Today, I ran the Greenlake Gobble 5k. In addition to having another race to keep me off the couch, it also meant something so much more to me. This race occurred near the one year anniversary of my mother's cancer diagnosis. When I ran through the finish line, running it in my best time yet, it solidified that I have a come a long way, emotionally and physically. My emotional journey is directly correlated with the races and miles that I've logged. This past year has been a test of endurance in all aspects of my life.
Last November, I was sitting at my desk, working overtime, when I got the devastating call: the doctors had found a tumor in my mom's liver. I freaked out, and thankfully, I was the last one left in the office, so no one had to witness my meltdown. A few weeks later, tests confirmed that they were cancerous, and by the way they had found a second tumor. Two, stage 4 tumors, would now mark a pivotal point my life: BC (before cancer) and AC (after cancer). Luckily, I was at my house when I got that call, but I fell to my knees sobbing. What was this going to mean? My mom is the most important person in my life. I began fearing the worst and sunk into depression.
I started having anxiety attacks, having to excuse myself from my desk at work so I could hide in the bathroom until they passed. I couldn't control it. I began having horrible problems in my relationship, having to leave Cucina Cucina in the middle of dinner because I couldn't hold it together. I couldn't sleep through the night. I lost interest in things I used to enjoy, including hanging out with my friends. I felt like the world as I knew it was ending with this diagnosis. I did not know how to live my life day to day. The ugly C-word had found out where my family and I lived.
It was time for an intervention. I began seeing a therapist, who suggested, among other things, that I begin engaging in physical activity to release my anger, frustration and stress. I took her advice and ran with it. Literally. I had run a 5k the year before, and after an injury, had completely fallen off the fitness wagon. Any weight I had lost had been gained back. Hello, 160 lbs (I'm 5'4"). Not so nice to see you.
I laced up again, unsure of how successful I would be at first. But this new development gave me a much bigger reason to run. It gave me a reason to take out my fear and anxiety on something else. It gave me a reason to pound the living hell out of the pavement beneath my feet. It gave me a reason to stop taking this news out on myself, start living my life, and support my family.
Seeing her in and out of the hospital over the year has been no easy feat. While we've gotten much better at it as a family, you never want to see your parent or wife hooked up to IVs and heart monitors, drugged up and trying to smile because they want to be strong for you. It's the most heartbreaking thing I've ever gone through. Run run run run. Mile 5. Keep running.
The more miles I began to log, the more I realized how mental running is. If you tell yourself you're tired and you can't do it, you won't. But if you are your own cheerleader, and tell yourself to hang on, and to keep working toward your goal, you will be rewarded. I doubled my mileage from 3 to 6 on my first try. It made me feel strong. It made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to. It made me feel like we could beat cancer.
I started racing, which created a new level of excitement for my new hobby. Today marked my sixth race this year, the longest of them being two 10K's I did over the summer. I am hooked. The adrenaline rush before the gun sounds, the random person in the crowd you dub as your arch enemy and vow to beat, the last burst of energy you didn't think you had as you rush through the finish line (and past your enemy). I live for it. I always think of my mom when I start to feel tired. It keeps me going. If she can go through several invasive treatments and surgeries, in addition to several daily medications, I can pound out these last few miles. Hello 135lbs. Haven't seen you since High School.
Recently, my running buddy, just found out she has the gene that makes her susceptible to getting cancer. The news was awful. Especially since we are still pretty young. But I am happy they caught it now. I'm elated they can even detect a gene like that. She is in the best position she can possibly be in with the knowledge that she has. I hope that it amounts to nothing more than motivation to continue taking care of herself. It is possible that it will never amount to anything. Run run run together.
My mom continues to fight cancer. We are praying that she qualifies to get on the transplant list. Until then, we will wait and create new and fun memories with each other.
Yes, this year has sucked more than any other year of life, but I can't say nothing good came from it. As crazy as it sounds, I've learned more about life in a year because of cancer. I am thankful for each and every lesson I have learned, and am still learning:
- I have learned strength and endurance, even when I want to quit on mile three, and I still have three more to go.
- I have learned to take care of my health (mental and physical), because it is a gift that you only get for so long.
- I have learned what it means to be a good friend, and have realized that there have been times when I have failed at this, myself.
