Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Evaluation of Goals

Thinking about the fact that we are entering the 5th month of 2009 and trying to plan out another brain surgery which has been recommended by all my specialists (3 spread out over 3 states), I am looking at my goal list and re-evaluating where I am at.

Let's see......I am completed with goal 4 which was to climb the Columbia Tower and raise $100 for blood cancers. I actually exceeded my goal by more than 100% (thanks to the kindness of charitable friends). I am also nearly complete with goal 5 which I will hit this weekend (run a half marathon and to raise $5000 for NF2. I am only $43 from my fundraising goal!).

So those were my huge athletic pursuits. The others entail maintenance, lifestyle changes, pursuing interests, and organization (a HUGE one that I often feel I only make a barely noticable dent in). So let's take a look at how I am doing with those.

I have been keeping up pretty much goals 7 and 8 (blog weekly and wake early - still working on getting to bed at 10 pm!)Goal 7 is to lose 7 lbs. The reason for this is that I picked up some flab I was unhappy with over the last year and also that I plan out to be a specific weight where it would be okay to gain or lose 10 pounds if I go to surgery again (last time I was sick and could not eat but then afterward the steroids made me very hungry at times and encouraged unhealthy cravings).I am about 2-3 pounds from my weight loss goal but I have not intended to focus on that while I am training for the half marathon. I am pretty comfortable with it and confident I will achieve what I set to accomplish when I turn my focus toward the goal after the marathon (revisiting the South Beach diet after many years because I need to cut out my sugar intake - studies say it encourages tumor growth - and I need my blood chemistry in perfect harmony so that I can maximize my energy). The South Beach is the means to get there.

The reading is going well but as I had mentioned earlier, sometimes goals change. I have only completed one of the original books selected for this year's list "The Secret" and have taken interest in new books and books I had not finished in the past.

One day while trying to find something else on the shelf, I ended up pulling out the book "How to Think Like a Millionaire" and was particularily drawn to it. It seemed a sign that I pulled it out of an odd place when looking for something entirely different. I did not even know we had the book. So I took it as a sign that it fell into my hands for a reason and satisfied my curiosity by reading it. It is fantastic and one that I did not want to end but fortunately it recommends many other inspiring books with similiar content.

I have a few small daily affirmation books that I read too. In order to relax before going to bed and get a "warm fuzzy" feeling, I sometimes read a story or 2 out of "Chicken Soup for the Woman'S Soul" that I neglected to finish back in 2006 when I felt well enough to start taking ASL classes again. I was so busy trying to rebuild my memorization and cognitive skills that the book became buried in one of my cabinets.

During that year 2006, I never finished reading the South Beach diet book either as I had become busy and distracted with other things. The material is great and not really a diet book (I do not believe in diets) and is based on sound science which makes sense. If the rest of the country opened up to the knowledge offered in South Beach, we would have a much healthier and happy country!

Finally, I just could not resist Michael J Fox's new book "Always Looking Up; The adventures of in incurable optimist". I stumbled upon his first book "Lucky Man" when I was really enduring a difficult time with my first recovery and major life altering changes following radiosurgery. I cannot adequately describe to you how much that book resonated with me and at that specific time. My situation seemed really bleak and hopeless and I was getting worn down/emotionally drained of waiting for things to change. His book helped me to see and appreciate things from a different perspective. It is one of those books that I just did not want to end. So as you can imagine, I was totally overjoyed to read in the Costco magazine how he wrote another which was available at all Costco stores. I had to go out and buy it!

I was going to wait to read it until I finished other books and read some of the others on the list, but I could not resist opening it to read the front cover. From there, I was drown to the Foreward and Introduction and I just could not help myself to keep going! Harley can't believe I am about 3/4 of the way through it already!

The book has different content than the first but is relevant. It is definitely a look into the next phase of life which is also where I am heading. So it is interesting that it came at this time and I am learning some new things which are helpful to me.

After all those books are finished, I think I am ready to delve into one of Lance's books titled "It's Not About the Bike". I have a feeling that it is something I should read at this point and will help me keep focused and positive which I really need right now.

Goal 6 I have not made a dent in as I have been concentrating on the half marathon training. I wanted to get in 20-30 dives for the year and had planned to start diving again the rest of the year after this weekend's marathon. However, I am in a situation where my surgeon would prefer me to get surgery sooner than later. I was hoping for fall but it did not sound like he is too keen on that idea.

Given that I can only dive with Harley one time a week and with my challenges I cannot just go out and dive with anyone whenever I want, that severely limits the number of dives I can get in. Further, if I were to get surgery sooner (this spring or early summer) that just blows the whole season and I would not be able to dive again until the weather turns cold again (which is an issue because I have Raynard's syndrome- loose blood circulation in my fingers) and I have trouble with getting cold easily now even though I am in a drysuit.

