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Mission Accomplished

Cue the music. My mission has been accomplished. I completed my first Half Marathon!

Things didn’t start out well that morning, as I never even fell asleep the night before because of nerves and excitement (and my thyroid meds don’t help). So, the alarm went off at 4 am, but it wasn’t even necessary, since I was just laying there anyway. Also, the temperature and humidity were higher than normal and we were given repeated warnings about the heat and proper hydration. So, I knew it was going to be rough going, but I did it (and even at my predicted time). Below is a picture of me (taken by my husband, who waited along with me by the corral) sporting my self-designed Thyroid Cancer Survivor shirt

In honor of this race and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, I am hoping to raise money for ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association (http://www.thyca.org) through September 30. Donate or read more about my story here.

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Run Like the Wind

Did I tell you that I signed up to run my first half marathon? Yep, in 9 days, I’ll be participating in the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half! With some weekends out of town lately, it’s been hard to find time for the long training runs, but last Saturday I was able to. Ran/walked over 12 miles on a hilly trail in the park. I just love trail running, in comparison to pounding the pavement on the road. In fact, here’s a little poem I wrote in my head while I was running:

The woods are whispering, “Run like the wind!”
My feet and my mind become free.
The willows sway,
The leaves listen.
“Here she comes!” they say.
My smile returns to me.

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Veggie Soup for the Soul

I’m recovering from a cold and even took a day off work yesterday (rare, unless it’s for cancer treatment!). Luckily, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares started this week also, so I had a fridge full of fresh organic veggies and farm fresh eggs. I also had some spices on hand, which seems to make me feel better when I’m sick. So, I made some easy healthy veggie soup to ease my throat, my fever…and my tastebuds…

I am calling this “Kale Egg Drop Soup” or “A-Good-Soup-For-When-You-Have-A-Cold Soup”:

– Chicken or Vegetable Broth
– Kale or other greens
– Garlic
– Spring onions
– Ginger
– Eggs (especially if they’re farm fresh)
– a little Jasmine rice
– As many herbs as you’d like…I used Rosemary, a Chipotle spice blend, Old Bay seasoning, an Indian spice blend, Cardomom, and a little Cinnamon
– Curry powder
– Salt and Pepper

Wash the kale and remove stems. Chop the spring onions, garlic, and ginger. Throw everything (except the eggs) into a big pot and add the herbs and spices according to taste (hopefully your cold won’t prohibit you from tasting a little bit!). Once everything has been simmering for a while and the kale is cooked, crack open a couple of the eggs and drop them into the soup. Stir everything and eat once the eggs are cooked, or allow everything to simmer for awhile and make your kitchen smell (if you can smell!) aromatic. This is easy enough to make while you’re sick and it helped me feel better quickly!

Life is Beautiful!

After weeks of medical testing, and some scary and lonely moments, my doctor has now come to the conclusion that I am *most likely* CANCER-FREE! This is about as much certainty as can be expected at this point…possibly after a year of good results we will be able to say it with 100% certainty. However, one of the lessons that I’ve learned from dealing with cancer, is how to live with uncertainty. This really is a metaphor for life in general…life can be an unpredictable rollercoaster sometimes. My relief is still sinking in and my fear is gradually being replaced with such profound joy and gratefulness. I’m not resting on any laurels at all…there is always a chance of persistent or recurrent disease. And, of course, there is a higher risk for a 2nd cancer somewhere else…but reaching this milestone is a battle won. Cancer takes away enough from us as it is…I’m not going to let it take away my celebration and joy of relishing this good news. In fact, that 8K is tomorrow, and I’m going to run it with all my heart. I hope everyone else has a joyous weekend as well! And remember…life is beautiful!

Non-toxic Oil Painting

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to live a more non-toxic life as part of my fight against thyroid cancer. Well, I’m also an artist. As I’ve just accepted a new oil painting commission, I’m researching ways to make the painting process safer and less toxic. As many people have become concerned about the health and environmental effects of the products we use, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. So far, here are a few suggestions I’ve found:

1) Use good hygiene and cleaning methods. Definitely don’t put your brushes anywhere near your mouth. Supposedly, VanGogh ingested traces of his oil paints as he worked, and this may have contributed to his mental and physical decline. Also, try to wear gloves as you paint. I know in the past, I’ve been guilty of getting oil colors all over my hands as I paint. Even though I’d scrub my hands afterward, remnants of stubborn color would still remain. This can be absorbed into your body, along with any toxic ingredients, so you should minimize skin contact.

2) Use good ventilation. Outdoor Plein Air painting is great. If this is not an option, paint with as many windows and doors open as possible. Paint in a garage with the doors open. Or use a studio with a built-in ventilation system and/or lots of windows. Use fans and air purifiers as well. I have a small window, but also use a purifier and a fan to blow any fumes out the open window. Put a ventilation mask on if you are still concerned.

