Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Post Prouty Post

Today was my first ride following the Prouty which was last Saturday, July 11. As I am in Watertown for a few days, I took advantage of the flats - what a relief after the hills of NH and VT - and rode out to the Minuteman Trail, following it all the way to Bedford (gateway to Billerica, I am told) and back. Seriously, I was so happy not to have to ride up any hills. It was like rowing with a tailwind in both directions! Although I look a little worse for wear, or sweat, finally a photo without a helmet and shades, haha.

Back to the Prouty. If it weren't for Saiya joining me for the ride, those 100 miles would have kicked my behind. Either that, or it would have taken me at least half as long again to complete. As much as supporting the Norris Cotton Cancer Center was a goal, learning the ropes of a long, well-paced ride and managing the rest stops was "operation critical" for me for the upcoming Pan-Mass Challenge. I learned a lot and am now much more confident heading into the 192-miler.

SAG stop #2, our first - pretty fresh.
Panorama of SAG #2 - water refill, portalet, and some food.

I have to say, the ride itself was fairly uneventful, which turned out to be a very good thing. Lessons learned - put ice in your water bottle when you refill it, temperatures climbed from the low 50s (note to self - buy arm warmers) up to the low 80s (ice!), and keeping cool is/was very important. Eat at the stops - watermelon is cold and wet (good), pbj squares (or nutella-banana squares even more tasty for some fats and protein), and potato chips (salt, mmmmm). All the stops were the same in terms of the food, yet we still eyed everything as if we were standing in front of a full refrigerator trying to decide what to select as though something new would suddenly appear or we had missed something. Regardless, it all tasted good which goes to show that when you're hungry, even a mini cliff bar tastes pretty good.

Saiya changing her flat tire.
The 100 mile route took us from Hanover, north to Thetford and Orford, then swung east in Haverhill to Wentworth before working our way back to the Connecticut River in Woodsville, NH. From there, we crossed over into Wells River, VT, and proceeded south till we recrossed over at Lyme, NH, and back to Hanover. Not too far along into VT, Saiya finally slowed down - she actually came to a stop - a flat tire, bummer. This also drove home the importance of being prepared. We had spare tubes and CO2 so we were fine, but no pump (mine was sitting with an extra shirt I had planned to bring and didn't). I did have cash and my phone, and Saiya thought to bring an ID with her. Smart!

After the ride was over, everyone who had participated gathered under the tents for food and socializing. It was great to catch up with the rowers (the US Women's National Team, Dartmouth College sophomores, and plenty of Upper Vallery folks and a sprinking of CBC-ers) who had done a 20-mile piece earlier in the day, as well as countless walkers (5k and 10k), golfers, and other cyclists (20, 35, 50, 77, and 100 mile options). Although we lost track of time and missed signing up for  massages, we still managed to get back on our bikes for the mile and a half ride back home. And, following much needed and welcome showers, headed out for dinner.  

Now, I am looking forward to only a few more long rides between now and when we head west to spend the night in Sturbridge, MA, for the start of the PMC. I'm riding for a lot of folks this year. Team Muri is in full fundraising mode. Click here if you want to help kick cancer's behind and find a cure. I'll be doing my best out there, too. On to Sturbridge!
Post ride, pre-food.
Still a good time for a photo op!

Monday, July 6, 2015

PMC & Prouty Training

Although long overdue for an update, I finally feel like I've caught my breath since the collegiate rowing season ended this spring on May 17. Wrapping up the fiscal year, getting on top of recruiting, and sorting out my first year of head-coach coaching seemed to take at least as much time as I could provide. Once we were off the water, I continued to have fun traveling to regattas to recruit and/or to work as a referee (always fun to don the blue blazer and pick up the flags). At the same time, all of my post-season travel has had a homecoming feel to it of sorts. NEIRAs were in Worcester where I'd been for so many years for the Men's Eastern Sprints each May. Then, USRowing Youth National Championships took me back to Sarasota FL, where after training camps for so many years, I got to see the race course in action. This was particularly exciting as I had first seen it when it was only in the planning stages. Equally exciting but involving far greater travel and a slightly shifted venue was a quick trip to the UK in June for the Henley Women's Regatta. I hadn't been there since the Royal Henley in 2003. Not only is rowing a small world in a social sense, it further appears to be a small world in a physical sense as well with past, present, and future all overlapping.