So the only way I see where I may be able to POSSIBLY get in 20 dives this year is to delay surgery as long as possible into August and take a dive vacation before surgery this summer (on a dive trip 2-3 dives are offered a day every day).

The remaining goals all have to do with organization and home improvement. With surgery necessary within the next few months, the only way I can half accomplish them is if I can recruit some help.

P.S. - It is really helpful to have your goals written down where you see them everyday. Glance at it often to remind yourself of what you want to set out to achieve and then ask yourself daily if you are taking the steps to reach your goals. If you are not, why not? Do you need to rewrite the goals to make them more attainable or is it that you just need to prioritize yourself more (less playing on facebook?). ;+)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Swarner it with Lancitude!

As I completed my second and last 12 mile training run for the half marathon, the hot sun beat down on me and glared in my eyes teasing me to quit. "It is too hot, there is too much glare, my muscles are tired," were the echoes of my inner voice. Without the ability to keep fired up with a good song playing on an ipod (I have total deafness), it really becomes a mental challenge to keep the body going.

I reflected on 2 endurance athletes/survivors who endured greater challenges and kept "in the game". These people defied insurmountable odds....true champions: Sean Swarner and Lance Armstrong.

Approaching the last 2 miles (which is the real test to keep going), I pondered their philosophies, motivations, attitudes, the good they set out to do, and what they strive to represent. As I mulled over these ideas in search of the inspiration to keep running, I came up with the new motto "Swarner it with Lancitude".

Let me explain:

"Swarner it"
- Sean Swarner, founder of the Cancer Climber Association (www.cancerclimber.org) is the first cancer survivor to summit Mt. Everest. And he did not stop there. He continued until he reached the highest summit of EVERY continent in the world! Further, he overcame his own adversity by accomplishing the feat with a partial lung! Can you imagine?

He had a good excuse to say "I can't" but instead he said "I will"!

What stuck out most in my mind is Sean's final climb in 2007 on our own continent....Denali in Alaska. When climbing at such altitudes, one does not have a lot of control over the weather conditions. On his first 2 attempts, the weather beat down hard on he and his team making an ascent just too dangerous!

Discouraged and disappointed he may have let down cancer patients and people counting on him, he vowed to stay at the mountain and not return home until he reached the summit. On his third ascent, I recall him describing his heels as raw "bloody stumps" but he was not about to back down...No siree! He kept right on a climbing until he conquered that mountain, carrying his flag with the names of cancer patients to the top. Sean's motto and words of wisdom on the autographed picture I have sitting on my desk I always hold dear, "No matter what your goal, never lose sight, never lose focus, and always Keep Climbing!"

To see a fabulous video featuring Sean and footage from his climb, visit the following youtube link:

- What can I say? Lance Armstrong just lets nothing stop him! He truly knows how to "Live Strong". True that he was born with an incredible physiology which has enabled him to become the Tour de France world champion (and even he will admit that). But when it comes to cancer, it is all about attitude. He did not have it easy either. What started below the belt, spread all the way to his brain! Brain cancer is a tough one....the odds are not exactly favorable in the arena of cancer. But he did not let that stop him..no way! After completion of his treatment, he came back to win the Tour de France again! Now that is determination and an incredible attitude or perseverence!

So did I finish the run? Yup! 12 miles in roughly 1 hour 57-58 minutes.

Easter week I completed my highest week of mileage in the 4 months of training at 28 miles. I even ran Saturday morning while on vacation at the beach in Pacific City, Oregon...in high winds and drizzle/showers!

I have begun my taper now as the half marathon is next weekend, May 3rd. Last week I cut back to 22 miles and this week I will be cutting all the way back to 18!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today I am Grateful for Life!

As I enjoyed my very satisfying peanut butter banana english muffin during breakfast, I admired the stunning beauty of Jake's coat glistening in the morning sun. Like a champion, he stood erect with a stature and musculature to admire.

I reflected on how important a role our dogs (Katie and Jake) play in our lives. They have gotten us through some tough times and I am incredibly blessed to have them. Further, they bring much joy to our hearts! What would the world be like without them?

Suddenly, it flashed before me of what an incredible gift animals bring to the world. Even if you are not a pet owner or even an "animal lover", I think you would be hard pressed to say that an animal has never brought even the faintest glimpse of joy to your life. Ever been fascinated at an aquarium, zoo, or by wildlife out in their element? If you absolutely cannot recall any moment of exhiliration on seeing such a sight, then I would say you are missing out on one of the greatest wonders of life!

Thinking a bit further, I absorbed the warmth and peace of the sunny calm of the morning and all the life bursting forth in the trees, grass, and other plant life. Spring is my favorite season as I love watching new life becoming annew again. It brings optimism and hope to my life.

