Category Archives: The Journey

The end of one season is the beginning of another and I can’t wait!!!

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Season One 2012 – Nashville

January of 2012 was finally the year I got the guts and motivation to train for a 1/2 marathon.  I was so excited to join all the amazing people I had met while planning the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k race for Colorectal Cancer. I knew I would be in the best hands and have fun while training.  I mean any group that runs and drinks is my kind of crowd.  So off to training I would go each cold, wintery Saturday morning to run with “my people”.  A few weeks into training we got our Brooks running shirts….on the front it says “Long Distance Hero”.  We are training for the Rock-n-Roll Nashville Full and 1/2 Marathon.  Well never in my wildest dreams did I think this was going to be more than just crossing the finish line at 13.1 miles.  I have a much longer distance to go, but with the help, encouragement, and spirit of our training team, sponsors, supporters, friends and family I will travel the long and hilly road with my heroes!!!!

A shout out to some of our sponsors!!!

Omega Sports     ~     PR Race Management     ~     Brooks     ~     Omega Sports (not a dup I just love them!!!!!)

The team members are too numerous to count, but let me just tell you that each one of them, individually, has incrediable value to me.   You are all Long Distance Heroes and I can’t wait to get back on the pavement with all of you…my sneakers ache for asphalt!

Season Two 2012 – Savannah

So what do you do after training for a half, successfully crossing the finish line, while in Stage IV Colon Cancer.. .if your answer is rest, you are so wrong….you sign up to run another half with the greatest training team ever. I mean, have any of you known me to miss a good time?  Nope, not me!  This summer I will train for my first tiathlon.  Again with the crazy….. In my defense, I had already signed up for the Rambling Rose Tri in September before my diagnosis in April.  Swimming and biking will make for some fun cross-training.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much exercise has helped me endure treatments. Progress is a process…so far so good.

So why not just wait to run another half until next year.  First off…never wait!!!  I learned that lesson already.  Secondly, I now know about the value of a team. I’ve never been on an athletic team…hell, I was never even athletic.  I picked a fine time to switch gears, don’t you think?  Even if I couldn’t run and only cheer them on I would happily pay the training fee just for the inspiration I receive from them each and every day.  Thank you all from the bottom of my soul…you have raised my spirits and my heart rate to a level I’ve never known.

So back to my next half….here we come Savannah.  John (my husband) and I will both train together for this very special race. Why is it so special?… because we’re doing it together.  Scans, blood tests, and treatment are not the quality time or milestones on which we want to focus.  Crossing a finish line in Savannah…now that’s something we can get on board with.  So in November, we will spend 13.1 amazing miles together…can’t wait.

Please consider joining us this season…training starts next month and I can promise you, not only that you will get in shape and have a good time, but it might just change your life!!!!!  I’m the living proof!

Speak softly and carry a big, strong stick!!!!

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In 2003, John and I hopped a jet and flew to our honeymoon destination…Africa!  Remember the days when you thought you were invincible?  We  were up for anything on this trip which is why we signed up to track rhino on foot.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  The intensity of not knowing what could happen, or what was around the next bend, was thrilling.  We arrived at the Matusadona Water Wilderness camp in Zimbabwe.  Matusadona in the Shongan tribal language means “falling dung”.  Just a conversation piece for your next happy hour.  Our guide was as tall as the Acacia trees with a very deep voice and a rifle at his side.  We walked quietly for hours in the bush hoping to get a glimpse of this very special black rhino.

After many hours of trekking through the bush trying not to spook the elephants (only a tiny bit stressful), our guide picked up a large stick.  He explained to us that although the rangers are armed they will loose their license if they were to shoot a rhino. Yes, even in self defense.  Say WHAT??? So what’s the plan, I wanted to know and why wasn’t this in the brochure?  Ok,  so I figured out the answer to the later question, but seriously, what was the plan???  In the event of a “charge“, our guide, armed with a long, large stick  would use this to hit the horn of an oncoming rhino to divert the attack.  OK not the best plan, but that’s what we get for not asking the right questions before we signed up for this adventure.

