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The Hardest Thing I have Ever Done

It is quiet.  The air is still. I hear a soft pounding in my chest and my feet on the asphalt.  My heart reminds me of the task at hand: kee...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Hardest Thing I have Ever Done

It is quiet.  The air is still. I hear a soft pounding in my chest and my feet on the asphalt.  My heart reminds me of the task at hand: keep running.  The crowd has thinned.  Only a few hours ago I was kissing elbows with 8,000 of my closest friends--for today anyway.  Now, we have all found our own pace along this course. The Halfers have turned off some time ago.  The spectators do not venture down this street for cheering.  I am alone with my race at last.

It is hard to tell when this journey began.  Was it a few hours ago when the gun sounded at Hayward field?  Was it a few months ago when our training group first gathered at the Eugene Running Company for our initial six mile run with Coach Joe Henderson?  Was it 2005 when the first neurologist attempted humor by saying, "The good news is you don't have a brain tumor."  Or was it before all of that?

I used to smoke cigarettes.  I started smoking when I was very, very young, the fourth grade, in fact. My friend from school, a fifth grader, stole a pack of Salems from her mom and we took them up into the field behind the waste dump and lit their tips on fire with stick matches.  I coughed and felt sick to my stomach when I first tried to breathe in the smoke through the strange cotton filter.  I can still imagine the taste, menthol and burnt and polluting my lungs.  By the time I was in middle school I was a regular smoker.  I never thought I would stop, either.  I tried many times.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done, to quit smoking (and I think I have done some hard things).  In many ways, I am still quitting by doing this race today. 

Soon after my last cigarette, a friend of mine, John Medenbach, took me for a run.  He actually took me running quite a bit back then, helping me to trade one addiction for another.  I was so grateful for his patience with my slow pace and nicotine detox attitude.  He ran my first 5K with me in 2004, a snail's pace at 34+ minutes, and he did not complain.  He just helped, encouraged, guided.  He also told me I would do this some day, that I would run a marathon.  I owe him a debt of gratitude.  Everyone needs a friend like that (thank you Johnny).

Deep breath, round the bend, press on.  Through the tunnel and then out into the dappled light of UO through a million trees and a thousand cheering people.  This is the dream.  I can only imagine what it must be like... but no!  I'm doing it!  Me!  I AM DOING IT!  The hardest thing I have ever done, still, quitting smoking with each stride toward that finish line.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thank You To My Generous Donors

Greetings to all of my generous donors.  *WE* have reached my goal of $1,500 before I cross the finish line tomorrow.  Heck, we did it before I even cross the start line!  I just wanted to send you all another note to say thank you so much, again. 

My initial diagnosis was pretty scary, and then 4 years of injections was terrible, but now that I am healthy, I intend to do all I can while I am healthy to enjoy my family and friends and also to raise the banner of MS Awareness.  One of the things that I have learned over the last 7 years is that this is a treatable condition dependent upon diet, stress management and close contact with a solid neurologist...and yes, often medication (though right now, I have been given a reprieve).   Another thing that I have learned is that it's okay to tell people and let people know what's going on.  Oh, and one of the most exciting things I have learned is that MS is one of those diseases that might be cured within our lifetime, even in a few short years.  How long has it been since we cured a disease?  How cool is it that you all --now--are a part of that!  Your contributions will help to cure a disease.  Even in 7 years, the medications have improved and those who suffer with MS enjoy much more mobility, freedom, health and peace of mind.

I am hopeful.  I really am.  This is why I run.

I think that by your contributions, you are hopeful too.  And you reinforce my faith.  Thank you for that and for your spirit of giving.

You will be with me tomorrow on my run and in my heart for the many runs to come.

-Rhonda


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Open Letter to my Family

Hi Family

I have 2 reasons for this email:

1) to make you all aware that earlier this year the doctor found another lesion in my brain when they did my annual MRI.

and

2) to let you know about my MS fundraiser.

At this point, the doctor is not extremely concerned about the test results, though he has moved my next scan up 6 months.  Still, it is a little disconcerting when I have not had any changes in my disease since I was first diagnosed some 7 years ago.  Until recently, we thought I had a benign form of MS.  Now there is reason to believe I have active disease.

We have talked about me starting up on the medication again, that terrible stuff that made me super sick.

There is some hope, though.  Since going off of the injections nearly 18 months ago, 2 more drugs have been released by the FDA.  One is an infusion therapy that is only taken once a month.  The other is oral.  Yes, oral!!  They each have pretty nasty side affects, but still, it's better than regular injections with site reactions (my legs and tummy were purple and green).

Anyway, I wanted to tell you all about the new drugs because these news forms of medication are a direct result of contributions to places like the MS Society.  No joking. This is actually a disease where you can see results of such charitable contributions in the strides that are being made in the treatment, and maybe one day even, the cure!

