Cherie brought up this excellent subject on the Ultralist. I am sure she will not mind that I post her question here with reference to her blog. She says:
I work at a women's nonprofit that focuses on women's workplace equality. I wrote a blog post about inequality in sports, after thinking after placing first for women in an ultra, how I didn't really win.
There were lots of responses, mostly about the difference in biology between the sexes, some about the cultural differences, especially in relation to sports.
In case you're interested, here is my reply:
I’ve been busy these days. Starting a new practice has taken too much of free time. I just now got around to reading this thread that Cherie started about a level playing field for women. Thanks, Cherie! And the responses have been great. I really, really liked everybody’s input. I am passionate about this topic, and have given presentations on the subject of the history of women in athletics. I have a very long response below. I was going to put it on my blog and just post a link here, but decided, what the heck, you will read it if you want and delete it if you wish.
I have my own opinions on the topic that Cherie brought up, and they are just that, opinions. What is below is a long and perhaps boring-to-some stream of thought as well as list of events that have influenced women in sport in recent years. As others have mentioned, it is so important to remember that women have been allowed to participate in sports on a very limited level for such a short time compared to men. I strongly believe that the gender culture significantly impacts the level playing field between the sexes.
Of course, I cannot deny (can anyone?) the physical differences between the sexes. Yes, of course men are stronger, faster, and more muscular. That is our biology, period. And that is the reason for the difference in sport performance for sure. BUT… women have only been competing in sport for such a relatively short time, so much shorter than we may even care to realize. So, how do we know how much that gap will close in time? There is so much more that influences competition than just biology. For now, we usually have a women's winner and a men's winner. I think that is good (though in recent years I have not gone to races with the goal of being the first woman; I have gone to races to be first. I have only succeeded a couple of times, but that it not the point.)
I am 44. I was raised in a time when there was no question that girls could participate in sports. I was in sports in high school, mostly solo sports like gymnastics, but it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. But funny thing is, somehow from somewhere or someone, I picked up this “feminine” influence that I didn’t even know I had. I didn’t know it until 2007, 8 years after running my first ultra. I learned I had it DURING the Badwater 2007 race. It was my friend Dori who was pacing me, who was also a high school girls’ running coach, who pointed it out to me. She said during the race that I had to stop feeling bad when passing people, that passing people was the whole point of my being there in the first place. And she told me I had to stop giving the other runners hugs when I did pass, no matter what I felt. Ha! She called me out, spot on, and it was my first “coaching” experience in how to compete. It was also my first insight into my own experiences and thoughts about competition. The story is a long and funny one and I’ll spare you the details. But I gotta say, it was darn hard for me to learn to pass people without feeling a twinge of guilt, or maybe even a lot of guilt. How strange. That feeling of guilt just doesn’t belong on the race track, right? Where the heck did that come from? Maybe it’s not a girl thing, and maybe there are guys that have felt that way, but the women (usually around my age or older) with whom I have discussed this seem to really get it; they know what I mean. The guys, not so much.
I *believe* there are still cultural influences that keep women, in general, from being bad-ass competitors. Now, I know every one of us knows a bad-ass chick who can kick his or her ass at the opportunity, but I’m talking about in general. I *believe* the stereotypes and misinformation of the dark ages still lurks in sports.
I think we think we are longer over it, but I strongly believe we are not.
And I wonder how narrow the gap between the sexes will become when and if we finally are.
Enough of my thoughts and opinions. Here are some facts about the past.
All jokes aside, girls were not allowed to run or participate in sports because she had one of these - a damn uterus. It wasn’t a good thing to have “back then.” Even the source of the word is a curse.
“The word uterus ultimately comes from the Indo-Europena udero, meaning womb or abdomen. This Indo=European word also developed into the Greek hustera, meaning womb, from whence English gets the word hysteria. This supposed psychoneurotic disorder was once through to be a woman’s disease, somehow caused by a disturbed uterus, and thus the adjective hysterical, meaning deranged by a faulty womb, was invented in the early seventeenth century. The Greek root of these words is also evident in hysterectomy, denoting the surgical removal of the uterus, a procedure that was employed in the late nineteenth century to treat women suffering from hysterical neuroses.” (From The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex, By Mark Morton)
Oh boy. Uterus = Hysteria. We're not off to a good start from birth. Like I said, all jokes aside.... :)
In the early 1900s:
When six women collapsed after the 800-meter race at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, an alarmist account in The New York Times said that "even this distance makes too great a call on feminine strength." The London Daily Mail carried admonitions from doctors that women who participated in such "feats of endurance" would "become old too soon." The 800-meter race was discontinued. For 32 years, until the 1960 Rome Olympics, women would run no race longer than 200 meters.
