Owning My Story

That’s exactly what I did — to a local class of nursing students two days ago.

Because I was invited! They’re studying the liver right now and I’m a liver transplant survivor since 1984. Initially, my friend Michael was in that class and asked me last February if I wanted to be his “show and tell” for that unit. I was game!

First, I congratulated them on a wonderful, important, career choice as nurses.

I did ask that no one record or take any pictures. I shared details about my diagnosis, lab results, the financial impact of buying health insurance, prescription refills, and hospital bills. I wanted those nursing students to leave with more empathy for their future patients and an appreciation to how managing liver disease is a part of so many aspects of your identity and daily decisions. With some humor sprinkled in on the fun aspects for comic relief!

But I didn’t want it to be public. This was something I normally keep private, as my Dad had advised me early-on not to talk too much about my illness. Mainly because he didn’t want me to lose any opportunities– especially business-related– based on my diagnosis. Most companies see any “health issues” as a liability and discriminate because of it. It’s not legal– but that’s why we have protections against having to reveal that in a job interview. Because all of have the right to work, even if one of those health issues includes a serious illness or disability.

I grew up to share his stoic views, but for a different reason. I didn’t want to be stereotyped as weak– as a “sick” person. It can also scare people off when it comes to dating. It’s the kind of information I don’t typically share until it looks like it’s headed toward a relationship, rather than the initial dates.

But in this context, I have an opportunity to empower and inspire hope.

In this context, being open about something I normally withhold would be helpful to others. I wanted to be an example of a person managing a serious diagnosis who has a normal life — and I wanted to embody for them a name to go with the diagnosis. To maybe help them become a little more understanding the next time a patient is difficult, angry, anxious or hurting.

The first time I spoke about it, I was more facts-oriented. I made sure to use technical terminology and the teacher sent me her power point so I tried to make connections to their material. It was more about feeling validated intellectually for me– I didn’t want the class to think I was uneducated about my condition and my body. I wanted to impress them with terminology, procedures I’ve had– facts like comparing lab values from when my liver almost rejected and present day, when it’s stable and healthy. Things they may study.

The students were attentive but also quiet. I wasn’t sure how I did, but Michael said I was great and the teacher invited me back.

This second time I spoke, I was confident. I validated myself, I didn’t need their approval. I relaxed. I did include some facts and terms, but decided instead to focus on telling them about me. What I like to do, what makes me happy, accomplishments!

I brought my own “show and tell”– running medals!

Two. From Warrior Dash 2016 (my first!) and the Titan 10k, just in July 2017. Two races which really challenged me. I JOKED about the Derby Firecracker 2017, when I was *dead last and was passed up by a 77-year-old woman and a snotty speedwalker. And I could laugh about it– especially since my Aunt Judy had been there taking pictures. And that was more important than my time and ranking!

And I never undermined myself by saying I was a “slow runner”– it never occurred to me. I got to stand in front of that class and reminisce about defining moments in my life when I did something with passion. I told them how happy running makes me, and that it gives me hope when I feel overwhelmed by the doctors’ appointments, price of medication refills, and those mornings when getting blood drawn hurts.

At the end, I got a bit emotional. I didn’t cry, but my voice broke a little.

The way *I see myself has changed since my first talk last February, and it was reflected in how I spoke.

Now I see myself as more than a liver transplant patient.
Now, I’m also a runner with serious training plans for long-distance races.

This opportunity was something I didn’t know I needed; it was a gift for me. Reminded me how far I’ve come– how resilient my immune system. Most importantly, my faith. My legs!

I told them my training goals for races this fall. I felt not just articulate, but healthy. You can’t run five miles without a certain level of fitness!

And I can run seven. I will run nine after training for this upcoming race.

Those students were all watching me. I had their full attention. And best of all, they really laughed and were more interactive. The teacher asked a few questions, and then I was done. And within the time limit!!

Last time I just left quietly, and then the teacher went on with her lecture.

But this time, two students approached me. They were on a small break. One brought me a postcard for an upcoming local Halloween 5k hosted by the college. She told me her name and that she’d be there. On her way out, she turned and stopped, made eye contact. Smile.

