Silver Linings Part 2: Happy Australia Day

I’ve always been an avid believer that in a bad situation good things can happen. I emphasise can because not everyone will agree with this. I also refrain from using a certain phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’; I prefer to believe that good things happen because you choose to create something positive.

After walking the cancer path, I know first hand how hard it can be to create something positive with your situation. It’s easy to allow your world to be overshadowed by darkness, but it’s much more empowering if you can choose to let light in.

Cancer, or any other life-threatening illness brings about uncertainty and change in an instant. For me, not only was there an immediate change to my health status, but a forced change to my work situation and country of residence; I could no longer work through treatment and I moved back to Australia. But both of those instant changes created an opportunity for something else to transpire: I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands, and the desire to start a local parkrun.

Within weeks of moving back to Ipswich, I had a chance encounter with a local Councillor, Cr. Andrew Antoniolli.  My mother was holding a fundraiser for the charity she works for and, as subtle as she is, mentioned to Andrew that I wanted to start a parkrun. Andrew, like most people, was unaware of the parkrun concept, but he set aside some time to speak with me about this idea. During our initial conversation he questioned how I would oversee this weekly event while flying internationally. I casually mentioned that I would be off work for the next year, because I was having treatment for breast cancer.

I think this comment sidelined him a little, and made him question my sanity about wanting to get involved in starting such an event. Shouldn’t I just be focusing on getting better? But I knew I could do both.

I remember gazing out towards the park from my oncology suite, imagining parkrunners running along the paths carved into the hill (which I still get grief for…making them run up hills…). On days I felt well enough, I dragged my family out to walk the paths with me to map out the 5 km course. Back then, I didn’t have a fancy Garmin running watch; I used the trusted Nike RunKeeper App to measure the course, and of course, track my times —cancer didn’t take away my competitiveness.

Within a few months from that first conversation, and with the help and support from Andrew, parkrun and the Ipswich Hospital Foundation, Ipswich QLD parkrun launched.

I take great pleasure in knowing my cancer treatment wasn’t endured in vain. Each Saturday, more than 100 peoples’ lives are improved, even just a little, by having the opportunity to turn up to a local parkrun event.

I am forever thankful for those who believed in me and supported me to achieve this — I didn’t do it alone. And I am genuinely honoured to have been recognised for this.

It was an emotional moment to receive the award yesterday, as I was recognised for not only my commitment to improve the community by launching parkrun, but the circumstances surrounding it.

I was very touched by their words:

“Diagnosed with a serious illness that forced her to give up work as an international flight attendant, Rochelle refused to let her illness and treatment stop her from making a positive contribution to the community. She has established and facilitated the Ipswich QLD parkrun, enlisting the support of both the Ipswich Hospital Foundation and Council. Now well and on the mend, Rochelle has returned to her job and continues to be an inspiration to us all.”

Spot on, I say…

Australia Day 2016 will always be extra special, as I have a shiny medallion to always remind me of one of the best silver linings.

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March 9. It’s time for another run.

Ipswich and Brisbane kiddies it’s time for another 5km run. Mater chicks in pink and Mater Foundation have supported me through my treatment so it’s time to give back.

parkrun has a team organised which I will be joining. Come join me.

BRING HOPE TO WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER

Below is a beautiful video showing another inspiring woman. “Stay positive, absolutely stay positive, don’t give up hope.” She is living as a stage 4 terminal breast cancer patient. A beautiful video to watch. Cancer touches all of us.

http://www.womensdayfunrun.com.au

The Bubble

This blog title could insinuate many things: Have I been online shopping for a human-sized bubble to live in, to protect against germs?  Have I wrapped myself in bubble wrap and taken my road bike for a spin? Well, the answer is no. I am referring to a different type of bubble: The Cancer Bubble.

