Are you Agent enough?…”Operation Get Well” Begins Now!

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It’s time to “Get Smart” about our health!  I am Special Agent, Sue, and I am on a mission to learn about Integrative Medicine.  This powerful path to wellness is not classified information, but navigating all the resources can be overwhelming.    I will fight my way through to the details we all can use to be well.  Since diagnosis (Stage IV Rectal Cancer) my plan has been to hunt down, not only the best team of agents, but investigate anything that might hinder “Operation Get Well”.

In addition to this job, I am a mom, so my days are filled with doctor appointments, running errands, and spending time with my kids….you know …life.   While carrying out my daily assignments, I had a meeting with someone of particular interest.  It was a scheduled appointment and recommendation I received through my oncologist.  I have been anxious to meet this “special agent” for some time and yesterday was the day.  I could not be happier or more grounded in this discovery I’ve made about my “care team” and this new doctor elevates my confidence in my future, like no other.  “Operation Get Well” is a go.

The practice is Integrative Medicine and the “special agent” that heads up this area is Dr. Russ Greenfield.  The Center of Integrative Medicine defines Integrative Medicine (IM) as “healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.”  Dr. Russ was a conventional MD before he became a  leader in this practice.  IM does not dismiss conventional medicine, but integrates the two for optimal wellness.

When I first walked into his office, he was excited to share a website he had found –  it was http://www.longdistancehero.com.  My blog!!!!  THOUGHTFUL!  Taking the time to acknowledge my efforts as a survivor was so exciting.  His willingness to learn about me and my  journey spoke volumes.

We’re now sitting at the conference room table and ready to get down to business.  My hour and a half consultation was my time to suck as much knowledge out of this doctor as possible. That’s how we approach doctor appointments…. right?  Not this one!  Our visit was a relaxed, exciting conversation that rejuvenated my soul.  The topics on the table were diet, supplements, spirituality, rest, and exercise… My Wellness!  Since the focus of IM includes all aspects of a person’s lifestyle we had a lot of ground to cover.  I will break these down into multiple blogs as my “mission” unfolds.

We started our discussion with diet and that is what I’d most like to share today.  I have heard many times that the focus in healthcare is to cure the sick, but the current focus is shifting to being and staying well.  I have a terminal disease, but I am in the best shape of my life.  Clearly, that makes no sense, or does it?  I can be well, but still  have a disease.

On to the diet.  Do not panic… this is not a “diet” in the true sense of  the word… I am going to call it “Gastronomic lifestyle Enjoyment Modification”.   I am Italian and the essence of our being is food… we use it to celebrate, comfort us, and it’s always an excuse to get together.  Well you are not about to take away the very thing that makes this soul happy.  Instead, it’s dietary awareness and the ability to heal through food.  I have practiced this since diagnosis and Dr. Russ and I were meeting to go over this wellness plan to make sure that it will not interfere with the chemo.

So the first thing Dr. Russ wanted to clear up before we talked food is that he doesn’t believe in a “diet of disallowance”.  Can I have an Amen please!    Now we’re talking… and we did … for an hour and here’s a little of what I learned.

Most of us do not eat as well as we should.  We intentionally commit gastronomic crimes on occasion…and we usually get away with them.  Now there is nothing wrong with splurging on a special meal…I mean go big or go home.  The question is how often are you stealing cookies from the processed food jar?  They are making TV shows about it,  that are meant to be entertaining… Biggest Loser, among others.  What the doctors in the practice of Integrative Medicine have found is that many of the food choices we make create internal inflammation in our bodies.  Chronic inflammation is an open door for many diseases, cancer being one of them.  So a focus on anti-inflammatory foods is one of the many tickets to board the train to being well, reducing internal inflammation, and reducing chronic illness. Now this isn’t a magic bullet, this is not temporary… this is a lifestyle change.  So hop on board… we are going for a ride.

If you choose to accept this mission, you will be transported (not literally…sorry) to an international location where eating and drinking and being in the moment is a way of life.  Of the places I choose…top on my list are ones known for food….Italy and Greece are top on my list. A Mediterranean diet is gastronomic lifestyle enjoyment at it’s best.  It’s all about relaxing, eating well, being in the moment, and enjoying food and friends.   Now take this image and head back to home base… you have some work to do.

And so ” Operation Get Well” begins.  Out with the processed foods and in with the foods nature intended for us to eat… fruits, and veggies being the largest part of what we incorporate into our diets.  Whole and Cracked grains, Pasta (al dente) and beans.  The list goes on and finishes with red wine and dark chocolate… again how awesome is this mission!!!!   I encourage all agents to refer to Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.  Here’s the thing… take this slowly.  Only modify one or two elements at a time.  Becoming overwhelmed with this pyramid or lifestyle change may create stress and  frustration and when it does, your automatic response will be to abort the mission.  Dr. Russ was very clear about this in our meeting and I couldn’t agree more.

