January 30, 2009

Training On My Own

Some quick updates!

Since I signed up, I've been running on my own to prepare myself for our first official training (Feb. 7th!!). I discovered this fantastic website called MapMyRun.com which allows users to map out various running (or walking, hiking, etc.) routes all over the world and then shows you how far you're going! They even have calculators that allow you to determine how many calories you're burning, fitness levels, etc. and you can also search for routes in your area that other users have done. I started out doing about 2 miles until that was comfortable, then pushed it to 2.5 at the end of last week. Then I mapped out a new route in Goleta that takes me past a lagoon and then along the ocean, before finishing through the streets of Isla Vista - and it's 3.2 miles!! That's just over 5k, and the longest distance I've done in a while...probably longer than I'd like to admit : / I took the plunge yesterday and attempted it, and while I had to go a little slower than usual, I did it!! I did it again today, so I think that this is the route I'm gonna be sticking to until actual training starts.

Also, I finally got my fundraising letter done so I spent this past Saturday hand-labeling and stuffing lots and lots of envelopes. I ended up sending out 60 so hopefully I'll get a good response! Friends and family, keep an eye out!

January 27, 2009

Honored Teammates

As I said before, I will be running and raising money in honor of all the individuals who have battled and are still fighting blood cancers. But I wanted to take a moment to tell you all a little bit about the honored teammates of the Santa Barbara Chapter of Team In Training who have battled various blood cancers and are the team’s inspiration.

In 2007, little Isabella Mireles began experiencing recurring fevers, was sleeping all the time, and had no energy, leaving her parents perplexed. A blood test revealed that Isa was severely anemic and a bone marrow aspiration confirmed her pediatrician’s fears of something more: Isa had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She spent two brave weeks in the hospital receiving intense chemotherapy before she was finally allowed to go home. She responded wonderfully to the chemo and therefore her prognosis is excellent; she is considered ultra low risk and has a 90% chance of being cured! The treatments have been difficult for little Isa, though. Nausea from the chemo, gaining weight from the steroids, and losing all of her hair were just some of the challenges she has faced, all the while barely complaining and maintaining her sweet personality that made the whole hospital staff fall in love with her! Isa has to continue treatment until the end of 2009, including daily oral chemo meds, once a month visits to the clinic for intravenous chemo, and every three months going into the hospital for an infusion of chemo into her spinal fluid. Isa has been so brave throughout the whole experience, and everyone is so proud of her. Her dad even signed up for TNT and ran the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon, raising over $11,000 for blood cancer research in honor of his little girl!

In October 2007, Erin Johansson started noticing a chronic non-productive cough. The cough persisted and soon she began noticing other problems and became extremely weak and fatigued. She finally went to the hospital, only to be told she was suffering from allergies. A few days later, while walking on a treadmill, Erin’s heart rate spiked close to the maximum and she was unable to lie down. Her fiancĂ©e immediately took her back to the hospital where a CT scan revealed an 11x10x9cm mass covering Erin’s left lung, essentially crushing it. After several more days of blood tests and biopsies, she was finally given the horrible diagnosis: non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She immediately began chemotherapy in the hospital as well as an immunotherapy called Rituxan, a drug whose research was funded by the LLS and Team In Training. After six rounds of chemo and twenty days of radiation, Erin is now ten months in remission and completed her first half marathon with TNT on November 1, 2008. Although some lasting effects from the radiation are still noticeable, they are slowly disappearing, and Erin can now call herself a survivor!

In February 2007, Michael Lovette felt a strange lump on his neck while trying on a shirt. Just three weeks later, he was diagnosed with Hodkin’s Lymphoma in Boston, MA. The cancer had spread through his neck and chest and had already progressed to stage IIa. But thanks to research in the field, much of which was funded by the LLS and its partner programs, Mike’s prognosis was good; he had a ~75% chance of being cured. He underwent 6 months of ABVD chemotherapy treatment and with 2 months remaining, a PET scan indicated no more signs of cancerous cells! Michael finished chemotherapy on July 29th and has been in remission ever since. A month after he finished chemo, Mike moved to Santa Barbara to pursue his doctorate in chemical engineering at UCSB. In January 2007 he joined TNT and completed the 2007 San Diego Rock N Roll full marathon. In 2008 he went on to complete the race in San Diego again, showing all of us just how important finding a cure for blood cancers is.

