Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meredith Vs Millie Workout Challenge

So-  I have decided to dub this the "Put On Your Big Girl Panties" Challenge.  Mainly because Meredith's Ante Up Jar Pictured Below-  says "Suck It Up: Time to Put the Big Girl Panties On"

My Ante up jar is less impressive (but it is pretty blue) But I have yet to decorate it-  its in my "to do" list.
Just to briefly review our "Big Girl Panties" Workout Challenge.  We are competing until the end of the year.  We set a "goal" number of hours spent working out (100)  and Meredith designed a google doc to count us down from there.  At the 1st Check in - August 30th  - we had to have 7 hours on the books
Our 2nd check in, we had to have 19 Total hours on the books.  By the 30th we will need to have 31 total hours on the books  and so on and so forth.

So -  Here is where we stand as of now:

1st Checkin-  we both put in $25 because neither of us made it to the first goal
2nd Check-in -  As of RIGHT NOW-  I am at 81 workout hours left to the end of the challenge  ( I had to "Purchase" the 3.5 deficit that I was not able to get in)  and Meredith is at 81 as well -  hers are actual clocked hours- because well, she rocks  and I well- suck.
So, tomorrow starts day one of the third check- in period.  I have until September 30th to get in 12 Hours of Workout Time.  This period we're a bit luckier than previous because there are exactly fifteen days from period to period.  So we have fifteen days to do 12 hours of working out.  Hopefully- this is where I pull ahead of her. :-D
The person with higher total hours worked out at the end of the four months foots the bill for a spa day in January.
And I don't like losing.  And, for the record- neither does she.  So this will be a hard fought down to the wire competition.
I feel a bit guilty because I have a web of support through my blog, twitter and facebook page for people to keep me in line... but seriously I need it!  Especially with everything else on my plate, it is SO easy to just say "Eh, I'll do it "tomorrow"... which is what has me  in the hole in regards to the ante up jar.
So far-  we each put $ 25 bucks in the first time.  Then, I just bought the 3.5 hours that I was short- resulting in another $17.50.
I have realized that I need to have a plan.  Im good with plans.... and schedules.  With plans and schedules I can stay on task.  As much as I hate walking on treadmills (as opposed to walking outside)  I'm going to have to start leaning heavily on the Treadmill to squeeze workouts in after work and before starting on homework.  Perhaps-  if a few days a week I can eek out a double workout-  I can surge ahead  muuhahaha.   Of course, since Meredith reads my blog daily, she knows my plans! Argh- foiled!
We shall see!  As I said- November is a big month for me.  So thats roughly two months away.  Must.get.sweating.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Kindness

I really don't want to get up on a soap box - because trust me, I have my moments-  if there were a microphone in the car broadcasting what I *actually* said as I drove to work in the morning, Oh Lordy it would make a sailor blush.

But recently Ive noticed that there is a sudden outbreak of inconsiderate people. Case in point-  I'm at Lifetime on Saturday, swimming.  The inside lap lanes are closed for fall maintenance to drain/clean the pools etc.  I did not know this when I went there Saturday morning.  They tell me I can use the outside lanes, if I dont mind swimming in cold water.  Well- I'm used to swimming in their inside lap lanes so it can't be any colder than that (it was slightly chilly on Saturday early morning and before the sun came out the water was in fact, rather chilly)

I did most of my workout totally alone-  and with about fifteen minutes left of my workout, a man comes in and joins me in the next lane.  I warn him that the water is ridiculously cold and that he should just jump in and get the shock of the cold over.  So we strike up a convo as we take our "rests"  and we start to talk about the inside lanes being cold- which moves into why they needed to shut down the pool for cleaning.   I say "its probably all that sweat from the Ironmen training these last few weeks before the big race that dirtied up the water (referring to Ironman Wisconsin which was just this past weekend)  to which he replies "Nah, it was probably all those fat ladies getting all sweaty jumping around doing their water aerobics"  there is a pause,  and then he says... "no offense".  To which I replied, well- I'm sure those "fat ladies" don't have three Triathlon medals, so none taken-  and pushed off the wall and finished my swim.

But seriously- I wasn't offended so this isn't a "oh how mean that the guy called me fat" story  its more of a -  who says something like that in the company of strangers?  It's amazing to me that people think that's okay.

Fast Forward to today.  I'm at Target buying a birthday present for a co-worker.  I literally have three items in my hand- 2 presents and a card.  I'm walking down the aisles looking for an open checkout.  There is a woman coming from the other end, who clearly makes eye contact with me, knows that I am heading for a checkout stand, speeds up, pops a wheelie on her over-burdened cart and cuts in front of me.  Seriously? I have three items- which took me all of a minute and a half to scan and pay for-  she, had a cart full of items that took her probably five minutes to ring and pay for.  Would it have killed her to wait the extra minute and let me go ahead of her?  If the shoe were on the other foot- I would have totally let her in front of me.

