thirty-three

A year ago today (yes it’s another one of those blogs), I put the olds on a tube and sent them back to Heathrow airport. They had taken a very large detour on their way to Canada, to be with me while I awaited my final diagnosis and proposed treatment plan. It was time for them to finally enjoy their holiday. And after being told that chemotherapy was ‘advisable’, it was time for me to start planning my return to Australia.

After a week of testing and doctors’ appointments, you could have assumed that hibernating was on the top of my to-do list. You would have assumed wrong. It was my birthday and there was no way cancer was going to stop me from celebrating.

The whole day was bittersweet. I received the usual onslaught of birthday love from around the world, but at that stage my diagnosis was still a secret. My stomach turned, just slightly, with every message of love and kind wishes; I would soon have to soon break the news to these special people.

I remember getting ready for my birthday dinner, curling my long, blonde locks. I stood in the mirror trying to picture myself bald. The idea still seemed so foreign, yet only eight weeks later I was. I then decided to wear an extremely revealing top, which for me, was very out of character. I joked that it may be the ‘girls’ last birthday, so why not show them off.

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Dinner was booked at Casa Negra, the sister restaurant to one of the best Mexican restaurants in London, and conveniently located walking distance from our house. There was no hesitation with ordering cocktails on arrival – it had been a big week, after all. I can neither confirm nor deny if more glasses of margaritas were consumed than plates of Mexican food. Was I drinking to forget about the cancer, or was I just celebrating my birthday? I personally thought it was the latter, my London family may have thought otherwise. The festivities continued from Casa Rosa to my favorite prohibition-style cocktail bar, also conveniently located walking distance from our house. More friends arrived and more cocktails were consumed. And although the cancer cloud loomed above my head, for that one night, life was still normal. Birthday – tick. Happy thirty-two!

Hello 2014. Hello 33.

Today I am not saying goodbye the olds; I am spending the whole day with them. I also have a date this afternoon with my plastic surgeon. It’s my first appointment to ‘pump-up-the-puppies’, or you could say, commence the expansion process… if you wish to be politically correct. The process of expansion is not a difficult one, but I’m suddenly entering the ‘unknown’ again. Some people find it extremely painful and uncomfortable, others have said a few Panadol is enough to keep the pain away. I’m hoping for the latter.

After my appointment with Dr O, the olds and I are heading out for dinner and drinks. There are no long, blonde locks to curl, and nothing to show in a revealing top. However, there will be good food, good company, and a glass of bubbles (or two). I will be a very satisfied birthday girl just the same.

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OK. Enough about my birthday! I want to briefly touch *chuckle* on something else. I want to quickly talk about how I’ve felt since surgery, about my new body. A few people have asked and are concerned about my mental wellbeing. How do I feel when I look in the mirror?  Well, I can assure you I have never been happier! Yes, happier! It may be hard to comprehend, how can a woman, who was a D/DD be happy about losing both breasts? I can appreciate that most women would’t be, but I really am enjoying being flat chested! And I’m not just saying that to ‘remain positive’.

My life with breasts consisted of ill-fitting clothes and painful shopping trips to the lingerie department. Now, I feel like I have a whole new wardrobe – I can wear things that I never felt comfortable wearing before. And I’m clearly not alone. I stumbled upon this blog in which the writer compiles a list of 12 reasons why she hates boobs. I agree with them all! It’s worth a read.

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http://imagininghappenings.wordpress.com/tag/ta-tas/

I feel more body confident than ever before. I think this stems from a sense of achievement I feel when I look in the mirror. With everything I have gone through, I am happy with the person I have become and that is all I see when I look at my scars and lack of nipples.

Looks like I’ll be changing my Bio on RSVP: Now searching for a non-boob man.

Just joking… I’m not on RSVP.

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day six: part two

Before I call it quits on day six and zone out to some TV that is sure to lower my intelligence – The Bachelor – I want to share a little story from today.

After my last blog, when I said I was going to tackle the day with an accepting mind, well, it didn’t last long. I was still feeling a little sorry for myself and my one-arm-bandit state.

I ordered my breakfast, did my double lap around the ward and waited patiently for my cereal and poached eggs, bacon and toast. I love breakfast – it’s my favourite meal of the day, so I was excited when my tray arrived. Excitement quickly diminished when I realised the additional challenges I was about to face to be able to enjoy this meal. Have you ever tried to open the plastic from a cereal packet with one hand? It’s not an easy task! But I soldiered on (complaining internally).

