My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Chandler Relay for Life

This year, I had the honour and privilege of travelling to Arizona to participate in the Relay for Life with my friend Jeff and his family. This is the story of that amazing experience.

I’ve participated in the Relay at home for several years now. Jeff and his family have done the Relay near them as well. Last year, Jeff and I half-jokingly said maybe next year I’d travel to Arizona to do their Relay with them, and he’d come to Canada and do mine with me. The more we talked about it, the better the idea sounded.

I arrived several days early, partly because that was the best travel day for me and partly because I wanted to get myself used to the hotter weather. I’m glad I did. While I adjusted to the time change easily, it took a day or two to get used to the weather. It gets pretty hot in Arizona, and I’m not used to it being hot this early in the year. At least they have very little humidity.

I had met his parents, Alan and Marion, many years ago, although they didn’t really remember me. They are wonderful people. So nice. And they happily welcomed me. A few members of Jeff’s family came in for the Relay as well. His Aunt Judy and cousin Kevin arrived on Wednesday. His Aunt Eileen and cousin Barry arrived on Thursday. His family is a riot! They had me laughing so hard at times, I could barely breathe! They made me feel like I was a part of the family. That really meant a lot to me.

Friday morning, Jeff and Kevin went with Alan to help set up stuff at the Relay. The rest of us had lunch and then met up with them before going to the Relay. The Relay was held at a local high school. The teams sites were on the inside of the track. Our site was pretty much in front of the stage area. It was a pretty good spot. We got our site set up, then waited for the festivities to begin.

I was anxious to see how they did things compared to how we do things at home. It started pretty much the same — speeches, prayer, national anthem. Then it was time for the Survivor Lap. Everyone on our team is either a survivor or caregiver, so we were all out there. I proudly wore my purple survivor t-shirt. There was so many of us. It was awesome to see so many purple shirts. As we were walking around the track, the announced that there was one person who is a 43-year survivor! Incredible!! We finished the lap and the Relay was underway.

One of the best parts of the night was seeing so many kids there. I was told a lot of high school students take part in the Relay every year. I’m not sure I’ve seen as many kids at home. And many kids serve on the committees as well. That’s so amazing.

I was trying to take in as much as I could. I was taking note of the things they do differently. I was extremely impressed by how well run the Relay was. I think they do an amazing job. And I got several ideas to suggest back home. I told Alan about a few things we do differently, and he seemed really interested.

I had a goal for myself for the evening. I wanted to walk 50 laps. It was a goal I set at the beginning of the year. I did 35 laps at the Relay at home last year, so I thought I should be able to do 50 this year. I took an extra pair of sneakers, just in case. I’m glad I did too, because I had to change shoes around lap 10 or so.

Early in the evening, there was a dinner for survivors and caregivers. It was provided by a local restaurant. What a great idea. We got little gift bags too. After that, my real walking began.

When the sun went down, it was time for the luminary ceremony. The luminaries were lined up along the outside of the track. They went around and lit all the candles. Then handed out candles to everyone there and they were lit as well. Someone gave a little speech about the ceremony, and the overhead lights were turned off. Then everyone silently walked around the track with their candles in hand. It was beautiful and awe-inspiring. I’ve never seen it done like that before. I loved it.

I walked mostly by myself. Jeff and his family walk a lot faster than I do, but that’s ok. I didn’t really mind walking by myself. I had my phone with me, so I had lots of music to listen to. I tried to walk as many laps at a time as I could. I think I was doing at least 10 laps at a time. I’d walk until my feet hurt too much, then I’d sit for a few minutes before going out again. A few times people would cheer me on as I walked by their sites. A couple of times people would slow down and walk with me a while and chat. One guy would ask me what lap number I was on as I walked by. Late in the evening, a woman offered to buy me a coffee. I gladly accepted it. Another guy asked me if I had stopped at all because every time he looked up, I was on the track. I said yeah, I’ve taken a few breaks, but I was trying hard for 50 laps, so I wasn’t stopping for too long. I got a lot of positive feedback from people. It was pretty awesome.

