Monday, October 10, 2016

Cancer? What cancer?

You know what my favorite one-liner is? I'm X months cancer free. Seriously, it has not gotten old. 

A couple weeks ago I applied and was picked to be part of a Leadership program at work.  The company chose 2 or 3 people at each of its locations and shipped us all to Ohio to spend a week in the woods at a leadership camp. This entire process was outside my comfort zone from the beginning.  But as cliche as it sounds, cancer reminds you that life is short, so I might as well go on as many adventures as I can. To apply, you had to make a 2 minute video of yourself explaining why you wanted to be a Leadership Champion.  You know how many takes it took me? About 27. That's not an exaggeration. It got to the point where I filled the memory on my phone and couldn't record anymore.  Then with the video you had to submit a paragraph also explaining why you wanted to be Leadership Champion. I'm fine writing a blog. My real life writing skills? Not the greatest.

So here I am, in the middle of the woods, with 60 people I don't know - except for Hannah, my co-champion from Buffalo. Not nerve-wracking at all. We did an ice breaker to give everyone a chance to introduce themselves. We tossed this ball around that had lots of questions on it.  When you caught it, you had to answer the question under your thumb.  Mine was: What makes you happiest? So many things. But I decided to share THE thing. The Saturday following camp was going to mark my four month anniversary of being cancer free. Later on I was able to share with my little group the story of my red shoes.  Of course I had worn them on my first day at camp - it was a new adventure! 

Throughout the week we learned how to facilitate leadership seminars, did group activities, and on the last day we did a high ropes course - I looked forward to this part all week. On the ropes course I was paired up with a man named Greg.  He's a morning show host at a radio station out in Tucson. We made a great match - we were both up for trying anything. After we had our training and were suited up and strapped in, we made our way up to the top. We crossed some swinging steps and made our way to the zip line. I was so stinking excited. But as we stood there waiting for our turn I kind of lost it. I got super emotional and I couldn't even control it. How embarrassing. This poor guy was stuck with the crying girl. I wasn't scared though. It definitely wasn't fear. It was like everything in that moment was perfect. Here I was about to be 4 months cancer free and I got to fly.  Fly through the air as free as a bird.  And I was so grateful to have a partner who enjoyed the moment with me.  Definitely a moment I won't ever forget.

So to officially celebrate being cancer free, I decided - at a moment of insanity - that I should run a half marathon on my anniversary. 12 hours after landing in Buffalo after a week in the woods, I was standing at the start line of the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon.  I can't even tell you how many excuses I gave myself to not run this race.  I was exhausted. I hadn't trained well enough.  I had been down and out from fighting off shingles just a few weeks prior. SHINGLES! (I thought only old people get shingles.)  I needed to do this. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I wasn't dead. Just a little beat up.

My first half mile was like the scene of a movie. I got a bit emotional. I mean, I was running a freaking half marathon...after kicking cancer's ass. Then just ahead of me I saw a woman running wearing a pink breast cancer cape. How cool is that? She's like a cancer superhero! So I'm already emotional and then I see her and THEN "Seize the Day" from Newsies comes on my playlist...
"Now is the time to seize the day
Stare down the odds and seize the day"
Seriously, it was like I was set up or something.  (Yes, I'm ignoring the fact that your making fun of my music selection. It's my favorite musical, ok?) I catch up to the superhero and we run the first few miles together.  Here I was so proud because I was doing this race post cancer and she tells me she's currently being treated for breast cancer.  Her name is Janice and she's amazing.  Just amazing. 

Here is where the embarrassing part happened.  It's me. There's an embarrassing part to all my adventures. Turns out the digestion issues don't go away after you finish treatment.  Now they're not nearly as bad as they were during treatment, but I'm definitely not 100%. You know when a really bad time to have to "go" is?  When you're about 7 miles in to a 13 mile race and the next potty stop isn't for another 1.5 miles.  If you've never done this race or you don't live on the race route, you probably didn't know that some people tailgate in their front yards to watch and cheer the runners.  Its pretty great.  So I asked a tailgater if I could use their bathroom. And they said yes! These poor people let me into their beautiful Victorian poop. They're my heroes. 

After that, I finished the second half of the race and finished strong with a time of just over 3 hours.  For you non-running people, that's REALLY slow.  But this was the one race I didn't care about beating any records. I just needed to finish. I'm so thankful for my husband and sister who were there cheering me on throughout the race, offering to pick me up when they found out I was in a stranger's house, and letting me cry on their shoulders after I crossed the finish line.  I'm a survivor, guys.  I did it.

And the people who let me poo at their house? I wrote down their name and address and the next week I sent them a pack of toilet paper and an air freshener.