- I have learned patience, even when you've been in the hospital waiting room for eight hours and the procedure still hasn't happened.
- I have learned that it's okay to have a bad day, or a down day, because that's all it is- a day. There's always tomorrow. And you just gotta let it out.
- I have learned where the liver is in the body, in addition to a million medical terms :)
- I have learned that a doctor's advice is only as good as the next appointment.
- I have learned what it means to be hopeful, even when the doctor's tell you it's your last chance.
- I have learned that miracles do happen, even under adverse odds.
- I have learned that if you treat people with kindness, it will be returned to you tenfold.
- I have learned the power of compassion, when people come out of the woodwork to help.
- I have learned the power of words, and how just the right few can make a huge difference.
- I have learned the power of attitude, how your mindset can make or break your outlook on life.
- I have learned what it means to appreciate every waking moment of time you spend with your family and friends.
- I have learned what it means to be thankful.
To everyone who has been there for me and my family during this past year, thank you, a million times over.
Sticks and Stones my break my bones, but being thankful will last a lifetime.
Now it's time to start training for that half marathon :)
Strobe lights were flashing, speakers were bumping, clothing was skimpy, and a scent filled the air that could only come from a cheap smoke machine. Yes, last night, I was inside a club for the first time since my college days. Not only did I feel that my leggings and zebra print tank top were the equivalent to going out in a Snuggie, it also made a 25 year-old woman feel closer to 65.
Re-entering the bar scene has made me realize how easy I had it in college. "Going out" in Bellingham meant putting on your best Boundary Bay sweatshirt, your least-muddy pair of Old Navy flip flops, and going down to The Beaver. You meet up with drinking buddies, sharing free popcorn all night, while yelling at Don the bartender to hurry up with your $2 pitchers of Pabst. You'd leave the place at 2:30 A.M. smelling of deep-fried macaroni and booze, but you left good and hammered, with fuzzy memories of chugging $4 Long Islands. Even at the "dance club" in Bellingham, I was able to get away wearing a hoodie and jeans.
Going out clubbing in Seattle is a whole different story. I thought I was dressed well enough to fit in, but I stick out like a sore thumb amongst members of the Ho Train. Women wear boyshort underwear and bralette's underneath mesh bodysuits. You might fit in if you decide to dress more conservatively in a tight silk dress that pushes your boobs up to your nostrils, topped with a sparkling tiara, of course. What was I thinking going out in cotton?
Drinks are free if you pretend to be interested in the creep who's eye-f***ing you from across the room, otherwise get ready to spend $40 for your slight buzz. Don't worry-I went with my boyfriend so I didn't have to deal with this, but I saw it happening all around me. God forbid if my relationship takes a turn for the worst. So much for trying to be a progressive, independent woman in 2009. Shit.
If the eye-f***ing were visible from an aerial view, it would look like a laser beam alarm system at a museum; several rays of alarm-triggering looks, shooting in every which direction. I kept walking through these gazes, intercepting laser beams of lust, accidentally becoming the laser's new target. But then I'd dodge the beam by ducking behind a 21 year-old that may as well have been wearing tassels. "Forget that girl in the Snuggie!" Attention diverted.
I will admit, the only good thing that happened was the music. Since June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson homages are statistically proven to occur once every five seconds in clubs around the US. If only they would play the Free Willy Theme Song. I might be able to dress up in tassels for that.
If last night taught me anything, it was that I am not comfortable trying to fit in with the young whippersnappers of the millennium. I don't care about the latest fashion trend, or the hippest place that sells purple drinks at the cost of your first born child. I'd rather go hiking for the day, and come back to the Beav and throw back a pitcher of Pabst.
Now it's Friday night, and you know what I'm going to do? Go watch a movie on my laptop and go to bed early. I need to catch up from the sleep I missed out on last night. Don't worry. I'll sleep in late (7:30 am) and go on my morning run. I'm content in my "elderly" ways.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but clubs will never hurt me*.
*stay tuned for injuries I inflict on others inside clubs :o)
Disclaimer: I graduated on the President's List from Western Washington University, and graduated in the top 15th percentile from High School. I have no excuse for the following entry.
