Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Obviously, I jumped at the chance, and with where I'm at in my life (no major ties that aren't going to be here when I get back, no leases, no payments to keep track of) I had no excuses for saying no. So, tomorrow I leave for Denver, and then New Zealand on Saturday, and Antarctica by Feb 8th. In Denver I'll get a physical, a dental check-up, and a psych eval. In New Zealand, I'll get my extreme cold weather gear (ECW). Then I'll fly, with that gear on, in a ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules turboprop plane, down to McMurdo base, on the coast of Antarctica. Then I'll take another flight 1000 miles inland to the South Pole base, where I meet the people I'm going to be spending the next 9 months of my life with. Should be fun.
I spent the first part of last week letting people know I was going, trying to get paper work done, and getting my blood taken. I also got to go on an awesome trip with WI up to the BW and ski and dogsled with some great ladies. It was a good way to relax a little bit before this next adventure. Yesterday, I packed like mad and got most of the way done. Hurray! I also went to a going away party thrown my my friend and Vakava teammate, Cheryl. It was great to get to say good-bye to the Vakava folks and some others from the ski community. I'm grateful to Cheryl for getting the party organized, and on extremely short notice.
I am going to miss everybody and will try to post regularly to my new blog (http://antarcticdispatches.blogspot.com/) to keep folks updated.
One favor, if anyone has book recommendations, please let me know. I am trying to fill up the Nook that Robb, the coach over at Central, has lent me.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
In April Dave and I skied the Fossavatn 50k race in Iceland. Minnesota Trails Magazine asked us to write articles and submit photos for the winter edition featuring the Skinny Ski Series. We dutifully sent in our stuff but since the Series is not happening this year they didn't get published. Dave's article focused on the race and the editor asked me to focus more on the experience around the race so here's my article. I would highly recommend this race experience to all ski adventurers out there. Check out this video of the race: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWVIci3PdRE
If you arrive in Ísafjörður by noon on Thursday
On Friday a bus takes visitors to the venue to preview the course. I was struck by the unique beauty of this sparse land. There is no vegetation but plenty of hills and mountain plateaus. Imagine the moon with snow. From a single vantage point we could see much of the 50k course.Despite being literally a few miles
Towards the end of the first half is the first of two long climbs in the race. Checking my heart rate monitor altimeter after wards I learned that it was 45 minutes of continuous up. About 20K later is the second big climb. This one is shorter but steeper and unlike the first climb there is a reward at the top: a 7K downhill run to the finish line! So even though my thighs and triceps were protesting with spasms, I enthusiastically ‘ran’ up the hill and thoroughly enjoyed the ride down to the finish line.
After crossing the line each skier is given the traditional post-race treat: A little blue bag with a bun and a hunk of chocolate. We lingered a bit to pose for pictures and talk to fellow skiers but we needed to hustle down mountain because there were celebrations waiting in Ísafjörður.
The cake feed and awards ceremony at the high school gym is amazing. I think nearly every family and bakery in town brings a Scandinavian treat. Hungary skiers and their friends and family load up plates with more pastries than I could count, most of which I’d never tried before! I took small portions because the servers kept replacing empty trays with something brand new and I wanted to make sure I left room for seconds………OK, thirds.
The Fossavatn marked the end of a long but fun ski season that included the Skinny Ski Series, Birkie and Masters World Cup. Now, on April 30 I completed my last and longest race of the year and I could not think of any better way to mark the occasion than to celebrate with friends in a beautiful, remote, vibrant village in Iceland.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
After meeting with the radiation oncologist about starting radiation, I started having serious second thoughts. Some radiation to my ribs and lungs, and even a small amount to my heart, is unavoidable. The lungs in particular are very sensitive to radiation. Radiation is recommended after a lumpectomy because if you don’t have it the recurrence rate is 30% which is why I assumed I’d have to have it. After asking more questions and getting more information, it turns out that women like me with my kind of cancer only have a 14% chance of recurrence and a 4% of recurrence with it. That means there’s a 90% chance it doesn’t matter either way and a 10% chance it does. That made me think twice if I really wanted to take the risks of radiation which aren’t well quantified and will continue to rise as I age. Radiation can cause cancer decades later as well as cure it in the short term. The thought of lung cancer 30 years from now, which is much harder to detect and treat than breast cancer, scares me. If my odds of recurrence were below 10% or above 20%, it would be an easy decision but I’m in a gray area. After many sleepless nights and many discussions with various people and lots of reading, I’ve decided not to do it. I guess I’d rather go with the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t. Interestingly, the death rates between radiation and not are only a couple percentage points, so I don’t feel like I’m risking my life so much as risking another surgery and more treatment later. My husband said that since I’m in a gray area of benefit, there is no right or wrong answer, I just need to find the answer that I can be at peace with. Early in the week I didn’t know if I could find that answer and I kept going back and forth, but finally started coming to not doing it more than doing it. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to a lot of things, including medical interventions, so I’m more comfortable with less if there is uncertainty.