A few friends messaged to check I was OK after my last blog post – I was – and I replied saying, “This is only temporary, there are people who lose an arm permanently.” I wasn’t just saying that; the thought had been on my mind. There is no need for me to complain about being challenged for the next 24-48 hours. I had to keep reminding myself of this, and as I did my mood started to improve.

Then, by some divine intervention, I was flicking through the movie selection and listed was Soul Surfer – a true story about a young surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who loses her arm to a shark bite. Of course that movie happened to be in the random mix of films available, thanks Mater. It’s not a movie I would normally choose, but today it seemed appropriate. And it was exactly what I needed. Without too much of the ‘cheese’ factor, it serves up a big cup of faith, perseverance and belief for a total of 106 minutes.

You can rest assured I didn’t have an ill thought about my silly little cannula, in my silly little elbow, for the rest of the day.

It could always be worse…

 

It’s all in a date.

Being diagnosed with cancer is similar to starting a new relationship. From your first kiss, to your wedding anniversary, cancer treatment has its own special dates and milestones. And today, August 4, is a very significant one for me.

Twelve months ago, at 2pm, I strolled into the McMillian Cancer Centre, London. I entered my name and date-of-birth into a touch screen terminal next to the reception desk, and was directed to the second floor. I took a seat in the waiting room, pulled out my phone, and started to play backgammon – my standard ‘time-killer’. I had landed that morning from Dubai, and only managed a few hours’ sleep. In my bag were a book and some magazines, also to help pass time. But I was too tired to concentrate; I was struggling to stay awake!

After a short time, my name was called and I was ushered into a room for a consultation. Name? Age? Family history? … This was the start of the three questions I was to be asked many more times in the next 12 months. The doctor explained that the McMillian Cancer Centre is a one-stop-shop – you don’t leave until they have are able to give you a definite answer. You’ll either be told you have cancer, or you don’t. After a brief chat – and touch up of the lump in question – the nurse transferred me to an adjoining room.

The next step in this process was to perform an ultrasound. And again… name, age, and family history… My breast was prodded and poked by the magic wand. There was no question about a lump being present, especially once it flashed up on the black and white screen; there was a big round ball of white. ‘Let’s take a biopsy,’ the Sonographer said.

A fine needle aspiration was done to extract cells from the lump for testing. Having a long needle jabbed into your breast is not a pleasant thing; however, in hindsight, 12 months on, it was no big deal.

After the biopsy I was sent back to the waiting room. Two hours gone. Now I was really getting tired. I remember sitting in the waiting room, looking around at the other patients. I was wondering who there had cancer; who had been given the bad news. I wondered who was like me – just there to have a lump checked, that would surely be nothing. I felt sorry and was sad for those who were clearly distressed or upset. Poor them, I thought. They must have cancer.

The clock ticked over another 30 minutes before I was called back in to see the doctor. As I walked in I saw another nurse sitting to the side of the room. I instantly knew that there was something wrong. I sat down. To this day, I don’t remember what was said. Something like, ‘The biopsy showed abnormal cells… more testing….’ I burst into tears. I don’t know if it was because I was jet lagged, tired, or because I was in shock about the information I was being told. After some counseling from the breast care nurse, I was finally set free – so to say.

I was in a taxi on my way home and I was texting Thea, she and Nash had left that morning for a week in France. …Something about abnormal cells… I told her ‘So what does that mean?’ … I’m not really sure…

Did I have cancer? I didn’t know. Maybe I imagined it. I knew I was being booked in for more testing, so maybe abnormal doesn’t mean cancer, maybe it just meant they wanted to check again. I only told a handful of people about the testing and results. How could I tell people if I wasn’t sure myself? What if it wasn’t cancer, what if I misheard…

It was Friday afternoon and the breast care nurse wouldn’t be available until Monday, so I wouldn’t be able to ask any further questions until then. I arrived home, cried in the shower, put on my comfy clothes and poured myself a glass of red wine… and then another… and then another.

I went to bed with so many unanswered questions. I couldn’t imagine how my life was about to change, for better and for worse. Just like any relationship, after a year together, you grow and you learn. Not just about the other person, but yourself. By the 12 month mark, you should have worked out if you want to stay together or not. After a year with cancer, I have grown to be a better person. Cancer has taught me many things about myself, and life in general. But this is one relationship I do not wish to continue. Sorry Cancer, but I think it’s time for us to go our separate ways (soon).

