Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Earth Day Part II

So for my second time helping mother earth, I decided to stay local and help in a neighborhood trash pick up on the main road. This was much better than getting up early to trek down to the zoo and in fact I left my house 5 minutes before I was supposed to meet everyone. That wasn't such a good thing as I didn't exactly know where the house was that everyone was meeting at, but I walked up the road until I found them. My neighbors are organized! We received a bright orange vest (so the nutcases who drive too fast on the narrow road would see us), plenty of trash bags, gloves, and long-handled trash picker-upper thingies. I was super excited to use my new tool since I'd never had the opportunity to use one before.

I set off up one of the side roads because when I walk Riley over there I see a ton of trash and I was rewarded with plenty of trash (unlike the zoo where we fought over the trash!) I used my new tool to grope in the bushes and was rewarded with discarded cans, empty fertilizer bags, and much more. After I cleaned up that street, I turned around and headed back to the main road where everyone else was. We had a pretty good turn out and there were plenty of people helping to clean up the road. However, I was disappointed to find lots of cigarette butts and cans still littering the road where our crew had already been. They must have been picky and only looked for what I call "glamorous trash" meaning large, relatively clean stuff. I go for everything, especially nasty cigarette butts - my number one pet peeve, especially since I had my super-cool tool and wore gloves. On my friend FirePhrase's blog, my other friend Washington Gardener suggested that cigarette litterers should be made to pick up discarded butts for a full day. I quite agree. I was pretty ticked off at these litterers as I made my way down the road.

We've lived in this neighborhood for four years now but this was my first time participating in the clean-up and I'm glad I did. I really got to know some people and we're talking about throwing a community BBQ for our small cul-de-sac of 10 houses. I also helped mother earth breathe a little easier and that feels pretty good.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


So I heard Vivica A. Fox on the radio the other night with Billy Bush (who I met in person a long time ago when he was just a DJ on a local radio station) talking about her new show about a Cougar looking for young love. I've heard the term 'Cougar' before but never realized that apparently I'm on the cusp of cougar-hood. The only qualification I don't meet is that, well, I'm married (but Mike is 4 months younger so maybe I am a cougar after all!). Anyway, I always thought of Cougars as much older than me but Ms. Vivica said it's a 40 y.o. woman. She also said that baby-boomers are turning 40 now... Um, Ms. Vivica my MOM is at the front of the baby boom and she's just over 60. The tail-end of the baby boom is turning 50 this year. She should get her facts straight - Gen X is turning 40 this year. Is that scary or what? Gen X is the new cougar woman.

I'm not even sure I really like the term 'cougar'. I mean really, when a 40 y.o. man dates a 22 y.o girl, he doesn't get labeled anything other than 'stud'. How fair is that? Ms. Vivica then said that the 50 y.o. ladies can be Pumas - I kinda like that better than the over-used cougar. She also said that 30 y.o's are bobcats and 20 y.o.'s are leopards (or something). Um, if a 20 y.o girl is dating someone younger than her I think they call that jail time.

I have no intention of watching her new show. I mean it sounds even lower than some of these other reality dating shows (but less skanky that Bus of Love!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day is Easy

Yesterday was Earth Day so I headed to the National Zoo in DC with Stephanie and Courtney (girls rock!) to help clean up Rock Creek Park behind the zoo. We met at the metro at 7am (whoo, that's early on a Saturday) and headed downtown. The zoo volunteers organize this clean-up every year and lots of people besides us showed up to help. Once we checked in at the zoo, a shuttle bus took everyone over to the clean-up site where we had our choice of easy, medium, or difficult terrain. Being tough girls, we took the hard route. They gave each of us a trash bag and a bag of gloves and pointed us in the right direction.

The difficult route lived up to its name and we couldn't find much trash on the steep hill. We started making our way down the hill, but since it had recently rained the muddy trail gave way and we had a hard time keeping our traction on the hill. There was so little trash, that we started eyeballing the other volunteers' trash bags and asking them where they found their trash. I guess that's a good thing we weren't finding a lot of trash, but it's a little disappointing when we traveled so far to pick up trash. Courtney decided we could find more trash down below on the bike path next to the creek, so we slowly made our way down the muddy, steep hill. She was right and we happily found much more trash to clean up. I found a small suitcase along the side of the banks, which I dragged back to the bike path since it was too heavy to drag it back up the hill (I alerted the zoo volunteers as to its location). I also found a shopping cart buried in mud so deep that there was no way to get it out. It had been there a while, judging by the small tree growing through the metal.

