Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to be a bad-a**

Wake up every day with some kind of a smile; bike to work; try to maintain that smile despite inexplicably entitled and disgruntled customers; laugh with your coworkers; make your coworkers laugh; make a customer laugh; smile at the sunset; bike home; run 3-5 miles after an 8-hour day on your feet; make something delicious and kale-based for dinner; sleep like you live a gratifying life.  Repeat.

How to be a bad-a** cancer survivor: do all the above while ignoring constant sinus infections, interminable GI distress, chronic fatigue from B-vitamin deficiencies.  Most importantly, live every day and appreciate every day for its very existence.

As part of our lives, we encounter setbacks - some small, some more significant, but always, something that gives us pause.  There are always situations and events that cause us to reevaluate our outlook and our approach to living.  I have been sick for So Long.  Without fail, just when I think I've kicked the immune deficiencies, that I am fully embracing my potential badassery, I regress.  Just over five weeks ago, I ran 10 miles.  I crushed 10 miles, running.  Training for the Philadelphia Marathon, I felt so incredibly powerful, invincible once more.  Two days later, my friends and I hiked La Plata Peak in Colorado's Sawatch Range.  It was a burly hike, at roughly 7 miles round trip and 3400 ft. of elevation gain.  There were sections I felt we were climbing practically vertically.  Not really, but it was a stiff hike.  Despite leaving the trailhead at 10:30 a.m., we powered through those 7 miles and made it back to the car just as the hail began to fall, around 5 p.m.  We were all aware that attempting a 14-er that late in the day was a dangerous endeavor, and I consider us lucky that we avoided any crazy weather when the clouds were building all around us.  But we did it!  Crushed this mountain, and the next day, my appropriately crazy boyfriend and I did a bit of off-roading leading to a little trail we could have potentially followed to the top of another 14-er.  We decided not to go through with the full hike, as it was even later in the day and still pretty sketchy weather.  But he and I did do the first portion of the hike: roughly 1/2 mile and 1000 ft. vertical.  Once again, incredibly steep.  It was rough.  The weekend was hard on both of us.  But being as bad-a** as we are, we conquered mountains.

Following our outdoorsy extravaganza, both my boyfriend and I got sick. So much for invincibility. Now, five weeks later, he is recovering well, and my body has pretty much just stayed in this sickness trough.  My marathon training has stagnated.  There is a constant party in my gut.  Not the awesome, aww yeah, we're having a great time! party, but the one where the frat house across the street is Blasting dubstep at 3 a.m. and drunk co-eds are shrieking in the streets while brahs exchange barbs and blows after way too much Natty Light.  Nobody's happy, and nobody's sleeping.

I don't feel like a bad ass right now.  I feel like a half-ass, and it is bothering me to no end.  I was rejected from yet another job I should have been qualified for, rejected with absolutely nothing to go on besides they went with a candidate with "more experience." Period.  Frustrating!  These setbacks are incredibly frustrating.

I can't help but feel that I will be confined to a coffee shop forever, slinging lattes and grin-acing through the day, not actually helping anyone or living up to whatever potential I might have to be an influential member of society.  I can't help but wonder if I will ever be able to train for a marathon or an ultramarathon and remain injury or sickness free, if it is even possible for me to conquer each and every mile.

I am pushing through every day.  Pushing through because I love each and every day.  I love that I can run, even if just a little bit, that I can make people laugh and laugh, myself, easily at so many things.  My life does not have any more setbacks than anyone else's, in particular.  Maybe some people have it easier...  There are those who can straight up run marathons without training any substantial amount.  Others have the right connections and social aptitude to have a fulfilling, engaging career.  I know these individuals exist, though I can't help wondering if they truthfully smile at every sunrise, laugh uninhibitedly at the sheer, glorious magnitude of this world's beauty...  Do they even know how lucky we are?  We are Alive.

While I am disheartened, frustrated and upset that parts of my life are not what I wish they were, I am Overjoyed every, single freaking day that I am still here, that I am still lucky enough to live in love with life and the wonderful people in my life in this beautiful world.  And physically, sure, I have a ways to go, but my perspective makes me a Bad Ass.  Nothing will take that away from me; nobody's rejection can tamp my appreciation for cheese and cider and being outside surrounded by Awesome.

Setbacks, road blocks, giant, gaping dilemmas with seemingly no resolution - these things do not a Bad Ass break.  Keep moving forward, keep laughing despite it all.  There are always the little things, and maybe, just maybe, someday, the big things will work out positively.  Meantime, I guess it's just going to be another slow marathon and a few more lattes to sling.

