Running On Empty

[True confession: So I haven’t run in a week. Part of me feels like a lazy bum about it. Part of me is still trying to recover from back to back 10Ks in which I ran said lazy bum off, trying to keep up with Dave’s pace. Dude’s got long legs and he used to be a cross-country runner back in the day. I did chalk up a couple of my personal bests in the process, though, so I’m not complaining. Just catching my breath. Part of me is resting up for our next big race, Indy’s Monumental 1/2 Marathon on November 2. (It will be Dave’s first 1/2, and my 5th this year of my 5-year-cancerversary.) Part of me has been taking this breather to spend some time sitting my bum on my shrink’s couch, trying to process through some of the whirlwind this past 5 years has been. Part of me has been practicing the famous bum in chair yoga pose I wrote about here recently, to actually get some writing done. I know, that’s a lot of parts; but I’m told I’m complicated like that. Anyway, I thought I’d try something a little different here on the old blah blah blog, and throw down one of the things I’m working on currently. It’s kinda sorta a sequel to SHAKEN. Not a Chemo Cocktail Part 2 Chemo, God forbid; and obviously, not STIRRED; but rather a Life: Part 2. The working title is BOTTOMS UP…”GETTING OVER” CANCER. Or something like that. It’s as much of a work in progress as is this possible prologue, as is Part 2, as is this character in the story, in progress. Inception much? Anyway, speaking of progress, let’s cross our fingers and proceed to the prologue. It’s called “Running on Empty”—cue Jackson Browne.]

Fingers crossed

I’ve been hurrying a lot.

The truth is, ever since I got cancer I’ve been in a hurry. First I was in a hurry to get it the hell out if me. Then I was in a hurry to graduate my boys from high school (so I didn’t “retire” from the most important job of my life with an “incomplete”) and myself from homeschooling (so I could figure out what I wanted to be if I grew up)…simultaneously while somehow hurrying through 24 rounds of chemo cocktails. I have never counted anything down like I counted down those damn chemo cocktails.

During treatment, I was always in a hurry to turn the corner to feeling better after each chemo cocktail… to hurry up and take every tiny freaking baby step I could to get my fitness back… to hurry up and get back out on the tennis courts… to hurry up to hopefully be here to see the finale of L.O.S.T. I could go on. But as usual, I’m in a hurry to get to the next paragraph.

This is the prize my eyes were on: My Redheads aka my 3 reasons. All I could think of was that I needed to hurry my ass up and pack in tons and tons of fun and memories, to try and make sure they would miss the crap out of me. Just in case.

I guess I kicked into some kind of a super power mommy gear when the doctor said the c word, which literally knocked my kids to the ground when their world shook beneath them like that, pretty much rendering this mama pissed off. That, followed up with a left and a right (hook), putting one foot in front of the other… and that’s pretty much how I guess I got through and how I got in such a hurry.

But with my soggy feet (neuropathy—a side-effect from all those damn chemo cocktails) I’m not really sure how I got so fast? Unless it’s another one of those side-effects from the chemo, not to mention all the bone scans, brain MRIs, Cat Scans, and muga scans (oh my!)

I think they may have accidentally rendered me occasionally radioactive with a chance of superpowers or something.

But here’s the thing. When I got diagnosed, one of my doctors (whose mother died from breast cancer—because let’s be honest, that’s what it’s about, unless we change the plot) told me some of the best advice I always tell everybody else who gets cancer. He told me she always asked God to just let her see her kids graduate from high school—which God did.

But… he also told me not to aim too low. Doc’s script said to: “Ask for way more.”

Sadly, she hadn’t done that. I felt his pain.

But it’s like I don’t read cursive or something. Not that I have much to brag about, if you’ve seen my chicken scratch.

The truth is… I have a confession to make… as I sit here writing this book, 5 years in—and still running, it seems—after I found cancer nipping at my heels and tried to leave it in my rear view mirror. Now, I’m sure all this introspection comes with the territory of looking your mortality square in the eyeballs, hitting milestones like 5 year cancerversaries, and such, but I’ve been thinking lately, that maybe, I’m kinda a hypocrite, because I didn’t really, either… I mean… ask for way more. I didn’t really ask for anything, actually.

The awful truth is I didn’t really plan this far ahead. I really didn’t expect to be here. I didn’t ask to be here.

The brutal truth is I have too many friends who have asked for way more and didn’t get it. I never know where to file that shit amidst my good fortune—which, please don’t misunderstand me, I am utterly undone grateful for. But mostly for my Redheads. I would never ever want them to taste that kind of grief. Which is mainly, what I began running from, if I’m being honest to God. Which is mainly what I’m trying to do right now as I crack open this new chapter to see what happens next.


  1. Traci Clancy says:

    When I was being interviewed for the Caring Page Book, Hope Conquers All, after I told him about all the craziness of chemo, and surgery and radiation, and how we all tried to make fun of it, and laugh most of the way, and got dinners and made funny Christmas cards, he finally told/asked me “you are so positive about this….is there anything that really gets to you?” I felt like he was Barbara Walters…I immediately choked up, and was barely able to get out the words…”I was so terrified of leaving John and the boys…of what it would do to them….” Thank you for always saying things so perfectly, Joules!!! Now we just have to figure out the “rest of the story”….

  2. Ang Jordan says:

    Hey Joules – (did I ever mention my college roommate called herself the same, though spelled differently?) I know what you mean. My five year anniversary is coming up in December (though of course I fear I jinx myself by saying that), which hardly seems possible. My prognosis was good, so I thought I’d still be here now, but since recovering from my treatment I feel like I have been living with the pedal pressed to the floor. I have such high expectations of myself, and want to squeeze every last drop out of however much life I have left. I had a moment this past weekend – in the midst of my three-months-back-to-full-time-job-and-three-months-in-to-marathon-training – where I thought, you know, it might be nice to just ease up on the accelerator for a while. But that thought just doesn’t fit any more. Regardless, I am grateful for every moment.

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