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.

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