Sunday, October 18, 2009

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K - 10/17

"Your co-pay for emergency care is $75, but if you pay today, it will only be $60." I laughed. I couldn't help myself. Since when did hospitals give patients a discount for paying up front?

"It's a way of encouraging patients to pay their bills on time." I laughed again. I'm not sure why this conversation was tickling my funny bone, but I scrambled in my purse for my credit card. I appreciated the discount. Things were beginning to look up after a scary situation just a few hours ago.

I gathered my belongings and carried the crutches as I hobbled out to my car. The nurse had shown me how to use them, but I felt awkward with them. That's all I needed to do was to fall again and really mess something up. I tried to give the crutches back to her, but she insisted that I keep them. She believed that I might actually need them later. I doubted it, but I took them with me to be on the safe side.

The x-rays showed no broken bones in my right ankle or foot. That was the good news. It was just a bad sprain that was causing me so much pain and causing me to hobble my way through the afternoon. I read the papers that the doctor had given me. Three to six weeks would pass before the sprain would completely heal. In addition to the crutches, I had an air cast to immobilize the ankle. I also had a prescription for pain killers. I was told to elevate and ice the ankle and foot as much as possible. There is little else that can be done for a sprain.

Did this mean that I couldn't run for almost 2 months? What about all of the races that I had registered for over the next couple of months? I was already down in the dumps about missing the Columbus Marathon the next day. However, in this condition, I couldn't run. I could barely walk. How did this happen? Was it bad karma coming back to haunt me? Who did I screw over in my previous life to get to this point in my present life, lol?

The day had started on Saturday morning with a 4:30 a.m. drive to Cookeville, TN for it's inaugural Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K. It was raining, cold, and slow going. I arrived at Tennessee Technological University (TTU) about 6:00 a.m. I checked in, picked up my timing chip and goodie bag, and headed to the Survivors' Tent. I filled my plate with a delicious breakfast of mixed fruit, a muffin, and a bagel and grabbed a cup of orange juice. I sat down with Judy (MI). She told me about her sister who had the same condition as I did - metastasized breast cancer to the bones. Just like me, her sister was also taking Zometa to help rebuild her bone tissue, but her sister's prognosis was not a good one. I wanted to talk with her more and to find out why there was a difference between her sister and me, but I did not have the opportunity.

The survivors had a full schedule before the race. Pictures were being taken as we ate our breakfast. We were then asked to summarize in one word what breast cancer meant to us as survivors. When I viewed the board, I noticed that others had already posted the 2 words that I had come up with: "blessed" and "life-changing". I thought quickly as the volunteer patiently waited for me to come up with a word. "Courage," I told her. She wrote my word, my name, and the year of initial diagnosis (2003) on a piece of construction paper shaped like a butterfly and then pinned it to the board with the others. "That's a good one," she said.

We were then told to pick up our special survivor goodie bag and to sign up for the give-aways. Another volunteer approached me and asked if I would like a massage. She had not had any customers that morning. I was pleased to be her first of many for the day. Outside of a chiropractor's office, I had never had a massage. I didn't even know how to sit properly in the specially made chair. I removed my glasses, and the volunteer placed a sheet of tissue-like paper onto the chair for me to lay my head face down. I also straddled the chair, resting my knees and palms on the cushions below the chair. She proceeded to give my tight neck, back, hips, and arms a gentle but firm massage. It was like she was kneading dough to bake bread. "How's the pressure?" she asked. Wonderful . . . just wonderful, I told her.

I thanked her profusely when she'd finished. I was surprised at how loose I felt after I stood up. She did great work. She then gave me her card. It may come in handy one day.

I then proceeded to my car to drop off the bags of goodies, to use the porta-potty, and to get ready for the parade of survivors. Mark (NJ) is the male face of breast cancer. You can read his story on the New Balance website:
He was diagnosed at the age of 55 and ran his first Race for the Cure four years later. He is now 76 years old. This will be his 201st Race for the Cure. He has travelled all over the country, including 5 international Races for the Cure. He and Eileen (TN), the hard-working organizer of Cookeville's event and a breast cancer survivor herself, were instrumental in making me an Honorary New Balance (NB) Team Member. As Mark explained, NB chooses an honorary team member for each Race for the Cure that it sponsors. I benefited with a pair of NB 769s, shirt, shorts, socks, hat, and jacket - all with the signature pink ribbon. What a blessing!