There are so many times in our lives when we feel the need to do something crazy, or we make decisions without having all the facts.  Have you ever found yourself in a situation only to realize you don’t have a backup plan or perhaps you don’t have a plan at all?  All of those life lessons came down to this one encounter with this gorgeous, endangerd species standing just a few feet from us.

So now I’m in the bush with my husband of 6 months and a large, termite eating, African man who’s only method to protect us is the large stick he picked up off the ground.   Lucky for us, the rhino eventually tired of us and we were once again safe…well as safe as you can be, on foot, in the bush.  Our guide threw the stick to the ground and it shattered in a million pieces.  That’s right, folks, we were completely unprotected the entire time.  John and I had  trusted that we were safe.  Trusted that the guide had our backs.  Trusted that he had picked the right stick.  I will always remember my feeling of shock as I saw the bits of termite ridden wood fly across the ground.

Now there is nothing worse than not learning from your mistakes or life lessons.   So when we started on our second day of rhino tracking, I had a plan. As we started our walk I picked up a super strong, termite free, “knock-the-dung-out-of-you” strong kinda stick and carried it with me for the duration of our trek.  When we came upon the second rhino I silently handed my stick to the guide.  He responded in a very deep African accent, “chakanaka” (‘thank you’ in his native language).  I knew John and I were not strong or skilled enough to use the stick, but the weapon I had chosen would protect us!  This time I was in charge of choosing the right tools for our protection.

So nine years later we find ourselves face to face with another “large beast”.  We started this trek with the first stick we could get our hands on.  We are halfway through treatment (today!) and just finding out how to best protect ourselves against its ensuing charge.  Once again we have learned that it is best to pick your own stick.  That’s right, our first stick was riddled with termites.  We have spent weeks looking for the “right” stick to protect against “the beast” –  and we are happy to say we’ve found it.  This stick is made up of the perfect mix of doctors, nurses, friends, family, food, fitness and faith.  It will protect us and we can proceed knowing we made the right decisions.

Gardening Update:

I am halfway through treatment today.  Can I have a Whooop whooop!!! I was so excited that I celebrated before treatment this morning.  How you ask??? I went for an I-feel-super-strong four mile run.  It felt so good. I felt so strong.  I was on a mental high.  This is the longest distance I have been able to run since treatment started.  I wish for all of you that you started your week off the very same way. You deserve it!  If you haven’t, there is still time…today is not over yet!

Thanks for keeping me smiling!

Sue

P-p-p-poker Face

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When I was first diagnosed, it felt like a game of “52 Pickup”. Do you remember that game?   Someone asks if you want to play and the next thing you know there are cards flying everywhere.  Of course the next step is to pick up the cards.  Now what?  It’s time to play a real game and as the Queen of Hearts I am going to decide how this deck is stacked!

Before this deck is shuffled, I’ve removed the jokers.  A few slipped into my first game … they are now gone.  This is a game of chance, but I plan to increase my odds.  This hand I’ve been dealt is not ideal, but if you play enough times you will eventually win and by the way…that’s when you stop playing!

So the cards are being dealt again this week.  The stakes are high as always.  Treatment starts Monday and the exciting news….this is my halfway point!!!!  I’ve got my poker face on.  Place your bets folks I’m in it to win it!!!  The pot is mine!

On to other matters…

I ran two solid miles this morning…up and at ’em at 7.  It felt great. I was a little down about my performance the last week or so. I know I’m on chemo, but it’s still frustrating and the fear that I’ve lost my strength is there.  My best days to run are the three before another round of chemo –  so out there I went, just me, myself and I.  Well I did have Nelly, Bon Jovi and the Scorpions with me…just a little audio juice to inspire me and get my booty groovin’!  It worked.  I had a solid run and I feel amazing.  Patience, faith and determination are key, and will be, for the months to come.

Are any of you thinking about running, but feeling intimidated?  It’s time to get out there and start with a small goal.  Run for three minutes and walk for one.  You can do this and I will be cheering you on the entire way!  The small steps you take now will lead you to much greatness in the future!!!!!

Thanks for keeping me smiling.

Sue

GOALLLL – Get Out And Live, Love, Laugh, Learn!!!

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G.O.A.L-Get Out And Live!!!