How blessed are we to be granted these incredible gifts of creation! I am extremely grateful to recognize the beauty that God has bestowed upon us and that I am able to be open to the enhancement they bring to my life! It is freeing to fully allow such joy into my heart even in the midst of an uncertain future with in incurable condition and growing brain tumors. In these special moments, I am able to put all that grief and worry aside, and savor what life has to offer.

I hope you find it too, for that is my wish and blessing for you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pay it Forward

Okay, not sure if I am doing this right but here are the instructions I was given from Olivia, the fabulous running mommy with NF2. Here is her post:

Monday, March 16, 2009
Pay it Forward... again...

Ok so apparently I suck at doing a giveaway contest! I should have posted it as it's own post instead of hidden at the end of a long post. SO...

The first 3 people to leave a comment on this post will receive a gift (possibly handmade) from me during this year. When and what will be a surprise. There's a small catch though...post this same thing on your own blog and then come back and leave a comment telling me you're in, along with a link!

Remember, only the first 3 comments receive the gift!
Thanks Pris for posting this, no tag backs!

So I guess whoever the 3 people who comment, I have to make you something! LOL Hmmn...what will it be and who will it be?????

Here is the original post from Olivia that I commented on:
I Can See Clearly Now

My comment:

"I am still struggling with double vision which is intermittent. It is so frustrating and I have not gotten a good answer for it yet. It has been happening since my surgery in sept 2007. I basically have it everyday but not all day. It is a guarantee when I run. It happens within 10-15 minutes. I see 2 people 20 feet in front of me when there is actually only one. Sometimes it happens when I drive and to see normally I have to tilt my head back with my nose in the air and look at the road in front of me that way. Doesn't that just suck?

When I had my appointment in September and was not given a good answer why it was happening and that it was here to stay I cried. It was really stressing me out. I miss being able to see normal and just look out at the horizon without needing to cover an eye.

A couple years ago, I had an MRI done which included the optical orbits. It showed no tumors on my optic nerves. At that time, I was having papilledema (swelling of the optic nerves) from the large VS tumor which compressed my brainstem after cyberknife.

After surgery in 2007, the papilledema was relieved but then I started having this dang double vision problem. It is not a consistent constant and that is why prism glasses will not work. They can't get a proper prescription and an improper one can ruin your vision and make things worse.

This is one of the side effects of NF2 that is a real bite in the ass! I have nystagmus and oscillopsia too.

I miss having perfect normal vision. :o("

April 14, 2009 6:19 PM

The "REIF Team" at the top

REIF team pictured next to a replica of the tower: Matt Steel founder/owner of REIF - Real Estate Investment Firm; REIF agent Harley Dufek (AKA the "Foreclosure Guy"); and Rebecca Dufek, 16 year blood cancer survivor - Hodgkins's Lymphoma, former Team in Training participant for the LLS, current brain tumor survivor living with NF2, and REIF team movtivator

Thank you to all our sponsors of the 2009 Big Climb. Your contributions will make a definite difference in the lives of those living with blood cancer and those currently being diagnosed. Donations will be used for patient education about the disease and treatments, support programs of how to cope, financial assistance for those unable to pay for necessary treatments, and research into finding a cure for ALL blood cancers.

There were 6000 participants in the climb this year and at the time of the event at least a half million had been raised. A final tally will be totalled at the end of the month when the last contributions have been recieved.

Thanks again for your generous support and to the LLS to the LLS for putting together such a fine event!

Rebecca & Harley rise to the top!

On March 22nd Harley and I and his coworker Matt, all raced to the top of the Columbia Tower in Seattle in the Big Climb for Leukemia (and a cure for other blood cancers) benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Unfortunately, I do not know my exact time even though I entered the racing category and wore a timing chip. As this was my first time out of 3 years that I particpated with the racing group, I was not quite familiar with the timing chip protocal. I had assumed once I reached the top it would shut off. Seeing I thought the "chip" would keep track of time for me, I did not pay any attention to timing myself with my own watch.

In my excitement of reaching the top and wanting to cheer on Harley coming up the stairwell and get a good photo of him, I turned around after crossing the doorway to the observation deck and waited at the top of the stairs for him.

Roughly 2-3 minutes passed by before he appeared. When he reached the top and we entered the observation deck, he informed me about where to turn in the chip and asked me if I had swiped it somewhere I was supposed to in order to shut my timer off. LOL I had no idea so apparently it was still going!

When they came out with the preliminary results and posted them, I was disappointed and baffled that my time was listed as 14:20. I just could not figure it out as I did not feel I went any slower than my training pace and I started out and ended faster. In my training pace, I climbed 69 floors in about 11:26. Granted there was elevation gain in the tower compared to the stairmaster but I really did not feel that really hindered me. My lungs are in shape from my half marathon training. So I was truly puzzled.

