Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Marathon Monday Memories&More

On Sunday, 53,000 runners participated in the NYC marathon! With yesterday being Marathon Monday, my Facebook feed was filled with lots of NYC marathon photos and stories. I spent a lot of time enjoying the pictures of many of my running friends.

As I was still browsing through my friend's photos and posts this morning, some of
my marathon photos popped up from my FB memories from 2015.

The first photo was taken very early (like 5 am!) on the morning of November 1, 2015, near Central Park in NYC. I was waiting to board my team bus for the ride to Staten Island to wait for the start of the New York City Marathon.





The next photos were taken while excitedly waiting for the start of the marathon!







































Sadly, not only did I DNF this marathon, but it was my last marathon to date. It could also be my last marathon EVER. And yes, this makes me a little sad.

Since we are talking marathons, let me say that a considerable part of what has made running marathons (and shorter races) so special for me over the years has been running them in support of an amazing Camp. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1988 by Paul Newman to give every child – no matter their illness – the chance to “raise a little hell.” Through a variety of year-round programs offered onsite, in hospitals and clinics, and right in camper homes and communities, we serve more than 20,000 seriously ill children and family members each year.


While living in Connecticut, Camp became not only a passion of mine but of other Robbin's family members as well!





Alex and Conor made this sign for my first marathon for Camp! 


















Alex ran her first half marathon in The Hamptons, and raised money for Camp for her 16th Birthday! I also ran the Hamptons Half, but she finished WAY ahead of me! In fact, Alex came in first in her age group!! She later ran other races, including another half marathon for HITWGC! 





Conor decided to run his first 5k for Camp! He informed us afterward that it was fun, but he didn't think he would want to do it again!





I was so proud of Conor and Alex for running and fundraising for the kids!



Hubby Ray definitely showed his support of me and my fundraising efforts, also! At my request, he put together a fantastic band, Sundance Kidz, and did fundraisers for Camp! These guys put so much time, energy, and love into some entertaining events for the kids! We raised a lot of $$$$ for the kids! Oh, and the band was fabulous!!





And now, my son Nick is planning to run his first marathon for Camp! Nick lives in Boston and has done a few 5k's, and a couple of 10k's over the years, but he has never done long-distance running. Football was his thing! He started playing at age 6 and played all through high school and college. He also played other sports over the years but was never really into running. He has recently started running though, has lost weight, and is ready to start on this new adventure into marathoning! I was brought to tears when he told me what he was planning!

Below is from a recent post on Nick's Facebook page-

Prior to my mother's battle with cancer, she ran marathons and raised money for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. It's a camp started by Paul Newman that is for kids battling cancer and other serious illnesses. It gives kids a chance to have fun and be kids during the toughest battle of their lives. Since my mother's last day of chemo she has been talking about wanting to run marathons for this camp, but she hasn't been able to train like she used to. This past weekend I was able to finally talk Pamela McCurry Robbins out of running another marathon... I just had to assure her that there would be a Robbins running for The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp next year. #WelcomeToMyNextChapter #TheBigAppleDoesntFallFarFromTheTree #NYC2020 #TimeToTrain #FundraisingBeginsJanuary2020

I jokingly told Ray that Nick has always worried about me running marathons, and I guess this proves that he will do anything to keep me from signing up for another one!! I won't go into all of the reasons for the worry, but the time I almost died from hyponatremia after receiving my medal is definitely on that list! And now, there are the lingering health issues from going through breast cancer and the subsequent treatments that I guess might be cause for concern. 

Anyway, all I can say is that I am so proud of Nick on so many levels for making this decision! He has had a very rough year, and for him to make this commitment now, just shows me how strong and compassionate he is. I can't wait to see him cross that finish line in NYC in 2020!! 

Me and Nick-Peachtree Road Race 10k 2018


But just to clarify, I haven't given up on running myself. I have simply given myself permission to focus on my overall health. I am concentrating on becoming a runner again. Period. Not a marathoner. A runner. 

PS. Nick, I know I can contribute a lot of tips and advice to help you with your marathon training. 

Tip #1- Do not attempt to run a marathon with just under eight miles as your longest run during training. 

Even if you do finish and get that darn medal. You will hurt. You will hurt for a long time!

