I have no clue what to put here.
Perhaps some sort of rotating quote.

But those guys to the right...they're snorkeling off of Rum Point,
on Grand Cayman. You owe it to yourself to check that place out.


My Turn at COLONTOWN's Spotlight Sunday

7 years ago I was wrapping-up my most decorated endurance race season at the age of 41. I stood on the podium -- age group or women’s overall -- at virtually every race I entered...sprint and olympic distance duathlons, gravel road races with my husband, Derek, on our tandem bike, and a 5k. The 5k was a personal record effort after a decade as a runner. So altered bowel habits with some bleeding didn’t arouse any suspicions, especially with the presence of hemorrhoids. I was far too fit and healthy to have anything seriously wrong with me. In the ensuing years I have read countless similar stories from my fellow <50 set.

Even a year-and-a-half later, when my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer, I was able to convince myself that I was fine. Again, aside from bowel symptoms, I was the picture of health for a 42 year old woman. My dad passed-away 6 weeks after his diagnosis. He’d been a smoker and had suffered a stroke a decade or so prior. He wasn’t exceptionally active, didn’t eat a great diet, and had never had a colonoscopy. I assured myself that his diagnosis was entirely the result of carelessness with preventative care/screenings, poor diet, and his smoking history. And this is what SO many respected medical resources STILL would have us believe.

Nearly 3 years after my symptoms started I saw a PA at my OB-gyn’s office for a routine exam. I was having tenesmus, hot flashes, dull abdominal pain, and suspected perimenopause. I was nearly 44 and had had endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, and adenomyosis for all of my reproductive life, so this seemed a likely explanation, courtesy of Occam’s Razor. My abdominal pain felt EXACTLY like the uterine cramps I'd known for decades. She asked about my family health/cancer history and I casually mentioned that I’d lost my dad to colorectal cancer. She thought it wise to schedule me for a colonoscopy, based-upon that information.

5 days after my 44th birthday I underwent my first colonoscopy. I was still groggy when the doctor who performed the scope informed me that I had a 10cm tumor in my high rectum. She believed it was cancer, but pathology needed to confirm.

The ensuing year is largely a blur. I underwent 8 rounds of FOLFOX, a month of chemoradiation, a few months of recovery, and LAR. I’d been formally diagnosed as stage 3, but later a small lung spot that disappeared with chemo reappeared and brought with it a friend in the same lobe. The larger spot was just big enough to biopsy and it was confirmed as a met. It was suspected that the smaller spot was, as well.

My lung surgeon gave the option of removing the larger spot and waiting on the smaller one, but since they were both in the same lobe, the most logical option seemed to remove the lobe, rather than endure a likely 2nd surgery.

Of course...post-surgical pathology determined the smaller spot was some benign bit of crud. Just my luck!

6ish weeks after my lobectomy we took a trip to Grand Cayman that had been planned before my diagnosis and postponed 2 years. It had originally been a 20th wedding anniversary trip, but ended up coinciding with our son's HS graduation. Snorkeling every day for a week is GREAT for post-surgical lung rehab, while at the same time relaxing and distracting. It was a much-needed respite for the 3 of us after over 2 years of awfulness for me, as a patient, and my 2 tireless caregivers.

4 months to the day after my lobectomy I participated in my first post-treatment sprint duathlon. A couple of weeks after that I met up with a bunch of running friends for the Niagara Falls Half Marathon. I was in reasonably good fitness, but definitely MUCH slower than my pre-cancer self. I’d been training for longer-distance events when I learned of the spots in my lung. Chemo had made me super short of breath (on top of asthma). I recovered my lung function as I recovered from chemo, only to lose it again. I’ve regained a lot as my remaining 4 lobes have expanded to fill some of the space lost, but I still feel chronically out-of-shape, even though I’m relatively active. 

In the past year-and-a-half my biggest hurdle was less about cancer survivorship and more about Covid-related anxieties and isolation. My races were all canceled, so my incentive to not  sit around bingeing carbs was eliminated. I packed-on 30# in 2020. It turns out that decreased lung capacity really makes moving a borderline-obese body a major struggle. This year I’ve managed to chip-away at half of those pounds gained. I didn’t go through all of the cancer Hell only to give myself avoidable weight-related health problems and increase my risk of recurrence. I like to think that I still have half my life ahead of me.

This past July I finished my favorite Olympic distance duathlon for the first time since diagnosis and managed a 3rd place podium spot. Granted, only 5 of us toed-the-line. I was probably 20 minutes slower than the last time I raced this event...but the entire field was slower. I’ll likely never come closer to my fastest time at this event, but I definitely have room to improve and set new post-cancer personal records. I’ll still be happy just to be active and placing in my age group. As a nearly 50-something, that’s still a big damned deal. 

My diagnosis confirmed that colorectal cancer is a massive concern for my family. My younger siblings both underwent colonoscopies that identified multiple polyps, each by around age 40. Genetic testing offered no explanations, so rather than my cancer being deemed genetic, it’s termed “familial” -- at least until an obvious genetic explanation is identified.