I have done and said some pretty stupid things throughout my life. It stems from the fact that there is no filter between my brain and my mouth. If I think it, out it comes. As you can imagine how much trouble a problem like this would cause, it has especially created quite some embarrassment when I've realized that I've believed something that is not correct. I'm a pretty confident person, to the point where I've been accused of being a stubborn, know-it-all (not in my finest hour, of course). So you can only imagine the joy it brings to those who revel in my downfall. Or stupidity. Whatever you want to call it.
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I was hanging out with my younger sister (the one that cusses out children on the street). We were watching "Wheel of Fortune." While my sister was sitting calmly, watching each contestant introduce themselves, I was sitting in awe at the stupidity of this southern woman who was now on the screen.
"We were on vacation, swimmin' down thur wit' dem barracudas...." she drawled on.
"Oh my god." I said rolling my eyes. "They let just anybody on this show."
My sister laughed, thinking I was referring to the "white trash" aura this women was exuding.
"She is such an idiot. A barracuda is a cat!" I exclaimed, proud of my genius superiority.
My sister stopped laughing and looked at me. "Uh...what?"
"You can't go swimming with a barracuda. It's a cat that lives in the jungle. What an idiot!" I laughed arrogantly.
"Um...," my sister wasn't quite sure how to respond. "I thought it was a mean fish, kind of like a piranha?"
"No way! It's a jungle cat."
We began ensuing in a debate that eventually required the mediation of my father, who wasn't quite sure if we were serious when we approached him.
"Hana. A barracuda is not a cat. It's a fish! Didn't you just graduate from college?"
That was my first inkling that perhaps I was wrong. Was I really assigning the term barracuda to the wrong animal for 23 years of my life? I kicked him off the computer so I could google it, and sure enough, a freaky looking fish popped up in place of the black, panther-like cat I was expecting.
"Oh, wow...so you're telling me, this whole time, that song 'Barracuda' was about a fish?"
I'll take my ham sandwich raw, please.
Being the carnivores that we are, my boyfriend and I were discussing different meats one day (Okay. Two weeks ago). Now, I've already explained what a disaster I am in the kitchen. But I'll admit, I have no excuse for what I'm about to reveal.
"You can't eat raw meat, like you can eat raw fish," said my boyfriend. "You can't eat raw chicken, or pork. You can eat partially cooked beef,"
"Well, you can eat raw ham," I responded.
"What?" he asked half-smiling, half-confused by my straight face.
"Well, yeah. You can eat raw ham, like on a sandwich." I didn't even blink.
"Hana, ham and pork are the same thing. You can't eat any of it raw. All lunch meat is cooked." he was cracking up.
"It is?" I began thinking back to the hundreds of sandwiches I've consumed in my life, suddenly coming to the realization that none of them had been bloody hunks of meat...
"Yes! Did you think you just chopped off a piece of a dead pig and threw it on your sandwich?"
"Um...yes." I started laughing now, unsure of why I ever believed raw meat was on our sandwiches.
Anyone want a sandwich for lunch? My treat :)
Jesuits and Jews
Finally, we are on to the final mix-up that inspired me to write this entry in the first place. Yesterday, my boyfriend, roommate and I were discussing colleges. I went to a state school, so private schools and their affiliations are somewhat foreign to me.
"Well Gonzaga is Jesuit," said my roommate.
"Wait...I thought Gonzaga was Catholic?" I said.
My boyfriend and roommate paused and looked at me. I knew some earth-shattering epiphany was about to come on. I am all too used to that look by now.
"Hana, Jesuit is Catholic," said my roommate, with the all-too-familiar half-smile. The half-smile exudes entertainment and pity all at once. It's quite a horrible smile to receive, actually.
"What did you think it meant?" asked my boyfriend, gearing up for the next entertaining response.
"I thought Jesuits were Jews," I said laughing. How was I supposed to know? I'm neither Jewish nor Catholic.
"Seattle University is Jesuit too. Did you think that was a Jewish University?" asked my roommate.
"I just didn't even think about it," I said laughing.
"Man, I swear to god, you dye your hair," said my boyfriend cracking up.
Allow me to be proof that a college degree doesn't mean much in the way of smarts. I can argue sociological theory with you ad nauseum, but I can't tell my animals, meats or religions apart.
Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but it pays to check your facts before opening your mouth.