A running teammate posted the other day his desire to quit running.  Why?????…because he is frustrated that he is  not able to meet his goals.  Considering an alternative sport that will not require lap counting or timing –  to that, I say bull pucky!!!  If I have learned anything in the last twelve weeks, it  is that when the game changes, so does the  goal.  I was up to 11 miles in my training when the game changed for me.  My initial goal was to break 2:30 for my 1/2 marathon.  Three weeks after surgery I ran the half , but my goal changed.  I chose to Get Out And Live, Love, Laugh and Learn. This came from my inspiring team, family, friends and everyone who believed in me (those that did not were checked at the curb).  I never gave up my desire to finish the half, but I changed my goal and was happier for it.  It takes a lot of inner strength to change your goals, but its worth it!

My personal goal right now is my up coming triathlon in September.  It will take place just one week after my final treatment.  Take note…the goal is NOT my final scan or any scan in between, it’s my future.  I am fully aware of the fact that I might not be able to swim (not sure if it’s safe with my white blood cell count being down), but I am going to train and when I get to that bridge I will cross it.  No disappointment involved here. I will still Get Out And Live, Love, Laugh and Learn from my first tri.  Will there be a time for me to beat my time for a half marathon? Of course! But there will also be many times that I go out and run just for the fun of it.

Gardening Update:

I went for my scan on Thursday and the results are in…The weeds are wilting and the flowers are blooming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the love and prayers that have come our way, are breathing life into my plants and they are growing strong and healthy!  I still have eight more “Weed-be-Gone” treatments to go, (16 weeks), but my garden is healthy and thriving. We are so very grateful…I know the Miracle Grow each and every one of you has sprinkled in my garden has filled my heart and soul.  Thank you…you are a blessing to all of us!

Thanks for keeping me smiling,

Sue

The 3 Mile Monster

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I have five friends running the Black Mountain Monster 5k 24 hour relay this weekend. The Black Mountain Monster is a 24-hour race. Participants run a 3.1 mile (5k) loop as many times as they want/can/are forced to before they a) quit, b) get drunk, or c) die. It’s part of the Race for Awesomeness Series.  It’s a small event, complete with late night pizza delivery, a bonfire, and live music. Run (a lot), party, sleep (a little), and sweat. Sounds like Awesomeness to me!  (this from my friend Dominique’s blog…http://www.freetobeathlete.com/2012/05/16/a-monster-challenge-and-a-contest/)

So this morning I woke feeling pretty indestructible and in honor of my amazing friends I popped out of bed and headed out the door with my favorite tunes on this cool, sunny Sunday.  Just a quarter of a mile in I started to fall apart.  The side pain was intense (this has been an ongoing battle), neuortpathy in my hands immobilizing (chemo side effect…my hands look like Jim Carrey’s “the claw”) and yet I kept running.  I was NOT stopping.  Funny thing about it…at no point in time did I even consider giving up.  This leisurely Sunday run turned into my own personal 3 Mile Monster and I was not giving in.  I turned the music a little louder, put my running gloves on and showed the monster who was in charge.  Funny to see the look on everyone’s face when they see the crazy lady running with gloves on in June (the cool breeze is what locks up my hands…warming my hands helps a great deal and honestly it humors me to see their faces…I can only imagine what they are thinking!)

I finished all three miles with a big smile and a huge sense of satisfaction.  Unlike the Black Mountain Monster there was no pizza delivery, booze, bonfire, or live music…just a party in my head and heart.  Todays run was so much more mental than it was physical.  I feel so good right now.  Thank you to the Fab 5 running the Black Mountain Monster…you got me through my run today!

So on to other matters.  I am officially a third of the way through treatment.  Side effects are manageable only due to dinner deliveries by dear friends, help with the kids and the ability to take care of myself which is my new full time job.  I nap, exercise, eat and spend time with my family. 

I hope all of you find time for yourselves this week and remember the run you do is better than not doing it at all, no matter how slow or short. Get out there it will be so worth it!

Sue

 

 

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s my SuperTeam!!!

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Busy Days

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.  Since finishing the half-marathon, the Falco family ran their first 5K race…yes our first family run.  It was Race to Solve the Puzzle. Not only did we get in some priceless family time, but we ran in honor of a very special little boy, Jacob. His picture is on our shirts.

