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March 27, 2008

After

I have been writing more about my walking/race training and school recently than I have about breast cancer. To read this blog, you might think breast cancer is a distant memory for me now. It is far from that, however, and I still think about it a lot more than I want to. I talk about it a lot, too, both because I often run into someone who asks me how I’m doing and because it seems to come up in my conversation frequently these days. Sometimes those conversations happen in unexpected ways.

We live in the same town that Randy and I lived in while we were growing up. I never thought I’d end up living here, but it turns out to be a great place to raise kids, so here we are.

This used to be a relatively small rural community. When my family moved here in the late 70s the population was about 5,000. To get to our high school you had to traverse several country roads and then drive down a driveway surrounded by cornfields and cow pastures. This area is one of the fastest growing in the state, however, and now the population is around 30,000 and the high school is surrounded by hotels, malls, homes, and fast food restaurants. It doesn’t look much like it looked in 1979.

We moved back here right after Karly was born and just as area growth was starting to explode. One of the first commercial buildings to be built across the street from the high school was a Jewel grocery store. (For those of you who are not from Chicago, Jewel is a large grocery chain owned by the same company as Albertsons.) I remember very well when the store opened because it was just a couple of blocks from our house. If we lived in the city it would have been within walking distance. The store opened right around the time that Blake was born, about 14 years ago or so. I started shopping there when it opened and I shopped there almost exclusively for years despite the addition of a Dominicks, a Cub Foods, a Super Target, Super Wal-Mart and a Meijer in the same vicinity. We have since moved to a different house, but the Jewel is still pretty close. I haven’t frequented the store as much in the last couple of years because a new grocery store opened up in the area that has much better prices. However, I still stop in a couple of times a week to pick up fresh meat or produce or other last minute meal ingredients.

I made one of those last minute stops one day last week to pick up ingredients for dinner, including some fresh shrimp. I stopped at the butcher counter and placed my order and the woman behind the counter told me that she thought my hair was really cute. I have been getting lots of compliments on my short style recently, and I always laugh to myself at the fact that people think this is a choice that I have made. This time was no exception.

As I was standing there thinking about how shocked she would probably be if she knew why my hair was this short, she suddenly asked me, very pointedly, how I was feeling. I looked at her closely, and realized that she recognized me and that she knew exactly why my hair is this short. What is amazing about that is that I don’t know this woman except as an employee of Jewel who works behind the butcher counter. I don’t know her name or where she lives, and we have never met each other outside of the grocery store. I recognize her from the meat department, but I’m not sure if we have ever even spoken to one another before. I told her that I was feeling great and that I was surprised that she knew who I was. She assured me that she recognized me and that her heart had gone out to me when she saw me shopping in the store last year. (I knew that she was referring to my parade of scarves and hats.)

I was astounded that she recognized me and remembered me, and I told her again that I couldn’t believe that she knew who I was and then I found myself getting a little teary about it and I told her so. She told me that of course she knew me, and that she also knew that I had been shopping in the store since they opened. She said that she remembered when I used to come in with my babies who were probably not babies any more.

We talked for a few more seconds until my shrimp was wrapped and ready to go and then I continued shopping for the other items on my list. I found myself feeling a little emotional about the encounter for awhile afterward, though. I was so humbled last year by the outpouring of support that I received from my family and friends and classmates and teachers and doctors and nurses and strangers and from my blog readers and their families and friends—I am still humbled by it. I have said before that it was often the thing that got me through the hardest parts. Discovering that even a grocery store employee was watching me go through the experience and was rooting for me was surprising and touching and meant so much to me.

Cancer is awful in so many ways. It is hard and frightening and life-changing. It brings things into your life that you hope that you never have to experience. But it is a strange thing because it also brings amazing things into your life. I have frequently told people that sometimes having cancer made me feel like I got to observe my own funeral. People told me things about how they felt about me and my family that they might never have told me if I wasn’t dealing with breast cancer. I got to hear the kinds of things that they might say about me if they came to my funeral and I got to acknowledge, through their own words, the ways in which my life and the lives of other people have touched one another. I wish that everyone could experience this kind of affirmation, because it is powerful. As I have started to work my way out of the darkness of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, I find myself trying every day to tell people how I feel about them. I hope that I can always remember to stop and reflect on the ways in which people touch me and to tell them about it.

If I could give only one piece of advice to a friend or family member of a cancer fighter, it would be to tell them how you feel. Tell them what they mean to you and how much you care about them. Your love and friendship is powerful, incredible, healing stuff.

March 25, 2008

What's On Your Playlist?

My 3-Day and 5K training is going well and I continue to feel stronger every day. I still don’t know if I’m actually going to be able to run the whole 5K, but I’m going to try. I have been using the Couch to 5K training program (from coolrunning.com) to train and I found a podcast by Robert Ullrey on iTunes that guides you through each week. Once I’m done with the day’s running program, though, I switch over to my own music while I continue my 3-Day walk training.

I have had a great time compiling a couple of different playlists for walking and running. Sometimes a really great song will come on and I find myself wanting to sing or dance along. Am I the only one who experiences this? Do you ever have a hard time not singing along when you’re on the treadmill or out walking? People would think I was insane if I suddenly started singing “Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the fur” or “Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes” in the middle of the treadmill line so I usually control myself and save it for the car.

I’m going to post some of my playlists here in case you want to add any of these to your own list. I’m always looking for good training music and I’d love to hear some of your selections, too. Feel free to share!

