Breakn’ a Sweat-Great Aloha Run 2015

One of my students showed up to summer school class every day with large over-the-ear headphones listening to this song by Skrillex and The Doors-Breakn’ a Sweat (a largely repetitive, but somehow catchy electro/dub step song-you probably will not like). But, this song was in my head as I trained for the Great Aloha Run of 2015.

Skrillex and The Doors-Breakn' a Sweat
Skrillex and The Doors-Breakn’ a Sweat

I wasn’t even sure I could do the 8.15 mile Great Aloha Run (and just to clarify, I am talking about walking it, not running). My friend said multiple times, “you can always back out if you are not up to it.”  My plan was to just get up and get out there and see what happened. Up until Monday (race day), the longest training “run” was a 1.5 mile walk. In keeping with my 2015 goal of becoming STRONG I felt like it was important to at least get myself out of bed and get down there and try. My January training was stymied by a mega migraine that put me back several days (See Professional Vomit Queen). We woke up extra early to make our way to the Starting Line. IMG_3060 I stood on the corner watching the sun come up with my little team of two (Debbie and Ross). We stationed ourselves at the back of the pack along with the wheelchair participants and stroller moms and watched the sunrise reflected over Aloha Tower.

Great Aloha Run-sun rising
Great Aloha Run-sun rising above the starting line.

Twenty thousand people had the same idea I did and were out there for the  Great Aloha Run! Interesting side note is that many more were registered and just didn’t show up. I am sure they had many good reasons, but come “game day” it didn’t happen. This is what the front of the line looked like (or so the newspaper told me). 

Great Aloha Run 2015
Great Aloha Run 2015

Despite a bad knee (Debbie), a bad calf (Ross) and sore hips (me), we finished! At one point, I jokingly said, we should do the Honolulu Marathon in December. This idea was introduced around mile 7, so the enthusiasm for it wasn’t as high as I had hoped.

Finish Line
Finish Line-Ross in green

We completed the race in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Plus, when you add the time and distance to get to and from the start and finish line…we totaled 9.73 miles!

Runkeeper tally!
Runkeeper tally! 9.73 miles!
Dynamic Duo in our fancy new "finisher" T-shirts!
Dynamic Duo in our fancy new “finisher” T-shirts!

When my own children used to agonize over writing essays for English class, I used to tell them…It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. Words on paper are better than no words at all. That is how I felt about this race. We could have been a lot faster and trained a lot more, but we still got out there and did it. Plus, we were together, which made it all the more fun! What’s my current situation? Still plugging away at maintenance chemo every three weeks. I had treatment yesterday and slept 12 hours straight in recovery last night. Still teaching! Still doing!

Professional vomit queen-navigating the migraines

Warning: Not for the squeamish. Step away if you have a weak constitution. Migraine sufferers will agree that migraines are no ordinary headaches. Unlike a broken arm, there is no visible indication that your pain level is through the roof. Taking regular pain relief for migraines (for me) is like putting a dropper full of gas in the car and thinking it will take you somewhere . Migraine relief is a much more complicated dance than that. A careful combination of prevention and treatment is my only solution. I should have known the stress of this week was going to trigger a headache, but I always naively believe that this time it will be different. (Remember the movie 50 First Dates? I am like the Drew Barrymore short term memory loss character.) I shouldn’t be surprised when they happen and the route they will take, but it always catches me off guard.  I choose to not think that it is stupidity, but rather optimism. Every migraine trail I take leads to the porcelain dumping ground. (I was going to add a vomit image, but that would just be cruel to all of us, so instead, I’ll add the movie poster) When the headache ends,  it is like a long journey completed.

50 First Dates
50 First Dates

I should be happy that I’ve only thrown up three times in January. One of the side effects I appear to be having from the Avastin treatment is sporadic migraine headaches. The first sign of the headache is a piercing high pitched frequency pain in the back of my head. (It feels like the frequency only dogs can hear that drives them crazy) Then the pain shuffles from back to front and back again.  I sit with an ice pack on my head and I speculate how long it will take till the vomit train begins. Today, I made it 45 minutes. Something about vomiting is cathartic (haha! Really! At least I made myself laugh) It’s like my body realigns and resets itself after that. The trick of getting the pain to go away lies in a careful distribution of Migraine meds, anti-nausea meds, and vomit.

Last time, it was after a fantastic meal of Baked Ziti (which I used to love…I’ve attached a recipe in case you still love it.) That time was the first time that I threw up through my nose. I had a noodle come out my nose. I guess there is a first for everything.

Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti

My sister was visiting us that time, and the next morning she asked if I had been coughing during the night. Yes, I “coughed” a lot that night. It really was good ziti, more so going in than going out. Sadly, I don’t see myself eating anymore Baked Ziti in my near future.

I have recently swapped out Imitrex for Maxalt in the quest to find more effective pain relief. I think the Imitrex works for me, but when it gets thrown up so soon, not as much. Maxalt can dissolve under your tongue and sneak up on the migraine before the vomiting begins (but dissolving pills under my tongue is slightly nausea inducing too). I always wonder at what point does the pain medication count. In other words…If you take a pill and throw it up 15 minutes later, has that pill been ingested into your system enough to work? Or, do you assume it hasn’t and does again.

Today’s headache infused my dreams and woke me with a jolt this morning. 

"Last night I dreamt somebody love me." Smiths lyrics
“Last night I dreamt somebody love me.” Smiths lyrics

The only direction this day can go is up.  

The Musical Chairs of Cancer

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Set-up for musical chairs

Do you remember the childhood party game Musical Chairs? I used to love going to birthday parties and playing that. When the music started, you would walk around the circle casually, sometimes touching the chairs, just listening to the music playing a happy tune until some unseen hand took the needle off the record (Yes, we played that game with vinyl albums!) As the music suddenly halted,  you lunged into the nearest available chair-hoping not to be the extra child without a seat. If you were unfortunate enough to be the last one standing, you were out of the game.

I compare my current situation to that childhood game. I go along living my life, teaching classes, walking, going to church, watching movies, listening to music, and then suddenly, it’s time for a PET scan.  There is a breath holding few days where we wait for the results…Will I still be doing the daily drive to work (#hitraffic), watching Chopped on the Food Network, hiking the Aiea Loop trail, and generally being “normal” OR will I be thrown back into the grind of surgery, weekly chemotherapy, blood testing, and hospital visits. Each scan, I wait for the music to stop, and then determine if I am with or without a chair.

Last year on Valentine’s Day (incredibly bad timing), I received that call that my cancer had returned. Since March 14th, I have earned frequent flyer points at Tripler Army Medical Center. The current status is a monthly (which really means every three weeks) maintenance plan of Avastin and careful monitoring of my CA 125 levels to continue indefinitely (like in forever).  Side effects of all of this include some pretty unkind migraine headaches and fatigue, but this is small “kine” stuff compared to the radiation and frontline chemotherapy.

View from the Oceanside of Tripler Army Medical Center
View from the Oceanside of Tripler Army Medical Center

In the meantime, I am listening to the music and focusing on my One Word for 2015! That word is Strength.  Rather than making a series of New Year’s Resolutions about working out, eating less, and reading more, I am choosing to focus on a single word-focusing all my efforts towards building strength…in my body, in my mind, in my faith, and in my relationships. My plan for 2015 is not a single day event, but hopefully a series of activities that will make me stronger. Physically, I feel better now than I have felt since January of last year. I plan to run (haha-just kidding) walk in the Great Aloha Run in February. Am I ready? Absolutely not. But, the training process has begun.

Great Aloha Run Hawaii
Great Aloha Run Hawaii

I believe I’ll still have a chair in the game come next week! You are not behind. Start now. What is your One Word for 2015?

Where are they now?

One of my favorite magazine (and now internet) features has always been the “Where are they now? segment. Something about being in the dark with zero information regarding a person, and then “BAM” right back into all the nitty gritty of their lives-some interesting, some bizarre, some tragic…….is so compelling. I thought I’d take you on a little Where are they now? trip.

1. David Cassidy-former star of 70’s show The Partridge Family and frustrated hard rock musician (I learned that in VH1 Behind the Music) in a pop music world has plummeted to the world of drunk driving in NY, garnering what appears to be a second DWI (the first from Florida).

David Cassidy Then and Now
David Cassidy Then and Now

The rookie cop evidently didn’t recognize the former teen heartthrob. (I think I would have.) Let’s hope he’s back on track now!

2. Mary-Kate Olsen My kids were fan of the twin powerhouses (to include Ashley Olsen) from the television show Full House. The favorite movie of our family was I am the Cute One. You can find this gem on http://www.youtube.com

I am the Cute One video from www.youtube.com
I am the Cute One video from http://www.youtube.com

Now, she has a jewelry line that makes a BILLION dollars in sales a year.

