Facebook page: Me and The Girls

Friday, September 9, 2011

So, what do you do when there is 2 weeks left??

Wow.  It's finally that wonderful time again!

Only 2 weeks left!!!

Holy Moly, it snuck up on me again.  It seems like it went from 6 weeks to 2 weeks in a blink of an eye.  Now of course, it will be "crunch time" trying to get everything done in time.  Again.

I swore this would NOT happen this year, but it did.  So you're thinking, "What do you have left to do, I mean you trained all year and you raised all your money..."  Well let me tell you...

Our team logo!!!!
1) Team t-shirts - well I must say I got lucky here.  I was directed to a wonderful member of the 3 Day family that makes t-shirts with her own heat press.  And she has impressed us at every turn!  We are totally in LOVE with the logo she came up with for us, and the shirts are halfway finished being designed.  So I believe it will be cutting it close, but we will have gorgeous shirts for our walk this year!!!

Things bought, things to pack...  
2) Shopping, shopping, and a little more shopping...  There are things you don't think of till it gets this close, and things that you kept saying to yourself - "I'll just get that later, I've got plenty of time!"  Things like enough socks for 3 days...  Wait.  What's that?  You say how many socks do you need?  Oh 4 pairs/ day, varying in type and thickness.  Yes, thats 12 pairs of socks!!  And yes I definitely have 12 pairs of socks, but not moisture-wicking non-cotton thick and thin and ultra-thin socks.  But I have them now!  And a camera case attachment for my hippack, and a battery operated pump for my air mattress, and my ziploc bags to pack everything in, and a shower curtain "rain tarp", wonderful pink comfy slippers, and a battery powered pink alarm clock, and all the travel sized toiletries, and beads to give out to kids at cheering stations, more body glide, batteries for all the electronic things you need, travel size tissues, etc.  In other words, a million little things you forgot you needed till 2 weeks before!  But I believe I can check shopping at least off of my list, I THINK I have it all...
One side finished, one to go!

3) Sewing up our pink ribbon sash...  At all of our fundraising events we had pink ribbons and a sharpie for people to write names of friends and loved ones they were donating for, plus when people made donations to my personal fundraising account I asked them to let me know if they would like me to carry a name with me on the walk for them, plus of course we had the names of people we are personally walking for...  And they are all on pink ribbons that I am in the process of sewing onto a sash, which we will take turns wearing all 60 miles.  Our hope is to honor these brave fighters, survivors, or their memories with every mile we walk.  I am about 2/3 finished now...

My "craft" table with millions of pink things to do!
4) Tent decorations...  This kinda got bigger with each passing week, as we got more and more ideas then got more and more excited...  So we got a little carried away and now I have a few MORE things to make...  But it's all good, since it's gonna look great and be lots of fun. I guess I am making up for the fact that last year we never made it back to camp in time to do our decorations.  So this year we have a team theme and our 3 tents are going to coordinate, plus my tent mate for this year that I "met" on the message boards has agreed to go with our theme idea as well.  Yay!  I will just have to catch up on sleep AFTER the walk, since I've got things to make, things to sew, things to print out, things to laminate, etc.!

Never a dull moment!  Do you think my boss would understand if I told her I was WAY to busy to come to work for the next 3 weeks???

Friday, August 19, 2011

What to buy and what to pack - revisited...

Now that I have the experience of 1 walk, and another year to listen to advice and try new ideas out, I have gone back to the blog I wrote last year to see if I am following the advice I gave.  I believe some of it has not and will not change, like the advice to read the message boards, read blogs from members of the 3 Day family, and even find and listen to facebook 3 Day friends.  These are invaluable resources of advice, inspiration, and motivation.  And all will these wonderful people would be more than happy to answer questions and give you their take on any issue or problem you might be having.  I must say I love these people and have learned so very much from them (THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!)

So let me do a list of my advice and let you know my take on it now...

Socks and Shoes - Well last year I wrote that I wished I had a better back up pair of shoes that were a completely different brand/style that I could wear like day 2 of the event so as to hopefully reduce blisters since the different shoes would rub in different spots.  Well this year I do have a much better back up pair (the pair I've done my training in). But something I did differently this year was to go to a running shoe store to get professionally fitted for my shoes.  While I was there I asked the salesperson (and this gave her the perfect opportunity to sell me another pair for another $100!) whether or not she thought this would help, based on her experience.  She said it would be more helpful to buy a new pair of shoes within weeks of the event with just enough time to break them in but not wearing them more than that to keep them in "prime" condition for the event.  That and buying good socks should be the best blister prevention.  So only time will tell whether this advice will work better for me this year.  And I am really having a hard time finding socks I like.  Thick cushioned socks start giving me "hot spots" on the ball of my foot.  Thin socks give me "hot spots" on my heel.  Sigh.  So I am going with changing my socks from thick to thin and back again throughout each day, bringing 2-3 pairs with me each day of the walk in my pack (in individual sealed baggies to keep them dry in case of rain and to have a bag to keep worn ones in so that I don't have to smell them for 60 miles!  LOL!)  So I'll just have to let you know afterwards whether or not this worked!  I will definitely be using my glide and re-using it every time that I change my socks, and will be carrying my new skin just in case...