3) Check the ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc.) labels. This is a non-profit association that tests for toxicity in paints and media. Look for the AP (Approved Product) certified nontoxic seal on your individual paint tubes (every color may be different, even within a specific brand or line of paints). Avoid the CL label which indicates that caution should be used. In general, avoid the Cadmium colors and the Cobalt colors, including Cerulean Blue. Lead White (also known as Flake White) has been banned in most countries because of its toxicity, now selling the safer Flake White Replacement color. Most major art supply catalogs and websites will indicate the labels for each paint color. For more information, see the ACMI website.

4) Avoid turpentine and most thinners and mediums. In my research, it appears that Walnut Oil is safe and a quality choice. There is also M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium which is non-toxic, if you’d like a fast drying medium (oils such as walnut oil are not fast drying). I have a bottle of water soluble Stand Oil at home that has the AP label. There may be other limited choices, but use caution.

5) Use simple soap and water for cleaning your brushes and hands. My art professors in college suggested we use regular dish soap for washing brushes. This is easy on the budget, as well as health. I used to swirl the brushes into the palm of my hand with soap to clean them. Now I will use a clean surface, such as my palette, to swirl, to limit the skin exposure.

6) Make sure to close all paint and medium containers as soon as you are done with them and clean up thoroughly.

With these precautions, you should be able to oil paint safely and enjoyably. If you know of any more safety tips with regards to oil painting, please let me know!

Why Run?

So, as I was thinking about my recent fun and successful 10K race and my desire to run more races and even work my way up to a half marathon, I was thinking more about WHY I am running. Of course, there’s the obvious health factor. Not only the cardiovascular benefits, but keeping weight down, boosting the immune system, and (hopefully) minimizing my chances of a recurrence or another kind of cancer (after my thyroid cancer and radiation, I’m at higher risk). However, continuing with the cancer theme, as one goes through the diagnosis and treatment phases for a serious condition like cancer, one feels dehumanized. I became a piece of meat, a pin cushion, a set of lab numbers, an appointment slot, another seat in the oncology waiting room…This isn’t to say that I didn’t like the care from my doctors and nurses overall. In this situation, it’s something that can’t really be helped, when you’re in a sterile environment (both literally and figuratively as you’re sitting in a clean, white medical room without personality), focusing on your bodily functions and measurements, and not on your soul, mind, or personality. While running does focus on your body, it also focuses on your other aspects of humanity as well – your mind, your determination, your drive, your goals, your enjoyment of your surroundings, your musical taste as you listen to your choice in music, etc. It is a way to control your body after a time of losing control and also rejoining your body with your mind and soul.

Also, having racing events to work towards can get you through the tough times. In the near future, I will be getting more medical tests done and seeing doctors to try to decipher if my cancer has been successfully and completely treated. I will admit I am nervous about this and not looking forward to it (although I do blissfully dream of hearing the words “You are cancer-free!”) However, I’m thinking of signing up for an 8K race that’s 2 days after a big medical appointment. Is this a good thing? Well, I figure, if I receive bad news during the prior medical appointment, this will be a way for me to cope and not dwell on the bad news. If the appointment goes well, it will be a joyous way for me to celebrate! I even may sign up for a Half Marathon in the Fall, not knowing for sure if I will need any more medical treatment (RAI or surgery) during that time period. Worst case scenario – I’m out 70 bucks if I can’t run the race. Best case – I stay in top physical shape, with this goal keeping my mind busy through the tough times, and I reach the goal of completing a Half Marathon.

Running is also good at forcing one to seize the day and make the most of each moment, which is something that many cancer patients learn. When life is short (and it is for everyone, not just cancer patients), make the most of what time we’ve got. Running involves counting minutes (even seconds), timing oneself, and celebrating the big finish – what a great way to live in the moment!!

Survivor Sticker

Cancer Survivor Euro style sticker

Cancer Survivor Euro style sticker

As I’ve been training for my first race ever (Monument Avenue 10K) as a previous non-runner, I’ve been thinking about my journey for the past 5 months from “Couch” to 10K. The first time I ran (2 weeks after my high dose of 150 mci of Radioactive Iodine for my thyroid cancer), I could barely run 1/3 of a mile. Now I can run 6.2 miles. It has been a journey full of challenges (including cancer, asthma,  and reactive hypoglycemia, just to name a few). I was also thinking about those Euro style “26.2” and “13.1” stickers (they even have “6.2” versions!) that race finishers often (deservedly) show off. It certainly is a milestone and a wonderful accomplishment, especially for those with health challenges and other obstacles. However, I was thinking that for me, at least, my journey with dealing with a diagnosis of cancer has been so much more challenging than this 10K. Why not show off the accomplishment of being a cancer survivor with a “Survivor” sticker?! For many, this will be the greatest challenge of our lives. Although I found many ‘survivor’ decals and stickers offered online, I didn’t see any of these Euro-style accomplishment stickers for survivors, hence I designed one (check it out at my CafePress shop).

Congrats to all the race finishers and cancer survivors out there and be proud of what you have accomplished!

 

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