The girls did an amazing job and finished in a very admirable time…not that time mattered…I think I was more shocked at their ability and speed than anything.  That is family time I value and look forward to many future races with Team Falco.

The very next weekend was the Free to Breathe 5K. It’s a newer race to Charlotte and appropriately named considering my “condition”.  This was a planned “fun run” (I can say that now that I’ve run a half) with my training team and a few extremely special friends.  As you can see we took the event by storm and had some great fun running for the cause, dressing for the occasion and showing others that cancer doesn’t always bring you down…in fact it lifted all of  us up.    I’ve been riding high since that day…it’s not my “Sue”perman cape, but the super powers our team possess when we are together.

Since the day of my diagnosis our team has come together to support me in a way I never could have imagined.  It makes me shudder to think I almost didn’t join the training group.  I was nervous about running the half along side so many accomplished runners.  Instead of being intimidated, I was inspired.   Now I am just amazed. Their energy, determination, and passion for our sport gets me out of bed every morning and I want to run, walk, bike, and even swim!!!! I want to fight like hell against this cancer.  I am running another half-marathon in November and before that I will finish my first TriAthlon…that’s right…I’m not giving-up or giving-in.  I’m getting stronger…it feels like a superpower.

A funny little shout out for Omega and the team…

“Omega, ‘The Greatest Name In sports’, presents: The Adventures of the Long Distance Heroes. Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! (“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s the Long Distance Heroes!”)… Yes, it’s the Heroes … strange visitors from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men and woman!

This is my team and I am so proud to be a part of it.  A big thanks goes out to Paige for the shirts…we were unified with a capital U!  Dominque for the tutus and inspiration to make additional ones so no one was left out.  To the guys on our team…thanks for not taking yourselves to seriously and joining in the fun!!!  Everyone loves a guy man enough to sport some tulle for a good cause.  And last, but not least to the entire team of friends, family and teammates for getting up early and putting your PRs to the side so that we could cross the finish line together…Now if you look at little closer you might notice our team PR…I love Photoshop!!!!

Medical Update

One the medical end of things I am doing well.  I’m actually in my first class seat now getting the “magic juice.”  I have been running, golfing (at the range…mentally smacking a ball around is very therapeutic) and enjoying time with friends. I’ve now had four treatments out of 12.   I do have my first scan on June 7th….Results will be in on the 11th.  I promise to update all of you via the blog.  I would love to personally call each of you, but there are not enough hours in the day.

I miss you all and appreciate every meal, card, call, gift, hug and prayer.  Thanks for keeping me smiling.

Love and Hugs – Sue

I did it!!!! I completed a 1/2 marathon!!!!!

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Just five weeks after being told I had Stage IV Colorectal Cancer I ran right towards the first step in my recovery…proving everyone wrong and showing myself that no matter how dismal the news I was not going to let the disease, diagnosis or anyone’s “assumed outcome” get the best of me.

Just before diagnosis I was eleven miles into my Omega Sports ½ Marathon training program.  The irony of being in the best shape of my life when I was told you are really in Stage IV…is surreal. I waited 43 years to finally face this challenge.  Note to self…don’t wait so long next time.  Anyway I was not about to give up after putting in weeks of training!  I was way to excited about my trip to Nashville.  I knew I could do it!!!

Just two weeks out of Thoracotomy surgery (surgery of the lungs) I ran two miles and then another four after my first chemo treatment. The rest was sheer will power and a chance to show myself, and anyone battling cancer, that statistics and diagnosis isn’t everything…defying the odds is what it’s all about.

Just before I made the commitment to go to Nashville an amazing this happened…Michael Vance wanted to run not one, but two marathons in my honor.  I can honestly say I have never been so humbled or taken back by such an incredible act of kindness.  (OK maybe when John proposed marriage, but never since then).   Michael is a coach and employee for the ever-amazing Omega Sports.   He started raising money for the event and the sheer generosity of others completely exceeded my wildest expectations.  I can’t wait to share with all of you my plans for those funds.   As with any Get Your Rear in Gear related event, 75% of the money will stay in Charlotte to help others and I’ve got something special planned.