 

 

 

Newsflash!

Stop the running.

Stop the burpees.

Stop the rowing.

AND stop the flashing of undergarments (well, only if you want to…)

The cost of surgery is covered!

I have crunched the numbers, and added the total raised from Thea’s Run for Boobs fundraiser, along with CrossFit Western Front’s Rack for Rocky fundraiser AND another generous donation. The result, the cost of surgery is covered!!!!

Although the cost is still only as a ‘quote’ because anaesthetic fees are only a ‘guesstimate’ until the procedure is performed, it shouldn’t vary too much.

I can’t begin to explain how much this has impacted my life. It means I can take the time to recover without any additional stresses. I have said all along that I have had an easy time through my cancer treatment as I have had limited additional stresses. This now ensures I can remain stress-free until the end of treatment.

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A WOD for Rocky

As you know, A Rack for Rocky started a few weeks ago. Today was the main day to WOD for Rocky. I know it may sound like a whole lot of CrossFit mumbo-jumbo, but it’s a pretty special gesture.

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t complete the WOD myself, but it was a tough one, and I had the 15 km row looming over my head. The decision was made that I would row instead, and I am thankful to those who talked some sense into me.

The WOD chosen (or created?) for today was ‘Nutter’. Are they trying to tell me something?

10 Handstand Push-ups

15 Deadlifts

20 Pull-ups

25 Box Jumps

50 Pull-ups

100 Wall Balls

200 Double Unders

400 meter run with 20 kg plate (or 15 kg for the girls)

A few comments were made that they would rather do Nutter than row 15 km. I was starting to think the same.

The rower was set. The timer beeped. There was no turning back…

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I positioned my rower so I could watch everyone doing his or her WOD, which made the first 5 km fly by without much thought. Instead of focusing on myself, I was watching the effort everyone else was putting in. It’s quite humbling and inspiring to step back and watch. I was trying not to focus on the clock, but then everyone started to finish… reality set in that I still had a long way to go…

10 km done. Right, just the normal challenge left to go. (If I tell myself it’s that easy, surely it would be…)

As I inched towards the last 5 km I decided to tick off one of the other three challenges – WOD in your undies. So off came the top. There was no way I was going to row with just undies, so taking the top half off seemed a reasonable trade. I am the last person who would normally do such a thing, but hey, the girls only have another few days left. It was my last chance to show them off.

After the WOD three others – Carmen, Darren and Nathan – completed ANOTHER challenge. CFWF breeds some pretty tough cookies. I was exhausted watching them. Mitch also completed his 2oo burpees next to me while I kept rowing. All of this activity around me distracted me from pain that was beginning to surface in my back, neck, groin, heel and thighs…pretty much everywhere.

Also, for those who don’t know (and there is probably a lot of you who wouldn’t), our coach at CrossFit Western Front, Brandon is currently in the USA competing at the CrossFit Games. It’s a pretty big deal! A screen has been set up so we can watch the action live at the box. Unfortunately for me (and those cheering me on), I didn’t time things very well and was still rowing when he took the stage for his heat. I was grinding away on the rower while he was toughing it out with the world’s best CrossFitters. I think I had it easy.

After 1 hr and 20-something minutes of rowing, I was finished.

This fundraiser is quite daunting for me, in a good way. There are a lot of new (and old) CrossFitters at the box that probably don’t know me, or know me well. I find it pretty amazing how much everyone has embraced this challenge.

I’ve been trying to keep track of everyone who has completed a challenge; it could qualify as a full-time job!

There a lot of people to thank (and I will be thanking for a very long time!).

Firstly, a massive thanks to everyone who has been involved in the logistics of this fundraiser! Lizzy, Brandon, Alex and Kate. Without the support of the owners and coaches at CFWF, this wouldn’t have be possible.

Secondly, to everyone who has performed a burpee, rowed or been brave and bared more than normal.

