Here’s to health and hair

Who has two thumbs, lots of thick hair, and a sunny disposition because she found out this morning that she is back to her pre-chemo weight?

MEEEEE!

I’m enjoying a healthy snack of raw bell pepper after my workout (in case you were wondering what the weird orange thing sticking out of my mouth is). Getting back in shape feels damn good. Today, I did a 2.6 mile run/walk in the glorious 70-degree “winter” weather. Now, a shower.

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Last Year’s Anger

I haven’t posted in a while, which is probably a good sign that I haven’t thought lately about cancer.

To prompt this entry, I decided to look back at what I was writing this time last year. I had my MRI done mid-February and then an ultrasound a couple weeks later, and I wrote this post after the ultrasound but before my biopsies, on March 8, 2011.

“I just feel so angry that I’m 25 and I have to go through this… I’m angry that I got tested so young and I’m angry that I’m not being stronger.”

I’m struck by my expressions of anger, but what strikes me most is this feeling of being disconnected from the person who wrote that entry. It’s only been a year, and yet I keep saying in my head, “I am not that girl anymore.” When everything was happening, I was hyper-present for it all. The feelings felt deeper, the emotions were stronger, my head was right there, and now… it’s all a blurry vision. Sitting in the chemo suite hooked up to the wires. Prepping for surgery. Hanging out by my parents’ pool, bald. All just silent videos in my head.

Is it weird that I’m kind of saddened by this dulling of memory? By no means do I want to return to last year. But I don’t want to lose the memory or the feelings – the energy of fighting for my life and and focusing on me and knowing I had only one job to do – it kind of made things easier. Now, I’ve got my job, maintaining relationships, cooking, cleaning, deciding what to do on the weekend, making plans, paying bills. Cancer is hard work, but I’m starting to think that life is even harder.

As a side note, I want to share that I did sign up for a 5k race at the end of April and I’m proud to be training for it right now. Working out feels good – I pump myself up by saying, “Body, you betrayed me last year, and now I will run you into submission.” I also signed up for the First Descents program and I’ll be traveling to Colorado in September to rock climb with other young cancer survivors.

The gene-monster will get you!

I follow a lot of Facebook pages related to BRCA and cancer and such. On one page, someone with a BRCA mutation (I assume) posted about how they had a child on the way and they were not going to get the child genetic testing. Instead they were going to focus on “HEALTH and WELLNESS” and not “bombard” the kid with fears of cancer.

I understand the sentiment, and of course no one is pushing to get babies tested… well… no one I’ve come in contact with. I know all too well that it sucks to live life with the fear of cancer hanging constantly overhead.

But here’s what pisses me off. You can focus on “HEALTH and WELLNESS” ’til the cows come home, but that won’t stop the gene. The gene does not care if you run 20 miles every day, eat a strict diet of locally-sourced, organic fruits and vegetables, read Shakespeare, teach Yoga, never breathe contaminated air and never ingest any carcinogens. Until science can definitively say that some environmental factor turns on the gene and we can cut that environmental factor out of our lives, genetic testing is our best tool for survival.

I’m happy for that baby, but I hope that either those parents realize this before their kid turns 25, or science finds that BRCA genes can be repaired by repeated exposure to Hamlet and/or downward-facing dog.

Team Cara

Mush alert: This post is going to be about how awesome my boyfriend is. Not only has he stuck with me through this whole terrible year, offered his encouragement and support, let me cry on his shoulder, and never once complained or acted like it was all too much, he also organized his running friends from college to run the Philadelphia Marathon in my honor and raise money for Young Survival Coalition. If that doesn’t make him the best boyfriend in the world, I don’t know what does.

I’ve finally gotten around to downloading a couple pics from the race, so enjoy.

My amazing friend Liz (left), who ran the half marathon and has also been a great source of support throughout this year.
Will, my bf, rocking all the way to the finish line in his Team Cara shirt.
And finally, the back of the t-shirt, which says "Bisexual Turtles Against Breast Cancer."*

If you’ve never stood at the finish line of a marathon, I suggest you try it. Race finish lines have this awe-inspiring energy to them. There’s usually loud, inspirational music pumping, lots of people cheering for their loved ones and even runners they don’t know, and a sense in the air that something amazing is happening – people are accomplishing amazing feats of strength and endurance that most humans can’t even imagine. To everyone who ran that day, I am so proud and inspired by you! So much so that I may even run a race of my own… some day.

 

*I realize this warrants some explaining. When Will was in college, he and some running teammates found a stuffed, green-and-purple turtle in the trash. They adopted it and named it Change-up, the Bisexual Turtle. Change is the running team’s mascot, and of course he like to kick the crap out of breast cancer.