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!