me and my fav skirt and funky socks! 
Well I've re-read my advice on clothing.  This I will not be changing this time around.  I loved my running skirt so much that I've bought another one!  And I will be wearing the silky moisture - wicking material shirts all 3 days, including our team shirt which will (hopefully!) be a bamboo racer back tank this year.  I will also have our long sleeve team shirt which we are having made (again hopefully!) to use in the mornings when it is chilly out and which I can easily tie around my waist as I warm up throughout the day.  I have added my "funky socks" to my ensemble though...  But since I need to wear the proper socks, I have cut the feet off of my cute knee socks so that I can have the best of both worlds.   I can wear my good moisture wicking socks, yet have the look of wearing funky knee socks as well!!  Besides, my husband thinks my silly socks are cute...

my pinked out hippack !
As for the hippack I am using, I am using the exact one that I used last year.  I loved that it held so much stuff (since I AM a girl and need to bring stuff for just in case) and I have 2 water bottles included so I can have water in one and the lovely gatorade in the other.  But this year I am changing up what will be in my pack, since I've learned what I actually needed and what I didn't need.  Body Glide? - NECESSARY!  My favorite honey roasted peanut snack? - NOT NECESSARY! (It is a walking buffet of delicious snacks, no need to bring any more!)  Crystal light fitness water bottle packets? - NOT NECESSARY!  I truly no longer cared what I was drinking while walking.  I don't even like gatorade, but wet and cold were the only requirements I learned that I had last year.  Although I was eternally grateful to have a diet coke with dinner.  It was the most delicious drink ever at that point!!!  New skin (or 2nd skin)? - NECESSARY!  I don't like using tape or moleskin since the end up sliding around and actually making things WORSE for me.  But new skin was still on DAYS after the event!!  Which was a little gross, but I learned to handle gross - just look at how gross your fingernails are by the end of day 3!  How I got that much dirt under them without digging in the dirt was a mystery I still haven't solved...  Camera? - ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! - I wouldn't trade those pics for gold.  They are a treasure to me!  Chapstick and lotion? - NECESSARY! - If you've trained and have done long walks, you know how dried out you feel and how wonderful it is to use these!  Flip flops tied with ribbon to my pack? - NECESSARY (for me anyway)!  I LOVED the fact that at lunch and waiting for the bus at the end of day one to take you back to camp I could get those kicks off and put on my fav flip flops.  Band - aids? - NOT NECESSARY!  I certainly wouldn't put them on a blister since you know how well they stick to wet sweaty skin, and new skin works 100 times better.  Plus if I need one I could always get one from one of the medical tents.  Rain poncho? - NECESSARY!  Not only is it guaranteed to rain continuously for 3 days straight if you don't bring one, but in case of the occasional shower I would like to keep my clothes and things in my hippack as dry as possible.  Please bring one, you know if you do we won't need it...  Hand sanitizer? - NECESSARY!  Although a lot of the porta-potties had full hand sanitizer dispensers, some had run out.  And as wonderful as it is for the 3 day peeps to give out the hand sanitizer wipes, they can't help that those things sometimes dry out and it's like trying to wash your hands off with a tissue...   Trial size deodorant? - NECESSARY!  Well I feel better reapplying it, and I'm sure my team mates appreciate it as well...  Sunscreen? - NECESSARY!  ID and bank card/credit card? - NECESSARY!  You never know when you might find you need something, or when a delicious frappaccino might call your name...
And motrin? - ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!  I take this every 6 hrs for 3 days straight.  It won't hurt, and it just might help!

