Saturday, October 12, 2013

Let's talk about boobs

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, everyone wear pink month, buy a shit ton of Yoplait and save those gross lids month and remember to check your boobs month.

Can I be honest?  I never checked mine, not in October, or for any month for that matter.  Well, that's not ENTIRELY true.  I gave myself a very poorly done self-exam once after I found out my best friend's mom was diagnosed, then when a co-worker was diagnosed years later I checked again.

My husband was more than happy to "exam" them anytime I wanted, but quite frankly I figured if I didn't know anything was there then I was just fine.  That's not a safe place to be friends!

I even had a mammogram, when the giant Boobmobile showed up from Sacred Heart Medical to Coldwater Creek when I lived & worked in Sandpoint.  Of course, I got the all clear.

Breast cancer runs rampant in my family, as does the BRCA gene.  My sweet father, in the early 2000s, had himself tested, at a great personal expense, and thankfully did not have the gene.  So I figured I had a get out of jail free card.

If you're just getting introduced to Bliss & Chaos and haven't read anything from the summer of 2012, I'll save you a quick trip down memory lane: I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I'm re-living the experience today, just because I want to tell you to please check your breasts.  Not just in October, but regularly.

And I've said it before, but if you aren't comfortable (we're told our WHOLE lives not to touch ourselves and then suddenly we have to make peace with feeling ourselves up?!) just have a glass of wine (or three, whatever works), read a naughty book and let your husband/significant other go to town.

And yes, I'm living proof that even if you don't have a lot in the chestal region you still can get breast cancer.  I remember being called a "pirate's dream" (thank you Craig Woods, are you in jail these days by any chance?) for having a sunken chest in junior high (like who didn't?!) and as an adult I was no different and I still got the cancer!

And I'm also standing here today as proof that breast cancer is survivable, particularly when you catch it early, like I did, but I got LUCKY.  I wasn't doing a routine self-exam, nope, I was laying on the bed talking to my husband about anything and everything and I felt an itch, scratched and found the lump.

I knew immediately it wasn't going to be good news, and I was right.  I love to be right, but this one time would have been nice to be wrong.  

Ever since all this happened I've run out of fingers and toes to count the number of women I've met, or knew, who are, or about to become, strong survivors.  My own surgical oncologist was diagnosed this summer!

But instead of dropping like flies, we're surviving, thriving and as best as I can I'm trying to proselytize the message: CHECK YOUR BOOBIES!

I'm not shy about it either, I tell people all the time, not because I want the "oh I'm so sorry" response, please don't EVER feel sorry for me, seriously.

I mean, let's be honest, yes it was a BIG inconvenience, but it could have been worse if we hadn't caught it when we did.

AND, as long as we're being truthful: I HIT THE BOOB LOTTERY.  So my consolation prize is a nice, brand spanking new rack.  There are no losers in this scenario.  If I hadn't found the lump, totally different story.

But that's the message I'm trying to give you today.  Check your boobs, feel them up, know what they feel like so you know if something isn't right.

And honestly, if you have to knock back a couple of cocktails and let your husband do it, go for it, he might be a little more thorough than you would anyways, jussayin'.

Don't think for one second you don't have to worry about it either, I was 39 years old (young, that's what they kept saying which was super fun to hear), no BRCA gene in my body, the three times I checked I was clear and then it happened.  And it COULD happen to you.

It doesn't matter if you have family history, no family history, gene, no gene, young, old, healthy or not.  Breast Cancer is like that mean little kid in junior high (I'm looking at you Craig Woods) who randomly picks on girls just because he feels like it.

So do me and your family a big ol' favor and just be sure, not just in October, but every month of the year.  And, in the end, if you catch it early enough, you too can have a nice new front porch and the blessing of a long life ahead.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Maude the Marathon Jumper

OK please don't turn me in, please.  I jumped into the Portland Marathon yesterday, but only for a little bit.  Before you get all "what?  you ran a marathon you crazy B?" let's get one thing straight: I'm probably not ever going to run a marathon. 

Probably.  Before yesterday I said NEVER, but now it's PROBABLY never, which gives me a loophole so in the future if I DO decide to run one you can't say I said never.  PROBABLY never.  There you go.