So, I am running a marathon in just a few short days.  I have been blogging about it on my blog and keep track of my progress.  I will wear my MS Orange running singlet that says on the front "I HAVE MS."  This is the same shirt I wore in Portland.  Only this time it will be adorned with the names of everyone who contributed to my fundraiser.  Each contribution could mean the difference between me running another race or even dancing with my kids at their weddings someday. 

I hope you would consider giving something, if even a few dollars.  I know these are tough times so it is okay if you cant contribute.  Also, if you think of anyone else who might want to help, please forward this to them.  It is easy to make a contribution.  Just follow this link and click where it says to:

http://www.crowdrise.com/rhondasrunformultiplesclerosis/fundraiser/rhondazimlich#top

I will wear your name on my shirt on 4/29 and in my heart for all time.  I am humbled to ask, but seeing the medical progress that has been made in these few short years with contributions just like yours, I can't help myself.  Each dollar makes a direct difference in the research and results...and maybe a cure.

Thanks so much.  And thank you to those of you who have already contributed.  Be sure to watch my progress on 4/29 on Facebook.  It will update as I cross section of the 26.2 miles.  Regardless, I'll be thinking of you all as I run.

Love to you all.

-Rhonda

p.s.  Here is my blog: http://rhonda-zimlich.blogspot.com/2012/04/eugene-marathon-asks.html

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eugene Marathon Asks

Tell Us Your Story...

So I did:

I have MS.  I was diagnosed 7 years ago when I was pregnant with my twin daughters.  At the time of my diagnosis, I was so afraid of what was to come.  Before my pregnancy, I was an amateur runner, mostly just running for fitness.  After the girls were born, and after they finished a course of 12 months of nursing, I started the MS Treatments.  Not many people know that the treatment for MS is often much worse that the disease itself.  I was taking intravenous beta-interferon, which made me feel sick and very tired all of the time. Last year, my doctor decided to give me a break from the meds (he called it a drug holiday).  During that time, I felt great.  My spirits were lifted.  My energy increased.  My running improved.  As a result, I thought I would try my hand at the half marathon here in Eugene.  I ran it in 2:22, which was pretty good considering the wait for the port-a-potty (nearly 7 minutes).  After that, I decided I would go for it and try my hand at an entire 26.2.  I trained for the Portland Marathon with Joe Henderson's group out of the Eugene Running club.  With the support of the coach and the team, and the love of my family, I made the distance in 4:49:27 (I know it by heart).  I cried like a baby at the finish line.  I ran in my singlet that says "I Have MS" right across the front.  Then I thought, what should I do next?  Well, I decided I would bring it home and run the Eugene Marathon on 2012. I was taking  big chance, because my drug holiday was nearing its end.  My MRI was coming up and I feared that if I had more disease activity and more lesions showed up on my scan, then my doctor would caution against another run of that distance...or worse, I might have to go back on the shots that kept me sick for so many years.  Well, needless to say, I went ahead with the training for Eugene.  Also, during that time I got hooked up with Crowdrise and started fund raising for the MS Society through the Eugene Marathon.  Things were going okay, but I felt tired in my running and slow in my progress with my training.  Then I had my MRI in February. Sure enough I had my first new brain lesion in years.  I panicked.  My doctor was very supportive and reassuring and so I pressed on with the training.  Well, we have just had our 21 miles training and I beat my pace by nearly 30 seconds per mile than when I trained for Portland.  I think the Eugene Marathon will be a wonderful and unique experience for me and for my family and friends who live here.  I especially want my daughters to see me doing what I am doing not only with this run, but also with the fundraiser.  I intend to wear that same singlet I wore in Portland (I Have MS), only this time it will be adorned with the names of those who have contributed to my Crowdrise fundraiser.  I want people to know that MS is not an end.  I can do this.  I am doing this.  I am honored and proud to do it in my home city of Eugene.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Counting The Steps

Saturday this last weekend, we ran 21 miles.  It was fun.  If someone would have told me a year ago that I would have put together a 21 mile run and also called it 'fun' I would have told them they were crazy.  Still, there we were, trucking along the old familiar route out along the Willamette.  I had a much stronger finish than I had a mid-section run.  My mile 15 to about 18 was bogged down with heavy thoughts of fatigue and failure.  Here's what I did to get over it:

I started counting my footfalls.  1, 2, 3, 4... as the right foot hit the ground.  All the way to 100 and then over again.  When I was sure I had hit at least 500 (more likely 700 or 800) I started counting the number of footfalls on my left foot.

Maybe this seems silly, tedious, boring, but it was just the thing I needed to distract me from my fatigue.  By mile 19, I was feeling strong again.  I ran the last few miles smiling and was happy to finish sure-footed.

Morale of the story: sometimes monotony prevails!