It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon!

Yesterday morning, after round three of chemo, I woke up and immediately made my bed so I wouldn’t crawl back into it.  It was Easter and I wanted to be there for my family, hiding eggs, playing games, and watching my kids eating ridiculous amounts of candy.  But, I was secretly wishing there was a pill the Doctors could give me to knock me out and then wake me when the nightmare is over. 

But there isn’t a magic pill, as many people that have gone before me know; which brings me to an apology I owe to a woman whose post I read on a breast cancer forum some time back.  She said that the most she expected of herself each day during her chemo treatment is to take a shower, get into her sweats, curl up on the couch and watch “Desperate Housewives.”  She considered that a good day.  In a past post, I defiantly vowed that this would not happen to me.  Do you remember?  I sure do.  Well, woman with the post from the breast cancer forum, go right ahead and put those sweats on girlfriend, watch “Desperate Housewives” and do whatever you need to do to get better.  Chemo is brutal, cancer sucks and sometimes trash T.V. is the only sane thing that makes sense in the midst of this insane disease. 

I am humbled. 

Every day is a challenge.  It would truly take a super hero to put on a brave face and stay strong all day every day when your head feels like it is going to explode, your eye lids twitch uncontrollably, your stomach churns and roils, your legs tingle and cramp, sleep is better than sex and sweat pants are your preferable choice of clothing.  In fact, except for a few hours on Saturday when I put on some jeans, make-up and a smile for band practice, I wore my sweats yesterday, the day before, the day before and the day before.  Five days in all.

Not only do I feel physically sick but it is utterly frustrating when your mind wants to do things that your body can’t.  My brain wants to go for a run, go dancing, and hang at the beach but my body wants to throw up, twitch, and sleep.

I admit I am not good at being a spectator of life.  That’s just not me.  Being forced to be in the bleachers when I want to be on the playing field is like putting a cat on a leash.  I want to hang myself with it.

But I won’t because that is not me either. 

I have simply hit a wall.  In other words, I WANT TO BE DONE WITH CHEMO NOW!!!  My friend Isis was trying to lift my spirits the other day and said, “Deanne, it is not a sprint but a marathon.  You are going to need a lot of stamina and mental discipline.  But, if anybody can do it, you can!”  I know she is right.  Sometimes I just need to be reminded. 

I actually raced in a Marathon ten years ago for the Leukemia Society in the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.  Well, I actually walked.  It took me 6 hours and 25 minutes.  Not too shabby.  At mile twenty, however, I “hit the wall,” like many marathoners do.  I had six miles to go and I started to question whether or not I could finish.  My muscles ached and the balls of my feet were screaming, but I did it.  How?  Just like Isis said, “Stamina and mental discipline.”  I finished all 26.2 miles.  It was truly one of the proudest moments of my life.  I felt that if I could finish a marathon I could do anything.

San Diego Rock 'N Roll Marathon

Little did I know back then that my next marathon would be a battle with breast cancer, the course is different, but the process the same, stamina and mental discipline. 

Stamina is part physical endurance, preparation, training and pacing myself for the long haul.  But there is also another important component of stamina that melds into mental discipline like determination, drive and specific coping mechanism to get you through the difficult moments, over the “wall” and through to the finish line.

We all hit a wall at one point in our lives.  The trick is to figure out “how” to get over it.  After some research, as I anxiously looked for coping mechanisms to get me through round three of chemo, I found a few ideas to incorporate in my own race to the finish line.  My favorite was “The Top 10 Marathon Mind Games.”  These steps are so versatile; you can mold them to fit any circumstance, even cancer.

Top 10 Marathon Mind Games 

1) Have a personal mantra for the race. Are you running the race for somebody? Do you have a favorite inspirational quote that you can repeat in your mind? Think about why you started training for this marathon in the first place and how much effort you have put into getting to where you are. Whenever the race begins to get touch, repeat your mantra over and over in your head.

