As many of my regular readers know, my dear friend and Revolution Health administrative assistant (Seton) was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer after giving birth to her first baby. She is doing well on chemotherapy, and working hard to shrink the liver tumors to a size that will allow her to have them cut out, and possibly be cured. On March 9th she’ll be participating in a Race for Colon Cancer walk/run in Central Park, and I’ll be joining her. This weekend I came to New York to practice the 4 mile run with a girlfriend of mine (Karen). Here’s what happened…
As I set out to meet my girlfriend at the southwest corner of Central Park, I became keenly aware that my light windbreaker/t-shirt combo was ill equipped to protect me against the icy wind chill. It was 8:30 in the morning, and as I bowed my head in the face of frigid temperatures, tears streamed down my cheeks while urban grit blew the very moisture out of my eyes. “Whose idea was this?” I asked myself, marveling at the occasional onlooker, bundled head to toe with hats, mittens and face masks. “Oh, yeah – mine. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I look at the weather report?”
About half a mile between my departure point and destination, I began to realize that my ears were in danger of freezing off. “I’ve got to find a hat” I thought… glancing at Citibank headquarters to the right and Meryl Lynch to the left. Where could one find a hat at this time of day, and in this neighborhood? Hmmm… a 24 hour pharmacy perhaps? As I marched towards what appeared to be a distant pharmacy I began thinking of ways to make a hat from cotton strips, Ace bandages, or maybe a shower cap. Severe cold can make a desperate mind exceedingly creative.
As I temporarily thawed myself in the warmth of the pharmacy, I began my search for a head covering. A fleeting moment of triumph gave way to disappointment when a hot pink Santa’s “little princess” elf hat (buried in a discount bin) proved to have the inelastic circumference suitable for a very small child or canine companion. But if there’s one kiddie hat in here, there must be others, I thought. So I combed through the drug store stock with a hopeful eye.
Ah-hah! I discovered a virtual treasure trove of kiddie hats, pinned to the backside of a pillar near the deodorant aisle. Of course, they were each painfully pediatric – with neon colors, gold stars, and little plastic Hello Kitty and Barney type effigies. But, I could see that they were stretchy, and came with some tiny gloves created to be a “one size fits most.” Worried that my girlfriend would have to wait in the cold for me, I hurriedly made my purchase, tore the tags off the hot pink hat and forced it down over the top half of my ears. The gloves covered my four fingers and half my thumb.
I arrived at our meeting place just in time. My girlfriend approached with a quizzical expression, noting the large “Strawberry Shortcake” girl (inside a plastic heart) emblazoned on my hat. I could see that she wondered if my fashion sense had taken a turn for the worse since my move from NYC to Washington, DC two years prior.
I assured her that I had no intention of wearing the hat again, but that desperate times called for desperate measures. She stood in front of me in a full running suit, complete with a layer of long johns, ear muffs, and two layers of Goretex. I felt utterly unprepared in my light cotton shirt and Lycra pants – but at least now that my head was half-covered, I figured that running would keep me from freezing to death outright.
And so we set off on a 4.5 mile jaunt, a hilly distance that neither of us had run in over a year. I had tried to prepare for this day with elliptical training, but wasn’t sure that my cardiovascular reserves would handle this new form of exercise.
Much to our surprise, the icy wind quickly numbed all sensation in our legs, allowing us to jog without much awareness of potential pain or exhaustion. We soon settled into a nice, slow jogging rhythm and took turns catching up on one another’s news. My uphill breathlessness tended to shorten my usually animated description of life-events, reducing me to caveman-like accounts. “Me take new job at hospital. Good.” Though I did much better on the downhill stretches.
In the end my girlfriend and I felt quite triumphant about the fact that we made it the full 4.5 miles without a break. We both knew that another 3 weeks of training should put us in good standing for the Colon Cancer Challenge, though my friend suggested that if I wore the Strawberry Shortcake hat again, she might pretend that she didn’t know me.
Today, of course, all my leg muscles are sore – but it’s nothing compared to what Seton is going through with her chemotherapy. I wish her all the best in her fight against cancer, and hope that my participation in the Colon Cancer Challenge will provide her with some encouragement, if not comic relief.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.