The original title of this post was going to be “Utah!”, as in an ad I’ve seen for said state. But I realized that I’ve been a pretty busy traveler this last month, so there is more to the story than that.
I belong to an organization called Pet Sitters International. They hold annual conferences around the country and this year, the location was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was especially happy to be able to attend this year, as I was in the hospital at the time of last year’s meeting, and I had really missed seeing everyone. I flew in on September 11th.
Friends and fellow sitters Cathy from Texas and Amy from New York
I was part of a panel discussion with two other sitters, answering questions from the audience. I also attended some great sessions on animal behavior and business issues. My favorite part is always seeing my friends from around the country. In addition to offering continuing education for sitters, we as a group always raise money at our auction to benefit a local animal charity. This year we raised $30,000! Pictured below is a somewhat pricey chicken that ended up in my suitcase and was part of the cause…thanks to a little help from my sweet ‘other Kim’ from Ohio!
I had such a great time that I just did not get to that 16 miler that was assigned until the last minute and ended up doing it on a treadmill. Yes, 10 miles more than I had ever run on a ‘mill. Mental toughness, we meet again!
The first full day I was home, the 16th, was a busy one. I had to go to my oncologist’s office to have blood drawn, then down to the imaging center for an MRI my neurologist had requested. I get them yearly to monitor the cervical stenosis in my spine, but really, I just like lying there in a tube for 45 minutes with the sound of a helicopter landing on my head!
The irony in all of this is that before my other appointments, my most important job of the day was to register for Boston. I am officially in! My dear friends Erin and Paula are also signed up and it is part of my dream come true!
Next up was a day trip on the 19th to take Rory off to college at UCSB. A hard day for her mom, but very exciting for her! (And it should not have been a day trip…’twas a very long day in the car!) Good luck to the best daughter ever!
On the 22nd, I met with my doctor and got the results from my lab work. As I had hoped, the numbers still show that I am in remission. Sigh of relief! My kidney numbers, however, are still high. It is a source of frustration, but I can hardly complain. I am living my life quite happily. When and if my kidneys become an issue, I will deal with it then. And my neck is in a holding pattern. It’s all good there. Back to our regularly scheduled program….
A few days later, Howard and I were off to Tahoe to celebrate September 25th + 33 years. A little cycling, a little running, kayaking and mini golf. We had a really nice time, just the two of us.
And now, it was down to a few days before my St. George trip with Pete and Erin and this one entailed, yes, another marathon! We left on the 1st and our race was the 3rd. I was feeling a little frazzled going into the trip and wondering if my training would suffice. Coach Andy knows me well and his advice this time was to “chill out”. I tried, I really tried.
Pete snapped a photo of Erin and me keeping warm by the campfire at the race start. It was dark…and early.
I can’t say I skipped the pre race jitters the day before, but I was so relaxed the morning of the race I told my buddies I just didn’t feel like running at all. They did remind that we had been bused 26 miles out of town. There was only one option to get back, so like it or not, I was going to have to get back on my own two feet. Fortunately when the gun went off, the running switch flipped over to on, and it was game on!
There is a lot of downhill on this course, even more than at Mountains2Beach. But there was some pretty decent uphill too, and it wasn’t easy. I hit 20 miles at 3:01. Not as fast as my last race, but still in the game to come in under…you can probably guess by now….4:10.
Then at 20.5, ouch! Leg cramp! It stopped me in my tracks. Fortunately there was a volunteer nearby with some “Icy Hot” which is good for sore muscles. I was counting on the placebo effect, if nothing else. A minute later I started running again. I cramped up again and had to stop about 5 more times, but convinced myself that when I wasn’t stopped, I had to be running. There was no time to walk this one in.
In the last half mile, I could see the balloons at the finish line all the way down the street. It seemed to take a lifetime. But I finally made it with 99 seconds to spare. Hello 4:08:21!
It was a great race and well organized. Everyone we met in town seemed really supportive. The best part was that I was once again racing with my ‘partners in crime’. Erin ran a 3:45! Pete ran a 4:14! PRs for both!
We were all pretty sore Sunday, but still managed a short hike. Monday was set aside for two national parks. We visited Zion and Bryce Canyon. Amazing! I must go back and hike among the hoodoos!
What a way to cap off a great trip!
I’m back in Concord for now, except for some short little hops here and there. I’ve had a great time. I am so thankful to be healthy enough to be able to travel. Still, it’s good to be home!
