Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cancer Sucks

I am fairly certain that everyone knows someone who has/had cancer. 

In 1982 was my first experience with cancer, my next door neighbor/friend's older sister, whom I only met once or twice because she was more often in the hospital in the year I knew her. Before she died. I had no idea what cancer, no idea the weight of that diagnosis. All I knew was it was a disease that made a very young girl very sick and die. 

As I grew older I knew people who knew people who had cancer, but mostly it wasn't terminal. Cancer was fairly benign in my experience.

The next time I personally encountered cancer was in 1998. It was closer to home this time, it was my grandma, who was in her 80s, and so her death 3 months after diagnosis, while sudden, was not focused on the cause. At that age it was not a surprise she would fall ill, that it was cancer didn't seem to cause any extra grief.

Over the next several years it went back to very little exposure to anyone battling cancer. The 2000's brought just a bit more. I met a childhood cancer survivor in our Church in 2002. Sean's estranged father, whom I never met and Sean hadn't seen in 20 years, died in 2005. A family friend was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and survived.  A woman at Church had an inspirational battle with cancer and died in 2010
My uncle (by marriage) who lived in BC my whole life and I didn't know that well, was stricken suddenly and painfully with cancer in 2012 and he passed away a few months later.

Over the last year or so I have known someone who has had a large influx of people in her life who have passed away from cancer, people she has felt such grief at their lives being ripped away from the world far too early. I thanked God I haven't been afflicted with such distressing loss to cancer, and wondered when the odds would catch up with me.

They just did. 

Right now we know very little. We don't know what stage it's in. We don't know if it's affected more parts of her body than the tumor that was biopsied. We don't know the treatment plan. We don't know how it will affect her imminent plans for the future.

And she has a BRIGHT future.

This young woman captured our hearts just under two years when she was barely 17. We knew immediately she was special. We very soon thought of her as our surrogate daughter. She is a star in so many ways, it's the meaning of her name and God knew what He was doing because she doesn't just shine, she radiates. People can't help but notice she's different, she has that IT factor, yet she is so humble and has a heart for God's heart, a heart for the outcast and the broken. She is mature beyond her years and I sometimes forget, she's still only 18.

And here she is, so young and faced with this weighty diagnosis. If anyone can survive cancer inspirationally it is she. But she shouldn't have to. 

And the worst part is it has hit her right in the heart of her dreams. She has been accepted at a theater school starting in September, she is a dancer, an actress, a singer, her talent and dream is to be a performer. The cancer is in her foot. She has no idea the condition her foot will be in after treatment. She doesn't know if she'll even make it to her first semester of school in 9 weeks.

While cancer has been in the realm of possible for the last 6 months, it still seems so unreal. We weren't going to live like it was real without a real diagnosis. But now it's real. And we don't know how to live with it.

I do know I was given this summer to spend a lot of quality time with her. God has been showing me that this summer I was to pour into women he had laid on my heart and I already knew, due to various circumstances, that she was one of those women. Now I know that even more so.  I don't think it is because we will lose her, I still have a strong feeling about her amazing future, but I sense God wants to do something through this season in both of us. I just wish the day after her diagnosis I wasn't leaving for vacation for 9 days.

So yeah, fyi, today sucked.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

So even though I've seen motivational posters that say even if you just started running 'You ARE a runner', I've been reluctant to call myself one. I've started down this road before and never felt like a runner.

Today I felt like a runner.

Even without my coach (informal coach, she's one but she's my friend), today I pushed myself further than I have been able to push myself before. And I was able to go further than the goal I set for myself today. And when I was going to walk the rest of the way home I decided to run some more because it felt good. I was actually enjoying it.

Granted I walked a big chunk in the middle because I wanted the stretch next to the river to be my date with Jesus this week, so I was really slow on that stretch but I think that's just what my body needed because when I started running again after I expected to have to push through the exhaustion but instead found renewed energy! 

And today's run brought me to just shy of 5 hrs, just over 25 km, in 11 days!

So, today I feel like a runner!

And, Jesus joined the running too, he was cheering me on near the end in some very 70s running gear. He cracks me up :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Schrödinger's Cat

TMI Warning

I'm weird.

1) I know about a quantum mechanics experiment named Schrödinger's cat, and if you do too it's because you are a physicist or you watch Big Bang Theory. I am the latter. The experiment essentially is a cat in a box with the potential for dying and while the box is closed, with no way of knowing the status of the cat, the cat is both alive and dead.

2) I related this experiment to my uterus this month. My last two cycles have been 37-38 days with no real PMS symptoms and yet negative pregnancy tests. So earlier this week I came to the conclusion I have Schrödinger's uterus. Not sure if life or death was waiting for me.

