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Cancer Chronicles #4 Getaways, Holidays and Endurance Training



This past weekend I was able to put cancer on the backburner for just a few days to feel like my old self for a bit. The original plans for the weekend were made in the summer. Mom, Kirsten Hattie and I were supposed to be in New York City taking in the sounds and sights of the holiday season but unfortunately, the big C got in the way of our plans. Not knowing when I’d be having surgery, we postponed the trip. In lieu of the Big Apple, we turned our sights to the next best thing… Holland, Michigan, home to my Alma Mater Hope College and all things Dutch. While we didn’t get to see the Rockettes perform, we still managed to have a really great time and for that I am very grateful. For just a little while, I put my diagnosis on hold and focused on just being with people I love and doing things I enjoy. It was pretty great.


Now, it is back to reality and with it a fresh wave of anxiety. Really it is a steady undercurrent to most aspects of my life right now. My surgery date is fast approaching and along with it the holidays, which at my house also means a birthday and an anniversary. I find myself feeling a little frantic as I try to get all my ducks in a row before December 19th rolls around. The minute I heard the doctor say I had cancer, my thoughts went immediately to my kids and making sure their lives remained as normal as possible. And for me that includes making sure my daughter feels celebrated when she turns 15 just four days after surgery and pulling off some real Christmas magic. I know it is an added and probably unnecessary pressure I put on myself but it also gives me some sense of agency over my life, something I often feel I have little of at the moment.


With less than weeks left before the big day, the slog of waiting for something, anything to happen, has shifted into high gear and I am suddenly on a speeding train towards the next phase of this experience. We should have results back soon from the test that will determine if I may need chemotherapy and I am getting the things I will need for recovery after surgery. After months of anticipation, it is almost time to do something about it and in all honesty I am pretty damn nervous.


As a marathon runner I have long understood the value in getting comfortable with discomfort. Distance running comes with a kind of discomfort that you eventually make peace with in order to go the distance, finish the race. A breast cancer diagnosis reminds me a little bit of those pre-marathon dreams I’ve had. The ones where I am at the starting line of a race I don’t remember signing up for and realize I haven’t put in one mile of training. The course looms ahead of me and I am filled with dread at how unprepared I am, how far away the finish line is. When my nerves start to get the best of me, I think of how endurance training will serve me in ways it never has before; reminding me to stay in the now, not to look too far ahead lest I get overwhelmed. In a marathon, there are many times you resist the whole thing but eventually as the miles close in, you realize you aren’t going to quit, you're just going to keep running because it's the only way to be done. You just surrender to it all and suddenly it feels easier.


Here’s to surrender and finding peace in the miles that lie ahead.


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