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More Than a Race

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Today was one of those days that will go down in "Joanne history". For starters it was the last day on this earth that I could still honestly claim to be age 52. Anymore birthdays are like any of our holidays and tend to start way too early with the hoopla. You hate to be ungrateful at any age, but especially once you've passed that big half a century mark. The stakes go up. People start saying things like "It beats the alternative".
Ack! My husband tisks. "Look at your dad. At age 95 he's had one foot in the grave the the other on a banana peel for years"! Yeah, but look at my mom...

Which leads me to part II of my day. The Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure.

My mother was a brilliant woman. A WWII war bride from New Zealand who followed a soldier to America and while all the other post war wives were sewing curtains, making molded jello salads, and hanging diapers on the clotheslines, she was doing all that -- AND going to night classes at a local university to get her college degree. How many 5 year olds can remember playing first assistant with the beige thread while their mother dissected a frozen cat that smelled like formaldehyde on their kitchen table? She valued education above almost anything else. But never above my father who was eons ahead of his generation in supporting her endeavors. She got her college degree in English literature and eventually a masters degree as well. She taught high school students for years inspiring them to branch out their knowledge of Shakespeare beyond Romeo and Juliet. At that play she used to huff "Why would you kill yourself over a man? They're all the same in the dark"! Believe me I pondered that comment for years until I asked her one day just how did SHE know this? Never having seen my mother at a loss for words, she finally stammered she didn't know from personal experience, but her mother had told her. Hmm...

Anyhow, I'm getting off track. She was a great woman. A stubborn woman. She had no time for sickness. That's too bad, because she was smart about a lot of things, but not her health. Like many men and women of that generation finally freed from the constraints of depression era hunger, she became overweight. Which led to diabetes. She had mastered everything else in life by studying it, so she spent years reading the latest theories on diabetes and insulin, yet didn't listen to her doctors to diet and exercise. She became almost distrustful of them. She flat refused to have a mammogram for years stating that if you went to a doctor, they would find something wrong with you. Finally, when I became a nurse, I set up her appointment and more or less forced her to go. And she was right. They found something. Breast cancer. By this time in her life - age 66 she had already had a stroke from plaque in her arteries so she wasn't the best candidate for surgery, but at that time she had no alternatives. The risk was less than letting it go. She died a few days after the surgery from a heart attack. Her doctor said had her weight and diabetes not been contributing factors, she would have survived the breast cancer as her lymph nodes were clear.

So with my new found love -- running, the desire to try to run a 5K, and the Race for the Cure having special significance for me, it seemed like a perfect fit. I wasn't up to running more than 2 miles in a stretch yet, but I thought I'd run what I could and walk the rest. We had a large group from my ob/gyn clinic walking and we made plans to carpool to the race site. Yes today it was one of those cold Iowa October days which the weather man promised would warm up as the day progressed. Still, having learned a previous lesson about running in the crisp fall weather, I donned my race shirt and topped it with a nice sleeveless fleece. I even had a pair of those little stretching gloves to keep the fingers from turning into ice pops. I tucked my kleenex into my sleeve and leaving the house at the break of dawn, left to meet my friends -- hubby still in bed.

Speaking of friends, I was so excited because one of my very most special Sparkfriends, Laurie of the "Don't make me slap you with my flip flop" fame, has a daughter who lives in my area and she was going to be here to run the race. We have so many things in common including mothers that had died from complications involving breast cancer so it was especially poignant that we meet at this race. And meet we did, despite the throngs of people, with the help of our cell phones. It was like meeting up with someone I had known for years. That's how we clicked. Several hugs later we were ready to race!

We set off for the starting line and being "New and Newer" to races actually found the signs marked for the different paces and dutifully lined up where we thought we belonged --- only to discover that legions of walkers ignore the signs at the back saying walkers line up here. So needless to say, when the gun was fired, we were still trying to make our way through strollers and old ladies wearing pink feather boas and sipping Starbucks. I felt worse for Laurie who had her shoe chipped and actually hoped to get an accurate time. We agreed to go at our own paces and catch up later.