3. Haley Joel Osment Evidently I was not the only one who wondered whatever happened to the Sixth Sense boy. ABC news had a recent feature on him with this photo (and article)…What?!?  That’s Haley Joel Osment? He is still making movies and currently is filming a movie in which he pays a Nazi.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 3.24.38 PM
Haley Joel Osment filming a new movie in September of 2014

4.  Walter Cronkite-As a child I used to watch the CBS Nightly News with my parents and listen to Walter Cronkite say, “And that’s the way it is.” Sadly, he passed away in 2009.

Walter Cronkite-CBS News Anchor
Walter Cronkite-CBS News Anchor

I could spend hours searching the internet and dropping down a rabbit hole of information, but I wanted to share with you one that recently stuck with me.

5. Diem Brown-You may or may not know of this reality TV star who made her mark in the show MTV Real World/Road Rules Challenge. What impresses me so much about this woman is that even though she diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at age 23, she fought relentlessly and optimistically against this cruel disease until she passed away at 34. If you follow Twitter, you may know that her last tweet (posted days before her death) showed her resilient spirit.

Diem Brown Tweet
Diem Brown Tweet

Her fight (chronicled in People Magazine) focused attention on this silent and slippery disease. Here is a reminder of the symptoms:

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Common myth: Your annual PAP smear does NOT detect Ovarian Cancer!

Where am I now? Doing well! After a total of two surgeries, 25 radiation treatments, and 28 frontline chemotherapy infusions, I am undergoing maintenance Avastin infusions every 3 weeks to keep this disease at bay. In the meantime, I can be found teaching Physics to some pretty darn amazing students on most days!

 

Trying to get up that great big hill!

Koko Head Crater

At one time, not too long ago, I was actually able to walk up Koko Head Crater-it was challenging, yet not impossible. The popular Oahu hike was approximately 1 mile…straight up…1048 stairs/railroad ties up the side of a enormous cinder cone.  The view from the top was spectacularly breathtaking. These days, I think I could only walk from the parking lot to the trail head. However, even when I was able to successfully complete the hike, there were a few other folks that passed me like I was standing still.  On the way down, still others were barely making it up.  My challenge was a cake-walk for some and an impossible dream for others. Food for thought as I refocus my efforts toward getting healthy.

Now, I’m trying to get up the hill of recovery! What’s the plan? It’s a work in progress, a multi-pronged work in progress. Exercise-check. Ableit, in a much smaller fashion than BC (before cancer). My immediate goal is to walk up the hill in the neighborhood (all the way to the top). Healthy eating-check. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but for now, it’s plenty of veggies/protein and bags of spinach (they say it’s washed, but I am suspicious, therefore  doing that hard salad spinning myself). I am re-acquainting myself with plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of Grape Nuts and fruit on top. It’s not as terrible as it sounds…really. Reading-check. On order from Amazon:

Small Victories-Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott
Small Victories-Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

This Thursday marks my second maintenance treatment along with a Doc appointment on Monday. I haven’t been to Tripler Army Medical Center in three whole weeks (3.3 weeks).  I am focused on getting myself sussed each day and up by 5:17 am and back into bed by 9:36 pm (this has something vaguely to do with sleep cycles and a sleep calculator).  Still a long way to go, but the view on the way back up again is pretty rewarding. Plus, I am enjoying the lack of vomitting more than you can possibly imagine.

In a reflective mood? Maybe a little, but I’m looking backward and forward simultaneously. Musically, maybe some 4 Non Blondes will help you start your day with What’s Up?

Don’t forget to check out the sunsets on the way!

Sunset on the North Shore of Oahu
Sunset on the North Shore of Oahu

Maintaining (Cancer Free)!

end-of-dieting
Maintaining the diet!

You go on a diet…you lose that elusive 10 to 15 pounds 20 pounds,more? You counted “points” ate Gluten free, ate low carb, ate Paleo and now you are a newly transformed person with ultimate will-power, making excellent choices in all your eating and  exercising 3-5 days a week at 70 percent of your heart capacity.  (That’s the dream of all dieters, right?) Then what? The hard work of maintenance dieting begins. The process of keeping all the work you’ve done, frozen in time, is the goal of both maintaining your weight and maintaining the results of  cancer treatments.  The rush of eliminating the unwanted pounds is gone, compliments on your dedication tapers, and friends just expect that you’ll keep that weight off and continue your journey successfully. You hope that you won’t backslide like so many dieters do and become just another statistic.

