Saturday, May 1, 2010

motivation. (a vaguely self-indulgent running post...)

But first...  V-logs!!!  I recently became aware of a huge number of video interviews on the Dana-Farber website that cover pretty much any survivorship topic you can imagine.  Check out the link HERE!.  Dana-Farber has a Lance Armstrong Young Adult Survivorship Clinic, and they have really been working hard to increase awareness of the clinic as well as offer more support to young adults.  I've looked at some of the videos, although not all, and they seem pretty helpful as far as information goes.  Obviously the advice and info offered by the interviewees will not apply to everyone, but I think they've got the right idea at least.  The nutrition video was super interesting, although the chemo brain video peeved me a bit because my memory still fails me All the time, and I know I get enough sleep and eat well and take anti-depressants, so that wasn't much help.  Haha, but I digress.  I continue to be amazed by the resources available to young adults and the growth in awareness that has occurred even over the past three years.  A lot of this stuff was around three years ago, but there is so much more information now, and there is (I truly hope) a greater willingness from young adults to take charge of their lives in light of cancer diagnoses.  Amazing.

Segue to: Motivation.  Over the past six or seven months, this concept has been on my mind a lot.  Last August, First Descents sparked my running fire, which had been mostly dormant for a while.  In Jackson, I met a lot of runners and a few marathoners.  I realized these people are no different from me, really.  And they're running and accomplishing goals I have, so far, only dreamt up.  So I returned home to Chicago and decided I would run in the 2010 Chicago Marathon.  My motivation was at an all-time high because I was still riding the First Descents wave of awesome.

Of course, waves crest and fall, and mine fell pretty far beginning about January.  Treadmill running, the beginnings of an injury, and general winter-induced malaise all contributed to a gradual reduction in my marathon training.  And then in the beginning of March, my IT band pain got completely out of control, and I stopped running altogether.  For just about two months.  And then (timing being everything), it was time for me to once again meet up with my FD family, this time in Moab, Utah.  Once again, I met more of the most amazing people: funny, encouraging, generous, unconditionally accepting.  Oh and they run too.  In fact, our camp photographer, Bear, who I had the huge good fortune of getting to know a little bit over the week, is actually an Ultra runner.  I had a suspicion of this the first day or two we were there, and when I finally gathered my courage to ask if he was a runner, and he told me, Yes!  and I run ultras!, my mind seriously exploded a bit.  

I've recently been reading a bunch of running-related books, some on marathoners and a few on ultrarunners, and here, out in Moab, Utah, I actually, somehow, had met one.  We talked some about running, and I admitted, rather sheepishly, my goal of running the marathon.  I also voiced my growing fear that I won't be able to do it because I hadn't run in two months and my knee has been so super wonky.  He, like so many of my fellow campers that week, expressed his confidence in me and my ability to overcome the obstacles ahead.

Flash-forward to this past Thursday...  Having battled a Nasty stomach virus and come out on the winning side, my body was almost screaming at me to go outside and run.  My mind resisted, but my body was all like, "Girl, you can do this; I'm ready!  Remember that you seriously can do anything!"  So I did.  I ran.  Haha, I ran two whole miles!  But, but but...  My knee didn't hurt.  I don't really believe in miracles, especially when there is a physiological explanation for the recovery of my IT band (I've been using a foam roller).  But if I wanted to follow a mystical tack for a brief moment, whatever happened out in Utah, whatever I learned or realized that I still can't quite define, whatever motivation I found from meeting an ultrarunner who thinks I can run a marathon, any and all of those things combined to heal my leg.  It's still twinge-y, and I'm walking a fine line right now between desperately wanting to jump right back into training and not exacerbating the problem, but I still ran on Thursday.  I ran again on Friday.  And then, this morning, I saw Bear's Facebook status that he had run a "quick 14 miles," and, even though earlier I had talked myself out of going for a run, I quickly threw on my running shoes and went for Another run.  2.5 miles today.  And still no pain.

Good things are happening.  So many good things.  Not just with the running, but that is all I wanted to mention today.  There will definitely be more updates soon with other good things going on.  Let me just say that while I am talking about literal running, it is also a metaphor for my life over the past year.  Buncha waxing and waning, but now I am ready to go.  People are my motivation.  People's stories, their interests, their insecurities.  We are all in this world together, and who is to say that one person can run 14 quick miles before breakfast and I can't?  (I can't, but it's only a matter of time.)  So what's your motivation?  What gets you out of bed and running into your day?  I hope it's something good.  Peace.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

There are no words

Well, there are many words, but most of them are inadequate; they will fall far short of acceptable enough to describe the past two weeks.  How is it that the events of a certain group of 14 days can change everything you feel about yourself, change your entire future?

