Monday, December 17, 2012

A New Star Shinging Brightly

Tonight on the way home, I listened to one of my favorite carols on the radio: "Silent Night."  It made me think of my sister Ann - Mimi as we called her then - singing that carol as a little girl.  This will be the second Christmas without her since she lost her four year battle with breast cancer.

I wrote this in her memory last May, on the one year anniversary of her death, and decided to post it today.  If you have lost someone you love recently, and mourn them, maybe their star is out there shining near my sister's.

“A New Star Shining Brightly”

You were a daughter and a sister, a mother and a friend;
Whenever someone needed help, your hand you would extend;
You created lovely landscapes; you were an engineer,
Bringing good things to life in your distinguished career

You loved your peaceful mountain home, and the creatures of the earth
You loved a great joke or pun, and would laugh with glee and mirth
You had dreams of your retired life, and rewards for job well done:
To look on Tremper Mountain, aglow from setting sun.

I remember still that day at work when I got your shocking news
Of cancer diagnosis, for I’d walked in those same shoes
I was so sure you would become a survivor just like me
But cancer, it had crueler plans, and ‘twas not meant to be

Remember, Ann, when we were kids, how we would laugh and play?
Not once did it occur to me that you’d be gone some day
But high up in the Heavens, there shines a brand new star
Whose brilliant light beams down upon us brightly from afar

You fought so hard, gave it your all, so brave and tough and strong
Enduring such an awful fight, so difficult and long
You inspired each one of us with your spirit and your grit
Cancer may have won this war but not because you quit

In two-thousand eleven, on the thirtieth of May,
You took your final labored breath, a sad Memorial Day.
To any angel listening, when next you see my sister,
Please tell her how much she is loved, and how much we have missed her.

Remember, Ann, when we were kids, how we would laugh and play?
Not once did it occur to me that you’d be gone some day
But high up in the Heavens, there shines a brand new star
Whose brilliant light beams down upon us brightly from afar

Oh Ann, I miss you every day, and remember you with love
But a new star’s shining brightly in the Heavens far above

Art Ritter
May 30, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hey! Shouldn't I be in Hawaii?

Well, here it is, December 9, 2012, the date I thought for years I would running the Honolulu Marathon to celebrate 10 years in remission.  And here I sit, in my home in Virginia, drinking a mug of tea and updating my blog - an increasingly rare event.  (updating my blog, not drinking hot tea.)  So what happened?

I had lofty goals for 2012, ten years after cancer.  I wanted to run the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Monument Avenue 10K.  I wanted to consider TNT again.  I had the idea of forming one of those 48 hour, 200 mile relay teams - maybe of cancer survivors - and doing a relay race.  And the crown jewel was to have been today, my 10 remission date: the Honolulu Marathon.

Ah, the best laid plans!  Well, I did the Shamrock and the Monument races, tying my personal record in the 10K to the second.  But in the process, I have caused pain that would not go away in my left knee.  I stopped running, which helped some, but didn't fix the problem.  I did PT religiously, which helped some more, but didn't fix the problem.  I did PT a lot less religously, which didn't help at all.  Even walking and hiking ends up causing some pain - but not nearly as much as running.  I dropped the idea of TNT.  I dropped the idea of a relay team.  And as the year progressed and my knee pain stayed and my bank account balance did not grow, I slowly came to terms that I would be not going to Hawaii.

I've never been to Hawaii.  I had decided that if I went, it was not going to just be for the race weekend.  I wanted to do a 10-12 day trip, culminating in the marathon.  And you know, that takes serious money, money I am not willing to borrow.  I wanted cash in the bank for this trip.  There is a lot of competition for that money.  And with the knee pain, it seemed foolhardy to try to train for and run a marathon.  And I was not willing to go to Hawaii and not run.  So since I wasn't training, I wasn't setting money aside for the trip.  If my knee had been good, I would have found a way to set the money aside, but it wasn't, so I didn't.  Therefore, my goal of being in that race today faded as the year churned by.

Instead, I celebrated 10 years remission this morning by making a donation to a friend doing Team in Training once again.  She and I were partners for much of the rainy Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage going on eight years ago.  And yesterday, I gave the mission moment to the local run team, and I walked with the walkers.  That felt really good.  It was a very small team but the typical good bunch of folks that always seems to gather to do Team in Training.

It feels a little sad not to have accomplished so many of my lofty goals this year.  Would I have done so without the knee pain?  I'll never know.  But on the whole, I am just happy to be here on God's green earth 10 years after having had cancer, and to say, for the 10th time, "Remission Accomplished!"  That is just going to have to be good enough.  But I know that later today, as the runners start moving in far-away Honolulu, I will feel a little wistful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thinking about Team in Training

I've been thinking about TNT lately.  It has been more than two years - going on  three, actually - since I have done TNT.  Last year I did the Susan Komen 3-Day in memory of my sister.  Earlier this year, I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon to celebrate nearly 10 years surviving cancer.  Some of my TNT friends were in the race, and since then, I have donated to several people, and plan on doing so again.  And of course, I walked in Light the Night in October, and raised almost $2,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I can't quite seem to get past this knee pain that came, especially in my left knee, during the Shamrock training.  As a result of that, I have not run since March.  I've been walking a lot, and hiking, and even that makes my knee hurt some.  But the pain has lessened without the running.  I know I need to get back to the intensive exercises the doctor gave me, and do them religiously.  But I am not sure if running is a good idea anymore.  Will it continue to make my knees worse and lead to problems walking?

I know I could walk a half marathon without any real trouble.  I've gone for hikes in rugged terrain, carrying a pack, of nearly that long.  What I could not do right now is walk a half marathon with any kind of speed.  My walking speed has slowed down to something south of 15 minutes per mile but well north of 14.  So I might be able to walk a half marathon in maybe 3:15 or 3:20.

I keep wondering: should I go back to Team and Training and be a walker again?  Should I take up biking?  There are a number of reasons why biking is unappealing to me, but for one thing, I get a lot of joy going places using my own two feet.  All I know is, I have been thinking about TNT a lot lately and wondering how to best get reinvolved.  It has been a while since I raced for a cure, and I think it might be nearly time to do it again.

I walked with my friend Lelia - one of my first TNT walk coaches - last night and was chatting with her about TNT a little.  She does not want to do the fundraising.  That does not bother me as much, but for me, it is coming up with an event that I can do without crippling myself.  I have a lot to think about.  In the mean time, I will be speaking to the run / walk team Saturday and give the mission moment, the weekend of my 10 year remission anniversary.  It is always an honor to see such a dedicated group, and to talk with them.  And I also will walk the walk with them in my brand new New Balance shoes.