Cancer Can Kiss My Skates

I’ll start in 2014…It started just like any other year…in January (haha).
In April, I turned 40. My mother sent me a message on facebook asking if she could still shoot me (I had always said if I ever reach 40 to just shoot me because there was no way anything good could happen once I got THAT old). I told her we’d hold off and see what the year had in store.
Six days later, I had most of my thyroid removed due to pre-cancerous nodules. A couple nights in the hospital, a new medication, and I’m back on the road to recovery.
In May, my marriage of 14 years was officially sealed and delivered in a very plain white envelope with an order the judge had signed. We had been going at it for three years by this time and I was just relieved to have it over. While I mourned for the family unit my children would never have, I was bound and determined to make the best of it for us all.
Then July came and my friend from high school sent out a message that her 17 year old son had been killed in an accident the night before out in British Columbia where he had just moved a few months prior. My boys (only 6 & 9 at the time) came into my room as I sobbed. When I said my friend lost her son, Carson wrapped his arms around my neck as tight as he could and consoled me, “Don’t worry Mom, I know they’ll find him…I just know they will.” Oh…how my heart ached for the young man I new from infancy, and his family.
In August, my grandfather died. The man I thought was invincible: I mean truly. We had been told a year previous that if he didn’t get a kidney transplant (which he didn’t) he would not live three months. While travelling in Canada for his funeral, the engine blew on my vehicle. On a deserted highway, with no cell service, my boys, my brother, and it’s 90 degrees out…
I lost my job because I could not get back to the USA when I was supposed to.
That’s all…right? I can be done now? Haven’t I been through enough?
And then in October, my little boy starts hockey. I’m so excited about it that I volunteer to help coach. Life is GOOD…so amazingly awesomely good.
And then it happened.
I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. It was aggressive, it was huge, it had the potential to be deadly. I called my Mom over 600 miles away.
Talk about milestones to remember a year…
To say it’s been challenging is a bit more than an understatement. When I first got cancer, a friend and I went for manicures and shopping. She bought me a little sign we found that says, “If this is a blessing, it sure is well disguised.”
Two years ago in October, I met Katie.She did not know my story and wondered why I had a buzz cut. She was not aware that I had just finished 20 weeks of chemotherapy, a surgery that discovered the cancer had spread to a lymph node during chemo, five weeks of daily radiation, and was finishing up a targeted chemotherapy drug.
Our friendship was slow going at first. She was pregnant with baby number four; I had just started hockey season number two and was just trying to keep moving forward.
Her happy place was always inline skating. The few times she tried to tempt me, I said that I skated from October to March and in the summertime, I fish. A full year later she showed up at my house with a pair of inline skates she found online for super cheap.
I told her, “I commit to one lap.” I showed up begrudgingly at the trail where she skates almost daily.
I was hooked!!!
That first summer, I skated nearly 400 miles. I broke my middle finger in a slow speed fall, I had a knee injury that led to cortisone injections that kept me off skates for nearly a month. Yet 88 days from that first skate I skated the Northshore Inline Marathon in Duluth, MN.
We used skating to raise funds for breast cancer research. I decided that Cancer Can Kiss My Skates was my mantra going forward. This year we are raising funds for metastatic breast cancer (MBC) research as nearly one third of patients will eventually develop metastasis which is terminal. We have the names of cancer warriors past and present printed on our shirts.
I reached out to TNQ in search of a warrior who could use a pick me up…and I would sharpie their name on my arm and carry them with me at my race in June. My goal time to finish this race was 2:30:00.
When TNQ suggested I honor the men of Operation Red Wings on this 13th anniversary month of their sacrifice, I was in tears.
When I told my 10 year old what I was doing, he also wanted his name on my arm and wrote it before I left town.
Race day I took a sharpie and listed all 19 men killed during ORW on my arms.
When my legs were aching, and I began to question my ability, I reminded myself the new mantra I had begun to recite a couple weeks earlier, “My hardest skate is still easier than chemo.” My hands behind my back were held by 19 warriors and my son. Every time my hands closed around those names, I thought of those 19 men and how they were never out of the fight. When I was swinging my arms and those names came into my sight I pushed harder and faster. My knees aching, my muscles screaming, my heart beating out of my chest. Every time I stopped striding I reminded myself that every stride I missed was one I could never get back after the finish line.
With five miles left in my race, the downpour started. It rained so hard there were streams coming down the road. With two miles left, soaked to the bone, glasses useless due to rain an official drove by asking if I wanted a ride back. (Many roads in the area have since washed out causing a state of emergency).
I didn’t come this far to give up. I kept going.
I finished in 2:13:37. I was 16:23 FASTER than my goal…and the last five miles in the pouring rain.
Due to sweat and rain, the names on my arm were obliterated by the end of the race. The energy of those names were used up.
Less than a year from my very first skate, and I have completed two marathons, and finished third out of six in my age category at the second one. I am competing in two more inline skating marathons in 2018.
Diagnosed in October 2014, declared NED (no evidence of disease) April 22, 2016.

Author: Debbie