Playlist 1
Sweet Talking Woman--ELO
Feedback—Janet Jackson
Elevator--Flo Rida
Hung Up—Madonna
SexyBack—Justin Timberlake
Check Yes Juliet—We the Kings
Stacy’s Mom—Fountains of Wayne
Whenever, Wherever—Shakira
Grace Kelly—Mika
Let’s Get Loud—Jennifer Lopez
Kiss—Prince
Low—Flo Rida
Goody-Two Shoes—Adam Ant (What? It’s a good workout song!)
Soak Up the Sun—Sheryl Crow
Island Boy—Baja Men
Proud Mary—Tina Turner
Pour Some Sugar On Me—Def Leppard
Fat Bottom Girls—Queen
Teenagers—My Chemical Romance
Dani California—Red Hot Chili Peppers
Shut Up and Drive—Rhianna
Have a Nice Day—Bon Jovi

Stay tuned for more…

March 23, 2008

Sanibel Pictures

These are a couple of shots of our recent trip to Sanibel with friends. You can’t see it in these pictures, but as the week progressed my hair turned from straight to curly. At first I thought it was just the Florida humidity, but the new curliness has continued since we have been home. Maybe I’m going to end up with that post-chemo curly hair after all.

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Kim and Gayle

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Gayle and Rachel

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Skip, Brett and Randy

March 21, 2008

Home Alone

It feels a little like that first scene in Home Alone around here…the one where everyone in the family and in the neighborhood is rushing around trying to get out of town for the holiday break. Today marks the beginning of spring break and it feels like the town is emptying out. This is Chicago, of course, which means that we’re in the midst of a snow storm even though it’s the second day of spring and that’s making it a bit hard for people to actually get out of town.

My family is leaving for a Caribbean cruise within the next few days. We are all looking forward to it and are rushing around trying to pull it together before we leave. Hopefully we won’t leave any of the kids home alone.

I’m planning to set up a couple of posts to post automatically while we’re gone.

March 17, 2008

No Backing Out Now

It's official! I registered Karly, Blake, Matthew and myself for a local 5K today.

Now I'm committed. Here's hoping I make it!

*************************************************************

Thank you for registering for the Run thru the Hills 5K/10K, 2008. Your Registration is confirmed, and you may use this email as your Registration Confirmation.

Confirmation Code: 00092453
Time of Transaction: 3/17/2008 11:16:12 AM

This will confirm your registration for Run Thru the Hills on April 13, 2008. Packet pick-up will be available on Saturday, April 12th, at the Running Depot, 30-E North Williams Street, Crystal Lake. Race Day packet pick-up begins at 6:30am. "No refunds are issued for races or special events".

March 11, 2008

One More Small Step

I have sent out a few resumes in the past couple of months hoping that I would be able to find a position somewhere for this summer. You may recall that I have felt some trepidation about the interview process and about a potential employer’s reaction to my post-cancer appearance and blog. I haven’t had much of a response to my search so far, so I haven’t had to worry too much about it yet.

The day before we left for Florida, however, I got a call from the recipient of a resume that I sent out the first week in January, which also just happens to be my number one choice of a place to work. I don’t want to reveal the place here, but those of you who know what I was looking for can guess the kind of office that it is. During the phone call I set up an interview for last Friday afternoon.

I was nervous going into the interview, but not for the usual reasons. I wasn’t nervous about what I might be asked or about my answers to those questions…none of that seems very scary anymore. I was nervous, however, about trying to explain why I didn’t have any legal employment last summer and I was nervous about disclosing my blog and my Google presence. I decided before I got to the interview that I would disclose the information up front. After all, it was entirely possible that the interviewer would have Googled my name before our meeting or that she would do it afterward.

The interview went well and ended with the interviewer giving me a tour of the office. Just before we began the tour, I told her that there was one more thing I wanted to let her know about. I briefly explained that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer last year and that I had a blog about the experience. I told her that if she Googled my name it would all come up and that I wanted to let her know about it up front so that if there was any problem we could discuss it. I also assured her that I wouldn’t write about work. And don’t you know, all my fears were for naught. She couldn’t have cared less about my blog or about how Google-able I am. It wasn’t an issue and I'm not sure if I even needed to bring it up. I was incredibly relieved by her reaction to the whole thing.

The best news is that as a result of the interview, I have an externship lined up for this summer doing exactly what I want to do. And even better? An excuse to buy new suits and new shoes.

March 04, 2008

The Weather Is Beautiful, Wish You Were Here

Greetings from warm and sunny Florida! Randy and I are on Sanibel Island (near Fort Myers) for a few days with our friends Brett and Rachel and Skip and Gayle. (Gayle and Rachel will be members of The Chest Nuts for the 3 day in August.) (How is that for an honorable mention, Gayle?)

Other than the fact that I spent the day in bed with a fever yesterday (a touch of food poisoning, perhaps?) it has been a wonderful trip so far. We are right next to the water and have enjoyed watching manatees swimming by our window, pelicans diving for fish and dolphins frolicking next to our boat when we are out on the water. I've been able to do some running/walking outside which has been a treat--it's certainly more fun than looking out at snow and ice through the gym window on the treadmill!

An ocean excursion to a shelling beach is on the docket for today, followed by some island shopping and whatever else might come our way. Pictures to come when I get back home!