The Cancer Color of October Is …

The Cancer Color of October is … not always PINK.

SONY DSC

It is October, and pink predominates pretty much everything because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because I am the daughter of a survivor and have seen countless friends, acquaintances, and fellow humans (women and men) be diagnosed with this disease. Some are (blessedly) still alive and thriving; others have passed away. As a woman, I face a 1:8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in my life. Therefore, for selfish reasons research should be supported. However not all “pink” is effective “pink,” and there are many other causes out there of which we need to be aware and for which we need to take action.

When Pink Makes Me See Red

I am wearing a lot of pink this month, and having been a multiple-year captain at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I am in full support of many efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer and fundraise toward support and research. Here in Tallahassee, October 2014 is fully in pink bloom, with many of our city’s leaders and brightest lights leading the way. However, it is important to know that not every product robed in pink does much good and to make well-educated purchasing decisions.

When Pink Has Gray Areas

It is also important to respect the connotations all that pink carries for people currently dealing with breast cancer, either for themselves or a relative. Sarah Thebarge writes eloquently of the evolution of her feelings about pink as a color representing breast cancer here.  She also wrote a superbly useful list of 31 Ways to Help a Friend Who Has Breast Cancer (visit it here) which goes beyond wearing pink.

But Paula You Said This Post Wasn’t Just About Breast Cancer!

It’s not. I want to encourage you to add some “blue” to your October observances (I know, now it’s feeling baby shower-ish up in here, isn’t it?). My friend and former coach, Jeff Kline, has stage 4 prostate cancer.

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Jeff Kline of PRS Fit

Jeff has devoted October to running across the United States with a goal of motivating men to get screened (his point is that if he had done a simple screening a few years ago, his cancer would have been caught at a time when treatment would have been simpler and the prognosis would have been much more hopeful). One of Jeff’s initial blogs about his diagnosis and decision to run cross country is here. Jeff and a team of supporters are running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26, 2014, to raise funds for ZERO (an organization dedicated to ending prostate cancer).

M2EPC

In support, I will be participating in a virtual half marathon on Saturday, October 25, 2014. It occurred to me one day that the drive from my house to my favorite traffic light, The Optimism Light, is roughly half of a half marathon, so my route will either begin or end at the O.L. to symbolize optimism that men will commit to getting themselves screened so they can be around for their families and friends for a long, long time. (Early detection can involve a simple blood test. Read more about detection options here or visit this site to donate.)

Got it: PINK, BLUE, and … GRAY?

I have had this “pink and blue” post planned for weeks. One individual’s story presented itself to me via friends, though, and it is important (and time sensitive) to add it here. Andy Nichols is the brother-in-law of a friend (as she puts it “the brother of my heart.”). Andy has an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor, which is in the same family of brain tumors as the one my friend Dustin had. When I learned that Poplar Head Baptist Church is holding a 5K race in Blountstown on October 11 in Andy’s honor (to help with expenses not covered by insurance as well as raise awareness), and that his friends wanted help getting the word out and generating as much participation as possible, I knew in a heartbeat that I would be heading west that day. If you are here in North Florida, please consider coming over to Blountstown and participating in the race. You can register via this link.

Andy and his family chose the "I have hope" phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

Andy and his family chose the “I have hope” phrase to symbolize hope for a cure for ALL forms of cancer, not only brain cancer.

If you are not able to participate in the 5K or mile Fun Run, but would like to show your support by purchasing a t-shirt, sponsoring the event, or making a donation, you can contact Tiffany Nichols at run4andy@gmail.com or Clint White at 850-643-8584.

So Many Causes … Where Do I Go From Here?

I wish I knew! I have only scratched the surface, with a bias toward the fact that it’s October, that my mom (pictured in this post with a pink bird of hope) is a breast cancer survivor, that Jeff is running across the country to encourage men to get screened for prostate cancer, and that Andy and his family need our support on October 11. My friend Mary Jane, a multiple myeloma survivor, is organizing a team for the NYC Half Marathon in March via Team in Training so you’ll be hearing about that, for sure. As to “where do I go from here?”

cancer colors

This graphic is from www.crochetforcancer.org.

In a sea of choices, the best recommendation I can make is the same one I would make if you were drowning in a literal sea: clear your head, get your bearings, look for the surface, orient yourself toward the shore, and take action. Your action may be donating funds, running in a race, running for a cause (hello, Charity Miles and Stand Up 2 Cancer!), or simply telling someone who has cancer “I am here for you” or asking their family what you can do to help.