The Present Moment
In some ways, it has flown by. It’s been a year now since I had my transplant. The day we call day zero was August 19, 2014. Last year, I arrived at the hospital on the 15th, had chemo for two days, then a day of rest. The 19th was the day my cells were returned to me, and sparked the beginning of what we hope is a brand new healthier immune system.
So far, so good.
I could only think of one way to celebrate.
I made the trek to Stanford to visit my old hangout, the E1 unit. My friends Kerry and Jan, both of whom had visited me there last summer, came along.
I was a little nervous at first, because I didn’t want to be in the way. That fear lasted about 2 seconds. As soon as I got there, a crowd gathered around. It was the nurses’ idea to get a picture, so we posed. They remembered me… “You were in 124!”. Yep!
I had a bag of goodies which included some cookies for the nurses. In addition, I tried to think of things the patients might like. One of my favorite things I had while there was the soft blanket that friends Gina and Fatma had given me, so I brought a couple of those I had purchased, along with some colorful scarves. I washed some of my hats and brought those too. They have a basket where patients can choose hats to wear. I took a few of the chicken photos from last year and made some cards for the patients too. I received so much last year and it felt good to be on the giving end for once.
I asked if any of the patients might want a visitor and they had someone in mind. I spent some time with Theresa, who had been there six months! She was dealing with “GVHD” which is Graft vs Host Disease. This is a potential complication of an “allogenic” transplant, the type where a donor’s cells are used. (I had an autologous one, with my own cells)
Theresa told me she had an almost 2 year old son at home and I felt like my heart was going to break for her. I cannot imagine what that must be like. We talked for a while in her room, after she did a few laps around the unit. She hoped to be home for his birthday at the end of the month. In spite of her rough road, she had the most beautiful smile, especially when talking about her son. I have been thinking of Theresa each day since. If you are the praying type, please say one for her.
The drive back in commute traffic made for a long day, especially after parting ways with Jan and then Kerry. But it was one of those days I realized I would not have wanted to be anywhere else. It just seemed right.
I have had a terrific year. Good by any standards, not just for someone recovering from a stem cell transplant. I am not sure why I am so blessed, but it has made me grateful for every day. I think there is more I’m supposed to do with my life. I’m excited to see what the next year brings, one day at a time.
And yes, Erin did this to mark my first re-birthday!
Hair of the Dog
Hair of the Dog…hmm, as in ‘…that bit you?’
You probably thought I was going to talk about a hangover cure.
No. That would not be it.
I have a serious medical condition, Silly.
I don’t drink.
Just kidding. Of course I drink.
When I found out I had to be on a low sodium diet, the first thing I looked up was white wine. With only 5 mg per glass, it’s probably one of the best things I can have!
But I’ll get to the mane idea, here. On one of my facebook forums, someone brought up that their hair was like a Poodle after their transplant. I can completely identify with that! I got to thinking, I’m a Poodle too, and I have been several other breeds along the way. Back when all this started, I was a Cocker Spaniel. I liked it, and I want to be one again. But hair growth isn’t anything I can speed up. I’ll be a Poodle for a while. But it beats being a Xoloitzcuintle. That’s a breed that is hairless. It’s pronounced “Zoh-loh-eetz-kweent-lee.” And I’ve been there, done that.
If you’re new here, last year I had chemo that preceded my stem cell transplant. I lost all my hair. Hence the “Xolo”. It was a big deal and at the same time, it wasn’t. A life adjustment for sure, but I knew it wouldn’t be permanent. With only two doses given, I knew that while my hair would fall out, it wouldn’t be long before it started to grow again. It seems like a hard thing to go through, but let’s face it, when your life is at stake, hair isn’t all that important. And these days, who hasn’t known someone who has gone through it? It’s hardly a stigma. I didn’t get all wigged out about it. I started walking around without hats way before I ever thought I would, and I received nothing but kind remarks from people who really seemed to care.
Above, me on September 1st, 2014. It was a relief to have my head shaved by the nurse as the process of hair loss was becoming a very messy problem. I was a Xolo.
(You’ll have to use your imagination with my drawings. Just know the one above is a hairless dog. I’m careful about taking photos from the internet so I tend to draw my own. I guess you can call them sham pooches.)
In November, I started seeing a few hairs coming in. Poor lonely little creatures. When I took this picture of Fern, my newest chicken, on Thanksgiving, I actually thought I had hair! I didn’t have much. She was molting at the time and it looked like I was too!
But gradually, there were enough hairs to cover my scalp. By my birthday in January, I was a Labrador Retriever. And this pup was ready to scarf down some cake.