Throughout the evening, there was something called the “spirit stick”. Someone would carry it around the track, then hand it off to someone else and ask why they Relay. I thought that was pretty neat. Someone hand it to me late in the evening, or i should say early in the morning. I carried it around for 2 or 3 laps. A guy walked up beside me and asked if he could walk with me. He said he really wanted at least one more lap and he had seen me walking throughout the night. He was impressed by how much I was walking. His name was Will. We had a nice chat as we walked. As we neared the stage, someone with the microphone asked me to come up since I had the spirit stick. They asked my name and my team name and why I Relay. I said, “my name is Jennifer and my team is Allie’s Army. I relay because I can. I’m a 3 1/2 year survivor, I lost my stepdad to lung cancer, my husband lost his father to cancer, and I have friends fighting the fight. I Relay because I can.” They thought that was a great answer.

I handed over the spirit stick and kept walking. It was early morning and people were starting to pack up their sites. I was very tired and my feet hurt, but I kept going. At lap 46, Marion stopped me and said things were winding down. They were getting ready to start the closing ceremonies. I could have kept going, but I decided to stop. I slowly walked to the bathroom. Then waited while things finished up. We packed everything into the cars including ourselves, then headed home to get some much needed sleep.

In the end, I walked 46 laps, which is 11.5 miles or 18.5 kilometres.

I didn’t make my goal, but I’m not upset about it. I did the best I could. And in the end, I still walked more than I did last year. I’m pretty proud of myself.

And besides, I have another chance at 50 laps next month when I do the Relay at home.

I want to thank Jeff, Alan, Marion, Judy, Kevin, Eileen, and Barry for allowing me to be a part of their team. I had a great time. And I hope to do it again next year.



My first 10k

Well I did it. I participated in and completed my first 10k event. It was one of my goals for the year. At the beginning of the year, I made a list of 4 things I wanted to accomplish and I’ve already done 3 of them! I’ll have 2 chances at the 4th one, but that’s a post for another day. In the meantime, here’s how today went …

I’m awake earlier than I need to be. I’ve been nervous for 2 days. Second guessing myself about doing this 10k. I think I’m a little crazy. I’ve only walked this much twice before. Am I really ready? Will I be able to finish? What happens if I can’t? I get up, shower, pick out my race gear, get dressed, and head downstairs to make breakfast. I opt for my usual smoothie and turkey bacon, and add whole grain toast with a little peanut butter for extra carbs and protein. I head down to my computer to kill some time before heading out. I’m trying not to think about the race. I’m excited because a bunch of my friends are participating too. I love seeing them. Such cool people. Liz, Aidan, Andreas, Karen. Tyler will be there with Jim, Morgan, and Jay. Others may be there as well.

Anyway, I finish my breakfast and play a few computer games before heading out. Dan drops me off at the event on his way to work. I’m early because I haven’t actually registered yet. I see Liz first. I’m glad to see her. I bring her some of my homemade protein balls. She loves them. Now that I’ve arrived, the nerves really kick in. I get myself registered and start pacing around. Soon others start arriving. Good to see everyone. And some seem as nervous as me, which makes me feel a little better. Tyler comes in and I chat with him for a bit. He can see my nerves I think. My friends and I decide to go outside to wait for the start. We don’t have to wait long. Everyone lines up at the start. A few words are said, a moment of silence, then we are off!

I think I’m crazy for doing this. I’m slower than everyone. I’m trying to walk a good pace, but I’m not sure how well I’m doing. I try to jog a little. My left foot is not liking it. I swear I heard it say “oh no no no. If you want to finish this 10k, then we are walking it!” And I’m pretty sure I heard my right foot agree LOL. So I switch back to walking. I’m still trying to keep a good pace. But everyone is pulling farther and farther away from me. I’m alone. I have my music playing on my phone which helps. I’m trying to keep the negative thoughts out of my head. Not an easy thing, especially today. But I keep moving, determined to finish no matter how long it takes.

I think most of the people are doing 5k today. A bunch of those are already on their way back. I’m cheering them as they pass me. Some are cheering for me too. I get a bunch of high fives. It’s nice to have the extra encouragement. I need it today. At the turn around for the 5k, there is a water station. I’m pretty sure the people there expect me to turn around. I tell them I’m doing the 10k. I grab some water and continue on. More cheers and more high fives. All my friends are on their way back now. I continue on just hoping to be able to finish, but having my doubts. There are cops and volunteers all along the route, making sure the runners and walkers are safe. A few of them ask me if I’m okay. I say I’m fine, just slow.