Thanks for checking in, checking back.  What makes You a Bad Ass?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Oh, HAI!!

Dear Blawg,

I haven't forgotten about you.  The past four months have just been a whirlwind of crazy and not enough running thrown in to make posting terribly worthwhile.  I have thought about things I would write: how my body keeps alternating between healthy and not quite; how every so often I would run and remember how much I loved it but it was still winter and I wasn't mentally or physically ready; how Denver received more snow in March, April and May (?!) than the rest of the winter; how I moved in with my love and got straight As in the classes I took this semester.  So far, this year has been all kinds of ridiculous and not at all easy.

But that is all for another post, perhaps, or maybe I'll just keep most of it to myself and my journals.  This post is about the fact that within the past 20 minutes, I found myself registering for my Third marathon.  This time, it is the Philadelphia Marathon.  Come mid-November, I will be in Philadelphia, running with a woman and friend who invited me to do this and who inspires me on a daily basis.  I am going to do this race for so many reasons, again, which I will save for another post.  For now though, I just want to say that I am terrified and beyond excited and eager to begin training and blogging once more.

Writing is one of the greatest catharses in my life, as is running.  It makes all too much sense to me to combine both in one epic quest for enlightenment.  Or peace.  Or a better finishing time.  All of those things!  This marathon and training will be unlike either before it: I am working on being So Healthy!  So, tune in and stop back because I'll be updating my medical adventures and running adventures and school and goals and maybe some recipes and Everything awesome in my life, along with the struggles that keep us real.

Thanks for hanging around.  Here's to believing in ourselves and making lofty goals realities!

Running (a lot) more.  Thinking less.  Loving it all, so much.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fair Warning: having a bad day.

Every once in a while I treat myself to a self-indulgent, self-pitying blog post.  The sentiments are usually short-lived, but I need to get them out or they just sort of fester and don't heal.  Like that frustrating sore on the inside of your cheek you keep poking at with your tongue and occasionally nibbling on with your teeth even though you know it will heal quickly if you just let it be...  Today is one of those days.  This morning (before breakfast, a mistake), I opened a hospital bill and saw a bottom line that is more than my monthly rent.  So much for a new hiking pack with my tax return.  And then I began panicking a bit because that bill was for those drugs that I supposedly need to keep me healthy, the ones I supposedly need every three or four weeks possibly for the rest of my life.  The ones I haven't gotten since December 13 that, while I so desperately wish I could keep putting off getting more of, I so desperately need because I am not properly digesting Anything. 

Whose great idea was this to keep throwing all this in my way, one more thing to try and figure out how to manipulate, the best way around or over of straight through it?  Nobody in the medical community that I've met so far gives a Flying F*** about me as a person and what this immune situation is doing to my body.  Each is only so concerned with his or her individual specialty, and every single specialist has deemed my "case" as "definitely interesting."  My assumption is that no one knows Why this is happening...  Possibly this total-body post-chemo meltdown has never really happened among young adult leukemia survivors.  It is all so novel; there are no answers and only half-hearted attempts to treat the surface symptoms.  And, of course, expensive treatments only Mostly covered by insurance.

Often, I feel like I blame everything in my life on having had cancer.  Occasionally it's justified - it is doubtful these medical issues would have ever popped up without a leukemia-catalyst.  As for the rest of the times, I don't know.  Would I be working as a grossly underpaid and undervalued barista?  Would I have lost my belief in myself and my ability to Do and Be Anything?  Too, would I be living in Denver, have run 2 marathons, fallen in love, learned how to truly take care of myself as well as how to appreciate and empathize with others?  There are no black and whites, no absolutes, really.

Everything has this crazy amount of potential energy.  I am trying so hard to figure out a way to release mine, to get going and start making a tangible difference in this world.  Objectively, I know these medical issues will be resolved.  I'm looking into alternative ways to pay for medical bills.  I just stocked up on toilet paper.  Someday, I won't be living paycheck to paycheck and I'll be able to go skiing with my friends on the weekend because I won't be at my hourly-wage job.  Yet emotionally, today, only right now, I wish my life hadn't gone this direction.  Just at this moment because I basically never feel that way.  Truly, I love my life and am thankful for everything and everyone in it.  I am blessed; I am beyond lucky.  I'm just giving in right now.  It will pass.  This isn't some cry for help or blatant need for pity.  Quite the opposite: this is my admission that I am so human and an acknowledgment that it is okay to have a bad day.  I don't know right now what I'm going to do, but this too shall pass, and it will be okay.  I have to believe that everything will be okay, even if it doesn't happen until tomorrow.

