The Sole Sisters are a group of friends, business women, and mothers who are training with the Clarksville Area YMCA for their first half marathon, the Go Commando Half Marathon on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Below they share their experiences in training, what they’ve learned and how they’re growing through this endeavor.
Sole Sister Raises Awareness about Ovarian Cancer, Gilda's Club
by Kelli Faerber,posted Nov 21 2012 11:42AM
When this running journey began I didn’t know if I could do it. As you may have read, I teamed up with some wonderful ladies to train for our first half marathon. At the time I didn’t know if I was capable of running 13.1 miles. Now I know that I am not only capable of doing it, but I have more confidence in my ability to log those miles than ever before.
At the beginning of this journey, my family was hit with some news. My grandmother was going to have to begin chemotherapy again. My grandmother was diagnosed with Stage IIIC Ovarian Cancer in August 2004. She’s been battling this disease for over 8 years. She had been on chemo for several months, and then decided it was time to take a break because the treatment was becoming a little too much for her. Even though she was taking the break, the nurses at her doctor’s office contacted her about getting on the waiting list for a type of chemotherapy called Doxil. She tolerated Doxil better than she had tolerated any other treatment, and they wanted her to have this medicine available to her if she needed to start treatment again. After one month off from the chemo, her CA-125 levels dropped and we were so grateful.
Unfortunately the next month they went up to 39.9. It was at this time that her oncologist recommended that she begin the Doxil. Our hopes were high as she’d never tolerated a chemotherapy treatment as well as Doxil. This round of treatments was going to be much different. She struggled to eat, keep food down and she had terrible heartburn. The following month when it was time for her CA-125, the numbers went up again. She was now at 70.5. Another month came and another dose of Doxil was administered. She went through the same problems she had the month prior and was losing a lot of weight. When she went in for her blood test after a month her numbers had almost completely doubled to 138.2.
My grandmother is by far the most beautiful, wonderful person I will ever know. Every time she has to start treatment again I find myself crippled with sadness, fear and anxiety. She’s my person, and I love her more than there will ever be words adequate enough to express it.
There have been times when she’s gone through her treatment that I’ve been able to “deal,” and there have been times when I have shut down altogether. This time was one of those shut down altogether times. I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t talk about cancer. I couldn’t watch that Happy Birthday commercial that the American Cancer Society puts out without breaking down. Most importantly, I couldn’t talk to her. It’s a strange thing when your loved one is going through cancer treatment. Everyone deals and copes with it differently. I wasn’t dealing at all this time.
It was just before she started chemo this time that I’d picked up running. As you may have read, I was running a lot, sometimes four or five times a week. The truth is running had turned into my escape. I was literally running from the cancer. I was running to get out of my head. I was running from my fear. It’s the kind of fear that sinks deep into your bones and doesn’t want to let go. It’s the kind of fear that wreaks havoc on your soul.
It wasn’t long after my grandmother had to start chemo again that I was met with an injury. Yes, going from 0 to 20 plus miles in one week will do that to you. I could barely walk up and down the stairs in my house without wincing in pain. I couldn’t even do a short one mile run. I was out of commission, and you know what? I was so mad I could hardly stand it. Running is addictive. Ask anyone who runs. But when you’re injured and you’re forced to face your problems you’ve been running from head on, you wish you could run that much more. At least that was the situation for me. However it seemed there was this billboard that followed me around saying, “This is your opportunity to change things.”
I spent the past couple weeks in prayer about it, wondering what that thought meant. What facets of my life would need to change in order to work on myself emotionally, be more present to my grandmother, etc.?
The first step I took was stepping out and sharing where I was at emotionally on my grandmother’s birthday, which you can read here. That was huge. I hadn’t talked about what was going on with me and that was tremendous progress. I felt like after 8 years, people get tired of hearing about it, but that’s not true. Well, maybe some people get sick of it, but I’ve noticed that those people aren’t true friends.