Ok, so 30+ years go by….
Does anybody know or remember the name Julia Chase? She was born in the 40’s when women weren't allowed to compete in events with men. These are Julia's words: “You rarely heard about women runners in those days. Women weren't allowed to compete in events with men. And they weren't allowed to enter races longer than 880 yards. If a woman ran too much her uterus would fall out. That was the thinking. You never heard of an actual case, but it was just in the air.”
But Julia wanted to compete in a ½ mile race in MA in 1961. It was a long haul for her to even get to the start line, but she ran the race and she finished in 33:40, ahead of 12 men. Her time was not considered official because she was a woman.
Everybody knows Bobbi Gibb. She is recognized as the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon in 1966, of course without a number because women were not allowed to run marathons. I wonder why not. You’d think by the 60s that we would have extinguished the fable of the uterus falling out. But that is not the reality. Women were still held back.
Of course, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run Boston with a race number, and she was allowed into the race only because she used her initials instead of name to enter, so it was presumed that she was a man. We all have seen the famous picture of the attempt by the official to physically remove her from the course.
And all that discriminatory nonsense was EONS ago many of the younger people here must imagine, but it wasn’t. Kathrine at the Boston Marathon was 1967. Not so long ago for us 40+ year olds!
And just when you think that the notion of falling uteri were a thing of the “dark ages” of the 60s and 70s for women athletes ...
It was in 2008 that Gian-Franco Kasper, head of the International Ski Federation said, "Ski jumping is just too dangerous for women. Don't forget, [the landing] it's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters to the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view" A few years earlier, he told reporters that a woman's uterus might burst during landing.
Huh? 2008? Surely this can’t be for real….
Or how about, what year was the first year in Olympic history that all 205 participating countries sent at least one female competitor? Yes, this should be a crisp memory in all our minds.
Why? Why did it take until *last year* for all countries to have representation of the female sex?
The answer lies in the Olympic Committee allowing the athlete’s “uniform” to be altered, that is, allowing women to cover their arms in clothing if that is what their religion requires of them. 2012!
Who cares what they wear? Let them compete! Let them be athletes. Let them run their hearts out and sweat and puke and stumble and fail. Maybe one of them will win. But we will never know until we give them the same opportunities that men have been granted seemingly forever and without question.
So, my point is, and of course it could have been said in just one sentence: We have a loooong way to go culturally before we declare that women will always be the lesser (slower, weaker, etc.) athlete in a competition, all things being equal.
I believe women have a competitive strength that is yet untapped because maybe many (most?) of us don’t even know it’s there. I so hope we can draw on the inspiration of the women who paved this path for us. I believe the best way to honor them is to keep the momentum rolling. I hope that more and more women will start their races with the intent of being the first person to cross the finish line. Who cares what happens in the end; it’s the intent that is super cool.
Lisa Bliss (okay, back to work now)
I was well-trained for Pacific Rim this year. Our mild winter allowed me to continue training through the previous months. My ideal goal was to break the woman’s course record set by me last year of 118.25 miles.
Pac Rim is one of those 24-hour runs though that does not favor high mileage because of the layout of the 1-mile loop and also the notorious fickle weather. The course is fantastic though, a mixture of surfaces of gravel trail, pavement, grass and a short concrete bridge. There are several sharp turns on the course that require you to slow your pace. One is a 270 degree right turn on a slight downgrade and the other two are left turns around the cones before the timing tent. There is little elevation change, but you certainly feel the “inclines” after 12 hours of running. The weather is a competitor leveler here and all veteran Pac Rim runners know this. Always bring your rain jacket and warm clothes for the cold, damp night! In recent years, we’ve been fortunate to have excellent weather with just some light showers, and I knew, given the odds, that we were due for a more typical year this year.