For today's post, I have linked up to KookyRunner and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics! Check out their posts!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Test Results, Stress and Exercise

Hey, Y'all!

I mentioned in a previous post, which you can check out here- that I was waiting for biopsy results from the two tiny spots that were seen on my recent CT scan. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I got the call from my doctor with the results.

Those results showed no sign of malignancy! Yay! Great news! So, we are done, right??? Well, NO. Apparently, the doctor was only able to get a sample from one of the two tiny spots. So what about that second spot?

When I had the CT scan done, the radiologist suggested possibly doing a PETscan as a follow-up, but Dr. Saker said that he didn't want to do one because the areas with a lot of scar tissue would be lighting up all over the place and possibly causing concerns over nothing. He chose to do an ultrasound and biopsy instead. Now, however, he said that he wanted me to go ahead and have a PETscan done. Just to be on the safe side and to put my mind at rest.

I had been getting my test and scan results over the phone, but I was told I would have to go into Dr. Saker's office for the PETscan results.

It turned out that I couldn't get an appointment with Dr. Saker until the following week. So, another weekend to get through without knowing. That just wouldn't do. Wait, they post the results on the patient portal, right?? Should I try to decipher the online results? All of that medical speak?? That would probably be a stupid thing to do, right??

SO,  OBVIOUSLY, I READ THE RESULTS ONLINE

Looking back, that was NOT a good idea! After spending awhile staring at the document that said, "Discrete Results," I decided it was bad. Really bad. I spent the weekend trying to act normal because I wasn't going to say anything about reading the results before seeing Dr. Saker. I mean, I didn't really know what all of the jargon meant. So I kept quiet. I took a Xanax.

Ray went in with me for my appointment. Dr. Saker entered the room and said, "Pam, first of all, there is no bad news! Only I have to qualify that. We still don't know exactly what the little spot is. There is no evidence of metastatic disease. All major organs are clear, as well as the breast area where the mastectomy was performed."

So, I guess my medical-jargon deciphering skills leave a bit to be desired! Whew!! Anyway, Dr. Saker said that we could just do nothing since he really didn't think there was anything to worry about. He said that another option would be to see a surgeon for his opinion. Since my surgeon had recently retired, he said that even if the surgeon said we should just keep an eye on the spot and do nothing at this time, I would at least have met a new surgeon in case I needed one at a later time. So, it was decided. I would see the surgeon.

I saw Dr. Schwartz on Monday. I liked him a lot, but I have to admit the statement he made after reading my test results was a bit confusing.

"There is no good or bad answer to this?!" He said that he doesn't think the spot is anything worth doing surgery for at this time. He said that the area under my arm now looks like a war-zone, and it would be difficult to go in there without possibly doing some additional damage. He said that we would do another PETscan in six months. If the spot is the same or smaller, we do nothing. If it has increased in size, we would then remove it. He said that six months will not make a difference. I'm going to trust his judgment.

So now, I'm not so stressed about my health. Whatever that tiny spot is, it is not metastatic breast cancer. However, the extra expense of all of the tests and scans is replacing that stress. Boy, does it add up quickly! Again, whoever said money can't buy happiness may be right, but it can darn sure make a cancer journey a lot less stressful on the patient and her family members.

COPING WITH STRESS AND ANXIETY

So how am I coping with the stress and anxiety these days? Honestly, not as well as I would like, but I'm working on it!

Running has always been a big stress reliever for me, but over the past few years, running has not always been possible. Even now, I still have a lot of body aches and pains daily. Some probably due to aging, but some of them the doctors say are definitely caused by Letrozole, which I take daily. Sometimes I can push through the pain, but not always. It seems that the times that I need the stress relief that running used to afford me, the very most, are the very times I can't run due to physical issues.

I recently discovered, though, that you don't necessarily have to run to get a runner's high! Who knew? Certainly not me, because running has always been my drug of choice! Did you know that all forms of exercise can ease anxiety and depression? When you exercise, whether it's walking, yoga, moving to music, or something else you enjoy doing that gets you moving, your brain releases those feel-good chemicals that give your body a chance to better deal with stress.

So now, instead of stressing over not being able to run to relieve the NEVERENDING STRESS.....I turn to other forms of exercise when need be. Sometimes just some simple stretching and breathing exercises help tremendously. And you can't beat a nice walk. Especially on a crisp autumn day like today!