“Thanks so much for sharing your story.”

I’m invited back again. And I feel proud, happy, and healthy.

My Second 5K: A Hard Lesson

Yesterday morning I ran my second 5K, The Shorewood Scoot.

It was difficult and I lost motivation quickly.

I hadn’t run at all in a week, and I could feel the difference. It was my first slightly cold run and I *did* love that!

What I love about 5K’s is getting up early, meeting friends and taking pictures before– the camaraderie of being with a bunch of people who don’t care about the weather and want to do something healthy for fun.

Everyone seems to be relaxed and people are wearing so many different colors! It’s a wonderful environment.

And I LOVE crossing the finish line.

But yesterday early-on I felt defeated– I was too focused on the outcome– on my rank. On who was behind me.

I slowed to a walk in less than a mile. People– walkers!– from behind me kept passing me up.

Then I began to see elderly people who were running slowly, but still running– they passed me too.

I barely ran this one. I just didn’t have the energy, though not sure why. I did get enough sleep.

One  con about this race was far fewer volunteers– and they didn’t have much enthusiasm. They merely clapped and pointed, but most of them didn’t smile or cheer or even make eye contact. I was surprised how much I missed that enthusiasm from my first 5K.

I also had in a lined rain jacket and it felt too hot over the thermal shirt I had chosen. But my bib was pinned on it and I didn’t want to stop and re-do it. Also, that jacket never stays tied around my waist.

The race actually began on a trail I’ve run several times. I kept seeing entrances off the path to the woods. I had such a strong urge to ditch the race altogether and just explore alone in the woods.

But I kept on. I believe I crossed the finish line in 50:25?? That’s what I remember the clock saying.

I have no idea how I ranked– after several searches online there appears to be no link posted.

But maybe it’s better that way??

After, I had plans to go with a friend and her two dogs to a local arboretum. I was so psyched!

Especially since her little lady, Kaia, sat on my lap most of the way. She enjoyed being hugged, and I loved holding her. It was comforting to have this calm little creature snuggling up to me. Once we arrived, we both walked one of the dogs and marveled at all the pets and vendors! And the threes, of course.

It was a laid-back, beautiful day that felt like fall. We both had long-sleeve shirts on.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long.

Her little dog was pulling me and I couldn’t keep up with walking her. For some reason, my knees were really sore. I had to keep slowing down and stopping.

I felt like the Tin Man with rusty joints. I felt like every bit of 34.

It was confusing, because I’ve run 5 miles without any pain. What’s the difference in running a 5K and then doing some walking? It wasn’t even a large dog!

Regardless, it appears I over-did it by making those plans directly after the race.

A lesson for next time!

And although that race was a hard one, I’m not giving up.

I will simply run more often and continue doing 5K’s until they get easier.

I’m not waiting long to get back out there. Probably tonight!

Because when I do well, I love it!

I’m going to tr y and have the mindset that I’m running to ENJOY it. To take in the beauty of fall. To challenge myself. To have fun with my friends. To visit places I haven’t been.

And yes, to compete. The two 5K’s I’ve run have both been small and local.

I think I would enjoy a big one more. The anonymity would comfort me in a bigger group.

What’s a race that was difficult for you?? How do you motivate yourself when you start to get inside your head and lose heart during a race?  Tell me in the comments!

My First 5K!! No Looking Back

I ran a 5k this morning. The 4th Annual Theresa Lang 5K, in my hometown of Joliet, IL.

I got to say that today! My first ever. I chose this one because I was friends with the woman honored in this race– it only makes sense that her event be my first.

I felt her spirit with us when I saw a young girl in the parking lot, a volunteer, totally jazzed with energy. She was yelling and dancing and positively HOPPING with joy. She just exuded fun. That’s how Theresa was, and why she is still mourned deeply by myriad people. That jubilant spirit is why she is worthy of this event.

FIrst, it is so wonderful to wake up early, run, and then go on with my day. Like it’s just part of my routine!!