Because my training had gone unexpectedly well, I felt that if the weather turned out to be good, I would have a good chance at my mileage goal. When it really comes down to it though, I always just want to do the best I can in whatever conditions that come along.
I also knew that I couldn’t go too deep into the well because Sunday right after the race, we would be driving the four hours back to Ellensburg, picking up the dogs, and then I would have to make the three hour drive back to Spokane so that I could be ready in the morning to go to a TEDx talk rehearsal. I was one of many speakers the next day and I had to be alert and physically agile and mentally alert enough to stand on stage and present my talk on my Badwater to Whitney crossing titled “No Failure In Trying.” In fact, because of a few very busy work weeks and other commitments, I still had to do a lot of preparation for my talk. So, I went into the race knowing that, even more than possible bad weather, this was my biggest limitation in pushing for high mileage.
Tim, who has won the race four years in a row, planned to run just 50k as a last long run before The Barkley, which was two weeks later. He was then going to help out with volunteering at the timing station and help me and the Ellensburg runners as he was able. We were excited that John Price, our good friend from Virginia, was going to be running too. We headed to Longview Friday and met up with John for dinner, along with David, Ethan, Craig, Tom and Willie, which is always a good time with good friends. This is Pac Rim, the race that is more like a “family reunion” and always an atmosphere of camaraderie, fun, and support among volunteers and runners.
(Tim, me and John Price the evening before the race)
It was raining the hour before the race start at 9 AM. Not good when you have to set up your supplies. But Tim set up the canopy and, as we shuttled our gear from the car to the canopy, the rain let up enough for us to stay mostly dry.
The sun came out by the start of the race and the first hours were delightful for running. There were some light sprinkles, which were nice, and some spatters of showers that got us wet but most runners were able to grab a rain jacket back at their aid to protect from getting soaked. This was the case for me. And the jacket went on and off and on and off several times during the first 10 hours.
I ran at a comfortable, singing pace and went through 50 miles at about 8 hours. I felt great. My running pace was good but I still lost a minute or so every couple of loops when I stopped to get aid, which is always a bit frustrating for me because I don’t like to stop. But I was completely within a comfortable time at 50 miles, and I figured I might as well run while I can while the weather was good because I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to stay that way.
(Stopping for aid after 50 miles. Photo by Emmy Stocker.)
Sure enough, around 7 PM, the skies opened and it rained hard, soaking hard. I was half way around the loop and did my best to hustle the ½ mile back to my aid for my jacket. Tim met me on the course with it saving me a minute or two, but I was already soaked. I knew then that as nighttime came, I was going to have to change completely out of the wet clothes at some point in order to stay warm through the cold, damp night.
I decided to keep running until I felt cold. So, I ran for a few more hours and was ok as long as I was moving, but every time I had to stop for a bathroom break, which was frequently, I got chilled to the bone, the kind of cold that happens from the inside out. I could always warm up by running a few loops but the stops were taking a toll on my ability to control my core temperature, and I knew it was time to get into dry clothes. But because it continued to rain and I had limited dry clothes and I knew sooner or later the rain was going to stop, I kept running. My legs felt great, my spirit was good, I wasn’t tired, and I really felt like running. But the fickle weather won and I eventually retreated to my changing tent. Tim helped me into dry clothes, and I even changed my shoes, something I never do, but they were soaked and squashing at every step.
I felt much better in dry clothes but the long stop chilled me even more as I had already gone into the tank as far as temperature regulation. So, Tim heated up the car and I warmed up in there for about a half hour. He then kicked me out and I got back onto the course, feeling much better. The course was sloppy wet and the puddles unavoidable. In some spots, runners had a choice of either going through the puddles or stepping into the muddy grass. For a few miles, I puddle-jumped to try to stay dry as the rain had let up and I still had about 8 hours left to run.
Then Tim came to the runners’ rescue and, with a broom, literally swept the water off the course, and oh, what a difference that made! Finally, we could run without having to deal with the puddles. So, I ran.
I was surprised, that even with my repetitive breaks to get aid, my long break for changing clothes and my retreat to the car for 30 minutes, I hit 100 miles in about 19-1/2 hours. That was my pace for last year’s record, and at this point I felt good again, so I kept the goal in mind but knew that if the weather turned bad again, I would simply have to modify that goal. It was all good to me anyway because in my mind, the most important thing was to finish the race with enough left to make the drive home safely and to be prepared for the TEDx talk.