Recently I learned that colorectal cancer was the cause of death of one of my dad’s grandmas. The fact that this was never shared makes me so frustrated. Our disease is still stigmatized. My family has long been fans of poop jokes, like a bunch of pre-pubescent boys, but the truly critical poop-related family history was brushed under the rug since long before I was born. My 20 year old son must start his own colonoscopies in a decade. I’m going to push for him to start by 25 (since he’ll still be under our insurance).

Me with our late Chelsea Boet 

Shortly after diagnosis I found COLONTOWN. The COLONTOWN neighborhoods have offered immeasurable comfort and knowledge over the past 4.5 years. I count several of my fellow “Colontownies” amongst my very favorite people, ever. If anything positive could have come from a horrific health crisis, it’s the friendships with people who truly understand the physical and mental challenges of this diagnosis. Bittersweet are the losses of beloved friends to this wretched disease.

2 years ago I also joined the Fxck Cancer Endurance Club race team. We fundraise to support critical preventative screenings and survivorship. We race to show what is still possible, even after losing multiple body parts and being poisoned and irradiated.

There are things I no longer feel comfortable doing. I avoid things with high fall risk, like cyclocross racing (the freaky love child of road criterium cycling, mountain-biking, and cross-country running...while carrying a bike over obstacles), as pelvic radiation + menopause have left me with relatively fragile bones. And I don't recover from workouts and races as quickly as I used to, so my overall mileage is abbreviated. LARS forever adds additional challenges to training and early race mornings, too. And I may never again ride my bike across the state of Michigan in a single day, but I'm still covering more miles on 2 wheels and a pair of running shoes than many of my peers who have not suffered any life-threatening setbacks. My motivation is more about quality of my fitness time and quantity of my years.

The long-term effects of cancer survival have definitely slowed me down (the premature menopause and aging certainly don't help), but a wise animated guy once said "We're Vikings...we have stubbornness issues." Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III's words have gotten me through a lot of literal and figurative crap in the past 4.5 years.

Fxck Cancer!


Oops, our bad...

Except it hasn't been.

I blog very little, but perhaps it's time to give WordPress more serious consideration.

Fxck Cancer!


Bovine Excrement

I was just notified that a post of mine from March was "flagged" and removed. Since there's no screenshot of the post or specific description of the offense, I can't even begin to fathom what might have qualified as malware or a virus. I have no means of correcting my "error" and avoiding it in the future. This is some punitive shit.


It's Been a Year!

Yesterday marked exactly a year since Michigan first went on "lockdown/quarantine" to try to slow the spread of Covid-19. And we did. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has done an incredible job making tough decisions to keep the citizens of this state alive and as healthy as possible. She has faced pushback at every turn. A bunch of less-than-mediocre white men plotted to kidnap and kill her (as well as other state governors). Other members of this same population entered our state capitol with firearms...and then committed insurrection on our nation's capitol on the day that Biden's election was legally confirmed.

But yesterday...on the 1 year anniversary of our state's 365 days of a pandemic forcing us to isolate/social distance from friends and family and other public gatherings...yesterday my household of 3 adults received our first Moderna Covid-19 jabs, courtesy of the Allegan County Health Department and the MI National Guard (and so many selfless volunteers).

In 4 weeks we will receive our 2nd injections. In 6 weeks I will be safe to finally have my eyes examined and get new glasses. I can also plan to have my chemo infusion port on my chest removed. My oncologist gave me the go-ahead in December, but the risk of an additional excursion to a medical facility didn't seem worth it. I can make plans to see out-of-state family that I haven't seen since Oct. 2019 at a family wedding.

Today we are experiencing nothing more than sore shoulders. In 4 weeks I expect we will feel pretty rough for a day or two (seems to be a pretty common experience). But we will avoid hospitalizations, or worse, should we contract the real deal. Yesterday felt like the first glimpse of light at the end of a horrifyingly long and dark tunnel.


Fingers & Toes Are CROSSED!!

As of 4 days ago my 3 person household all have Covid-19 vaccination appointments. Technically none of us qualify (we're all currently 1C)...BUT the state of MI continues to tweak their qualifications in ways that push us further down the list. At one time our essential retail working son was categorized as 1B. 

Initially, healthy 50 year olds were in the group 2/general population. In the past week the healthy 50 year olds have been moved ahead of us to start their shots on 3/22. Meanwhile high-risk cancer patients/survivors, those with high blood pressure, auto-immune disorders, asthmatics, disabled people, and organ transplant recipients <50 get shoved aside. Again.

My "essential worker" son who was bordering on sainthood a year ago not only does not qualify yet for a vaccine, but is surrounded by selfish and ignorant customers who remove their masks once within the store where he works, or they wear it incorrectly. So he wears 2 masks. And he still does not earn a livable wage, on top of it. He very briefly received a $2/hour bump in "combat" pay, but that expired after maybe a month. We've spent the last year living in fear that he will bring Covid home to us. We can stay home, for the most part, but he cannot.

A few days ago a younger friend with a transplanted kidney and lupus gave us a heads-up about a shot clinic happening this coming Saturday at a school in the next county. Apparently the event was set-up by their county health department for school staff...but scheduled appointments were so low that they opened it up to the public. My friend found out about the clinic from a co-worker (who I assume must live within the school district).