3) I found it hilarious the day after when I 'opened the box and the cat was dead.' Really I laughed....mostly because that result in that wording was a funny coincidence.

See, told you.

I'm weird.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Me?

This is not a question I ask often, or ask in my depression. No this is a question I typically spout when I am perplexed by my abundant blessings. A few years ago we did a series at Church on what justice really is and I wondered why was I born in Canada, into privilege, into a home with Christian parents?  Something triggered this question in me again just the other day.

It was the movie Saving Private Ryan. It was the part when they finally find him and tell him they are there to bring him home.

Private Ryan: [after being told he can go home] "It doesn't make any sense, sir. Why? Why do I deserve to go? Why not any of these guys? They all fought just as hard as me. "

The reason this resonated with me was because of a truth that has been coming back to me in many different ways over the last month.

God chose me

Now His Sovereignty is something I don't claim to fully understand. I find the more I know God the less I understand, but the closer I get to God the less I need to understand. But I do understand God chose me. Chose me before I was born, before I was conceived, before my parents were married, before my parents were born, before the beginning of the world was formed. God dreamt me up and planned for me to belong to Him again one day.

I also understand He has hardened the hearts of people. This is where I understand less and less how Sovereignty works, but I do understand that there have been times He has hardened hearts for the good results it will eventually produce.

So why was I born soft-hearted?

I'm not sure. I have no answer to Why Me?

All I know is God sent Jesus into this war here on earth, on a mission to find me, Private Lori Michelle Alcorn. To find me, to save me, tell me I get to go home with Him.

And He did it at great cost. He lost His life in this war here on earth. (*spoiler alert*) Just like Captain Miller, the soldier leading the search for Private Ryan.

As Captain Miller dies he says, "James, earn this... earn it."  And it haunts Private Ryan the rest of his life. As an old man he desperately asks his wife, 'tell me I've been a good man, that I've lived a good life.'

Thankfully, because Jesus found me, I know that is not what He said as He died. He said, "It is finished." Which is completely the opposite, it means, "Lori, you do not have to do one thing to earn this freedom."

Monday, June 9, 2014

No Pain No Gain

Well, I am breaking personal records all over the place.

First yesterday, then today...running for a second day in a row! Often the first day of running after a long gap my hip is so sore I can't barely walk for a week, and even when it's not that sore I tell myself I need to space out my runs. But I had the opportunity to run with a new friend who is a marathon trainer! She wanted a slow run because she's injured but still training to do the 26 mile/40k run next Sunday, so I benefited from the privilege of slowing her down :) Couldn't turn that down!

Not only did she get me out for a second day in a row but she is definitely in the right profession because she was an excellent coach. She knew just how to encourage me, how to challenge me, when to let me walk, when to say I could run more, when I needed the strength of Christ, how to reinforce my good habits, teach me better habits and form. And the results speak for themselves....

Better average speed, better top speed, longer distance, almost no hip pain (yesterday had quite a bit) and she helped me learn how to run in a form that would continue to strengthen my hip while not straining it so much as well. And she taught me to run through the calf strain, which I thought at first would do me in but she said muscle pain is ok to run through, so I kept going. So many improved results I can hardly believe it!

But I don't want to sugar coat it. It was hard. I walked very slowly home.

But that gave me some time to think.

About hard work.

I didn't think I was adverse to it, but I realized today I had a fear of the hard work it would take to accomplish a marathon, even a 5k, a distance I have easily walked. This was not something I was conscious of before, and so I wondered where this fear came from? Especially considering I have at least 3 people in my life who have overcome their own adversities to become a multi-marathon runner and I was witness to their accomplishment, why did I think it was beyond my reach?

As I thought about it I thought back to other things I had to work hard for.

I couldn't think of anything.

It's not that I haven't worked hard, but it's usually been to work my way out of a bad situation, not working hard for something, towards a positive goal. I have felt most of my life that life happens to me, good and bad things just seem to fall into my lap without much effort on my part. Of course when the bad situations came (once I realized they were bad) there was a lot of hard work involved to move forward in a positive direction, but I had to do it, to survive.

Running is hard work for the sole goal of thriving.

When you need to survive you have a lot of extra motivation, to move away from pain. Motivation to thrive....sorely lacking when you are moving towards pain.

And in survival it's easier to take it one day at a time, it's easier to say, 'well at least I don't do that anymore.' When you are trying to thrive I think you are a lot harder on yourself, expect more of yourself.

So there it was. I had been avoiding accomplishing this goal of running in a marathon because I was afraid of this new territory of working hard just to discipline my self. Moving towards and into pain in order to accomplish something. Seemed silly when I was perfectly happy not running.