Pig tailing off the Lab phase, the curls started. I had been told my hair would come back in curly. It’s an effect of the chemo. Which is OK, but they were relentless. No amount of blow drying would straighten them. I’ve been told it will take a year. I wish I could shave some months off that, but it’s out of my control. I became a Curly Coated Retriever. (A breed that has wavy to curly hair that is fairly short all over). Below, with friend Martha.
After I parted ways with the Retrievers, the next stop for this hair plane ride was Poodle Town, where I am stranded today.
At times, I fantasize about a magic pill that will make my hair straighten up and fly right, but it’s not to be. Erin got me through the spring with a flat iron so I could have bangs again. (It was only then that I stopped doing double takes in the mirror each morning…I mean, who was that person with a forehead anyway?) I use gel to force the curls to go behind my ears and now my bangs are long enough to blow dry straight. The rest of my hair just needs to grow. I gently caress it each day and whisper into it: “Grow dammit, grow!”. But, really, if this is the most hair raising problem I have, I can brush it off. Life is pretty fabulous!
Still, I do look forward to joining the Cocker family again. That’s why I have kept my facebook profile pic the same. It’s not to tease myself. It’s called envisioning your goals…a positive mental picture…keeping your eye on the prize. And I will get there eventually!
So, there you have the highlights of my tail.
I bid you a do!
But that other thing? A couple of Tylenol and try to drink as much water as you consumed in alcohol before going to bed. I have no idea if that works…cuz you know…. I wouldn’t know. 🙂
Turtles, Fish and Sand…Oh Mai…Tai!
A long awaited trip to Hawaii finally came to pass last week. It was everything we had hoped it would be and more! It was made possible by my sister. My amazing, wonderful, generous sister, Joanne. As if she hadn’t already done enough to earn free cat care for life! (Pictured above with her hubby Randy, who happens to be one of my best friends also.) The cast of characters included Me, Howard, Rory, Joel, Joanne, Randy, their son Jack, and daughter Caitlin who joined us a couple of days later.
The week started off with a startling revelation. As we were in line to check our bags, Joanne said, “We can stand over here, because we’re flying first class.” To which I said, “No, we aren’t!” But oh yes, we were! That would be Joanne and me, with the rest of the group back with the …the regular people. It was a special gift to me from her, She had managed to keep this extra detail a secret for eight months! You get leg room and white tablecloths in first class. And drinks before take off. But on to our trip…..
As is the tradition in her family trips to Maui, we rose easily on our first morning there, while still, theoretically, on California time, to make the trek up Haleakala to see the sunrise. It was truly beautiful and so wonderful to be part of the adventure!
Joel is pictured,taking in the amazing view from a rock formation on the drive back down.
The next several days were spent working on two quests of mine. To snorkel to my heart’s content, and to pursue colorful drinks, with or without little umbrellas in them. Check off goals met!
I loved being in the water every day. One of the most fun things we did was simply playing in the waves. We never got tired of it, being pushed onto the shore and sucked back out again. And when we left the beach, we didn’t really leave. We brought it back to the room with us. I had at least an inch of sand in my bathing suit each day.
I don’t have any pictures of the many beautiful fish I saw. I wish I had had a camera that I could use underwater, but in some ways, I’m glad I did not. It’s easy to get bogged down on photographing the moment you are trying to enjoy, and actually miss the real moment itself. So, I was fully in the experience. I swam with turtles! It was magical! And the fish, so beautiful, so many different kinds. Moorish Idols, Yellow Tangs….and a whole bunch that I never bothered to look up. It was incredible. I have always said that watching fish swim in a tank is relaxing and mesmerizing. This was like being IN the tank with them! I snorkeled every day, 7 days in a row, only missing the last Saturday when we had to leave for the airport by 9 and I was feeling a cold coming on.
The view from Monday night’s dinner in Lahaina, at Fleetwood’s. Yeh, that Fleetwood. As in Mac.
Tuesday we spent more time in the water and then took a drive up the coast.
Wednesday evening brought us a catamaran cruise. That was a lot of fun. The food and drinks were great and all 8 of us were aboard.
The plan for Thursday was our drive on the road to Hana. It’s a beautiful drive, known for the journey more than the destination. It did not disappoint.
There are a lot of slow cars on this road. It has a lot of curves and it’s full of tourists. I pity the poor locals, but I’m sure most are used to this and probably plan ahead, allowing enough time. At one point, we were being tailgated by an apparently very frustrated driver behind us, so Howard pulled over to let her go by. She promptly rolled down her window, yelled at us, and flipped us the finger. Rory commented later that she had had a bumper sticker…” Slow down, it’s not the Mainland.” Irony at its finest. She gave us a good laugh.
