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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...

Friday, May 30, 2014

Keep Flying My Little Bee!

Each time I have had the chance to run one of these epic 26.2 mile runs (some folks call them “marathons”) I like to dedicate the distance to someone.  This serves multiple purposes.  First, it gives me the change to pay homage to someone I hold very dear in my esteem.  Next, it gives me a focus as I grind out the tougher miles.  In the past, I have thought of my girls, my dad, even my sister and my MS team (half marathons included).  Tomorrow, I will run for my niece, Samantha Zimlich.

Let me tell you a bit about Sam.  When she was born, I was literally in the hospital too.  I had to get a pass to go over and visit her and hold her.  My sister was a single mom from the gate, so I also had the glorious opportunity to help bring Sam into this world (though I assure you my sister did all the hard work). At one point I got to hold my sister’s leg in the air as she pushed through a contraction on her side.  How she did that I could not tell you.  To this day, I envy her strength and determination.  But I digress. This is about Samantha.

Suddenly, there she was, all pink and new.  She was lying on the metal tray where the nursing team cleans babies and I snuck over and held her little foot for just a second saying, “Hello bug.  There are some people here who are looking for you.”

From that moment, I was smitten with this child; a beauty in 1,000 ways!  She had red hair from birth and the sweetest disposition.  She was a curious toddler, indulging me in hikes through the chaparral, examining snakes and flowers as I finished my associate’s degree in Southern California.  She was my excuse for being childish and childlike during a time when I had to hold three jobs to pay for school and make ends meet.  I relished the chance to be silly and fun.  Later, Samantha would become a teacher to me, showing me how to work my camera and how to be a friend to younger girls and even how to parent.  She taught me about music and the internet and Facebook, though it once was Friendster, Myspace, Tribe.net.  These days, she teaches me about reading.  Sam’s a bibliophile reading everything she can get her hands on and making the best book recommendations I could ever hope for (Thank you especially for The Fault in Our Stars).

Here’s something else that is great about this wonderful young woman: she visits me. Sam buys airplane tickets and comes up to Oregon from 1,000 miles away just to spend time with me.  I don’t have many people in my life that have done this solo and Sam has done it many times now.  And, she enjoys it.  I do too.

 And here’s another thing, Sam has never shied away from my MS.  In fact, she is often the driving force of the team in San Diego.  She asks me questions about my condition and she keeps up on how I am doing.  I love that she does.  What a great woman she has grown into.  I am proud to be her aunt and her friend.

On Sam's last trip here, she had a special gift for me.  She rolled up her sleeve and showed me her newest tattoo:

See, the bee is my symbol for overcoming impossible odds, as most apidea (bee family) should not be able to fly by all of our laws of physics, but they fly anyway.  The bee has become my spirit animal inspiring me to overcome impossible odds like running three marathons while balancing the symptoms of MS and raising a family, etc.  I have often talked about this here in my blog and I even address my readers as My Bees and am fond of saying "Keep Flyin!"  But the thing is, I had no idea that anyone was paying that much attention to this blog, to my ramblings, to my plight.  Sam is.

Samantha Zimlich, I could not be more proud of you.  You are one of my very most favorite people in the entire world, deserving of each superlative that I have just included ... and more.  I love you with my entire being.  I am grateful beyond words for having you in my life.  Tomorrow when I struggle (and I know I will) you will be my wings.  You will be the force that carries me to the finish.  Thank you for believing in me.  Thank you for being in my life and for changing it always for the better.  I love you so much.  Keep flyin!

(No time to proof read, I'm off to Newport!)

Here are some other pictures of this wonderful little bee...

Sam and I about 15 years ago at Tio Leo's

Sam came to visit me for her sweet 16!

Prom night!!  What a doll!!

 Samantha with Emily Huntoon and Suzanne Tench-Zimlich at the MS Walk in San Diego (Bees!)

On her last visit with her Mini Me (AKA Gabriella)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pacing Me Through

It has been many week since my last update, months even!  And yet, the training for the Newport Marathon continues.  We are waning now, finishing up these 17 weeks with a fun run next week for just one hour, along with a team picture and maybe even a trip to the local coffee shop (just like EWEB!)  I have learned again that I start too soon, that I can be paced to go much farther than I ever would give myself credit for, and that the support of those around me is invaluable.

Now, if I might add a bit from the disease front, I should like to say that I have my annual MRI tomorrow.  This comes in the midst of my training and is filled with the same trepidation that I often have when facing this procedure.  It seems I am not fond of the IV and the tube and the combination of both.  I find small comfort in the iPod that will champion me through, as it has in the past, and also on many of my solo runs.  What an odd device to rely upon with such earnest!  But I digress.

The point of my bringing up the annual MRI and the MS is to say that I am once again faced with the fear that I will have results that are not in my favor.  But, of course, I always do this.  I always have this feeling of impending doom.  Here is the other shoe dropping, like a anvil on the cartoon head of my very fortunate prognosis.  This fear if not unfounded, and also has another layer.  I have been having severe allergies this year with our tree pollen.  I had ended up at urgent care at one point, shifting at the last minute to the doctor's office.  A call to the neurologist had me recounting the symptoms, all the while afraid to tell him that I had been over doing it in with the training. When we did finally talk about it, I was surprised at the conversation.

"Are you afraid that I am going to tell you not to run the marathon?" He asked.

I hesitated before answering, but I had built a level of trust with this doctor over the years and so I thought I'd better just speak plainly.  "Yes." I said, the answer echoing off the walls of the hall outside the office where I worked.  I didn't want anyone to hear my conversation.  Eveyone at work knows about the MS, but the talk with the doctor was private.  Besides, if he was about to tell me that I couldn't run the marathon, I'm not sure I could have kept it together.

"I'm not going to tell you that," his voice eased and I released my breath at his words.  Thank God, I thought.  He continued, "I think it's great that you are doing this.  This is not something that many of my patients could do, let alone are doing.  It's okay.  Keep training."  He went on to talk with me about the upcoming appointment and then he dropped the real bomb: "I'm retiring at the end of June."

Wait, what?

This was not good news to me.  I'll tell you why.  This is the doctor that took me off of the injections.  He even said that if I had been his patient when I was first diagnosed, I might have never been put on medication in the first place.  I panicked.  But, being the wonderful doctor that he is, he reassured me.  "Don't worry.  We'll talk about your care when you come in and I will make sure you are in great hands."

Another great release of breath.  Would I be okay?  I would have to trust him and trust that I would be taken care of by something greater than us both.

So, there I was this morning running with perfect conditions, low 60s, light off/on rain, being perfectly paced by Jeff McKay, an easy 10:15 for 10 miles out and around the beautiful Willamette River with friends and conversation, well fueled, rested and prepared.  Our longest training run behind us.  Only the fun run and the marathon before us on the horizon (besides my sols and tapers I would do on my own).  And there and then I thought to myself, yes, I do have MS.  I cannot change that fact.  But what has it been about if I have not been able to do something about how I have lived my life since I got that diagnosis so many years ago.  And look at me, I have done something about it.  I continue to do something --many things-- each and every day.  And now I am gearing up for a third marathon, countless other runs under my belt, optimisms abounding regardless of my fears.  And the helpers I have met along the way have been invaluable, not just those next to me on the running path but also those whom I have met along my life's paths. 

Thank you Dr. David Lippincott for pacing me through through the treatment of this disease, for your constant confidence and your wonderful care over the years.  I credit much of my positive attitude to your support and holistic practice of medicine.  You have made a fine career of treating people, not disease, and I wish you the very best in your best years to come.