“Running Really Does Get Easier,” Said No Novice Runner Ever

Image of woman running up steps in orange runners.

There’s no doubt in my mind that what this year’s fun run is really about is another narcissistic attempt to deny the physical evidence that my body is as old AF and, well, a bit buggered.

The papers – or “the news” (as my millennial daughter corrected me yesterday morning because she has never read a hard copy newspaper) – continues to be full of stories of New Year’s resolutions that never got out of the starting gate, Dry January fails, and Januhairy – the least challenging resolution for the menopausal/hormonally hirsute amongst us.

Privately, I have made a couple of personal resolutions – that for legal reasons that involve the old man, I can’t share publicly with you yet – but I have made one that I’m happy to talk about.

This May, I will be competing in the 4k Mothers Day Classic Fun Run to support breast cancer research.

Yes, FOUR FUCKING KILOMETRES, and A RUN! The “fun” part, I’m not so sure about.

I did a similarly crazy thing a little over ten years ago when I celebrated my 40th birthday – don’t ask me why I have this tendency to come up with harebrained schemes such as these, although I suspect that wine has something to do with them – when, in the wisdom of what I will now refer to as my youth, I signed up for the London To Brighton bike ride, to prove that I was still young, hot and fit to raise money for The British Heart Foundation.

And evidently, few life lessons were learned from that day of shame. Either that or I have parked them in the dying brain cell department of my brain along with memories of childbirth and whatever I once saw in Johnny Depp.

In my defense, the temperature that day in the UK was (an unheard of) 33 degrees – the precursor to what the intelligent among us now accept as climate change – but added to which, I was also sporting a rather debilitating injury, incurred at training the week before; the result of a nasty brush with gravel. That meant that I had to compete with two stitches to my right elbow and severe PTSD in relation to every getting on a bike again.

To cut a long story short, I was the only competitor to cross the finishing line as the event organizers were planning their retirements – although twelve hours to complete fifty-two miles is apparently a record…of sorts. I was also the only competitor to be slapped around the face by their husband halfway around the course when he feared for my sanity – although, again, in my defense, my bum was really sore.

There’s little doubt in my mind that what this year’s fun run is really just another narcissistic attempt to deny the physical evidence that my body is as old AF and, well, a bit buggered. However, my ambition is not to complete this year’s run in a credible time. No, all I’m really aspiring to do is not look like a complete twat as I cross the line – IF I cross the line – ie. I’m hoping for no sign of poo or wee on my pants, that I haven’t stolen water from the nearest dehydrated child spectator, or taken the bus to raise money for a commendable cause.

I’m also hoping that on this occasion I don’t have to beg a steward to pull me up the last hill in return for sexual favors – something the organizers of the London To Brighton event got very sniffy about.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t know why I don’t organize a coffee morning, eat all the cakes, and be done with it, either. It’s not like I’m one of those stoic people who can put their mind to anything for a shot of very public altruism. Frankly, I couldn’t apply myself to catching a Huntsman spider if the lives of my children depended on it – something you might have picked up on in my last post. I’m not naturally a “charity” type of person – other than my belief that it begins and stays at home, ideally in my bank account.

However, I’m proud to say that I have reached the 2km mark in my training – not an easy feat in the humidity of a Sydney summer – and my only question at this stage of my running journey is when the fuck it gets easier? When will my legs and boobs stop hurting? When will my thighs stop sticking together? Will I ever enjoy it?

The Mammogram – Better Than Having A Finger Stuck Up Your Arse

Thank God they take your ‘health’ more seriously once you reach the big 5.0. Which appeases my increasing levels of hypochondria.

Embed from Getty Images

The request for a poo specimen from the government that arrived on my birthday, however, took me by surprise.

My doctor recommended that I get all my checks done at the same time, around my fiftieth birthday, so that it’s easier to remember each year. Meaning, he knows I’m a prime candidate for dementia, and so recognises my need for getting strategies in place.

My list of health checks is pretty much the same for all middle-aged women and comprises of a mammogram every two years, the same for a pap test, a yearly cholesterol test and a poo sample test whenever I can face acknowledging/looking at/touching my poo.

Today was mammogram day.

Anyone who has experienced the torture of the mammogram knows that it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Exposing your tired, sagging, middle-aged breasts to some young, pert radiographer takes courage, no matter how professional and upbeat they try to be. Forcing your breasts through what can only be compared to the type of vacuum press they use on Masterchef, is gruelling from a both a dignity and comfort perspective. Having your withered breasts tweaked and manhandled like a piece of tough meat on a butchers bench top so that they are the right shape and in the right place for the torture chamber is even more than awkward.