In no particular order, here are the names of the legends who have been involved thus far…

Paige – 2oo burpees, Alyce – 5 km row, Sara – WODed in her undies, Tenaya – 200 burpees,  Olivia – 200 burpees, Russell (and his boys) – 200 burpees, Gavin – WODed in his undies, Alicia – 200 burpees, Bodie – 201 burpees, Jodie – 5 km row, Kelly – 200 burpees, Killah – 5 km row, Angie – 200 burpees, Darren – WODed in his undies (let’s clarify – a G-string and bra!), Tim – WODed in his undies, Gina – 5 km row, Liz and Simon – 200 burpees each, Christina – WODed in her undies, Sam – 5 km row, Kirah – 200 burpees, Brad M – 200 burpees in his undies, undies that matched his shoes I should add! Shaun – 200 burpees, Nathan – 5 km row, Trent – 5 km row, Dan – 200 burpees in his undies, Kate – 5 km row, Dane – 200 burpees in his undies, Gail – 200 burpees, Cheryl – 5 km row, Jake – WODed in his undies, Brett – 200 burpees, Clint – 200 burpees in his undies, Dan M – 200 burpees, Andy – 200 burpees, Kayla – WODed in her undies, Stacey – 5 km row, Steph – 5 km row, Brad H – 5 km row, Tiff – 200 burpees, Louise – 5 km row, Tui – 5 km row, Mavis – 5 km row, Charlie – 200 burpees, Jessica – 200 burpees, Christine – 200 burpees, Kaylene – 200 burpees, Rachael – 5 km row, Wendy – 5 km row, Rachael – 5 km row, Moana – 5 km row, Carmen – 5 km row, Mitch – 2o0 burpees, Brayden – 5 km row, Renea – 5 km row, Ben – 5 km row, Paul – 200 burpees, Wendy – 5 km row, Amy – 200 burpees, Casey 400 burpees, James (El Phantasmo) 5 km row, Karla – 5 km row, Wendy – 5 km row.

And David – I haven’t forgotten about you. David had to work and wasn’t able to complete his dare within the 48 hour period.

I hope I haven’t left anyone out. More names will be added as the fundraiser continues…

Next on the list for me are 200 burpees. I want to complete all three challenges; it’s a small gesture to show how much I appreciate how involved everyone has been in this challenge and fundraiser.

UPDATED: 27 July. The cost of surgery has been covered.

 

 

 

100 miles

I didn’t think I would be writing another running story so soon. But this time it’s not about me. And it’s not a conventional running race story.

For all my Australian friends and readers, I may confuse you a little. For the purpose of this blog I need to switch from our metric measurement – km’s to the English imperial measurement – miles. You’ll understand in a minute.

This week I discovered my friends are very good at keeping secrets. Big secrets. I was finally home and awake in time to catch up on Skype with Thea and Nash, my good friends from over the pond. They are not only great friends but we also lived together in London. To put into perspective how much I love these two, when I had to say goodbye to them in London I was a blubbering mess. And I think I have only cried on three other occasions.

Anyway, back to the story.

Unbeknown to me, they had a big secret to reveal. I, on the other hand, was in my pjs with a major case of bed hair.

So, the secret, I hear you ask…

For the last eight weeks, since I confirmed my date for surgery, Thea has been running. For anyone that knows Thea, you know that this isn’t a common occurrence. The whole time we lived together in London the furthest I ever saw Thea run was 3 miles. (I hope I haven’t confused you Aussies yet…) So why has she turned all Mo Farah on us and decided to pound the pavement? For one simple reason: to raise money to help with the cost of surgery.

She writes…

As anyone who has been touched by cancer knows, treatment has a bigger impact on your life than just your health and we’d like to help.

We want our friend to be able to have the treatment she needs at the right time, with the doctor of her choice.

So she set a challenge: To run.

How far?

100 miles in fact! For every £5 donated I will run 1 mile, up to 100 miles! To put that into perspective – if we raise £500 I will run the equivalent of London to Brighton and back again!

From 3 miles to 100 miles… no easy feat. She started a blog to record her journey and posted an entry for each mile she ran. She had to take extreme measures to ensure I didn’t somehow stumble upon this activity. We weren’t friends on any running apps, like Nike plus – lucky! I think she would make a great spy…

During our Skype chat Thea casually gave me the link to the web site and told me to have a look. Clicking on the link all I saw was the title ‘Run for Boobs’, a lot of photos of myself with friends, and a lot of writing. I was in shock. I couldn’t read or comprehend what was happening. To use the word ‘overwhelmed’ just doesn’t do it justice.

Now I’ve had a moment to take it all in, I’ve read through the entire blog. I laughed and I cried. I am thankful for every name I saw, and for every mile Thea ran. She ran inside when it rained and outside in the sunshine. She ran before work, after work and in-between work. And most impressively, she ran hangover!

The other day she posted a photo on Facebook with a comment ‘The last mile’.