For camp, I am sticking with my advice as well.  I am using my air mattress again.  And I hadn't decided at the time I wrote my previous blog, but I am using the same sleeping bag as well.  I am however wearing warmer things to bed so I am not as cold while I sleep this time, and still bringing a light but warm extra blanket.  I am still bringing a wonderfully comfy pair of slippers to wear around camp after my shower; a pair that I won't mind just throwing away if they get ruined.  That was a wonderful feeling, sliding my feet into warm fuzzy slippers...  I will also bring all trial sized items again, although I am going to put all of my shower things and my clothes for the evening in a tote bag, so that when it is time for my shower I don't have to go through my stuff to find all the things I will need, I will just pick up the tote and be ready to go.  I will not be packing my beloved Milanos for a midnight snack this year however, and I will decide at the last minute (after I see how much my suitcase weighs before and after) whether or not I will be bringing 2 bottles of my beloved  Powerade Zero for the first fill of the morning in my water bottles.  I will bring pics of my family the people I am walking for that I have pictures of, and my Bible.  I think I will get more comfort from them than from Milanos.

And the one thing I am bringing this year that I didn't last year is something for all the beautiful children who came out with their parents to official and unofficial cheering stations.  I have purchased some pink Marti Gra beads to hand out this year to them.  I gave away the few I was wearing on the walk last year, and the children's faces just lit up when I gave it to them.  That was a wonderful moment I want to repeat!

Well it's still 5 1/2 weeks out till the walk, so I could still decide to change things up a little.  But for now this is the game plan.

Oh yeah, did I mention the glasses?  Must bring...
And I must say, I didn't think that on year / walk 2 I would be as excited as I was last year.  So for all of you who debate whether or not to do it for the 2nd time...  Let me assure you I am just as excited if not more for this year!!!  Woohoo!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Training - what I did different this year and how it's going...

I know I know...  I've been slacking a little on my blog lately...  But I'm back!

Now that I am done (can I get a woot woot!!!) my major fundraising since I've reached my minimum (not altogether done, just helping others now and looking toward next year...) I can focus on the other half of the 3 day experience: training.  We are now less than 12 weeks away from the event, and training really starts getting important!!

So I wrote last year about what I did to train for my first 3 day and what worked and what didn't.  So what am I doing different this year?  Well...
Last year back to back training walk

I signed up to do the 2011 DC walk a lot earlier than I signed up for the 2010 walk, so I was able to start training much earlier.  Was I smart and did I keep walking the whole year to stay in shape?  Of course not!  I returned to couch potato for quite a few months, and gained quite a few pounds in the process.  So when I joined the YMCA in January, I had my work cut out for me.  I got over my "fear" (I kept picturing myself tripping over my own feet, crashing face first into the machine, then getting thrown off the back.  And of course this would be seen by a room full of people at the gym...) and got on a treadmill for the first time that month, and walked about 3 - 3.5 miles start.  It was nice to have a place to walk that early in the year, because I don't do cold.  There is no way I would walk outside before the end of March/ beginning of April.  And I don't LIKE it till probably the end of April/ beginning of May!  So the treadmill helped me out enormously.    I am hoping to keep up on my YMCA membership so that I can still walk in the winter months again at the end of this year/ beginning of next year.

I was really hoping that walking a few times per week would help me shed the 15-20 lbs I wanted to lose.  No such luck.  My husband kept telling me that I needed to start running if I wanted to lose the weight, but I didn't want to do that.  Running in the past has helped me lose weight but also has given me shin splints and tendinitis problems, and who wants to walk 60 miles with those problems?!?!  And what if I hurt my knees and then CANT do the walk?!?!  I wanted no part of that!  But as the weeks went by and my husband was losing his weight and I lost nothing, I decided to try it.  So I began running 3-5 miles twice per week, and finally lost 13 lbs.

Still wearing my knee brace, but feeling fine!
I got a bonus that I didn't expect as well.  When I finally started doing training walks outside with my team mates and steadily increasing the miles, I didn't get sore muscles the way I did last year.  Running got my leg muscles in such good shape that even increasing to 12 mile walks did not make me have sore muscles!  That was great!  I remember being sore last year quite a bit, especially after doing an increase in mileage.  Now I did have painful shins with running and I started having left knee pain, so I did stop running at the beginning of June.  I still was a little afraid that I would hurt myself and either not be able to do the walk or do it with more pain than walking 60 miles already gives you.   And I am happy with that decision to stop because my knee is starting to feel a little less pain when I do my training walks and my shins feel completely normal again.  So even though I have started gaining my weight back again (sigh) I believe I will not jog again till after the walk in September.  Some things are more important to me than how I look...  But I definitely will run again, since it really did get my legs in shape and help with my endurance.  I recommend it, though I would listen to your body if it starts telling you to stop.

I guess another thing that is helping me with endurance is the fact that this time I am training SMOKE FREE!! Though of course I did not smoke on training walks nor did I even bring cigarettes on the 3 day, I still was a smoker.  :(  But I made a deal with my husband when I wanted to sign up to do the walk this year, and the deal was that I could walk again IF I finally quit smoking.  Well I had been unable to totally quit though I had cut back to only a few cigarettes a day, till then.  So I haven't had one since, and that's been MANY months!!!  YAY ME!!

