Tag Archives: cancer

Celebrating Yoshie – Living Bravely and Boldly with Lung Cancer 

28 Jun

Hello lovelies…this post is about my life between the miles – it is about the celebration of my mother-in-law’s life that came to an early end because of her battle with cancer. 

We celebrated mom’s life this past weekend. We didn’t want this day to come, at least not until she led a long happy life. But we didn’t have a choice. We have been forced to go on without her. And while we all feel the suffering, the pain, and the grieving, we are fortunate mom is no longer experiencing the same. On June 25, 2016 family and friends gathered to remember the light that she was.

Mom was only 60. A fresh new 60. She would have told you she was 37 though. It’s amazing that in a flash backwards we were celebrating her 50th birthday in the same house. She was as magnanimous then as she was during her last days, and remarkably enough, the same age, 37. 

We celebrate mom’s life because that’s what she would have wanted. Nobody has a choice about time traveling on. We just have to. We have to go on without mom. I see the reservoir of pain that the loss has caused in the hearts of her husband and son. I know we are all feeling the suffering and pain of her loss. F*ck cancer. 

During the memorial I realized that the pieces of mom that we keep don’t have to be material. They are memories imprinted on our hearts. Family and friends cheerfully shared stories of her radiant smile and her infectious laughter during the celebration. We learned from others what we have always known, that mom was wonderfully generous and warm. She was always excited to see you and she made you feel like she was your biggest fan. Mom’s boss shared with us that she made sure she was the first to wish everyone “Happy Friday” at work. It was a game! We could picture her enthusiasm at the office and we all shared a heartfelt yet heavy chuckle.
 
In learning of this story I reflected on my Fridays. Every Friday in my inbox I had an email from mom. The subject line was simple, “Happy Friday!” And the content of the email was a “hello, happy Friday, happy weekend. Love you. Miss you. Ciao!” My heart smiled but wasn’t free of pain. I realized in that moment I won’t be receiving any more emails from mom. Our little exchanges stopped when God decided he needed her more than we did. And in those moments I selfishly acknowledged how I still needed her emails. Having mom peppered in my day with a Skype call, phone call or email made everything okay. She gave me peace and made me laugh despite the peripheral chaos. I need happy Friday. And now it’s gone. 

I was sprinkled in and out of mom’s life for 15 years. But in the time I spent with her and her family, I saw how mom had done the best she could raising her family and in being a friend. She, again, gave generously all that she had and more. There was no end to her generosity. Ever. Even during her final days. 

Mom fought cancer emphatically. She knew cancer was a ruthless bitch but she wasn’t afraid. Mom chose to be brave. She fought bravely for 26 months. Her oncologist’s best case was 24 months. Leave it to mom to fight longer! But she didn’t know. She refused to know the prognosis of lung cancer. In a sense, her incredulous disposition allowed her to be jubilantly blind to the unyielding outcome that awaited her. In my opinion, I think it was a blessing because it allowed her to live each day boldly!

Mom was brave her entire life (she took a chance on David – her husband). Brave and equally stubborn (I know where Andy gets it from, thanks mom). This combination of attributes helped her mental grit to stay strong and continue to fight. Not one day did mom reveal that she felt like a victim. She refused. She didn’t take the easy way out and let cancer get the best of her. She stayed happy. It was remarkable. How can one be so incredibly happy when faced with such an untenable and dire diagnosis? She was happier than what seemed appropriate. She really put things in perspective. We can learn so much from her.  

We miss her. I’m so fortunate to have found my way back in her life. Oriana knows her grandma. She used to kick to the sound of her voice and mom’s entire face would light up. Her smile would grow with such exuberance. Oriana will continue to know her grandma. Not in a physical sense. Not by her voice singing lullabies and seeing to it that her granddaughter, who is the splitting image of her son, falls asleep, but because we will continue to speak of mom and share her memory, like they share the same birthday. In a way they are one. 

It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around mom not being here. It’s hard for me to see my fiancé face this reality. The hurt is visible. But I believe Oriana has helped him through this pain. As a mother now, I understand love in another form. And with that, I’m bewildered that with mom being such a soft, benevolent soul, that someone of her own bloodline didn’t make an appearance at the memorial. In addition, she didn’t phone or send flowers. She wasn’t absent because she couldn’t handle the emotional affair, she was absent because over the course of several years, her heart has been completely dissolved of love and forgiveness. She is devoid of feelings. This woman is a mother, too. But clearly she is missing a sensitivity chip, a maternal link that unifies sisterhood and the celebration of women. In addition to her absence, she also neglected to send mom flowers or a card for (her last) Mother’s Day and her birthday. It wasn’t until mom’s husband reached out, again after countless efforts, to inform her that mom’s days were shortly numbered that she finally showed up. The family was happy she made an appearance. Mom was able to see her three grandchildren that were selfishly poached from her for years before passing. 

This person saw her brother but disregarded him as blood. One could speculate that she gives more respect to strangers than to her own family. In her typical tasteless mannerism, she also failed to congratulate Andy on the birth of his daughter and engagement to me (like some other tacky people). 

Anyway, I’ve given this woman too much attention but I bring it up because Andy, despite the history of her wretched behavior, included her in his speech as well as in an exquisite video montage that he created for the service. 

While we scoured through photographs, I couldn’t help but have sheets of tears fall down my face. Picture after picture painted an image of mom holding her first granddaughter. Laughing. Smiling. Dancing. Nurturing. Exactly how I remember mom. In those moments I was forced to accept that mom has three grandchildren that had spent minimal time with her but the time that was documented revealed a history of fun and joy. And here we are with Oriana who will never be charmed by grandma’s silly lullabies, soothed by her gentle touch, or bounced by the rhythm of her dancing. In a very short time going through pictures I had a laundry list of upsets because Oriana was robbed of mom by cancer, and her other grandchildren were robbed of mom by her very own daughter.m. Andy’s sister has no clue what she has done. I would do anything to have Oriana know and love mom in a physical state. I would do anything to have my daughter be embraced by the warmth that was mom – but she never will be. The thought is unbearable. 