I felt good. Walking through so many people actually served as a little warm up for me and when I saw some other runners head over to the sidewalk and by-pass the walkers I grinned from the sheer cheesy sensation of "joining the runners"! True enough, in the sunshine, it began to warm up too. I had my ipod on because I am so used to running to music and also to loosely keep track of how far I had thought I had gone. Despite not usually running on concrete and up and down inclines, I was doing pretty good. Streets were blocked off with a policeman and biker at every intersection. Wait a minute -- BIKER? Yep as in Willie Nelson look a like, leather jacketed, bandannad motorcycle bikers giving us the thumbs up. Every so often there would be high school cheerleaders cheering us on or handing out water. The whole atmosphere was so conducive to keep running that the time seemed to fly like the wind in my hair.

I had long passed my 2 mile song when I finally saw the last stretch. By now my legs had started to feel a little like I was dragging bowling balls and my breathing felt a little heavy so upon spying that final hill -- yes a HILL no less, I gave myself permission to walk. I wasn't really disappointed. How could I be? I had ran further than I ever had in my entire life! I was exhilarated!! 3/4 of the way up the hill I saw a sign from my clinic "Doctors for the Cure - Ob/Gyn Associates" and that spurred me to start running again right on up and through the finish -- slapping people's hands as I passed by.

Crossing the finish line, I was over come with emotions and found that my face was wet with streaming tears. I was 52 years old and had never felt this good! I figured I had ran about 3 miles which was thrilling in itself, but that wasn't what brought on the tears ---

It was realizing that because she didn't take care of her health, my mother would never know that at age 52.364 years, her daughter had accomplished something so remarkable in her life and also that she had never had the chance to get to know her granddaughter whom inspired me to do it.

Mom-- I hope you are up in heaven with Laurie's mom, and smiling...

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • _MAOMAO_
    Oh, I gotta find my tissues. Thanks again for sharing this. A BIG Congratz on finishing your race and hope you love being 53!
    emoticon emoticon
    3669 days ago
    This blog made me cry. My mom died of cancer 7 years ago, and it's my milestones (like your 5K) that bring her memory back the most. It saddens me all that she missed, and that, by the grace of God and good friends, I've reclaimed. Thank you for sharing and congratulations!
    3685 days ago
    I walked my first 5K 2 months ago, and am signed up for another this coming Saturday. I've been using a Couch to 5K podcast to train (up to week 7, 25 minutes without stopping) and even though my pace is slow, I've been able to last the entire 25 minutes without walking. I'm looking forward to seeing how I do on Saturday, so thanks for sharing your story about your experience.
    3685 days ago
    You are a blessing to this community.
    I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished.
    from my heart- I will always call you my friend.
    3686 days ago
    What an inspiration you are. Congratulations on the run. I hope that someday I will be able to say that I too have broken the mold and am a role model for my family and others. emoticon
    3686 days ago
    Wonderful! I am so happy to call you my SparkFriend!
    3687 days ago
    You are such an inspiration and a darn good writer, your mother left you to do what she couldn't for whatever reason and you are carrying on like a champ! She is proud of you! Just remember no matter how hard any of us work and learn, our children will wonder why we didn't * * *
    3688 days ago
    Mohandas Gandhi said: "What lies ahead of you and what lies behind you is nothing compared to what lies within you." The things that lie within you are what make you a very special person.
    3690 days ago
  • MADDE3333
    Thanks for running the Race for the Cure!

    I am a ten year survivor and I was one of those women who thought if I found out I had breast cancer I would never have the courage to go through treatment. Never had a mammogram until 50 when my nurse practitioner found a lump in my breast during a physical. Well, when push came to shove, I stepped up to the plate, turns out I had more gumption than I thought...surgery, chemo, and radiation treatment.

    So, thanks...it means a lot to all the ladies in pink when people get together to make a difference!

    You are fantastic!
    3690 days ago
    First off I am so sorry that I missed your birthday!! I hope that you had a fantastic day!!
    Your Mother sounded like a pretty incredible person one I would have loved to know. I'm sure I do know a small part of her though, 'you.' :D.

    I wanted to walk this year because my Mother in Law is a survivor and I wanted to do something for her.