The nighttime was nice and I continued to run every single step on the course. I was comfortable doing this and did not feel like I needed any walk breaks, and because I tended to my own aid every couple of loops, I wanted to make up for that lost time on the course. So, I never took a walk break on the course.
Towards the very early pre-dawn hours, it rained again. The runners still left on the course got wet again. Most of us were in rain gear and heavier clothing, pants, hats and gloves, though there were a few brave souls still in shorts and wind-breakers. But we were all cold and eagerly awaiting the sunrise, which took its sweet time. I can’t remember a 24-hour run where the sun was so lazy in coming up in the morning. But eventually the sky turned from black to gray in hopes of a sunrise, but instead of feeling the warmth of a rising sun, the clouds rolled in the rain returned, and it started snowing big heavy, wet flakes. It was quite miserable, but several of us trudged on.
I reviewed my pace and goals and how I was feeling, and despite the cold, I felt pretty good. I had a solid first place position for the women, but that is never really a goal for me. Rather, my goals are mileage-based, and I knew I was going to fall short of my course record. I was in second place overall. The first place runner, Arthur, had slowed his pace considerably and was now sitting under the timing tent bundled up in winter gear. I didn’t know his mileage but I knew he had surpassed my mileage long ago.
That’s when I decided, my mileage was “good enough” and I went into Fred and Betty’s RV to warm up while the snowy rain continued. Tim and John joined me in there and it was actually a fun break. We were joking around and already feeling the relief of the race coming to a close. I spent at least 30 minutes in there. And then Tim started nudging me out again, back onto the course. I was not motivated to respond until he told me that Arthur had stopped running and that he was at 112 miles and I was at 110. We had an hour left to run. Tim talked to Arthur and he said, as running comrades sometimes do after spending 23 hours together on a mile loop track, that if I caught up to him in mileage that we could walk the last mile together for a victory tie.
I took the bait, and headed out in the ice cold rain. I ran and, for the first time, walked a little too for 2 more miles, and when I passed through the timing tent, I asked Arthur if he was still up for a tie, and he said yes. So, we headed out and walked a loop together, sharing our self-proclaimed bravado for sticking out the weather. We had a little time left, so I convinced Arthur to walk an additional 0.25 miles for a total tie of 113.25 miles.
(Final 2 miles of running)
(Walking the final lap with Arthur Martineau for a tie at 113.25 miles.)
We threw on some additional layers over our wet clothes and huddled under the timing tent for the awards. We packed up our aid and Tim took down the canopy while I tried to warm up in the car. I was changing out of my wet shoes when Alex Swenson knocked on the car door window and presented me with a huge cinnamon roll from Stuffy’s Restaurant. We had been talking about food on the course, sharing our cravings, and he said Stuffy’s made the most awesome cinnamon rolls that 5 people could share. Well, he was right! This thing was about 3 pounds! What a fun guy he is!
(1st place award. With RD Wildman Fred.)
We stopped at the YMCA for a quick shower and started our 4 hour drive back to Tim’s with the car smelling like a freshly baked cinnamon roll all the way home. We picked up our dogs, ate dinner, and then I made the long drive back to Spokane. I don’t like driving so far alone after losing a night of sleep (and with 100+ miles on my body), but I was certainly prepared to stop and rest stop if I needed.
The TEDx talk was fun, an entire day of incredible speakers. I enjoyed every one. Fortunately, I didn’t wear my body out too much, though I was definitely shuffling around on stage to keep my sore muscles engaged. I think the muscle and mental fatigue actually helped me relax for the presentation. Maybe it was a little over the top to try to pull off both the race and the presentation, but I am happy that I did.
Steely was diagnosed with an aggressive type of lymphoma on November 1, 2011. He was 6 years old. I was devastated.
We tried all the different chemotherapy meds but, in the end, none worked. I took him off all cytotoxic chemo drugs and kept him on the prednisone, and made the best of the limited time we had left together.
Steely declined at first by the week, and then by the day. Still, he lived well and was happy and playful for all but the last 2 days of his life. Even now, it's hard to believe that 3 days ago, we went for a 2 mile (slow) walk and played tennis ball.
But then his body systems started failing and he stopped eating. It was a quick decline after that.