Our first stop was a hike to waterfall. It turned out to be a bit more challenging that we expected. It was a good 20 plus minute hike over slippery boulders and I should have told Rory to wear something sturdier than flip flops. But she was a trooper, and we all made it to the waterfall.
Next we stopped at Black Sand Beach. The waves were fast but we couldn’t resist throwing on the snorkeling gear to see what the underworld held, and sure enough, there were species we hadn’t seen before. A few minutes of that and the urge to just play in the waves became to too great.
In the pic above, there are two little heads above the water, the two farthest out. That’s Rory and Joel. I was on the beach for a moment and saw them out there. I yelled “Don’t go too far out!”. And then I realized, what was that? I had opened my mouth and my mother had come out! Because I realized I had no good answer when they shouted back “Why not?”. So, I jumped right back in the water and played in the waves too. It was getting rough out there but I couldn’t think of a reason we weren’t safe.
After a good lunch in Hana, we headed back. Rory asked us to stop to see some colorful trees. I didn’t realize what she meant until we found them. Not just colorful flowers or leaves…no, colorful bark! Reds, greens, grays, you name it. The photo doesn’t do it justice.
We were now down to one last full day. What to do? The guys were not into it, but Rory and I had a plan. To go zip lining! (after snorkeling again) I was OK with it. But when I asked the guide if we could control the speed, I didn’t get the answer I wanted. “No!”. I had to step off and let myself travel up to 30 miles an hour, hanging from a strap.. But knowing that life’s regrets come from NOT doing things, rather than regretting what you do DO, I went for it. And I’m so glad I did, because it was a blast!
And then, we had to come home. A fabulous week came to an end. But coming back first class made the transition to the real world just a little easier!
Just another thank you to my sis and to Randy too! The memories will last a lifetime!
Of Bumper Stickers and Light Bulbs
Let’s get this out of the way first. I was in my favorite place when I wrote this post. Lake Tahoe. The first one is across the street from Safeway, which is ALWAYS my first stop, to buy milk for the kids, of course. The second pic is Squaw Valley along my running route on Saturday. I just got back and I’m missing it already.
I wasn’t going to do it. I wrote a long blog post about all sorts of things related to dying and I changed my mind.
I didn’t want to get bogged down with that. I mean, “The sun is shining, the day is young, we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us and you’re worrying about a burned out light bulb?”
Oh, you probably wouldn’t get that…it’s from “How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?”, and that’s the Golden Retriever’s response. I’m feeling like a Golden today. Light bulbs, dying….that stuff can be put away for another day.
Oh, but I changed my mind again. That’s because I think it’s only natural to contemplate one’s mortality when one has lost several friends in rapid succession.
In addition to losing my dad recently, I lost a friend who had breast cancer. She was just 47. Then I lost a friend from my Amyloidosis support group. She was 52 and had it in her kidneys like I do. That was followed shortly after by the death of Brad. I didn’t know him personally but I followed his blog. I thought of him as a friend. He was tough and strong. Until Multiple Myeloma took him out.
I’ve been existing in a pretty happy place for a while, where I have felt that I’m going to be OK for a long time to come. And I still am. But in light of these recent tragedies, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I ‘should’ feel. Which is really ridiculous, because there isn’t ever any way anyone ‘should’ feel. But I’m caught in between wanting to have the most hope for the future and the reality that remissions do not generally last forever with this disease. I want to live a normal life like everyone else, but I don’t want to be in denial.
These thoughts bring me to a bumper sticker I recall seeing a while back. “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” It’s a little gem from Albert Einstein and it makes sense to me. When I was first diagnosed and all kinds of thoughts were swirling around in my head, I thought about that concept, replacing the word ‘war’ with ‘dying’. I wondered if you could fight the good fight (so as to prevent dying) and at the same time have a calm acceptance that it might happen. I mean, would acceptance be giving up? Would you lose the ability to fight? Or could they coexist? My brain started to hurt. I was not used to getting all philosophical.
I decided that you could. You have to. Or, specifically, I had to. I knew I would always do whatever I could to fight. But it was when I felt I had an acceptance that I might die from this, that I was able to move on and be happy again. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there, but I think it freed me up to be the person I was supposed to be, expiration date or not.
We all die. If not sooner, then certainly later. One of my favorite (?) expressions is that we can all get hit by a truck tomorrow. There are no guarantees. I can be taken out by a standard issue truck tomorrow like anyone else. But I also know there is a truck out there with my name on it. (It’s probably teal in color) And I can’t lie. That changes you.