What I’m writing isn’t absent of honest conversation. Every family has dysfunction. I’m not airing out dirty laundry – her behavior has been flagrantly evident and witnessed by family, friends and medical staff for years. But the tale of this dysfunction stopped at mom’s death. There were so many opportunities for this woman to make things better, amicable at best. Andy, being the class-act that he is, found that he exhausted his efforts over the years. Any effort made was returned with mute silence. Silence that begged to be undisturbed; screeching evidence that she had long abandoned the family. The disturbing thing is that mom knew she wouldn’t come to her funeral. The only time I saw mom cry was when she spoke of this. Cancer didn’t hurt mom’s spirits – her daughter did. 

The memorial was a success. Andy did not preclude his sister from the service. Family and friends asked where she was and he casually remarked that she couldn’t make it. Interesting. Family from Japan made it out to see mom in March when it was revealed that the cancer metastasized to the brain. That was a 13+ hour journey not including layovers. Family and friends also traveled from Arizona to Wisconsin to celebrate mom’s life. We even drove 13+ hours from DC to Wisconsin (with a newborn and a dog). But she couldn’t make a 3 hour drive. The trek must have been burdened with too much traffic, or perhaps guilt…

She is undeserving of this attention. I digress.

Mom, we will practice forgiveness as you have displayed by example. It was just that her actions were so glaringly dismissive and you deserve more. You deserved more. You deserved the world. 

Your absence hurts but we know you and Oriana share the same spirit. We see you in her smiles and hear you in her coos. Andy, Oriana and I are writing a new story. Oriana Yoshie is your bloodline and she has your charismatic spirit already! Your life is being carried on through our little girl, and that is our sweeping redemptive ending – or beginning. Your spirit goes on. 

The reality that you’re not here though sends an electrical current of hurt through our bodies. Moving forward without you is a monumental task. We celebrate you, every single day. I wish you could be here. We wish you were with us to watch the NBA finals. We wish we could have seen your happy dance when Cleveland won! We wish you could hold your granddaughter today and every tomorrow, but we are eternally grateful you both met each other. I know you’re looking down on us and you can see this, but I want to tell you, your son is an extraordinary father. A generous fiancé with a stubborn streak. Please help me learn to accept this! But honestly, with his stubborn attitude aside (an indication that you’re still very present) you would be so proud. We ask that you continue to guide us like you have through this unchartered experience. 

We will remember to see the beauty in the ugly. We will remember to fight through adversity. We will remember that there is always a reason to smile when things feel heavy and hopeless. We will carry on “Happy Friday!” notes. We will let go of resentment. We will practice forgiveness. We will do all of this in your honor. We will live courageously, bravely and boldly with you in our hearts and your cinematic laughter in our ears. In closing, and with Elton John’s words, we remember “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”

We love you. 

Wishing you all unconditional love, the courage to forgive and the strength to fight boldly any battle or heartbreak that you face.

God bless.

Thanks for stopping by.

XO

Valgal


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My Life Between the Miles: Cancer Can Suck It

12 Feb

Good afternoon lovelies!

 

It’s been a few short but evidently growing weeks since my last post from this mama-to-be! Can you believe it that we are at 26 weeks and 5 days – 2 whole days shy from hitting 27 weeks, which per American Pregnancy Organization puts me in the third trimester!

 

Where did the time go?

 

Time is fleeting. Andy and I have met so many unfortunate and fortunate realities over the course of our newest beginning to include that as parents-to-be but more romantically, our new beginning as Andy and Valerie – getting our shit right for the final time (it took us 16 years to get here – and the path wasn’t all that linear).

 

Anyway, I’m so fortunate to have Andy by my side. He has and continues to be my rock. Life is full of obstacles, burdens, blunders and at this moment the dichotomy of life and death has blinded my foresight – something I affirm to be a great strength of mine. There is so much ugliness in the world. Some of it is intentionally committed. Some of it takes shape as cancer. Some of it is concealed by mental disturbances. All of it is part of the journey of life. But I dislike it nonetheless. I accept that the ugly helps to contour the beauty.

 

And while I openly charge cancer for assault, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, drug trafficking, extortion, harassment, identity theft, robbery, securities fraud, and theft to name a few – I recognize that these convictions do not dilute the love in our eyes. The love is stronger. Braver. More courageous.

 

Cancer can break you. It can break your loved ones. What’s healing is the love that manifests from places and people previously unknown to be there – but they were always there – silent champions for hope. There is so much magic in love. I can’t get over how such a dark truth can blossom unyielding love, hope, admiration and prayers that light hope. I’m moved.

 

I’m nearing 27 weeks of pregnancy. Baby girl will be here in 13ish weeks! I’m incessantly happy over becoming a mother. And I can’t stop thinking about how my sweet girl has given life to those I love – with whom she’s never met. She is already a savior. She is my little Saint with mighty force in her belly kicks. She has already saved me from focusing on the things I cannot change.

 

It is because of my unborn daughter that I can see past some the ugly and stale states of reality in my peripheral vision. She is all I see. And when I see her I see my mother-in-law. I see Ori being held by a woman who embraces hard things with a brilliant smile, a fierce attitude and a gentle touch. This is the image I have. Every. Day. It feels like a memory. It envelopes me with warmth and peace. It’s like describing a color I’ve never seen before but I know that it looks and feels like love. One. Of. A. Kind.

 

At times I pray in silent obstreperous fits pleading for a cure. It’s not rational but do you know or have you known a rational pregnant woman? Cancer Can Suck It.

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For any of you out there forced to struggle with grim realities, I hope you find magic in the moments that are ordinary. I hope you have a tribe of people who uplift you.