It goes back to that whole "tunnel vision" thing I talked about on Monday.  Are we so hyper focused and in our own world that we really have forgotten that we share this planet with other people?

I think that this week while we're working on our outer selves, we should do some pruning on our inner selves as well.  I challenge all of you to put someone else before yourself just once this week.  Whether it's letting someone in front of you at the grocery store,  sending a card to let someone know you're thinking of them, or grabbing a cup of coffee for a co-worker when you make your way into the kitchen.  Let's all try to reach out a little bit for the remainder of this week and remind people that we're aren't alone on this planet :)

While I was ruminating on how to present this topic, I actually found a website dedicated to the topic.  Its Do 1 Nice Thing    Empowering Kindness Every Week.  So with this website in mind, I will post the nice thing that I did each week as part of pruning my inner garden -  and hopefully you will let me know what you did as well!

Monday, September 12, 2011

How Do You Give Back? #WalgreensGives #spon

Thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring my writing. Help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.

When you think of the words "Giving Back"  what comes to mind?  Is it in the physical sense, as in - donating money or time to a specific cause, or is it giving back to people what they give to you-  returning kindness for kindness, paying it forward to others in your community?  With the anniversary of 9/11 just passing, it reminds me of how nice everyone was after the attacks.  We as a community were awaked out of our tunnel vision and realized that we are on this planet with other people.  We held doors open, said please and thank you, people gave up their seats on public transportation to people who needed the seats more than them.  We remembered to "give back".

My current way of giving back, is through an organization called "Chemo Angels".  As Maragaret discussed in her motivation post on Wednesday, going through Chemo is a tough journey.  As she said, when mired in the middle of it, you dont know what is up or down but you keep trudging through because you know there is the hope of healing at the other end of that rough journey.

A friend introduced me to the Chemo Angels organization after the soldiers I sponsored in Iraq & Afghanistan returned home.  She knew that I was already sending letters and packages weekly to three soldiers, and so suggested I sponsor someone going through chemotherapy.  As you guys know with my hectic schedule of work, school and exercise, the hours in the day are already not enough for all that is on my plate- so being able to make a difference to someone on my own time is a plus for me.  With this amazing, grass roots organization, you are paired with a person who is going through chemotherapy to be a friend and a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy time.  I send a card a week and usually a package with some form of small gift (a magnet or stickers, or some magazines etc)  just to let them know someone is thinking of them.

I honestly think that this became so fullfilling for me as much as it has been for my "angels".  And, I love that I really am making a difference in someone's life- with something that has an immediate impact.   Don't you get excited when you get something other than a bill in the mail?  Imagine if you were sick and feeling down and you found a note in the mail wishing you well.  It would lift you up- even if just for a litttle while right?  And that's exactly WHY I love giving back in this way.

If you are interested in learning more abut the Chemo Angels and what they do, you can visit their site at

Don't forget to help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monday Motivation- On a Wednesday: Margaret

As I've said before, Papa Millie is heavy into bike riding these days.  It all started at the Y, a spin class, and a spin coach named Margaret.  From the two years that Ive known Margaret (or should I say known OF Margaret- as I just actually met her in person for the first time at the Naperville Tri)  she is one heck of a lady!  I will let her story speak for itself, but Spin Coach, Triathlete, avid Biker, Cancer Survivor.

Here is Margaret's amazing story:

“Feeling Good…. Feeling Alright…”

About a month ago I had an epiphany…. I realized I was feeling good. And not just good, darn good!

Reflecting on it over a few weeks, I was having the best summer in years- since before 2007. This was such an amazing feeling- and yet putting it out there is almost scary. Before I even told anyone I just kept it to myself for a while- and then told a friend or two. Then a few more people. I recently told one of my doctors…. And I am just beginning to realize that this journey I’ve been through over almost 4 years, a struggle for my life, has finally brought me to a better place.

I’ve always been active. I’m the only girl in my family- 4 brothers and I was right in the middle. From my oldest brother to the youngest there are 6 and ½ years. Growing up we spent all our time outside: climbing trees, playing tag, hide ‘n go seek in the cemetery behind our house, football, baseball, and hockey and of course riding our bikes everywhere.

 In high school I joined the track team and became a distance runner. My dream was to compete in college which I did- I was a “walk-on” my freshman year and eventually earned a scholarship. I had some injuries, had some fun times, traveled to states I hadn’t seen before, and made some great friends. Being a distance runner we were “in season” the entire school year- cross country from August to November, 2 weeks off then right into training for indoor track which went from January until the beginning of March, then right into outdoor track- through the end of the spring semester. Summers were time to recharge while still maintaining fitness, and during the summers in the early ‘80’s I discovered the sport of Triathlon.

