Friday, August 27, 2010

Accidental Semi-Fame.

When I was in high school, it was always my dream to have my face on the front page of the local paper's sports section.  I was a decent all-around small school athlete.   We didn't have soccer or cross country programs at my high school.  In the fall, your choice was volleyball or cheerleading.  Notwithstanding my height (5'6" in sneakers), I was a decent volleyball player, mostly because I was fast and strong and willing to dive headfirst into chairs. But never a standout. 

Basketball was my thing in high school.  I was just another short, insecure and awkward girl in braids until I hit my freshman year.  I spent the previous summer at one of my uncle's camps playing with boys and generally getting my ass handed to me.  But when I started playing with girls again, I had grown three inches and figured out that I was the fastest person on the court and threw the meanest screen in three counties.   It was a revelation.  I was never tall enough to play the position that suited my love of banging around in the paint, but I was quick and fit and fearless.  Won some all-state and all-league honors, but never made the front page.

My high school basketball career ended on a sour note when we lost by one point in a playoff game because I had fouled someone who made both free throws as time was running out.  I came back to basketball in law school and played on three straight intramural championship teams.  I still obsessively follow college basketball, but haven't played since I broke my wrist in 2004. 

I started running track in junior high school.  Softball was the other option and it was pretty obvious from my short lived little league career that I couldn't throw a ball for shit.  My dad and his sisters were all runners in high school and I know he was pretty pleased when I decided to run track.  At first, I just wanted to keep in shape for basketball.  But then I started winning races and was hooked. I won almost every 200 meter race I ran in junior high and became one of the best high school quarter milers in the area by the time I was a senior.  The best, though, was a phenomenal talent....and my teammate.   

My track coach (one of the best human beings on this planet) suggested during my senior year that I try training for the 800 meters.  He justified this by claiming that most small school 800 meter runners were 1500 meter runners that were stepping down and that my 400 meter speed would be an advantage.  But I also think he wanted to give me a chance to step out of Andrea's shadow. 

My big moment in local high school sports history finally happened during my last race at the state track meet.  I had finished fourth in the 400 meter race after I ran a crappy final corner.  And I was not a happy camper.  I had easily qualified for the 800 meter final, but didn't want to run it.  I was 17, hot and stubborn and pissed off.  I don't remember what my coach said to me other than to just run in third or fourth place until the last 200 meters, then take off like by butt was on fire. 

Somewhere in my parent's closet at home is a videotape of that race.  Starts with a closeup of a nervous girl in double french braids and striped knee socks, digging at the track with her spikes.  Then we are running.  I do what I was told and hold my position in third or fourth place until the last 200 meters.  The great thing about the video is listening to my coach's commentary throughout.  When we hit the 150 meter mark he's positioned somewhere behind the camera, screaming at me to go.  There is no possible way that I would have heard him, but in the instant that he starts hollering, I pull out into the second lane and put on the afterburners.  I held on and won by about 3-4 meters.  

My dad was working the track meet that year and got to be the person that got to hand me a small slip of paper with the number 1 on it as I passed through the finish line.  I still have that slip of paper.  One of the best moments of my life. 

My front page article came during week that I graduated from High School.  It was a good article chronicling my high school track career, which culminated in winning that state championship and later setting a school record in the 800 meters.


Last Saturday I rode the Crater Lake Metric Century with my friend Jennifer.  The even organizer is a friends of my parents and when he got notice that I was going to be riding, the information was passed along to the local paper. 

So here it is:  my second appearance on the Herald and News Sports Section front page.  The full article can be found here.  Not exactly the way I had pictured things turning out when I was 14, when I wanted fame for being good, not just for showing up.  It is funny how life changes.  

Finally, another fundraising plug. On September 26, I am going to be riding in the Portland Columbia River Gorge Echelon Gran Fondo.  The event raises money for the OHSH/Knight Cancer Institute and Livestrong. 

My plan is to continue to celebrate the end of my cancer treatment by finishing the 100 mile ride.  My goal is to raise at least $2500 dollars.  I also think I get to meet Chris Horner (for all of you uninitiated in the world of pro cycling, Horner is from Bend and was the highest placed American at the Tour de France this year),

I am halfway to my goal and need help from my friends and family.  If you would like to donate to help stomp cancer , you can do so online at this link.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ask, and Ye Shall Recieve.

There is an enormous amount of release and relief that can be found simply by saying, "I am not OK.  I need some help.  I cannot live like this anymore."

Break-ups suck.  Cancer sucks.  The hormonal fluctuations caused by chemo-induced menopause suck.  Chronic fatigue sucks.  Put them all together and you've got yourself a perfect storm for going completely fruit loops.   

The fact that I'm anxious and depressed right now is probably not surprising to anyone that has been within 15 feet of me in the last month  My schedule is pretty chaotic with trying to fit exercise, eating right, working and getting to treatment in the 8-9 hours a day that I'm not completely wiped out.  I've gained about ten pounds in weird places that make my body feel unbalanced and awkward.  And I'm not sure what is more emotionally overwhelming:  coping with being single again or wrapping my head around the idea of intimacy with a new person in a post-cancer world. 