It made no sense to me, I thought she had just been out for a run – so I liked it, because Thea doesn’t run. Well, clearly she does. And now I’ve told her she isn’t allowed to stop running.

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Thea, you’re amazing.

On last count she has raised 2300 GBP!

I should mention that if between Thea, CFWF and any additional donations, an excess amount is raised – more than my surgery costs – the remainder will be donated to a suitable charity.

(Thea also mentioned that she lost her boobs from all of the running. She lost hers so I could gain some. Now that’s friendship! I think I’ll be taking a bit of money out from the money raised to shout her little legs a massage.)

A special thanks to all those who donated (and gave Thea miles to run). Sending a big virtual hug to: Matt, Richard, James O, James Mc, Isaac, Atkinson’s, Christian, Lady White, Dwight, Yujei, NASHIE, Matt & Marie, Annie,
Sophie, Mel, Fran S, Jacqui (Crosby), Dougie, Max & Stu, Radhia, Webby, Sam M, Tristan, Andy S, Eliezer, Jess H, Alex W, Mircea, Andy W, Raj, Sarah K, Donovan, PWC (no idea about this one….), Carly, Caroline M, Helen (Maddox), Guillaume, David H, Richard, Ewen, DIPAK.

** Apologies if I have left a name out.

** It seems there are some late additions: Bec Carr, Dana

Amazingly, a lot of these names are from Thea’s work colleagues who I worked with for a short period on time.

Side note: I saw on the blog that you were going to capture my reaction. Bed hair & pjs…DOH

Check it out! http://runforboobs.blogspot.com.au

 

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A Rack For Rocky

This is a special blog for my CrossFit Western Front family.

Some people in the fitness industry have issues with CrossFit. They think it’s a ‘cult’, or it’s not a safe workout environment: amateurs doing Olympic movements. I personally have not seen any of this in my eight months at CFWF. What I have seen, and become part of, is an immense sense of community.

When I joined CFWF I was new to Ipswich. I say new because I hadn’t lived here for 13 years. The people I did know were friends from my younger years, and I was getting to know all over again, as an adult.

I remember my first few sessions at CFWF, I was blown away by how friendly, approachable and helpful everyone was. I tried to hide away at the back each class but it didn’t stop everyone from showing support and ensuring I knew what I had to do. As I became friends with more individuals in this community, my journey, and my blog were exposed. They have been there as I battled through chemo, and listened as I discussed every decision I have had to make since. They have encouraged and celebrated every milestone with me, from my first puffs of hair growth to my first RX’d WOD.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have already felt blessed by the support and generosity of so many people through this journey: friends, family and strangers. Having to move home for treatment meant I had to pack up my life in London without notice, which was a challenge financially. I am thankful I was able to move back to my family home and be supported by the parents. I’ve never been good at receiving; I prefer to give. Independent Rochelle has been challenged every day to accept support from others.

When I was weighing up the cost of having treatment done privately, a friend suggested I start my own ‘crowdfunding’. People crowdfund for a variety of reasons: from starting their own company to IVF treatment. But how could I ask people to support my cancer treatment? I felt that my friends’ have already given so much, and I’m not good at asking. He suggested I set a goal – the half marathon, perhaps – and fundraise to complete it. But most of my friends know I would do that anyway. I considered fundraising for a Breast Cancer Organisation, but again, I struggled with the thought of asking people to give. I would never do well working for a charity.

This brings me to the purpose of this blog. A secret group was established and members of my CF have been hatching a plan to fundraise some money to support the cost of my surgery. The cat was let out of the bag and I was finally informed of this the other day. Words cannot express how much this has touched me. And especially as I know how much people have already given this year at other fundraising events at our CF.

They have been creative in their approach and have created a month of dares: If you complete the dare, you don’t pay; if you do, the person who has nominated pays $10; and so it continues. The dares are: complete 200 burpees, WOD in your undies or row 5km.

This morning the first victim, Paige, completed 200 burpees. The fact that she completed this dare, while she was sick and after the workout, means just as much as if she had paid $10. The other great thing about this fundraiser is that the dares continue while I am recovering from surgery. I won’t be able to work out, but I will still feel part of the community.

To everyone at the box, I say a big thank you for being gracious in this fundraising event. I think there will be a lot of ‘extra’ fit people by the end of August, or everyone will know each other on a more personal level (with the amount of people excited about working out in their undies.) And hopefully I still have some friends at the end of this…

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Paige completing her 200 burpees.

