Thursday, November 25, 2010


I have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. So much has transpired in my life this past week ... too much to even share in this blog posting and to be honest I am needing time to process and simply sit and be with all that has happened. What I do know is that I am extremely grateful to be alive and to have the most incredible friends. I am grateful for my dogs who are healing magic to me ... I look to my dog Ahnung who has and will continue to be my northstar as I maneuver my way through the next step in my life's journey.

A few days ago a good friend of mine shared the following poem with me. We are all walking our journey of life ... I have been afraid to step into some deep old hurts and pains ... hurts so deep that I had convinced myself they weren't there yet I know in my gut that they have manifested in the health issues I have been struggling with over the past year and a half. Next week I have my appointment at Mayo to discuss options around the cancer/precancer in my breast and the following week meet with a pancreatic specialist.

To add to all of this I learned the other day that I have an infection ... abnormally high red blood cells (and white blood cells) in my urine. I had another test done yesterday and will hopefully get results back tomorrow. The internist tells me ... it could have something to do with my gall bladder or kidneys. Sounds like I may have more tests and procedures to go through. The internist is most concerned about the abnormally high levels of red blood cells.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Against all Odds!

It's been almost a week now since I completed the San Francisco US Half marathon on Sunday, 11/7. I arrived on Thursday, 11/4 as I had some work meetings ... the weather was perfect -- sunny and in the 60s. Prior to leaving Minnesota I checked the weather forecast for San Francisco to determine what running attire to bring .. the weather forecast was saying sunny and high 50s at the time of the race start. In my mind, I thought, "how perfect! I get to run 13.1 miles in gorgeous weather and I get to cross the Golden Gate bridge twice!"

Then I come to find out that rain is predicted for Sunday the morning of my half marathon. And it's not just a light rain, it's a heavy rain! A few months ago I made a decision to train and sign up for a half marathon. This time last year I could barely function. My doctors hadn't discovered the cause of my extreme fatigue and the continual weight loss. It wasn't till March of this year when I was diagnosed with pancreatic insufficiency with unknown etiology ... in plain English, my pancreas had stopped functioning normally and no longer produces the essential enzyme lipase that breaks down fats. I'm a mystery to my doctor. I've been taken pancreatic enzymes which have been a lifesaver ... my doctor tells me he is happy the enzymes are helping however he's still concerned because they still can't figure out the underlying cause for my pancreas shutting down on some level. He suspects there are changes going on at a cellular level in my pancreas that unfortunately can't be seen with tests and scans. Not to scare me but to stress the importance of listening to my body, he tells me it could be an early sign of diabetes (although he doubts it because I don't have other symptoms) ... and possibly, very early signs of cancer. He goes on to say, the good news is that when we did the endoscopic ultrasound and looked at your pancreas we did not see any visible tumors so if there is anything it's going on at a cellular level. Hmmmm .... in the past year and a half I have walked a parallel path with precancer cells in my breast and this last surgery in October revealed that yes, my cells are definitely going awry with one pathologist saying it's definitely cancer, the other 3 saying it's still in the pre-cancer stage. I'm walking a very gray area in the western medical world where I'm a mystery to them as I'm not following the norms ... pathologists at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where I've gone to get a second opinion have expressed serious concern ... well, I guess they all do. There's concern there is cancer already in my body but the western medical world can't treat it because they can't isolate an area or spot in my breast ... recommendations are a double mastectomy or tamoxifen .. neither of which feel right to me at this time.

So ... training for this half marathon was huge for me on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. For the first time this year I started feeling strong enough to exercise again. I had also completed two marathons in the past in which both of them I had injured myself and crossed the finish line in excruciating pain. This time, I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to listen to my body ...  and I wanted to integrate mind, body and spirit into this run. I wanted to cross the finish line with a smile on my face. Running this half marathon was to reclaim my health ... no matter what lies in front of me healthwise as I continue my visits with doctors, surgeons and specialists ... I will be okay. And for my half marathon I chose to have my running bib read the name of my dog Ahnung, whose name means north star in ojibway, and who has been my north star in many ways over the past couple years as she has helped heal the wounded child inside of me.