Then before we left, Harley's time was finally posted as 14:26...only 6 seconds behind me! As I mentioned earlier, I had finished a few minutes before him so obviously my time kept running until we turned in our chips when he finished. Taking that into account, my time should be roughly similiar to practice (11:26).

I guess I know for next year, eh?

The next day when they published the times on the website, I have no idea what happened as the times for Harley and I were completely wrong while Matt's was the same. I started before Harley and finished before him but my time reflected I was the slowest on our 3 person team with a time of 20 minutes!

Oh well! The time did not matter and was not the focus anyway. The whole point was to support a good cause while having fun doing it. Secondly, the physical exertion was a reminder of how our brief 15-20 minutes of exhaustion, pales in comparision to the hours, days, months, and even years of suffering cancer patients endure while waiting for a remission and cure. While we recieved instant gratification and satisfaction within minutes, patients spend 100+ minutes of time waiting for theirs (and for some, it never happens).

As the three of us put our all into climbing the 1311 stairs of the tower and gasping for air, we reflected on how easy the task really was and how soon it would be over. While I have "been there and done that" as a former blood cancer patient, it was an "epiphany" moment for Harley and Matt....one that was very reflective, empowering, meaningful and will forever leave a mark on their lives. For me, it served as a reminder of what I have been through, my perseverence, what my grandfather endured in his final years battling myeloma, what friends with blood cancer still fight, and not to give up as life is worth fighting for.

Keep climbing!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"I can see clearly now the rain has gone.....Gonna be a bright, bright sun shiny day!"

Spring has sprung and I am back on track with full training again! Monday I had an appointment with the Sports Medicine Clinic in Seattle and had an absolutely fantastic appointment with Dr. Rothmier who served as a team physician for the Kirkland half marathon. He was referred to me by my wonderful primary care physician and supporter Dr. Sam Taagen at NW Hospital in north Seattle.

As you may recall, I have been dealing with some injuries nearly the whole month of March. I had a nagging hip pain begin after a 10 mile run on March 7th which became exacerbated when I ran 5 miles the next day. As a result, I took 6 days completely off of running entirely before running another 10. Even with the long rest and a cut back in training days, the pain kept coming back and I had to seek pain medication during the last week of March as the pain was becoming so intense it affected my ability to walk and use the stairs in the house.

Dr. Taagen prescribed me piroxicam which were worked great (it is a generic form of celebrex) and suggested I see Dr. Rothmier if the pain continued. With a month left before the marathon, I decided it best to get checked out now instead of later when it may be too late and the problem causes me to miss my event.

Based on my history of chemotherapy for cancer, prolonged steroid use due to NF2, my imbalance, and the number of falls that I have taken over the past few years, Dr. Rothmier wanted to see me right away which I had no objections to. Apparently, the chemotherapy and steroids can cause early hip disease as well as bone density loss (I bone density test back in 2005 or 2007 and fortunately I am in good shape!). We also wanted to check and ensure I did not have a stress fracture which concerned me as it is can be likely with the falls and running into things that I have experienced.

We took xrays and fortunately it is all good! The problem is most likely caused by the tendon which connects the gluteus maximus muscle to the hip joint. It is called the IT band and it is common for it to become inflamed among runners. Further, running down hill can aggravate this area and the day it happened, I was indeed covering a hill going up continuously for 2 miles and back down for another 2.

So the good news is that I am okay and can continue running and see my event through which is pretty important to me. I am happy that it is nothing serious. The last thing I need is to have a hip replacement surgery in my 30s to add to everything else I have been through and continue to deal with!

I have cut back on the pain medication too and only take it as needed or after long runs (10-12 miles).

On my last 3 runs, I finally ran in the sun for a change! It got up to 68 degrees yesterday and I was overheating in a running skort and sports tank! As a result of the warmer weather, my feet also got hot and my beginner's luck ran out in my new shoes as the front balls of my feet, the outside of my big toes, and the tip of my second biggest toes all became blistered under the hard calluses that have developed. The blisters are gone today and just hard callused skin remains (this is my day off from running). Tomorrow I am shooting for my 12 mile run as we will be traveling out of town over the weekend.

So 2 more runs for the week (12 tomorrow and 4 friday morning) and it will be time to taper back in my training schedule as the marathon is growing nearer. Last week was the first full training schedule of runs I have completed since the first week of March. I ran between 24-26 miles and did pretty well (new shoes, rain, and recovering hip pain). We will see how my feet fair tomorrow. It is supposed to be cooler again with showers.

I have lots more to update you on (showshoeing, tower climb, photos, and propolis) but right now I need to prepare for the weekend and get everything ready. So if I do not have a chance to write again, have a wonderful holiday weekend and happy spring too!