In the end, Steely died yesterday at home with Tim and me at his side. He died without pain or suffering. He was free at last.
I feel as if I started the mourning process the day he was diagnosed, knowing then that even the best successful treatment was a one-year remission. Unfortunately, we weren't that lucky.
I am engulfed in sorrow, but there is a glimmer of relief that I remember him in his physical glory running on the trails with his tail up and his ears flopping, always looking back at me especially from the tops of the hills, waiting, watching, as if saying "What's taking you so long? It's just a hill!"
Aside from Tim of course, Steely was for me the best companion in all areas of my life, running being one of them. And boy did that boy love to run! He would regularly and easily run 20 miles with me, crash for an hour or two afterward, and then spring to his feet, scoop up his tennis ball, drop it in my lap, and beg for a game of fetch.
He was a goofy boy, he loved life, and if he wasn't lying on his back waiting for a tummy rub, then he was looking at you with a smile and a wagging tail, which would usually result in a treat.
He was a poser, loved the camera. I have never before known a dog so much a ham for the camera.
I could go on and on about how empty my life will be without him and how I fear my rescued greyhound (who learned everything he knows about the dog world from Steely) will get very depressed without his brother around. I could go on and on about how Steely became my best furry friend and how his life enrich ours greatly, but I have already said enough, and wish to post a link to my eulogy for Steely.
He will always be in my heart and I will remember him for his zeal for life and running, and even more so, for his steadfast selfless companionship.
Well, I was very pleased to log 125.98 miles in 24 hours, nabbing the 3rd place award for women. This is a nice PR for me. Machelle Poole crewed for me and made all the difference! What a fantastic lady she is! Next up... 130. I think I can do it if the stars align. :)
I did not recover well from that race. Maybe I had done too much in the preceding months. Maybe it was because we jumped right on an airplane right after the race to head home and I returned to work without a day of rest. Probably a combination of several things, but my legs remained swollen and sore for about 2 weeks.
I was nervous about that because Tim and I had already registered for the Big Dog Backyard Ultra in Tennessee on October 22, a unique race contrived by the sadistic race director of the Barkley Marathons. It was a "last man standing" format, and I knew I needed to be running on all cylinders for this one if I stood a chance at doing well. It was just a 4.167 mile loop through trails, kinda gnarly trails, and on the hour every hour runners had to be at the start line to start the next loop. So, it really didn't matter how fast you ran the loop (except that speed - or lack of - did impact your ability to refuel or change into warmer clothes, etc.). What mattered was who could do this the longest. There was no distance or time cut-off. Many good runners came to run an N number of loops. Tim and I went to run N+1.
But I was worried because my body required lots of rest in the month prior to this race. Instead of training, I was trying to sleep, get some massages and eat well, all to help charge all my cylinders.
That's when a good friend and massage therapist suggested I try Xango, which is just a fruit drink but very high in antioxidants. She suggested I drink it every day. Now, I'd like to say that I eat healthfully every day, and for the most part I do, but no, not always. So, I took her up on this. Additionally, as I was describing to her what I felt to be an "endocrine fatigue," she suggested I try Eleviv to see if it would help. Since both products are completely natural and free of any additives, I gave it a whirl.
Interesting thing, I felt better. Much better. And very quickly much better. My energy returned, even my motivation to run returned. And when I ran, I felt back to my normal strong self. So, I continued both the Xango and the Eleviv and thought the real test would be not so much during the race itself, but in my recovery.
As it turns out, the race was awesome! We had such a fantastic time making one loop per hour. We had no idea how long we were going to be out there - 12 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours? I think most everybody - including us - was expecting 24 hours.
But as the race progressed, runners were dropping one, two, sometimes three at a time. It was a lot tougher than anyone could predict. By nightfall, there were 9 left, and with each additional loop, one would drop.