Whatever you choose, don’t for a minute let yourself believe that your contribution is too small or won’t matter.

My mom, Jeff, and Andy would surely feel differently …

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Tiaras Make Everything Better

Sometimes it just happens this way …. the day’s commitments align in a sequence that makes me think, “great! I’ll be outside all day (mostly); I will get to support runners, I will get my own run in, and then I’ll top things off with a less strenuous workout followed by socializing with yet more runners.”

I did make all three running commitments yesterday, but the day didn’t go exactly as per plan and left me pleading for my friends who help me reframe things.

Part 1

Back in April, I was one of several Gulf Winds Track Club members who participated in a 5K at a local women’s correctional institution (a few track club members had met with the inmates previously to speak to them about running; this was the first “event” and it was incredible.)

Yesterday, we returned to the facility to coordinate an intervals workout. Since I knew I had a long run scheduled for the day, I was a “cheerleader” rather than a runner. It was such a great experience! The women said, “I hoped you would come back,” “I told my family to look for you in the picture (from April), the one in the lime green shirt,” and “I’m gonna do this.” The statement that stuck with me the most was the woman who said, “I used to be the mom at my kids’ runs holding the water and clapping for the kids. When I get out, I am going to run with my kids and my mom doesn’t know it but she’s gonna run with us too.”

Part 2

My assignment from my coaches at PRSFit was to run 10 miles. The miles were primarily to be at Heart Rate Zone 2 (which is relatively “easy” — a HR where you can conceivably hold a conversation) with 3 minute surges to Zone 3 every 20 minutes. Since I had the commitment to help at Gretna in the morning and another commitment (a/k/a Part 3) in the evening, the only time I thought I had to do this run was immediately upon returning from Gretna. I knew it would be hot (high 80’s/low 90’s) outside and I knew it would be my longest run ever, but I thought I could power through, especially since I would be carrying 20 ounces of water in my water belt. This run just didn’t work out like I hoped. One of my Twitter friends had tweeted, “it’s okay to take walk breaks if you need to,” but I didn’t plan on taking walk breaks even if I had to slow down substantially.

Due to the heat, I never got down to Zone 2 the entire run. I also chose a hilly course (sigh). At least I was listening to a riveting audio book (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn). At the 1:40 mark, there was a sudden shift in my energy level; I went from a pretty steady run to what I call the “struggling to just keep one foot in front of the other” pace. Still, I was happy to be making progress, enjoying the book, and looking forward to triumphantly reporting on my first 10+ mile run on Daily Mile and on my report to my coach. At around the 2:20 mark, walking suddenly and immediately became an option when I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. And I still had over a mile to go to get back to my car. This is when the thing became all about survival. Survival and obsessing about what this meant for my September 16 half marathon as part of the Autism Speaks team. What ensued was me walking the mile+ back to my car, with a rapidly dwindling water supply, considering going in to the convenience store to ask for water, considering going up to strangers’ homes looking for water, considering begging. I hoped the park along Killarney Way would have a water fountain (it didn’t). But I did stop there and literally lay down under a shaded pavilion, praying to get back to my car without passing out (and glad I had finally sprung for a 1band ID so my husband could be reached if I did). Ultimately, I made it back to my car, and had a lovely time of 3:06 to report to my coach and DailyMile for this 11 mile run. UGH.

This did not go how I wanted. I know there are going to be days like this as a runner, but gosh it was disappointing.

Part 3

Part 3 was our women’s “Dash and Dine,” which is an opportunity for a bunch of us women walkers/runners to “dash” and then “dine.” The rules are fairly loose: NO MEN, NO DRAMA, NO WHINING, NO WORRIES. (sorry gentleman!).

The way yesterday’s Dash and Dine was configured, we could choose to walk/run a 2 mile loop, a 3 mile loop, or a 5 mile loop on a local trail, followed by dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I had planned to walk 2 miles, then join the dinner outing. But after Part 2,  the last thing I wanted to do was anything that involved putting one foot in front of another and sweating. Which is why I nixed the “dash” and only did the “dine.”

Why did the “dine” matter? It mattered because my friends were able to reassure me that my tweets about how I didn’t like running that day, my long Daily Mile report which just asked people to chime in and help me reframe my run, and my report to my coach which may have contained a little bit of whining and self-pity were just a bump in the road; that things would get better and it still mattered that I made it 11 miles.

And they gave me a tiara. Tiaras make everything better:

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.