But I felt like I had been missing out on something by avoiding the pain.

And I realized I haven't always made the choice to run from/avoid pain.

Tattoos are a simple example, I felt making my story visible was worth the pain.

And I chose to go back to trying to have children after I had essentially given up because of all the pain. After 6 years of so much heartache and frustration I chose to try again because I believed all the suffering would be worth it. And now in the 8th year I still believe strongly that the pain will be worth it.

Pain was worth it if I believed there was a big pay off in the end.

And I believe that there will be a big pay off to accomplishing this 10 k run next year. The difference is I'm pretty unclear what that pay off will be. I mean obviously there will be the physical health aspect but I have a feeling there is much, much more to this. It's just a feeling I have but it's enough to motivate me to thrive!

I have never liked the saying, but it finally has new meaning for me, no pain no gain.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Slow and Steady

Doesn't always win the race, but still completes it.

This is the advice my sister Tami gave me yesterday. Tami, a personal trainer and marathon runner, first inspired me a few Father's Days ago when she completed the half marathon 13 miles (21k). I since tried getting on the marathon bandwagon, but I made a few mistakes, wrong motives, trying to do it all by myself, and taking generic internet coaching.

Now, somehow a conversation between my sisters and I last night ended up instigating a challenge to do the 10k marathon next Father's Day together. So, being an all or nothing kinda girl, I did my first run this morning already! Wasn't bad for first exercise in a few months and first time running since last summer, but about twice as slow as I would like to do the 10k...but we'll see. As Tami said, you don't have to run faster, just longer.

So that's where I started this morning, and I learned so much today. The main theme of what I learned was about distractions, good and bad.
Good Distraction #1: Breathing properly. Without having to try to worry about time or pace, and just running, I was for the first time ever able to pay attention to my breathing almost the entire run. I think it helped my lung capacity, energy and I was so into my breathing that I missed the street I was going to turn around at and ran 7 blocks further than I meant to, which meant 14 blocks further....which I ended up walking the second 7 so I could run the last 16 blocks.
Bad Distraction #1: I realized that previously my discomfort easily distracted me during a run and made it less enjoyable. I bought a new running outfit in winter hoping to motivate myself to get back on the treadmill (which it didn't) but today I realized a proper sports bra, a long fitted shirt I wasn't worried about riding up, and long fitted (not tight) pants I wasn't worried about rolling down or pant legs being too short, I was able to concentrate on good distractions. I didn't realize the poor clothing choices I was making before really kept me so self-conscious, which made running in them pretty unpleasant. Here's my new, relatively cheap, but very comfy running outfit.

Good Distraction #2: Music. When a song with a great beat came up in my playlist I found my pace definitely picked up, but also because it was a worship set I found myself full of praise and gratefulness for the ability to run.

Bad Distraction #2: Similar to ill-fitting clothes, ear buds that don't fit properly, that I had to constantly be putting back in my ears, or hurt my ears, had a negative impact on my running previously. I happened to get a new pair with some new electronic in the last 6 months, but they were different than other pairs so I decided to try them and they were fantastic! 

Good Distraction #3: Positive attitude. I'm doing this for many positive reasons, why would I want to ruin it with the attitude that running sucks. So I spent the time enjoying it, the perfect breeze, smiling at other people as we passed, my ability to run longer on cement than I ever have before, and more.
Bad Distraction #3: I admit, today I realized how much I used to set myself up for failure. In addition to all the above mentioned, I also didn't stretch before my runs previously. I know, shame on me. I have in the last 7 weeks every Thursday I have been privy to witness an exercise group who stretches, runs, and then cools down/meditates and so this morning my first thought as I stepped outside was that I should stretch. It made a world of difference. Duh! My usual leg strain was gone after 4 blocks rather than being my companion most of the run. That constant pain obviously made it unpleasant to run.
Good Distraction #4: Adding a positive voice to the internal tape playing in my head. The old wrong motives, and relying on my own strength, and holding myself to anonymous internet standards really was a discouraging bunch of voices to accompany every run. All it took was one simple phrase from my sister, advice she herself used to accomplish several marathons, and I found new grace for myself and those other voices were completely silenced. Another marathoning friend (who leads the Thursday classes I observe) told me today, 'the only person you need to race is who you were yesterday.' This is no different than any other area of life, the negative voices distract from accomplishing goals, positive voices give faith in myself.

So, with all that I was able to run farther on cement than I ever have before, I was in the least pain after a run I have ever experienced, I had the most energy after the run than I have ever had, and it was probably the slowest run I've had in 6 years, lol. So all in all, very successful!

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