How funny that they recommended the same shoes for each of us!!!
And lastly one of the things I did differently this year is go to a running store to get fitted for shoes that would best suit me and the way I walk.  Last year I tried on a million different shoes and found the ones I like best on my own.  This year I decided to try having someone help me.  The funny thing is that the shoe store picked out almost the same pair I chose for myself last year!  So I guess I did something right last year.  But what I did not do that may have led to the large blisters I got on last year's walk is get another new pair 1 month before the event.  I didn't realize how quickly training will wear out your shoes and that after the shoes have been used for their "max mileage" they will be much more likely to give you blisters as well as not perform as well.  Lesson learned.  This year I am getting another pair in August so they will be fresh yet broken in for my big back-to-back walk as well as the event.  Hopefully this will mean no more blisters!!!  (Hey, a girl can dream can't she?)  Now if I could just find the right socks...  I am still battling with those...

One of the things I did the same as last year was doing for the most part only 2 walks per week.  With working full time and 4 kids, I just can't do much more than that.  So like last year I am trying to do one long walk with increasing miles and one shorter 5-6 mile walk per week.  I truly wish I had the chance to do more, but that just isn't an option for me.  But I felt pretty prepared for last year using this method so I believe I will be ok with it again this year.  This year I definitely increased my mileage faster though, and so did 10-13 mile walks much sooner in my walking schedule than last year, and I am happy I did.  I feel like we went form 10 to 20 miles too quickly last year with not enough walks in between to work up to it and get used to it.  Hopefully the extra months of the 12-15 mile walks will help us in the endurance dept. this time around.

Well I still have 12 weeks of training walk to go!  Wish Me and The Girls luck!  And on that note, I am off for  a solo 12 mile walk!
Me and The Girls on a Gettysburg training walk

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why I am walking week - Day 7 the wrap up...

Well I would like to thank those of you who shared you experiences, thoughts, and feelings for my blog project this week.  I would also like to thank those who shared by reading it.  It was meaningful for me to share with everyone the reasons I am walking again this year.

I am going to finish off the week with another chance for those of you who haven't donated yet to do so for this wonderful foundation that isn't just about finding a cure but making life better for those with breast cancer as well!

As many of you know, last year I walked 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure, for the 1st time.  Many of you helped me on my journey by donating, and I was able to raise over $2,800 towards finding a cure for breast cancer. Those who have seen my slideshow, heard me talk about it, or read my blog know how much this experience meant to me.  How I believe it changed me, and how I loved being a part of something bigger than myself.  But is that it?  Am I done my part now?  Was that enough?

I don't know.  Have they found a cure for breast cancer yet? 

I learned a lot from researching breast cancer, from listening to stories from inspiring women with this disease.  I learned that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed in their lifetime.  I learned that the biggest risk factors are being a woman and getting older.  But I think the hardest fact to swallow is the one stated in the picture below; a picture I took on my 60 mile walk, a picture that gives me goose bumps every time I read it.

Every 3 minutes in this country, another woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.  

That means that in the time it took to microwave 2 hot pockets for my kids, a family’s whole life dramatically changed.  In the 6 minutes it took me to get a load of laundry together and throw it in the wash, 2 women receive the news that they were praying with all their souls that they wouldn’t have to hear from their doctor after their biopsy was performed.  In the 10 minutes it took waiting for my morning coffee to brew: a single mom wonders who will care for her kids while she’s getting treatments and how is she going to pay her bills while she’s out of work, another woman cries trying to figure out how to tell her husband that her cancer is back again, and a 3rd  woman takes a deep breath, lifts her chin, and asks the doctor what she needs to do next.

How could I not continue the fight against breast cancer?  So again in  Sept. 2011, I will be leading a new team of women who share my passion for making this a world without breast cancer.  And how long after we find a cure will it be till we end ALL cancer, forever?

Walking at full speed, it would take me about 950 minutes to walk 60 miles.  The 60 miles of the 3 Day will actually take a lot longer than that because I need to stop and stretch, refill my water bottles, eat snacks and visit those beautiful porta-potties.  So, it will take me around 1500 minutes of walking.  And in those 1500 minutes, 500 more people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in this country.  But in those same 1500 minutes, the money that my feet helped to raise will help to change the face of this disease. 

I am trying to raise $2,300, so each minute that I will walk is worth 1 ½ more dollars towards this cause.  1 ½ dollars might not sound like much, but those dollars really do add up.  Each minute that I walk, I will be walking with thousands of other people, so my dollars are matched by all those other dollars.