 

I am exceedingly blessed to have a man with whom he shares his heart with mine, who finds magic in the routine, acceptance in chaos, and loves courageously. It is because of him we are welcoming a daughter in this world who will embody his free-spirit of which he learned from his mother – a saint of saints. With each passing day I know that our little girl is one day closer to meeting her grandma. I can’t wait for the day I can take a photograph of the moment imprinted in my vision. Those two girls will have so much love in their eyes. (okay, I am sobbing).

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

PS – I love you Andy, Yoshie, and Oriana.

 

XO

 

Valgal

 

(I’m off to run now-Blog about running for two to follow)

The Pressure

8 Apr

Hello friends!!!

I hope Monday greeted you with a warm hug and cup of piping hot coffee instead of my alternative…a 4:00a wake up call for a 4:30a boarding time, an empty stomach taunted by the fresh aroma of coffee, blueberry scones, toasted bagels, butter, and eggs all begging me to indulge in just one bite (I was fasting), and a cold MRI machine hours later…(blog to follow). The adventures of my Monday wrapped up with the disappointing loss for Wisconsin. Who wants Duke? Ever? Really? I gladly threw in the towel to meet my dreams. 

I woke up thinking Tuesday ought to be better, right? Until I looked at my phone displaying a number of text alerts. Some legit. Some ok. Some from my tribe of girls. Some casual hellos. Some of which had my mind spin in a tizzy. The pressure to remain calm overwhelmed me. I had to remember I can’t change anyone’s opinion of me. It is out of my control. 

Then I started thinking of other things out of my control. Things like death and taxes. But seriously, things like the health of my family members and friends and my being so far away. All the the things that break my heart. All the things I can’t control. I want to take everyone’s pain away. I don’t want anyone to suffer, ever. I feel I’m better equipped to handle pain, heartache, discomfort, grief, etc. I would gladly take it all from you because you don’t deserve it, whether we are strained friends, lovers, or what have you, I believe in forgiveness and acceptance and you still and always will matter to me. So let me handle your pressures and I’ll run it out (when this injury is healed).

Anyway, I became emotionally numb to my text messages this morning. Messages with twisted and contorted truths hijacking my happiness. It put me in an awkward state of frozen discomfort all day, emotionally and physically. I was drowning. Paralyzed. Then there’s my hip also paralyzed from the arthrogram yesterday. Ugh.

I was frozen in pain overthinking all my realities. 

I decided early on I needed tunes to warm my heart and my hip…

And there you have it, this song was the backdrop of my mood today.

 

Particularly:

 “…But it’s really out of my control. The way you feel is not my problem…”

“…Have you seen my f**ks to give? I have none, I cannot live with…”

“…The pressure. The pressure you know I feel. The pressure. The pressure to keep it real. Pay attention to the signs. Stay and listen, you will find. Everything, ain’t rocket science. Every gem is not a diamond.”

Sorry to be so forward about the lyrics, have you seen my f**ks to give; however, it was a very necessary line that helped me pull out from the undercurrent. Why do I care about people who are committed to misunderstanding me and who don’t care about me? I shouldn’t give a F!

The pressure to wear a smile when heartache and tears overtake me for what feels like an infinite number of reasons consumed me today. Tears were streaming down my face and I was drowning in the salty reality that things, all things, come to an end. 

My lips caught each tear and with each taste I gave it a breath of prayer. Prayers for so many things. Prayers for the strength to accept that your perspective of me is none of my business (small potatoes); prayers for my grandparents health; prayers that we find a cure for cancer (fuck cancer) (stand up to cancer!) (big potatoes); prayers that people learn how to forgive so they don’t grapple with grief when it’s too late; prayers for understanding, acceptance, compassion; prayers for the health and safety of my family-blood and those I choose as blood; and so much more. 

With each tear the integrity of my mascara was tested. I couldn’t let on that something was wrong-that and my vanity got the best of me, so I took refuge in the bathroom to ensure I had no raccoon eyes and tried to pull myself together.  

I looked in the mirror and with my mirror-face I gestured silently to myself, “Stay strong, woman! You got this.” I reminded myself everything is a fight and counted my blessings. I splashed cold water on my cheeks, twisted and secured my hair with the use of a pencil , painted my lips coral and put my big girl game face on. 

I couldn’t compromise my feelings today. I couldn’t negotiate and let them spill over. Ok, maybe I did for a minute but I handled it. The pressure pulled me under but I caught my breath soon after. Sure it was a doggy-paddle but I made it up for air. I am accepting the ebb and flow of life. 

Salty words camouflaged as sweet gave new meanings to my state of reality today. Recent other realities gave me other new meanings to life, love, friendships and the true meaning of wealth. It is in those realities I have found that life gets harder but only because we get stronger…

I’d like to give kudos to fate, too. Fate brings us together when we need each other the most. Fate has helped me to celebrate the change of seasons with those I love so deeply. Looking back, the best portions of my realities have been the small, nameless moments that will forever be memories imprinted on my soul. Memories spent smiling, crying and laughing, all of which are acts that leave me in tears, with those who have warmed my heart. If it weren’t for the pressures of life, I would be void of experience and therefore, without my salty elixir.

Therefore, I thank life for pressure-it doesn’t diminish my gratitude, it adds to it.

Thank you for stopping by and reading a blurb about my life between the miles!!!

I’m so grateful for you! 

How do you handle pressure?

XO

Valgal 

 

 

I’m Sorry. I’ve Been So Busy.

21 Jan

Hello friends!

I hope you’re all doing fantabulous!!! Wohoo to fantabulous!

You know what is fantabulous? The moment you realize people are full of shit but you discreetly smile and nod.

Here’s one of my biggest gripes.

Keep reading.

This one will getcha!

When someone says, “I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy!”

I immediately question their intent and contemplate in silence “Oh, you’ve been so busy? Really? Hmmm. Reeeeeeaaalllly?”

My mind wanders.

I question their authenticity.

I mean shiiiiiiiiit…they’ve been so busy…

This leads me to believe their downright negligence to maintain, at the very least, mediocre communication through all means possible, is due to some grand selfless act! It gives me reason to speculate that they must be stationed in Uganda researching the cause and effect of the country’s confirmed case of Marburg or they must be curing cancer!

