I haven’t written anything on this blog for a while because I want to write about my running and eventually get back into (at least weekly) training posts, but I need to write this post first and I’ve been procrastinating because it upsets me.
Around the start of the year, I was ready to start training again after my last surgeries. When I got my half PR, it was as a result of heart rate training and I wanted to use that method again (for more about that, read here – https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a20812270/should-i-do-heart-rate-training/ )
So, I went and had a new VO2 test performed, and found out that my VO2 max had actually dropped somewhat, despite all the training I’d done since the first test 2.5 years ago. Also, I noted both during the test and while running in general that my heart rate was spiking up a lot and taking a long time to come back down. Around this same time, a cardio-oncologist came and spoke to our cancer support group. When I told him about these issues, and the fact that I had done both left side chest radiation adriamycin/red devil/tiger’s blood chemo, he thought it wouldn’t be amiss for me to come see him.
So I did. And, after an echo, we found out that my heart is indeed damaged. To be clear – I don’t have heart damage, but my heart is not as good as it was pre-treatment. My ejection fraction has gone from 65 to 57. As the doctor said, “that is a real change.” We tried a half dose of a blood pressure medicine to block a stress hormone in my body, but I couldn’t tolerate it and felt like I was going to pass out all the time, so I stopped taking it with his approval. So for now I just watch my blood pressure to make sure it stays normal and go back to see him in six months. He emailed me the other day to ask if I’ve gotten back to my pre-chemo running speed and all I could do was laugh. I’m about 5.5 minutes per mile slower than I was before diagnosis.
Both my running coach and my husband have told me not to be mad at it, that it will take time and if I run another slow race at NY in November then so be it. I’m running NY to raise money for research for breast cancer, not to PR or prove to myself that yes I am indeed capable of running a marathon in less than 7 hours. That the important thing is just to finish. And I get that. I do.
But I don’t like it. It’s almost a year since I finished active treatment, and relying on heart rate I’m still running around 17 minute miles. People still walk past me. I’m still too slow to run with anyone else.
A few weeks ago, I thought about giving up on running and maybe even dropping out of the marathon. That very day, I got a message from one of the coaches at Fred’s Team saying he had read my story and would it be okay if they maybe dedicated some miles to me? Here was someone that was impressed by my ability to run even as I was denigrating it.
I told him sure. And then I once again headed out the door and started training. Maybe I’ll never run like I did before cancer, but I can still run. Maybe I can’t go fast, but I can go far. For now, that will do.
Your dedication to running is so impressive. I love watching you stay at it all the time, Elizabeth. Don’t stop. I know how you feel, because, with 20% less lung, I have 20% less lung capacity, and while I can get better than I am now, no amount of training is going to give me my lung back. But what can we do but put on our shoes and go out there are try, right? You are amazing! Keep your chin up, and keep at it! (And re-reading Born to Run doesn’t hurt! 🙂)