It took ten days of spontaneous, uncontrollable weeping and the return of the terrifying "pubic hair growing on my head" dreams before I decided to take the advice that I had so freely doled out to others.

"Go get some help.  Talk to someone.  You don't have to live like this."  

Lucky for me, it only took one phone call and six hours of waiting before I was sitting in a counseling office in the hospital's cancer center.   Admitting that I was having a problem getting a grip, and hearing back that that grip-lessness was not at all unusual for someone in my set of circumstances, was sweet relief. 

Lucky for me, there is something that can be done about all of my grief and frustration.  Some medication to help me cope for few months and a lot of talking to people who deal with people like me all of the time.  Learn how to deal with the stress of scans and tests, the tedium of five years of hormone therapy and the awkwardness of talking about my disease with strangers that may someday want to see me naked.  Ride my bike.


As of today, I am halfway done with radiation.  My left boob is abnormally tan and the breast tissue is starting to harden, but my skin is still in pretty good condition.  I'm using aloe vera on the area throughout the day and some emu oil at night.  And I like that I have a medical excuse not to wear a bra.  

I really like the ride to the hospital, now that I've got the logistics and timing dialed in.  The ride is 16.8 miles round trip.  Four miles of climbing each way.  The climb through Washington Park and the Zoo in the way out is steeper, but beautiful.  The climb along Hwy 26 coming back is exposed to the sun but the elevation gain is more gradual and gives me a chance to feel a sense of superiority over the afternoon traffic that is moving along more slowly than I am. 

Finally, I am getting my hair back.  Last weekend it was a mere five o'clock shadow under my scalp, but five days later my head is covered with a thick mix of both peach fuzz and real hair starters.  I also have a bit of peach fuzz along my lash line and in my armpits.  I'm four weeks out from chemo, so I expected to see something by now, but I've been surprised about how quickly it re-appeared.    

As my physical self starts to regenerate, looks like its time to re-focus on my mental self. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reality Check.

Sometimes we cross paths with people who are put in our path to give us a reality check.  After sitting next to me on the MAX today, hopefully there is a guy in a BMW somewhere that realizes that his life isn't as bad as he thinks.

Today has not been a good day.  I'm really pissed off about having cancer.  My relationship with the Mexican finished disintegrating this weekend and since I wasn't sleeping already, my ability to handle life in the last 48 hours has been questionable. 

I took the MAX to the hospital today.  I was scheduled to have my port flushed, then go to radiation.  I checked in at the oncologist's office and, after checking in, sit there for 20 minutes.  Upon reminding the receptionist that I was here, it was obvious that she had forgotten to notify the nurses.  

So I left to go to radiation.  Radiation is usually a pretty brief and out in less than 15 minutes.  But I had to see the doctor today.  Basically waited a half hour (with nothing to entertain me other than a three year old People magazine) to have her look at my boob for 10 seconds and tell me it looked fine. As fine as 2/3 of a boob with a wonky nipple can look. 

Then back up to the oncologist's office.  I'd never had my port accessed without numbing the area first, and upon the first attempt to insert the needle, understood why we numb the area first.  Because it fucking hurts.  I jerked 6 inches in the air and the movement tore the needle out of my skin.  I started crying, there was a lot of blood involved and I left the office with a huge gauze pad taped to my chest. 

Which brings me to the guy with the BMW.  First, even though the train was packed with commuters,  he had his stuff spread out on two other seats. He was gracious enough when I asked him to move his things, but then he wanted to chat me up about how bad his day had been because his BMW was in the shop and he had to take the train.

This, in my opinion, was a full-on demonstration that some people live on a completely different planet  of self-awareness than the rest of us.   This planet is called Planet Paris Hilton. A planet where a lost day of BMW driving is a catastrophic event that must be shared with the puffy-eyed and exhausted woman sitting next to you.  You know that woman,  the one with a huge gauze pad sticking out of her shirt and no eyebrows. 

I managed to tolerate this for about three minutes.  Finally, it was one huff of frustration and complaint too many.

"You have to be fucking kidding me," I said.

At this point, BMW man finally exited orbit and made contact with planet reality.  I think he finally looked at me, really looked at me, and became deeply ashamed.  I don't purposely like making people uncomfortable, but it is my guess that, for once, I may have made the world a better place by feeling sorry for myself and completely losing my shit on an innocent bystander. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Return of the Race Report

I usually don't like writing race reports where nothing unusual happens during the race.  But, as you know, Monday's race was unusual and exciting for the simple fact that I was out there thirteen days after my last chemo  treatment and three hours after my second radiation treatment.

The race itself may have been uneventful, but the evening was not without some unintentional cancer side effect hilarity.  First, I had wardrobe issues.  After my diagnosis, I sold most of my 2010 team clothes to my teammates, keeping just a few items for cyclocross season.  I don't ride much in my team kit, primarily because I think the shorts are the work of the devil and I have three brand new custom Hincapie kits (courtesy of my firm and R's employer) that are infinitely more comfortable.  And a wee bit larger. 