With the end of the season and the true arrival of spring, another opportunity presented. I finally took my bike training outdoors to continue preparing for the Pan-Mass Challenge. A wonderful friend connected me with the Upper Valley Women's Cycling Club. I have to say I have loved every minute of every mile. I've included a few photos of my training rides below - the first one is from my very first group ride. I was very nervous, more than I had expected. For one, it had been decades since I did any kind of training ride. To calm my nerves, I kept reminding myself that the group promised rides at all levels from beginners to hard core. But as I got on my bike and cycled over to the meeting point, the whole reason for the training ride became one of those cascading triggers that can catch me off guard - I'm training so I can ride (ok) in the PMC (still ok) to raise money for cancer research (ok, a great cause) because I am a cancer survivor (stops being really ok for a while). Before I knew it, I was really working hard at holding it all together. Fortunately, the mile ride to the meeting point didn't give me enough time to totally come apart at the seams, and sunglasses and group introductions gave me the opportunity to put it all back into perspective. Once the group pulled out to begin the ride, however, I did choke up a couple more times, but then the fun of being in a group and the incredible scenery took over and I was fine.

With only 25 days to go till the PMC, I am also getting ready for the Prouty here in Hanover NH. It is a ride supporting cancer research and patient services at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock where I had my radiation treatment. Aside from raising money for a great cause - defeating cancer, I'm also looking forward to riding 100 miles in one go this Saturday, July 11. (The actual course is 96.7 miles, but it will top out at 100 if I include riding to the starting point from home and back again.)

The PMC is August 1-2. I'll be riding with long time friend and supporter-extraordinaire, Saiya Remmler. We may or may not officially be Team Muri, with or without official uniforms, but Saiya is the ringleader and a major source of inspiration to me so I am all in. We will start in Sturbridge MA, on the August 1, and finish the next day in Provincetown, 192 miles later. The link to my PMC page is www2.pmc.org/profile/LM0272. My goal is to raise $5000, 100% of which will go directly to the Dana-Farber for research and treatment.

My first ride with UVWCC (middle rider) - in sneakers since 
I couldn't find my shoes.

On another group ride, this time sporting my Long Beach 
RA cycling top!

Post-rainy ride in Watertown MA.

On my Connecticut River
Short Bridge Loop > 20 miles.

Panoramic view of the bridge in Lyme crossing the Connecticut River into VT - Hanover to Lyme and back.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

One year blogversary

I've been on a team training trip for Spring Break the last two weeks. Sometimes, it is better than it sounds, but most of the time it's pretty great in that we a) get to be out of the cold, and b) focus on only rowing without the distraction of having to work around classes. In general, everyone is more relaxed, coaches and athletes alike, and we can really get down to rowing.

On a trip like this, there is some forced downtime between practices, and the days tend to run into and over one another. Saturdays and Sundays are just like any weekday, and none of the weekdays are distinguishable from one another either.  With as much internal focus as I could muster, I forced myself to remember my sister's birthday as well as the anniversary of Max acquiring us as his humans. I thought I had all the major dates covered, so I was a little surprised to see a Happy Anniversary cupcake in my inbox one day. "We hope it was a great year and look forward to sharing many more." It turns out, I hadn't really missed anything - it was congratulations on the one year anniversary of my first attempt at this blog. Although my first post here wasn't until March 30, I had set up another account before that. 

Confirming that date for myself meant going back to read that first post. I had to stop before the first paragraph. Having just made it through all the one-year-ago-todays - that week of appointments finding and biopsying the lump, the confirmation of cancer, and the medical team meeting during spring break 2014, and all overlapping with the one year out follow up appointments left me a little more worn thin than I expected. 

As squirmy as it made me to reread part of it, I'm still glad I did it, and I'm even more impressed that others followed so closely. For me, keeping this journal has been a tremendous help and source of control. (Thank you GM for the recommendation!) The amount of introspection required to write a post keeps me centered and on track. I highly recommend some similar form of a journal of what's going on should you find yourself in similar shoes. Aside from keeping folks up to date, it allows me to get things off my chest, and to clear my brain of dwelling on the negatives as much. 