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Well here it is, another running story.

Most of you know I had a light-bulb moment to enter the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, when I found out my surgery would be after the event. My surgery was confirmed for July 31 and I had eight weeks to train. Eight weeks would surely be enough, right? I was already back running, so I just had to run some more, right?

My saving grace came in the form of two people: Mark and Louise. Mark and Louise are training for the Melbourne Marathon and invited me to join them on a morning run. And when I say morning, I mean at ridiculous o’clock! ‘We meet at 5am at the netball courts,’ Mark said. 5AM! If only it was summer and not winter.

The first morning, as I approached the netball courts car park, all I could see were red and white lights flashing. These lights were attached to both Mark and Louise. What have I signed up for? They were both kitted out with drink belts, lights, and Mark was wearing a singlet – I was in compression clothing from neck to toes. I felt like such an amateur.

The first training run was 10km. I put my head down, ran and was very quiet, unlike Mark and Louise who chatted the whole way. At the end they asked how many weeks until the HM. It was about six. Silence. Let’s just say the next week the distance was increased to 16km! Clearly I was a little behind on a normal HM training schedule. The distance had increased and we were now meeting at 4:30 am. No messing around with these two.

Now, most people who train for a race – any distance – usually have one, secret question bubbling inside them: What time will I run? For some people, just to finish is the only goal. But dare I say, the majority of people have a specific time in mind. And everyone – your friends, family and strangers – want to know what that magic number is. For me, taking my training runs into consideration, at an average pace of 5:40-5:50, my goal was 2:00 hrs. I would have to work for it, but it would be achievable.

To have a goal, you need a plan of attack. My plan was to run as close as possible to the 2:00hr pacer. The main reason was to ensure I didn’t go out too fast. And if I felt good near the end, I could sprint to the finish. (Who sprints after running 20 km? Honestly…)

Fast-forward to Sunday: The big day. The alarm sounded at 4:00am – just like every other Wednesday. Lucky for me my sister lives 10 minutes from the start line. Unlucky for her as she was my designated support crew. We arrived at the venue at 4:45 and they were still inflating the starting line funnel. Hmmm… maybe we could have slept in a little longer…

A lot of friends were running in this event, but you never expect to find them in the crowd. With sheer luck, we found one of the girls from the tri club, bonus. It was great to surrounded by familiar faces.  It was still early and my stomach was telling me the banana I had eaten earlier was not enough. I debated whether I should eat another. There’s a fine line between eating and drinking too much, or not enough. I still had 30 mins before the start… another banana wouldn’t hurt.

The voice over the speaker informed us it was time to get into position. In other words: time for one last toilet stop. With five minutes spare, we raced over to see the runners tightly packed together. We should have known better. It wasn’t a problem squeezing into the crowd; the problem was I was nowhere near the 2:00hr pacer, I was behind the 1:50 pacer. I laughed. No more pacer security blanket, I would have to rely on shiny, new Garmin, and my own intuition.

The roar of the crowd signaled that the race had officially started. We were off! And then we weren’t… and then we were … and then we weren’t. Finally, after two minuets of doing the pre-start shuffle, we were actually running. As the spectators cheered, I was overwhelmed with a wave of emotion. I had to hold back tears. Most people cry at the end of a race – I was on the verge of crying at the start. Just crossing the start, I already felt I had won. I thought back to only a few months ago (22 weeks, actually), to the bald woman struggling to run 5km. A half marathon seems like a far-fetched goal. But here I was.

Ok. Enough of the soppy, emotional stuff and back to the race… I started to think about the advice given by seasoned half marathon runners: Don’t start out too fast. Ok Rochelle, heed the advice. I looked down and checked my pace, 5:20. Wow! Easy tiger! I told myself to slow down – 5:40 was my comfortable pace. I happily let the runners go past and the 1:50 balloon bounced and fluttered further into the distance. I was going to be smart: I was going to listen to everyone’s advice.

The crowd beeped in unison. Or should I say, the Garmin’s beeped in unison – 1km done. I continued to monitor my watch only to see I was moving faster – 5:15. No! I was trying to go slower. Beep – 2km done.

The second piece of advice I was given was to have fun. At that moment I looked to my right and we were running past the Broadwater. The rising sun framed the runners’ silhouettes. It was stunning. The image is captured in my mind forever.