So, I warned you.  Hopefully you are having a grand Monday today, which I do mean.  I love when people have good, productive days in which there was a lot of laughter.  Go laugh.  I think I'll bike around some then head to my chemistry lecture (which I Love!!).  See what tomorrow brings.  Peace love and not nearly enough miles covered lately...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Some things I will just never learn

Such as self-control when it comes to chocolate, peanut butter cup ice cream.  You'd think by this point in my life, after all the pints of various flavors I have consumed, knowing full well the epic, gastric consequences of eating more than I should, equally aware that I have almost Never stopped before it was too late...  You would think I might tone it back a little, or, better yet, Stop Buying Pints of Ice Cream.  Yeah...  No.

Instead, I continue to live for the moment and ignore the well-established precedent of post-cream pain.  Anywhoo.  Moving on, we have been having the loveliest spring here in Denver, Colorado.  I mean, winter.  It is winter.  Frigid, howling zephyrs, all long down jackets and sad faces...  But no, I can't even kid.  While the East Coast is in the midst of a massive winter spectacle (2-plus feet of snow in Boston??), I am sitting in my apartment in a tanktop and with the windows thrown open.  Only a few minutes ago, I was sitting out on my balcony in my tanktop while I digested.  Spring.  And yet, due to an most unfortunate bike-related spill in early January, on the one day winter hit Denver, I have not been running outside.  Until today, I haven't even been running inside.  Ugh.  I did, however, start lifting more to at least do something good for my body while I let me knee heal.  So, my biceps are gigantic.  True story.  Today, though, I had had enough and hopped onto the treadmill and busted out One entire mile! And then I went and lifted some more because I didn't want to exacerbate the still-niggling pain in my knee.  But One whole mile!  It was fine, too.  I really just stopped because my knee is stupid.  Since I still bike everywhere every day, my aerobic capacity tends to not decrease too much on extended run-leaves.  Yet another reason to lock up your car and throw away the key!  Fitness!

So I am slowly starting to run again, key word being slowly.  But I miss it like crazy.  I am also beyond excited for the sun's rising earlier and setting later every day.  Soon, soon it will be Actual spring and I will be all healthy and ready to rock those 6-milers and beyond once more.

In other news, I still have no globulins (*shakes head).  But I say, "screw them."  Perhaps I'm not better off without them, but I am managing quite well on my own, thank you very much.  So well, in fact, that I traveled half-way around the world in a little aluminum can surrounded by other people and their germies, then spent ten days in two foreign countries, exploring, eating cheese, eating more cheese, wandering around, taking photos, eating some more cheese...  Then traveled back to Denver in another little aluminum tube surrounded once more by germies and their peoples.  And I did NOT get sick.  At all.  For sure, got an upset stomach from all the cheese, but returned home triumphant and healthy and reluctant.  (Italy was Incredible!  Must go back...)  In fact, it wasn't until two days ago that I began to feel like something was attacking my chest and head.  Pretty sure I picked up whatever it was from this absurd child who was hacking all over the place at a super bowl showing I went to on Sunday.  I almost wrung her little neck.

The moral of This story is that two days later, I am back to normal.  Whatever my normal is, anyway.  My head is still a bit congested, but then, I am always a bit congested.  But...  Could it be...?  Could this focus on so-called "whole foods", the fruits, veggies and kale I've been trying to eat more of, actually be working to keep me healthy?  ("healthy.")  I finally met with an immunologist on Wednesday.  His gospel was that I unequivocally need the IvIG infusions and may forever.  I still have some terrible unresolved intestinal issues, so, I am okay receiving the infusions for now.  Hopefully they'll help my gut!  But perhaps I can avoid the pesky upper respiratory infections and sinus infections and the flu and pneumonia and cytomegalovirus and what have you all on my own, all by following a diet focused on Plants.  Could it really be that easy?

I sure hope so, because that is what I intend to study for the next three or four years.  Anyway, that is where I am at today.  Ran a mile, kicked a cold, time to head out for a cute date with my super cute boyfriend.  (Who is, himself, fighting a bug.  But he'll pull through.  I hope.)  Best of luck to everyone I know and love out east...  Stay safe, stay warm, get all cuddly and cozy this weekend, then go and enjoy the snow.  Don't forget your vitamin D.  Peace, love!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Globulins!! *shakes fist

Sometime in November, after my doctor suggested trying to avoid the immunoglobulin infusions, I realized that if I wanted to stay truly healthy, I would have to reroute my thinking and some of my habits.  My focus became a broader Wellness that included lifting and running shorter distances, and a much more pointed focus on nutrition: more vegetables; a greater variety of vegetables; sleep; water; tea...  Basically a shift to a sustainable lifestyle that would keep me healthy.