I mentioned Teresa Martinez in my previous post, but I wanted to explain her story a little more. Teresa was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2005 after painful bruises on her back lead her to see a doctor. Routine blood tests revealed shocking information – Teresa’s white blood cell count was 170,000 (a normal person’s is 8-10 thousand!). Teresa immediately began treatment with a drug called Gleevec, a chemotherapy drug invented in a lab funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In December 2005, Teresa went into remission and is currently expecting her first child! While this is undoubtedly wonderful, since becoming pregnant Teresa has had to discontinue Gleevec and her cancer has since returned, so as soon as she gives birth she must immediately begin the drug regimen again. Teresa’s story reminds us of how much further we have to go.
Blood cancers affect far more people than you could imagine. Maybe even someone you know. Hearing the stories of survivors inspires us to fight just like they did until one day it is no longer necessary.
p.s. The kickoff for the Summer 2009 Season is this Saturday and our first training is Feb. 7th!!

January 16, 2009

I'm Going to Run a Marathon!

Running a marathon has always been a life goal for me. A couple of years ago I first learned about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team In Training (TNT) program and I knew that it was the perfect way for me to accomplish this goal. Fast forward to today - I've finally decided to do it! My close friend Sarah and I attended the info meeting last night and registered on the spot after meeting our coaches, mentors, and hearing the moving story of our honored teammate for whom we will run in honor of. This cute little woman, 7 months pregnant, told us how after being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia she was treated with a drug called Gleevec, which was developed in a lab funded by TNT, which put her cancer into remission. When she got pregnant she had to stop taking the drug, and her cancer has since returned, so after she has her baby she will have to start the medicine again. While her story was inspiring, it also is a reminder that while we are making strides, we still have a long way to go to finding a cure and crossing the ultimate finish line.

The whole program is really one-of-a-kind. Team In Training began in 1988 and has since donated more than $600 million to blood cancer research. Participants ranging from beginners to seasoned athletes commit to raising money for LLS and in return are provided with various resources to train to run or walk a half or full marathon. What makes it especially unique is that it is a nonprofit that gives 75% of profits directly to the cause! Pretty impressive, right?

Here are some facts about blood cancers:
- there is no cure
- leukemia and lymphoma are the leading fatal cancers in young men under 35
- leukemia is a leading cause of cancer related death in children
- every five minutes, someone is newly diagnosed with a blood cancer
- every ten minutes, another child or adult is expected to die from a blood-related cancer.
- 823,000 Americans are presently living with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease or myeloma
- the 5-year survival rate for children with the most common form of leukemia was 4% in 1960... now it is 85%
- Gleevec (the drug responsible for saving the life of our honored teammate) has made the relative 5-year survival rate for chronic myelogenous leukemia patients 74.8%

Sarah and I will be training the next 4 months to participate in the inaugural Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon on June 27th, 2009!! My fundraising goal is $3,900 - clearly a big challenge! But it's hard to think of a more deserving place for that money to go. On the right side of the page I've posted links to the TNT website, LLS website, and most importantly, my personal fundraising website! The latter can be visited to view my fundraising progress and to make donations directly via credit/debit card.

This will probably be the biggest challenge I have encountered thus far in my life, but I'm confident that I will have the support and motivation to succeed. I have been inspired and can't wait to start on this new adventure! I'll be using this blog to update everyone on my training, fundraising, mental breakdowns, etc : ) Check back often and I appreciate everyones support! My motto is now: 26.2 or BUST!!!!!