Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seeking motivation...

Well, yesterday was a bust. I didn't ride. I didn't canoe. I got wrapped up in the Olympic equestrian cross-country events and then I had an interview. Lame, I admit.

Today, I've got a lot of housework to do, some planning for the upcoming ROCK the RIDGE benefiting LIVESTRONG on September 23 with my partner-in-MTB-crime, Sean. But the weather doesn't look like it's going to cooperate for a ride, either.

So this self-motivation thing hasn't been working so well. I guess my own cancer journey isn't stimulating enough for me.

As I reflect on what a lazy slob I've become (well, I've always been a slob, but the lazy part is relatively new post-cancer), I think it's time that I rely on an oldie but a goodie when it comes to motivation - I look to YOU to kick my ass into the canoe and/or onto the bike.

Since the canoe is much more convenient in terms of location (the lake is literally a couple of hundred feet away from my house), for every $18 that is donated to my LIVESTRONG Challenge account daily (even once I find a job), I will canoe 1 clockwise lap around the circumference of Lake Kitchawan - that is a 2-mile lap.

Donate $25, and your lap will be counter-clockwise (as that is how you go against "current" in the lake). If I get 10 donations in one day, I will canoe 10 laps.

The bike, sadly, poses more difficulty. Because I live at the bottom of a valley, it would mean a 3-4 mile climb up onto decent roads, with some hills close to a 10% gradient. Pardon my French, but it's a bitch even when one is in great fitness. Not me.

Therefore, I would have to load up the bike and drive to a new location to start the ride. Given the state of my fitness, it would have to be relatively flat, so I'd be shooting at the Norwalk/Westport beaches, a ride I was introduced to on the Blooming Metric 3 years ago. So, for a donation of $36 or more, I will ride the Norwalk/Westport beaches.

Want to make me suffer? For a donation of $72, I will attempt (I can't make promises!) to ride up to Sherwood Island, which includes some climbs, and back to Norwalk, which includes a couple of more if I take the hilly route.

I want to do this. I really do. But wanting to do it hasn't been getting me out the front door. There is too much anxiety and fear. But you all have made me fearless over the years - from my first mountain bike races, to taking on ridiculous distances. And this isn't lip service - every single time I've looked to quit, I think of all of you supporting me, investing in me, and I stop myself. If I've ever quit an event, it's been with aching guilt.

You really do motivate me. Please, help me regain my fitness again. Help me get back on my bike.

Friday, July 27, 2012

When one door closes...

... another door opens. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard this from my LIVESTRONG peers. And, in many ways, it's true.

A door slammed shut last week, and is locking shut today. As a result, I am planning on spending the next couple of weeks training my body back into some semblance of being fit in preparation for my cancer survivors' rock climbing expedition with First Descents.

I look to canoeing around the lake every morning, throwing some bike rides into my days, doing housework, and getting back into the day-to-day, physically. Yes, I have a couple of minor residual procedures to complete reconstruction, but, for the first time since last August, it should not interfere with physical efforts.

I look to my rock climbing trip in Colorado as a restart. (Though, I'm most unhappy at the prospect that I may break some nails - I've been working very hard to regrow them since Chemo - and they are splendidly long now!)

I won't lie - I've been terrified that this ending would put me in dire financial straits - more than before. But an interesting thing has been happening - I've been getting more and more interview requests, and from corporations that I've been trying to get into for years. Better than that, they are such interesting positions!

The coming months will be telling ones.

Will I find that "dream job" that will solve my career, and financial, needs? Will the best thing for my son be to continue high school here or in Boston with his father? Will I be able to regain my strength and athleticism and be able to ride 100 miles in Austin in October? Will I be able to get back on the mountain bike again?

Stay tuned...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Forgive my absence...

It's been a crazy couple of months. Emotional, strange, and somewhat deflating.

It all started when I left my former employer. It had been 3 years of some great ups, and difficult downs, and it was finally time to leave. Within 2 days, I was at what was a dream job. It was such an ideal situation that I was willing to put some of my LIVESTRONG advocacy to the side while I acclimated to this new position - hence why I've been relatively under the radar. But I had to work hard to ensure benefits, as a cancer survivor, COBRA and private insurance was astronomical. I had to make sure I had financial security - my medical bills have been coming in with a frenzy, I was just struggling my way out of foreclosure. The salary promised, the position, the place - it was all finally what I had been working towards for so long.

When I interviewed, and started, I wore my wig. I figured I had to put my best foot forward. I didn't want to flaunt my cancer survivorship - I wanted my work to stand on its own. I didn't want to make anyone question my ability. I didn't want any sympathy or favoritism. Yes, some isolated individuals, including my friend who referred me and the Director of HR knew, but otherwise, I was under the radar (so I thought).

Right around my birthday, June 20, we'd been hit by heat waves. I was getting more and more paranoid about my wig sliding off as my hair grew in. I felt that I was secure enough in the position to finally go wigless, so I did. I got a lot of compliments on my new "haircut," to which I stammered, "Uh, right, yes, thanks." I didn't want to lie - after all, for some reason, I was still freelancing vs. having the permanent offer as I'd been told would happen within a week or two. So it was an awkward transition from full head of long, straight hair to short, Little Orphan Annie curly hair.

During my time there, and especially once I'd gone without the wig, I noticed this young woman, with long hair and a pleasant smile, would extend an especially friendly smile and nod when we passed in the hallway. I responded in kind, of course - I had no reason not to.

One morning, while I was getting coffee, she approached me, introduced herself. I gave her my name and, after a moment of small talk and once everyone else had left the kitchen, she leaned forward, told me that she admired my hair, smiled, and lifted the front of her hair - she was wearing a wig, too, and was a survivor.

While I hadn't been advocating as strongly as before, I guess I just had that vibe.

Last week was especially bittersweet. While I worked terribly hard to make the impressions I needed to in order to go permanent, I realized that my first cancerversary was quickly approaching. I was, admittedly, getting more and more depressed as I worked more and more without a permanent offer. Additionally, I had very much seen this position as the light at the end of my very long cancer & financial tunnel. It was the hope that I was unsure existed while I struggled through treatment with a most unstable previous employment.

Just a couple of days before my cancerversary, I was told "my assignment" was ending next Friday, and I was being replaced by a former co-worker of some of the folks in my department. I realized that there really wasn't much that I could have done. I had done my best, but the sense that nothing I could do would yield a permanent offer seemed to be accurate.

So, as if my first cancerversary was going to be a cocktail of emotions already, it was compounded with even greater fear and anxiety. A while back, I had been questioning why I had gone through all of what I had just to return to a job that was so frustrating, where I felt like I had to fight to get my job done and help make things better at work. But I couldn't really leave it - I had to have the security of benefits. I had felt trapped. So when I was out of that situation and in this one, I felt liberated.

But now, I just feel abandoned. I really liked it where I will be until Friday. Granted, it was awkward for me to meet people, introduce myself and feel part of a team where I wasn't really sure how I stood, but I did my best. The people, as a whole, are fantastic. And there is so much potential that I really know I could have impacted.

Now? I don't know how I'm going to afford COBRA. I'm just, now, in a position to be able to regain physical strength. I am struggling so hard to see this as one door closing and seeing another door opening. But this door just felt slammed in my face, at one of the most difficult times.

I apologize if this doesn't seem very inspiring. But this is my cancer experience, to date.

I guess my cancer surviving peers that didn't experience are terribly lucky.

My best advice is do your best to secure employment, so when you come out the other side, you can still work, earn a living, and not have to worry.