It was through the revelations in prayer and stepping out in faith and saying, “Hey, I’m hurting and I need help,” that I came to realize that I needed to do something to grow and heal in this journey. I’m not just talking about my running story, but in my story as a family member of an ovarian cancer patient. I know that there is a community of people like me out there that need someone to talk to, have fellowship with, etc. I just needed to find it.
I also needed to find out how I could raise awareness about ovarian cancer. You may or may not know that September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. However, you don’t see teal wrapped candies, teal pencils, teal ribbons, or NFL players wearing teal shoes. It’s just not widely known. If I, in any small way, can contribute to the awareness this silent killer of women, it’s more than worth it.
The answer as to what route I was turned up much quicker than I had anticipated. You may not now, but comedienne Gilda Radner died in 1989 of Ovarian Cancer. Even though I was young when repeats of her on Saturday Night Live aired in the 80′s, I remember watching her and thinking she was absolutely hilarious. I also remembered the night Steve Martin was hosting SNL and they played a clip from a previous show of him and Gilda dancing and goofing around. After that piece aired, they went back to Steve and he was fighting back tears. He said, “Gilda, we miss you.” I looked over at my former stepdad Bob and said, “What happened to her?” He told me she had cancer and died from it. It was the first time I’d ever realized cancer and what it did. It was hard. This woman who was so funny and uplifting was now gone. Little did I know that my grandmother would fight the same kind of cancer about 15 years later.
When Gilda was going through treatment she said that cancer gave her, “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to.” She was right. Whether you’re a patient, survivor, family member or friend, cancer touches us all differently. None of us asked to be in this “club,” but we’re a part of it. It was out of this “membership” that Gilda’s husband, Gene Wilder, founded Gilda’s Club during the time she had cancer.
In my quest to learn more about Gilda’s Club I was met with a couple surprises. Not only does Gilda’s Club offer support groups for patients, survivors, friends and family, but they offer social events as well. You can go to Gilda’s Club and do yoga, take a ballroom dancing class, learn tai chi and much more. Another thing I learned as I navigated the website was that they have a gang. Yep, Gilda’s Club has a gang of runners who run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. Guess which girl had already planned on running that half…THIS GIRL RIGHT HERE! So, yes, I’ve joined a gang…Gilda’s Gang. I couldn’t be more excited!
My goal is to raise funds and awareness about Gilda’s Club of Nashville and all they offer, while continuing to honor my grandmother by raising awareness about ovarian cancer. I also plan to become a member of Gilda’s Club. My hope is that through all of this I will grow and heal emotionally and physically. I cannot allow my fear of cancer to stop me from making another phone call to my grandmother. I cannot allow it to stop me from making the turn into her driveway for a visit. I cannot allow it to cripple me. It doesn’t have that right.
Monday, September 24, I set up my fundraising page. The following day I contacted Deb at Gilda’s Club for information about the race training group. That afternoon she called me and I spent almost 45 minutes on the phone with her. We talked about the race, Gilda’s Club and even delved a little into my story. I won’t lie, that part was hard and I did tear up a little, but the thing was Deb understood. She got where I was. That made me feel so much better. I am so encouraged about this journey!
Here is my plan. I am going to blog about this experience and I would love to share it with you. I think blogging about my training for the Go Commando Half Marathon has pushed me to want to share these stories with others, and I think that by sharing my experiences with Gilda’s Club and Gilda’s Gang and my grandmother’s progress others may be encouraged and maybe even motivated to begin their journey. I may reach someone who needs the encouragement to get out and run, make a visit to the Clubhouse, or make that call to their doctor. Maybe somewhere along the line I will learn that it’s ok to feel the things I feel, but not let them take over my life. Maybe there will be healing and growth for a lot of people. I’m not sure. Whatever the case may be, I know this is going to be a great experience.
Thank you for allowing me to share my heart about all of this with you. If you wouldn’t mind, I would love it if you would share this story with people you know. If we say nothing, we don’t reach anyone. If we speak up, we may be able to help others in their place of need. Also, if you would like to contribute to my run, you can do so here. You can also follow my other blog at www.ibelieveinteal.com.
Here’s to kicking off another journey of healing, growing and all that lies in between.