Happy Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, 2014, my doctor called to say those dreaded words, “I’m worried” about your CA (the cancer marker found in blood) levels. Shortly thereafter followed surgery, radiation, and 5 months of chemotherapy. Now, we maintain the results with an  every-three-week it was “sold” to me as “monthly” treatment of Avastin. Avastin is a fancy expensive drug that has been part of my regimen since May 22nd. Essentially it is an infusion that keeps the cancer cells starved of blood so that they don’t develop into tumors. Side effects for me are primarily headaches, which I am learning how to fend off more effectively. Why didn’t I get the ‘loss-of-appetite” side effect?

Avastin
Avastin

How long do you have to keep your maintenance diet going?  Weight loss professionals say that maintenance should really become a lifestyle change and it should go on indefinitely What, no more sugar forever? I don’t think so.  My doctor called last week and started talking about how my maintenance treatments will continue for a year….wait for it….or forever. Forever? Seriously, Forever. Evidently doctors aren’t unanimous  in exactly how long this treatment should be continued or how long it will stay effective.

So that’s where we are. In the dreaded “maintaining” portion of our cancer diet Time to focus on the basics of good nutrition except for cupcakes,  getting the energy to walk up the hills in my neighborhood, and sleeping for more than 5 hours uninterrupted (maybe that part won’t ever happen). I’m actually happy to have the opportunity to normalize my life and not think about life and death on a daily basis. Time to kick back and enjoy the maintaining!

How do you maintain the positive changes in your life-whether diet or exercise or something else? Is a struggle or a piece of cake? I’m Curious.

 

The Waiting Game

I am scheduled for another PET scan today. I have the routine down fairly well. Cut back on carbohydrates two days before the scan, and go carb “free” on the day before the scan.  I am not a huge carb fan, but the moment you tell me that I can’t have carbs, that is all I want.  This photo is the “good” carbs, but I am thinking any carbs would be good about now.

good-carbs-picture1
Carbs

The PET scan uses a radioactive tracer with glucose (sugar). Once you starve your body of sugar, and then re-introduce it in the form of glucose, it happily travels to all areas of your body….particularly areas of high metabolic activity.  High metabolic activity is not good.  My recent scan (Sept. 5) was good, so that bodes well for today.  My number one goal is to focus on getting my body back to eating well, feeling well, and exercising well. So, what’s the hitch? My latest CA levels (the markers that they use to check Cancer) have notched up a bit. Could be nothing, could be something.

So, I am waiting. No food since last night at 6 pm. I am allowed to drink watery water (not my favorite) and I’ll be to Tripler Army Medical Center in a bit. First order of business is accessing my port, and then they’ll start the radioactive tracer. One hour of complete solitude in a dark room will follow. No music, no TV, no books, no company, nothing. (I guess they don’t want my high-intellect from listening to Morrissey or watching The Walking Dead to light up the scan.) After that, the tube. I am fairly good with the claustrophobic aspect of the tube, but my hands usually fall asleep during the scan. They used to tape down my forehead and hands, but evidently, I have graduated from this (or someone complained). Now, I just have to hold them above my head.

Results? Probably in a day or two. So much of this disease is waiting and watching. I know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I thought I’d put in a plug for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Simply put, if you have had unexplained digestive issues for more than several weeks, it would be a good idea to get it check out. I urge you to go and check out the symptoms.

OvarianCancerAwarenessRibbon
Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Done not done

Do the words “on the edge” connote something good or bad? I am hopeful as I take my first steps into unknown territory that is the start of something amazing.  Today will mark (assuming all my blood work is in order) the last of the frontline chemo. If anyone was counting (me), there have been 28 treatments in total (16 in 2012 and 12 in 2014). Twenty eight infusions of chemicals into my bloodstream and 28 mini-battles to get myself back together again. But now… NO MORE Carboplatin and Gemzar….only Avastin.  As Ross says, “I’m no mathematician,” (he is) but that is a 66.7% reduction in drugs. That is definitely worth a celebration!

Stepping out over the void
Stepping out over the void

 

The good news is that the weekly grind of treatments will disappear, but in its stead, is an extended regimen (while not as physically debilitating) which will extend for a full year. Done, but not done. The last time I did this, done was done, until it came back. This time, we are hoping that the Avastin will keep any new tumors from developing and growing.  This monthly every three week therapy is one of the hot new cancer treatments that they are using on me. The word on the street  The nurses are telling me that it will be much easier to bounce back from these infusions.

Celebrating the New Year!
Celebrating the New Year!

Even though 2015 is around the corner, this is my own personal New Year’s Celebration! The “journey” isn’t over by any means, but hopefully, it won’t be as rigorous. I am excited to begin exercising without catching my breath, drinking a glass of wine without getting a headache or vomitting, and spending more time with friends/family instead of crashed on the couch.