Skiing has been a lot of comfort to me this week. I made a concerted effort to get out since I knew I needed it mentally as well as physically. It helped a lot. I’ve been anxiously waiting to get decent enough snow to get the kids out on the U of M golf course so my daughter could try out her new skis and today I just couldn’t wait any longer and took them out. There was grass all over, but it was still kind of skiable and we had some fun anyway. My son didn’t put his wool socks on and had one short ankle sock on which filled with snow when he fell. So in order to salvage the outing I took one for the team and gave him my sock out there on the course. It wasn’t real cold so I was ok going sockless and he was much happier. I was just happy to be out skiing with my kids.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Last weekend I was exhausted, slept most of it, and had trouble getting myself motivated all week. I was not looking forward to an appointment I had today to get my radiation treatments set up. I’ll have to have treatments 5 days a week for 7 weeks. They’ll probably take 45 minutes round trip daily and then weekly checkups with the Dr. will be another 30-40 minutes. I still have family duties to attend to, like getting the kids on the bus, and plan to keep working. With the snow situation the way it is, I just don’t see how I’ll get much skiing in when it takes 40-45 minutes drive time to ski. Last year I skied at the U of M golf course a lot which is just minutes from home and work and if I could do that this year it would be no problem. But it doesn’t look like that will be possible. I just don’t see me having the mental fortitude, let alone the time, to put that much effort into skiing while under going treatment. So I’ve been in the dumps about it all week. The thing is that it’s really important for me to keep my exercise up, both physically and mentally. Moderate exercise seems to help stave off radiation induced fatigue and is important for my mental state when under stress. So I need to figure out what I’m going to do if I can’t ski. I can try running, but my knees are out of running shape and I need to be careful with tendonitis. My mom swims regularly at the community center pool, which is just minutes away, so I may try to meet up with her some time. I can keep doing my weekly strength stuff at home as well. So hopefully I’ll be able to figure out enough things to keep me going and in good spirits.
So next week the doctors do all the calculations to figure out exactly how to radiate me the right amount to kill any stray cancer cells without hurting too many healthy cells and only hit the tissues they want while avoiding things like my heart and lungs. Then I start treatments the following week. So I have just over a week to prepare myself mentally for this next phase of treatment. Hopefully once I get into a routine it won’t be so bad.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I was finally able to ski fairly normally at practice tonight. It’s been at least a month since I’ve tried to go fast and I felt awkward and my lungs burned, but it was so nice to ski with the group instead of watch from the sidelines. I had to cut my intervals a little short but I’m very pleased with my progress. I did a little strength at home in the morning and skied classic for the first time in a month yesterday and thought I’d be tender today but felt pretty good. My muscles are very sore today since they weren’t used to that, but I was pleased that my arm and chest muscle felt fine. Now all we need is some snow!
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Once again, my body proves that recovery requires rest. I’ve been recovering from my surgeries all month and it gets pretty old after a while. It’s hard to be patient sometimes. Recovery seems to come in spurts where some days I don’t feel any better and then suddenly one day I feel much better. The days I feel better are always after I’ve had a lot of sleep. The days I’m busy and don’t get a nap or to bed early enough then I don’t feel that great the next day. I’ve been busy with the holidays so the recovery seemed to stall a bit. I think I’m back on track now. My lab report came back clear after the last surgery so thankfully I’m done with that and should be ready to start radiation soon, hopefully in a week. I’ve been able to do some training, but not a lot, and mostly legs only. I’m really looking forward to a more normal training regimen with some upper body work and even a few intervals. I’ve enjoyed having less pressure to train, but everything has its limits and I’ve reached mine. At least I’ve been able to ski with friends and that helps keep me from feeling sorry for myself or getting bored. What will lift my spirits the most will be some decent snowfall and cooler weather.