My biggest fear had been that I would tragically sleep through the race entirely. But I made it!! I started with everyone.

Second, my experience was made so much better because my close friend Jennifer signed up to support me– so I wouldn’t have to run my first race alone. She’s invited me to other 5k’s this year, coming up soon. I think it’s so cool that this is a part of our friendship– something we have in common and can do together! Plus, it’s healthy.

This was only her third 5k, so we’re both beginners. And though she can run faster than me, she never left me behind. She stayed within 5 feet and slowed down if I was really struggling. She’d ask me if I wanted to walk or run. She was very accepting of my ability, which was such a gift. My original goal had been to run the whole thing, but I didn’t. However, I’m still proud!! I finished. And I wasn’t last!

Just having someone there with me made the race so much more meaningful.

I heard there were 140 runners signed up– online, it says that I finished in 42:18, 96th place. I’ll take that!!! And though a 5K is supposed to be 3.1 miles, somehow my Nike Running app calculated us at 3.42 miles? I’m not complaining!

When it started I was pretty intimidated– it seemed like most of the runners passed me up right away. But I took the advice of Jen, who told me to just run steady, that we’d end up passing a good amount of them who would be walking and etc.  And she was never annoyed when I had to slow down. But she would also encourage me to go faster.

When I had to walk or was losing motivation, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to look behind me. It didnt’ matter who was back there– it only mattered that I keep going!!

She also tried something out of her comfort zone– for the first time, she ran without music. She wanted to get the full experience of the other runners. I didn’t have music either.

And considering that I ran late last night and didnt’ get enough sleep, I think I performed extremely well. Lesson learned for the future: NO RUNNING the night before a race!!

I’ll continue running 5K’s, and I will continue to grow in ability and endurance.

Running is a skill and a passion for me.

Today is such a milestone!!

Probably the best was taking a few pictures after the race, with Jen and I, one of me alone with my arms in the air– holding that gloriously cold bottle of ice water. And one of me near the “Start” sign.

Theresa Lang’s 5K today marked the beginning of my official running life.

I’ve already got my eye on another next month!!

A Soul on Fire! Singing, Sushi and Running

This was a great week for me– I gotta tell you!

Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to Christian radio and heard the perfect song– “Soul on Fire,” by Third Day. Even better, the lyrics talk about RUNNING!

I felt like God was telling me, “Keep it up, kiddo!” That’s the song I’ll be thinking of as I run.

It was a bit chilly tonight but I put on a stocking cap and a hoodie and I was good to go.

I took two days off running this week, Thursday and Saturday, to give my feet a break. Eleise and I kept to our schedule of three runs, and tonight I did .96 by myself without stopping! I checked my phone at the end of the block and then kept going till I hit 1 mile! And then I walked a bit, and ran to finish my goal of 1.75 miles– I made it 1.81 by the time I got home.

I’m getting mindful of what I’m eating, as well. I had a good lunch with my Dad today after Mass, and later tonight I passed on cheesecake and coffee.

Wednesday night was our choir’s last rehearsal of the summer! I had such a good time and will miss them for the next few months! Our choir director, David, ran threw several songs so that I could get up to speed and they could review. Rehearsals are laid-back and equal parts fun and music education.

The best part of our rehearsals is always at the end, when we stand in a circle, hold hands, and pray for whomever we feel called to with our intentions, be it out loud or just in our hearts. I specifically asked if we could get all of us together after Mass today and take a few quick pictures of us looking all spiffy in our choir robes! This is also the last week we’re wearing them– they’ll be taken to get cleaned and we’ll resume them when it cools off. Although I’ll miss the pride of wearing one, I do admit it’ll be a nice reprieve in the coming heat!

The whole choir (those I’ve met, some are currently not singing right now) wasn’t quite there today, but we got most of the group who have regularly been at rehearsals since I joined. I asked a tall gentleman to take pictures of us and he did! He was kind enough to take several, and I found two I really liked. We are diverse, happy, and coming together to share our joy in the Lord! I was so proud to post it today on Facebook.

