I asked Paul if I could be a guest blogger on his site so I could update and thank the many of you who have provided such support to me and Paul this year. As you may know, the first few months of 2008 presented some challenges that neither Paul nor I have had to face before. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in Feb. after having some mild symptoms that my doctors to that point thought were pre-menopausal symptoms and nothing to worry about.
I ended up having an abdominal hysterectomy on Feb. 18. A biopsy they did then showed cervical cancer. I was referred to Dr. Kevin Davis, a gynecologic oncologist, in Denver. The somewhat good news was that it was in an early stage. The bad news was that I should have had a radical hysterectomy, and the treatment was to go back for a second surgery 6 weeks later and do what should have been done in that first surgery. As Dr. Davis described what the surgery entailed (and I tried to keep from hyperventilating) he said, it's a hard surgery for patient and doctor. For the patient, he said, it's kind of like asking someone who just finished a marathon to run another marathon. Paul and I looked at each other across the table and I thought, “That, I can do!”
On April 1st I had the second surgery. All went well and all the tissues and nodes they took out came back with no sign of cancer. The doctor was right, it was tougher on me than the first surgery, but my recovery was steady.
I missed two weeks of work following the first surgery. I took 6 weeks to recover following the second. I've been back at work since mid-May. Walking/hiking has been a tremendously restorative and healing activity for me. Following both surgeries I started walking very soon. By week 4 after the second surgery I was walking at least 2 hours a day. I've run some, and even did the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon on July 5. Being out on the trails with others who enjoy high mountains and fresh air was wonderful and emotional.
I'll tell you something you probably all already know. The Ultra Running community is an incredible, supportive, caring group of people. I’ve been humbled by the contact you’ve made with us and all the offers to help however you can. We've received emails, cards, and gifts from so many of you across the country. Many of you we've met, others know of Paul from his blog. Your energy and words of support, prayers, thoughts, witch doctor incantations :) etc. were with me every day. Truly. You've all been a tremendous source of strength for me. I hope I can return the favor someday.
Since getting involved with ultras in the early 2000s, I've thought that each ultra is somewhat of a metaphor for life. Experiencing highs and lows, hoping for a lot of solid, steady moments, gaining strength, and learning something about yourself in each race. That’s also what the first 5 months of this year were like for us. Through it all, Paul’s been my steady companion and immutable optimist.
As Ken Chlouber says before every Leadville 100, "You're tougher than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can." I repeated that to myself many many times during this ordeal. I know the mental and physical strength I've gained from participating in ultras have been important elements in my healing.
You've probably all heard someone say that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them. I'm not certain I'm ready to say that, however, I will say that more good than bad has come from it. My perspective on everything has changed. I know that seems like such a cliche, but it's simply so true.
I wish for all of you good health, daily joy, and strength in adversity.