I strive for the balance all the time. I plan to be around for a long time. I want to see my kids get married and have kids. I’m pretty confident I will. But when I think about the deaths of my friends, I see how things can change, and sometimes pretty quickly. So I try to live like I don’t have 30 years, even though I promised Howard I wouldn’t go anywhere for at least that long. That’s not to say I’m going crazy. I’m not spending every dime I have to get out there and travel the world…yet…anyway. I’m just very aware that as things become doable, they should be done. (Hoping that trip to bike through France becomes doable if you know what I mean….) I find great comfort in the fact that I’ve been on the right track all along. The things I want now are very much the same things I wanted before, so I feel I have always had a clear perception of what is important to me.
And as far as how I am doing now, the answer is… very well. When I’ve brought up concerns to my various doctors lately, I have to qualify everything, as in, “Yes, my ankles have been very swollen and I’m retaining a lot of water, but I kinda sorta ran this marathon that went really well last month. You can put me at a 10 on your ‘quality of life’ scale that I know you have in the chart.” Yes, I am grateful. The joy from my last race has not exactly worn off. I know I’ve got it good. I don’t forget that for a second.
Speaking of ankles, I did get in to see the nephrologist (kidney specialist) at Stanford who is on the Amyloid team. I’m not going to have another kidney biopsy anytime soon. He just feels my high level of proteinuria (protein spill into the urine) may not resolve itself, although it is possible it still could turn around. About half of patients in remission continue with nephrotic syndrome (that’s what chronic proteinuria is called) and half of those go onto kidney failure at some point. I can go on diuretics to treat the symptoms if I like, but the one drug that might help control the spill will lower my (already low) blood pressure too much. I’d rather not faint while out running. Thanks, but no thanks.
So I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear. Discouraging? A little. Knowing this, and thinking about my friends who have passed away, is just a little reminder, that this thing that I have managed to store in the back of my head, is, in fact, something real.
But I keep in mind the bumper sticker. And the hope. And the sunshine. And how I’m not going to change any light bulbs today.
And how, if worse come to worse, hold onto to your kidneys. Because I may be coming after one of them!
Just kidding, I’m going after my long list of family members first. 🙂
How many dogs DOES it take to change a light bulb?
Greyhound: It isn’t moving. Who cares?
Siberian Husky: Light bulb? I ate the light bulb. And the lamp. And the coffee table it sat on, and the carpet underneath the table…..
Pointer: I see it! There it is! Right there!
Irish Wolfhound: Can somebody else do it? I’ve got a hangover.
Border Collie: Just one. And I’ll replace any wiring that’s not up to code.
Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.
Australian Shepherd: First you put all the bulbs in a little circle…
Poodle: I’ll just blow in the Border Collie’s ear and he’ll do it.
Rottweiler: Make me!
There’s more, but I think that’s enough for today. Carry on!
Beauty on the Beach
I should be finishing my French homework right now, but I’m taking a break. This week, we are assigned a movie to watch…Les Mis. And get this…it’s in French! I’m catching about one word per sentence at this point. I keep yelling at my iPad, “Slow down, you’re talking in a foreign language!” I am thinking if I have enough time, I should watch it in English too, so I sort of know what’s going on. But I’ll have to answer questions about it in French tomorrow night. It’s all good, though. It’s not like I have to pass the class to pass high school. I’m just working on a bucket list item. I enjoy it and I love the instructor and fellow students. (And I’m having a good year for bucket list items.)
It has been a month of highs and lows. I was called to Salinas, as I got word my dad was not doing well. We were headed to the area for Tristan’s graduation from CSU Monterey Bay on Saturday the 16th anyway, but I got there Friday night. Surrounded by 5 of his 6 children, he passed away on Saturday morning just before I needed to get Tristan out to the campus. It was an emotional day. Being there for my son, being so proud, and mourning my dad. I take comfort in the fact that I think he was ready to go to be with my mom. But it is never easy to say goodbye. They are together now. The two partners in the greatest love story ever. That was my mom and dad.
A bittersweet moment
How I want to remember them
His funeral was on the following Friday and we gave him a good send off. The night before we shared many stories and I learned some new things about my dad that I hadn’t previously known.
All of his grandsons
Once again, I had to shift gears. (I guess I love that term, since I drive a stick shift) I said goodbye to my siblings and steered my little Fit to 101 south. I had to put my game face on. I had a marathon in two days. Friends Pete and Erin were already there in Ventura, and had a space for me in their motor home, affectionately named the ‘Ritz’. It worked out well that I drove down on Friday, because I could just relax on Saturday. We picked up my number at the Expo, played some miniature golf, ate an early dinner and then had plenty of time for me to suffer some heavy duty pre-race anxiety. I know now that that is normal for me. But it’s not getting any funner, if you know what I mean.