For the record, I walked just over 1.5 miles today. Also for the record, I would still rather be running! But walking is a decent substitute!







Wednesday, October 9, 2019

To Pink or Not To Pink

My Pink Perspective

Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I started to hear about a controversy surrounding pink ribbons and other pink items associated with breast cancer awareness. Seriously?? This was now causing controversy??? 


I did a bit of research on the subject and determined that a lot of the debate stemmed from people feeling that those who purchased pink ribbons and other pink items were being exploited. They thought that some companies were using the ribbon to advertise their own products and to bolster their image in the process. I understand the concern, but I believe that initially, the pink ribbon was about giving women the courage to speak openly about their bodies, and their illness. Not about exploitation and profit. I also believe that, for the most part, that still holds true today.


I can only speak for myself, but I have gotten through many scary and sad days thanks to a lot of amazing women whom I'm proud to call my "Pink Sisters." I have also received some of the most beautiful, heartfelt gifts involving pink ribbons.


One of the complaints I have heard is that the ribbon stands for breast cancer "awareness," and that we are all aware that breast cancer exists. I personally believe the ribbon is drawing awareness to cancer patients themselves, and to the many things that we all need, especially a CURE!


Another complaint I heard from several survivors was that the pink ribbon is just a horrible reminder of what they went through in their personal battle against cancer. That may indeed be true for them. To me, however, the pink ribbon is much more of a reminder of the support and love I received from so many people while I was battling cancer.


I personally think it would be such a shame not to recognize that something as simple as wearing a pink ribbon, a pink shirt, etc....can mean so much to many of us cancer patients and survivors! 


Again-we each have a right to our own feelings and opinions on this matter. For myself, though, I will continue to embrace the pink. After all, I think I look pretty darn cute in pink!




Whatever your personal thoughts on the subject, I urge you to PLEASE use this month of "awareness" to remind yourself that you should NEVER put off that mammogram until a less busy time. 


Do YOU have an opinion on the subject that you would like to share?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

My Pink-Cancerversary

Three years ago today, 3 days into the month that is known for breast cancer awareness and all things pink, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, I guess you could call this my "Pink-Cancerversary."

I'm not sure what other people do on such an anniversary (or Pink-Cancerversary?). Personally, I think this is probably not a time to celebrate, but perhaps, instead-a time to reflect??

October 3, 2016

Following a lot of tests and scans, including a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound, and biopsy, Ray and I were now sitting in the office of Dr. Stephen Quill, an oncology surgeon. 

Dr. Quill didn't beat around the bush. He entered the room and said, "Well, Pam, you are positive for breast cancer." 


Although I knew in my heart that this was cancer, even before Dr. Quill spoke the words to me, it was still a shock hearing it confirmed. My head was spinning with so many questions.

Dr. Quill said that we were going to hit this thing with every weapon available. We would use the entire arsenal, to make sure that every cancer cell was wiped out and to ensure they didn't come back. He said there would be chemo, surgery, and most likely radiation. He then asked if I was ready to fight.

HELL YEAH, I WAS READY TO FIGHT!

And a fight it has been!

My treatment plan called for adjuvant chemotherapy in the form of four treatments of a combination of drugs-Doxorubicin and Cytoxin. Doxorubicin was fondly referred to as, "The Red Devil" by the nurses at my cancer center. This was a very accurate description, as I quickly learned!

The plan was for me to receive the "Red Devil" cocktail every other week for a total of four treatments. 

My white blood count dropped and remained extremely low during this time, in spite of the many injections of a drug to help restore my white blood cells between treatments. Following my second treatment, I had been receiving daily doses. I was not allowed to go out or to have visitors for weeks due to the threat of infection.

Between my second and third treatment, I had lost 14 pounds and had begun struggling with some pretty nasty side-effects.

After the third treatment, my doctor ordered a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound to see if there had been any significant change in the tumors. Since the test showed that the primary tumor had decreased in size quite a bit, and the smaller ones were pretty much the same, it was decided that I would skip the 4th RD treatment and move into the next phase of chemo.

