In high school I remember my cross country coach telling me not to look back in a race. He said it was a sign you are fading and if the person behind you see's you look back they will pounce on you! The first time I won the Delta League Cross Country Championship I was in second place for most of the race. With 800m to go I saw the girl look back at me. I was probably about 15-20sec behind her. I knew she was fading so I went for it. I dug deep and picked up the pace and passed her to win the championship.
In all my years of racing I tried not to look back when I was in the lead. I didn't want my competitors to know if I was hurting. I wanted to look back so many times but I knew I shouldn't. I knew I just needed to keep pushing no matter what!
I have been battling cancer, a disability and the loss of my career. It has been painful both physically and emotionally. One minute I was planning for the 2008 season, here I wanted to go, how I wanted to travel and the titles I wanted to take back. Then I was told I had cancer. I remember telling Courtney I would be such a stronger racer after all of this. We were already planning my big comeback in 2009. Then I woke up from surgery #1 and found out I couldn't use my left foot any more. I was deeply saddened but I didn't let it stop me from believing I could still race. People told me I would be better off without my foot but I kept believing.
I remember the day the doctors told me the tumor grew back. I was 4 days into radiation. I simply smiled and said "OK when is my next surgery." I worked so hard to get into the best shape I possibly could. I swam 6 days a week. I lifted two days a week. I was going to physical therapy 3 days a week and I was even on the elliptical trainer. I was already achieving more then most thought but wouldn't say. All my doctors knew not to tell me I would never be able to do something. They knew I would do more then the average person.
My second surgery was a difficult time. I spent 4 weeks on my right side, barely able to walk. The doctors took all of my left glute. Now I was down a nerve and the biggest muscle. I almost died from a kidney infection 1 week after leaving the hospital. I spent the next 2-3months in and out of the hospital trying to figure out why I couldn't keep food down and why I felt so nauseous. The one blessing was no chemo thus far. 2008 was a tough year for me and my family.
Christmas came and was a wonderful time. After all we were celebrating the birth of Jesus. I was a bit (OK a lot) stressed getting ready. Cleaning is not as easy or as fast as it used to be. I was getting frustrated with my drain getting caught on knobs in the kitchen and the vacuum cleaner when I tried to vacuum. I couldn't move large things so I would wait until Courtney came home or my Dad came to visit. Eventually it all worked out. As everyone opened their presents I looked around and wondered how Christmas would have been if I weren't here. All of the smiles on everyone's faces wouldn't have been there. At that moment I realized how lucky I was.
My youngest nephew saved his money and gave me a little candle. It was Jingle Bells scented. He also gave me a letter he wrote to God asking for 4 wishes this year. The first was for the world wishing no one would be hungry. The second was for California wishing there were more wildlife. The third was for me wishing I would get better and not have to go to the hospital anymore. The last was for himself wishing for 100 pieces of Hershey's chocolate. Tears streamed down my face. That letter means a lot to me. I have it framed and sitting on the counter so I can look at it everyday.
I don't want to look back at 2008 and feel sad. I don't want to look back and show a sign of weakness. I am such a stronger person now. I feel so much closer to God and I know my faith is a heck of a lot stronger. I figure life is about trying things you don't think you can do. I know I have a lot of limitations but I am learning not to think about them. I look around my house at all the pictures of my racing and my awards and I realize that life will never be the same. I can't walk without a limp but it won't stop me from trying to run.
Every year I write my goals on a board in the bathroom. I look at them everyday and work my butt off to accomplish them. I finally erased 2008 which said "Reclaim World Championship title, Defend USA and Point Series title and remember to Race for God." It was very emotional erasing those words but I wrote up new ones, "Get healthy, Ride a bike, Remodel bathroom and Race for God!" There is nothing like setting the bar high. You don't know what you can do unless you try. So for 2009 I will be "trying all kinds of things and I won't be looking back. Hello New Year!
I hope all of you had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year. Remember to never stop trying!
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