Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Turbulence and Challenge
Yesterday I got a good ten miles in on my feet, about seven of those were running. I'm running with Wheaties Boy tonight. It's warm again but windy today. There were whitecaps on the lake when I went out to do a therapeutic walk late this morning.
Now I'm tapping my feet at the desk. It's the calm before the storm. Tomorrow I meet with the marketing firm to plan the last steps before we launch my new service, Cancer Harbors. I'm nervous with anticipation. I don't expect miracles to happen and certainly not overnight success. It's going to be a process, much like an ultra, with ups and downs, good and bad patches, without a finish line on the horizon.
I'm troubled by something I learned yesterday, about one of the runners I've admired for many years, he's in his 80s, and just got some bad medical news. Cancer is something I am around all the time. I hate what this disease does to people, and I like that I am able to intervene in some ways and make things somewhat smoother, even if I can't fix any of it. There's been enough cancer in my family, and around me, in addition to my work and my clients, that it is something I've become used to, but not in a way of losing empathy or numbness.
I do know that burnout is something I will have to avoid, it is always a possibility when you're in healthcare and working with people who have intense needs. There's a certain distance you become able to maintain, but not enough that you can't emotionally grasp what they are experiencing. I don't know how to describe it. The ability to do that must be somewhat of a necessity if you're going to work in this field. You also need to be able to give something back to yourself, to refill your own tank.
Right now in addition to my dad's recent treatment and tentative remission, and the fact that a young person close to our family is in a hospital being prepped for a second bone marrow transplant after a leukemia relapse, and doing all I can to support my stepmom and others through coping with my dad's health problems, and my daily work which involves caring for people going through various phases of treatment or after treatment, it seems like I've been going along doing pretty well.
And then this news yesterday hit me. I was trying to figure out why it bothered me so much. He's lived a long active healthy and fun life. He expresses gratitude for all he's been able to do and experience in his time. It makes me mad that he has to deal with this, but then I know that cancer bully doesn't care, it picks on anyone and for no particular reason.
Those who think that by being a runner, eating healthy food and living a low stress lifestyle they can avoid cancer are just fooling themselves. There are other reasons to take care of yourself, of course, but if you're going to develop cancer, you're going to. At least until the day when we figure out whatever goes on inside our bodies molecularly and genetically to get cancer started and stop it.
Maybe it's because lately I wonder about my own existence, I've been working so hard on Cancer Harbors that I have foregone running, ultras, adventures, traveling, and having the money to do it. I've always felt that if I died tomorrow I would not regret it, I feel like I have packed a lot of living and fun into 52 years. If I'm taking up space on the planet, I need to be contributing something, and by coloring outside the lines and being disruptive and vocal, not following the beaten path, I am.
Recently I've been missing something, and maybe it is the accumulation of the caregiving role combined with the lack of spiritual outlet that running ultradistances gives me. Maybe it's working alone, without coworkers or people to talk to for most of the day, not even having the counsel of Iris and Isabelle anymore, in all of their superior wisdom. I don't know what independent health care providers do to take care of themselves, to cope with the emotional burden of the work they do. I have probably two dozen people I could reach out to, but they're all too far away for face-to-face conversation, in the flesh.
There's also the nagging thought that rarely surfaces but is back there somewhere, with my crazy family history of leukemia and other cancers, and who knows if they are hereditary or just random, that something could be waiting for me up ahead, and I want to be able to face it if I need to, with no regrets. So maybe what I really need to do is start running long again, just getting out on the trails around here more often, being outside and experiencing as much as I can while my resources are limited. Being outdoors always has been my solace. I need to find a way to challenge myself regularly again.
Climbing fences and trees with a corncob in your mouth adds an element of challenge.
Yesterday my friend Marissa saved the day for me, she is putting on another run like the Equinox run we did last spring in Arvada. This time it will be over Labor Day weekend. It will be an early fall equinox event, called "There Goes The Sun". That gives me a little over five months to get ready to spend 12 hours on my feet. I needed that much more than I realized. I'm going.