Wednesday, April 25, 2012


 Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition

I was reminded today that if you make assumptions, sometimes you miss out on something wonderful. Perhaps it is a friendship, an experience, or an opportunity for personal growth.

Working with geriatric patients, I say (very truthfully), that it is unusual if I don't see at least three people over the age of 90 in a given day. Being in a Washington, DC suburb, I am amazed at the histories many of my patients have. They served in the military, they are women who worked in the 40s even though the assumption is that most women stayed home... I have cared for a man who was a Secret Service agent for 4 presidents (and assured me he was not there when Kennedy was shot), one of the original Rockettes, and and a man who served in Korea, Vietnam, and World War II. What the last patient didn't tell me (but his sister did) is that he was a Tuskegee Airman. As we talked about it, I asked him which was the hardest conflict. He said the Battle of the Bulge was the worst.."It was cold and awful."

Why do I share this? Because I think I am so fortunate to meet such amazing people. Their stories are incredible, but you have to take the time to ask. It is so easy to see the "old man" or "old woman" in the bed and forget all the experiences that have shaped their lives.

Today, I performed a stress-test on an 80-something year old man. I was told beforehand by a physician that he had a "personality disorder" and was very difficult. In these situations...I like to employ my "shock and awe" strategy. (Also known as "kill them with kindness", though I do try not to kill my patients). When I got into our stress testing room, the patient was laughing with Leslie (our cardiopulmonary tech who sets up the test and runs the monitor) and Caren (our nuclear medicine technician). So far, so good. He made a joke which went over my head, and my colleagues laughed and told him to give me a second to warm up to his sense of humor.

Based on the initial information I had been given, I anticipated that this test would be difficult. I assumed wrong. The chemical stress test can be uncomfortable (and some people really complain), but this patient had a reasonable level of symptoms. He was totally kind and appropriate. When the test was over, we talked about him going to eat lunch in his room. Somehow we got to talking about hospital food and he said how much better it was than "food overseas". I asked what branch of the military he was in and he said he served in the Army in the Korean War.
This "difficult" patient proceeded to tell me a story of guarding the perimeter of his base in Korea. Three young children were laying in the grass near the barbed wire fence. "They were dirty, their clothes in tatters, and clearly they were hungry." He talked the base cook out of a piece of bread with jelly (but didn't tell him why). He shoved the bread through the barbed wire to the little girl, who was the smallest of the 3. "She didn't understand me, but I yelled at her to eat it. She needed it". I thanked him for his service, and told him he sounded like a very compassionate soldier.

Perhaps this man had been difficult earlier today. He probably was. By giving him the benefit of the doubt, I think my co-workers and I won in the long run. He is certainly a part of the "Greatest Generation", and I always feel privileged to hear stories such as his.

I am not perfect, by any means. Do I practice this philosophy 100% of the time? No. None of us are completely free of stereotypes and assumptions, but when we open our minds a bit we can only grow. So challenge your might be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reflecting on the Run Across America

Just as I don't feel like the photos I took really capture the beauty I saw on my journey, I don't think words can do this experience justice.

I was constantly in awe of the group who went "wire to wire", from Oceanside, CA to Washington, DC. They were all determined and focused. Even at day 18 or day 20, they stepped up, sometimes the first to run on a shift despite having hundreds of miles of running under their feet. I totally admire their strength, determination, endurance, and spirit.

Every day, several times a day, we reminded ourselves of the purpose for our journey. As Eric said on Day 1, "This isn't hard. This is a challenge. Fighting cancer is hard." We were reminded that we chose this journey, but that those fighting cancer don't get a choice. Every day, we had a dedication circle and talked about who we were running for. It was almost a spiritual experience. The run wasn't about the miles, or who did what, but about spreading a message and raising awareness. Every time I encountered a hill, I thought "You can't quit cancer, and I can't quit running." On every hill, I thanked Carole (my coach) for all of the hill repeats I had leading up to this. I KNOW they made me stronger, and gave me the mental toughness to get through.

Some of you know that I was really scared in the days leading up to this. Would I be able to pull my weight with the running? Could I do this? Did I have what it took? The first day Brian (from the Ulman Cancer Fund) and I arrived, the group had already run 12+ miles in the morning. We had a long evening of running ahead of us. It started to get chilly and dark, and I wondered if I had what it took. There was a lot of self-doubt that night. 25 yards from the water bottle signaling the end of my last mile, I stepped on an uneven shoulder and went down hard. I twisted my left ankle and couldn't stand on it. Thankfully, the sweep van was not far behind me when it happened. They saw what happened, and three of them literally swept in to carry me back to the van. I was cold and in pain. The crew at the RV fed me, gave me warm clothes and blankets, and got my ankle iced. I was texting Tommy but couldn't call him because I knew I would cry. One day and I had an injury that likely would keep me from running.

My ankle swelled and I iced it like crazy. The next morning, I figured I would give running a shot. The first few miles were stiff, but I was much less sore than I thought I would be. Was this possible? Could I continue on this journey? It was definitely swollen, and I put in a few less miles than everyone but I was able to run much more than I ever expected. I ran more than I thought I could when I was healthy.