Beep. Beep. Beep – 4, 5, 6km done. I keep looking at my Garmin, and my Garmin kept telling me I was going too fast. It seemed 5:15 was my new ‘normal’. I felt good and didn’t feel I was pushing myself beyond my limits. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep – 7, 8, 9 and 10km. There was another strange beep, which I ignored (at the end of the race I realised it was my Garmin telling me I had set a new 10km record). I was still running a 5:15 pace. Ok Rochelle, just run with it (pardon the pun). I gave out some high-fives and yelled to anyone I recognised. I was actually enjoying this.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep – 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15km passed and I was going faster! I was now running a 5:08 pace. Yikes. It was either going to end in victory, or very badly.

Keeping in mind I have never run past 16km, I was nearing the ‘unknown’. I approached the 16km mark and was still running faster. Faster than the first 10km. Surely the last 5km would be a breeze, even if I had to slow down a little. 5km isn’t foreign to me. It’s just a parkrun, right? Everyone warned me the last 5km were the hardest. Ok. Let’s see…

Beep. Beep – 16, and 17km done.

I still felt good and was maintaining the same pace.

Beep. 18km done. I looked down at my watch and saw the pace had dropped to 5:20. Come on Rochelle, you’re nearly there. 18km – 19km was definitely a challenge. I won’t lie. Do you remember Loony Tunes? Road Runner and Wild E Coyote? I was no longer Road Runner, I had become Wile E Coyote – legs flapping around, not getting anywhere.

Beep. 19km. The crowds lined the path, I could hear music in the distance and I finally found the final gear I had been searching for.

By this stage I knew I was going to finish well under my 2:00hr target. So what do you do when you already know you’ve beaten your goal? Sprint! If you’re going to beat it by a little, why not beat it by a bit more…

Beep. 20km. Yes, I was one of those people sprinting after running 20km!

Beep. 21km. Beep. First HM.

It was done. I didn’t experience an overwhelming flood of emotions, just satisfaction (and shock) with the time I ran. I guzzled down a banana, orange and two bottles of water, and collected my medal and t-shirt.

And what do you do after running 21km? Eat everything and anything you can get your hands on. Well, that was my theory. Surely I was allowed. When asked by a friend what I ate to refuel, I replied, ‘A Yatala pie and a PowerAde.’ That was after the coffee and cookie.

So what next? A marathon? Absolutely! But not in the near future. Surgery is in a few weeks so I’ll be out of action again. I’ll have to squeeze in a few more long runs before then, maybe another half marathon.

And…special thanks to:

  • My sister, Andrew and Laura for supporting me with carb loading the night before. (Apparently you’re supposed to carb load 48 hours prior to the race – clearly I didn’t get the memo.)
  • My sister (again) for waking up at 4am, walking around in the cold and dark, and cheering me across the finish line. (There is a debate over why she didn’t get a photo of me finishing: she seems to think I came through with a group of people, I think it was because I was too fast.)
  • The Ipswich Tri Club: for always waiting for me to catch up when running.
  • All my friends and family who have given me constant support and encouragement.

And most importantly, to my Wednesday morning running partners – Mark and Louise. There is no doubt in my mind that those 16km runs set me up for success.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon

For the runners out there, here are the juicy details:

GCAM_timeGCAM_garmin

 

 

 

Appointments. I should learn to use my diary…

This week I had a sinking feeling I was due to have my three-month appointment with my oncologist, Dr Oliveira. I opened my ‘cancer draw’ (yes, I have a cancer draw) and pulled out my purple oncology appointment booklet. My intuition was on target – the appointment was today.

I was happy to know my appointment with Dr. O was today because she is competing in her first Ironman event this weekend. I would be able to wish her luck in person. Oh and I guess I should talk to her about cancer stuff, too.

It’s been – without stating the obvious – three months since I’ve been at the hospital. I proceeded through the usual entrance, the entrance I walked many times through treatment, and I pressed the button for the lift. The doors opened and I stepped into said lift. Hmm, what floor? I couldn’t remember what floor the oncology ward is on. Was it 5, or 6? Hmm. This excited me. I was happy that I had forgotten. I had a feeling it was level 5 and with a lift full of people I didn’t have another choice but to wing it. I stepped precariously from the lift as the doors opened and asked a staff member waiting near by. I felt like an amateur, yet the near full appointment card in my hand tells a different story. The staff member confirmed I was on the right floor. As I walked the hallways to the ward my nostrils filled with ‘the smell’. The smell that makes my stomach turn, the smell that reminds me of chemo. It’s the smell of the hand sanitizer dispensers. I feel nauseous at the slightest whiff. I feel nauseous even thinking about the smell.