Mark and I chatted during the parade - a short walk around a small area of the parking lot. We ended in front of the stage, while each of our names was called. After each name was announced, everyone shouted and clapped for that particular survivor. There were about 50-60 of us. It was a very emotional moment. Everyone was dressed in something pink - pink hats, pink wigs, pink shoes, pink shirts, pink tutus, pink capes, and pink jackets. Other runners, spectators, and volunteers were taking our pictures, clapping, and smiling. At some point, my friend, Dallas (TN), came up and gave me a hug. He had invited me to participate months before and had recently written an article for Cookeville's Herald-Citizen highlighting the Race for the Cure, Throughout the day, many of the volunteers, survivors, and other participants would recognize me from that article. That made me feel very special.

After all of the survivors' names were announced, Mark went up onto the stage and gave a very inspirational speech to all of the other participants. I could tell that he was very comfortable talking to us about his life mission. The audience embraced him immediately, and I was proud of my new running buddy. Afterwards, the survivors headed to the steps of the Hooper Eblen Center for more publicity photos. I was honored to be included amongst all of the survivors. I was glad that I had come to Cookeville.

After the photos, it was time to get ready for the 5K. Mark wanted to line up at the front of the pack. I never line up at the front. I'm too afraid of being run over by the faster runners. But Mark insisted that we had to line up there. He had a valid reason for this. As others passed by him, they would see the back of his shirt, which read: "Men Have a Breasted Interest". It was a powerful message that he wanted to spread on so many levels. Dallas, who is accustomed to being at the front, joined us as well.

Josh (TN), who also was featured in Dallas' article, gave me a hug before we started. Josh is fast, but he would be running for fun today, saving his energy for the Louisville Marathon on Sunday. He wore a pink cape that he would use to fly through the crowd of runners.

And then we were off. I wanted to run as hard and as fast as I could for as long as I could. I had a goal of a 30 minute finish. Dallas and I ran together for a while. Like Josh, he was just out to have fun and would not run as fast as he's capable of running. His friend, Amy, was running the 80K (50 miles) at the Nashville Ultra, and he was going to run a few miles at the race with her later in the day. He also wanted to attend his sister's cookout for her turnip greens. I couldn't blame him for that, lol.

After a while, even at a leisurely pace for Dallas, I could not keep up. The 5K loop ran from the TTU campus, through the small downtown area, and back to the campus. There were 2 noticeable hills, but I refused to walk either one. I took short walk breaks at the aid stations at mile 1 and mile 2 while I sipped water, but for the most part, I ran the entire 3.1 miles. I was feeling good, breathing hard, and enjoyed seeing other runners around me accomplishing their goals for the day. Surprisingly, there were very few spectators along the course, but the finish line surely made up for this.

At around the 2.5 mile mark, I saw Josh and his pink cape running towards me. He had finished and was coming back onto the course to run with his wife and mother-in-law. He had seen Dallas, who had also finished by that time.

As I turned the last corner down hill to the finish line, I could see that I was out of the 30 minute range. I would finish in 31 minutes plus a few seconds. But I was still happy. Dallas ran in with me, which meant a lot to me. We decided to go back out onto the course to run in with Mark. When we found him, Mark was flanked by a woman on each side of him. What a stud muffin!

We joked and ran along, and as we neared the finish line, Gabriel, a friend of Dallas, also joined us as we all crossed the finish line with Mark. Everyone was cheering. Little kids were handing out pink roses to those who had a pink survivor race number. What a nice little race!

Mark had worn shorts during the race, so he hurried off to put on warm clothes. Although it had stopped raining before I reached Cookeville, it was still pretty cold. Dallas and I grabbed bottles of water and fruit and sat down on a curb. Josh soon joined us for runner conversation.

