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Fighting Cancer = Warrior Dash

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On August 20, I participated in the Warrior Dash race in Copper Mountain, Colorado. For those who don’t know what this is, it is actually only a 5K race. What makes it a challenge are the obstacles each participant must face as they go through the race course. I was honored to be able to not only do it, but to do it with my 18 year old son, Jeremy and good friend Karen.

When I signed up for this race late last year, I was excited, but somewhat nervous having never done anything even close to this type of event. I planned on getting in shape for the race by doing boot camp a couple times per week along with my usual training for half marathons. Then in January, 2011 I fell and injured both hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. I could still walk, but boot camp and all forms of weight training were now off the table. Even facing this setback I still planned on doing the race. Slowly my arms et al showed signs of healing, but would they be good enough? I’d do the race no matter what.

Then in late April, I started experiencing pain in my right side. Along with this was just a general malaise. After doing a half marathon the pain faded and I felt better. At the end of May came a 10K and along with the days leading up to it came pain in my left side. But, knowing I can handle race pain and with my son by my side, I decided to do the race. Part way through the race, the pain faded and I was able to finish. However, the next day the pain was back in spades. Time for a trip to the doctor, something I don’t do lightly.

After an exam and x-ray, nothing was found. Must be “gas,” go home and take some gas prevention medicine was what I was told. Surprisingly and coincidently the pain went away. I suddenly felt better than I had for months.

Then another half marathon came along on the last Saturday of June. This time the pain was back on the right side. My son reminded me, the pain seems to go away with the race. So I did the race, and sure enough by mile 4, no more pain. I finished in much better shape than I had the previous year. Sunday, I was tired and a bit sore, but good. Then Monday came and so did pain so severe that I couldn’t focus and could barely think. I had to go back to the doctor only this time I wanted a diagnosis no matter what it was.

After telling their best diagnostician my story and telling him I could “try” to get through the night, he sent me directly to the hospital for a stat CT scan. I was to wait at the hospital until the doctor called. When the phone rang I heard the words that would make anyone’s heart sink. You have enlarged lymph nodes, the radiologist says it looks like Lymphoma, it appears you have cancer. The evening brought tears and fears, but the next day brought out my race persona and the peace of mind that I could not only beat this, but would beat this.

After finally meeting with my oncologist, having 4 surgical procedures in 3 weeks and a myriad of other tests it was time to schedule my first chemo infusion.

Now a new concern, would chemo stop me from doing the Warrior Dash? Not if I could keep it from doing so. So chemo happened on Tuesday, August 16, our Dash wave was at 11:30 a.m. on the 20th.

I met the challenge of the Dash with my son and friend Karen. It took us 1:40, but it was the most amazing 1:40 I have had in a long time. Karen and Jeremy were with me through the whole race. I had race officials who I told that this battle was more than just a race because of my newly diagnosed cancer cheering me on. I had an OMG-orgeous young man help me through an obstacle and I did a race that some thought is crazy in the best of health.

As I look back on the Warrior Dash, I realize it is an analogy for the other battle I have to face - Lymphoma.

I signed up and made the commitment - I have to see it through.

I went into it with those I love and trust.

There will be obstacles that try to defeat me and the ones in the Warrior Dash relate directly to my cancer battle.

Obstacle 1 - Rope climb up a short steep hill - This was having to get out of the initial pit I was thrown into when I heard the preliminary diagnosis. I had to grab the rope and pull myself out.

Obstacle 2 - Hanging Tires - These were all the things that kept slowing me down to get to the final diagnosis. These also represent the surgical procedures and tests I had to go through. But because we were the last ones through and we did it purposefully it was easy to make our way through the swinging tires without getting banged up or waylaid.

Obstacle 3 - Walls and Rails - We had to climb over the waist plus high walls then go under the rails topped with barbed wire (5 each). This is where I told the officials about my “other” battle. They started cheering me on, my son & friend did the same. Here, sometimes you can climb over, but sometimes you are prevented from this by an additional obstacle, so you have to find another way through. Having someone cheer you on be it friend or stranger will help you. Still healing from surgery, having chemo right before the race with the possibility of major side effects was like going over and under this obstacle.

Now a long walk with a slippery slope to get to the next obstacle - What I will be doing with every cycle of chemo. But I still had support, from both strangers and loved ones.

Obstacle 4 - Mud Pit - Fresh dirt was just added and it did it’s best to suck off my shoe, but I stopped, refocused, got my shoe on and enjoyed being cheered through the muck, as my son floated on his back through the pit beside me. Yes, I’ll be getting dirty, side effects will try to suck me down, but if I enjoy the company of others around me, and reach out for help if needed, I’ll get out of the mud so I can keep going.

