Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Bad Guy & How I Learned to Love Running

I've been thinking about my "bad guy" and wanting to write about "him" for a while now. And then GunDiva's recent blog entry asking for running tips got me thinking about how I came into running.

The two are very closely related - and it's a long story. So here we go.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned previously that I've never really liked running, and that I used to say the only need for me to run would be if someone/something was chasing me.

So how did I learn to love running? Stress. Unbelievable body-numbing-weight-of-the-universe-on-your-shoulders-can't-carry-on-any-longer STRESS.

My Bad Guy is a Brain Tumor

2010 was a seriously screwed up year.
In late January of that year, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 34. He was perfectly healthy (other than a few extra pounds) up until the day that he was on location in another state, giving a sales presentation to some potential clients, when he dropped and had a grand mal seizure. He had another one in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Even worse, his emergency contact info with his employer was out of date, so it took them several hours to find the right number to call me on.

By the time someone finally got a hold of me, my husband was coming out of a cat scan, and the doctor is telling me (over the phone - remember I'm over 600 miles away) that there's something strange on his CT scan, and they're going to do an MRI of his head.

The next phone conversation I had was with a neurologist that told me there was a mass in his brain.
I spoke to my husband briefly, but he was really out of it from the seizures, and wasn't making much sense (nor does he remember the conversation). I was terrified, and thinking the worst.

Somehow I managed to get a flight to the city he was in, find someone to take care of my daughter and fur-kids for a few days, pack a bag and go. My father in law drove and met me there - we couldn't put hubby on a plane because of the seizures. Hubby was "stable" but they advised immediate surgery to remove the "mass." (They absolutely refused to call it a tumor.)  NO WAY could I handle him having surgery - brain surgery - 600+ miles from home. Against their advice, we brought him home and began the search for a neuro-surgeon in the city.

We found a neuro-surgeon that we clicked with, and surgery was done in early February.
My husband is a non-emotional kind of guy, but that morning, he was SO nervous, and admitted that he was convinced he wasn't coming out of surgery alive. They wheeled him away to prep him and I began the terrifying wait. What was just a few hours felt like a lifetime, but when the surgeon came in and said the surgery was successful, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Hubby was only in the hospital for a few days after that, and then was released to come home and continue his recovery. We had quite a few bumps in the road over the next few months - everything from severe allergic reactions to medications, being taken off of steroids too early and brain swelling, to shitty second opinions - before we found a neuro-oncologist that didn't want to immediately sign a death warrant.

In May of 2010, hubby started a year long course of chemotherapy. Pill form, with 7 days on, then 21 days off. No IV's or sitting in a chemo center for hours on end, but all the lovely side effects that went with it. He found that working out helped rid him of the excess chemo chemicals and helped him feel better faster. In August or September, he started up martial arts again, and he was doing pretty well with his treatments.

Then in October, he tore his ACL in his right knee.

Several years earlier, he tore the ACL in his left knee, but never did anything about it. So now he has two busted up knees, and HAS to get them taken care of. Another surgery.
He managed to talk his doctor into doing a bi-lateral ACL re-construction - that's right, both knees at the same time WHILE he was on chemo. That surgery was also a success. Lots of physical therapy to get him functional again, but in May of 2011, he did something amazing.

He ran in the inaugural North Texas Head For the Cure 5K.
After a year of chemo, and just five months after his knee surgeries. He didn't come in first, or even in the top 10, but he did place in the top 50 in his age group (there were over 2400 registered runners for this race), and most of those runners were not cancer patients. I was totally and completely inspired.

Prior to that, I was so incredibly stressed out I had trouble functioning on most days. I'm a worrier by nature, and this whole situation had me what-iffing to an extreme. I was spending all my time worrying, and shuttling him back and forth to doctor's appointments, and trying to keep up with work, a teenage daughter, and sanity - some might say I've lost that last one.

One day I thought to myself, "I need a release. I need to do something for ME." I initially thought of kickboxing. Surely beating the crap out of a heavy bag would do it, right? Problem was, the only thing nearby was cardio-kickboxing, which just isn't the same. So I put on my tennis shoes and went for a walk, which left me time to think - which was BAD at this point. I walked faster and faster and suddenly I was running. And I kept running until I was ready to fall down.

When I stopped, I felt lighter, somehow. Oh, I hurt, but the endorphins I felt made up for it.
I wasn't running on a regular basis, and had no goals in mind. I was only running when the stress built up and was too much to handle.

A few months ago, he started talking about this year's race. I decided that this year, I was running it with him. I found a training program, and got started. I've slacked here and there, and I'm not sure I will finish my training before the race. But I don't care. I will run what I can, and walk the rest. But I will be there as a participant instead of a bystander.

My bad guy is a brain tumor. He threatens to crush my world on a daily basis.
And some day he will win.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Training Setback

Damn. Out of commission again?

Back story: I made a vow to myself that among other things, 2012 is the year I get fit and healthy.

Goal: to gain strength, muscle and endurance, and most importantly to have more energy and feel better. I was making good progress, working out 2-4 times a week with plans to up it to 5-6 days. I was starting to see some positive changes - muscles I forgot I had!

