Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Alternate Reality

In Too-Close-For-Comfort, Alternate Reality World, this is what would be happening : 

In the Alternate Universe, Hammerhead Sharks can fly! 

Today, I would have been anxiously awaiting an X-ray, scheduled at Mayo Clinic, for tomorrow afternoon. It would be my second visit with the specialist and I would be dying to find out if I could finally get the green light to be off the crutches she'd prescribed for six weeks. 

I would have now, not run since December (give or take a couple testers). In fact, I wouldn't have even been walking on two feet or breathing deeply in yoga. My fitness would be gone. My leg muscles almost atrophied. 

In Alternate Reality, though, I would have stuck it out. I would have pushed aside my doubts and wholeheartedly followed the doctor who had just met and knew very little about me. It would have seemed worthwhile when she showed me the healed bone (or the nothing...since X-rays are pretty much useless for stress fractures) on the scan. 

Crutches would be tossed aside, tentative steps would be taken and I would ever-so-gradually be able to incorporate some walk-running, just as the month of May started to creep in. 

It truly wouldn't have been the worst scenario, but...

I just love The Reality so much more 

Cheers to a blissful outcome

I thought, bounced questions and concerns off others, researched and ended up deciding to follow up with my local doctor. 
The aftermath of that visit, the quickly scheduled (next day) CT scan and the follow-up were nothing but good, better and best.  

They definitively ruled out "any underlying masses" (#gloryhallelujah) and finally saw evidence of the offending stress fracture and subsequent healing. 

Through a series of interesting events (not my story to tell, unfortunately) I was also given some very specific and well-researched instructions, moving forward with the new results. It boiled down to me doing just what I had been. Incorporate some walking and light running. When it hurts, pull back and re-group. If it doesn't, keep listening to your body and proceed carefully. 

I had made some good choices and was basically told to keep them up.  

The reigning Queens of Good Choices

Cross-training, including yoga and aqua jogging, were heartily endorsed. I left with a beaming, stupid smile and knew things were finally...finally settled. 

That was April 4th. I have been able to resume training with absolutely no pain. I'm slower than I was 5 months ago, but I know the speed will come back to me.  I've been overjoyed to join friends back on the streets, run some quiet, solo miles,  and even made the decision to travel to Boston, for the marathon. 

another good choice: NOT running the marathon

With a bib in my hand, the sun shining on my face and a chilly morning facing me, it was not easy to make the smart decision. Somehow, it happened, though. While friends and family made their way to the start line in Hopkinton, I jogged through the crowds and cars making their way around downtown Boston. 

It was four miles I never thought I'd be present and healthy for and I was so grateful for the chance. 

Plus, the next day, when fellow airline passengers spotted my Blue & Yellow race shirt and asked "Did you run, yesterday?!" I could cheekily respond : "Why, yes. Yes I did." 

This left me with also plenty of time to eat an un-healthy breakfast (the joys of not racing a marathon), grab a coffee and join the masses to cheer at the finish line. 

Full disclosure : there were several moments, throughout the weekend, some tears escaped before I could reign them in. The moments of pure joy, pride and gratitude far outweighed any of my silly sadness, though. 

Another bonus? I left feeling just as strong and pain-free as I had when I'd arrived in Boston. In Alternate Reality, had I run the marathon (and, boy, did I almost do it!) I would have surely set myself back for many unnecessary weeks. At one point, this had been a goal race for me. 

Things change. Adjustments need to be made to conform to actual reality. 

I hope to update here more often, as my ultimate running goals have only been strengthened. Feel free to read and join me for next few chapters that don't involve being terrified of a cancerous tumor growing in my bone. 

That's an Alternate Reality we can all, happily wave good-bye to. 
Come. Join me up front. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Relief (ish)

Yesterday, my husband and I were finally able to meet with the Orthopedic Oncologist at The Mayo Clinic, in Jacksonville. 

If you're confused by that sentence, you'll want to go read the past few posts and get caught up. 

Now that we're all on the same page... 

Art took time off work and suffered through the Bike Week traffic to make sure we both arrived, safely. (thank you) However, the clinic requests that the initial exam involves only the doctor and the patient. We had misgivings about not having two sets of ears during the visit, but he agreed to remain in the waiting area, nonetheless. 