Obstacle 5 - Bungee Web - This was a large number of bungees stretched across the trail like a very confused spider web. It was on an off-camber slope, that was covered with the mud that fell off of participants. Part way through I got stuck. I didn’t know which way to go to get past all the cords. I couldn’t get my footing. Then a stranger offered his hand and his guidance, and he helped me break free, then he was gone. I realize that there will be times I need to take the hand of someone, maybe even a total stranger to get me through. It’s not being weak, it’s being smart.

Now it was time to pause at the water station. I take what I can get, wash the mud off my water bottle and we are off again. Take what is offered with an open hand and heart, and clean off a bit of the mud to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.

Obstacle 6 - Dark Tube Crawl - It was a culvert filled with rocks and draped in black fabric. This one I didn’t do. I wanted to stay on my feet and not let my legs get scraped and cut on the rocks inside. Even though I know there was light at the end of the tunnel I also know I have to stay on my feet as much as possible.

Obstacle 7 - Plank Walk - Planks were from 4 to 8 inches wide. It was up 45 degrees, down, across, up and then back down 45 degrees with a height of about 10-12 feet. I started with holding on to the plank as I “walked” up it, but when I got to the transition point I realized I had to stand up straight, focus, look ahead, stay balanced and accept a hand if necessary. Everything I know I will have to do through my cancer battle.

Obstacle 8 - Hell’s Hill - Up and across a ski slope with lots of gullies and rocks. My son stayed with me and stopped when I needed, which was at each gully. He pointed out beautiful wildflowers when I needed something else to focus on other than fatigue. The hill will be the cumulation of the next 18 weeks, and even though I am staying focused, I am going to need to have distractions along the way to let my mind and body rest.

Obstacle 9 - Horizontal Cargo Net Crawl - 30 plus feet of cargo net lying 10 feet about the ground and with every move of participants the center of gravity and net tension is changed. I know that every chemo infusion will possibly bring different side effects, but I will have to just keep going, not allowing myself to fall through the holes; and crossing backward is allowed because sometimes going forward backward just allows your to stay stable, because you’ve see where you have already been.

Obstacle 10 - A-frame Drop - Climb 20 feet up wide spaced rungs, climb down 3 feet and then hang and slide 10 feet down the other side to the ground.

Obstacle 11 - A-frame Cargo Net Climb - Climb up and down a 30 foot tall a-frame structure on cargo nets.

Obstacle 12 - A-frame Wall Climb - Using a knotted rope climb up a 30 foot tall a-frame wall then climb down the rungs on the back side.

Obstacles 10-12, I opted out of doing during the race, not because I felt I couldn’t do them, but because I felt at this point I shouldn’t do them out of safety for myself. When battling cancer, even though I’d like to do everything I may normally do, I understand that some of those things are better left for another day when I am physically strong enough to not cause harm. So those 3 obstacles are the ones I will be aiming for next year. I will be stronger and healthy and those obstacles represent the life that will be coming after treatment.

Obstacle 13 - Fire Jump - This was 2 sections of fire 2 feet or so deep completely across the course with flames 2 to 3 feet high. My son and I actually “jogged” toward it because I knew it would take a bit more momentum than a walk to safely traverse the fire. Yes, over the last few weeks and next several months, even though walking is my way, I have had and will have to occasionally run to get the momentum going and keep it going as I fight for my life.

Finally, the finish line came, and we all know what that means. It's time to celebrate and continue to live life to it's fullest no matter what obstacles are thrown in my path.

So, thank you Warrior Dash for teaching me what I need to know to fight cancer and how to live my life as I do so.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Warrior Janet, thanks for the inspiration!
    3575 days ago
  • no profile photo CD785286
    I just wanted to wish you well in your journey you are a star emoticon
    3576 days ago
    Janet, I can only congratulate & keep you in my prayers!!!
    3576 days ago
    OMG - I am a puddle of tears - you are so positive, upbeat, strong, determined and did i say positive ++ without a doubt you have the right attitude that we enable you to do anything - even beating the C word. I can't say thank you enough for your uplifting attitude that you still help others - when God created you Janet - he gave you the best of himself. God bless. emoticon
    3579 days ago
    I've been on vacation and am just getting caught up with my SP friends. I am so glad that you persisted with getting a diagnosis for your pain. Wonderful analogy with the WD - print it out and keep it handy to read again when times get tough. And congrats on finishing the race. You can beat this cancer, one day at a time! (((HUGS)))
    3581 days ago
  • TOOKES519
    I am in complete tears as I read your blog. You are amazing!!!! I have a friend that did the Warrior Dash here in Michigan this year and ended up breaking her ankle, but she wants me to do it with her next year. I told her, no not ever I was scared I couldn't make it through and it would be way to hard for me, but now that I read your blog I may have to change my mind and think of it as you have. I have beat cancer dangit!!!! I certainly make it through this obstacle course.

    Thank you for being an inspiration!!!!