OK so back to the race…

My decision to participate came as a shock to all my Omega Nation teammates…Sue was 
still going to run in Nashville?!?  Maybe they’ve just never met anyone as stubborn…Or perhaps not as crazy or fearless…I’m not sure, but they were all stunned.  As quickly as they could process the news, many team members gave up their plans for a PR (personal record for those of you non-runners) and offered to run with me all 13.1 miles.   Are you kidding me?  Again humbled, but even more excited…there was just one problem…Michael.   He would run one marathon while we all rested for our ½ and then he would be on his own for the next 26.1.  I wasn’t having it.  We met up with Michael after his first marathon, complete with his pink and green tutu, and we all ran together for 13.1 miles…which is the way it should be.  The team was all together!

Soooooooo…..how was the race?

OK it’s hard not to enjoy yourself when you are watching your teammate run through the crowds proud as a peacock in his tutu or as I like to call it his Man-Tu.  The kids giggled and the men gave him high fives.  The ladies just blushed!!!  What a joy to watch.  The crowd was amazing.  It was like one big thirteen-mile party.  I personally think the race organizers paid them and gave them free beer so they wouldn’t stop cheering and we wouldn’t stop running. I’ve never seen so many hills in my entire life.  Wowzers!!!!  Oh, and did I mention the heat…yikes!

With Coach Dan, Dawn and Mike at my side I was in good hands.  Dawn kept me on task, hydrated, and mentally in check. Mike was the comic relief and Dan made sure NONE of us missed any of the roadside amusement there was to see.  Cousin Jenny, my “sole” sista’ was right
there with me every step of the way.  It was her first half…sorry to have over shadowed that a bit, Cousin.  She did an amazing job and I am so very proud of her for running her first half.  I am so happy we got to experience this race together.

At mile 11 I got a little crazy and had a sip of ice-cold beer. I can still almost taste it now.  Wow!!!! Life is good!  Celebrate it!!!!  That is exactly what I saw coming off the plane when we landed in Nashville and no words but those could truly match up to this race weekend experience.

Thank you to everyone that ran with me in Nashville, my ever-supportive team in Charlotte, family and friends.  Thanks for never doubting me and for sending your powerful energy and prayers my way…..You all make me smile.

Sue

Just one more sleep!!!

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I have just one more sleep until the Nashville 1/2 Marathon.  I was worried I wouldn’t have time to write before I left.  Since the sleeping meds prescribed by the doctors are obviously not working, I will blog now, and nap later.  I’m all packed mental and physically.   The anxiety built up pretty good last night, but a walk with the girls sorted me out and I’m ready to Rock n’ Roll!  

So what does one pack for a trip of this magnitude?  I thought you might like to know what I’ve got going aside from underwear and socks.  Here is what will be with me on race day.

Race day Checklist:

  • One blue Tutu
  • One Long Distance Hero team jersey
  • One pair of Lime green compression sleeves

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  • One Bad Ass pair of Mizuno Elixir Running Shoes (oh yeah baby)

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  • One Team visor
  • Two Silver Charms – Hope and Courage – I will literally carry them in my back pocket along with…
  • One Irish Blessing
  • One SuperSue Tatoo

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  • One iPhone to keep you all up to date and record this epic event in pictures
  • One crazy cousin
  • Lots of tissues
  • All of your well wishes, hopes and prayers

 

The weather report for Nashville is low 60/ high 80, 20% chance of thunderstorms and very windy.  The Irish Blessing given to me by my teammate says it all. 

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

My thoughts…God had better hold me in the palm of His hand especially on the hills…he got me into this!

 

Smiles for Miles  – Sue

Charlotte Man to Run 52.4 Miles in a TuTu!!!!!!

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Are you kidding me???  I still can’t believe it and I’m not sure I will….it just sounds too crazy.  On April 28th I will wake early, power down some type of fuel, have a sip of coffee and venture off to my very first half marathon.  As many of you know this is no ordinary half…this event literally saved my life.  Had I not gotten the guts to train for it, we never would have found the cancer and I don’t even want to know how that story ends. Instead let’s focus on what did happen.