In the event they have methods of communication, while being sensitive to the fact that the time zone is a bitch to deal with, one would hypothesize that while they are on the John they would attempt to send a text, “Hi, I’m on the shitter in Uganda and the stars are so bright. Thinking of you!!” – that would do, might be weird and offhandedly romantic? But it would do. Or at the very least, muster up enough courage to play a word via Words With Friends…unsure if you’re about to open up a sought after tile and be crushed-to receive a notification hours later that I went in for the kill with the triple word score!

However, when my emotions subside I see clear as day. And day tells me this…Gee…Visiting a third world country to fight famine, poverty, and disease to name a few is a hell of a lot more selfless than my own objectives. I mean so and so is out there curing cancer and I’m over here training for a marathon. Ha. That ain’t shit! I only have to suffer for three and a half hours on a course with conveniently placed port-a-potty’s for said shit (just in case) while you have to suffer on a makeshift John in the middle of the dark Uganda terrain until the dangerous wildabeasts get some shuteye.

Who am I to judge that, “[You’re] sorry. [You’ve] been so busy?” You’re saving lives! I get it! You’re also trying to shit in peace! I totally get it. You’re the brave one!

I’m only here working, learning, finishing my masters program, and training for a marathon to name a few. I’m only relatively busy. But you, you’re so busy. I could send you some two-ply toilet paper. That’s my peace offering.

Too much?

I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

I’m sorry that when I hear, “I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy” I hear, Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Truth is, everyone is busy. When you try to make it an excuse for a lack of communication, it comes off negative.

I don’t do negative.

Let me reiterate, everyone is freakin busy.

Kara Goucher, my idol, NOW she is busy. An Olympic long distance runner, marathoner, mother, wife, sponsored by Oiselle…yea, she’s busy…

But you’re curing…[fill in blank space].

That makes it better?

Nah.

You’re probably curing a comatose state.

My philosophy goes-you matter to me; therefore, I make time for you by carving time out of my schedule for you. I try. I do. *How does a late lunch sound after my three-hour training session? I have to shower and clean up so I don’t arrive a stinky, sweaty monster. But yes, I want to see you. I’ll accommodate the best I can. Do you understand? I try.

Your philosophy goes-I care about myself, and when you’re convenient I will show you I care, but really, you don’t matter enough to me to make this routine; therefore, I won’t and I don’t plan to go out of my way to make time for you, unless it benefits me.

But that’s okay. You’re in Uganda and you’re curing cancer! I’m so privileged and blessed to know you!

You’re fantabulous!

I’ll raise money during my next marathon to support your mission!

Isn’t that fantabulous?

If you don’t recognize this as a comedic satire, “I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy.” I’ve been so busy trying to deliberately write this brief blog while trying to make sense of your true motives.

Now that’s freaking fantabulous.

Your authenticity is weak and I don’t give a shiiiiiiiit. I’ve already supplied you with enough stock in toilet paper to tend to your own.

In the meantime, I’ll keep being too busy, but not busy enough to make excuses.

And therein lies my point…people are busy but people use it as a crutch to explain their lack of communication or distance. In my heart of hearts, I believe people should exercise candor and perhaps say, “I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy. I know you are busy as well. But right now I need to decompress.” This would be okay in my book. I recognize we all need time for ourselves. We all need to decompress and be restored. It’s healthy. It’s not selfish. It is only selfish when the behavior is habitual, giving off the impression that being busy means you’re only partially proficient in time management. Aye! I can’t expect people to act or think like me, so when I hear the excuse, I smile and nod…

Thanks for stopping by friends! I think it’s fantabulous you weren’t too busy to read this! You rock!

Happy running!

Don’t let anyone steal your time away from your goals! Stay true to you. What I have witnessed is that people are unwavering in their own commitments that you shouldn’t sway your own to meet theirs…unless of course you want to.

Because of you I blog! I blog about running and my life between the miles. I am honored and blessed that you stopped by today. :)))

Thank you!

XO

Valgal

Marine Corps Marathon Ooh Rah Recap: Hot Dammmm

6 Nov

Hi friends! Here I am with MARATHON NUMERO DOS under my belt!!! Hot dammmm.

I never knew that screaming hot dammmm could be both a good and bad thing! Let me explain.

Pre-race: good thing.

Mid-race: good thing.

Last 3.2 miles: bad thing x bad thing x bad thing. It was hot dammmm! Seriously! When is this isht going to be effing over? My Garmin was flashing 26.2 miles and I was NOT done. Where was the finish line? Was that the finish line? I couldn’t see. Hot dammmm[it]!!!

Let me define hot dammmm by breaking it down.

Hot [good]: I refined my training for this marathon. I got this! Feeling good! Feeling light. Feeling flight. Wind under my legs. I got this!

Hot [bad]: My calves were on fire. My calf muscles felt like they were falling off my bones with every strike on the pavement. Ouuuuuchhhiessssss. Then there was my anxiety. My anxiety was running hot. It had a fever. A bad one because I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see because I lost my left contact at mile 9, (my left eye requires the strongest prescription) lucky me.

So there I was with a fever of anxiousness and a crowd cheering “You’re almost there!” They were relentless with their excitement to include clapping, whistling, shouting, cowbelling…I might have had a fever but the only prescription was finding the finish line, not more cowbell!!!

Dammmm [good]:I got this! I trained. Hot diggity dog, I might BQ!!! Wooohooo I’m flying.

Dammmm [bad]: It felt like I was sprinting when the reality was I shifted into granny gear!!! Talk about a Sunday joy ride. It was Sunday and I belonged in a walker at that point to carry my weight.