    Take care my friend!
    3691 days ago
    Happy birthday and you ROCK on the run!
    3692 days ago
    Wow, good for you on the run & happy birthday! I firmly believe your mom is thrilled that you learned from her situation & is so proud of you. Wednesday will be 17 years since I lost my mother to brain cancer. I have recently completed the Couch to 5K but haven't run any races yet. Keep up the good work & thank you for being an inspiration to us newbies!
    3692 days ago
  • ERMAC22
    Oh my goodness, tears!!! This is amazing. You have such a great way with words, and such a wonderful family!! Love the race recap - good for you for running and for finding something greater to belong to! You are an inspiration to anyone who doubts that you can be the fittest person you can be, no matter what! Your mom is SO PROUD of you Joanne emoticon
    3693 days ago
    I'm balling like a baby after reading your WONDERFUL, AWESOME, FANTASTIC blog!!!! Go you!! I am sure your mother is in Heaven jumping up and down and going crazy at what her daughter just did!! And she's busy slapping high 5s with Laurie's mom and they are both bragging about there amazing daughters!

    Thank you for sharing and be proud in your race! Bask in the glorious feeling that you finished it! Woohoo!
    3693 days ago
    Great Blog!
    I'm SURE your Mom's up there smiling from ear to ear and proud as ever of you!!! emoticon emoticon
    3693 days ago
    I'm so proud of you. You can bet your Mom is, too. emoticon emoticon
    3694 days ago
    Great job. So sorry about your mom. We lost my husbands cousin to breast cancer at age 28 a week before the Breast Cancer Race here in Cedar Rapids October 11. It is empowering, isnt it? We had signed pinned to our backs in her memory and people would read it and give us hugs... it was surreal. Happy Birthday and here is to 50 more!!!! Go you! I want to run the race here next year too. Have a GREAT week.
    3694 days ago
    Well done! For a long time I have wanted to "do" Race For the Cure, but I'm finally starting to believe I could RUN it. Hope to see you there in 2010!

    Have a wonderful birthday, too!
    3694 days ago
    Thanks so much for sharing these delightful moments.
    Your Mom is running along side you, cheering...!
    3694 days ago
    I enjoyed this blog. Thank you for sharing it! I was touched and inspired. Your mother would be very, very proud of you. Believe me, I have lost my mo ther too and gone through things in my life where I so wish I could share it with her.....

    emoticon ~ Melissa
    3694 days ago
  • JAVAJO47
    What an awesome accomplishment and purpose for challenging yourself to run! Your mother would've been so excited for you. There's no better way to honor you mom than to keep doing what you're doing now. Happy birthday!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3694 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/25/2009 10:12:59 AM
    This blog is fantastic and very touching. Would have loved to meet your mom! Congratulations for the walk, keep it up

    emoticon emoticon
    3694 days ago
    Oh, my gosh! That was a wonderful blog. Yes, your mother and Laurie's are proud of both of you. CONGRATS!!!! You did a wonderful thing and I know that you will continue to get faster with your running. Maybe next year, YOU will be the one with the chip timer. emoticon emoticon
    3694 days ago
    I was there yesterday and it was awesome!!! I walked with my daughter. I just can't get over the number of people who were out there, young and old alike. My daughter and I talked, we are doing this again next year and maybe this time we can run it. That's my goal, but the real goal was to be in Des Moines and walk for the cure.
    You are awesome! Thanks for this beautiful blog!!
    3694 days ago
    Happy Birthday ! Congrats on your run - what a special thing to do for your mother!
    3694 days ago
    emoticon Congratulations on a wonderfully successful run! Your mother would be so proud!

    What a great blog! And...last but not necessarily least:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! emoticon
    3694 days ago
    This is a wonderful blog post! Congratulations on your run!
    3694 days ago
    What an achievement - your Mum would have been so proud of you! emoticon

    You have certainly inherited her sassy attitude! My mum came from NZ and showed the same strength of character, though she reserved the kitchen table for more conventional forms of dissection, like beef and lamb!
    3694 days ago

    As I finished reading your blog I got goosebumps! Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience.

    3694 days ago
    Awesome accomplishment. I love this blog on so many levels. Thanks for sharing. Congratulation!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3694 days ago
    Hey, I just KNEW you'd be a CHAMPION today!

    ...and so did SHE! :-)

    3694 days ago
    Whatever else you do for a living, I hope you are -or become - a writer. You took me from smiling (all men are the same in the dark) to tears. I'd just been on the Koman website for San Diego event next Saturday, pondering whether or not I'll walk it, so I'm thrilled for you with your successful run. Congrats. Remember that slogan of recent years? "You're not getting older, you're getting better." It can be so true. Depends a lot on our choices. And Happy Birthday.
    3694 days ago
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