Last Monday I had treatment number 17. Of course, we had to run first. We have not missed a single pre chemo run. My husband has been with me every single Monday for my treatments. It was a priority for him to be with my for each treatment, and luckily he was able to make it work. He is a pretty awesome guy.
It was my kids’ first full week of summer vacation. In theory this should have been a relaxing week of sleeping in, but there really has not been a whole lot of time for goofing off yet. Peyton started camp at Colorado College Monday morning and it seemed like every afternoon brought appointments and other obligations. Nevertheless, I found time for a daily run or run/walk. On Tuesday, I ran with Tracey and Arlo the wonder dog. On Wednesday, I went for a walk with Phil and his brother. After our walk, Peyton, her friend and I enjoyed looking at and learning about Phil’s fish pond. I find the pond and the fish both beautiful and fascinating. I think the girls did also.
On Thursday, I ran with Debby and Steve. We had an unseasonably cool morning that day. Since I have become very heat intolerant from the chemo, the cooler weather was a welcomed relief. The respite was brief and we were back to warmth and sunshine over the next couple of days. Friday and Saturday I ran on the Santa Fe trail, once solo and once with my husband.
Today, for Father’s Day, Steve and I ran the Falcon Trail at the US Air Force Academy. This is a favorite trial of ours. It rolls all of the way through but is not super technical and is very runner friendly. It was beautiful and sunny today but fairly cool and breezy, which made for perfect running conditions. The wetter spring we have enjoyed has brought beautiful wildflowers to the trails. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run almost the entire trail today. I never know how I will feel until I get out there.
I have my final treatment tomorrow. Two things have been running prominently through my mind this week. The first is how much I miss my family. I left home a year early for college and I have lived far from my family most of my adult life. When I moved to Colorado 15 years ago, it was truly love at first sight. The mountains called to me. Every time I woke up and looked at Pikes Peak, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I have never regretted coming to Colorado. I still love my adopted home state deeply and I doubt that we will ever live elsewhere. But right now I miss my family so much that at times my heart aches. Most years, we take a trip back east over the summer. Last year, we planned our trip around the Vermont 100. This year, we planned our trip just because I need to see my family. I no longer take time for granted. We are all aging, and I have no idea how long we will all have one another. Going to NY just feels like something I need to do and I don’t ever want to look back with regret. My family is far too important to me.
I have also been thinking about second acts in life. There are not a lot of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at an early stage. Not many of us are eligible for surgery. Those diagnosed after it has spread generally have an extremely poor prognosis. I was one of the fortunate few who could have surgery. When I was first told that I had to have surgery to take out half of my pancreas and my spleen, I did not feel particularly lucky. But now that I am wrapping things up, I know how fortunate I really am.
As I look toward my last chemotherapy treatment, I am so grateful that I was given a chance for a healthy and happy future. I am well aware that many people with my particular cancer diagnosis are not so fortunate. Cancer patients often think in terms of life before and after diagnosis, because that diagnosis radically changes our lives. I loved my life “before”, but now I have a whole new appreciation for life “after”. I get to have an after, whereas I am so painfully aware that many people do not. I want to make every day of the “after” count. I am filled with a conflicting jumble of emotions: excitement, joy, anticipation and even fear. What will this second act bring? The possibilities are endless and I am looking forward to figuring out exactly how I will make the most of the time I have been given.
As for this summer, I had planned to be running the Bighorn 100. That was not to be. I am not sad that I cannot be there. I know runners get disappointed when they get injured and have to miss a planned race. Right now, I just appreciate the fact that I will be here to plan future races. Instead of running 100 miles this summer, I will enjoy time with the kids, my husband, and my extended family. I will try to get back into racing shape as I regain strength and energy. For now, I look forward to finishing chemotherapy tomorrow.