So I signed up for the training program … best $100 a girl could spend.  Part of the training package is a super duper, use any time, 15% coupon for anything at Omega Sports (yup that’s the training sponsor).  During my first shop prior to our first training session I met one of our coaches, Mike Vance.  He’s twice as tall as me and as nice as nice can be.   I remember him asking if I was ready for our Saturday run.  (I was thinking, “Hell I had better be, it’s only two miles”).  Always up for a chat I engaged in conversation and asked him what his plans were for the weekend.  He responded with 50 miler.  Over the course of the weekend?  No he replied…just one day.  Are you kidding me?  I had never met anyone that ran that far…well I had, but over the course of a week, month or year.  I was amazed.  Mike has continued to be a source of inspiration for me whenever I run.  A few weeks into our training program he posted this on Facebook”

As an example for anyone who has ever felt discouraged about their running, I ran my first marathon two years ago next Saturday.  I would run 5 minutes, and walk 1, which last through 15 miles or so, after which I was too tired to really keep that up. Finished in 5:03:59. Barely beat a guy wearing sandals.  You may feel like you’ll never get faster, and never improve, but trust us, you will. Just keep running. – Michael Vance 2/26/2012

Mike and I will be at the St. Jude Country Music Nashville Full and Half Marathon together on April 28th along with many of our teammates. Most of us are running the half (13.1 miles) or the full (26.2 miles), but Mike will run THE FULL MARATHON TWICE IN MY HONOR….I put this in caps so it is easier to read twice.   I still read it and have a hard time comprehending it.  So while I am plugging away at my 13.1 miles Mike will be kicking ASSphalt in my honor in a tutu!!!  The funds he’s raising will go to Get Your Rear in Gear Charlotte.  I hope you will help Mike and I reach our goal for this event.  Funds raised will stay here in the Charlotte area to help other Colorectal Cancer survivors.

p.s. Mike and I agree that for his safety he will wear the tutu during daylight hours in the company of other marathon runners…alone, in a tutu in downtown Nashville after midnight is just not safe not matter who you are!!!

Here’s the link to make donations. Thanks so very much…Sue and thanks Mike….you are without a doubt a Long Distance Hero!!!!

Donations

Fight Information

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With all the suport I had today my first day of Chemo was a breeze.  Here is my silly version of the day…way better to read than the clinical stuff.

Welcome to ColoRectal Airlines…We are glad you selected our carrier for your flight today. You have boarded the Challenger 300 Rear Jet en route to a cure.   This may be your first time in the air.  Many of our passengers have been riding the train “in the caboose”…often times we find those taking a second trip need a different mode of travel.  For some it’s by air and if it is it’s your lucky day.  If this is not your final destination we recommended exiting the airline at this time.

The first segment of our flight today will take approximately three hours. During the flight our superior staff will ensure you are well medicated with FOLFOX 5FU and anti nausea medication incase we encounter turbulence during the flight.  Snack and drinks are on us so please enjoy.  All drinks are served room temperature so that the cold sensitivity you may encounter while on chemo will not effect you.  You may walk about the cabin and visit with other travelers if you choose, write a blog or take a nap.  Our goal at CR Air is to give all travelers and enjoyable ride.

Once we land a the gate each passenger will receive a complimentary 1980s style fanny pack. The fashion police may detain you if you do not swap it out with something cuter. So we recommend you stop at Marshall’s on your way home for a little retail therapy.  There are many fanny packs to choose from. The spring collection this year is quite something.  The fanny pack needs to be large enough to hold your FolFox pump that each passenger must wear when departing.  It only needs to be worn for two days post departure and then can be removed.  Once removed passengers may run, walk, eat, drink, sleep and blog until their next flight. The flight schedule is every two weeks for approximately six months.

There are many carriers to choose from thank you again for selecting ColoRectal Air.

So just a few notes on my blog today…I officially have caboose cancer in my lungs.  Yup it moved from the “track” to the “air”.  Anyway it was a great day and my nurse is a runner and has put me on a two week schedule to get me in tip top shape for the Nashville 1/2.  Things might get a little rough after that, but I have not intrest in thinking about anything other than conpleting this 13.1 mile miracle.  Hugs to all for the rockin’ support.  Hugs – Sue