I would not have wanted to be The Waiter and am so impressed at his coping ability. (thank you, again) For the record, waiting in the exam room wasn't sunshine and rainbows, either. I tried to distract myself, but my erratic heartbeat and rapidly spreading Stress Hives just wouldn't let up. 

The boys were being cared for and entertained by my mother-in-law, which was an enormous help. (thank YOU, too) While Art and I embarked on this roller coaster road trip, they ate snacks and cozied up for a movie. 
the boys know how to work it

The facility is wonderful. (fun fact: It's also the site of the marathon where I ran my first Boston Qualifying time) I would recommend it to anyone seeking a comforting, comprehensive and state-of-the-art medical center. Our appointment was so late in the day, there was a bit of a "skeleton crew" feel, but that simply made it more peaceful. The remaining staff were all attentive and professional. 

I am not trying to drag out the results of the visit, here. As is always acceptable on this blog : Feel free to skim. I sent many texts, and made many phone calls, after seeing the doctor. I am sorry. I know I wasn't able to personally tell everyone.  There was a lot of traffic and thoughts and not a lot of time. 

The Orthopedic Surgeon came in and asked "'re a runner?" I verified and she told me 

"You have a stress fracture." 

She then showed me, on the MRI from January, the dark, almost vertical line running up my tibia, surrounded by a mass of swelling. 

It was difficult to focus on what she was saying, while so many conflicting thoughts were swirling. It was good news. So good! She talked about upping my calcium intake, I asked some annoying questions and I was on my smiling way to tell my husband we could all breathe, again. 

We focused on getting all of us home, so we could relax even further and celebrate our relief. 

not shocking: probably would've drunk this, regardless 

I may or may not have spent a reckless amount of time on this site and even started tossing around the idea of going to Boston, after all. It was a great night. 

Until 4 am. 

My eyes popped open and all sorts of rational and irrational questions and fears completely overwhelmed me. I began to recall bits of the visit I had pushed back in my mind, after hearing the diagnosis. The happiness became fuzzy and then started to fizzle away, completely. 

In a moment of Completely Outside My Comfort Zone,  I grabbed the doctor's business card, swallowed my fear and tried to call her to pour out my concerns. 
Note, it was a more reasonable hour when I attempted to call 

It is an 8-5:00, Monday through Friday number. With the extra time, I will either become much less neurotic, or simply wait (it's what I'm good at, remember) and still call her, Monday. 

In no particular order. And, for the love of everything sacred and beautiful, please feel free to end your read on a "It's just a stress fracture!!" note. Skip the following thoughts and still think somewhat highly of me. 

If you decide to keep reading, please accept this as my apology : When 4 doctors,  2 Physician's Assistants and 2 Radiologists are concerned, for months, that your problem may be a tumor and cancer, it's hard for your brain to accept, from 1 doctor (an expert, however) that it's truly just an injury.
  • Why did 2 radiologists see the same, black, line and call it a lesion? Why did they call the swelling a tumor? The difference: They were told to look for a stress fracture on both the MRI and CT scan, but not given any background information. 
  • This doctor knew I was a runner. Did it cloud her judgement? Running doesn't necessarily equal stress fracture. I had zero, classic symptoms, signals or causes leading up to the pain. Here is what else can cause stress fractures : tumors 
  • Why did she not read their reports? 
  • When asked to explain why the other doctors had seen the same scans and had noted "no visible fracture line", she responded with : "They lied." A more scientific or believable response would have gone a long way. 
  • Why not order a new scan? The ones she looked at were from January. Wouldn't it help to verify a healing fracture or confirm that the mass hasn't grown or changed? 
  • I am still in pain, after 13 weeks. 
Bottom line: I just need some additional reassurance. 
Obnoxious and panicky? Probably. 
Unreasonable? I don't think I care, anymore. 

Even better bottom line: We are all rejoicing and celebrating. The expert confirmed our fears can be alleviated and we can focus on the huge positives. You guys stick with all that and I'll worry about the rest. 