My minutes, multiplied by the thousands of 3 Day walkers and crew in Washington DC in September and in 15 cities this year, will lead the fight to change the statistics. It will be a celebration of hope, and a celebration of all the survivors, like my wonderful Mom, who lived through being part of that dreaded statistic.  A celebration of the wonderful memories we have of loved ones like my dear friend Tanya, who have lost their battle.  Please help me change these statistics by making a donation to the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the cure on my behalf.

Every 3 minutes another reason to walk.  That may be true, but it is also true that there are also thousands of us all across the country walking towards a different future.  We all get to decide which minutes of our lives count.  Make your minutes count.

I fully understand that each of us have our own commitments, so if you find yourself unable to support me with a donation, please support me with your thoughts and prayers. Please share this letter and help make your friends and family's minutes count too.  Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your support.  

Melanie Finkner

To donate, visit our team page and goto one of my teammates who have worked so hard and are getting close to meeting their minimum.  I wish to walk arm in arm with them across the 60 mile finish line to closing ceremonies!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Why I am walking week" - Day 6 - My mother, the survivor

As most of you know, one of my reasons for walking is for my Mom.  She is a 7 year breast cancer survivor.  Yay Mom!!!  At the time she was going through this, I was not a super daughter, and not the most supportive to my eternal regret.  My mother was very private about her ordeal and really never complained about all she had to go through.  So I left it at that and pretty much stuck my head in the sand and left it there for quite a while.  I didn’t do it because I didn’t care (I love my Mom dearly and always have), just that it was hard for me to deal with, and at that time in my life I was not “grown up” enough to deal with hard things I guess…  I am ashamed of being so selfish as to not reach out to the woman who loved me and cared for me from birth, but as we all know we can’t go back and change the past, we can only go forward.  So that is one of my reasons for walking now.  I love you Mom, I am so sorry for not seeming to care about what you were going through.  But I am doing all I can to make up for it, including this blog and walking 60 miles yet again. 

Now I’ve asked my Mom to tell me all the things I didn’t know she was going through years ago.  I needed to know what I missed.  I learned that my Mom is even more amazing than I already knew…

My wonderful Dad and Mom
My Mom’s cancer was actually discovered (though not yet diagnosed) in August of 2003.  It was right before my parent’s semi - annual trip to Germany (my Mom was born and grew up in Germany, and all of her family still lives there), at her mammogram.  Her doctor called her and told her she needed to get another one done because of something abnormal, but she told the doctor that she was about to go to Germany and was told to enjoy her trip and get a repeat mammogram when she returned the next month.  And she told me she was able to put it completely out of her mind and totally enjoy her trip, not concerned at all. 

When she returned and received her 2nd mammogram, the doctor told her she had found a calcification and at the end of September the surgeon performed a needle biopsy and found that it was cancer.  After testing she was told it was caused by the HER 2 gene, which while luckily for me and my family is not a hereditary gene, can be a very aggressive form of cancer. 

At the end of October her surgeon performed an extended surgery to remove the cancer.  But it turned out that the surgery wasn’t a total success, in that the doctors could not get a “clean margin.”  So on Nov. 19th, 2003, my Mom went through her surgery to remove her breast.  This surgery was considered a success, in that they now had their clean margin.  They also removed some lymph nodes, and thank God found no sign of the cancer there.  She told me that she did all that the doctors had told her to do after her surgery, and it wasn’t too hard on her.  See, didn’t I tell you she was amazing?

My mom with her youngest grandson   
My Mom’s doctors told her that because of the clean margins, she did not need any radiation treatments, but they were recommending chemotherapy for her.  She told me that this was what she didn’t want the most.  This was the thing that she fought against.  She told me that with surgery she wanted it because she wanted the cancer out of her; to be gone.  But chemo…  My brother called her at this time and I am really grateful that he did not have his head up his…  I mean in the sand like I did, but came through for my Mom.  He told her that he knew someone with the same type of cancer and since they didn’t catch it all it spread to the lymph nodes…  So she went with the doctors recommendations, and decided to do the chemo treatments as soon as she was recovered from her more invasive surgery.

In Jan. 2004 the doctor’s did what they call a mirror biopsy to check the other breast, and luckily it came out fine.  They also did a CT scan, and MRI, and a MUGA test (a heart test).  The CT scan showed 2 cysts on her liver, so they then had to do an ultrasound.  The ultrasound showed that the cysts were not cancerous.  Whew!  And would you believe my mother is probably the only living soul that actually didn’t mind and almost liked the MRI?!?!  LOL!  She told me it reminded her of (for all you trekkies out there like my Mom and I) the “Jeffrey tubes” on the original Star Trek show!   So with all her tests giving a green light, they surgically put in a port for my mother to be able to start her chemo.