The Real Recap

The morning of the marathon was unlike any other. I hopped on the metro and was greeted with a swarm of runners (civilians, Marines, and other service members), volunteers, bands, and spectators. We were all crammed on the blue line heading to the Pentagon. The metro ride was a concert of songs, Ooh Rahs, and praise. The acoustics were unlike the normal route into the city. The clamor was a stark contrast from the Monday-Friday commute when most are plugged in to their phones being disconnected from the very person who’s sharing their personal space. These people were all up in each other’s personal space and they were welcome there! It was really something.

Fast Forward.

It’s race time. Hot Dammmm [good]. There were no “real” corrals. If you think you’ll finish with a 3 hour time, 4 hour time, 5 hour time, etc., you were to go park your feet near the designated sign. Oh I hate that kind of pressure. I wanted a 3:35 time because that is a Boston Qualifier (BQ). But I hesitated because I was suffering from acute bronchitis and didn’t know whether or not I would run fast or if my breathing would be exhaustively labored. I took one look at the crowd, the 20,000+ people (talk about sharing personal space), and recalled how much effort it took to weave in and out of the crowds of runners in my last race. So I deliberately parked at the 3:35 sign until the gun went off.

Gun went off.

Welp, I was wrong. What’s new? I am wrong a lot. The 3:35 sign did me no favors. I was stuck behind crowds of runners. I was shuffling my feet.

Thank gosh I stand 5’2” tall because I darted through people and any open space given the right opportunity. It took a lot of effort but none from my legs or lungs. I had to watch the people in front of me to gauge the motion and timing of their stride and elbows. Who said you don’t use physics and math in real life? I had to strategically and deliberately plan my attack to squeeze through limbs, spit, and other runners like me trying to dart ahead, while not colliding with one another. I was gauging speed and velocity at 8am, with the intent to BQ, while maintaining steady breathing, with a focus on my stride, fuel intake, etc. Are you kidding me? This isht gets difficult. I managed not to collide with anyone other than a fellow shrimpette, who like me, was planning her breakaway and taking full advantage of her 62 inches or less. We barely touched but shared a chuckle. We exchanged an excited “Sorry!” and kept moving forward. If you know me, you know how I say this!!! [“Sa-weewww-thank you cab driver!]

Mile 3 people were stopping. I remember thinking “It’s mile 3. How are you going to line up at 3:35 and stop here!?!” I mean seriously, it’s kind of dangerous when you’ve got me and shrimpette number 2 darting around. I mean flying around. Especially dangerous because it was a decline. Declines are FREE SPEED and I was all about that high velocity. I wanted more!

The FREE SPEED lasted a while. I took full advantage of it. Hot dammmm [good]. I loved that I didn’t have to return any favors either. Each decline and incline over the course was a silent declaration of what was to come. I paid close attention to its subtle hints (how often do those get overlooked girls?) and adjusted my body to its forewarning.

I leaned into the road. I was one with the road.

I was one with the road until mile 9. I had a gnarly cough paired with its obligatory accessory-phlegm. It was radiant in shades of green. OooOoo green! My favorite color! And neon green to boot! Thanks acute bronchitis! I digress. Anyway, I had just ate a GU so everything in my mouth felt sticky. Plus my cough was deep and my phlegm was thick. That’s the time when my left contact developed a film so thick I could no longer see. I stopped to make an effort to clean it. I had no other choice. I had to. I had to because it was more uncomfortable not being able to see than hacking said lungs. I can’t see 2 feet in front of me without contacts but this was worse. So I took my contact out and planned to spit on it to clean it. (As if you haven’t before. Spare me!) But my spit was thick with Jetberry GU residue and phlegm. I couldn’t do it. Sanitary purposes. I had to draw a line.

I ended up putting my contact back in my eye. Unclean and all. And with one intentional blink to make it fall in place that sucker fell off my eye and was gone. Shit!

I glanced at my Garmin. No I didn’t. I squinted. I couldn’t see very well at all so I placed the Garmin right in front of my right eye. That’s when I realized I had lost approximately one to two minutes of precious BQ time. Hot dammmm[it] [bad].

I ran the rest of my race, 17.2 miles, with one contact. I was blind. I was uncomfortable. And I couldn’t see the spectacular air show above. I couldn’t read the funny marathon signs. It sucked. 😦

As sucky as I felt I found pleasure in how great my legs felt. I just crested the course. I relied on my other senses to elevate me. I breathed in the remarkable, and inspirational cries from the crowd. I maintained focus. I repeated the mantra, Pain Only Hurts. Flight. Glide. Fly. Easy. Light. Smooth. It worked. I was clocking 7:40 miles give or take a few seconds. I even clocked a 6 minute mile somewhere in the mix. HOT diggity DAMMMM [good]. I fell back to a mid-8 minute a few times. Even losing a contact! Insert Hot dammmm  [good] one more time! Yes!!! My potential to BQ was still real.

But the pain began to set in at mile 18. Hot dammmm [bad].

The pain got so bad in my chest that I had to stop and cough for thirty seconds at least. My BQ fell further from reality. Hot dammmm [bad].

My legs were still fresh and agile. But my chest hurt. I was hacking. I dug deep. Pain Only Hurts. Pain Only Hurts. Pain Only Hurts. Pain is Temporary. Pain is Temporary. Pain is Temporary. When, OWWWWwwwweeeeee happened. The discomfort of being blind coupled with my heavy chest was one thing. But by mile 23, with 3.2 left to go, my calves felt as if they were on fire. That was the other thing; the ugly thing.

Each time my foot touched the pavement my calves ached with excruciating pain. I tried to ignore it. I tried to ignore the ugly pain by telling myself that if the whole race goes to shit in a hand basket at this very moment, and I fall back to 10 minute mile pace, I would still, at the least, PR. So that was a good thing. 🙂

But I would resent myself if I did. I knew I was a tough runner and could endure pain. I knew I could endure even more pain. So pain, I taunted with, summoning it to BRING IT ON. I double dog dared it!!!

That was the pain I had been begging for during my last marathon. Pain is the telltale sign that you’ve pushed your limits. (For me at least.) There it was staring at me at mile marker 23. I was tickled with excitement that it finally came to meet me. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was that same feeling you get when you massage a bruise. (Right?)