I immediately got the 3 of us scheduled and shared the scheduling link with my son's GF's parents, as they have older family members who have been struggling to find appointments AND they live in the county where the clinic is taking place. So our friends and 1 set of their parents now have appointments, too.

The incredible irony is that the school district offering the shot clinic is now closed to in-person classes for 2 weeks due to excessive Covid spread. Also, it's heavy Trump-supporter territory...but I'm sure those things aren't related. /sarcasm

So we're holding our breaths that we aren't turned-away at the door for not meeting the semi-arbitrary moving-target shot qualifications. Currently MI is jabbing anyone at high risk and >50. I'm 48 (cancer survivor, asthmatic, minus my upper right lung lobe), DH is 49 (high blood pressure). We're tired of seeing younger, low-risk people cutting the line while we anxiously twiddle our thumbs. I've been social distancing for >4 years, now. I'm so over it.


In Like a Lion...

Only, not really. Aside from wind and cold temps, the sun has been shining the past 2 days. WIN! February was sorta brutal. After an otherwise mild Winter, Winter decided to make up for last time in the past month. After a few warmer days our mountains of snow are rapidly shrinking and our paved paths are mostly clear -- aside from some path-spanning, COLD puddles. Thank Cheesus for merino wool socks!

Yesterday the adult rugrat had all 4 wisdom teeth extracted. Surreal, since I had 0 wisdoms. Yay, primate evolution! No eating leaves or gnawing branches for this girl.

Still no word on when we might be eligible for our Covid vaccines. My MIL has had both of hers and my mom is scheduled for her first (after a 3 week delay) in 2 days. I'm so fed-up with "line-jumpers"...those who are younger and healthier than I, not in high-risk jobs, who have managed to be vaccinated. Several never really socially distanced, which just adds insult. Meanwhile I've been socially distanced for >4 years. I recently hit my 4 year "cancerversary." Here were are in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, too.

I've spent the last couple of days playing with dream house floor plans. This would seem to be my Covid hobby. Some people learn to knit or bake sourdough bread...I fantasize about living in the desert SW and play with Affinity Photo (nice Photoshop knock-off for a fraction of the price and NO subscription) to tweak existing floor plans. I've done this for nearly 2 decades during Winter doldrums.


One Month Down!

The sun is shining and 1/21 is in the rearview. I feel upbeat, yet angsty. Covid #s are on the decrease and vaccinations are happening -- though at a much slower rate than we need to see. And MI restaurants have now opened at 25% capacity, which just really doesn't sit well with me. I hope our governor doesn't regret this allowance, in the near future.

The rugrat turns 20 in <1 week. It's surreal. Not only is he well into adulthood, he will be exiting his teen years before the end of the upcoming weekend. We've been having more discussions about his future, too. We've been impressing upon him the importance of considering jobs/careers that might earn him a livable wage. He enjoys his retail job, but it barely brings in more than minimum wage and he's only part-time (though was working nearly 40 hours/week in the months leading up to Christmas). He's quite clueless about how expensive it is to exist not under one's parents' roof.

His year of community college was a bit of a failure, particularly once Covid required distance learning. He struggles to succeed even with in-person classroom time. He's super into cars and expressed interest in going to automotive school...but has yet to even do an oil change or any other maintenance, so that's probably not realistic, either. Autism/ADHD are a wicked combo. He does well with hands-on work, so a factory job might be a good fit. The pay can be pretty decent, as well as the benefits. Having weekends and holidays off would be a treat, too.

Las Cruces, NM
We've also discussed a bit the fact that once his dad retires that we will likely relocate to a warmer climate (southern NM is at the top of my list -- I crave sunshine and mountains and desert and palm trees. And no more Midwest Winters). He'd only move with us if his GF wanted to move, too (that's a long time away...16ish years). Hopefully he will be solidly independent, at that point.

The bright side to having him home so much is having a running buddy...though lately we start out together and he ends up ahead of me. 6 months ago I was the one waiting for him at path crossings. If he didn't live at home he'd likely not exercise at all, in spite of enjoying running. When he's not working, sleeping, or running he's online gaming. It's the closest he and his GF have had to a date in about a year. I hope by Summer that they might be able to resume normal dates.

Fxck Cancer!


2021 -- Here we are, now. Entertain us.

It feels like 2021 could possibly out-awful its predecessor year. At least in the short-term. I don't know how to put into words how unbelievable (yet, sadly, believable) the past week has been. Covid deaths have barely made news. Now the top story is insurrection.

I don't even quite know how to discuss any of this, other than to post news footage.

Yesterday Trump was impeached for the 2nd time. The only president (I cringe using that term in reference to the individual in question) to have received more than one impeachment. We still have nearly 6 days until Biden (and VP Kamala Harris) takes office. Every day seems endless and terrifying. There are threats of organized violence on all 50 state capitols. We've heard increased gunfire at a nearby shooting range. My anxiety is off the charts.

Thus far the only bright side of this year is that my CT scan of a month ago was all-clear. And we're on 2-3 Covid vaccine waiting lists, apiece.