I brought my team kit to the race Monday night and it turns out that the ten pounds I put on during chemo make a huge difference in how my kit fits.  Two days later, I still have elastic marks on my thighs and as for the jersey, lets just say that I chose to race in a cotton T-shirt rather than spend 30 minutes with the hem of the jersey creeping up around to my neck. 

I also learned that I need some different sunglasses.  I am down to approximately 10 eyelashes, which are essential to keeping wind and dirt out of our eyes when we ride.  The D-List sunglasses that I use for short track did not cut the mustard Monday night.  If you noticed I was crying on the course, those were not tears of joy or pain.  I was just trying to clear my eyes out so I didn't run into a tree, another racer or the portable BBQ by the course.  

When the whistle blew I let everyone start before I did, then started navigating the course at my own "race" velocity.  My plan was to do two laps, then quit and rest up for the team relay.  However, this plan was quickly short circuited as I began passing people.  Just a few people, most of whom had crashed or had a mechanical, but it was enough motivation to try and ride out the entire 30 minutes.

Short track is hard enough with a healthy cardiovascular system.  Throw in a lack of fitness and some stupid cancer, and by the fourth lap, my lungs and legs harmonizing through a full on rendition of "What the Bloody Hell is This!"  "Shut up Legs" may help Jens crush souls through the pain, but if my legs had shut up, I would have stopped completely and faceplanted into the dirt.

But I finished without crashing or having to put a foot down and I wasn't last.  The latter fact shouldn't even matter, but it does.

To be honest, my body wasn't ready to even pretend to put in a race effort.  (No kidding, says you.)  And I'm not sure that it wasn't detrimental to my physical system in the short term.  But mentally, the effort and the resulting hiccup of fatigue was worth it.  I needed to get back out there and test my mind and my body.  And I also needed to go out there and commune with my fellow races.  The enjoyment I get from watching races one thing, but to have a shared experience with hundreds of other people is another thing altogether.

I'm going to ease my way slowly back into the "serious" racing thing, but it doesn't mean that I can't have fun in the meantime.  Kruger's Farm Dirt Crit on August there or be square.  I'll buy a beer for any of the B Ladies that can lap me.

(In other news of note, I was on KBOO's Bike Show this morning with OBRA's executive director, Kenji Sugahara, promoting the High School Cross Series.  The podcast can be found here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bikes! Dirt! Hot Flashes!

Last weekend, I described my cancer experience as being a filter between the old and new normal.  If nothing else, this disease gives us the opportunity (and down time) to take a look at our lives and decide what we want to bring through from the old life into the new life.

My first "in with the old" is my grand tradition of being overcommitted to things that I'm really excited about. I've taken on a new major volunteer project.  This year OBRA (the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association) is developing a cyclocross series for high school clubs.  I agreed to be the Grand Master High School Cyclocross Regional Coordinator for the Portland Metro area.   The goal for 2010 is to get some high school 'cross clubs up and running and get the infrastructure set up for bigger and better things next year.  I'm sort of bossy, so this is a good project for me. Our first meeting is tonight, which gives me approximately 5 hours to get the hell over the fact that I hate talking in front of crowds.  Must tell myself to remember this is about getting kids on bikes, not about my public speaking neurosis.

I've also decided to ride, and fund raise for, the Echelon Gran Fondo on September 26.    Go here to donate.  I promise that the proceeds will benefit Livestrong and the OHSU and Mid-Columbia Cancer Centers, not the "Lindsay Needs to Purchase a Race Bike Before February 2011 Campaign." 


I did my first post-cancer race last night.  The season finale at the Portland Short Track Series.  I wanted to do the team relay, which required that I do my category race earlier in the evening.  My plan was to do two laps, then drop out.  But two laps went by and I was not last.  In fact, I was passing people.  Competitive nature overrode common sense and I finished the race.  I forgot how hard short track is, especially when one is as aerobically un-fit as I am right now, but it was so fun. 

You know what this means...the return of the race report!!!  I'll put that together tomorrow and you can marvel in now I managed not to crash and in how it only took six months for my team jersey to become unacceptably and inappropirately tight fitting. 


And, oh yeah, I finished chemo.  Did you hear that?  Shall I say it louder?  I AM ALL DONE WITH CHEMO BITCHEZ.  And thank god for that, really.  Because I am hot-flashing like a maniac and don't know how I'd be able to deal with much more of the sleep deprivation that is caused by waking up every hour of every night feeling like someone has placed my head in a convection oven. I did read last week that the hot flashes caused by chemo can last months after treatment is done, but, for my own sanity, I'm ignoring this possibility.  WAKE UP OVARIES. 

I have already started radiation.  Three down, 28 to go.  The treatments themselves aren't that bad, but I haven't seen any side effects yet. Other than the unusual side effect of than wanting to stab myself in the eye with a pencil each time I think about commuting out to St. My Cousin Vinnie's EVERY DAY FOR SIX WEEKS. 

I'm going to need a twelve step program for Beaverton overdose by the time all of this is over with.