As for how she felt about all this…  She told me that she didn’t stop and think about it much in the beginning, just went with whatever came next and didn’t feel much about it.  “It’s just a part of me, so I dealt with it,” she said.   She just did what she had to do to get well again.  But the chemo was something she really didn’t want, so that made it harder for her.  She told me that she thought about all the kids who go through cancer and are so inspiring and “If they could do it, who am I to complain??” 

My mom swinging with her granddaughter
So in Feb 2004, my Mom started chemotherapy.  She had 3 sessions, 21 days apart.  She told me that the first time, she had to grip the arms of the chair to keep herself from jumping up and running out of there, but she managed to sit still and do it.  And since her treatments were in the morning and she didn’t start to feel sick till a few hours after her treatments were over, my Dad would go out and pick up something light for her to eat from Bob Evans, before the nausea would rear its ugly head.  She said she didn’t have any stories of suffering for me (like I would want that!?!?!).  Besides the nausea, was she was extremely tired like most people that go through chemo, but unlike most… she couldn’t sleep.  Ugh!  We all know how awful that is; I can’t imagine how bad it must be when you are exhausted chemo patient!  She did lose quite a bit of weight that is still off to this day from not being able to eat; she said “eating became a chore, I had to eat and I forced myself to but didn’t want to.”  And she did lose her hair, and her eyelashes (which still have not grown back sadly to this day!).  But since it was in Feb. through early spring, almost no one knew that my Mom was going through all of this.  She wasn’t spending time outside in the winter, and didn’t have too many places to go.  So it wasn’t till summer when a neighbor saw her in her wig (the wig that I have now and got the same compliments on!) and told her that she liked her new hairdo that she actually told someone.  That thought of her going through this so alone brings me to tears…

Well she had her last chemo treatment on April 8th, 2004, and is now a 7 year survivor!!!  Woohoo Mom!!!  For the first 5 years she needed a mammogram, bloodwork, and a yearly oncologist appointment.  Now it’s just a visit and a mammogram!  Hopefully, that’s all she will ever need to visit an oncologist for!  She told me it changed her eating habits for good (that and her stomach issues, but that’s a whole different blog!! LOL!), and she eats less carbs and more veggies.  I am proud of my courageous Mom.  I love you Mom.  One more time I’m so sorry, even though we were so far apart I should have been there for you.  I can’t go back to change it now, but I will do my best to make it up to you.  And I CAN and WILL walk 60 miles again for you!

This is why I walk.  

Me with the for my mother flag on the 3 day event!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 5 - A woman that continues her battle, and has kept her faith...

This is a woman that I met through her daughter many years ago in my EMT and firefighter classes.  She watched my children for me when I needed daycare.  She also showed me what a family brought up in faith could be like...

Gina inspires me in that she is not yelling, "WHY ME LORD?" and shaking her fists and turning her back on God.  Instead she is still faithful and turns to the Lord for strength.  I believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer; please keep Gina in your prayers as she fights her battle.

This is her story in her words...

Last January I was scheduled for weight loss surgery and was very excited since I have struggled with my weight my entire life. Even as I was prepped for surgery I knew in my heart it wasn't going to happen. As I came to I heard my Dr. tell the nurse to let her know as soon as I was fully awake as she needed to tell me she couldnt do the surgery. I kept going to the verse about the Lord's ways not being our ways. The Dr told me she couldn't do the surgery because she found tissue in the way and called in a gyn to consult and take biopsies. It was only a few days later she called to tell that I had cancer and that she had arranged for me to see a ogyn oncologist before he left town to talk to me about all that was going on. In less than two weeks of finding out that I had cancer I had an hysterectomy and was scheduled to have a port put in and all out and if it would fall out. I decided to not be bothered with it and take control. I had my husband shave my head. It was very freeing and gave me control and not my cancer or the chemo.

I have many people praying for me and have been very blessed in that I have had very few of the worst side effects. I still continue my battle and am on the third type of chemo drug trying to find one that will work. I have really been able to remain strong and relying on God. I am very blessed that I do have a large support group and the oncologist I see and the nurses are wonderful to me.

I am thankful for every day God gives me here on earth and try not to take anything for granted. I have started doing things on my bucket list now instead of later. I try to enjoy each day and make sure I stay in contact with friends and family. I have been able to mend a few fences in my family.