On Sunday we had an early morning wake up call at 2:45. I had a 4 AM shuttle to the start in Ojai. The course runs from there to Ventura and finishes on the beach. I brought my oatmeal with me on the bus, because I can only eat so early. This time, I remembered a spoon! I didn’t have to eat it with my fingers like I did on the bus at SLO in April. Yay Kim! Erin was on the 5 AM bus but I found her right away at the start. Pete was running the half, so he was bused to another spot. While keeping warm in the Ojai post office, I wrote on my hand. This one was for my inspiration. The guy who started it all.
And all of a sudden, it was 6 AM. Time to execute the game plan that Andy had laid out for me. In spite of feeling really nervous Saturday evening, I once again was able to focus and feel positive. Today was going to be the day. Goal = 4:10 or less. I figured I would probably need a 4:08 to actually get into Boston.
So, I ran. It felt good. I started out aiming for around a nine minute per mile pace. At mile 4, someone held a sign that said “San Diego 222 miles, Boston 22” I liked that. I thought, “yeh, that’s not that far!” After the first 9 miles, the slight downhill on the course made an 8:45 pace feel easy, so I was able to maintain that for quite some time. Downhill in a good way, but not so much that my quads were on fire. I just kept going. I knew my goal was there, on the beach. But like Andy said, I would have to chase it, it wasn’t going to lay down for me. I felt like I was being pulled into it. I would glance at my left hand every so often, and think of my dad. And then I would hear Andy in my right ear, telling me emphatically that “I WAS GOING TO DO THIS!”
When I hit 20 miles in about 2 hours and 57 minutes, I knew that was two minutes faster than when I hit 20 miles in Boston 2009, my one and only sub 4 hour marathon. I wasn’t thinking PR. I was thinking how much cushion I had to meet my goal. This course evens out at about mile 22. There is no more downhill and I’ve been told it would feel like uphill. And I’m a “fader”. I’ve yet to meet the last 6 miles in a marathon, saying “My name is Kim and I really want to run 6.2 more miles!” As expected, I did slow down, but not as much as I had thought I would. I saw Pete at mile 23 and I know he was not expecting me at 3 hours and 25 minutes. It gave me a rush to know someone knew I was doing OK, as the last timing mat was way way back at the 10K point. At that point, it was about maintaining and not cramping up or tripping. I did slow down to 10 minute plus miles the last couple. But I have never had a race where I knew I could walk the last mile and still meet my goal. I saw the 25 mile marker at 3:45. I was tiring. But I KNEW I had it. That beach was BEAUTIFUL!
I crossed the finish line at 3:58:32. I missed a PR by only 57 seconds, and I got my BQ! It was 11 and half minutes faster than needed and my second sub 4 in 10 marathons! Check off another bucket list item. Elation doesn’t even begin to describe it…
To add to the awesomeness, Erin totally killed it with a 3:49 and change, and Pete posted a big PR in the half marathon with a 1:52!
Immediately after I stopped running, I collapsed into a cramping blob of painful muscles and so did Erin. But it was the most ecstatic agony I’ve ever experienced. We were trying to save ourselves by taking in electrolytes and massaging our muscles but the giggles were overriding the moaning and groaning.
Eventually, we were able to walk. So, we did what we needed to do. At this marathon, you get to bang a gong if you qualify for Boston. Like a lot of things we do, we did it together.
Getting another BQ is something I have thought about every day for the last three years. I came to Andy with this one goal in 2012, not knowing the bumps that were coming my way. I sometimes think that the road to this race has been paved with shards of glass. As the medical adventure took on a life of its own, I googled all kinds of things about life after transplant, running and qualifying. I couldn’t find anything to support it being possible. But I didn’t find anything about it being impossible, either. So, I forged ahead, hoping for the best. I figured I would just have to write my own story. And this chapter has a very happy ending. Because, you know, those shards of glass sparkled in the sun. 🙂
A Tribute to my Dad
My five siblings and I lost my dad, Louis Ottone, Jr., this last week. Below is my talk about my dad the night before his funeral.
My dad was a great man. He worked hard and served his community. He was a good son and a good husband. Most importantly to me, he was my dad. You couldn’t ask for a better one.
One of my earliest memories must have been when I was three or four. My siblings and I would be in church with my parents. My dad made it a habit to play a little game. He would hold our hands and take our thumbs and push on them. It was gentle. But he would keep gently bending them back until we would laugh. At that point, we would get a stern look from my mom. I think that was the point of the game. I don’t know. I just knew it was hard to be serious when my dad was around.
