor," and will be printed on my race day T-shirt.

It would be my privilege to write tributes to 50 of these extraordinary people and to carry all of their names with me across the finish line on October 16. Please give a name, get in the pink and help me reach my goal by leaving your comments today!

"Get In The Pink" graphic courtesy of

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Vision of Libby Holter

Libby Holter of Maryland has been described as a "glass is half full-kinda person." Despite her diagnosis of breast cancer from well over a year ago, her postive outlook has not faltered as she travels down this assigned path. Libby's shoes seem to elevate her to a higher place, one where there is an unclouded view of recovery.

Yet, Libby thinks of herself as a "realistic optimist." Though she is determined to "stay hopeful," Libby describes an ability to make precise distinctions between what she can and cannot control. On the one hand, she advises that patients with breast cancer should select "the best" medical team that can be found, and do everything possible to evoke a positive outcome. On the other hand, she recognizes that once in a while, the glass looks half empty, and some things are beyond her control. "The pathology, especially. But it's a crap shoot whether the cancer will return." Then, she grabs the glass, fills it up, and remarks, "There's no reason not to be hopeful, in these days of marvelous strides in health care."

Although some research is available that suggests breast cancer patients should not feel "pressured" to be optimistic for a successful recovery, Libby's description of flexible optimism and her vision for recovery are underscored by the results of many long-term studies and other resources available on the web. One such article was published in Psychology Today by David G. Myers, who states:

In general, optimistic people are less bothered by various illnesses and recover better from cancer and surgery. * * * The recipe for well-being, then, requires neither positive nor negative thinking alone, but a mix of ample optimism to provide hope, a dash of pessimism to prevent complacency, and enough realism to discriminate those things we can control from those we cannot.

As a companion to Libby's balanced vision for recovery, she has a solid social system. She is confident her good prognosis is aided by "having the support of my family and friends who constantly cheered me and pulled me up and reminded me of the importance of love and life. Corny but entirely necessary!" She adds, "Allow family and friends to help you (you'd do it for them if they needed it, wouldn't you?)...."

Once again, Libby's viewpoint is supported by science. In The Wisdom of the Ego, author Dr. George E. Vaillant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, mentions social supports as an important component of one's ability to cope with adversity. This concept, along with many other benefits of balanced optimism, is addressed in an excellent article by Bruna Martinuzzi, author of the book, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

For Libby Holter, whose unwaivering vision of hope and strength is as a light to all who know her: before dawn tomorrow, I will borrow your shoes. I know I cannot fill them, but I will carry them with me to illuminate the way, and to remind me never to lose sight of hope.

Here's to the next mile!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wisdom, Courtesy of Linda Jessee Mills

Can you think of anybody who has worn a pair of shoes for fifteen years? Linda Jessee Mills has done that. Linda, from Georgia, is many things to many people. She is a mother and grandmother, a nurse, and a fifteen-year survivor of breast cancer. Her shoes have carried her down a long and winding road, which she has traveled with wisdom, grace, and humor. And, if her niece, Erin, is asked to describe her Aunt Linda, she'll do it with a single word -- "amazing!"

"She’s the only person I know," Erin says, "who can reminisce about those experiences and have us all laughing hysterically in the process . . . most of us would’ve been crying and shaking our fists at the sky."

Linda would agree that mammograms are one of the most important tools available for prevention and early detection of breast cancer. She had her first annual mammogram at age 32, but it was the one performed in the year of her 43rd birthday that likely saved her life. Through that test, Linda's early breast cancer was detected. Ultimately, her course of treatment included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But, to Linda, submitting to annual mammograms was paramount to her survival.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) supports Linda's position. The ACS recommends that women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year, and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Click here to watch the site's excellent video about the important role mammograms play in the early detection of breast cancer.

Recently, however, some evidence exists that the number of women who follow this advice is decreasing. One of the primary reasons for the decline includes the cost of mammograms for those who are not covered by insurance. If mammogram costs are a hindrance to you, call your local health department, or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information about facilities in your area that perform the tests at low or no cost. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) also provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to women without health insurance for free or at very little cost. To learn more about this program, please contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-CDC INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit their Web site at With help from these agencies, cost is not an obstacle. GET A MAMMOGRAM.