Thank you, again and always, for all of the kind support through this process. I hope to be able to celebrate over and over and over with anyone who will join me. :) 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ready to Celebrate

After 3+ months of physical pain and uncertainty, I really am.

If we are all focusing our efforts on The Power of Positive Thinking, let's be clear on what we are hoping for at today's appointment at The Mayo Clinic.

Another step towards a definitive answer and plan of action is almost inevitable, so let's not waste too much effort on that one.

This is what I am still pulling for : "All of this tumor talk was nonsense. You have an injury, plain and simple. Here it is, on this scan. I am certain and you can be, too." 

When Dr. Sherman tells me that, we will giddily drive home, share the good news with everyone we know (whether you all like it or not) and crack open this baby :

Thank you, sweet friend 

Enjoy your Fridays, knock out a few miles for me and we will all re-group, soon, to celebrate, together. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tiny Cheers


Kind of. Mostly!

I received a call from the Mayo Clinic, in Jacksonville, today. They received all of the referral paperwork and were ready to schedule an appointment for me to see the Orthopedic Oncologist. 

In about 3 weeks. 

I truly am happy to have steps in the right direction (towards answers) and am glad to be on their calendar, at all. There is only one Orthopedic Oncologist at the clinic and she will be out of town next week. So, it's cool. We have learned to celebrate (woo hoo!) each bit of progress, so I wanted to share this great update with all of you. 
This type of celebrating happened *last* February. Way more fun. 

I am also blessed to be celebrating 12 years of adventurous, love and laugh-filled, marriage with my husband, this weekend. Won't that be an excellent way to pass the time while waiting for my appointment? 

We'll wear grown-up clothes and everything 

On the running front : there's not been much of a change. The rest of my body still feels great and fit. I've kept up with any strength training that doesn't hurt. Yoga is feeling great and keeping me bendy and calm. (not quite as bendy as the instructor
I've now missed out on seven (7!) races I was registered to run or pace, since this mess. That doesn't get easier. 

I dreamed that I hadn't yet registered for Boston and was so relieved. Until I woke up, of course. That trip is up in the air, unfortunately. It seems unlikely I'll be in marathon shape in less than eight weeks, but giving up hope isn't in my (disgustingly optimistic) nature. 
How else will I get a new shoe charm? 

Back to waiting. Still waiting. Waiting is my new thing. I have had so many doctor visits and so many tests over the past few months. This one HAS to be The One, right? 

Regardless of the outcome, we'll all celebrate another step toward fixing this. 

What are you celebrating, this week? 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Guess What?

Chicken butt.


He likes my jokes. 

Other than knee-slapping humor, I don't have much to share at this time. The amount of time that has elapsed, with no updates or progress, is making people feel helpless and anxious. 

I get that. 

By some stroke of luck, I have been able to tap into some sort of calm, zen state of mind about the situation. While I would love to have the pain gone, receive answers about what the "undefined" growth might be and how to fix it...I don't. I am confident that all of that is coming, though. That thought is enough to keep me at peace, for now. 

That explanation isn't some backward way of bragging. It's simply to explain this : I don't stress about it until someone reminds me to. 

Moving on...

Boring details! It took quite a while for my primary care doctor's office to gather all of the necessary information to submit to insurance. It was finally set and sent on Monday, 02/15. We have since learned that our insurance company has up to two weeks to process the scans, doctor's notes and recommendations. 

If the company decides to approve of the current plan, they will contact the Mayo Clinic who will then call me to set up an appointment with their Orthopedic Oncologist. 

I've also seen it spelled "Orthopaedic" and really enjoy that variation. 

The pain remains. While it is not the acute, I-need-a-wheelchair-at-the-airport, pain of December, it still lingers. Annoyingly. 

Despite this, I've been a bit more active, this week. I'm keeping a close eye on my heart rate and keeping it low as I test out some run-walks. While it doesn't feel like "Yeah! I'm running!", it's worlds better than being completely inactive. 

I guess. It mostly still sucks. 

And when I'm not talking, I'm thinking about it. 

Update: I just received a call from the processing department. The request has been approved and Mayo Clinic will be calling me to schedule an appointment. 