Some of my memories had to do with my dad’s work.
I can remember going ‘smelling’. Once upon a time, there must have been complaints from the residents living in the vicinity of the rendering plant. So every once in a while, we would drive out to the neighborhoods just upwind of the plant and stick our heads out out the car windows and breathe. It was a little weird, but that’s what you did when your dad did what he did. Good times.
Another time I remember when Royal Tallow, a rendering company in San Francisco, went on strike. I was about 10. So my dad spent an entire Saturday picking up grease from the restaurants on their route. I got to go with him and it was a really special day, having him all to myself, riding along in the truck.
I looked up to my dad and when I was a child, I often thought that I might some day be involved in the family business. But somewhere along the line, I decided to focus on working with LIVE animals instead.
Later on, we spent many Saturdays together as he rented a horse trailer so I could go to play days with the horses. I didn’t realize at the time what a sacrifice of his time he made for me. He did it because he loved seeing me involved in something active and he would always encourage us to do anything with sports. And he just gave of himself. He did everything for us.
Dad loved running the Bay to Breakers race way before it became the big street party it is now. When he got all of us involved in the 80’s, it was really fun. I ran with him then, until I had my first son, Trevor at age 30. Then I stopped for a while.
When I decided to come back to running at age 47, my dad was encouraging. But he didn’t seem at all enthusiastic that my goal was to run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I did know that the longest he had ever run was 20 miles. After a while, I chalked it up to the fact that he hadn’t experienced the distance and didn’t know how to advise me. It wasn’t until several years later, that I learned on the day of the 20 miler he did, a run from Salinas to Monterey, he had forgotten his running shoes. He ran the whole thing in dress shoes. Now, if I had run that far in dress shoes, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have ever wanted to run a step farther than that. Ever.
No tribute to my dad is compete with about talking about skiing. I am a solidly intermediate skier. I will never be the skier my dad was, and I’m ok with that. I know to stay on the intermediate hills. One time, my dad pretended it was by accident, but I don’t think there was any accident about it. He got me up to the top of a Black Diamond run…those are the hard ones. I started to say that I couldn’t get down it, but he assured me that I had enough skill to work my way down. He insisted that I could get done any slope there if I took it slowly and carefully. It wasn’t pretty, but I got down that hill. He taught me well.
He believed you were never too old to learn something new, I don’t know how old he was, but he took Japanese classes before traveling to Japan on a trip.
Dad, I just want you to know, I was missing French class Thursday night to attend your celebration of life.
As I mentioned earlier, I decided to make my career working with animals. And that has been the case with every job I have ever had. Except one. Well, it did involve dogs. Hot dogs. Although I credit meeting my future husband with Joanne’s job at Burger King, I worked at Der Weinersnitzel. In spite of the fact that the store was held up at gun point just two weeks into my employ, Mom and Dad let me continue working there. I didn’t like the work every much, but I made a commitment to stay for four months until I graduated from high school. One day, in May, I was scheduled to work 5-8 pm and I just didn’t want to do it. I was just about to call into the store to tell them I wasn’t feeling well, something I had never done before. Somehow, Dad caught wind of that plan and he wasn’t very happy about it.
There was a look of disappointment in his eyes and I remember that I didn’t ever want to see that look again. He proceeded to tell me that life doesn’t work that way. There were plenty of times he didn’t want to go to work but he did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. I will never forget the words he said to me. “It builds character to do things you don’t want to do.” It was the biggest lesson he ever taught me. I got up, I went to work, and I was glad that I did. I never pulled that nonsense again.
To this day, when I have an internal struggle going on and I have to make a decision, I often go back to that day. What is the right thing to do? What would my dad do? And often it becomes clearer.
He was an amazing man and he taught us a lot.
He was great man.
But most importantly, he was my dad.
Someone mentioned that we are hoping there are ski runs in heaven. While I have no doubt my dad is skiing up there, it reminded me of a bumper sticker I used to see…”When hell freezes over, I’ll ski there too.”
Yeh, that was my dad.
Just What I Needed
I’m typing this on a Sunday evening and I am really tired. Just, beat. That always scares me a little. Am I getting sick? Are things going south? I’ve not really been sick since this whole adventure started, except for a really bad cold and the fatigue I felt during the SCT process.