The next phase involved weekly chemo treatments for a total of 12. Taxol was not as bad as the old Red Devil but did provide some adverse side-effects of its own. My WBC still remained very low during this phase, so again-HOUSEBOUND!


But at last........

WE DID IT!

Next, I had a modified radical mastectomy. No reconstruction.


Then came 33 radiation treatments.

My hair had started growing back, and the burns were healing!



This burn sort of looked like a heart, don't ya think??!

My crazy radiation folks!!

Again-WE did it!!


Although I finished with my treatments, life is not back to the way it was before. Because cancer, as most of you probably know, is sort of the gift that keeps on giving. And some of those gifts suck! 


Like lymphedema. Who knew that lymphedema could be more painful than a mastectomy?

Letrozole, the estrogen blocker that I will need for a total of 10 years, has some pretty adverse side-effects.

Neuropathy in my feet and hands can be a pain (like, literally.)

I recently found out that radiation caused some post-radiation fibrosis in my anterior right lung.

And chemo brain. Yes. It is a thing. 

A massive side-effect for me and many others-FINANCIAL DEVASTATION. My family has not recovered from the expenses, and never will in this lifetime. Every time I need a scan, a test, or some other treatment, I am stressed beyond belief. Imagine being told that your cancer may have returned, and you are more worried about the financial aspect than the physical?! Yeah, really sad, but a reality for myself and many others.

Since my risk for recurrence is pretty high, I still have to go through reasonably frequent tests and scans. In fact, this past month, I had a CT scan, ultrasound, biopsy, and PETscan. 

And if I can be totally frank here, having only one boob kinda sucks sometimes too!

Wow! I seriously did NOT intend for this to be a rambling, whining complaining type of post, but hey....it's my blog and my Cancerversary, so I guess I can write anything I want! LOL!

ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE

As I was taking my early morning walk (and I mean early-to avoid the almost triple-digit temps expected this afternoon!), I did some reflecting on my personal journey with breast cancer.

There have been so many wonderful people who have walked the winding, sometimes very frightening roads of this journey with me. 

Old friends, new friends, longtime running forum friends whom I have never actually met, but who were there for me every step of the way. New cancer survivor friends, especially some from an exceptional group of survivors, called "Circle of Friends." 

And there was my family....could not, would not have survived without them! They are such a blessing!

I have had some great doctors and nurses who have been crucial to my health and well-being throughout this journey.

Although I placed a lot of trust in my medical team, my faith was always in God.
Joshua 1:9 Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your GOD is with you wherever you go.


TO CELEBRATE, OR NOT CELEBRATE

I don't think I will be celebrating my breast cancer diagnosis today, because let's face it, no matter how you look at it, breast cancer still sucks! 

But I WILL celebrate my abundant blessings! I will celebrate LIFE!


























Thursday, September 19, 2019

Waiting for Biopsy Results and Anxiety

Warning: Blogger is a bit crazier than usual these days, so don't expect much in the way of useful information. Just a bit of venting.

Me? Stressed??
If you or someone close to you has ever had cancer, I'm sure you are familiar with the stress that goes along with waiting for any type of test or scan results.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a CT scan which showed a tiny spot under my breast cancer arm that was not detected on my previous scan. My doctor said that he thought it was merely scarring from the lymph node removal, but after some discussion, he decided to send me for a diagnostic ultrasound.....just to be safe.

The doctor that did the ultrasound agreed that it was probably scar tissue, but given my previous bout with breast cancer and my risk for recurrence, she said that we should probably go ahead and do a biopsy. When I asked her when they would do the biopsy, she replied, "Well....at your convenience because I'm not too worried about it." I'm sure she meant well, but I was thinking, "Well, it's not YOUR body, so I'm sure it's easier for you to not be worried." However, I WAS worried, so I asked them to schedule me as soon as possible. If there is even a remote possibility that this is a recurrence, I want/need to know. And I do NOT wait well!

Apparently, I am not alone in this lack of patience, along with being very stressed while waiting for test results. I read an article that said that waiting for the results of a breast biopsy appears to affect stress hormone levels just as much as finding out you have cancer does. I don't doubt that at all.

My biopsy was on Tuesday morning. The doctor who performed my biopsy said that my oncologist would have the results in a day or two. It is now Thursday afternoon. Waiting for that phone to ring. Maybe I should call HIM??



