More Than a Race
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...