But first, some context:

One year ago yesterday was my last day of college.  I was in Washington, DC, still taking pictures, running through Rock Creek Park and around the National Cathedral.  I was 22 and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life.  I was no longer in any sort of active treatment for cancer, and so I thought I was done with it.  I thought I could just move on with my life having beat cancer and graduated from college all in four years.  But when I graduated on May 17, when I walked onto and across the stage at Agganis Arena at BU with my family watching me on the Jumbotron and all of my best friends sitting on black folding chairs on the arena floor, I had no plan whatsoever for the next day.  The funny thing about having no plan is that you will not accomplish anything with it.  So I floated through the next few months in Boston, shooting concerts and bartending.  And then my mom told me to pack up my life; I was coming back to Chicago.  It was either rent or health insurance, and, well, one sort of trumps the other.

And then, at the end of August, 2009, I showed up in Jackson, Wyoming, for a week-long climbing adventure with a bunch of other young adult cancer survivors.  First Descents didn't really change my life; it would be unfair of me to take that away from some of the others whose lives it did change.  It did, however, change a lot of things about me.  I started blogging again; I realized how truly important it was for me to recognize myself as a cancer survivor.  I also instantly found a new family, my FD family, and I would be in a much worse place now if it weren't for them.

So.  Two weeks ago, I flew to Boston to speak at a young adult cancer conference.  I went into the conference tremendously intimidated because the keynote speakers the past few years have been these amazing, successful women who have published books and been on television and pretty much set the cancer-survivor bar pretty high.  Me, I am just another person who has struggled with a whole lot of personal issues.  But that's what I brought to the table.  I am someone you pass on the street and not normally think twice about.  I work at Starbucks.  Yes, I blog, but there are a lot of better-known or better-worded blogs out there.  So I shared my experiences as any other person.  I joked about struggling at college parties, and I tried my hardest to say something relatable.  And it was a success!  The conference was all kinds of amazing.  I met other cancer survivors, other young adults who Got what I was saying.  If I may be a little immodest, I want to share some of the conference feedback:

"Loved her, really related to her as a college student!" 
"She was awesome!" 
"Caroline was wonderful! She was a voice for some specific feelings and thoughts that I have had.  I truly appreciated her courage to share her experiences and genuinely felt inspired by it, thank you"

This may sound silly, but I don't really have a lot of deep-seated confidence.  It's a process; I'm working on it.  But to have someone actually Underline that I'm awesome?  Haha, that's cool.  I can only hope the other young adults left that conference feeling something of the tremendous pride I felt.  We are all a pretty amazing group of people.

And then, one week ago today, I hopped on a plane to Grand Junction, Colorado, where I would be meeting 12 other cancer survivors.  Once again, I was going to a climbing camp, this time in Moab, Utah, with First Descents.  I thought, erroneously, that I had learned everything there was to learn about myself at camp in Jackson.  I thought this would just be another opportunity to make new friends and climb and take some stellar photos.  All of this ended up being true and then some, but I was also shocked into the realization that 12 people I've only known for a few short days can know more about me than I know about myself.  That to actually hear someone tell me they are proud of me and they believe in me means a whole lot to me.  That someone pretty much yelling at me that I am "effing awesome," while I blush and shake my head, can actually penetrate my intricate shell.

This time, these people changed my life.  I am actually tearing up right now remembering the tremendous amount of love we shared this past week.  I am still trying to process everything that happened, everything I learned and came to terms with.  So there will probably be another post sometime to try and word-vomit all of that out.  But I needed to write something now.  This was the beginning of something new for me; I can feel it.  I don't yet have a solid plan, but I am so ready to go.  It has been a year of waffling, but no more.  Things will only get better, and in the meantime, I am just about to explode from all of the emotions I am still feeling.

So that's my update.   Sorry it is so wordy...  But I figure you only get one of these things every so often; a longer post makes up for it.  I hope everyone is enjoying their spring so far.  It is almost May!  Where is this year going?  Best wishes from Chicago, though, and if you're looking for a photographer, give me a holler.  Right on.  Peace.

photo courtesy of Barry Reese c. 2010