Don't get me wrong I have days where I feel sorry for myself and days where I am depressed. I just am thankful that with God's help they are few and far between.

Last minute addition - Gina wrote me saying this:
Melanie just wanted to share with you that this 3rd type of chemo is now working. I got the results of my PET scan today and the fluid around my lung, the cancer in my peritoneum are less and what is still there is not showing as brightly on the PET scan. Praise God.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why I am walking - Day 4 - An old friend shares his experiences with cancer...

This is written by a friend from high school, who just recently experienced his battle with cancer.  He is willing to share his journey with everyone, and it touched my heart that he is so open.  You don't find many people like him, especially being a man!  Thank you Donnie, and know that I will keep you in my thoughts as I walk 60 miles, you are one of the people that will get me through when the going gets rough.  You are an inspiration!!!
Raising my shoe in tribute to the survivors!

Hi.  My name is Donnie Smith. I am 38 years old and I am a testicular cancer survivor

   My journey began in late August 2010 with a swollen and tender left testicle.  At first I thought it to be a work related injury as I am a carpenter and strains and pains tend to go with the job.  I waited until late September before I took action.  My 2 kids were back in school and my wife had just started a new fulltime job.  So with things settled a bit I decided it was time to get checked out.  Little did I know what was about to unfold.  I made an appointment with my regular doctor on a Tuesday afternoon.  She examined me and ordered an ultrasound for the next morning.  Wednesday morning was an ultrasound appointment and I went back to work.  My doctor called by about 11:30 and said I needed to see my urologist immediately.  The ultrasound showed signs of "nodes".  Not good.  I got a ride to a 2:30 appointment and my wife met me there.  The urologist examined me, gave me the hard squeeze and excused himself to review my ultrasound films.  He was back in the room in less than a minute, sat down and calmly explained that he had an opening in tomorrows surgery schedule and would be removing Old Lefty at that time.  Uh....what?  He continued to say that there was more tumor than testicle and it needed to come out asap.  My wife and I drove home in shock.  I called the people that needed to know and when we got home I sat the kids down and explained it to them.  None of us knew what to think or how to feel.  So Thursday morning at 10:30 they wheeled me in, knocked me out, and removed the offending item.  I was sent home later that same day. Keep in mind that all this took place within a 48 hour period.  It all happened so fast that we didn't really have time to react.  It was a blessing at first because we didn't have the freak out phase before it all came down.  The next week was a lesson in post traumatic stress syndrome.  A few weeks went by and my post surgery bloodwork showed that the cancer tumor marker levels had returned to normal. 