Sure, I fell off the wagon a couple times. The latest was approximately 5 weeks off the wagon, and I paid for it dearly. I was a crabby, moody, exhuasted mess. But then I got up, hit the gym, and felt a measureable difference. I vowed to myself that I would no longer make excuses to NOT go to the gym.

I mentioned that was learning to become a runner. I've never liked running. In fact, I've always joked that the only way you could get me to run is if something big with sharp teeth was chasing me.

But this year, I was all set to run a 5K in May. I started my training. I was beginning to enjoy it. There's definitely something meditative about the rhythm of your feet in time with whatever tunes are blasting through your earbuds. I come away from it with a clearer mind and a ass-load of sweat (or liquid awesome, as I like to refer to it.)

And then last week, I pulled something. My pririformis. If you're not sure what that is, I'll tell ya - it's a muscle in your butt. And it hurt like a bitch.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (R.I.C.E.), a visit to my magical massage therapist, lots of stretching and then a few more days off, and I was good to go. Exactly one week later, I went for a run with no pain in my butt. Woo! Resume training!

Then just three short days later, I pulled something in my back. I went to my magical massage therapist again, only this time her magic wand seems to be broken or something. She worked on me for over an hour, I think, and still that damn muscle is tight as a drum. (There's a group of muscles that run along either side of your spine, from your neck to your tailbone. I pulled the left side, about half way up, and had transference pain about an inch down from my shoulder blade.) Her words were: "It's totally locked up. Take a rest for a few days from training."

First: How in the hell did I do that?
Second: Nooooo! I can't take a rest! I have a race to train for, dammit!

I'm definitely not as young as I used to be, and my body keeps reminding me of that.
I will still run in that damn race. I'm starting to face the reality though, that there may be a whole lotta walking too.

So I guess strength training is out for a few days, since everything I have been strength training is connected to my back.
Running is probably out, since it's high impact.
Recumbent bike? BORE.
Elliptical? I hate you, but if that's all I can do, so be it.

I guess this is my new mantra. For now, anyway.

Monday, March 19, 2012

More on How I Got Here

In a previous post, I mentioned that the AR15 was a "training aid" for my daughter. We wanted her to have some knowledge on how it functions, how to shoot it, and how to break it down, clean it and reassemble it before she ships for basic training.

My baby girl joined the National Guard, and I am incredibly proud.

But soon after her swearing in, I started to have feelings of getting left behind. Maybe it was the beginnings of "empty nest" syndrome, when your kids pack up and leave home to begin their own lives as adults.

More than once I found myself in tears wondering "What will I do once she's gone?" The last seventeen years of my life have been for her. About keeping her safe, and trying to teach her how to be a responsible adult. And in a few short months, the Army will take over that responsibility and teach her how to be a soldier. I want to be a part of that, but didn't really know how, other than being her moral support on the phone when she is able to call, and writing her mass amounts of letters.

Then one day I thought: "Why can't I learn to do some of things she will be taught once the Army takes over? I can get physically fit. I can learn to shoot and defend myself and those around me."

So I set some goals, and am working toward those.
  • Personal training at the gym. And actually going. The burn in my muscles is oddly comforting. It makes me realize that what I'm doing WILL pay off.
  • Learning to become a runner. I've actually always hated running, but I'm currently in training for a 5K coming up in May. And I find I'm really enjoying it. Weird.
  • I'll be getting my CHL in the very near future.
  • I'm looking at taking some Krav Maga classes
  • I'm already looking into taking some NRA instructor courses so that someday I can teach other women how to protect themselves, and maybe help some "find themselves" as well.
I have never really set goals for myself before, so this should be an interesting journey.
Already along the way, I've met resistance from others. Some people ask "Why do you want to do that?" Others tell me "Are you crazy?" or "You can't do that."

Like hell, I can't. Watch me.

Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A First For Me

I shot my first AR15 yesterday! The build was just finished on Thursday last week, and this baby has already had over 300 rounds put through it without a hitch.

The range that we went to was incredibly busy, and the first lane that opened up was a 50 yard. Now, I don't have perfect eyesight, even with glasses, so while I could see the target, I couldn't see whether or not I was hitting it - we were using iron sights only - no spotting scope and no binoculars. That didn't excite me all that much. It was cool to shoot it and all, but it's easier to get excited about shooting something when you can actually SEE that you're hitting it.
After a bit a 25 yard lane opened up, so we moved over and while I still couldn't really see where I was hitting, I could at least see some movement in the target so I KNEW I was hitting it. That made it a little more exciting. :)

So I'm not totally hooked yet, but I am looking forward to going back to the range and using one of their tactical bays to do some more shooting.

When we got home, by daughter showed me how to strip it down, clean it and re-assemble. This rifle is a "training aid" (more on that later) but we're all having some fun shooting it!

Baby girl takes aim downrange.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How much is too much?