Until the final 6. And then until the final 4. At that point 16 loops (hours) into the race, it was Tim, Dave, Joe, and me. I was happy to still be playing with the boys. The guys ran together for the most part, and I ran alone far back in the field. They completed their loops in about 50-55 minutes, leaving a little time to regroup and refuel. I had been looping a lot slower, coming back to the start area in 58 minutes and sometimes just as the bell would ring to start the next loop. I loved it! I really did. I felt great from an "endocrine" perspective. I felt strong and healthy. What I was losing, however, was my grace in jumping over downed trees and managing the loose rocks. (Have I ever mentioned that I have a bad unstable ankle that doesn't like unstable surfaces?) :)
So, the 4 of us set out on loop 16 and only 2 made it back in time - Tim and Dave. Joe missed it by seconds, and I missed it by minutes. That meant one of these two was going to run N miles and the other N+1. But nobody knew how many loops it would take. They both started on the bell, but after the short out and back section, they come back through the start staging area, and it was there that Dave decided to drop and not continue the loop. The race director's report said that Dave said, "Clearly Tim is the tougher runner."
So, it was just Tim on the rest of loop 18, and all he needed to do was finish it under the time. He had been running strong and smart the entire race, so I didn't doubt for a second he could do it. Sure enough, he saunters back in 53 minutes...the Last Man Standing. The Big Dog!
While there is only one winner, one last man standing, I at least was the last woman standing. :) So, Tim and I took our winning buckles and sat around the fire with Laz and are old and new friends, some of us smoking cigars and others passing around Laz's moonshine. Near morning, we left, but came back later to sit around and trash talk some more. It was a wonderful event, not just the run, but the entire event.
I continued my healthy supplements and I made the quickest, easiest and fullest recovery I have ever made after a tough ultra. I am sold, I love the stuff. It's pure health with no toxins or anything.
So, I approached Xango with my story and they offered to sponsor me! I couldn't be more thrilled. I believe in the product. We have set up a website for information if anyone is interested. I do not sell the products, and I have no financial interest in them whatsoever. Like my Drymax socks, I just believe they excellent quality products, and in my life, they support my crazy ultrarunning hobby.
If you want to check out the products, then you can go HERE.
So, great recovery from that race. Flew back home to Spokane and picked up my dogs from boarding, and Steely Dan was looking lethargic, kind of sick. I thought I'd watch him a bit, but when he didn't get better, I made an appointment at my vet. That vet appointment day, I went to work, and stopped back home after work to pick him up to go, and OMG! the lymph nodes in his neck were nearly the size of tennis balls, and he was very ill, now with a fever, and was vomiting. It didn't take the vet long to tell me, "I have bad news..." She said he most likely had lymphoma and that he would need chemotherapy if I elected to do that. She took an aspirate from the node and sent him home on Prednisone.
The next morning I headed to WSU where I spent the next 11-1/2 hours with him while he received test after test. THe verdict? Yes, lymphoma, stage IV. Chemo provide 90-95% remission for at least one year. Dogs tolerate the chemo well, not nearly the side effects of humans, and his quality of life would be good. So, I started him on chemo that day.
He's only 6 years old. He's my baby. I didn't expect this; it came on so suddenly and he was at death's door.
But now, one week later, he is doing GREAT! No exaggeration. He's his normal self in spirit and energy and goofiness. I can't tell you how much this has affected me emotionally. And yes, I now let him sleep in my bed with me! :)
His treatments will be weekly and will last for 6 months. A long time and lots of money, but it's a decision Tim and I made and we made it easily. We love our dogs.
So, given that, things are now good. There is a plan in place with which I am comfortable. Life is precious.
Being that I stayed home with Steely after that first dose of chemo to monitor him, I had to cancel my trip to the Wilderness Medical Society meeting in Tucson, where Megan and I were presenting on the Badwater Ultramarathon Medical Coverage. I put together my part of the presentation and reviewed it with her and she presented it just last night. Word has it she rocked the presentation!
So, things are settling in now. The days are shorter and there is no longer sunlight to run in after work. My miles will decrease and that's ok; they always do in the winter. But I will still run because I love to run. I can't wait until Steely is well enough to run with me again. Those are some of the moments in life that are most precious to me.
I have had several friends face the diagnosis and treatment of cancer this year.
And another friend was just recently diagnosed. Stage 3 Intraductal Carcinoma. Breast cancer.
Connie is my friend and affectionately referred to by me as my "partner in crime" from high school. We were very close.
Life separates people as we "grow up" and families are born and jobs take us across the US, far away from each other.
But despite this, you never lose a dear friend, they are always there. And when there is a celebration or a time of need, a friend will be there. No matter what.