My day started at 4:55AM, of course I woke up five minutes prior to my alarm clock (dammit) even though I really really needed those extra five minutes of sleep.  I threw on my running gear, choked down my breakfast, grabbed snacks & water and headed out to pick up my Best Running Friend. (I did, for the record, also brush my teeth somewhere in there)

I rolled up to her place at 5:22AM, 8 minutes ahead of schedule, but I know how much she hates to be late.  Me, I was BORN late.  As my Daddy used to say I'll be late for my own funeral.  But for her, well I just made it happen. 

Thank GOD she had coffee in a to go cup all ready for me.  She was locked & loaded and we hit the freeway, making it downtown in record time.  It's amazing how fast you can get places around here at 5:30AM when NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND IS AWAKE.  Except marathon runners, who I would argue, definitely not in their right mind.  See?

Once we arrived we wandered the streets like a couple of homeless chicks trying to find corral D.  Things look VERY different in the dark in downtown PDX.  Up side?  With so many runners lurking about, stretching and pooping, I never did worry about getting mugged.

Speaking of the poop, it wouldn't be a Maude race recap if we didn't discuss the deuce.  Again, I must repeat, I was NOT running the marathon, yet I had a healthy case of the sympathy colon.  Both my BRF and I would have easily been able to have a colonoscopy pre-race, as clean as we were.  I was thrilled to see the number of porta-potties they had down there as well.  Big time KUDOS. 

There was one moment where folks got tired of waiting and formed their own line.  I didn't realize it until one of those bastards ran in front of me to grab a porta potty on the end.  The next lady in the new line informed me that my choices were #s 3&4, but their line had dibs on 1&2. 

I immediately informed them that A) I was crowning, B) would only be a minute and C) I wish I had thought to form my own line.  Door #3 opened and I zipped in there before she could beat me up or steal my spot.  I was done in less than 30 seconds and announced as I exited "THAT is HOW IT'S DONE, FOLKS!"  A little pre-race humor never hurt anyone.

I hung with my BRF and while we chatted, she fiddled with her fuel/water/clothing/GARMIN and holy shit her GARMIN actually FROZE.  I gotta hand it to her, she handled it better than I would have, or did.  She futzed around with it while I posted on FB: Who can bring Cyndie their GARMIN in the next 30 minutes?!?  Crisis averted, she just had to reset.  PHEW.  Post was immediately removed.

Eventually it was time for me to head out and find my way to mile 6ish where our other BAMR (bad ass mother runner) friend would meet me so we could run some of the WORST six miles of the marathon, an out and back along Naito/Front that was just horribly boring, with our buddy.

We had about 20 minutes to hang out and watch all these amazing athletes run by, what I love is that runners can opt to have their name on their bib, which is big enough for ME to read as they whizzed by even without my nerd goggles on.

At no point in the day, up to this moment, did I ever have that "oh I wish I were doing this" feeling.  Not once.  In fact, I didn't get that feeling at all until later.  But I squished it quickly, more on that later.

My BRF's husband kept me updated as to her status, so we knew when to expect her.  After a few false alarms, several ladies wore green tanks with gray/black bottoms, the "interception" went perfectly, both of us jumped in and flanked our gal and ran with her as long as we could.

We ran and chatted, chatted and ran.  I took a few pics by sprinting ahead and even got a cool group selfie WHILE running!  The nearly 6 miles we ran simply flew by for us.  The only place where I got a little teeny weeny bit upset was the section where there was a group of total freaking idiots dressed in Pirate garb.

I am not shitting you at all when I tell you that they had explosives.  No joke.  They had a fake cannon and then a fake gun but let me tell you the sounds they made were real, and THEY WERE LOUD.  I IMMEDIATELY thought of Boston, peed myself a tiny bit, then when I saw the pirates I got kinda mad.

They were all high-fiving us as we ran by and I told all all three of those assholes what a poor choice those loud explosions were.  "REALLY?!  You think that's a good idea in a MARATHON? DUUUDE!"

Seeing as how it's an out and back, just so you know they weren't exploding anything when we ran back through.  I am sure I wasn't the only one to give them a piece of my mind.

