Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fighting for Life

I think that it is time for me to do a non-race running related blog. As I have said before, my running is directly related to my emotional state. For better or for worse, what I am feeling can be used to fuel my run, or hinder it. I have seen both happen in the last year. A while ago I asked for prayers for my Mom. Around Easter, her health started rapidly declining. She has plateau for the most part, but I will get to that later. Easter was also the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon that I bombed. I know in large part because I was struggling with coming to grips with my Mom. She had a rather severe case of strep in her hand (yes, hand) that made her very ill. For those of you that may be unfamiliar, my Mom was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) about 9 years ago. A month before my wedding, actually. Through those 9 years she has been in remission. My Grandpa (her Dad) had and died from the same CLL. My Uncle (her brother) also has the same CLL.  They say CLL is an acquired disorder, and reports of truly familial cases are exceedingly rare, but I have a VERY real example of how that may not be the case. Mayo is making quite a study on our family and why my Mom and Uncle have it, and my other Uncle and My Aunt don’t. Anyway, her CLL makes it very difficult, sometimes next to impossible, for her body to fight off even minor infections.
After her severe episode around Easter, she ended up spending 40 days in the hospital with low blood cell counts, fevers that would top out around 104F (106 F was the highest). She had blood transfusion after blood transfusion, bag of antibiotic after bag of antibiotic, to try and get the fevers under control. To make a VERY long story short, we are now on a path to raise her counts high enough that she is strong enough to do a bone marrow transplant. Mom has a genetic marker that makes most conventional treatments to control CLL ineffective.  For the first time, I was faced with the very real possibility of losing my Mom. “Expectations (prognosis) How well a patient does depends on the stage of the cancer. About half of patients diagnosed in the early stages of the disease live more than 12 years.”  When my Grandpa was diagnosed (I was in the 4th grade, I believe) they gave him 6 months. He lived for 12. I remember. I remember what happened to his body. How thin the fevers and illnesses made him. So frail. I don’t know if I am strong enough to watch that happen to my Mom. Not enough time in the world will prepare me for the day I have to tell Hayden that Ama went to live with Jesus.
Work may not have been the best place to write this blog, but I need to write it. Mom isn't doing as well as previous testing indicated. The combo of steroids and antibodies that she has been taking since her hospitalization has showed promising count results in her blood tests. After the fevers, she consulted with doctors at the University (of Iowa)  hospitals to get a second opinion. More tests showed that, as I mentioned, she has genetic markers that indicate she would not respond well to treatment of this type of cancer, and that the fact she was in remission for so long was a miracle. They decided to get the ball rolling on a bone marrow transplant, as an option to have waiting after the results of the current therapy is known.

She got the results of her bone marrow biopsy back, and they found 95% cancer cells. You have to have at least 50% healthy cells in order to have a transplant, so she's not even eligible. They told her, "We need to get more aggressive on your treatment. Yesterday."  Those were the words she left me with as we handed off Hayden for the weekend when we left to go to Ohio for AFM. (Hopefully this mascara is as waterproof as they claim!)
As I said, my emotions can fuel my run or destroy my run. How many times did I want to quit during that marathon? I thought it would be so easy to just sit down and quit. It was too hard. My body hurt, I was weak, by the end all the Gu and various fuels were starting to make me sick again. When that part of my brain kept telling me to stop, I had that little voice that kept telling to keep fighting. I wasn’t done yet, keep fighting. I don’t know if I was telling myself that or my Mom that. Maybe simultaneously, I was urging us both. Just putting it out in the universe for us to both keep fighting.  Not that I think for even a moment that my Mom will ever give up, which is exactly what I fed on in those weak moments. Seriously? If she was going to, quite literally, fight tooth and nail to her dying day, I could finish a little marathon.
 In the large scheme of things, yes a race is a small thing, but it isn’t, at least, what it represents, isn’t a small matter. I feel like I have been working up to that race for years.  Even before I started on my weight loss journey. It was all leading to that day, to that fight. To that one decision made time and time again to not give up. Don’t Quit. Keep Fighting. These are my goals, and my dreams and if I don’t fight for them, who will? This is my life that I saving. Its my life that I am fighting for. Am I just going to sit down and give up? Or am I going to trudge on? One step at a time. One foot in front of the other until I reach where I am trying to go. That is what I decided when I finished that marathon. No more sitting down. Its time to start fighting again. I need to because I have a big new goal. One that will push these new boundaries I have discovered. Did you know that if you push hard enough you can redefine your limits and blow past those boundaries? Yep, you can too.
My Mom is one of my very best friends, and I know there will come a day when I have to say good bye and I know that no matter what, whether it is two weeks or 30 years from now, it will be too soon. I don’t want her to be in pain, or sick or suffering, but I am selfish enough that I don’t want to let her go either. I know that day will come. And there is a very good chance that when it does, it will break me. I know that, but I also know that until that day comes we will both fight our own battles for our lives.
Until Next Time, Run On and Be Happy!


  1. I can imagine how hard this post was to write. Thank you for sharing! My mom is fighting breast cancer right now and I get some of those same feelings while running races lately. I think of her pain and how I would take it from her in a hearbeat and I push on for her.

  2. I have to say I think all marathoners and half marathoners go through some moments were sitting down and quitting seem so appealing. Seem so sensible. Sounds like you had a lot of reasons to feel that way, but managed to keep on going. Finishing is winning in my book. Great job.

  3. oh wow, I got the link from Laurie. My heart goes out to you and WOW, such internal strength to forge ahead during the AFM. the marathon has taught me so much about life, to press on when all seems hopeless or pointless.. be strong my friend.