Thank you for all the crossed fingers, positive thoughts and prayers. It totally worked! I'll let you know your next task, soon. 


Tuesday, February 9, 2016


I had a two-paragraph rant about how much we pay for our family's insurance and how little that has actually provided us. (unless we're talking about grief and hassles. It provides a crapton of that)

I've pared it down to the above sentences. Complaining isn't productive and it makes me feel gross. It did feel fairly refreshing to pound out angry words on my laptop, though. 

not as refreshing as running, obviously. Hi, Dad!

As you may have surmised from the title, there has not been a ton of progress. I finally received a call from the Orthopedic Oncologist's office who informed me my insurance does not cover any doctors outside of our county. 


There are zero (none, nada) Orthopedic Oncologists in our county. 

This new setback led to another day spent waiting, making phone calls, trying not to cry and not always succeeding at any of that. As the hours wound down, though, it was apparent we were faced with another. wasted. day.  

Friends and family have kindly asked for updates, so there it is. Tomorrow will be spent doing what I did, today. If we are able to connect the right pair of doctors, we might be able to get an appointment for a week from now. This will be a consultation, and unlikely to garner any solid answers. 

Just another step. 

Fun side note : If we are not able to get insurance to cooperate with this process, the aforementioned consultation will cost $750

During the interim, I've tried some longer walks and even a bit of jogging. It hurts. The pain doesn't let up at any point. A smarter runner may even label it "unbearable" or "not something I can run through".  Luckily, as I've pointed out in the past, no one has ever accused me of being particularly smart. 

Here is my thought process : 

If it is/was a stress fracture, it now has a calcification so big and strong, the doctors are unable to detect any evidence of the actual trauma. At that stage in a healing process, I should be able to run. 

If it is a tumor, I can't be causing any further damage by testing out the legs. It's simply a matter of just how much pain I want to endure. 

Care to share your thoughts about my thoughts?

One day, my friend and I ran to the Pacific Ocean. Why can't I be stalled in that kind of day?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Still More

I'd be remiss if I didn't, again, thank everyone for their kind words and wisdom. Sharing this has opened up opportunities and insight I could not have even known to ask for. Even the simple "you're in our thoughts" brings us joy and peace. 

Something for me and my family to remember, moving forward. If you don't know what to do to help, a kind word goes a long way. 

Thank you. 

My watch knows what I want to do 

The oncologist's office stayed true to their word and got me in contact with an Orthopedic doctor they trusted. There was a (lucky!) cancellation, and I was able to get an appointment, this morning. After all the weeks of frustrating waits, the last few days have been a blessing. 

The PA and doctor asked a lot of pertinent questions and really listened to my responses. They also took quite a bit of time to actually review all of the scans and written reports. My fear (a bit of PTSD from previous appointments) was that I'd be made to feel silly for all of these steps and tests. 

When the pain initially stopped me in my tracks. (quite literally) There were enough symptoms pointing in the stress fracture direction. When the weeks dragged on and I was still in so much pain, I finally sought professional help to confirm my suspicions (stress fracture) or diagnose a different injury (tear, sprain, etc) and help with treatment. 

With all that's transpired, I fear I give off the impression of trying to dig for something that's not there. That's never been my goal or desire. This was supposed to be cut and dry. I'm supposed to be able to run by now. 

my grandparents are just as enthused by my tangents as you all are 

Back to the update. 

The Orthopedic doctor strongly feels a stress fracture makes the most sense, given most of the circumstances. Based on what he saw on the scans, some of the details and the reports, though, he is not 100% sure. Like the others before him, he was unable to actually find a stress fracture. The growth on the bone could very well be the healing/calcification of an old injury. The margins are irregular, though, and there isn't a single scan that actually shows said, old injury.  Additionally, if the stress fracture is healed enough to be completely covered by new growth, I shouldn't still be having this much pain, at rest. That's my long-winded explanation of why there is enough doubt for him send me on to the next expert. 

They are setting me up with the one and only Orthopedic Oncologist in Central Florida. He will look at the cool pictures of the inside of my leg, listen to me tell this boring story for the umpteenth time, and tell me if he thinks it's a tumor. More tests are likely, surgery is possible, impatient waiting is an absolute given.

