This was not part of the training plan. But then again, the training almost never goes according to plan. Some days are smooth, and other days rock you and bring you to your knees. Both types are important for progress and growth.
May 10, 2022 started off pretty well. I had recovered enough from recent surgery to do yoga with my beloved teacher and mentor, enjoyed a delicious salad for lunch from my dear friend, and was looking forward to a fun and relaxing summer with my family. After lunch while chatting with a friend I saw a notification pop up on my email with the subject line, “New Test Result.” My initial response was to keep chatting with my friend and check it later. However, feelings of anxiety and panic started to flood my body. My chest tightened, hands started trembling and my heart was racing faster. I could no longer hear any of the words coming out of my friend’s mouth. I told my friend I’d call her back. I opened the email with my shaking hands and saw the words I feared but never really expected to see there. “Carcinoma. High grade. Present in margins.” As I scanned the pathology report trying to understand what all of the words meant, I felt my heart rate increase even further. My vision seemed to narrow and my world came to a complete stop. I had just received a life changing cancer diagnosis over email. We have dealt with a lot of cancer in our family, but nothing could have prepared me for my own diagnosis.
The next several hours are a blur. I called my husband to help me decipher the report and tried to get in touch with my doctor’s office. The trauma of receiving a cancer diagnosis was being compounded by the fact that I had no doctor or medical professional to speak with me about the pathology report, explain the diagnosis, and discuss potential treatment options. Just three weeks earlier I had run the Boston Marathon. How did I go from Boston marathoner to cancer patient in three short weeks? How would I possibly tell my kids? I had always pictured myself growing old with my husband and having grandchildren, but suddenly felt like this vision was in question. My own mortality was staring me straight in the face and it was not a comfortable feeling.
When I ran Boston in April, I fell at mile 8, hurting my shoulder and ankle. In the later miles of the race as I pushed through the pain wondering why I fell and why I was up most of the night with puking children I thought, “it’s going to take me a while to integrate this.” I knew there was some lesson to be learned but that it may not be revealed to me immediately. One of the things that I love about running, and distance running in particular, is that it is a contained field upon which to explore my inner landscape. Each time I run a marathon I learn something new about myself and the world around me. Each time I go deeper. I come away with pearls of wisdom that can be extrapolated and applied to the larger canvas of life. After I fell in Boston, I got up, focused, and got the best out of myself that day. And my best was good enough to re-qualify. I learned that in the face of adversity I can persevere.
Navigating a breast cancer diagnosis has been devastating and emotionally draining. I have spent many nights in bed crying asking why. I know that I am fortunate that my cancer was caught early and is very treatable. However, the treatments do not come without significant side effects, and I will live in fear of it returning for the rest of my life. The psychological toll should not be underestimated. Although we did plenty of fun things this summer, I also feel like I spent half of the summer in doctors’ offices and on the phone with insurance companies. However, just like I ran with the sore shoulder and ankle in Boston, I am proceeding through this as best I can. I may be down, but I am far from out. I know from past experiences that I have the will and spirit to triumph and that is exactly what I plan to do here. I will persevere, I will integrate the lessons, and I will thrive.