Just one day after my 2-year cancer-versary I had the extreme pleasure of participating in an uplifting, enriching event. The Tina Tramples Cancer 5K race was such a great time I’m still smiling about it. Did I take one photo? No. So please use your imagination. I had every intention of taking pics, but it was rather dark at 5 a.m. when I arrived with scores of other volunteers, and by the time dawn broke, we were too busy setting up tables, registering runners, and getting the race off the ground.
Tina is a friend who is battling pancreatic cancer with extraordinary results. Thanks to her indefatigable spirit and an amazing oncology team, she is making incredible progress against this terrible disease. Tina’s friends decided to organize a 5K to raise money and awareness for Pancreatica, the online group dedicated to furthering research for this woefully underfunded form of cancer.
Do not underestimate the power and dedication of a small group of suburban women. Some are at-home moms, some are in the work force but all were united in staging a grand event. I’ve done a few 5Ks in my day, and this one was first-rate. Organized, efficient, and well-run, this race had a great course and all the elements I love in a race: a cute t-shirt, friendly volunteers, plenty of post-race snacks, and complimentary massage.
What I really loved about this race, though, had nothing to do with shirts or snacks. It had everything to do with community. In our ever-increasingly isolated, fast-paced lives, it was nothing short of amazing to see so many people come together to help out another person. I witnessed this on a smaller scale during my own cancer “journey” and was as amazed by it then as I am now. Is it driven by the inherent goodness that resides inside people, or by the “there by grace of God” fear that cancer could just as easily have set up shop in your body? Does it matter?
I’d intended to walk the race with my favorite girl and my dad, but my girl decided to start running at about the 1/2-mile mark. She was clipping along at a good pace, and I resisted the urge to tell her to pace herself, as the race had barely begun. Instead, I savored the sound of her feet hitting the pavement in perfect stride with mine. I focused on the sun glinting off the golden highlights in her pony-tail. I relished the whoosh of our breath–hers & mine–moving in and out as we chatted our way through the course. I took in the feel of the wind on our faces and the birdsong in our ears on a near-perfect day in our little corner of the world. I smiled at her grim determination as the course grew steep with a small hill. All of these ordinary things come into much sharper focus in the midst of cancer. After days spent battling the dreaded disease and after sleepless nights wondering how this would all turn out, it was nothing but pure joy to be here, to be present, for these ordinary things.
As I ran alongside my dear friend the intrepid Amy Hoover, we chatted about these ordinary things and how spectacularly sweet it is to be here to experience them. I told her I had a very similar thought a few days ago as I slogged through a particularly challenging workout full of some of the things I despise (burpees, and pull-ups, to name a couple). While I don’t like these two exercises, I sure do like the fact that I’m able to do them. That I’m not lying in a hospital bed recovering from a rigorous surgery to rid my body of cancer or cooped up at home after the post-mastectomy infection reared its ugly head. That I’m upright and moving forward and able to push my body and challenge my brain.
My girl pooped out before the 2-mile mark, and I walked with her for a bit before feeling the urge to keep going and finish strong. Confident that she was content to walk the rest of the race with a buddy, I kept running, then doubled back to find my girl and run it out with her. My dad finished behind her, and we celebrated at the finish line.
I stuck around to clean up and close out the race (and to eat a pina colada snow cone), and my dad and Macy went on home. When I got home, I saw that my dad had trained Macy in the family tradition of recording the race details on the bib. Another ordinary thing for which I’m happy to be present.
It has been suggested by the author of this little beauty that I orchestrated the death of Osama bin Laden as a bookend to my cancer-versary celebration. He suggested that while I am “a bad-ass bitch” and have kicked cancer to the curb, this may be taking the celebration too far.
Oh, if only I had that kind of power. Oh, the things I could do. And really, who’s to say how much is too much when it comes to celebrating? I was going to write about our trip to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the National Gallery’s Impressionist exhibit yesterday, but this is way more important. Art can wait; the idea of me having that kind of power is intoxicating!
Although I don’t actually have the power to hunt down and kill the mastermind behind our national tragedy, the idea does appeal, and believe me, I have a lot of pent-up energy from my “cancer journey” and would have loved the chance to spew all that on Mr. Pure Evil. Well, it does at least give me an excuse to take a leisurely stroll down memory lane, to the days after September 11, 2001, and the events that changed the world. I’m glad that President Obama finally has some good news to report.