Have you ever tried running & texting with the voice to text feature?  I have.  It sucks.  My BRFs husband texted me to see if she really did want pretzels at mile 12.  I texted back "Yes she asked for the pretzels" but it said instead "yes, she asked for butt cells".  WTF? 

There were several examples and her husband couldn't help but make fun of me.  So I texted back "Fucking voice to text" and SHOCKINGLY the damn phone got that exactly right!!!!

At about mile 11 she asked us to run ahead so we could get a photo of her with her husband and children, but she was hauling ass at this point so we then had to haul even MORE ass to get there first.  We did, with only a few moments to spare. 

Prezels dispensed, photos taken, runner off and I realized I was FRICKEN starving so we headed back to the finish line in search of a Starbucks.  If you've been to PDX you know that Starbucks are like Prius's, you can swing a dead cat at any intersection and hit at least two.

But when you NEED one, g-damn Siri can't seem to understand what the frick you're talking about.  I needed three things: food, hot coffee, and at this point a place to PEE.  We wandered around and I started to panic worrying we'd miss her big finish.  Security at the PDX 'thon is TIGHT and I LOVE it.  You can't get to the actual FINISH line. Brilliant.  I mean that sincerely. 

We FINALLY found coffee, but the line was too long for the crapper so we headed out again and found another Starbucks like a block away.  See, when you don't need them you can find them EVERYWHERE.

We headed out once again in search of the best spot to see her coming in.  When we finally found it we had about 18 minutes to spare, and I'm not even lying when I say she showed up exactly 18 minutes later.

While we stood there and watched all the finishers coming through I was momentarily caught up in the excitement and thought how cool it would be to be finishing the MARATHON right now, with all those people there watching and cheering. 

Then, I remembered that you have to TRAIN to run 26.2 (no thank you) AND people clapped and cheered for me when I finished 13.1 just as much.  So in about ten seconds I (mostly) talked myself of ever running a marathon. MOSTLY.

So my BRF who trained for months, complete her first marathon in 4:04.  I am amazed, impressed and completely inspired.  Such an amazing accomplishment for any human, but so incredibly rewarding for me to be there to witness this achievement by someone I hold dear to my heart.

Well done friend.  Well done.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Maude VS The Obstacle Course (and, well, herself)

In case you're wondering, did I ever get my real sprint triathlon in (I'm sure you've been stalking my blog just waiting to hear) I completed the Best in the West in early September, complete with swim, even though I DID get an email the night before warning us of an algae out-break. 

I am totally not making that up.  Turns out, false alarm, but I was gonna swim dammit, no matter what.

It just so happens that there WAS something in that water, and I still have the ringworm on my left ass cheek to prove it, though the tube of anti-fungal cream I've been so very un-sexily rubbing on it night and day, says I'm near the end of the treatment. 

Fast forward a few weeks to last weekend and the Epic Grind.  After months and months of gorgeous weather, mother nature decided to piss on our Portland-is-so-beautiful-when-it's-sunny parade and hand us a big ass typhoon for the weekend.  September weather sucked.  Ass.  Big time.  But there was no worse weekend than Sept. 28 & 29.

I blog for Run Oregon which means I race a variety of events, usually about one a month and write my thoughts.  For the Epic Grind, I jumped at the chance to test out my first obstacle race/trail run when the weather was sunny and 80.  All the photos on their website showed sunshine and happiness in abundance.  I never occurred to me it would be monsoon season in just a few short weeks.

I also signed up my nine year old, thinking she'd like to do the 2 mile event and write her own review, like mother like daughter, she's a budding writer.  We were giddy with excitement.  Until the typhoon hit. 

I can't lie here, my baby girl was still really excited.  She never once, not one time, tried to get out of racing.  I gave her EVERY opportunity and she never took the bait.  It made me ashamed of myself, but not enough to not spend a SIGNIFICANT amount of time trying to weasel my way out of the event.

I tried to pretend that I couldn't do the obstacles (too much use of my chest muscles, they can't possibly be healed yet!), being out in the cold with my weakened immune system would surely spell doom for me in the form of a horrendous cold. 