Recently, I was going through my hope chest where I keep a lot of sentimental items from the past, and found some of the most hilarious things that were, at one point, important to me.
For some, I couldn’t remember why it was there in the first place (okay why did I keep an old pony-tail that was cut off my head at age 12? That was kind of disgusting), while others triggered memories that had been buried for decades (oh yeah- my nickname WAS Big Shoes at Camp Seymour circa 1996. Thanks big, mutant toe). But it made me realize how grateful I am for the friends and family that I have been surrounded with my entire life; the items I found were reason enough to wish you were not associated with me. I was (and still am) a huge nerd, to the millionth degree.
So, to give you an idea of the trinkets and junk that I sifted through, I will go through item by item and show you what a sentimental person I am (or admit to an awful hoarding habit).
Campaign Skit Script:
My best friend in middle school ran for class president. We weren’t exactly the coolest kids in the class, so we thought we’d appeal to the rest of the lame, puberty stricken, voice changing teens out there by creating a skit to attract their vote. This was performed in front of the entire 8th grade.
I was dressed as a fortune teller, but appeared more like a greasy faced boy with braces, dressed in drag, while my best friend sat questioning my psychic abilities. I think I managed to humiliate myself more than I promoted my best friend.
Memorable lines were, “Oh yeah, well if you’re really a fortune teller, what was the last movie I saw?” I responded by torting, “Blue and Deep Impact,” and the finale that was supposed to make her win: “So don’t vote for the popular people. Vote for me, Emily, your average joe!” I laughed so hard reading this. No wonder we weren’t cool. At least I wasn't the only one sitting in the corner at lunch.
My teeth used to be jacked up. No they weren't growing mold. Allow me to explain: I was a chubby, buck-toothed child with vampire teeth, who always had her nose in book and dreamt of being published. Oh well. At least my teeth got fixed.
Before my parents couldn’t bear to look at me anymore, they broke down and paid for braces. Being the festive gal that I am, you could always tell what time of year it was by looking in my mouth- black and orange bands for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, pink and red for Valentines- who needed calendars when you could stare at my big colorful teeth?
Before I became a metal mouth, the orthodontist took a mold of my teeth so I could look back and see his handy work once the three year process was finished. Nice job doc, but my self-esteem still required a therapist. You're welcome for paying off your Audi TT convertible. Bastard.
Attempted sketch book:
I thought I would try my hand in other artistic categories. My sister and mom were always pretty decent artists, so I thought I’d try to draw. I should have stuck to writing and playing music. I drew in a sketch book that when I look in now, I would have thought it belonged to a blind, paraplegic girl who draws with her mouth. When I saw the sketch titled Self-Portrait I yelled,“I DREW MYSELF AS MEG FROM FAMILY GUY!” All I needed was the hat, and I was on my way to being the hated daughter of a quirky cartoon family. My teen sister even got a good guffaw out of that one. Thank you everyone for loving me anyway.
Hanson concert ticket:
Because I wasn’t awkward enough, I was absolutely obsessed with Hanson. Every square inch of my bedroom was plastered with one of the blond, feminine-looking boys that I actually dreamed of marrying.
This also fueled rumors of me being a lesbian in 8th grade, after placing a trick love note on the desk of a much-hated classmate. She discovered who it was, and there went my reputation. Hanson was just supporting evidence.
I still went to that concert with my sister, and decided that my obsession was best kept in the family. And okay- the first song I learned to play on guitar was Mmmbop. And yes, I did play this song on the guitar for a skit for Spanish class in college (what's with me and skits?). Crap, this is turning into a tell-all exposé. This is going to need to stop here.
So now that you have a great idea of the nerd that I started out as, you can feel better about yourselves. While my music taste has drastically improved, the nerdery has only gotten worse. Midnight showing of New Moon, anyone?
Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but don’t be ashamed to be yourself :)
"Hold me, like the river Jordan, and I will come say to thee, you are my friiieeeeeeennd," I was bopping along to the Free Willy Theme Song, hoping that the louder I belted it, the closer I was to transforming into a superstar, if not Michael or Janet themselves. It was the summer of '93, and all I could do was sing about this damn whale.
Lucky for me, my best friends, who were my neighbors, were equally obsessed with the tune. We all vied to be adopted by the Jackson's. We didn't care if Joe beat us--we just wanted to be famous.