So happy anniversary to the blog. Happy anniversary to me! I am looking forward to sharing a good year ahead!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kicking cancer's behind

Today is my first check up with imaging since the end of treatment. My mammogram is in the morning and I'll meet with my surgeon this afternoon. In between, I have lunch planned with a friend. It's a great day to confirm the kicking if cancer's behind. 

Surprisingly, I slept well last night likely due to the pleasant distraction of the Dartmouth Friends meeting in New York City which had me traveling the last two days. It was good to be tired and to be able to sleep! And, to keep busy or at least occupied. 

On a day like today and the days leading up to it, I find myself reflecting on where I am now. We just adopted a rescue which falls squarely into my thinking now - why wait. Is there ever a perfect time and who knows what tomorrow will bring. (It brought us Brady, a wriggly 6 month old french bulldog.)

I also think about my friend who goes in today, too, for an 18 month check up, my friend who confided in me over the weekend about his newly diagnosed cancer and when he will tell his children, and my friend who has more testing the end of the month before starting a clinical trial. I'm thankful for all my friends who are survivors. 

And, I am still feeling pretty lucky. I got this message from one of my athletes this morning, "GOOD LUCK LINDA!!!!!!!!!!! I hope you indeed have kicked cancer's behind!!!!" That's the plan, H, that's the plan. 

A quick reminder about my "on the bike" effort to kick cancer's behind more broadly. I'll be riding in the PMC to support research and finding a cure. You can help too by visiting my donor page at http://www2.pmc.org/profile/LM0272
Thank you!

OK, off to confirm the demise. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

PMC - take one

I was gently reminded that it is time for a post - thank you B & K.

Cutting to the chase, I am doing well. By mid-January, not only did I really and truly have a full head of hair, I finally actually felt good. Finally and for a change, if I felt tired or worn out, it was more likely due to not getting enough sleep (staying up too late and/or getting up very early) or doing a full-throttle work out. What really clued me in, though, was an impromptu session of "Hit the racket ball and run," an energy and frustration burning game of distraction my assistant coach and I have taken up on occasion. I could run and sprint and swing for the ball and not feel like I was in cement without enough oxygen. It was a very happy moment!

Workouts are going well. Physically, the power came back fairly quickly. It was also the last aspect of training to diminish even if I can only measure it anecdotally. At this point, I feel like my endurance is still improving, and I'm up to that uncomfortable and unfortunate point where any extra gains really start to take a lot more effort and time. NOT that I am complaining.

As for the hair, on my head it is still short, but I've been keeping it that way. Even though it has all come in, it still doesn't quite feel like my hair. I think there's a bit of a wave to it though it's not long enough (less than an inch on top if the clipper measurements are to be trusted) to notice. I've just been enjoying the easy care that comes with super short hair. Pro-tip - no comb necessary, just smooth it down with your palm. By now, all the rest of the follicles all seem to be back on their own rhythm with hair naturally falling out when it is supposed to and being replaced on the same schedule rather than 100% on or off. When my hair started coming in in full force, I felt a bit Yeti-like. It seemed like every hair follicle kicked into action at the same time and I went from being hairless to nearly fuzzy. Thank goodness that phase has gone by.

Day to day, I am taking my tamoxifen without fail. I'm not a fan of the hot flashes, at least not the few that cause me to break out into a full body sweat, but again, I am NOT complaining, at least not too much. This sure beats the chemo!

Burying the lead, the real news is that I have signed up to ride in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, which from their website is an annual bike-a-thon founded in 1980 that crosses the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and channels 100% of rider-raised dollars to the Jimmy Fund supporting treatment and research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Although I received treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, I absolutely benefited from prior and ongoing cancer research. You can follow me and support my ride here on my paceline page as I support the PMC's mission to find a cure. I'll be sure to keep you up to date.

So far, February has been pretty good. The Patriots won the Super Bowl Football emoticon Football emoticon Football emoticon Football emoticon and Hanover has less than two feet of snow while Boston is close to 6 feet ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year, 2015

Just another Thursday, not even a new week, but the turning of the daily calendar today brings in a new year, a powerful symbol for a new beginning, a fresh start, for many. And, with my own reflections I am compelled and honored to offer thanks for the past year. I am thankful for so much and for so may people who helped me get through last year.