It wasn't about the miles, but as Laura, Ashley, and I reflected on day 21, so much of the journey was possible because of the support we gave each other. Without our goal, our purpose, and the support of others, it would have been so much more difficult. I knew that if I couldn't run on my ankle, I would have the support of everyone else, but that made me want to try even harder.

I learned so much on this journey. I learned that I am stronger and more determined than I ever imagined. I learned that the support of others makes all the difference in the world. I learned that this journey wasn't about the running, but raising awareness and continuing to support The Ulman Cancer Fund even when we reached the finish line. I was reminded of how much Tommy loves me, and all that he does to support me (not to mention my parents and sister). I gained a second family, many of whom I knew before but have come to love like family.

We heard amazing stories every day. People who clearly did not have much came out of nowhere to give us donations. We met people who had lost loved ones to cancer and were thanking us for running. They were amazing and inspirational. We often felt humbled by their thank yous. What we were doing was by choice. They didn't have a choice.

There were lots of hugs, a lot of tears, and a LOT of laughter on this journey. Words don't do it justice, but I am so thankful to everyone that supported us, everyone that I ran with, and everyone who inspired us along the way.

On my last day, I ran for all those who haven't yet received their cancer diagnosis. That they may have the strength to fight, and the support of an organization like the Ulman Cancer Fund to help get them through.

Run Across America: Week 3 in Pictures

 This is my Run Across America journey in pictures. I was there for 7 of 21 days. The pictures give you a glimpse of the amazing experience we had, though they can never fully capture the spirit or essence of the phenomenal people who participated. 

Getting sleep where I could- on the way to the RAA crew from the airport. 

Krista and Ashley loading up for the next round of running.

My first experience in the van. 

Do I really need a caption on this one?

Day 2. Sprained ankle and all. 

A chilly morning start. 

The infamous water bottle. The bottle signified the end of a one mile run. We all came to love seeing our water bottles. 

Almost done with our morning. 

I was in the "junk food" lunch group (some of our group made healthy smoothies for lunch).

Pastor John joined us as a special guest star! (He made us guess who he was). 

This run was for Carlos, a cancer survivor who wrote a very motivating blog post. 

There is always time to stop and rub the belly of a friendly pup.

One of my run legs. The sheepdogs on this farm were not so fond of me. Thankfully they were fenced in. 

This barn was a little spooky. I kept walking while I waited for the van to pick me up.

I got to run across time zones!

Our lunch break. People literally drove up to us this day and made donations.
(This one is out of order, but me with my sprained ankle...feeling a bit chilly on night one). 

Lunch break! Nothing like greasy gas station food!

Krista looking out from her bunk. 

Signs that make you think on your run. (My thought was- I hope he is not coming TODAY). 

What happens to Powerbar bites when they sit on a hot dashboard. 

I took these pictures completely by accident, but thought they were pretty cool. 

Saying goodbye to Pastor John and Jason the Knoxville firefighter. 

"Are ya'll European or something?"


The picture doesn't do it justice but this road was a little scary. 

Laura had to run up this, I got to run down. 

So many beautiful creeks and streams that you don't see when you are driving.

Charlie "Senior" navigating. 

An abandoned business on our lunch break

Brian, Anne, and Chris

Kati, Anne, and Laura

Lunch break. 

Krista and LJ.

Team Rev3 girls representing on the Run Across America. 

The Quinn family joined us for the day. 

Krista and LJ working on the road. 

Why we run. 

The infamous deer shorts. 

"Look...Its Bambi!"

Saw these guys on my last run of the night. 

Mexican dinner. 

This picture doesn't do the hill was steep!

Near Blacksburg, VA

Happy Hour in Lexington, VA (in a Walmart parking lot). 

"Family" dinner

Running in Virginia

My view from the van. 

Getting close!!!! (Though when you are running it is not quite as close as driving). 

Staring at the hill in the distance. 

My ankle (the left side is majorly swollen) on day 20

Laura and the rockstar sunglasses. 

Team Rev3 ladies after lunch on Day 20 at Fosters.

Day 20 in the books, with Ellen to whom the day was dedicated. 

Team Rev3/Ulman with the families from the Fresta Christian School who cooked us an amazing dinner. 

Getting ready to split up in two groups and get running on the W&OD trail. 

Waiting for our last runner. 

Getting ready to bring it home near Georgetown. 

Some of the ladies of Run Across America: Kati, me, Ashley, Krista, Laura, LJ, and Meg. 

My prize at the finish line. 
Some of the amazing RAA folks!
We got a tour of the Pediatric Infusion Center (an outpatient clinic where pediatric patients and young adults get cancer treatment). This sign was there. It applies to the Run Across America, too (minus the "asks questions" part). Lots of humor, awesomeness, sharing, spunk, and hanging in there was required on this trip!

Showers at the Georgetown athletic facilities. 

Celebrating the finish with Lindsay (young adult cancer navigator at Georgetown) and Lauren, who found out that night that she was awarded a scholarship from Ulman. The cool part was that we already knew this, and read her essay in our dedication circle that morning. 

Lauren with the Ulman/Rev 3 crew. 

Heck Yeah!