I wanted nothing less than to be seduced by it. I wanted it to take all of me.

But I played hard to get. I wasn’t quite ready to give up. My effort was twinged but at I still had some.

For the last three miles pain and I danced around the course. It seduced me with water stops, orange slice stops, Gatorade, etc. I wanted to give in. The temptations were hydrating. The allure had me salivating.

However, I knew relief was only three short miles ahead. And in three miles I would be greeted with a medal and a beer!!! Mmm beer! Please! And it was only three short miles away. Three short miles away after having already covered 23.2 miles!!! Why do I do this to myself? I’m crazy!

I begged my body for merciful forgiveness as I repeated: Only Three More Miles. Only Three More Miles. You Got This. You Got This. Easy. Light. Smooth. Glide. Fly. Flight. Run For Those Who Can’t. Pain Is Temporary. Beer. Beer in Thirty Minutes or Less! Fly.

I convinced myself that not all pain is significant. I focused on the finish and not my legs.

I started to fly.

Or so I thought…

With less than a mile to go I started to focus on my will rather than my physical strength. I was running on empty and enveloped in pain. I wanted to walk so bad! I squinted at my Garmin to see how much more distance I had to cover before I would finish. I was p.o.’d. The Garmin told me I had already run the distance of a marathon. Ugh!

I recall thinking that I must be close. The trouble was I couldn’t see ahead. I saw two or three massive displays of orange balloons. One of them promised to be the finish but I could not decipher which one.

I had a fear of sprinting too early, granny sprints or not, so I maintained my pace.

When I could finally see the finish line I realized I should have started sprinting a quarter-mile before. Hot dammm [bad].

I dug deep, shifted gears, and I ran as hard as I could to the finish. Granny kicked ass! I think.

I crossed that finish line. Hot Dammmm [good].

I was in pain. I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk. Hot Dammmm [bad].

I was overwhelmed with emotion. I PR’d! Stopping to breathe, contact issues , and all! Hot Dammmm [good].

I finished in 3:39:35. An 8:22 pace per mile!!! Hot diggity Dammmm [good].

I missed Boston by 4 minutes and 35 seconds. Had I run 10 seconds faster per mile I would have BQ’d. But I accepted the circumstances. Had I been 100% healthy, I bet I could have celebrated a BQ. Regardless, I PR’d by 11 minutes. That’s something I’m proud of, sick and all!

This was the first race where I finally met pain. I finally met exhaustion. I finally met the wall. They all stink, literally: Pain. Exhaustion. Wall. = PEW. Hot Dammmm [bad]. But I can’t wait to meet them again and crush them. Hot Dammmm [good] J

Thanks for stopping by!!!

Happy Running!!! Happy BQ’ing. Happy Cowbelling, he he he. Happy whatever makes you happy! Just be true to you!

XO

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No, I’m Not A Vegan & Running Army Ten Miler

13 Oct

Hello friends!!!

And happy Monday!

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table going over the past few weeks in my mind. I’m thinking about quite a bit—relationships, to include family and friends, diet, exercise, lifestyle, and work. The list goes on but I’m not interested in boring you with my trivial quandaries. I’m interested in sharing with you the silly dilemmas that I encounter day-to-day, with my running shoes on or off.

New revelation…no, I’m not a vegan

Here’s my newest revelation. There are far more than one, but let’s keep this short. I recently picked up the running novel, Eat & Run, written by Scott Jurek and wow…I love his writing style. Jurek is a literary genius for both the everyday and serious elite runner. No chapter is exempt from his unconventional and idiosyncratic wit. The book evaluates Jurek’s life by virtue of circumstance and reveals the peculiar way that he fell into running—running and veganism. The book illustrates how both running, oh that’s too illusive…I mean ultramarathoning, while also being a vegan can be coupled together in a tale that is motivating, inspirational, and droll.

And there you have it. My big revelation. No. No, I am not a vegan nor would I ever consider it. I like butter, eggs, and cheese! However, I have always leaned more towards being a pescetarian. I like steak, don’t love it. I like chicken but I’m bored of it. I LOVE prosciutto. But if that’s all I LOVE (when it comes to meat), it’d be easy to give it up. I have always had my qualms with poultry and red meat but enjoyed it nonetheless. Now I’m beginning to understand my objection more clearly. First and foremost, (I’m getting a little honest here) it’s difficult for me to digest. It sits in my stomach like a brick. Talk about discomfort! Secondly, the factory farming and animal cruelty our main entrees are subject to is repulsive. When I look at my plate with the deliberately placed garnish and sauce drizzled over the meat and sides I have conflicting thoughts. First, is that the presentation looks delectable and on-point. Mmm. Mmm. Then my conscious seeps in and I question, is this meat from a factory farm? The factory farming industry strives to maximize output while minimizing costs and always at the animals’ expense. My moral conscious goes into a tailspin.

There you have it. I can’t digest the meat easily and I have a moral conscious. Animals shouldn’t be subject to the most unethical and inhumane of practices to assure that business profits remain high. Another truth that we place profits above doing what is right. Sounds like the insurance business…they provide drugs for treatment but drag their heels in the sand over the notion of investing in finding a cure. Why? Perhaps because they fear their profits would cripple. Seriously? Their motto is profits over life/quality of life..?What’s wrong with the world today? Riches shouldn’t be measured by monetary balances at the cost of health. Cancer is far too prominent these days. So riddle me this, why is there still no cure? F*CK Cancer! Find a cure! Could some of the cancers be linked to meat and dairy products? I won’t even get into the discussion of the injection of growth hormones and steroids into our meat and dairy products and its repercussions on our health…ahhhh shoot, to echo Bill Maher’s antics, I just stumbled upon a new new revelation, I love cheese and cheese is dairy. Dang it! How do I protect myself from said hormones and steroids?