After college I continued to keep up with working out- not as much as in college. I worked full time, got married and had 3 kids. My last triathlon was in the summer of 1990. Through the years, working out became my time to myself (not easy to find those quiet moments when you have a young family, work and all that goes with it). I would run a race every so often, sometimes just one a year. But in 2007 everything changed.

I think it all started after we had the big storm in August of that year. A few days after that epic storm, I was running in the woods and feeling like I couldn’t take a deep breath- almost like my sports bra was way too tight. I thought maybe all the rain had something to do with the air quality. I also had this voice in my head whispering that something more was wrong, and the voice whispered the word “cancer”.

A few weeks later I was competing in a race and had a major blowup. The first mile was slightly downhill and I thought I was ready to run a good time. Although I had warmed up and was fit, that first mile felt like I was running way beyond my abilities and I felt a crushing feeling in my lungs. My mile time was slower than what it felt like. I was having trouble breathing and slowed down, eventually having to walk. As soon as I got home, I called my doctor and was in the office first thing on Monday. We were both thinking “exercise induced asthma” but they had to rule out a blood clot in my lungs. Every test that she ran came back with a funny reading, so I had a lung x-ray, blood test, CT scan, and then a slew of heart tests. They did not find anything so she put me on an inhaler and everything seemed fine.

Until November….
That was when I found it….
                                    The lump….
                                                      And the enlarged lymph nodes….

I was scheduled to see the doctor the next day, and within a short time a mammogram, ultrasound, and whatever else would be needed. My previous mammogram was December the year before- all clear- so this was pretty frightening. I had the biopsy the day I had the mammogram. The next day I got the call.
They say you never forget the moment you hear the words “you have cancer.” I still remember that phone call. The next day my life became a whirlwind of tests and doctor’s visits and more tests. One thing I learned was that with cancer whatever the doctor tells you can and will change. With more information they get a better idea of what you are dealing with and just like a football game in the 4th quarter with 2 minutes to go, they will be aggressive if it is needed, improvise and throw in a quarter back sneak.  My game plan changed several times. First I was going to have surgery and then chemo. After an MRI, they knew the size of the tumor and decided that since I had cancer in my lymph nodes I should go through chemo first. (Oh, and all those tests I had in September- my surgeon looked at the CT scan and he saw enlarged lymph nodes. The radiologist was looking for something else, so it wasn’t caught until my surgeon pulled up the CT scan pictures in December). Then the types of chemo and number of treatments changed- or maybe my mind was just too overloaded to grasp it all.

I started chemotherapy a few days after Christmas, and I finished the last round of chemo at the end of May in 2008. I won’t go into the details except to say chemo felt like going through a very long tunnel. I rationally knew there was another side to the tunnel, but being in the midst of it I couldn’t see the light. For me, fatigue was one of the worst side effects. No matter how much I slept I was never rested. It’s described as being tired from the inside out. Imagine being too tired to sit on the couch and watch a movie with your kids. Or, too tired to eat. Or wanting to sleep but that wasn’t even enough. (Since going through chemo, now whenever I see someone who is going through treatments, I try not to say “you look so good”, I try to ask them how they are feeling and listen to them. I lost a lot of weight during treatments and even though people told me I “looked good,” I didn’t feel good). 
The next step after chemo was surgery. This turned into 2 surgeries because the margins weren’t good.  (The surgeon will cut out the tumor with a bit of good tissue around it. Then the pathologist will look at the tumor under the microscope. They hope that the margin of good tissue around the tumor will be clear of cancer). With cancer you want them to get it all.

Radiation wasn’t in the plan for me, because I had a mastectomy, but in December of 2008 I found out that I needed that as well. Apparently because the cancer didn’t respond to chemo as they had hoped, the size of the tumor, cancer in the lymph nodes, and it was a high grade cancer all added up to 6 weeks of radiation.

I have had several friends who have had cancer. Several who have had radiation. People will talk about the radiation induced fatigue but no one really tells you about the burns. The nurses tell you it is different for every patient, some just get a little pink. Some get 2nd degree burns. I was the latter group. I’m not discounting the benefits of radiation therapy.  I met a woman in the waiting room. She was on her 4th relapse of cancer. She said wherever she had radiation the cancer did not return. Good stuff. Strong, but good. Thankfully the skin heals, but the scaring underneath lasts forever.

I finally finished my last treatment at the end of March that year. My surgeon originally told me that cancer treatments would last 8 to 9 months. It ended up taking 16 months. Towards the end of treatments, and during radiation, I had time to reflect on my life and realized I needed to make some changes. I got certified as a Spin Instructor and at the end of May that year I began teaching. I slowly worked my way back into running. I tried to be careful with doing too much because I seemed to get fatigued easily (and the radiation scarred my lungs).