Last time I wrote, I was a few days away from my chem final and my quarterly PET scan.  I ended up with an A in my class and a clear scan.  Hooray!  I also found out that after six weeks, my immunoglobulin levels had fallen to nearly undetectable levels.  Boo!  Most doctors are funny in that they don't believe something until they have tested and proved or disproved it themselves.  Not one doctor over the past three years has believed my Ig levels could be as low as they are until they test them themselves and are appropriately shocked that, Yes, I am still here.  Without those globulins.  Needless to say, a few days later, I received an IgG infusion, which did help with how I was feeling.

As a brand new year gets underway, I have been reflecting on this last year and what I want from 2013.  2012 went by lightning-fast, and I am still trying to process everything that happened.  Between learning the ins and outs of a new relationship, innumerable hospital visits, figuring out how to change my diet and lifestyle following a celiac diagnosis, marathons, hikes, travel adventures, Burning Man, going back to school, and a sense of incredulity that This is really my life?!  Every month, almost every week, brought me some new reason to wake up with a smile on my face.  I truly believe that it doesn't matter much what happens in your life.  It is most important how you approach the challenges and appreciate the good moments. 

Disclaimer: I used to be a raging pessimist and cynic.  I had very low self-confidence and little appreciation for everything I am capable of accomplishing.  Having cancer did little for my confidence.  It doesn't help a 20-year old to lose her hair, her strength, to see her weight fluctuate an incredible amount.  Yet, everything that has come my way since 2006 has only made me so much stronger.  The immune issue and now the celiac issue both tried to once more take away my physical strength and confidence.  I chose to laugh (after a little crying and self-pity) and start baking delicious cookies and muffins full of nutrients and non-gluteny grains that could only help my body.  My poor body has gone through so much these past six years, and thankfully my attitude and perspective have changed almost as much.

So on New Year's Eve, I sat at home with a gluten free pizza, a movie, and time to reflect on what I want from this next year.  I wrote down a whole bunch of things, some fantastic, most definitely within my reach.  Not resolutions, but a loose map of where and how I want to find myself this time next year.  I fell asleep shortly after midnight, mostly satisfied.  I woke up a few hours later for work and realized that everything I had written down is wonderful, good ideas, nice to set goals, but I really only want one thing: I want myself and my friends and family to stay healthy this year.  School, work, travel, running, all of it will fall into place if I can make it happen, but it will all only matter if I am healthy.  If I have the energy to do everything, the strength to carry my bike all over the place, to study and work and dance around my living room and love as much as I am able, then it will be a Great year.

The best part is, to an extent, this is all within my control.  I've been reading a lot about immunity and self-care through nutrition.  I'm not sure how well it all applies to someone with a super compromised immune system (globulins! *still shaking fist), but it certainly won't hurt anything.  So to bring this (probably unnecessarily) long post to a close: Wellness.  I haven't run in about 3 weeks due to finals and then family in town and then I crashed on my bike and my knee has been out of commission.  I haven't gone grocery shopping recently and my supply of vegetables is basically nil.  While delicious, cereal for breakfast And dinner does nothing for my immunity.  I am hitting up the store shortly, and while my knee is still busted, I'm stretching and doing push-ups and planks and dreaming about the day I can start running again.  Even if I will once more be starting at ground zero.  This is my life and my body and my health.  I've come too far to throw in the towel now, so why not make the effort to truly take care of myself?  Like I said, if I can do that successfully, everything else will happen as it should.

And finally, a challenge!  I challenge you to figure out what is best for yourself this new year.  Is it eating more leafy greens?  Making time for breakfast?  Doing yoga or giving yourself at least five minutes every day to sit, clear your brain, and think about Nothing, just let go for a few minutes?  Figure out something sustainable that will ultimately make your life a little better, grow your confidence a little more, keep you healthier.  Let's do it together!  I think resolutions are stupid, hyped expectations that generally lead to guilt-induced bingeing.  Make a long-term plan, plot out a change that can only improve yours and others' lives.  I, again, am shooting for a plant-based diet with the occasional bacon strip thrown in.  Less (no...?) refined sugar, more sleep, moderated and consistent exercise.  Climbing mountains!  Live this life, full of love and gratitude - share it with others.  Thank you, 2012, for everything you brought me.  Here's to 2013 and a whole new slew of adventures, challenges and growth!  Cheers!