    3582 days ago
  • no profile photo CD318156
    Janet, you know my friend that I have a plethora of prayers headed your way. You are my inspiration. No matter how tough the battle, you do not let it defeat you. Love ya!!!
    3583 days ago

    Still kickin' butt, and takin' names I see... WELL DONE!

    3584 days ago
    Fabulous blog! Amazing! Sending healthy vibes your way!
    3585 days ago
    Thanks for sharing both of your battles -- we're all with you!


    is (SparkGuy)


    3585 days ago
  • MIQUEY73
    emoticon Great lessons and amazing insight!
    3586 days ago
    My Niece did the warrior dash in Indiana this year and she wants to come to my state and do it with me next year... After reading this... I may just find the courage to do it.... Thank you so much and may God and his army be beside you in your couragous fight!
    3587 days ago
  • LAURIE5658
    Janet, there you go again sharing all that inspiration that is you. My dear, YOU are an amazing person and I will not let you forget that!!

    You RAWK!
    3587 days ago
    Warrior Woman!! Wow! Thank you for the words that brought pictures (I felt like I was there watching you all along!) Your perserverance is incredible and inspiring.

    Stubbornly persist, and you will find that the limits of your stubbornness go well beyond the stubbornness of your limits. ~Robert Brault

    You are my hero!! emoticon
    3587 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5826541
    Release the BEAST!!! you are WARRIOR STRONG!!! way to go!
    3587 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3588 days ago
    You are a true warrior and an inspiration. I believe you will be victorious in this battle, and I'll be rooting for you all the way.
    3589 days ago
  • TURNED51
    What a lesson you are teaching all of us that know you. If you can do it and see in your mind then you can make it happen. I'm just thankful that you are taking control and kicking butt.
    Right on sister, I'll help in every way I can.
    Kisses and pennies

    3589 days ago
    You, my virtual friend, are an amazing woman! emoticon
    3589 days ago
    Amazing lessons. You ARE a warrior! Battle on.
    emoticon emoticon
    3589 days ago
    Woohoo a warrior!
    3589 days ago
    Fantastic blog. You are amazing. emoticon
    3589 days ago
    3589 days ago
    You blew me away!!!!

    3589 days ago
    Wow. Just wow.
    I'm doing the WD here in Ohio on 9/10, and I've been nervous...suddenly I'm inspired. Running it for YOU!
    3589 days ago
  • no profile photo CD2801676
    Holy smokes! I have met many people with cancer - but you are one heck of a fighter. Make sure you get in touch with the leukemia and lymphoma society (www.lls.org) for support and you may want to check out www.spokesofhope.org

    I love when people take charge of their cancer and not the other way around.
    3589 days ago
    OMG. You are amazing. I am so impressed, really. I have a daughter (21) with crohns disease. She had a complete anus, rectum and colon removal in feb. One of her treatments put her at risk for Lymphoma. She has the same warrior spirit as you and it is a privelege to watch her eat life up and get all she can out of it. I am especially happy to be seeing the same thing in you. I am humbled by your strength. Wow. (and I do not say that lightly). My best wishes, prayers and energy for you, my dear. Jan
    3589 days ago
    Wow wow wow...I don't know what else to say, except that you will be in my prayers. Wow.
    3589 days ago
  • TERRYT55
    I loved reading this blog......I felt like I was there with you, navigating every obstacle. You are so brave, so positive, so inspiring. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. You are amazing!
    3589 days ago
    Janet, this life is so much better for having you as my friend and mentor. I look forward to being at your side when necessary and the boot in your backside when called for -even when you haven't made the call. I know that you will conquer this - You are a true WARRIOR and I love you! emoticon emoticon
    3590 days ago
  • LINDAJ0621
    Totally awesome spirit! Exactly what will see you emerge victorious from your battle with the big C!!! I am a year and a half cancer survivor and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your warrior heart will get you there!
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3590 days ago
    It brought tears to my eyes. You are a true sparkperson - focused forward!
    I will be sharing this - and I pray that I will find your blog about the Warrior Dash 2012 next year!
    3590 days ago
    You are amazing!
    3590 days ago
    Wow! I'd been wondering where you've been the past few months and I guess that sums it up perfectly. Congrats on getting through those obstacles and continuing to fight your way through the course ahead.
    3590 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4429274
    This may be the most inspired bit of thinking I have read. You are an amazing woman and soon to be one of the most kick-a$$ cancer survivors the world has ever seen.

    You are simply awesome. And others should know about you and your amazing spirit, so I took a few moments and shared your story with others:

    3590 days ago
    PJBONARRIGO - Thank you for your kind words and prayers.
    3590 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this with us, this is one of the most moving things I have ever read. I was so inspired by your story and your courage. God Bless you; I'm praying for your healing and success.
    3590 days ago
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