Swim/Bike/Run/Ovarian Cancer

I write a lot about fitness and staying active and how for me, it is how I express myself and relieve stress. This is true of active women- tomboy or otherwise. A high school friend of mine that I ran track and cross country with is one on of these women. She went on to attended the Air Force Academy and served active duty, meeting her husband and starting a family. I asked her to write up her experience as an active woman who had to face what no one wants to face- cancer. This is her story of reconciling the diagnosis of ovarian cancer and how her experiences as an athlete assisted in her treatment and recovery. At the time, she was the mother of a 2 year old and I am happy to say has since had another child.

There were many things that I expected when I decided to train to do a half ironman triathlon; long training sessions, pre-dawn wake-ups, a sore body, and falling asleep exhausted at night. I certainly did not expect to find a lump that would lead me on a completely different journey. I first found the lump one night after a weekend of having a stomach bug my daughter brought home. It was just above my pelvis on the right side. I thought it had something to do with the bug and ignored it, eager to train for my race. Nightly, I felt the lump, wondered what it was, but I was never worried.

My training was going great and I didn’t want an excuse to quit training.

After about six weeks I thought to mention it to my mom, a retired nurse. She thought it was a hernia from the training I was doing and encouraged me to have a physician look at it. Cancer never crossed her mind, it doesn’t run in our family and I felt great. She thought at worse I would have to have a hernia repaired and could probably still compete in the half ironman.

I went to see the physician the day after completing a 52 mile bike ride followed by an 11 mile run, my training was exactly where I wanted it to be at that point.

When I went to the doctor’s office, I intentionally avoided using the word “lump” or “tumor” to describe what I felt, after all, there was no chance it could be cancer.

The doctor gave me a pelvic exam and confirmed that she felt something and calmly left the room. So far, so good, I waited for her to come back to tell me I had a hernia. Instead she returned with her nurse who started asking if I was free the rest of the day and that she was ordering a CT and blood tests “stat”. There was no hernia diagnosis; I had the complete attention of my doctor and nurse while they figured out what the mass was.

At the end of the day with my blood tests and CT results my doctor asked me to come by her office so we could talk. Obviously it was time for me to acknowledge that this wasn’t a hernia.

She told me I most likely had ovarian cancer and referred me to a specialist.

Soon I came to find out how fortunate I was. Nobody feels a tumor attached to their ovary; it just doesn’t happen. Women don’t go in until they are sick, and then hopefully the cancer isn’t too far advanced, but often it is. So the fact that I found the lump and had no sickness from the cancer was extremely rare and very fortunate for me. When I met with my gynecologist, I asked him if I could still exercise. I’d realized that the half ironman was not going to happen,

but exercise is my stress relief, and it was clear that I was going to need a lot of stress relief.

That’s when he explained to me how vascular tumors are and if it ruptured I would bleed out on the spot. I thought about all the swimming, biking, and running I’d been doing. I felt blessed that I was still standing. My surgery was scheduled as soon as possible and all I could think about was getting rid of the tumor before something awful happened.

In order to enjoy endurance sports, or any sport where pain is routine,

you have to be able to accept that your body is going to scream for you to quit well before the race is over and you just have to endure the pain.

You also can’t spend time dwelling on how hard the training is, you just have to get down to business, and again, accept the pain that comes with achieving your goals. I think this above all helped me get through after the surgery and during chemotherapy. I was up a few hours after my surgery, with 43 staples in my stomach in excruciating pain, taking my first steps back to recovery at my mom and Will’s encouragement. I went for walks several times a day, regardless of how I felt, so that I could expedite my recovery. I was in training again, but this time I was training so that my body would be prepared for the upcoming chemotherapy.

My dedication to endurance sports also helped me immensely during chemotherapy. Before chemo started I was released to run again, provided I did not run too hard or too fast. I soon found out that between the Florida summer and chemo, running far or fast wasn’t even an option. Regardless, it was wonderful to have my first love by my side while I went through chemo.

In a sense chemo was a race of its own.

In a race you suffer so that at the end you feel alive and exhilarated so much so that all the suffering to get to the end was worth it. At the end of chemo, I was alive, but to get to the end my hair fell out, I got sores inside my mouth, food tasted like metal, I was in quarantine for one out of three weeks between treatment so that I didn’t get an infection, I went in for almost daily shots to keep my white blood cell count above 0, and I got progressively tired so that by the end it hurt to keep my eyes open the weekend after a chemo treatment and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I probably would not have gotten out of bed were it not for my husband and daughter there to smile at me when I didn’t feel like smiling and make me laugh when I wanted to hide away in my bedroom. At the end of chemo I was exhausted and run down, but most importantly

I was alive and that made it all worth it.

How to Raise a Tomboy



Are you raising a tomboy? Are you stressed out about the way they dress, the way they play and the way they express themselves? If you just want to know how to relate to and raise your tomboy, well then, welcome and let’s continue. Here are a few tips that will help you empower and understand your little tomboy.

1. Tomboys don’t want to be boys, they want to keep up with the boys, while being a girl.

2. Tomboys want short hair for practical reasons. When we’re out playing, a ponytail keeps falling out and our hair keeps getting in our eyes, making an already difficult task of keeping up with the boys, even harder.

3. We don’t want to be boys, we want the same opportunities and access to the fun games that boys are automatically given.

4. It’s not that dresses are horrible, but they’re not really conducive to “keeping up”.

5. Look, we still want to be girls, but in such a way that allows us to accomplish all the physical tasks that help us express ourselves.

6. Find clothes that are functional for your tomboy’s activities that still allows them to express their femininity. As an aside, this falls on clothing and toy manufacturers as well. For girls to have a functional wardrobe or play with toys branded for boys, these items have to come in colors other than pink and in cuts that allow for an active girl’s body. Sorry, but making a boy toy pink and calling it a day is not only lazy, but an outdated gender stereotype. I loathe the color pink, but mainly because of its gender bias. Sorry, I don’t want a pink football, or a pink base ball bat and kit. That’s like saying, I like sports, but it’s pink so I’m still a girl. I can like the color blue, thank you very much. My favorite color happens to be red.

7. Empower your tomboy in the way she expresses herself, through her physical attributes.

8. Look, little boys are dirty slime balls due to the nature of their play, but when it comes time to go somewhere, the are expected to clean up. No difference with a tomboy. It helps if they have a nice wardrobe that still allows them to feel comfortable in their skin, but accommodates the appropriateness of the activity. That doesn’t mean it has to be a dress and bows.

9. There will come a time when your tomboy wants to put on make-up, just to see what all of the fuss is about or because that’s how they think they can get the attention of “one of the guys”. Make sure they have this skill to reject or utilize. At the very least, let them know they can come to you if they ever want to try it out.

10. Being a tomboy may or may not be a phase and may or may not be indicative of their sexuality. I am still a tomboy at the age of 36, married to a man and have two kids. I have more skinned knees than my boys. I can still remember though a talk with my mom at the age of 16 that began, “When you meet your husband, or life partner…” While I appreciate my mom’s willingness to support me, not all tomboys will be lesbians. Saying that, I have many lesbian friends who are and were tomboys and I assure you they are wonderfully well adjusted and happy humans, assuming of course that that is what you ultimately want for your little tomboy- to be happy and well adjusted. As a mom, I can’t think of a better way to ensure such an outcome than to let them be themselves.