In a lovely world, the doctor would have showed me, on the scan "here is your running injury and this is how we fix it." Come to think of it, that's what I have been hoping with every appointment I've had since the beginning of January. That didn't happen, (once again) but I am glad he is not taking any chances.

So, that's where we are in the process. Feel free to ask or share anything you'd like about the situation.

Plus, if you have pain you are not able to ignore, during physical activity, consider seeing a doctor sooner, rather than later. In my experience, it hasn't always been necessary. We aren't always qualified to know, though.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Contrary to what appears to be an over-share, I am a fairly private person. Being the center of attention makes me uncomfortable. While I'm not terribly shy, I am reserved. (if that makes sense)

A lot of you are not shocked by that statement. 

I agonized over the decision to share my recent story. In the end, I realized I don't know much...but I know running. If my experience helped even one runner, searching for answers, it was worth the extra attention.

"Thank you" will never begin to cover the feeling my husband I have regarding the outpouring of support we have received. If someone can come up with a phrase or gesture to fully convey "holy cow. We don't deserve this much love and you are all absolutely amazing", please let me know.  I just...I'm blown away.

Feel free to skip or skim any of the updates posted. Again, I'm desperate to NOT seek attention. I do feel that the information is, or could be, invaluable, though. Additionally, it has already opened doors to people I would not have normally met, who have excellent insight.

So...another sleep-deprived, head-full-of-new-information update: 

important. Plus, posts without pictures are lame

My primary care office was ON IT, this morning. After all my previous struggles, they've done a complete 180 and are now a fully functioning piece of this. I am very grateful for what they accomplished, today. 

I saw an Oncologist/Hematologist first thing, this morning. He did bloodwork and found no red flags. (yes!!) 
He also read the reports from the MRI and CT Scan, (but didn't have any of the images) and was not as convinced as the other doctors that what they're seeing is a tumor. 

Here is my concern regarding this piece : As soon as I told him I was a runner, he stopped taking notes. I worry he is being too quick to write this off as an injury. Yes, we will all do a (so careful) dance of joy if this a stress fracture that has not shown up for 3 doctors on 3 different scans, but that just seems "off" at this point. Neurotic over-thinking and sharing? Maybe. It's kinda my new thing. 

Additionally, he explained how bone biopsies are not like other biopsies. If this were any other part of the body, they would likely start with a biopsy. However, with it being so invasive and delicate a procedure, he wants to check a few more boxes before taking that route. Fine by us. 

This doctor spent a great deal of time with Art and I and we left feeling confident with his decisions and much more calm about the situation, as a whole. 

To be clear : No cancer has been confirmed or diagnosed at any point. 

I now have all of my scans on a disc, as well as a fresh, new, chest X-ray. If it is Sarcoma, the lungs are the next place it would have traveled, if any traveling had taken place. Again, nothing confirmed, denied or diagnosed. Simply another box to check. 

The images will be taken to an Orthopedic doctor he trusts. The oncologist tells us (more or less), that this fine gentleman will say : "This is MY specialty. What you have is an injury and here is how we will fix it." 


"This is MY specialty. In my experience, I have not seen an injury that looks like what you have on these scans. It is time for a biopsy" 

So, that is the next box to be checked. The skilled Orthopedic doctor who holds more answers. 

Again and again and again : Thank you. Your concern, comments, texts, thoughts, love, prayers, offers to help and wisdom have made this day one trillion times easier than it should have been. 

Since I have you all here, and this is technically still a running blog, I'll leave you with a picture of my toes after running 100 miles. My gift to you. 


Never Running Again

I have been staring at this blank page, at 4:00 am, trying to figure out how to put this into words. There doesn't seem to be a clever or catchy way to start, so I'll stick with what I know.

The story. 

In early December 2015, I ran the OUC Half Marathon in Orlando. Track Shack does a spectacular job of trying to make you forget what a truly awful race it is. The pre and post-race excitement *almost* tricks your brain into thinking "I should do this, every year!". The heat, uneven cobblestones and boring streets just can't be forgotten, though. 