I’m still not at the turnaround, but everyone has long ago passed me on their way back. I finally get to the turnaround. One of the cops there says that if I need a ride back, just let them know. I say thanks, but I need to cross the finish line. As I start my way back, he pulls up along side me and says the other cop will follow me back. Nice. Feels like my own personal police escort, I chuckle to myself and keep going. A car pulls to a stop a little ahead of me. My friend Karen gets out. She’s long finished, but came back to help me finish. I’m glad to see her. I’ve been struggling for a while, questioning whether I can finish or not. Having her there is a big help. I think she can tell I’m struggling. Every once in a while she asks how I’m doing. My feet hurt, but otherwise I was fine. She keeps me chatting, keeping my mind off my sore feet. We crack a few jokes. Occasionally we say something to the nice cop following us. I want to get his name because I want to thank him. I think he’s going above and beyond today. And I appreciate it very much.

We finally make the turn into the parking lot. We’re in the home stretch. Only a couple more turns to the finish line. I ask Karen to go up ahead and take pictures or video with my phone as I cross the finish. She takes my phone and trots on ahead. A few people who finished honk their horns as they leave or are standing on the side of the road and cheer for me as I pass them. Nice. As I near the finish, I can hear my friend Liz cheering my name. I love her. I cross the finish and I’m so glad. The race officials record my time and get my name. Almost everyone has left already. Everything has been packed up. Liz and I sit for a few minutes before heading home.

I never did get the name of the cop.
And I never got my official time.

But that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is I finished.
I completed my first official 10k event.
And I’m proud of myself.


Things I love to do now that I didn’t do a year ago

Today during my workout, Tyler asked me to name three things that I love to do now that I didn’t do a year ago. As I was busy concentrating on what I was doing, I had a hard time thinking of any. So he made a few suggestions …

You love eating vegetables, he said. I’ve always loved veggies, I said.

You love working out, he said. Yeah, I kinda do, I said. (I really do actually.)

You love reading fantasy books, he said. Yeah I really do!, I said.

After I finished my workout, I started thinking more about that. There must be other things I could put on that list. So what do I love to do now that I didn’t a year ago? Here’s just a few of them …

Walking. I’m really enjoying walking. I never thought I’d say that.

Going to the gym. Again, not something I ever thought I’d say.

Eating right. Okay, that one may seem strange to most people. But there is something about eating good, nutritious food. And it’s even better when it’s something I’ve made myself.

Shopping. Okay, I’ve loved to shop for many years, but it has a whole new meaning now. There is just something so awesome about picking something out, trying it on and realizing you need a smaller size than you thought. And then having to go shopping again a few months later because you keep getting smaller. It’s truly, truly amazing.

Having my picture taken. Okay, I might not totally love it, yet, but I don’t shy away from the camera like I used to. I actually used to hate having my picture taken. But now, well I’m rather enjoying it.

Talking about my journey. This one is hard. When I first started it, I didn’t really talk about it much. Only a handful of people knew what I was doing. And even fewer knew why. But as I’ve progressed, I’ve gotten more comfortable. The better I do, the better I feel, the more I want to inspire others. And what better way to do that than talking. I’ve shared my story and experiences with countless others, in person as well as through this blog. And if I can inspire even 1 person to start or continue their own journey then it’s worth it.

Making, meeting (and sometimes exceeding) goals. I didn’t really make goal lists growing up. Sure, there were things I wished I could do or wanted to do some time in the future, but they always seemed far off in the distance, almost unattainable. But now it’s different. Now, I love making goals and meeting them. Even surpassing them on occasion. I’m always thinking of things I can add to my goals lists. And even though some may seem a little crazy, they no longer seem unattainable. And that is truly a remarkable thing.

I’ve done so much this last year. Much more than I thought I would, thought I ever could! And this is just the beginning. Look out world, you ain’t seen nothin yet!

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My first 5k event!

So last Sunday, I did something I didn’t think possible. Okay, okay, I thought it possible, but not until next year. I walked in and completed my very first 5k event! When I first started working out at the gym, it was something I put on my goal list. I thought if I worked hard, I should be able to do it in 2013. When I first started working out with Tyler, I told him about it. He said he could help me with that. I put it aside, in the back of my mind, although not completely hidden. I knew it was something I wanted to eventually do.