   Given my particular level of cancer involvement I was given two choices,  surgery or chemotherapy.  The surgery was called "retro peritoneal lymph node dissection".  The doctor would cut me open from sternum to belt line,  put my guts aside on a tray, and remove the lymphatic tissue from the left side of my abdomen.  The tissues would then be examined for cancer cells.  If none were found I was free and clear.  If they were found I was off to chemo.  I didn't want to have the surgery and certainly didn't want to have both surgery and chemo.  All my doctors recommended the surgery due to my blood levels being normal.  Even the oncologist thought it was the right thing to do and he's the one selling chemo!  So against my gut I signed up for the surgery.  This was mid October and by this time I was able to button up some loose ends work wise and began making preparations for the pending surgery.  My date was set for Dec. 13 2010 and I was having a hard time accepting it.  Being cut open like that was going to change thing forever.  I'm an active person and use my body to work every day.  This haunted me.  I had a pre-op exam on Dec. 1and by the Thursday before the surgery I had made my peace with it and was focused and determined.  The family had come through with dinners made and in the freezer, schedules changed to accommodate my recovery, and many prayers said by everyone I knew.  I went through the 36 hour bowel prep and was ready the morning of.  It was a grey and dreary morning that day.  I was admitted to the hospital and was waiting for things to get started.  They had me in a pre-op room in my gown and it seemed to be taking a while.  They hadn't even hooked up an IV yet.  My Mom was waiting with me because my wife had to go to work.  Her new job was at the hospital so she was in the building anyway.  From my bed I noticed that the skies had cleared and the sun was out.  This gave me a feeling that everything would be OK.  After a bit more time my doctor came in to review the process.  He sat next to me and explained that there would be no surgery for me that day.  Apparently my pre-op bloodwork results were no available to him until that very morning.  My tumor markers had risen again showing a presence of cancer cells.  Since the purpose of the surgery was to determine whether there was any disease remaining, there was no need to move forward.  That's great for me!  No surgery!  I didn't want it anyway!  I'm gonna go get something to eat!  My wife on the other hand realized what this meant right away and was very upset.  I still had cancer.  It wasn't gone.  Now I must go through chemo.  My son had a winter band concert at school that night and I was able to attend.  Needless to say there were quite a few shocked friends and family members at that event when I walked in.  As that week played out I went through another round of post traumatic stress syndrome and had to accept my situation again.  The emotional roller coaster was taking its toll.  Still I was thankful to have not been cut open and my family and I were able to relax a bit and enjoy Christmas and New Years. 
   Chemotherapy.  My oncologist warned me that it was no walk in the park and had its own batch of side effects.  I had a port installed on Jan. 6 2011 and began chemo on Jan. 10.  I was slated for 4 cycles of chemo.  Every day for 1 week then 2 weeks off to recover and repeat.  What a ride.  The first week of chemo was a learning experience.  Not only the way my body reacts but also the chemo room itself.  I gained a tremendous amount of perspective and humility seeing what others were going through.  I was amazed at how people in such a dire situation were capable of such courage and strength.  It affected my attitude immensely.  Throughout my treatments I was able to maintain a positive outlook, a sense of humor, and a determination to get through it and beat cancer. I tried to drive myself on Mondays and Tuesdays. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and helped keep my head right.  By Wednesday though I needed a ride.  Mom, Dad, and my sister took turns taking me with my sister putting in the most time.  I claimed my own chair in the chemo room.  It was on the other end of the room near the bathroom and facing the windows instead of the TVs so it was usually empty.  I'd much rather look outside than stare at a TV all day. Towards the end of my treatment the nurses would save it for me and even put a reserved sign on it.  I played cards and computer solitaire to pass the time.  Some days I would just chat with my family or the people around me.  I got about 2500ml of fluids each day.  Some with drugs and some without.  By the end of each day I had visited the bathroom 5 or 6 times and felt like I was floating.  My poor wife had to work the whole time and never got to take me for treatments.  Without her income and insurance we would have been ruined by this.  She had the unfortunate job of caring for me at home.  I wasn't always able to convey the information needed for my care.  The nurses would tell me during the day but chemobrain is real and I wouldn't always remember at night so she just had to wing it alot.  I forced myself to eat 3 meals a day no matter how small and luckily I didn't lose any weight along the way, just muscle tone.  The weekend after treatment was always terrible.  I would only get out of bed long enough to eat.  By Monday after I would start to come around and by Wednesday I would be feeling pretty good.  By the end of the 2 week break in between I was eating well and could even stomach a Guinness or two.  Then it would start all over again. Some good news came at the office visit between round 2 and 3.  Apparently the blood tests taken just after round 2 showed that my tumor markers had returned to normal levels.  This meant I was responding well to treatment and now I just had to finish the medicine. Good news to be sure.  My last week of treatment was very rough.  The symptoms after each round were progressively more intense and by the end of my last week I was wiped out.  It felt great to be done but there was nothing to really enjoy except for that one fact.  The week to follow was very down and out but as usual I started to come back around. 

   Recovery from chemo isn't without its challenges either.  My last day of chemo was March 25 and that's been about 6 weeks ago.  The oncologist assured me that since it took him 3 months to do this to me, it will take 3 months to get myself back.  The nurses claim is that by Thanksgiving I'll truly feel like myself again.  At this point its frustrating that I can't go out and do all the things I want.  I still can't work on a regular basis.  It seems that I'll be OK for a few days then fatigue sets in and I have to rest.  I'm struggling to find an even pace between activity and rest.  It is now mid-May and although I feel pretty good I'm certainly not there yet.  The oncologist visit yesterday revealed that my recent CT scans are normal and my bloodwork is normal.  So my official current status is "in remission" which is a great feeling.  He will see me again in 3 months for another checkup but for now I'm good to go. 

   In all I am very lucky.  My disease was minimal, localized, and caught in a timely manner.  I've made it through treatment and am well on my way in recovery.  The whole event has given me a different perspective on what is important in my life.  It has brought my family much closer together.  I've spent more time with my kids lately than in years past and that is a great thing.  I'm trying desperately to be patient with myself and allow time for the strength to come back.  I'm told it will.  For now I'll be content playing Mr. Mom and doing whatever I can to help out.  I get to put my son on the bus every day and spend time with my daughter and wife like never before and it won't always be like that.  I feel very blessed that my battle with cancer came down like it did and am grateful for all that I have, more so than ever before.

   Thanks to all the doctors, nurses, volunteers, friends and family members who cared for me and supported me through this time.  It would have been a terrible thing to go through alone.  I can only hope that anyone faced with cancer or any disease has the support they need to make it through as I did.

Donnie Smith
Thank you from the bottom of my heart Donnie.