2) Break down the race into components. At Mile 6, you do NOT want to be thinking to yourself, “Only 20 more miles to go”! That just gets depressing and presents an overwhelming feeling to the runner. Instead, focus on getting to that half marathon point. Then, begin mentally dividing the course up into smaller sections such as 5 mile increments, or break down the course by landmarks.

3) If you are allowed to wear headphones on the course, then it’s time to crank up that music! Turn on your favorite fast-paced song and keep your legs moving to the beat. If you just have to take a walk-break, then force yourself to finish jogging to this song before taking your break.

4) Find landmarks in the distance and force yourself to run to that point. “If I can just make it to that stoplight, then I can take a quick break”. Once you get back running again, pick another landmark and run to that.

5) Pull yourself toward fellow runners. Find yourself a runner ahead of you and pretend like you are being drawn to that person with an invisible rope. Let that person do all the work while you slowly pull yourself toward him. Once you’ve caught up to that person, find someone else in the distance and aim for them.

6) Rely on friends and family to help you out in those last 5 miles. It helps tremendously to see the faces of family or friends in that last stretch. If the marathon allows it, they could even jog with you side-by-side for that hard last stretch.

7) Check out the scenery. Many marathons run alongside very interesting courses, and you’re likely to see many landmarks you haven’t seen before. Instead of concentrating on the pain, check out all of the interesting scenery (and people) around you.

8) If the scenery isn’t doing it for you, use associative and dissociative techniques to distract you. Associative techniques include paying close attention to your stride, breathing, course conditions, and fellow runners. Dissociative techniques include imagining that you’re somewhere completely different–perhaps running on the beach or even on your trusty treadmill at home. Experienced marathoners are more inclined to be successful with associative techniques, while more inexperienced marathoners excel with dissociative techniques.

9) Think about what’s going to happen at the finish line. You are going to finish it strong, get an awesome medal, eat a TON of good food, take the best shower of your life, and then crash on the couch for a great nap. The sooner you get there, the sooner this can all happen!

10) Think about how lucky you are to be able to be where you are now. You’re likely very healthy and fit, compared to the vast number of people who would kill to be able to complete a marathon. Remind yourself that you’re in great shape, have had wonderful training, and will get yourself to that finish line!

Maggie's Carrot Cake made with Jelly Belly's

So if you find yourself “hitting the wall,” come up with your own personal mantra, play some loud music, find landmarks, rely on friends, visualize the “finish line” and remember how lucky you are to be where you are right now.  These mind games helped me turn Easter into a very sweet nice day with my family.  We hid eggs, made a carrot cake, and even played Monopoly.  I am so glad I made my bed.

6 Responses to “It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon!”

  1. Mom Says:

    Deanne, I believe this is your best blog yet. I know, because I was there) that this was you toughest chemo treatment and week after. But I can tell all of you who are reading “the yes mom”s) blog that she truly amazing. I am proud to say she is my daughter!! I love you honey!!

  2. RosaMaria Cordova Says:

    WOW! You are truly an inspiration!! I am thinking and praying for you and I know in my heart that you are going to beat this “ugly monster”!!

  3. Lisa Says:

    So glad to see this today. You have been on my mind for days and days now. You are amazing and like I have said before you make me believe that I can get through anything in life.

  4. Raundi Says:

    Girl, I just can’t tell you I love you often enough. This was beautiful. I learned so much. I am going to start using some of those techniques. What a great set of tools. Oh and, I love you!

  5. Cyndi Says:

    What a blessing you are to your friends, Deanne. You are always learning, striving and living life to the fullest. Then, you share what you’ve learned. Thank you. I’m going to see which techniques I’m not using now and get going on them! Yaahoooo! We’re in for the long haul.

  6. Asia Says:

    My lordy lady. You are such an inspiration. I live vicariously through your strength when I feel weak. My mantra has become “What would Deanne do?”.

    I cannot express how beautiful and amazing you are to me, and many others around me.

    Keep on rockin’ on!

    Much love.

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