Anywho, back to my original new revelation…I have been steering clear of chicken and I have been feeling a lot better and a lot healthier. I have only eaten red meat maybe twice in the past year therefore I don’t have to make a deliberate effort to avoid it…Any GI troubles I have had have been recently minimized. I am finding that I have always favored eating fruit and vegetables over chicken on any given night. My day-to-day staples are pretzels, oatmeal, Quest bars, vegan protein shakes, hummus, tomatoes, avocados, cheese (fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta, and Havarti), and salmon, salmon, salmon. I could live off salmon, sushi, and halibut.

How my new lifestyle harmonizes with my running…

I raced in the Army Ten Miler yesterday, October 12, 2014. I did freaking awesome! I credit my speed and endurance to my newly refined lifestyle. I felt like I was flying during my run. I had no brick in my stomach and I was light on my feet, gliding forward.

I got a bit tired at mile 7 but fought through it. I found my mojo, if you will, at mile 8 when I picked up my speed again. I didn’t dig deep enough when I needed to but like I mentioned above, I am happy with my end result! I fell in love with the participants and the energy of the crowd. I found myself running with an infectiously charismatic group of people that pushed me. I was running with several wounded warriors. Some were wearing one prosthetic leg while others were wearing two. It was reminiscent of Nike ads for Oscar Pistorius. But what was radically different to witness was their courage, discipline, and motivation to do hard things after having done hard things—serving to protect and defend our freedom. It was an inspiring site to see and reminded me to run hard and to run for those that can’t. Because of them, I am humbled.

Waves of exhaustion and excitement carried me across the finish line. I was overjoyed to have run with patrons of the service and been given the opportunity to thank them for serving. The Army Ten Miler, #atm2014, awarded its participants a commemorative coin symbolic of the Army Commemorative Coin Program. However, I was awarded so much more than the coin and a PR finish—I was awarded an opportunity to endure the most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship between me and running. Let me rephrase, me and running this city. The streets and its affectionate solicitude made me fall more in love with each curve, straight away, incline, rolling hill, participant and spectator. I love the run. Yes. But I’m also addicted to the exquisite pain in my lungs and calves. My new diet/lifestyle helped to alleviate a lot of the pain I believe I would have felt otherwise, especially GI… not to mention, I believe it has also helped with my recovery post-race. (without much effort I ran a solid 7 miles todays without any aches or pains)

Scott Jurek says, pain only hurts. And pain, well pain through a means of running makes me feel alive. Living here also makes me feel alive—proof we can do hard things. I am blessed to call this place home for almost one year now.

Are you a #vegan, #vegetarian, #pescetarian? Do tell! How do you fuel your runs?

Thanks for reading!!!

Happy running!

XO

Valgal

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The C Word

6 Sep

Hi friends,

Happy Saturday!

So…there’s a lot going on in my world. There’s also a lot going on in the world of my friends. I’m so blessed and fortunate to have these incredible women and their men in my life. I feel like my life is richer with them in it.

I’ve experienced sorrow, heartache, loss, love, laughter, joy and so much more in the span of the past year (if not every day). When I run, I reflect on these emotions. Sometimes that’s the only reason why I run-to reflect.

Today I ran. It was a hard run. My legs were heavy, like my heart. My heart is still heavy. I was thinking about those who were in my life for a few seasons and those that I know will remain for a lifetime. I was thinking about their individual struggles and how incredible it is that they feel comfortable to share the intimate details with me.

What I’m saying is, shame on me for fixating on the things that don’t really matter. I began to think about what doesn’t matter: being over-analytical, stressing about the what-ifs, worrying about what others think…What does matter is my health, my family’s health, the health of my friends, and everyone’s happiness. Work matters, but doesn’t take the number one slot.

Then I began to think about work. I love my job. Sure I work with difficult people. But why have I allowed these difficult people to overwhelm me with insecurities? I had a eureka moment.

I recently received unfortunate news. A beautiful woman, inside and out, who I call a friend, is faced to cope with the reality that one of her family members has terminal cancer. The worse C word ever. She knows cancer is relentless. The reality is stark. Yet she finds a way to carry her head high and take on the day. Prayers help. And prayers we give.

My point is, I recognize I’ve been fretting about how to compose myself when faced to work with difficult people. The truth is, I should be so lucky to work with said difficult people because they’re not as relentless as cancer. So I curb my tongued.

Momentarily. F*ck you CANCER!!!

We should all take a minute, or a run, to reflect on just how fortunate we truly are. We may be going through a difficult day, or perhaps our darkest of days, but I ask you to reflect and to remember that someone has it worse.

For my friend, I just want to tell you, you are an incredibly courageous, beautiful, independent, smart, sassy and loving friend, daughter, girlfriend and so much more. My heart and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. I will help you in any way I can to stand up against cancer.

I love you.

Find solace and peace in your prayers, in your family, in your friends, and in run.

XO
Valerie

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My First Marathon is Set & It’s A Race Against Cancer

27 Nov

My First Marathon is Set & It's A Race Against Cancer

I am privileged to have my health. I am privileged to run. I am privileged to feel the ache in my legs and the burn in my lungs; therefore, I will run my first marathon on March 15, 2014 as a member of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training to help support the mission to help find cures and more effective treatments for blood cancers.

I run because I can. I know I will get tired while I race the 26.2 mile course but I will hold my head up high and remember the mission. I will remember those who can’t run. I will remember what they would give to have the simple gift of running that I take for granted. And I will run harder for them.

Cancer Sucks.

You can change the world today.

Please make a donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help advance the research for cures.

http://pages.teamintraining.org/nca/rnrusa14/valerietoth

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

XO

Valerie
Runner Girl

Running to Speculate

1 Apr

It’s been one heck of a week, maybe even two. My fiancé and I have found ourselves involved in family obligations, housework, wedding planning commitments among other things. The family obligations never stop and we aren’t complaining. Family comes first. Isn’t it amazing how our priorities change and how much growing up we do in our twenties? I mean I have been twenty-something for a while but wow, twenty-something right now is hitting me hard. And not because it’s an age thing.

