Friday, January 31, 2014

Recovery is a (Half) Marathon, Not a Sprint

Few individuals register for events knowing or even hoping to be the last one to cross the finish line. Being the final finisher in any event is typically known as "coming in DFL" or dead f****** last.

On Sunday, I expect to be DFL in the 31st annual SanFrancisco Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and I'm pretty darn excited about it since two weeks ago today, I was under anesthesia and under the knife for a second mastectomy and the beginnings of bilateral reconstruction. 

My recovery has been a bit more complicated than the original mastectomy back in June 2013 but I've received the same level of amazing support from my family, my friends and my communities both geographic and virtual. 

I prepared for my surgery by preparing my recovery goals.



And, with the exception of drain removal on Day 5 instead of Day 4 post-op, I've met every single one of them.




Last week's 10K was the hardest. I prefer to run but when I walk, I prefer to walk swiftly. One week after surgery, six plus miles took me over three hours and required two coffee stops. I averaged ~1.9 miles per hour. This is S.L.O.W. by anyone's standards but I was grateful to have an amazing friend my my side, proud to have completed the effort and invigorated by the level of support I received for even attempting.

Yet, the effort wasn't just about regaining my physical strength. As I explained to a long-distance friend following last week's 10K: "You should know that these goals are simply the way a control freak tries to exert some control over the uncontrollable." 

Cancer was not something I planned on having. Cancer wasn't even something I considered an option for myself as a healthy eater, avid exerciser and vice avoider. But my diagnosis happened and I felt as if I had lost control of my body, my mind and my plans for the future.

Quality doctors who listened, allowed and encouraged me to explore treatment options enabled me to feel more empowered. And careful consideration of my options following mastectomy has helped to give me back some sense of control. But planning my recovery down to the day has been the ultimate in keeping me focused on the good, focused on the positive and focused on regaining what cancer took away from me physically and mentally.

So, as many of you warm up the chili and open up the chips in preparation of what could be the first SnowBowl SuperBowl, I will be walking with my husband, slowly plodding the streets of San Francisco; reveling in my recovery progress after only sixteen days; relishing the two cancer-free, symmetrical mounds of breast-like things on my chest; and reflecting on my health both mental and physical.

I expect to be last. So far back in fact, I can only hope the organizers keep a remnant of the finish line for me to cross and a small sign signifying the event I have just completed.

If not, I will still know the truth.

I will have not only finished the KP Half Marathon - I took back control of my health, I took back control of my body, I took back control of my mind and I won this whole damn race.