For those who are more fortunate and don't have to worry about covering the cost of a mammogram, visit The Breast Cancer Site. On the first page, a button will appear that looks like the one to the left. Click on it. That's all there is to it! Each time the button is clicked, advertisements from site sponsors are displayed. All of the money from these advertisers goes to the site's charity partners, who fund programs to provide mammograms to women in need. How easy is that?

A second primary reason women hesitate to undergo mammograms concerns discomfort involved in the procedure. In response to those worries, Linda Jessee Mills can offer a few words of wisdom.

I believe that regular mammograms save lives. I am almost 60 now and have been blessed with an additional 16 years. As a nurse I was constantly hearing patients say that the mammograms hurt, to which I replied.....really....well in my "expert opinion" , it's a lot more uncomfortable to have your breast removed and undergo therapy.....all that with a smile....of course. Mammograms are a must for women....insist on them and encourage your daughters to discuss the need for early screening with their physicians.

Other types of preparation can minimize discomfort during the procedure. For example, don't schedule a mammogram during the week prior to or during menstruation. Also, having accurate information about what to expect will alleviate some of the discomfort caused by anxiety of the unknown. A very informative interview appears below with Dr. Kenneth W. Chin, whose credentials include being named “Teacher of the Year” five times by the Department of Radiology at UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Chin also served as President of the Los Angeles and California Radiological Societies as well as holding the honor of fellowship of the American College of Radiology. Today, he continues to help change and improve the field of radiology, and he certainly understands mammography. (If the interview doesn't play for you, find it here.)

Tomorrow, I will borrow Linda Jessee Mills' fifteen-year-old shoes. I already know they won't fit. They are filled with too much wisdom, grace, and humor for them to accommodate my feet. But, I will carry them with me across the next mile to demonstrate my admiration for the wisdom she shares and the inspiration she imparts to others. So, for you, Linda ... here's to the next mile!

And by the way, Linda is now in the business of surviving colon cancer. Her words of advice on that subject? "Get a screening can possibly save yourself a lot of grief!!!" At some point in the future, Linda, I'll be asking to borrow those shoes, too....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mile Marker: Week 1 Done!

Somehow, that eighteen-week training plan I so tediously described a while back in another post has taken on a less intimidating character. Oh, it still glares at me from the refrigerator door, but I have taken control. I considered using a wide-tipped Sharpie to cross out each accomplished task, but then decided I wanted to be able to see the progress.

So, I've opted for slashing Samurai-style through each block with a green highlighter while proclaiming, "Take that, Monday!" or "Hey, Thursday, you want some a' this?!" (Never mind that we're only talking a total of five minutes of jogging on each running day.)

But, Week 1 is done! Last week's lessons of perseverance and hope definitely bolstered my motivation. I am grateful to Emily Jean Thorn and Linda Ramsey Beam for that.

During Week 2, the running intervals increase to two minutes each session, while the walking intervals decrease. And, I'm going to be inspired by the stories of several courageous patients and survivors of breast cancer, whose tributes will appear here. As always, it will be my privilege to borrow their shoes.

As for my own shoes, they are officially broken in, so here's to the next mile!

* * *

Don't forget to leave a comment about a breast cancer patient or survivor you know, and describe the positive influence this person has had in your life.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Lesson in Hope -- Linda Ramsey Beam

Webster's dictionary explains that "hope" is "to desire with expectation of obtainment." Linda Ramsey Beam, like other breast cancer patients, is a living lesson of hope as she fights to be cured of her illness. Her desire to be well, and her expectation of obtaining that goal, is profoundly infectious. In fact, her friend, Heidi W., expresses she has become a "better person" as a result of Linda's influence. Linda has taught Heidi that "no matter what life throws at you," unwaivering hope is the path to overcoming adversity.

To Linda Ramsey Beam of West Virginia, who is a member of my growing list of heroes: today, I will borrow your shoes, though I cannot fill them. They will go with me as I plod, reminding me of your strength. For me, the expectation will be only to obtain footsteps; my challenge pales when I consider that for you, Linda, the expectation is about obtaining a life free from breast cancer.