At the end of the summer in 2010 I competed in a mini triathlon. It was a 400 yard swim, 8 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. Of all the events in the triathlon, the one that worries me the most is swimming. (Ironic, since I swam Masters after college, grew up swimming in Lake Michigan every day of my childhood and I coach an age group swim team). After all the surgeries and radiation I have a lot of scar tissue and limited range of motion in my arm and shoulder. I made it through that tri (barely) and was happy to get out of the water without too much pain.

At the beginning of this summer, Millie’s dad asked me to join the 3 P’s when they competed in the Naperville Triathlon. I decided to give it a shot and hoped that the sprint distance wouldn’t tax my arm/shoulder too much. (I found a great Naprapath in the building where I work. Although I’m always going to have struggles with my arm and shoulder, it has improved to the point where I can swim almost a mile without muscle spasms). Teaching Spin classes is generally how I do my bike training, though I found I have to spend time on my bike outside of class. A road bike fits different than a Spin bike and it’s important to know how it feels before race day.  

We competed in the Tri on August 14 and it was a great day and a great event. I’ve usually gone to events by myself so it was a really nice change to be with the group. Pre-event nerves lessen a bit when you have some friends to commiserate with you.  We all arrived at the race together, got numbered, and our spots in the transition zone  were close to one another. We separated as we went to our various spots for the swim, but we all arrived at the finish within a short time of each other, and capped off the day with a group breakfast, sharing stories of the event and comparing possible races for the rest of this season and  next year.

I don’t know if it’s a result of my cancer diagnosis and treatment, or just getting older, but when I train and compete, my main goal is to have a good time. One of my friends owns our local running store. His pre-race advice to me was to keep smiling. It’s funny, but I really think that helped. We all struggle at times during racing and training, but somehow smiling makes it seem a little easier, and definitely more fun.  So, while I am cautiously optimistic about how good I have been feeling, I’m keeping the smile on my face for good luck. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Better Late Than Never!

Yikes!  So- I guess it's been a while (again).  I feel so guilty. Its been so long since Ive written.  I stink- I know.  So, I think this is going to have to be a bullet pointed list of updates, as there are so many!

Update on the Friendly Competition with Meredith:
We had our first "Check-In" on August 31st.  We both fell short (only by a few hours) of our first exercise goals - so both of us had to throw $25 in the Ante Up jar (mine is purchased, just not yet decorated- soon I promise)    Since the first ante up, we are both doing a much better job of staying on track with our exercising, and there is only about a 45 minute (I am not the one in the lead- CURSES!) difference between the two of us.  I blame my classes- for realz.

Two of my three classes this semester, while online, require "virtual classroom" time.  In which, I am seated in front of my computer for three hours, with headphones and a microphone, participating virtually in a classroom.  Not only does this make it difficult to exercise (fear not, every thirty minutes I do some work with my balance ball and/or Kettle ball)  but it is also a LOT of sitting between work as a desk-jockey  and then running home (I fully expect to be complaining of a speeding ticket by the end of the term) to make it into my virtual classroom by 6.

This also makes it hard to stay on the ball with eating- since I walk into my house, let my dogs out, use the restroom and have to then log online to my class-  no time to cook a dinner.  After two weeks of this crazy schedule- I have finally gotten into a rhythm I think.  The first week I have to admit, the drive thru was my friend on both nights (bad Millie- I know)  Thankfully now, I have a lot of stuff in my fridge that I can just grab and bring into my office with me - egg salad, cheese, yogurt etc.  Though not a "dinner" by traditional standards, it is enough to keep me satiated.

As far as my 5K in October goes, unfortunately I have to pull out of the commitment.  It looks like that is a weekend my husband and I are going to be out of town.  Blah.

Brutus and I will not be working out this coming weekend- hes going to be an extra in Superman -how cool-  so I will need to find something else to do on Saturday morning to get my workout in.

The plan is to start swimming again in the mornings this week.  Tomorrow will definitely be a no go, since as I type this, I am neglecting homework that is due by midnight.  So, its going to be down to the wire to get that in.  Stinkin holidays- great that I didn't have to work, but unfortunately this weekend was also a black hole for shirking my educational pursuits.  -  It was Papa Millie's birthday, so one day went to spending time with the fam.  And of course, today was spent running the usual errands, groceries etc.

I had so much else to say, but I have already forgotten it.  :(

I still have to get up my sisters post about her leg of our Triathlon- though since we competed almost a month ago, I guess it's kind of moot now. But it will go up (sometime soon I hope)

I also have a new Motivational Monday poster, Margaret-  who will be posted shortly as well.  - though technically today *is* Monday already, the stinkin Holiday threw me off.

I also have had the privilege of sampling some new products - so there will be some reviews up in the coming days as well  :)  Yay for product samples!

Alright, I should get back to my homework.  :)