We decided to form our own club, SKK, which were the initials of our last names. We ripped the idea off of SWV, but their acronym was way cooler than ours: Sisters With Voices. I love you, 1993.
That summer, my parents decided to landscape the yard of our suburban home, transforming it from greenbelt jungle to grassy knoll (note the foreshadowing). While the jungle had been a blast (we had trails going to secret hideouts), the transformation turned into an adventure all its own.
The landscapers were using a CAT bulldozer to move the land, which was usually parked on a trailer at the bottom of our yard when it was not in use. While the CAT was hard at work, we claimed this trailer for SKK's Club House. Club meetings were actually code for concert: we spent the meetings with our boom box blaring MJ or Janet, while we tried to sing over them in hopes of being discovered by a random passerby who happened to be a talent scout.
Needless to say, this was an idiotic hope, being as there were no such things as random passersby in our neighborhood. You got stared down if you weren't recognized. At least, you were supposed to be, according to the Neighborhood Watch signs posted at the entrance of our street. Apparently those weren't enough to deter the burglar that broke into my parents house and stole pennies, a necklace and my mom's underwear. Yikes.
The trailer show went on. "In our darkest hour, in my deepest despair, will you still care? Will you still be there?" We didn't even know what we were singing. This was also followed by "If I was your girl, oh the things I'd do to you!" I wanted to be just like Janet.
We performed like this for several hours a day, in hopes that if we weren't being discovered, someone would at least come watch the concert. They didn't. We thought more people liked the Jackson's. Turned out we were right. They just didn't like us singing the Jackson's.
Because no one was falling for our trailer-stage gimmick, we thought we needed something more to attract an audience. All amazing concerts had an elaborate stage set-up right? We just needed to decorate our stage.
"We need a lot of construction paper and glitter," said my neighbor.
"Of course! Let's go ask our parents if we can go to the store," I replied.
But we got denied. Our parents refused to fork over the cash that was to be the catalyst for our rise to stardom. I was crushed. At that moment, I vowed that once I was famous, I would write a song about how they took no part in my success and were in fact the reason I was addicted to heroin. Okay I probably didn't get what heroin was quite yet. They'd be the reason I was smoking unfiltered cigarettes.
But then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. "Wait a minute- what if we went around the neighborhood and got money from our neighbors for decorations?"
"Yeah! But what are we going to tell them it's for?" asked my friend.
"Let's just say we're asking for donations for the poor. We are poor right? It's not lying."
I was a genius.
We trekked up the street and rang the first doorbell we saw, "Hiiii," we said in unison, smiling innocently.
"Hi...?" said my neighbor, wondering why the annoying, Jackson-wannabes were at his doorstep.
"We're collecting money for the poor. Would you like to donate today?"
"Um...how much are you collecting?" Are you kidding me? No questions asked!
"Whatever you're willing to give. Like a dollar, or even change. They'll take whatever they can get."
He came back with dime, and we were onto the next house. This was easier than we thought. No house turned us down. We went up and down my street and by the time we were done, we had a mixture of change and a one dollar bill that added up to $6.
"Yes! This should be enough to buy construction paper and glitter!"
We bee bopped back to my parents house and threw open the door and proclaimed, "We have money now! Can you take us to the store?"
My parents were appalled. "Where did you get that?"
My little sister chimed in, "They went around begging the neeeeiiighbors!" and flashed her mischievous grin that is to this day, her trademark.
"What?! You better go return that money right now! You tell those neighbors, what you did. Return every. last. penny!" This was the prelude to being grounded for a very long time.
Grrr!! How could a six year-old bring down an entertainment empire just like that? We trudged back up the street with chips on our naive shoulders. Note to self: mention little sister in the heroin song. Wait a minute. The heroin song! That was it!
"Stop everyone! We could just blame our mother's! It's their fault right?"
We were all in agreement.
Ding dong! went the doorbell.
"Hi! It's us again. Sorry, but our mother's wouldn't let us donate today. But thank you for your contribution!"
Our neighbors were really confused why we kept bothering them that afternoon, but we didn't care. We still looked good. Our parents didn't. Crisis averted.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but blaming your parents solves everything. And makes for a good song later.