Then I have to remind myself. I forget sometimes. When you run 28 miles in two days, you might feel tired. I did a very hilly workout of 18 miles yesterday. Today I was assigned a fast 10. If coaching means tough love sometimes, all I can say is, my coach loves me a lot. He is having me do exactly what I need to do. And I am very grateful that I can do it. I had to push today. To run 8 of the 10 miles assigned at marathon pace when my legs had not yet recovered from yesterday was hard. But I LOVED it.
So back to Amyloid land, I had that silly (or maybe excruciatingly painful is the phrase I’m looking for) bone marrow biopsy on the 14th and I didn’t get the results until the 24th, which gave my mind lots of time to go to places it had no business going. However, by that Friday afternoon, I was ready to hear what it was. It was good. The measure of plasma cells in my marrow is still at 5% and that’s normal. Sigh of relief. That means that the main indicators of remission are still normal. The next step was going to be to see what my nephrologist was going to say.
I had to shift gears, though, because I was off to San Luis Obispo for a half marathon on Sunday. (That’s 13.1 miles if you are not a regular follower of running) The double life is alive and well! First, though, there was a musical at Ygnacio Valley High School I needed to attend. My daughter Rory, although suffering from a very bad sore throat, was one of the stars. The show had to go on, and it did. In typical YV fashion, it was a fantastic show. I’m proud of my girl. She did an amazing job.
That’s my girl!
Saturday morning came a little too soon, so I shot out of bed to get a few pet sitting visits done, before doing a short “prep” run and getting on the road. It was about a 3 hour drive.
Then it hit me. This is a long way. About 240 miles, for a race. What was I thinking?
I can tell you what I was thinking. It was a certified course (which matters if you are going to be submitting results to a race organization) and I had friends filming the race for an internet broadcast. So, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I had started to worry about the hills on the course and that I just was not ready. My goal was to come in under 1:54. That was an 8:42 pace per mile, the time standard for guaranteed entry to the New York City marathon for my age group. A half time I had done once when I was 6 years younger, running faster 5k’s and not coming off a….ya know.
I was not feeling the love of racing on Saturday night. I could feel myself withdrawing from the lively conversation of my friends at dinner, and going to a dark place in the land of pre-race anxiety. My friends made it clear they believed in me. Why didn’t I ?
The alarm went off at 3:30 the next morning, and I went through the motions. The race started at 6:45. By the time I was lining up for the race, my feet seemed to know what they were there to do. The song played over the speakers right before the race was “I lived” by One Republic. I think that set me straight. I only had one choice I knew, to go out and do it.
And, as if by magic, everything went right. I got up those hills, and I let gravity carry me down. I stayed on pace. I knew coach Andy was at mile 7 and I couldn’t wait to get there and give him a big smile. I yelled to him that I was on pace. I kept it up. I got it done. With 14 seconds to spare, I came flying in to the best greeting ever…Pete and Erin filming the race at the finish line, and right there, available to give me the best hugs ever! What a sweet moment. I can’t imagine a better way to finish!
Pete managed to get this photo, as I kind of surprised them at the finish. My mouth is wide open, maybe gasping for air…but who cares?
I celebrated with a nice meal including a chocolate shake. Kim doesn’t let Kim have those very often.
When I got home, my new chicken harness had arrived in the mail.
Pretty cool weekend, ha?
To say this was a confidence booster is putting it lightly. I really needed something like this. A concrete way to know that I was coming back. I’ve been doing far better at mental toughness, but I needed results. I know that running is not the most important thing in the world, but it is very special to me. And achieving something is a way to know that I’m back on track. There were many scary moments when I was first diagnosed. I thought my running life was over. But it’s not. I have cried a lot of tears of joy over this.
Back to the real world, I did see my nephrologist a few days after the race. She is concerned about my protein levels and asked me a lot of questions about medications and diet. With nothing to pin this on, she is considering another kidney biopsy to see if I have any other type of kidney disease…like I have time for that! She will check with the pathologists who did the original one in 2013 to see if there was anything else they saw. I think that’s unlikely since I was told they had exhausted all possibilities before looking for Amyloid. We have tentatively planned the biopsy for June 1st. She understands that I have a marathon on May 24th. It will mean a night in the hospital and a week off running, and I can’t lose a week right now. After my appointment, I got a call from the nurse asking about how to contact my doctors at Stanford, so it looks look she will consult with them, the Amyloid experts. How common is steadily increasing proteinuria two years into treatment? I don’t know, but I am sure I will hear from them soon, and that will probably determine whether or not I am headed for another kidney biopsy.
All I know is, I’m not going to let anything get in my way. I’m running well. I’m happy. I’m starting to believe in myself again. And it’s the best feeling ever!