I have been struggling with how much to share here. There are a few things that I want to write about, but some are very personal, and would immediately identify me to anyone that knows me. Not that I am keeping this blog a secret from friends/family, but I want this to be a place that I can write about anything that's on my mind, without worrying about upsetting friends or family in any way.

After much consideration, I have decided that I'm going to talk about anything and everything that comes to mind, but will be very careful with how much detail I divulge.

This year is about personal growth for me, so I feel like I have to put some of this stuff "out there."
Some of it will be banal, I'm sure, but it will still be me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

These Dreams

I don't put a lot of time and effort into analyzing my dreams. Fact is, I rarely remember my dreams.
But a few nights ago, I had one that I distinctly remember, and it's re-playing over and over in my head .
I am unsettled by it.

It's pitch black, and there's a loud bang and a crash. In true Hollywood movie fashion, suddenly I see the front door of my home being kicked in. I can't see who it is; I only see a man's leg coming down to the floor after kicking in the door.
Flash back to me opening my bedroom door and peering around the corner towards the front door. It's now standing wide open, and I see a shadow move, then I see a man's arms, holding a gun. I can't see anything but his arms, as he's standing in the short hallway that leads to my daughter's room, but facing away from her room like he's already been there, or has changed his mind and is coming to find me.
I am afraid, but willing to face him with pistol in hand to protect my daughter and myself. My eyes flick across the living room to see my husband's range bag, with pistol tucked neatly inside, sitting on the sofa. Panic wells up. There's no way I can get across the living room and retrieve the pistol from the bag before this intruder realizes what I am doing and shoots me. I look back towards the intruder.
I still can't see his face, only his arms and the gun in his hands. Just as his shoulders emerge from the hallway.....

I wake up.  This is perhaps only a minute or so of this dream, and I don't remember anything else. But I'm wondering if perhaps there is something to this one.

It's not a scene from my past playing into my dreams, thank God. I think it's me worrying in my sleep.

My husband has a bad habit of forgetting to put his pistol away after a trip to the range. More than once now I've seen it sitting on the sofa as I'm headed for bed. My daughter is a teenager, and fully understands all the safety rules, so that's not a concern. But what if there was an intruder in the middle of the night and his firearm was in the living room? We have others, but what if an intruder got their hands on it and used it against us?

Hubby and I have had this discussion before....but maybe it's time to have it again, and let him know about my dream.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How did I get here?

I find it interesting that while trying to figure out how to introduce myself, a significant date comes to pass. (And for once, it's not due to me procrastinating. Well, not entirely, anyway.)

 On February 29, 2012, the gang leader of The Texas 7 was executed, for killing a Dallas police officer eleven years ago after pulling off Texas' biggest prison break. If you're from Texas, you probably remember this story. Maybe even if you're from Colorado.

My family and I were living in Colorado Springs when this all took place. I vaguely remember hearing reports of the prison break on the news, as well as reports of the slain Dallas police officer. And that the gang was on the run.

Here's a snippet from the Dallas Morning News:
.....the gang fled toward Colorado and into a snowstorm. Nearly a month after Hawkins’ murder, police were tipped off that the men were at an RV Park in Woodland Park near Colorado Springs, posing as missionaries.
Rivas and two others were caught in a car nearby. Two were surrounded at the RV park, but Larry Harper committed suicide rather than be captured. The remaining two were found at a hotel and surrendered.
That last line is important in my story. What isn't mentioned is that the remaining two that were found at a hotel had made it down to Colorado Springs, and that before surrendering, they were in a standoff with CSPD for several hours. The hotel that the standoff happened at was right around the corner from where I worked.

Our office building went into a self-imposed lock-down in case these animals slipped the police, and watched it play out on the news. Thank God it ended with no one else getting hurt, and I was able to leave work (a couple hours later than usual) and go home to my family.

That very same week, my father had "the talk" with me. He wanted me to learn to defend myself, learn to shoot, and get a conceal carry license. The day we had that talk was the first time I ever held hand gun of any kind - his 9mm Glock.

I remember being terrified of that gun. I quickly handed it back to him, but resumed the chat about hand guns, and assured him that yes, I would pursue it.

Somehow, eleven years have passed, and I'm just getting around to this. (See? There's that procrastination thing I mentioned earlier.) Oh, Dad's been at it all these years, asking "when are you gonna?" and "have ya done it yet?" And the answer was always "Not yet, dad. But soon."

In the last few months, a fire was sparked when my husband started talking about the very same thing. I thought for a minute that the two must somehow be conspiring to drag me into the gun totin' world together. But hubby said it a little differently. He said "There's two things on my bucket list that I want you to do. Go back to school to get your degree, and learn to shoot a handgun. I won't be around forever, and you need to be able to provide for yourself."

How does one say no to that? I couldn't put it on the back burner any longer.

The first time hubs took me to the range, after getting over the initial nervousness and fear of "Holy cow, this thing could kill someone!" - I was hooked.

Now we have weekly range dates, and I'm looking forward to taking some different classes, joining up with a women's shooting group, and maybe even trying out some competitive shooting.

So it took a looooooong time...(and a long story).....but that's how I got here. :)