It was part of my training, so I gave it good, tempo effort but didn't go all out. The time (1:37ish) ended up being 2 minutes faster than I'd previously ran there (2013). 

I diligently completed all of my post-race recovery steps and felt good. Tired, a little achy, but good. That evening, I stepped out of the car, after a road trip and nearly toppled over. My right calf was NOT happy. As any neurotic runner would do, I proceeded to gingerly hop on it and was terrified at how much worse that felt. 


The next two weeks were agonizing and stressful. My goal race was looming. 24 hours, on a 400 meter track, with the intent of qualifying for the US National 24-Hour team, is not something one can go into half-heartedly. 

I iced, heated, elevated, and had the magic hands of Debbie upon me, more than once. Above all, I didn't push it. During those weeks, I only tested out my running legs a couple of short times. The training plan was furiously re-vamped to include nothing but rest and recovery. 

I can honestly say that when my husband and I boarded the Arizona-bound plane, all the calf pain terror was behind me. No medications involved, no fingers crossed. My biggest fears were getting my gear and nutrition set to keep my body going strong for 24 hours of running. 

The details of the race aren't important. The highs of dining with some of the most amazing athletes I've ever encountered, were swiftly followed by the nauseating lows of limping behind all of them after stabbing pain hobbled me a few, short laps into the morning.  

My husband and dear friend  were so patient and loving. I am still so thankful for the way they picked up the pieces and got us all home, with (somehow) happy memories of the weekend. 

The phantom, on-again-off-again, calf annoyance was now a full-on, stabbing, keeping-me-awake-all-night  PAIN. I put myself on crutches and treated it like what I suspected it to be. A tibial stress fracture. (<-<-It's cool to use fractured sentences when discussing fractured bones) 
Christmas on Crutches! 

Not being able to run is devastating for any runner. Going from 80 miles per week, to zero, was really hard to wrap my head around. With it being a weight-bearing bone, this could continue for at least eight weeks. However, with no actual diagnosis, there was a chance this could all go away much quicker. 

Fast-forward to the day I broke down and went to the ER. Having no Primary Care Provider, it was the only way to get the ball rolling on a diagnosis and treatment plan. I'd fought it for weeks. A stress fracture would be healed by doing exactly what I was doing. Anything else : tear, strain, etc, also just needed rest. However, it had now been just that unsettling bit of "too long" to ignore. The pain was still waking me up at night. I still wasn't able to function as I would like to as a person, much less an athlete. So, to the ER I went. 

The "doctor" peeked at the clean x-ray and immediately turned off his listening ears. He sent me away with instructions to "take a warm bath and possibly try some new shoes" to ease my "shin splints". He refused to order any further tests and the referral he gave me was not one my insurance was able to use. It was a maddening waste of my valuable time. 

But I kept at it. 

New insurance policy, new was a mess. Once I started down that path, though, I was either going to get to the bottom of this or stop being in pain. The pain lingered, my frustration and depression grew, so I kept pushing. 
being listed in magazines helped 

Again, trying to shorten this months-long story, so feel free to ask any details you feel are pertinent. 

For now: there was an MRI. Waiting for the results was maddening. The results were even more so. No stress fracture was detected. "unspecified" bits showed up. This meant there was proof something was causing me pain, however, any imaging had so far failed to determine what that might be. All of this was wrapped up with "BUT, it could still be a stress fracture." 


Last week, I had a CT scan. There were more hoops to jump through to get the results. This finally resulted in me driving to the doctor's office, to pick up a copy. If necessary, I could schedule a follow-up when the doctor became available. For now, though, I just wanted to try to decipher that report and get some answers. 

When my eyes fell on the word "sarcoma", in the report, the world quickly became very small, very quiet and very still. 

I showed it to the receptionist who put me on the schedule to meet with the doctor an hour from then. 

To think of how devastated I was at the prospect of not running for 8 weeks. That my gripe was how much fitness I was losing, how many races I was missing out on, the fun times with friends out on the roads and trails. 

Looking at an upcoming bone biopsy and being faced with, among a dizzying amount of unknowns, the thought of Never Running Again. 

Suddenly, 8 weeks doesn't seem so bad.