A couple of months ago, during a group workout session with some friends, my friend Matt asked if I was going to do a 5k/10k event he was doing in July. I said I didn’t know if I was ready to. Tyler, who was leading the session, said he thought I should do it, that I was ready. I said I’d think about it because I really didn’t know if I could. Matt kept asking me to do it until I finally agreed. I was very nervous. I really was not sure I could. Tyler, as always, was convinced I could. I started pushing myself more and more to get ready. A week before the event I really pushed hard. Monday I did 5k on the treadmill (in 2 parts); Tuesday Tyler and I did a 5k walk outside without stopping; Wednesday I took it a little easy and only did 3k on the treadmill; Thursday I did 5k on the treadmill again; Friday I only did a little less than 3k on the treadmill, but that evening, I did 5k outside along the route of the event on Sunday. All of that plus my regular gym classes and workouts with Tyler. Saturday I rested as best I could, but I was very nervous for Sunday.

Sunday I was up early to get ready. I was still very nervous. I hoped I finished. It was hot and humid, not the best conditions for a 5k walk. Tyler wouldn’t be there to see me walk, but he was with me in spirit. The event starts and off we go. I’m the only one walking, everyone else is running/jogging. It was so humid and it as only 9:30am. I tried to keep a good pace, but could feel myself slowing down now and then. I tried pushing myself. I really wanted to finish. I didn’t really care how long it took. I just wanted to cross the finish line. The route was along the waterfront so the scenery was beautiful. Several people were out walk or running, other than those in the event. I get to the halfway point and need to stop to catch my breath. Have some water … Breath … Try to relax … You are doing great … Halfway done … Keep going. I knew that voice. It was Tyler. He’s always in my head. I keep going. It’s so hard to breath. Keep drinking, stay hydrated. My legs are hurting a little but I don’t want to stop. You’re doing great! I’m slowing down again, but that’s okay. Need to stop again to breath. I poured some water on my head. Felt good. Wish the water had been colder. Keep going. My toes are cramping up a little. Keep going. Can’t breathe. Need to stop. There is a bench ahead. I sit down for a few minutes so I can breathe. Wish I had remembered to bring my puffer. Deep breathes. You’re doing fine. Okay I can breath again. Only about a quarter of the way to go. Let’s finish this! Seems like it’s been forever since this thing started. Almost there. Almost there. Up a little hill. Around a couple of corners. There’s the finish line! And there are my friends who already finished waiting for me and cheering me on. And I’m cross the line! 1 hour 28 minutes 58 seconds. Not too bad for my first event and considering how hot and humid it was. I did it! And I did it a year sooner than I thought I would be able to. I wish Tyler could have been there to see it. I did it with his help. I am so proud of myself. I hope he’s proud of me too.

And I can cross it off my bucket list!

Up next: 10k???? OMG really???

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Bucket List

I’ve been thinking about goals lately. Not weight loss goals or working out goals, but life goals. Things I want to accomplish in my life, places I want to go, things I want to see. The healthier I become, the more I want to get out and do stuff. In 2010, Dan and I fulfilled one of our dreams when we took a trip to Barcelona, Spain. It was fantastic! We had such a wonderful time. I want to do more stuff like that. So with that, I decided I would write a Bucket List. I will add stuff to the list as I think of things I want to do, and mark stuff off as I get to do them. So here goes:

1) visit Paris, France

2) visit London, England

3) take a cruise

4) learn to make pasta sauce

5) take a spin class

6) visit every U.S. state at least once

7) last more than 5 minutes on the elliptical

8) see Garth Brooks in concert

9) see Harry Connick Jr in concert

10) visit Atlantic City

11) take a train trip somewhere

12) visit each Canadian province & territory at least once

13) complete a 5k walk/run — COMPLETED 7/15/12 Run for Reece

14) walk 50 laps at the Relay For Life event

15) write a book

16) visit Disney World in Florida

17) visit Italy

18) visit Greece

19) learn to make really great salsa

20) learn to speak some French

21) attend a Denver Broncos football game in Denver

22) learn to play either the piano or drums

23) attend a Stanley Cup playoff/finals game

24) attend a Super Bowl

25) learn to sew

Okay, it’s not a really long list … At least not yet. These are just a few things I’ve been wanting to do. I’m sure I will add to the list as time goes on. I can hardly wait to start marking things off the list!

What about you? Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

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