I'll let Y'all know when I hear from my oncologist. Hopefully, it will be good news! Either way, I just need to hear SOMETHING!

While I wait, I think I will spend some time looking for online advice about how to better deal with my stress and anxiety!





Monday, July 22, 2019

Why Pink Tutus and Running Shoes?

Hey, Y'all!

Welcome to my first post on my brand new blog!

I've spent a lot of time trying to decide what I should write about in my first post. And I mean a LOT of time! I actually created this blog several months ago. And then deleted it. Twice!

I have never been a writer. And, Y'all...Grammar was never something I worried too much about. And now that I am dealing with a seemingly permanent case of chemo brain, WHY do I feel the need to have this blog?? I can't even make a decision about one stupid blog post! Maybe I should just delete this thing permanently??

But wait! After literally months of agonizing over it, I have decided to simply talk a bit about the name of my blog. Maybe after I finally post something, I will find that next time, the words will just come tumbling out! And they might even make sense! And perhaps also be helpful in some way to someone else who has received their own cancer diagnosis. Or maybe...a newbie survivor needs to hear some honest talk about the ups and downs of trying to find your new normal after having your world turned upside-down?! Maybe someone else is trying to become the runner they once were and could use a virtual training partner, or even just someone to commiserate with??!

As you can see, I may not be great at writing or decision making, but I'm pretty darn good at rambling!!

So, decision FINALLY made!

Why Pink Tutus and Running Shoes??

You may not believe in the healing powers of sparkly pink tutus and running shoes, but I'm here to tell you that they do indeed exist!

I'm sure you have heard people say that laughter can be the best medicine, right? And although there isn't anything funny about breast cancer, I can tell you that laughter has helped me through some pretty tough times since my diagnosis. And what could make you shake with laughter more than pulling on your very first pink tutu at the age of 64?!!

Maybe watching as your great friend Sherry (who along with her sweet daughter made the tutus AND drove down from South Carolina for this event!) convinces your then 16 y/o son to put one on also?!!

Sherry and Conor
 









I can't speak for everyone, but for myself, a breast cancer survivor, I can assure you that after getting over the initial feeling of silliness when putting that tutu on for the first time and lacing up my running shoes I felt stronger! I felt a sort of healing in my soul! 

The 2017 Paint Gwinnett Pink 5K was not only my first 5K since completing my breast cancer treatments,  but it was also held the beginning of October...one year from my diagnosis. 

This event is the largest 5K supporting breast cancer in Gwinnett County, where I live. It is a celebration of survivorship and raises awareness and funds for breast cancer programs at Gwinnett Medical Center, where I received my treatments. 

I can't explain the feeling of standing at the starting line with my family and friends, surrounded by so many cancer survivors, including my good friend Laurie, an 8-year cancer survivor herself,  who came down from Connecticut for this event! I still get all teary-eyed just thinking about it. It was so emotional.

Pam's Pink Posse 2017

Below is a picture of my 2018 posse!! I was feeling a bit stronger for this one!


Pam's Pink Posse 2018

I think that pretty much everyone knows the significance of the pink ribbon, and also the reason that those of us who have never taken a ballet class in our lives would wear a pink tutu! However, many other types of cancer identify with different ribbon colors as well, and many women (and some men!) wear the appropriate color tutu in walks and runs in support of those causes.

People run in tutus to support many different causes these days. And some people simply choose to wear a tutu, solely for the fun of it!

My second tutu was green because the 5K that Sherry and I ran was on St. Paddy's Day!

Pam and Sherry

Will I wear a tutu for my next race? Yeah, I think I will! Lord knows the tutu won't slow me down! I mean, I can't really get much slower these days! If I can't be fast, at least I can sparkle!


BTW-You can click here for more info on the Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k and how it came to be. One of the two ladies responsible for this amazing event, Bobbie Menneg is also the founder of Beyond the Ribbon, a non-profit organization that does so much for cancer patients (not only breast cancer) and their families in our community. Bobbie works endlessly to support people in need, and she is known as a Super Hero amongst us cancer patients and survivors! 



Me and Bobbie at the Hats and Ribbons Afternoon Tea. A lovely fundraising event for Beyond the Ribbon.
Sometimes the occasion calls for a hat instead of a tutu!!