I was greeted at the reception desk by all the usual staff – the staff that once was part of my family, or I part of the furniture. “Oh your hair is so long!” They asked what was happening with surgery, work, life etc. It was then time to wait. For the first time ever, I took a seat in the corridor away from the main waiting area. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the main waiting room, with the other patients waiting to be called to their chair; waiting to be injected with drugs. Here I was, the woman who had just run 16 km the day before, with hair, flicking through her diary making plans for the weeks to come. Chemo feels like a lifetime ago and by separating myself from the waiting room I felt that I was able to keep it as a distant memory – strange, I know.

Without much of a wait it was time to see Dr O. Again, the conversation centered on surgery, about having it done privately, why there was such a wait. I told her the pros and cons of the wait – the half marathon (which she was suitably excited about)! And we talked about Ironman and other events she has done in the past few months. Then we talked about treatment, and how I was feeling on Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen, we always seem to be talking about this drug! She mentioned that the 10-year treatment with Tamoxifen is still the recommendation blah blah, yes yes. And the conversations continues a little like this…

“But in 10 years the recommendation might be 20 years.” She said.

Well, you could imagine the look on my face.

She continued, “It might end up being 20 years if you stop the drug to have children.”

“Wait, why would it be 20 years?”

“Because it’s ten years of treatment, not treatment for ten years.”

There is a difference, apparently. You might remember a while back I joked that I could just have children for the next ten years to get out of taking the drug. Well, it doesn’t work like that. If I have children for the next ten years, once I stop having children I would have to then take the drug for ten years. Damn. I thought I was going to be able to cheat the system. I guess there is no benefit to having a whole soccer team if it doesn’t get me out of taking the drug *jokes*.

And that was that. Next follow-up is in August – on my sister’s birthday. People always ask what sort of tests they do now. How do I know if it worked? Am I cancer free? It may seem strange but there are no tests in my case. This is it. They have done everything possible (once surgery is ticked off the list), everything has been for preventative purposes so it’s a ‘wait and see’. Or as I like to say… time to get on with life.

Update

I will admit that this will be the most uninspiring or creative blog I have posted. But it’s necessary. An update is in order for those of you far away that I haven’t had a chance to talk to. So this is merely a simple update to let you know what’s happening in life and treatment. I think my University Professor would take back the Distinction he awarded me for the unit on Creative Writing if he was to read the following…

Firstly: Surgery. I have received the quote and crunched the numbers. It’s on the higher end of my budget but it’s manageable. It is all locked in for July 31st. I have over (just) eight weeks of freedom. Eight weeks to enjoy my mobility.

Secondly: Running and fitness. I’ve had a goal to take part in the Gold Coast Half Marathon for many years. I’ve heard it’s one of the best courses for your first HM – it’s flat, very flat. I actually registered about six years ago but it never eventuated. Since being back in Australia it’s been on my radar, although I thought there was zero chance of being able to participate this year. Since my last triathlon I haven’t committed to any events for the rest of the year as that date for surgery was still not confirmed – they could have turned around and booked it in with a few days’ notice. Those on my Facebook know I had a ‘light bulb’ moment when I realised the HM was before July 31st. It’s July 6th. Standby for another running story – sorry. I am also trying to maximise my time at CrossFit to ensure I am in the best possible shape before undergoing major surgery.

Thirdly: Hair. I had my first haircut the other day. Exciting. It was starting to resemble and Afro – a dark blonde Afro. My friend Meg did a great job of trimming the back and giving it some shape. I haven’t escaped the “chemo curl” and the hair definitely has a mind of its own in some places. I’m starting to master the art of using hair wax and my brushes have been dusted off and resumed their position in my bathroom draw.

Lastly: Study. It continues. I have enrolled in my next unit: Writing Magazine Features. I have also enrolled in Certificate in Professional Editing and Proofreading. The Certificate allows me to work at my own pace so I will be able to take on more study post-surgery when I will be house bound. The other unit is through university and structured over three months. My brain seems to be coping with the workload, for now.

I have mentally decided treatment has finished, but on paper it’s a different story. I know I have major surgery to come, but I feel healthy and strong (I’m slowly making gains to where I was before). I am continuing to remain calm and content with the journey. It’s taking longer than I expected, or hoped for. But I am still enjoying life in the meantime.

That’s a wrap.