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If you can fill the unforgiving minute ... with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run ... Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
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Monthly Archives: May 2010
This post doesn't have much to do with running, but if you like birds, you will probably like this post. ... Though, then again I guess this at least tangentially has to do with running. Part of what I love about running is simply the chance to be outside, with nature.
About five weeks ago, right as I was coming down with pneumonia, a pair of Eastern Phoebes decided to build a nest on the side of my garage. Eastern phoebes are a brownish-gray little bird with a black head and a white breast. They aren't the brightest or stylish birds, lacking the bright yellow feathers of the goldfinch or the scarlet plumage of the cardinal or the gaudiness of the orange orioles, but they are cute little birds that serve a good purpose: They devour copious quantities of bugs. And their coloration probably helps with that -- it is much more practical to be brown or gray than it is to be bright red!
I watched the parents carefully fashion the nest (swallow style, a sort of cup affixed to the side of the garage built out of mud) onto the side of the garage. Soon thereafter, the female was up there all the time. Every morning when I would come home from running I would check to see if she were there. She almost always was; she only left to occasionally chase the male or to catch a bug for breakfast.
After a couple weeks of checking on my bird friends each morning after running, I finally heard the tell-tale sound of babies. I really wanted to photograph them in the nest, but I didn't want to bother mom and she had carefully hidden her nest pretty well so it was really too dark to take pictures. I set about hoping that maybe I'd get to see the babies out of the nest after they fledged. And, as is at least sometimes the case, patience was rewarded! Earlier this week I came home from a run and found FIVE absolutely adorable baby newly fledged Phoebes sitting in a tree near my garage. I crept in close with the camera and spent about 20 minutes photographing them.
Mom and dad did a wonderful job raising them. Although mom would often try and chase off dad (which is apparently pretty par for the course for Phoebes which prefer to live a solitary existence even when nesting), I would see both parents frequently coming to the nest with lots and lots of bugs. (Thanks, for keeping the yard bug-free, Phoebes!)
So anyway it was sort of bittersweet to say goodbye to my little Phoebe family ... The next day the babies were gone, though I've seen them in little groups of twos and threes still hanging around my yard. Mom and dad are still feeding them. But at the same time, I know it was time for them to go. Perhaps next year they will be back raising their own broods.
I hope you enjoyed seeing what ended up being the highlight of my spring.
After a fantastic March, I was all set for April. I even picked out a race to run. I was feeling great. My breathing was good, my legs felt good. Everything was good. I felt almost like I had never had cancer.
And then, of course, it happened. Hodgkin’s Disease, or the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease I’m not really sure which, somehow morphed me from the kid who used to win perfect attendance awards in school to the young woman who gets really sick if someone so much as thinks about sneezing in New Guinea.
The month actually started off on a good note. A very, very good note. On April 2, I went to see my oncologist. Just the usual routine follow up appointment with the usual labs. He was in a good mood, I was in a good mood. My eye has been doing much better. I had no complaints. We enthusiastically talked running. (You know how runners are when we find another rare soul who actually WANTS and LIKES to talk about running….) I was especially in a good mood when he surprised me and said I didn’t need any more scans because the risk of the Hodgkin’s coming back was so small now that I didn’t really need any more “routine” scans. I’ve always had a tough time reading my doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I like him a lot and would not hesitate to recommend him, but other than seeming really happy and surprised that my PET scan came back clean after just three cycles of chemo, he never came across as very convincingly positive and optimistic about me. The news was never really bad (we never got past the “we have to watch that” point really), but even when the scans were good he always would always throw in a qualifier like “so far.” Anyway, this was the first time in three years other than the PET scan where he actually came across as really optimistic and positive. I left the office for the first time in three years actually feeling like you know what … maybe I AM going to somehow manage to get some sort of movie script ending out of all this. Maybe I am going to be alive in five years. Maybe I should start structuring my life like I am going to be alive several years down the road.
So the month started out not just good but great. No, not just great. It started out awesome.
But then a few days later, everything again fell apart. Fortunately not directly related to cancer, but rather to the damage caused by the treatment that scarred up my right lung.
The following Wednesday my sinuses started to hurt a little. By Thursday I had a dry cough. By Sunday I had a loud and productive cough, fever, and chills. By Tuesday I was so sick I could barely drag myself around the neighborhood for a short run and struggled through work. Thursday my GP told me I had walking pneumonia and put me on a Z-Pack.
Friday even though I still felt very poorly I stupidly drove to see my boyfriend who lives 8 hours away. The next morning I even more stupidly decided to try running and five minutes into the run got that awful but vaguely familiar metallic taste in my mouth. Yup. Blood. A trip to the local emergency room netted me a series of chest x-rays and a bronchoscopy. (And a very scared boyfriend.) Fortunately all that turned up on the biopsies were lots and lots of good old pneumonia bugs. So, I got to take several bottles of antibiotics and some prednisone home with me to Cleveland.
The one positive was even though the out-of-state pulmonologist who knew nothing about me and had no copies of my imaging to compare with seemed quite worried about the possibility of Hodgkin’s Disease based on my x-ray and symptoms, I really was not. And that surprised me. Maybe something did change after that visit on April 2. Don’t get me wrong, once horribly betrayed and stabbed in the back you never really trust your body again (Et Tu, Lymph Nodes?), but for the first time in three years I am not finding myself up at night worried about the possibility of Hodgkin’s Disease. Of course, don’t take that to mean I’m sleeping because I’m still up at night, it’s just now I’m just up listening to the overly loud gurgling of the fish tank filter and not really thinking much about anything. Its just that while I’m still definitely not all the way convinced of the whole movie script ending coming true (at least not yet), the dark thoughts simply aren’t rolling in the way they used to do – like the storm clouds that inevitably roll off Lake Erie in the summer. Time is slowly healing the wound and allowing me to recover that sense of “invincibility” that we humans know is really just an illusion, but that is really sort of necessary to live life. I’ve said it many times, but you can’t really live your life like today was your last day and still be a truly functioning member of society with a job and bills and other obligations that you would just chuck out the window if you really were “dying.”
I’m hoping with the summer’s warmer weather I can avoid any more colds or flues for a while. It has been now over three weeks and I am just now starting to feel better on my runs. I’m just now starting to lose that horrible aching feeling in the right side of my chest and I’m just now not falling victim to a crippling stitch on every single run. Yesterday’s run was good and today’s run was good and both were at my normal 8:15 pace after weeks of barely being able to run 9-minute miles. Hopefully, I’m at the start of another string of “good days” -- it sure would be nice for hard times not to come again no more, but right now I’ll just settle for a respite from medical problems.
These are photographs of the Lost Lane (also known as Neill Avenue or the Lost Avenue) which is located on Wolf Hill in the Gettysburg National Military Park. Because it is surrounded by private property, this is one of the least visited locations in the entire park; probably 99% of visitors have never been to this location. I followed the public access directions provided by the Licensed Battlefield Guide Ted Gajewski and which were posted on the Gettysburg Daily blog. (Being a marathon runner, I didn't find the route particularly strenuous. However, it can definitely get VERY muddy back there.)