Many things changed when bin Laden brought his personal brand of evil to US shores. The idea that the most powerful nation in the world was not immune to an attack by a crazy man with far-reaching power and an army of jihadists was foreign to us before September 11, 2001. Our sense of security was shaken, and air travel would never be the same.
I imagine everyone has a “where were you on September 11th?” story, much like recollections of where one was when JFK was assassinated. For me, I was chasing a wildly headstrong toddler around and expecting a second bundle of wildness.
Here I am with Wild Thing #1 in my arms and Wild Thing #2 in my belly at the Sesame Street exhibit at the Houston Children’s Museum. Yes, I notice that the 2-year-old child is almost half as long as me. That 2-year-old is fixin’ to turn 12 and can look me in the eye without a step-stool. But this is what he looked like in the days of the terrorist attack on these United States.
Wild Thing #2 turned out to be even wilder than her predecessor, and has shaken things up to a degree not even I, with my wild imagination, could have predicted. We should have known we were in for a wild ride with her, when she caused some much upheaval from the git-go. Her time in utero was not uneventful, and when she deemed it time to come into this world, she did it with a bit of an explosion. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. With her chubby cheeks and impish grin, she fooled us into thinking we were in control.
On the day before the terrorist attacks, I had a sonogram to get a glimpse into Macy’s world. She afforded the ultrasound technicians some beautiful pictures of her swimming around in her own private pool. We didn’t want to know her gender before she was born, preferring to be surprised like we were with Payton. There are so few great surprises in life anymore, and to us, the idea of being able to tell our friends, families, and loved ones “IT’S A BOY!” or “IT’S A GIRL!” was pretty special.
We wanted to have that chance again the second time around, and told the technician and the doctor emphatically that we absolutely, positively did not want to know this baby’s gender.
Sure, no problem, they said, and proceeded on with the sonogram, talking in code to describe what they were seeing without giving it all away.
Everything was working beautifully, until they slipped, and ruined the surprise.
I thought this was the worst thing ever! The end of the world! These idiots had ruined my surprise!
I cried my eyes out that afternoon, and while I knew I was fortunate to have a healthy baby growing inside of me, I was inconsolable about having my surprise jerked away from me. The pity party was in full swing, and all the pregnancy hormones associated with Wild Thing #2 raged on through that evening.
I went to bed on September 10th with eyes swollen from crying, and awoke to the news that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center. My pity party came to a screeching halt.
In the days that followed the attacks I was tense and restless. Rumors abounded of more attacks, and of Houston being a target because of its energy industry. I was glued to the news and gobbled up every human interest story that came my way. Three days after the attacks, in the midst of so many thousands of lost lives, we suffered another loss as Big Ed, the patriarch of our close family friends, succumbed to the ravages of pancreatic cancer.
The two events will forever be intertwined in my heart and mind. The images of September 11th are burned into our nation’s collective conscience, and the despair of cancer claiming yet another one of the good guys brought my aching heart even more sorrow. US flags flew from buildings, homes, firetrucks, even baby strollers. Patriotism had a renewed vigor, and our nation pledged to never forget the victims and the heroes of 9/11/02. Our smaller circle raised a toast to Big Ed and vowed to remember him always. If he hadn’t been stopped by cancer, I could imagine him packing all his tools and a thermos of Dunkin Donuts coffee into his pickup truck, and driving from Massachussets to New York City to lend a hand. That’s the kind of guy he was, and like the victims of the terrorist attacks, he is sorely missed, all these years later.
It took nearly a decade, but the great karma wheel finally caught up with Osama bin Laden. A lot has changed, in the world and in my own little corner of the universe, since the terrorists came to town. My firstborn continued his wildness, but eventually settled down into a quiet, baseball-loving kid. My second child was born, and the chaos that is Macy still ensues. We moved from Sugar Land to Durham, NC, for a 2-year stint. My sweet mama joined Big Ed in becoming yet another victim of the vicious beast we know as cancer. Maddy, the best dog in the world, thumped her old, white tail, winked at me one last time, then left me forever. My own home was dive-bombed by cancer, and my life and that of my family changed forever. While my “cancer journey” has a happier ending than my mom’s and Big Ed’s, it’s left me shaken and uneasy, constantly searching the sky for approaching planes.
I shudder to think at the number of lives lost and the huge amount of money spent on this war on terror, so for today, I will celebrate the triumph of good vs evil.