I’m noticing that the older I get and yes I hear you exclaiming “twenty something and older” and trying to make sense of that sentence…but anyway, the older I get, I’m noticing this shift between my parents and I, even my grandparents and I. I know that as children, despite our age as twenty-somethings or fifty-somethings, we are our parents’ children and we are our grandparents’ grandchildren. Age plays no precedence within the familial infrastructure, only the role…we will always be titled children, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, mothers, fathers, etc. The roles adapt as we take on more titles, but we are always our parents’ child. End of story.

And that brings me to my point. There’s this shift between my parents and me being twenty-something. Suddenly I’m stricken with worry and anxiety about my parents. Granted I know they worry about me but it’s different nowadays. They know I’m in the best health of my life and they know I have an incredible man who is my rock and hopefully me, his. My parents are confident in my professional endeavors and see that Paul and I are trying to be financially savvy to better our future and prepare (as much as one can prepare) for children in a few years. My parents don’t worry too much about me. They are confident in my path. They know I make the right choices.

It’s not like I worry about my parents because they make the wrong choices. I worry about them as if I were the parent these days because they live and breathe in their business. They don’t turn work off and I sometimes think that could be toxic. They do indulge in some exotic vacations to get away, to tune out and disconnect in an effort to connect to what’s important, and that’s being with one another…But in order for them to do so, they work from sun up to sun up with no rest. That was intentional, sun up to sun up…they work 24/7, no kidding. There is no rest for the wicked! In order for them to go on vacation they bury themselves in work just to make certain when they return, the workload is somewhat manageable. Then it’s back to the grindstone for them. They are always working. I’ve never seen my parents work harder than this in their lives and I’m worried. I don’t want them to work themselves to death. I want them to enjoy the small moments rather than be distracted by the rigorous demands of owning their own business. I want to be able to communicate with my parents without having them have to make time for me, but that is how it is. And I’m proud of them and all they’ve accomplished but I don’t want them to miss out on what is going on around them. I want them to take a step back.

I’m seeing my parents age. Granted they are aging gracefully, they are aging. My parents are getting older and that’s the bottom line. It scares me. I have to face these facts and I don’t like it. I get so emotional. I’m getting older but that shouldn’t mean they are getting older. I’m a logical person but I can’t fathom this truth. I try to cope with the aging process of my parents and family members and it’s difficult. That’s why I turn to running sometimes. I try to cope with it. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be forever young?

Last week my parents informed me that my dad had to have a biopsy. They didn’t want to tell me and held off from telling me for a little over a week. I was outraged! They claimed they didn’t want me to worry or get too emotional. I understood their logic but was still miffed they didn’t share this news with me. I thought I handled it well when I spoke to my dad on the phone about the matter at hand. I was staying strong and supportive. We hung up with each other and suddenly the information started to process. It was just me alone with my thoughts as I was driving home from work and my eyes welted up in tears and I couldn’t stop crying. What was going to happen? I was thinking, this is my father, nothing can happen to him, he’s friggin invincible! I prayed, I prayed and I prayed. I had to go head out for a run. Running is my solitude, my church and where I pray (church, too).

In the middle of my run I began to think, what happens if it is cancer? Then I followed it up with what stage would it be, what would happen to my parents business, what would happen to my mom, has dad told his sisters? I couldn’t stop all my questions. I just kept running and running harder. I was desperate for answers and figured the harder I pushed myself the answers would come. With each stride I worked it out a little bit more. I had to hash out my emotions until I was numb. I kept telling the pavement, I can’t lose my dad. I was beating the pavement with my feet pleading for mercy, when the pavement probably wanted mercy from me.

I recall a song playing through my earbuds that reminded me of my dad and just put me over the top. I’m not talking a sentimental song; I’m talking about a Van Halen song that had me in tears all because Van Halen reminds me of my dad. I mean I was a mess. I was a sweaty, emotional, salty mess. There I was running while holding back tears. It was the first run in a while where I wasn’t running to train for a marathon, I wasn’t running for my physical and heart health; I was just running to manage my emotions and work them out. I couldn’t tell my parents how my heart sank to my feet with the news. I couldn’t let on that I was having a hard time with the news so I just ran… and I continued to run until I felt a little better which was very fleeting.

Finally Friday arrived and we were given great news. Dad will be okay! He needs to get checked every 6 months but he is going to be a-okay. Thank you, God!

But life is kind of a comedy and threw another matter at me. So I keep running. I keep running to face the adversity because I have faith in the Lord above and I have faith in my family and that all things will turn out as they should. Despite the hurt and my heavy, heavy heart, I believe it will all work out. I just need to keep running for my emotional health.

And last night as I was driving home from Easter events, Highway Don’t Care began playing and I just couldn’t help but to notice how much the song resonated with me. It may be a love song but it’s a song that made me think of my mom. And I love my mom. So I started to cry.

“Bet your window’s rolled down and your hair’s pulled back. I bet you have no idea you’re going way too fast. And you’re trying not to think about what went wrong. Trying not to stop til you get where you goin’…The highway won’t dry your tears. The highway don’t need you here. The highway don’t care if you’re coming home…Yeah, I bet you’re bending God’s ear talking about me…”

The song, as beautiful as it was in that moment intensified my emotions making me ache for a run. When I got home, I contemplated changing into my running attire to run my emotions away to guarantee a good night’s sleep. But I had taken pleasure in a glass or two of wine earlier in the day and decided it was best to lay low. I relished in the memories of Easter’s past with my family, days when we were all a little younger; days when I didn’t worry half as much about my parents and it helped revitalize my mood.

But here I am today, recollecting on the past week or two, thinking about what went right, what went wrong, and how much love I have for everyone despite differences, because life is precious and each day is a gift.

I thank the Lord for the strength to get through the thick of things and his faith in me. I thank the Lord for giving me the gift of running.

…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…

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