After we managed to pick our way back up the hill and figured out how to get back to the volunteer station, we sorted our trash so it could be recycled. We headed back to the zoo grounds to see the animals, particularly the elephants and the pandas. It was crowded with lots and lots of people and strollers by then. It was almost a little too crazy and people in large groups like that tend to lose any sense of manners they might have had alone. People suddenly stop in front of you with their large stroller to chat with each other, oblivious to the fact that you're behind them and now can't get around them. I have no patience for these kind of people - pay attention, people! We managed to fight our way to the elephants in time to see them showing off their balancing skills at an elephant training demo. Later, we picked our way through the crowd to see the newest panda, Tai Shan climbing trees, somersaulting, and galloping around his yard. What a cutie and he put on quite a show.

After lunch at a really awesome cafe in the city, we headed back home tired and a little dirty from our Earth Day adventure.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


My scans came back clean - I am good to go! My next visit is in August and that's the official 2-year mark as far as the doctors are concerned. That's when I finished chemo. 

I managed to stun both doctors I saw. During my assessment, they asked me how I was feeling or if I had had any problems. I answered with "Great! I ran the Cherry Blossom 5K on Sunday and came in 5th in my age group." Their shocked looks made me giggle. Not that I should be bragging because I'm sure there are other cancer survivors who have achieved at least what I have and more (Meg in Austin who survived a much-worse treatment and did the Cap-Tex Triathlon with Mike is someone more amazing than me). Nonetheless, it's pretty cool to make your doctors sit up and take notice that you've not only survived the worst, but that you're back out there and stronger than ever. I am Cancer Survivor Chick and I am STRONG!

My day at NIH was long: filled with waiting and waiting and more waiting. When we arrived at phlebotomy at 10am, workers were patching the ceiling with plastic and duct tape and all the chairs had been moved out of the way because a pipe had burst earlier that morning. Parul, "my" phlebotomist, said this happens all the time. I love NIH, but they need to fix up that part of the building - the main part is all shiny and new but the back part where phlebotomy and the nuclear medicine area are need a serious face-lift. It kind of looks like the DMV back there and my DMV looks better.

While waiting 3 hours for my CT (and starving), we met an interesting couple from Delaware. The husband was probably only 50-something but he looked a lot older. He kept going outside for a smoke break while his wife waited for her CT to check on her melanoma. They talked about deer hunting and whether Montgomery County allows buckshot or only bow hunting (I think it's bow hunting, but what do I know?) His wife made a comment that she only had 6 of her own teeth left because the rest had been pulled out. The husband said he didn't have any teeth. Apparently, he needed one tooth pulled but because it cost the same to pull all of his teeth as one tooth, he had the dentist yank him all out. Wow. He seemed quite proud of himself.

After my CT (at 2pm), Mike fetched me a sandwich and we waited to see the doctors. The slightly greasy ham & cheese sandwich with potato chips might have been my downfall because my tummy did not like it at all. I was sick on the way out of NIH and again when we got home. I took a long nap and felt better when I woke up, but it was not a pleasant afternoon. I didn't eat a lot for dinner. I always have some sort of reaction from the barium and contrast dye, but not this bad. I'm going to have to bring my own sandwich next time and hold the grease. No potato chips either. When am I going to learn?

Monday, April 6, 2009

2 year cancerversary

Today is my 2nd cancerversary - I was diagnosed two years ago today. I'm celebrating because two years later I'm still alive and kicking! Two years ago I was in the hospital waiting for the test results from my first (but certainly not last) CT scan, not knowing that the scariest time of my life was just around the corner. I'm certainly grateful and glad to be here today, writing this post. I will most certainly celebrate a little more on Thursday when I come home from my next visit with my NIH team with what I can only hope and pray will be another clean bill of health.