Connie has a sweet daughter, Chloe. Her picture is on her blog page, which was set up by Connie's sister as a means of communication to family and friends about her health and treatments. It's also for family and friends to be able to come to a shared spot to give their support and love.
It also accepts financial donations to help offset this pending medical bill.
Connie has already had surgery and is back to work. Further work-up and maybe even additional surgery are pending, and then treatments start. She is positive and optimistic. Who wouldn't be? She has a beautiful daughter to smile with every day.
You don't know Connie. Heck, you may not even know me! Buy I bet you know someone with cancer. Maybe we can help each other, make the world a more loving place. Pay it forward.
If you would like, the blog site is accepting pay pal donations. I personally know that a bunch of little donations, even $10, can add up to a whole lot of help and security for someone, or a family. So, with Connie's reluctant permission, I am making her site available to all who read here. Whether a donation or a prayer, if you wish to help, please do.
Several people have asked me if I have given my cart a name. Yes, I have. The name was decided long ago. It came to me on a run. And when it came to me, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. Yes, that will be the name. I knew instantly that it was perfect.
It's an unlikely name.
I had been thinking of "usual" names like "Badwater Bliss" and other plays on my last name. But those ideas never jived. They didn't have meaning, and I wanted meaning.
Then, several months ago while running my usual peaceful country roads, sort of in a zoned-out state, I was thinking of my uncle, the uncle who cancer claimed too early in his life. It was just this past September when I was at his side in the hospital, holding his hand, rubbing his swollen feet and talking with the doctors about easing his pain from the cancer that had metastacized to his spine. He was lucid at first, but as days went by and his lucidity started to slip, we knew there was a chance he wasn't even going to make it out of the hospital.
Then as mysteriously often the case, he had a "good" day, a day I knew I needed to make the most of, and so I took some time by myself to talk with him.
* * * * * *
Let me back up and share briefly a little about my uncle.
He was my mom's brother, only brother, except for the one who died at a young age. He was my "cool" uncle, the one I admired and wanted to like me. As a child, I saw him about once a year when our family made the annual family vacation drive from the Midwest to New Jersey, where my mom's family gathered for a sort of reunion, usually over Thanksgiving.
I thought he was cool. He went to Vietnam, served his country, had long hair, had a thin physique. He was in a motorcycle accident that shattered his femur and had a metal rod in place of bone there but still ran regularly for fitness. He was a vegetarian. That's what I remember.
The story went that he held a couple of jobs after returning from Vietnam and then he decided he wasn't made to work for others.
He loved horses. So, he started raising horses, training them for racing, and winning big races, and he made a good living out of it. He was happy and successful; a self-made person. He built his horse ranch in Ocala, Florida, and then eventually built a bigger and more beautiful one in North Carolina. He named it River Run.
I never saw the ranch...until this September when his wife took me there and we parked outside the gate (it had since been sold as they had just retired their business) and we talked about it. She told me about the horses, the stables, the staff, the racing, the hard, hard work that both of them did to make River Run what it was. It was a gorgeous ranch with a river that ran near the house that hummed to them in the evenings after a long day of work.
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After those early years of the annual family drive to New Jersey, there started to be times went we didn't go. And I lost touch with that side of the family. Not completely but there were long periods of time of no contact. Probably a lot had to do with the fact that that my own immediate family was splitting up. It was a hard time.
It was such a hard time that I left high school - before high school was over - and I went to Chicago. I was 17. Fortunately, however, my school allowed me to complete the class requirements for graduation through correspondence, and I did receive my high school diploma. My overall grades, however, were horrendous.
In Chicago, I had a minimum wage job, a whopping medical bill that I was responsible for paying, and no health insurance. I rented a house with two other people in Chicago for $200 a month. Enough said there! I did the best I could to stretch my income to cover basic needs. I did ok. College, which was something I had always planned on doing, was simply not an option. Still, I often perused the class listings at the university and picked out all the classes I would take if only I could.
So, still hopeful, with each measly paycheck I cashed, I saved. I would sit on the floor with labeled envelopes spread out in front of me, and I would put $100 in an envelope for "rent," $20 for "utilities," $35 for the "bus pass," etc., and $20 for "college."
Finally, I saved up enough money for a class at the university.