In the past year and three months I've never, ever, ever let that whole episode with breast cancer stand in my way of anything (not even housework!) but I found it to be a convenient excuse suddenly when the wind was blowing the rain sideways.

I was unable to come up with any real compelling reason not to do the event, and I committed to being there, so off we went.  On the way my little lady and I listened to music and I tried to pump ourselves up.  We talked strategy and listened to Katy Perry's ROAR like fifty times.  But I never really felt like I had the "eye of the tiger" but more it's tail tucked between my fungal ass cheeks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I probably shouldn't have looked at any of the obstacles online before we left.  I think that really messed with my head.  I kept flashing back to all my PE failures:  I could never climb the damn rope, I had a devil of a time with the monkey bars and I sure as hell couldn't climb the net very fast.  And then there's running a 5K in between all these obstacles?  Hellz no.

As it turns out I did not have to repeat any of the aforementioned feats because I selected the 5K race (one of the few choices recently that turned out to be a GOOD one).  My heat started at high noon, Kaylee's at 12:30, I planned to get my ass moving fast so I could maybe make it back to either finish with her or watch her cross the finish line. 

If I'm being truthful, I was a little terrified of running trails in the mud, and also doing the obstacles in general.  But I'm game for anything most of the time, and with the motivation my beautiful fearless daughter gave me I went for it as soon as they counted us down.

I did start of slow, mostly because I wasn't sure what to expect.  Our heat was fairly small and I was in the middle of the pack after the keg pull.  I was pulling into the front when we hit the Tall Enough net, ten feet up and ten feet down, and I am clearly in far better physical condition than I was in grade school, I climbed up that thing like a fricken monkey.

Back down the other side and onto the giant spools, and suddenly I was all alone.  No one was with me, and from there I just said eff-it, I'm going for it.  I want to be back for my daughter and I've never been first before in anything, so let's see how long I can keep it going.

For once I didn't bring my Garmin so I had no clue how fast I was going and I had no music (which is a rarity for me) but I didn't even care.  Originally I was just doing this just for fun.  It's like I don't know myself, just for fun?  Pssssht.  What-evs.  The minute I had a taste of being the front runner my brain just switched into "suck it up and go" mode.

I'm pretty sure I was smiling about 98% of the time, how could I not?  No one was right behind me and as my BRF said, I pretty much made that course my bitch.  I sailed through the obstacles, with the exception of the paint ball gun (I'm a terrible shot and I hate firearms) and as I neared the lake I even caught a glimpse of my kiddo climbing the big net.  The kid race started!!  At that point I figured I was about 45 minutes in, not too bad, my "goal" was under an hour.

I just kept going, crawling across a moving pile of inner tubes, scrambling up the muddy bank and onto the "tired wall" the final obstacle before the finish.  I checked my time and couldn't believe my eyes, I did it under 46 minutes.  I knew I won my heat, and that was pretty cool for me as it was.  And I made it back to see my little girl crawl across the tubes, climb the tired wall and run to the finish (all with a smile on HER face!).

Later in the evening, after we got home, showered and I attempted to warm up I checked the online results.  I was second overall female for the day.  And if I'd gone the day before I would have WON the day compared to the times posted then.  And then I looked at the age group I was in: 31-40.  I was the moldy oldy!  And the chick that beat me?  In the age group below!  HA!  Take that!

And I'm going to say this so you can see what an awful person I really am, but as soon as I saw the results I said "Suck my 40!". Yes, I'm going to burn in Hell.  And not just for that, but I don't have time to make you a list.

I really would not have had as much fun if the weather had been nice.  I loved LOVED crawling around in the mud like a little piggy.  Being filthy dirty and sweaty was freaking awesome.  I had the time of my life, and so did the little miss.

I learned a few things about myself in the process: 

1. I don't think I can really run something just for "fun" no matter what I tell myself
2.  I'm a horrible person (suck my 40?!  REALLY?!) 
3.  I am my own worst enemy, talking myself out of something I've never tried before because I'm a chicken shit (it really wasn't all that much about the weather, truth be told) and, finally:
4.  I can do a hell of a lot more than I think I'm capable of.  I just have to learn to get my own ass out of my way.