At some point, we all decided to take a walk over to the fitness center before the awards ceremony. We were walking along, talking, and laughing, and then I did a full-bodied hit on the ground, feeling my right foot twisting in a manner that it should not have. My heart must have stopped and started before I realized what had happened. I could hardly catch my breath, and then the pain . . . oh, my . . . the pain . . . .

Josh and Dallas helped me to a sitting position onto the curb. I had not been paying attention to where I was walking and stepped off the curb awkwardly. A volunteer who saw me fall rushed over to see if I was okay. She then went back to get a bag of ice. Dallas instructed me to try and move the foot. I painfully did it. Surely, it was not broken.

I have twisted my ankles on the trails so many times that I knew that if I just sat for a while, the ankle would readjust and I would walk just fine. I sat as Dallas applied the ice. After I had gathered my senses about me, Josh and Dallas helped me to stand up. But unlike other times when I had twisted an ankle, this time the ankle was not cooperating. I limped and hobbled, pain radiating on the inside of the ankle and along the top of the foot. What have I done? I'm suppose to drive to Ohio in a couple of hours to run the Columbus Marathon on Sunday. I felt stupid, and I was so embarrassed. I wanted to hide and cry. How could I have done this?

We decided to go inside the Hooper Eblen Center where it was warm, and Dallas continued to apply the ice while my foot was propped up on a chair. Hopefully, the ice and elevation were keeping the swelling down. I was in panic mode at this point. What if the ankle was in bad shape? How would I run? Goodness . . . how was I going to walk? And although I was in a panic, I felt guilty for keeping Josh and Dallas. They had important things to do for the rest of the day. They didn't have time to take care of my foolishness.

Josh and I said our good-byes, as he went off to find his wife and mother-in-law. Dallas and I made our way over to the medical tent. The doctor poked here and there until I let out a breathless, "Owww". He had found the spot. He prodded, twisted, and turned the foot, while I let out several more "owwws". And then he told me what to do. "If I were you, I would go home, elevate, and ice the ankle. If it doesn't feel any better in a couple of days, make an appointment with your regular physician." Defeated, I turned to Dallas, and simply said, almost questioningly, "I'm not going to Columbus today."

Mark had rushed over. After the doctor had left, and we made our way to the stage, he looked me straight in the eyes. "Get it checked out right away. Do not wait. Remember, there is a reason for everything. There is a reason why this happened." Words of wisdom.

Dallas was still with me. I couldn't leave until I at least had gone up on stage with Mark. I had promised him I would do that before we started the race. He would talk a little about New Balance and their support of the Race for the Cure, introduce me as the honorary NB team member for Cookeville's Race for the Cure, and then I would have the privilege of announcing the two winners of NB gear. But first, I had to hobble onto the stage in front of all of those people.

They must have thought I was a fool. Being written up in the newspaper, being an honorary NB team member, having run marathons and ultramarathons across the country, and here I couldn't even walk up to the fitness center without spraining an ankle. I felt lower than low, but I would go up on that stage, accept the love and support from this Race for the Cure family, try not to embarrass Mark, hold my head up high, and do as I had promised. And even though Dallas had several things he wanted to do for the day, he waited in the audience for me to finish. He waited to make sure that I was okay. I could not ask for a better friend. Thank you, Dallas.

I said my good-byes to Mark and then to Dallas. I assured him that I would be okay. Harry, Eileen's husband who's also a doctor, wrapped my ankle with an ace bandage. "It will keep the swelling down so that you can drive back home." A young volunteer, Natasha, helped me to get a chair and to put my foot up so Harry could do his magic. She had someone to take our picture, and she told me about her husband, who was also a cancer survivor. Cancer survivors are a big family. This Race for the Cure has demonstrated that to me.

As I drove home with the foot and ankle throbbing in pain, I thanked my higher power for again allowing me to do what I do. Yes, I will miss the Columbus Marathon, but there is always next year. If I have to take off from running over the next couple of months, then so be it. There are no broken bones in the ankle and foot, and I would like to keep it that way. Thank you Race for the Cure for making this a memorable experience for me. And thank you Mark and Eileen for my 31 minute (and a few seconds) 5K in my pink NB 769s!