I applied and met with the registrar woman. I felt transparent and nervous as she looked over my transcripts. "Can you explain these F's?" she asked looking over her glasses at me. "I wasn't serious about my education then," I said, "but I am now."
"Sorry," she said, "I can't allow you admission."
"You should go to a community college and prove that you are serious now...and then come reapply."
I was devastated. And gave up on the idea. And just continued to work.
* * * * * *
About a year later, I realized that it didn't matter what I wanted to do, it only mattered what I did do. Sometimes a promise "to do better" isn't good enough. The registrar woman was right. So, I went to community college.
I registered for my first class and I was, um, shall I say, proud to be there. I aced it no problem. The next semester I registered for another and aced that one too. School was easy for me. I loved it.
Three years it took me - one to two classes per semester at community college - to get through one college year of credits.
I wanted desperately to go to the university but reality was, despite Pell Grants and some aid, I could not afford it. I couldn't afford the hidden expenses of books and fees, aside from tuition itself.
So, as proud as I was, and as much as I fought desperately the need to ask for help, I realized that I had to at least ask before I gave up on a chance at an education. I honestly loathed asking for help, especially financial help. The refusal from a family member several years prior was still a knife in my gut, and I swore I would never ask for help again. My pride was fierce. But that wasn't doing me any good. My mother would have paid my tuition in an instant if she could, but she was now in school herself readying herself for the work world.
So, I asked my uncle.
And he said yes, he would help me.
* * * * * *
He helped me with some of my tuition and I paid the rest. I was still working full time after all, and by then had been living in a nice apartment in stable conditions. I had a car. Things were tight, but I was doing fine.
I reapplied to the university and was admitted with no need of promising anything. My community college grades were proof enough.
Truly, if it wasn't for my uncle creating that opportunity for me those first years at the university, I never could have done it. It was he who opened the door for me, the door I thought was jammed shut forever.
Nine years later, I graduated from Loyola University Summa Cum Laude, and thenhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif went on to medical school. The rest is not important.
My uncle is what is important. He trusted me, he believed in me, he gave me the chance. He created an opportunity that changed my life.
This past September, on that day in the hospital, I took his hand and I cried and I said, "Thank you, Uncle Paul, for helping me."
* * * * * *
So, when I was out on that run a few months ago and I was thinking of my Death Valley crossing, the teens at Crosswalk who will benefit from the GED and tuition fund-raising, the cart, and my uncle, the name came to me and I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I will be crossing the desert, an oft-thought godforsaken place (though that is so not so!) where there is no water, no less rivers. I will be pulling, creeping, crawling my way forward, sometimes less than a mile an hour up the passes (contrary to all that it means to "run"), and I will be totally unaided, completely self-supported, solo, self-reliant (and yet that is, in real life, never. ever. true.)....
And when the name came to me suddenly and took my breath away, I knew instantly that it was perfect.
I am an ultra runner, physician and have been medical director of some of the toughest ultras. I tend to be a mover and a shaker and louder than my size suggests. However, my Gemini twin is gentler and contemplative, an artist, a writer, and a poet. I am a dog lover, a believer in souls, and have a special affinity for those who struggle because I have been there.
This is my crazy lovable huggable Weimaraner, Steely Dan. I call him Steely. He left us in January of this year at only 6 years from lymphoma that did not respond to chemotherapy treatments. Steely was a total goof. He loved trail running, road running, treadmill running, new experiences, making eye contact, sleeping on his back, me, kids, and liver treats. He was Zappa's best friend. We miss him dearly.
This is Stella. A rescue from the shelter. She's about 6 months old and a Border Collie. She is a joyous bundle of energy and curiosity and now also Zappa best friend. She will make a nice running partner when she grows up.
This is the now the big brother of my family - a rescued Greyhound. His name is Frank Zappa. I call him Zappa. He's 7 years old and has learned all about life beyond the track and crate from Steely when he was with us. It was very rewarding to watch his personality bloom as he settled into the family. And yes, he runs like the wind!
This is Natasha, my dearest friend. She was with me through college, medical school, residency, and she moved with me from Chicago to Spokane several years ago. She was my best running partner for 10 years. My sweet Natasha died from bone cancer in 2006. I miss her still. I hung a windchimes over the deck outside. When it chimes, I smile and think she has finally -- wherever she is now -- caught a squirrel!