The next hold-your-breath moment will be at the end of this month. Doctor has ordered a PET scan to make sure that done means done.

 

Get out of the Car

Wet, muddy, and humid. Not-so-perfect conditions for the weekly cross country meet, and yet the parking lot was packed and the runners were enthusiastically warming up. I spent a good 10 minutes motivating myself to leave the climate controlled car to find the Mid-Pacific tent of runners and fans. One of my students, after asking why I was wearing white shorts, thanked me for coming out to see the meet. (I have no excuse for white shorts in rain and mud-none.)

photo (1)
Kaiser High School Cross Country Meet

Before 8 am, most of the runners were soaked and muddy and the races hadn’t even started yet. I was surprised how cheerful and full of laughter they were. I told my son afterwards that I always love talking to Student X because she laughs at all my jokes. His response: “Yeah, she laughs at a lot of things that aren’t funny.”

images
Runners from Hawaii Mud Run

The meet today comes on the muddy heels of a really junk week.  I realized that I have thrown up more in the last 4 months than I have in my entire life. On Tuesday, I spent most of the day in the hospital getting IV fluids, Potassium, and Phenergen, trying to get my system back in balance from the previous chemo. I rallied for Wednesday and was back in the classroom again. I wasn’t actively vomiting, so I figured I should be at work. It is not just a duty concept that brings me back to school every day.  Today’s events really captured it for me. Despite their  own “Struggle Bus” of conditions, kids just get out of the car and get going. No one complained, they just did. That is what energizes me!

Even though I see them in the classroom every day, it was fun to see them overcoming the elements and enjoying each other’s company.

Physics
Physics Test Bank

 Monday, it’s back to Physics!

Boot Camp Lessons for Cancer

diana
Wedding of the Century-Prince Charles and Princess Diana

A long, long, long, long time ago…I went through military boot camp (Basic Cadet Training-fondly known as “Beast”) at the United States Air Force Academy. It was the summer of 81, and while Princess Diana and Prince Charles were getting married, I was in the foothills of Colorado Springs enduring the most rigorous training program of my life. Whilst (I love that word!) Anglophiles were glued to their television’s watching the “wedding of the century,” I was doing push-ups, pull-ups, and running through the Obstacle Course and Confidence Course  in Jack’s Valley, Colorado.

bootcamp
Boot Camp training-Not Kym Roley

Every day, we woke at the crack of dawn and we pressed through the day until taps at 9 pm. It was the most intensive time of my life-forcing my body to do things that were not in my wheelhouse. (I was an Erudite in a Dauntless world= for fans of the book Divergent! #Divergent #Veronica Roth) I spent my high school days in ballet, drill team,  and AP classes, but then I was thrown into a world where walking across a 4×4 beam, one story above the ground, was the only measure of success.

photo-4
Jack’s Valley, CO Summer of 81-Kym Roley

Why did I not die?

Beam
Building “confidence” in Jack’s Valley! Try walking from one side to the other untethered!

How do you get through Boot Camp? How do you get through Cancer and its treatments? How does anyone get through the monumental challenges of their life?

1. Find good friends to share the ride on the Struggle Bus with you. Life is more fun when you’re singing The Wheels on the Bus songs together. My Academy classmates are still my friends 100 33 years later. Today, my friends and family  help me laugh and forget the hard reality of what I’m going through.

2. Every day-get up, get dressed, get going. Get through. Day 1 may just be getting one foot to go in front of the other. By Day 20, you can chuckle at how little you could do on Day 1 . Your muscles learn what you expect of them. If you expect nothing, they give you nothing.

3. Give it your best…your best will get better. In the 1997 movie Gattaca, the character Vincent is asked how he accomplished such a remarkable feat, and his answer was…”I never saved anything for the swim back.” Give it all! You can’t be thinking about the next lap or the next obstacle. Give everything to each moment!

4. Believe in God’s plan(s)-Plans to give you a hope and a future! Jeremiah 29:11 There is a plan for you. You just have to trust that there is a plan.

5. Get past the bad days by reminding yourself that “Everything will be okay in the end: If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” -John Lennon There are days you wish you could just forget, where nothing goes right, but that is not the end of the story.

Finally….. My memories of that time (and now this battle with cancer) have crystallized, and while they include the struggles and disappointments, ultimately, the successful finishing of difficult obstacles is what sticks with me.

parade
USAFA-Class of 81 Acceptance Parade

 

 

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