A big thank you goes out to my immediate community, Cambridge Boat Club. I can't count the number of emails, cards, meals, rows, and general boosts that I got (and still get) from fellow members.

I ran out of magnets and then fridge space very early on. Outside the club, there are also many non-members and non-rowers keeping me strong. The texts and tweets and retweets and various electronic check ins (ongoing!) mean a lot. Reminding me I'm kicking cancer's ass goes a long way!!!

Thank you, too, to my many far flung friends who, some I see often and others it has been years, sent me messages and even care packages (Seattle and the Pacific Northwest get mad props on care package per capita), across the pond, and in between.

Thank you to my two teams - the lightweight men of Harvard and the women of Dartmouth. You kept things normal and let me focus on being me. My former colleagues at Harvard - other coaches and non-athletic folks as well - were downright amazing through all my treatment, too, making it possible for me to carry on every day.

The greater rowing community will never cease to amaze me. Forgoing the politics of pink, I, and it seemed the majority of rowers I know, were awash in it. Here are a few of the many highlights. As I've mentioned before, I am happy to let people support me. Thank you for every last bit of it.

Thank you to the survivors and friends & family of survivors for sharing your inspiration, comfort, and, mainly, for having survived. While I wouldn't wish this on anyone, knowing survivors was and continues to be a huge part of my strength.

With respect to treatment, I am lucky to have a truly amazing team of doctors and medical staff beginning with day one and finding the lump to seeing me through all of the treatments at both MGH and Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Within this team, I have to also include all of my friends and friends of friends in the medical profession - I love Boston - who helped me navigate and control this process, right down to setting up this blog. How do I have so many doctors among my friends? #lucky

I thank my husband for having to be tough when neither of us wanted to. Even if he can't handle medical jargon without feeling faint, I know that it means that he cares, and I know I can always count on him for everything else (other than taking notes during medical team meetings).

(notice my full head of hair)
And, Max, our ridiculous French Bulldog. He doesn't know and never could, but he's a good cuddler and a tremendous source of hilarity and entertainment on a daily basis. He also helped us out again with our holiday greetings this year. Fortunately, we were able to keep it at a PG-13 rating.  

Thank you for following me and being part of my Support team. Happy New Year!!!

XO - Linda

Monday, December 22, 2014

Post game (after treatment)

Today was my first post-treatment (survivor) appointment. Going back to November, suffice it to say, I got over not being seen by medical professionals everyday very quickly after my final radiation treatment. Celebrations abounded. Cupcakes were baked (and consumed), my colleagues took me out to lunch, and then on the weekend more cupcakes were produced (by my team). I even got a diploma (really, these are for the kids) for completing my treatment with such a good attitude. Tears were shed frequently, but that seems to be my m.o. these days - emotions are dialed up a bit for both the happy and sad spectrum. 

It took about four and a half weeks for my skin to look normal again. What I hadn't noticed until two weeks post was the small patch of affected skin on my upper back, mirroring the treatment area around my collar bone - that radiation goes right through. The skin looked tan more than anything else, but it was the itchiness that tipped me off that anything was going on. 

Back to the present, today's visit was with my medical oncologist. The visit included all the standards - vitals, blood draw, physical, exam, and arm measurement. Weight, temp, and BP all normal. Blood draw will show how my liver is doing (should be fine, but confirmation will show nothing has changed with the tamoxifen); it takes a few days for results. After the exam (skin check, palpitating, listen to lungs), my doctor said, "perfect." (yay!) I also had my arm measured, adding to the periodic comparison before and after surgery, looking for lymphedema and any other changes in size (none).

My next visit at MGH is with my surgeon in March and will include imaging. Then, I will be on an every-six-months schedule. Prior to that, I will be enrolled in a follow up survivors group at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. (It would have been at MGH, but that's a little far for a commute.) Looking forward to that, really!

Little by little, and some days more, I am embracing this whole survivor business. From having people think it's a bad-ass hair cut to only feeling tired from a lack of sleep or a hard workout, it's pretty good! And, the extra time each day - remarkable, not to mention the improved availability of mental bandwidth for things other than cancer.