After I learned about the rain I had to shift my perspective and my attitude. I could hear Ahnung telling me, "It's so much fun running in the rain!!" Ahnung is like the little kid in me. And as I ran 13.1 miles in non-stop rain (even major downpours at time), mud puddles and killer hills ... I could hear her telling me to have fun! And so I did. As I came down this muddy slope after crossing the Golden Gate bridge I joined the other runners in splashing in mud puddles and not caring about my Asics running shoes getting filthy. I had never run in the rain before nor have I ever had the desire to run in the rain. Last Sunday I considered it a spiritual cleansing. I was in San Francisco from Thursday through Monday and every day was perfect weather except for the morning of my half marathon on Sunday. I don't believe in coincidences ... I believe the rain came for a reason. It gave me a chance to shift perspective and to let go of expectations and to live and embrace the moment. With support from so many, I welcomed the 13.1 miles in pouring rain. I welcomed the steep uphill climbs and muddy routes. And at the end when the wind kicked in, I even welcomed that!! As I crossed the Golden Gate bridge the second time I looked up into the skies and just thanked God. This time last year I would never have imagined I would be able to complete 13.1 miles.

My journey continues ... and on this run, the little girl in me also carried my father and God with me as I wore around my neck the diamond heart my dad gave to my mom when they were dating, a gold band that my father wore all the time and a gold ring with a cross on it ... a reminder to me that I am not alone.

Today I celebrate the 4 year old in me who ran a half marathon last Sunday ... against all odds, and with a little help from my pup Ahnung!!! Thank you Papa for carrying me through this run ... just like you used to hold me as a little girl I still feel you carrying me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gearing Up for the San Francisco US Half Marathon

Hanging out at Fisherman's Wharf
with my brother!
I arrived early this afternoon in San Francisco. This trip, unlike my many recent work trips, is a combination of work and pleasure. Tomorrow I have a busy work day then comes the fun ... hanging out in San Francisco and getting ready to run the San Francisco US Half marathon on Sunday, 11/7 [I am very grateful my dear friend Michele is going to meet me here in SF so that she can cheer me on as I cross the finish line!].

I've been training for this race for a few months now. This time last year I was struggling on so many levels with my health ... for someone who's normally very active I had essentially reached a point where I was so fatigued and weak that I couldn't even exercise and had also lost so much weight. At the beginning of 2010 my GI doctor figured out it was my pancreas and since i've been on these magical enzymes I've stopped losing weight and my fatigue has dissipated. I still have some bad days but for the most part I feel so much better ... so a few months ago I made a decision to train for this half marathon and also started working out with an awesome personal trainer, Holly Margl of Flex Appeal in St. Paul. In many ways I felt the need to reclaim my health and to know that I can do anything I set my mind to!! So I registered for the SF Half marathon .. and I made a decision to also run this race not only for myself but also for my dog Ahnung who has been my source of strength on so many levels  ... Ahnung, which means star in ojibway, has been my north star and many nights when I was unable to sleep because of pain I would hold onto her, and I would tell myself exactly what we tell the kids we visit at schools ... to hold on tightly to our north star and to trust that our north star will guide us into the light ... and for me, she always does ....

This past year has been a rough year for me on many levels ... it has also been an incredible year of growth and transformation. In the same way, I have witnessed and journeyed alongside of Ahnung as I have witnessed how much she has grown and blossomed and how much of a difference she is making as a therapy dog volunteering with at-risk youth and in hospice. So when I registered for the half marathon and I was given the option of a customized bib ... I made a very conscious decision that I was going to have my running bib read 'AHNUNG'. I am going to run for Ahnung and in honor of an angel who came down from heaven in the body of an adorable big black dog ... but I will also feel the presence of my father when I run. My father appeared to me in a dream for the first time ever on January 3, 2010 .. and January 3rd is a very special day for me (and Ahnung) because it is the day (1/3/2009) when I officially adopted her from Pet Haven.

The race starts at 7 am on Sunday .... and it will be an incredible route as I will get to run across the Golden Gate bridge not just once but twice!! My sweet girl Ahnung (aka nung-nung) is NOT a runner ... so for this run she's happy that she will be with me in spirit and not in physical body. The last time we participated in a 5K9 run/walk, it was definitely a walk and not a run!!

I am looking forward to crossing the finish line on Sunday morning as I proudly wear my running bib that reads 'AHNUNG'!! thank you nung-nung for not only being my north star, but the north star for so many others ... and I of course, also have to thank Mister (another one of our dogs) for helping me get back to running and being such an awesome running buddy for my shorter runs!! Thanks Mister!!