During different stages in life, we all create and live in a ‘bubble’. The bubble may be created because of many factors: our jobs, our relationships, our sporting endeavours, our families… You eat, breathe, and sleep in your bubble. As life changes, the need and reason for the bubble will change. It may also change in size: shrink or expand to allow for your changing needs. As you can imagine, cancer, and cancer treatment, is one-big-bubble! Some days it’s all I think about. It’s all I talk about. At the moment, my cancer bubble is most prominent the days leading up to, and the days following chemo. It’s so heavily inflated I could roll down a hill without feeling a bump. As days pass, and the side effects wane, the bubble starts to deflate. I no longer have to breathe the ‘cancer bubble’ air, or drink the ‘cancer bubble’ water. I step outside.

It’s easy to step outside the bubble when you have other things to focus on. Luckily for me, I have a number of exciting things happening in my life. If a physical bubble actually existed, I would have take a needle and prematurely caused it to deflate. You all know I’m a little impatient… The past few weeks my mind has been working overtime with non-cancer related thoughts and ideas. It’s extremely refreshing!

So what has been causing my mind to spin around wildly, you ask? It all started way back in September. I spoke briefly about the idea in one of my earliest blogs: It’s not a holiday. If you remember, I took on a little (read: turning massive) project. When I moved back to Australia, I had the idea to start a parkrun event locally in Ipswich. I knew I wouldn’t be working, or running for an extended period of time. I wanted to still feel involved in some way. I took a deep breath and clicked “register new event” on the website (the day before major surgery – of course). Well.. it’s been a steady and continuous process. Some weeks I’ve been busy drafting proposals, harassing council, liaising with the parkrun coordinator AND walking a lot of 5km routes. Two weeks ago, the final piece of the parkrun puzzle fell into place: I received the funding required to officially make this happen. What an amazing feeling. It’s no longer a dream; it’s now a reality.

Some people may have thought I was a little mad for taking on such a big project during treatment. Shouldn’t I be focusing on myself, not others? Don’t be silly… Parkrun has actually done wonders for my treatment. It has kept my mind and body active. Yesterday a few friends rang to check how I was feeling after my last round of chemo.

“Great. I’ve just been out for a 5km walk/jog working on the parkrun course.”

Not what they were expecting to hear…

Parkrun has also been a blessing in disguise for another reason. It has given me an opportunity to reconnect with the Ipswich community. Through this process I have met a lot of amazing people. (There are 128 likes on the Facebook page, I think I’ll be meeting a lot more people in the New Year!). To my surprise, there are an abundant of initiatives to promote healthy living in Ipswich, and the running community is enormous.

Now for my selfless plug…

Ipswich QLD parkrun is launching on January 25th. Yes, Australia Day long weekend. It’s perfect – a 5km run allows you that extra sausage from the BBQ or ice-cold beer, right? All the details can be found on the Facebook page.

For those of you who live in Ipswich, I look forward to seeing you there!

** Random bit of information: I was researching to see what others had to say about living in a ‘cancer bubble’. It turns out, there’s an animated character whose name is Cancer Bubble (image below). The things you find on the ‘ol internet…

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Get Your Run On

That is exactly what I have done this morning. I’ve been for a run. The next two weeks I’m on a self-appointed “chemo holiday” and since I have limited cytotoxic drugs circulating my bloodstream, I feel great. The past two failed attempts at chemo will not go down in vain. I decided I would spoil myself with a run. Not just any run…a PARKRUN run.

This morning was the first parkrun event I have attended since moving back to Australia. I managed to convince my friend, Richard, who in turn convinced another friend, Mitch. That alone made my day – two more people have been introduced to the parkrun community.

Last night I frantically searched through my London belongings and found my trusty scrunched up barcode. I set my alarm and went to bed early.

My alarm was set for 6:00am, and lucky I did because if it wasn’t for the strange musical sound and vibrations coming from my bedside table, I may have missed it (iPhone really needs to update their options for alarm tones). My body was well-rested. Perfect.

In a mad dash I threw on my running kit, threw down a protein smoothie, said goodbye to mother who is flying to China today for a two-week work trip, was out the door, and in the car.