So, here's to the next mile, where each stride will be fueled by Linda's Hope.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Perseverance -- The Legacy of Emily Jean Thorn

Most of us are very limited in terms of the number of people we might impact in a day's time. Unlike famous celebrities or powerful politicians whose comings and goings generate media coverage that is available to millions of people, regular folks might influence a few family members and a friend or two each day.

There is a bit of mystery that accompanies the seeds of influence each of us dispenses. Over the course of our lifetimes, we meander through our days, rarely ever knowing where those seeds have landed, if they have taken root, or if they have produced something useful.

It is doubtful that Emily Jean Thorn of West Virginia ever imagined, as she fought her breast cancer diagnosis through "thick and thin," that many years later her young granddaughter, Heidi, would recount her grandmother's strength of character. The legacy that Emily left to Heidi was to "never give up on anything even if the odds are totally against you."

To Emily Jean Thorn, whose seeds of influence have landed quite some distance from where they were first sown: today I will borrow the shoes you left behind. Though I cannot ever hope to fill them, I will take them with me, persevering through the next mile in honor of your legacy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

These Shoes Are Pink

Pink is the universally recognized color that signifies femininity. And, in more contemporary times, a color also used to increase awareness of the need for the prevention and cure of breast cancer.

After reviewing a calendar of 5K events occuring close to the time my training schedule will be completed, I've decided to draw attention to a very worthy cause -- the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on October 16 in Virginia Beach. And this time, I'm going across that finish line one way or another, be it on my feet, on my knees, or on my belly!

Over the course of the next few months, I'll continue to describe my training progress here. But, I'll be looking for inspiration. If you know someone who is a breast cancer patient, please leave a comment telling me her first name and last initial (full name is fine if she is comfortable with that), a description of her experience, and how her courage has affected you! All the names of breast cancer patients and survivors listed on this blog will be printed on my race-day Tshirt. It will be my privilege to take every one of these courageous women with me across the finish line.

Finally, once the race has concluded, I'll make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of the women whose names are entered in this blog.

Though I may wish for the level of courage demonstrated by these brave women, I'll never be able to fill their shoes. But, I'm hoping to borrow a lot of them over the next few ones!

Graphic courtesy of

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Running in My Own Shoes

Before I begin again to try on the shoes of courageous and admirable people, it's going to be necessary to use some time to get comfortable in my own. So, I've spent about a week researching training plans, experimenting with how much running is realistic after such a long break, and determining how and when to use those newly-prescribed muscle relaxers to get the best results for training without affecting my ability to function otherwise.

It turns out, much as I'd feared, that it will be necessary to start from the beginning. In a previous post, I'd described the scenario that runners dread after a long lay off, and this is it. But, the benefit of such a conservative training plan is that it should help to prevent any further injury.

The internet is packed with free resources for runners, including everything from videos of the science of foot strikes to marathon training plans for advanced runners. One of the many plans I reviewed is found on, and it has been modified to fit my own circumstances. Others can be located on websites such as Cool Running, the Mayo Clinic, and Runner's World. Click on the schedule to see a clearer version, if you like.

This two-phase, eighteen-week plan to reach the goal distance of 3.1 miles takes into consideration my age and current physical challenges (always check with your doctor when beginning a fitness plan). It also incorporates strength training and cross training. It is posted on the refrigerator, glaring back at me with every pass I make through the kitchen. I'm looking forward to drawing a big "X" over each block as the tasks are accomplished.

The idea behind this plan is to begin by ignoring distance, and to strive instead for sustained running through small and repeated time increments -- a "connect the dots" approach. For example, during the first week, the plan is to walk for six minutes, jog for one minute, and repeat both increments five times. A one minute sprint is included in the last repetition. Each week, the duration of walking time decreases slightly, and the duration of jogging time increases slightly. Over the course of eight or nine weeks, the dots connect, translating into a jog time of thirty consecutive minutes. At that point, distance is achieved automatically. At my slow pace, which averages about 3.7 mph, I should be covering around 1.8 miles in thirty minutes.

The 1.8 mile distance is a perfect beginning point for the second training phase during week 10 -- the training plan for a 5K. If all goes well, that should allow for participating in a charitable 5K event during mid-October.

There's only one thing missing from this plan. That is, what cause is going to get my race registration fee, my attempt to cross the finish line wearing a T-shirt filled with the names of courageous individuals who've traveled a difficult path, and a $100.00 donation honoring them?