We are so very fortunate to have “Special Agent” Dr. Russ here in Charlotte. If you or anyone you know is battling cancer or any number of chronic illnesses and have an interest in incorporating Integrative Medicine and Conventional Medicine as path to being well, please go to Dr. Russ Greenfield’s website.  If I am lucky enough to have this blog travel further than the Queen City, go to Dr. Russ’s Healthy Resources page.  The ‘Integrative Medicine’ links at the bottom of the page will take you to websites allowing you to find other doctors across the country that have studied this amazing practice.

Wishing you wellness.

Sue

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Icy, Cold and Fruity Lemonade Helps Raise Money for Booty!!!

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Do you remember your first lemonade stand?   I’m not sure why, but it’s such a big deal to most kids.  My girls have been asking to have one for a long time.  Friends riding the 24-Hours of Booty http://www.24hoursofbooty.org/ were in need of funds for their creatively named team…24-Hours of Sue-ty.  Finally, a great cause to host our stand. (Yup, that’s the “Sue-ty” team on the right).

I love when my passion for a cause, the needs of my children and a good time all come together as one.  Truth be told…I made that happen and I’m so glad I did. Hosted by the kids of Omega Nation Full/Half Training Team, we made a statement in Charlotte…cancer ain’t got nothing on us.

The stand was a grand success and if you had the opportunity to participate/donate we thank you.  We would also like to thank Omega Sports for allowing us the space in their store to host this event and bring smiles to these young philanthropists and future “ultra” runners.

A few weeks ago, I posted info on my 24-Hours of Booty challenge.  I gave myself 26 days to ride 24 hours on my bike.  Sounds easy … throw in chemo treatments, pneumonia and an injured toe and, all of a sudden,  26 days is gone in a flash –  but rest assured, I WILL meet my goal and ride the 24-hours of Sue-ty.  Every day I get on the bike, I feel like a million bucks.  I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been.  I can also thank this training program for helping to catch the pneumonia early.  Had I not been riding, every day, I probably would not have given much thought to getting winded when walking to the second floor of our house.  However, after riding an hour a day on the bike, this made NO sense to me.  Excercise is so much more than a tool for weight loss or an attempt at sanity.  It keeps you in touch with your body in ways you may never have expereienced.

Gardening Update:
I feel fantastic…well, aside from the unexpected case of pneumonia.  I really do feel amazing.  My last treatment did not include Magic Potion Number 9…(Oxaliplatin).  My white blood cell count was way too low.  This is the drug that really kicks me in the fanny. It was a welcome break and we will start up again next week.   I am also meeting with Dr. Russ Greenfield… he is an expert in Integrative Medicine. He and my oncologist work together to ensure optimal health, for me, during treatment. I am SUPER excited to work with him and not just depend on chemo.  I am taking my health to a different level by taking control of my diet and daily lifestyle. It feels good to have a few areas that I can grab a hold of and know that I am working with the chemo treatments towards the ultimate goal…being disease free (gosh I hate the way that sounds).  Disease is such an ugly word.  Regardless, I can honestly say that even thought I have disease, I am well and will continue to tend to my ‘garden’… it’s looking really good these days.  (oh and for those of you wanting to know…I do not have a date for my next “weed” scan… when I do I promise to let you all know).

Thanks for keeping me smiling!

Sue

24 Hours of Sue-ty!!!

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24 Hours of Booty is coming to Charlotte July 27-28. It’s the official cycling event of LIVESTRONG™.  This event brings together anyone and everyone with a passion for fighting cancer.  Now the “booty” I know most about is the one I’m trying to save… MY OWN!!!  I am so very lucky to have friends working to “save my ASSets” by participating in this amazing event.  They are raising money for the creatively named 24 Hours of Sue-ty.  Now heaven forbid I sit around while generous people donate funds and friends bike in my honor… No way, Jose’… I’ve got a plan.  I hope cancer is ready for another kick in the pants!

From now until July 28th, I will bike a total of 24 hours to raise money for my Booty Brigade.  I just completed my first hour… only 23 to go.  This gives me 26 days to complete 23 hours of biking.  Yes, I’m still on chemo, but I don’t plan on letting that stop me. This may prove to be a difficult task, but that’s the best part. To keep me occupied I will be watching the TV series “24”.  I’ve never seen it and now is the perfect time!

In addition to keeping up on my progress via my blog, please consider donating to one of the following … 24 Hours of Sue-ty fundraising pages (links below).  And, if you were looking for a reason to workout, get on your bike or put on your running shoes and shake your booty for 24 hours just don’t forget to email me and tell me you are joining me in sweat and spirit!!!

Lauren and Michael… The 24 Hours of Sue-ty SuperStars!!!!!!!

Lauren’s Booty Page

Michael’s Booty Page

Thanks friends, family and Omega Nation team for helping to inspire me every day!

Sue

For more information on 24-Hours of Booty go to http://www.24hoursofbooty.org

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