Augustine Heights is the closest parkrun to Ipswich. I set the address into our trusty NAVMAN and was safely directed to where I needed to be. I could see the runners mingling at the starting point and I started to get excited. I love the uplifting, community feel that parkrun naturally produces.

We gather for the race briefing and before I knew it, we were off. The path was narrow and all the runners were packed tight, keeping the pace slow. It was exactly the start I needed. I wasn’t out to be leader of the pack today, nor was I trying to achieve a PB, the purpose of today was to take part in something I love, and finish.

Within the first few hundred meters we faced our first incline – a big wake up call for your legs and heart. Easy does it. Richard, Mitch and I didn’t stay together for long, we all found our own rhythm and dispersed amongst the other runners. The course is 2 x 2.5km loops with two inclines on each loop, nothing too challenging.

I didn’t allow my head to dictate my run this morning. I promised myself I would stay at a comfortable pace and not push too hard. At one stage a small girl who looked all of nine-years-old was keeping me at pace, good on her! Today was not about training for a triathlon, or Ironman (yet). I let my body move with comfort and ease. By the second lap I found I was encouraging others to keep moving – a male runner was walking ahead of me, ‘keep running’ I said as I ran past, a smile crept across my face as I heard his footsteps pick up behind me.

Normally in the last 1km of a race, I would pick up the pace and try and take over runners, one-by-one. This morning wasn’t a race, so I kept at my own pace. When I heard the thump of runners closing in, I peacefully let them pass. I could see the finish line and I glided through. I had done it. I had run my first 5km since the start of treatment…and I FELT GREAT.

It was so great to be able to share this morning with Richard and Mitch. We have already committed to going back next Saturday while I’m still on my “chemo holiday.”

So what was my time? 28:01! My fastest recorded parkrun time was 24.12. No complaints from me. Like I said, today was not about recording a PB.

Oh, another thing that made my day, a male runner came up to me at the end, shook my hand and THANKED ME for pushing him.

You can be assured I will have a massive smile on my face all day. Life is good.

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It’s not a holiday

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This is the first time in over eleven years I am faced with an extended period of time not working, yet it’s not a holiday. It’s not how I would normally be spending time not working: no ducking to the Caribbean to go sailing, no walking the streets of the Meat Packing District in NYC, with sky scrapper heels and no travel insurance (Eli Elston), no eating and drinking myself silly around Europe, no harassing locals in Israel…you get the picture.

So what should I be doing (apart from the obvious of beating breast cancer)? Prior to my diagnosis I was working full-time and training six days a week. What do you do when all of a sudden you have to stop both things?

I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been extremely gifted at the ‘lady of leisure’ lifestyle: coffee dates, lazy mornings at home, watching a whole series of a TV show in one day…just to name a few. Yes, I could easy adapt this lifestyle for the next 6-9 months, but I was itching for something more.

So here is my ‘lightbulb moment’…

On the day before surgery, I put on my joggers to head out for one last run. As I was getting ready I started thinking about my training back in London, more specifically running – even more specifically – parkrun. For those who have never heard of parkrun, it’s a free 5 km timed event held every Saturday. I remembered seeing a link on the website to start your own parkrun. In true Rochelle style, without hesitation, I clicked the link and registered.

Within a few days a parkrun representative had made contact and given myself a brief overview of what was required:

  • Find a park
  • Apply to council for approval and funding
  • Boom….a new local parkrun is born

(ok, there may have been a few more steps involved)

It’s been very refreshing to have something to focus apart from treatment. As of this morning, Ipswich QLD parkrun has it’s own official facebook page! It’s still a work in progress – we still need approval and funding but I am confident we’ll get there.

It has crossed my mind that the proposed start date is near the end of my chemo treatment. I have faith that there will be many helpful souls out there to lend a hand during the tough weeks, and even more faith that I will be able to muster up the strength to get through every Saturday.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I’m Running 

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