Help me decide whose shoes to borrow! Leave a comment about your favorite cause!

Meanwhile, here's to the next mile....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Own New Play Shoes

As a child, one of the events I eagerly anticipated was the end-of-the-school-year shopping trip for "sneakers." I recall happily disposing of the year's worn school shoes in favor of a new pair of gleaming white canvas play shoes. By the end of the summer, of course, they were dirty and tattered, but each pair represented three months of summer adventures.

Likewise, today I have a new pair of play shoes for the summer, and I'm very excited about them! After completing a video gait analysis, and discovering for the first time that my gait is largely normal, this was one of several recommended neutral-type running shoes. These are the Nike Air Max Moto + 7. The name alone conjures up images of dust trails behind my feet! (Click here to see reviews of this model.)

Although all three of the brands I tested were comfortable, these shoes felt as if they had been made for my feet the moment I slipped them on.

We shall see. Tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m., we will plod down the road. As I trudge along the next mile, I will ponder whose shoes to borrow next. They won't be as comfortable as my new ones, and I certainly will not be able to fill them.

So, leave a comment below about a group of courageous people you'd like to see honored!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conquering The Monster In My Basement

When we were children, my sister believed that a monster lived in the basement, behind a concrete block wall. She sought to placate it, religiously tossing bits of pb&j sandwiches into the deep, black hole formed by one removed block. Eventually, a portion of the wall next to that missing block was removed to expand the basement, and there lay the stash, petrified evidence of multiple feedings. It is one of those family tales that still is repeated today.

Now, I have a monster in my basement. It sits there, blinking and beeping at me, spewing little dots as red as fire from the mouth of a dragon. I stand in front of it, transfixed and immobile. It waits to be fed.

Have you ever been stuck in one place in your life, and somehow, that sense of being stuck creeps into the rest of your life? It has become that way with my running project. I've been stuck in one place for some weeks now, and the immobilization is beginning to slither into other aspects of my life. So, it's time to force myself out of this place, and move forward in all directions.

For the most part, I've tried to describe this running experience without spending a lot of time on tedious details about my physical problems. I wanted the focus to remain on the sacrifices our military service men and women have made. But, in order to get back into the program, a little lamenting of my own challenges is necessary.

The very conservative training program I'd mapped out seemed to move along quite well for several months. I had gradually increased my running distance, and even figured that if I couldn't quite get the whole 3.1 miles in on the day of the race, I'd give myself a rare break and just walk a few hundred feet to finish, if necessary. Then, I'd keep training to reach the goal.

That was before the return of those familiar calf cramps at the end of February, only a few weeks before the Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K. But, these were not the long-standing, ordinary little calf cramps that plagued me prior to corrective surgery for compartment syndrome. Nor did they occur while running. No, these were relentlessly-knotting, writhing-on-the-floor, screaming-for-help calf cramps. My legs would draw up so tightly during these episodes that I couldn't even touch my feet to the ground. And, the aftermath -- suffice it to say that simply walking around was very uncomfortable for weeks.

Since I have to be able to walk to earn a living, I had to make a painful decision to forego the Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K and take time to heal. Disappointment. Frustration. Embarrassment. Multiply those by 1,000. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I've pursued several possible solutions during the break. My cardiologist performed vascular studies on both legs. No circulatory problems there, and that was very good news. So, I went to my family doctor in a great deal of fear and trepidation, and asked for drugs. Seriously. This problem has gone on about thirty years too long. He was very sympathetic to my complaints, and provided me with just enough muscle relaxer to get the job done.

And, now, to start over. Someone stated to me recently that although folks make off-handed remarks about a runner's addiction, anyone who loves to run knows the real bottom line: runners dare not stop -- not because they can't, but because if they do, it will take forever to return to the previous distance and condition. Just thinking about spending another four months getting back to the 2.5 mile marker is discouraging.

But, I've had some time to heal and develop a plan for recovery.

  • Get a gait analysis and a new pair of shoes.
  • Supplement specific nutrients, the lack of which contributes to cramping, and which are excessively depleted by some medications taken by cardiac patients.
  • Dramatically increase water consumption to avoid symptoms of dehydration, which can contribute to cramping.
  • Adopt a program of concentrated stretching in order to counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time, as required by work.
  • Focus on cross training. For me, it will be bicycling.
  • Conservatively use muscle relaxers before each training run.