And as for the sushi, I declared last night Date Night for myself and my book and went out for sushi! Why not? I got a lot done this week! I wanted to celebrate. I put on a cute outfit, a bit of perfume, and brought a book with me. Between the meal and the words, I had a great time.

Today is just one of those days that I feel grateful, motivated, and healthy.

I’m ready for June!!

Honey-Lemon Water and Cooking for Me… Yum!

This week has been great!!

I tried a new grocery store that has better foods– and shopped with a plan. Just a few choice ingredients for a planned meal, and a few things I thought would be good otherwise.

I started a new routine for myself in the morning: hot water with honey and lemon. I read that HONEY-LEMON WATER has benefits that it’s got oodles of health benefits, but what sold me is that it’s a healthier replacement for coffee.

I’m pretty much over coffee. I’ve been drinking it for years– black. I’ve been transitioning slowly to teas. But I like the idea of a healthier(cheaper!) and practical alternative. This woman drank hot honey-lemon water it for a year every morning and she said it woke her up faster, she stopped getting sick, and her skin was glowing! When I tried it yesterday morning, I was EXCITED to wake up and make this honey-lemon water! It helped me get out of bed faster– knowing I had something yummy to concoct and sample. I was shocked that indeed, I was woken up in minutes.

With coffee, it takes me awhile. I have to wait for it to cool down, since I don’t like it too hot. Then there’s that bitter aftertaste. I seem to be able to drink hot water faster, for some reason. It also sustained my energy throughout the day, and I slept better last night. It keeps me fuller too!

I also got some basic pasta along with a few spices. Some salted cashews. Some milk chocolate “discs,” to replace my Raisinets (they’re expensive!). Tonight I cooked the pasta, just winging it. I also made some asparagus, and put lemon on both. Loved it!

I’ve always been so afraid of cooking. Then this week a friend explained that cooking and baking are different– baking needs to be very precise and measured. But with cooking, you can throw ingredients together and experiment.

I’ve always thought of cooking as so COMPLICATED! But it really isn’t. Actually, I think I may have a knack for it! Tonight I just improvised with the lemon and it turned out great. I have a very small kitchen with small counter space. But I’m tired of eating out all the time– and mostly fast food.

I see now that cooking is an act of nourishing yourself in a concrete way. It’s self-care. I understand how people might find cooking relaxing. And eventually, it something social that you can share with those you deem worthy.

I’ve always been so cerebral– always reading, thinking, writing, trying to figure everything out.

Focusing on a meal, or even just a cup of hot water, gets me out of my head a bit. It makes me happy.

Today I’ve had three cups of hot water– two with just honey after the morning cup with lemon also. I feel that I’ll be able to sleep well.

It’s wonderful. I feel happy and confident and open to what’s next!

One little meal at a time.

First Semi-Sun Spring Run

It’s kinda sunny-ISH

And I broke out in a sprint around my neighborhood. It was about 10 minutes. I’ll do that two more times today, and then that’ll get my 30 minutes in. Woo!

Heart rate up, legs work, lungs pump. I wore two layers on top for warmth and some shorts– that kept me awake! I think the shock of the cold makes me run faster. A thermal shirt, light hoodie, and scarf have been working for me lately. Fingerless gloves and a knit hat if needed.

I can’t time myself yet because I don’t have a fancy timer watch doohickey yet. It’s on the list!

Maybe I’ll run longer a little later– I gotta do something to stay awake! No napping, I’m staying on schedule tonight. Sleepy as heck after last night– I REALLY notice the difference now if I don’t get my rest. Funny, that used to be my lifestyle. Now even one night, and I feel ridiculously off-kilter.

Tonight, I’m GONNA make it to choir practice. YES YES. Better drink lots o’ water, since I can’t have tea! (Crackin’ down on caffeine, I’mma do it!)

I can also really feel the difference in my mood from just a short run. I’m so grateful to be healthy enough to indulge myself in this way– to run, as fast as I dare. Until I can’t anymore.

But I’m not trying to be crazy right now– just healthy. More consistent.