Monday, March 31, 2008

Finding the Cookie

Wow, it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve written last. So much has happened, both good and bad.

I’ll get the bad out of the way first. Zoe, my beloved coon hound, has cancer, lymphoma to be exact. I had suspected something was amiss about 2 months ago, but the vet at the Hawthorne Animal Clinic assured me that it was just Lyme disease, acquired from a run in the woods no doubt. One day Zoe simply wouldn’t get up. I rushed her back to the same clinic but this time they said it was most definitely cancer. I brought her to an oncologist the next day and he said the lymphoma was stage 3 or 4. He indicated that treated in stage one or two, 95% of dogs go into complete remission without reoccurrence. At stage 3-4, he gave her 30 days without treatment. So now every Wednesday we drop Zoe off for a ½ day of chemotherapy. I love that darn dog. I’ll never be angry for her pilfering entire loaves of bread, entire chicken roasts and anything accidentally left on the counter top again.

The second bit of bad news was that I had torn a muscle that flexes the big toe (flexor hallicus longus) just before the Tyson meet and ripped it a bit more at Tyson. Who does that? After 10 day of cross training and some bizarre strengthening exercises, I seem to be ok. The body is so weird. Why does it betray so many runners? I started seeing this amazing strength and conditioning coach, Mike Boyle ( and I could see his immediate frustration with distance runners. He said, “I always ask middle/distance runners what injuries they have or just got over because without exception they all have had an injury, are injured or on the verge of injury. I don’t see that in other sports.” The same mechanism that makes runners shut out the “pain” during a race, is what makes runners shut out the “pain” when on the verge ripping or damaging something. Certainly, there has to be a different way, a more balanced way of existing.

These low points really force one into a state of introspection. I remember a time in college when I was taking art classes at the MFA (with the Tufts affiliation program) and I came across this amazing painting of Job, afflicted, screaming out to God ,”WHY?”. I was an atheist then, frustrated with all those moments when it seemed that God allowed some of the worst atrocities to happen to the most virtuous people. Life seemed so unfair, how could a creator allow these things to occur. Now I believe that sometimes there is no reason, no reason that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. … no reason, but there is always hope. Sometimes that hope comes in forms and places that are completely unexpected, but if you hang in there, stay optimistic, and look for the signs, you can find greatness and even happiness in those dark moments.


The week between Zoe’s first and second chemo treatment was glorious. We went to the beach every day, I cooked her an anti-cancer diet, I practiced the energy therapy that I had learned in massage therapy school, but most importantly, I found time to reflect and appreciate a steadfast companion and friend. We fondly recalled the time she ate 40 bulky rolls at Mike’s 30th birthday part or managing to unzip a duffle bag and open 2 boxes of girl scout cookies. A week after Zoe started chemo, we found out her cancer went into complete remission, with no signs of cancer in any of the tests. The vet said it was a small miracle.

My foot, of course was completely secondary to all this, but still a blow. Rather than my usually course of abusive cross training, I simply let it go. I would not punish myself this time. Sure I diligently rode the bike, went to the pool, went to my lifting sessions…but I also went out and got a job that was completely unrelated to running. What a blessing this has been. I work with a great group of brilliant women that have provided great balance to my life.

Maybe that is the secret: balance, appreciating what is good, having goals and enjoying the process of reaching them, being persistent, and expecting good things to happen. One thing that dog has taught me…if you search the counters diligently enough, you are bound to find a tasty morsel.


Jim Johnson said...

Jen, very inspiring words I must say... it's great to hear about Zoe and your foot... Hope you get back on track (literally) very soon...big things to come from you this year I know... very excited! Also..get Mike back out there for crying out loud! We need him in the GP this year!!!



Anonymous said...

i had to write again, how proud i am of you, mike and zoe(and kitty)you always have to reach for that cookie,but don't forget when you get it , it may taste different than what you expected,even better.
keep reaching jen, i love ya