Today, I go to feed the monster.

(Note: A contribution has been made to the Wounded Warrior Project in honor of those courageous individuals whose names appear to the right of this blog.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Freedom to Be at Ease, Courtesy of Steven Towery

It's a simple tribute left on a popular social networking site: "Steven Towery, PVT, 82nd Airborn, US Army, injured, lost his left foot to a land mine in Afghanistan...." The message offers few details of the event, so the reader must surmise that Private Towery was fulfilling his duties to seek out militants and terrorists, or perhaps to offer aid as the Afghan people seek to rebuild their war-torn country.

As I considered Private Towery's plight, I discovered that Afghanistan has been described in the media as the "most heavily mined country in the world." Estimates have placed the number of these deadly devices still lurking under the surface of this country's rugged landscape at anywhere from 400,000 to tens of millions. It was in this unforgiving maze of mines and mountains that on December 26, 2009, Private Steven Towery took a single, errant step that will change his body and his life forever.

December 26 was, of course, the day after Christmas -- the Saturday of a three-day weekend for most Americans. At ease, we were happily recuperating from a variety of indulgences. Immeasurable amounts of leftover holiday ham and pumpkin roll met with final standing, either digesting in someone's contented belly or scraped away into the trash. All the mounds of ripped and wadded wrapping paper had been cleared away. And, our children were at ease, removed from the previous day's frenetic feasting and gift-giving, now entertained by millions of blinking, beeping electronic toys. In complete contrast, Steven Towery was surely not at ease as he walked a path devoid of Christmas leftovers or wrapping paper. Instead, the road he traveled was filled with danger and treachery. Whatever the assignment, his sacrifice was one of countless similar sacrifices that ultimately enable each of us to be at ease in our surroundings.

So, thank you, Steven Towery -- because the next mile I run, I'll be at ease in my shoes. Meanwhile, I'll hope for the speedy realization of the day when you once again feel at ease in yours.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Needed: Names of 50 Wounded Warriors

Help me take the names of 50 Wounded Warriors across the finish line on March 27, 2010!
Leave your wounded warrior's name in the comments section of this blog!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mile Marker 1.5

Running is such a simple thing. Toddlers do it with complete abandon in the soft green grass of spring. Children run and chase each other, giving no thought to the required exertion, squealing with delight in games of tag. Running seems like such a simple function. At least, it should be simple. I see it all the time. Runners, gliding effortlessly down the street, floating past as their feet seem barely to touch the ground. Runners, all of them slender and leggy, their muscles defined and rippling with each stride. Despite my past experiences as an enthusiastic runner, sometimes when I see them now I growl, "Hmph. Show off." And, my dear husband, ever empathetic with my frustration, responds, "Forget that . . . do you ever see one of them smile?" He's convinced that running and smiling are incongruous.

Regardless, my scornful remarks are borne from jealousy, and I'm the first to say so. I recall vividly the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of empowerment that comes with covering mile after mile, fueled by nothing but determination. I recall falling asleep at night in excited anticipation of the next day's run. "No dead ends," I used to claim confidently, observing that with running as one's chosen method of fitness, there were very few obstacles in the way of success.

That was my perspective before a diagnosis of compartment syndrome and corrective surgery on both legs. It also was before cardiovascular surgery, and for sure, it was several years before reaching the age of 53. Now, I measure success in pain-free minutes, and progress in portions of a mile. I don't glide effortlessly, as the folks I watch seem to do. On the contrary, I pound, and every step seems to reverberate from my toes to my eyebrows.

Still, though progress is slow, though I am slow, I've been training for several weeks now. And, I'm happy to report that this week, I successfully managed 1.5 miles on the treadmill! It's not the golden 3.1, nor even 3 miles, but it IS half way! With any luck, I'll reach 2 miles by the end of January, then progress to training outside, where pounding away on the asphalt streets will present new challenges.

So, for all of our Wounded Warriors, though no one can ever fill their shoes, I'll run my next mile-and-a-half hoping for a fraction of the courage needed to wear them....