Sadly, my aunt's sister is dying of ovarian cancer as I type this. Aunt Carol left last night or this morning to be with Chris in her final moments. Both Carol and her sister have had breast cancer and Chris had ovarian cancer not too long ago, which she fought with chemo but the cancer came back and now she's dying. I only wish for peace for both of them - Chris as she leaves this world for a better place and Carol as she will need so much comforting and love to handle her loss.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cherry Blossom 10 mile/5K

We just got back from the Cherry Blossom race down on the tidal basin at the Mall in DC. We had gorgeous weather this year (although it was a little chilly at 6:45am when we got down there). The alarm went off at 5am and it was rough getting out of bed that early. Mike remarked, "Getting up this early is one reason not to like racing." Even Riley seemed a little out of sorts when I got him up to go outside. Normally, we're up around 5:45am which isn't that much different but it sure felt like it!

Meghan picked us up and we were off to the metro. There were quite a few people at the station with us and we picked up more and more people as we headed into the city. By the time we got off at Metro Center to change trains, it was packed and we had to squeeze into the metro like a bunch of sardines. I remarked that at least we were packed before the race versus afterwards when we wouldn't smell so good! At the next stop the lady next to me asked her friend if that was their stop, so I joked that she should just wait to see what stop the 9,000 other people on our car got off at. We were packed so tight on the train that it took us a few minutes to get to the door to get out.

We finally pushed past the huge crowds and made it above ground to the Smithsonian grounds on the Mall. We met the MCT Credit Union people who were able to get us an entry into the race after the online registration closed. We took a couple of group pictures and headed over to the course. We decided to stop and use the port-a-johns before the race and there was a lonnnng line - so long that I thought Mike and Meghan would miss their 7:40am race start. Afterwards, we all rushed over to the 10 mile start so they could get into the corral of runners. There was a sea of people as far as the eye could see, all crammed into one small area for the start. Mike went up front to his blue wave of runners and Meghan went a little further back to the orange group. Soon they were off and running!

I headed over to check in our bag with Jen from MCT before the 5K start and then we wandered over to our starting point. We chit-chatted with another lady from Montgomery County and then at 8:40am, our race began. There were so many people, I had to zig left and zag right to get around them. I passed a bunch of slow walkers (move to the back, people!) and some slow runners. I finally got to a point where I could cruise and enjoy the run. The cherry blossoms were in full force along the road and it was a beautiful run. We ran down Independence Ave and turned left to run over the Potomac River on the Memorial Bridge. I made sure I took in the gorgeous scenery as we ran over the water. Beautiful trees ringed the tidal basin, a helicopter buzzed the bridge, and volunteers clapped us on our way. I passed the one mile marker - hurray - only two more! We ran towards Arlington Cemetery and a water stop, I hoped. I was getting thirsty and a little warm. I thought we only had to run around the traffic circle on the other side of the bridge, but noo, we had to run a little further up the road closer to the cemetery entrance before we turned around (and got to the water stop). I grabbed two cups of water and chugged the first one, getting water all over my face, and held on to the second one for a bit more. I sipped the second cup for another minute or two before tossing my empty cup on the ground. Yeah, the second mile marker was in sight. I was running pretty fast and my lungs were burning. The last mile was tough and I couldn't wait to see the finish line. I passed more people and kept on pushing through my desire to walk. Is that it up ahead, no, not yet. How about now? No. Am I done yet? There it is! I couldn't even surge ahead at the end since I had given my all during the race, but I picked up the pace a bit to the finish line. I finished in approximately 28 or 29 minutes (I forgot to start my watch so I don't know my time yet. I'll check that online tonight). I finished! I finished! I finished!

After I grabbed some more water, I headed over to the 10 mile finish to find Mike and Meghan. Sadly, I didn't see them finish because there were just too many people. I heard that 12,000 people registered for the race so it was pretty crowded. I did see Rich from Mike's TNT running group cross the finish line and I ran into Claire later in the crowd. I caught up with Mike and Meghan after searching for at least 30 minutes. We all did pretty well - Mike finished his race in approximately 1:30 and Meghan in 1:47. We hung out for a bit before heading back home on the metro, exhausted, a little sore, and happy.

***Race Update***
I finished in the top 10% overall! I came in 71st place out of 1,056 people and #5 in my age group. I finished the race in 27:50 at an 8:58 pace. That's the fastest finish time I've ever had. Woo hoo! Mike finished his 10 miler at 1:34:38 at an 8:49 pace, which is pretty awesome and his fastest 10 mile race.