English: Naval Medical Clinic Pearl Harbor, Ha...
English: Naval Medical Clinic Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Oct. 25, 2002) — Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Dana L. Ford, a mammogram technician, aids a patient in completing her annual mammogram evaluation. Breast cancer is the leading form of cancer found in women. Naval Medical Clinic Pearl Harbor conducts approximately 2,300 mammograms annually. U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Ann-Marie Al Noad. (RELEASED) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I went in, it did cross my mind to put on some sparkly Miley nipple covers to lighten the mood.

But what choice do we really have? At least we don’t have to have a finger stuck up our arse.

The general medical consensus is that mammograms DO save lives, and once you reach 50, they are free – so there’s no excuse for not having them.

Apparently I have dense breasts. Which would have been nice in my youth when I vaguely cared about what they looked like, long before the ravages of breastfeeding and ageing.

But dense breasts are not such a bonus now, because the denseness of the tissue that once would have brought all the boys to my yard can camouflage sinister shenanigans like cancer, that may be going on behind the tissue.

For a visual analogy, my boobs look like half full tea-bags like most middle-aged breasts, but mine have not yet been dunked and strained.

Personally I found the freebie national breast screening to be a superior experience to the private one I had a couple of years back, where whipping your breasts out to several white-coated strangers was made to feel like some over-indulgent beauty consultation. I may have even been given tea and a biscuit. The national one was brief and to the point.

No gowns were offered and we had to wear one layer of clothing over our terrified, bra-less boobs that had a moment of gleeful, public free fall in the waiting room. It felt strangely comforting to be surrounded by several pairs of equally floppy, middle-aged boobs, each in the various stages of droop.

A bowl of half-knitted woolly hats sat on the coffee table with a request to knit them while waiting – for breast cancer sufferers. A pertinent reminder of why we were there. I tried to avoid eye contact with the knitters, such was my shame at not knowing one end of a knitting needle from another.

The point is, mammograms aren’t much fun but are a necessary evil. So you bite the bullet, flop your boobs out onto the machine proudly and in my case, think of England.

The Girl With The Burnt Orange Hair

It has been a roller coaster of a week emotionally, with RUOK Day, the anniversary of 9/11 and the lead up to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A week to reflect on the people no longer with us and a week to make sure we show those who are in our lives, how much we care. A week to remind ourselves not to sweat the small stuff and to focus on the privilege of living instead.

And all that mass of tightly coiled, confused emotions were well and truly rammed home to me on Tuesday, while waiting in the orthodontist reception, (as the ADHDer was once again convincing the Ortho that he really does wear the ‘bands’ on his braces, even though I know that he actually creates mini sling shots out of them to fire at the dog).

Because while I was hiding in awkwardness behind the latest edition of Famous Magazine, trying to digest the full ramifications of this life-changing article entitled ‘Is this too skinny?’, (complete with bikini-clad images of skeletal celebrities who normally look….well, skeletal), I looked up and noticed this woman sitting opposite me who was wearing the funkiest orange retro wig I have ever seen, (outside of a Vivienne Westward fashion runway or circus-themed party). It was a brave and feisty look on a woman in her forties, and it smacked of attitude.

That wig said, ‘I’m a fighter’.

And she reminded me of all those friends of mine who have bravely fought their own breast cancer battle, who sometimes I shamefully put to the back of my mind, so embroiled do I get in the minutiaie of my own petty existence, and I felt instantly humbled.  Even though, I must add, most of those women are the strongest women I know, because if I have learned anything about breast cancer, out of adversity evolves true warriors.

Personal battles do seem to fortify us humans, whether the battle is a health issue, a death in the family or even a divorce. And the inner strength that develops from pain becomes compellingly visible to those who witness it. I was drawn to the aura of that woman in the waiting room like a moth to a flame. I felt sheer admiration for her bravery.

She was about my age, and was unquestionably beautiful, in spite of the ‘in your face’ brassiness of that wonderful tangerine wig. And she made me question if I would have the same strength of spirit to carry on with my day to day responsibilities if those tumultuous dark forces threatened my being?

Was she truly coping? How do you cope when you are a wife and a working mother and your whole world is suddenly brought crashing down by a few dodgy cells?

The rest of us need those reality checks occasionally to remind us of those people confronting life-threatening situations on a daily basis, to put our own pathetic little grievances, (that I still find plenty of time to whine about in spite of this incredible insight), into some sort of perspective. My son refusing to brush his birds nest of a hairstyle or my husband communicating with me via the dog are obvious irritations, but they are totally inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

English: Breat Cancer ribbons
English: Breast Cancer ribbons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And as wonderful as it is that celebrities such as Giuliana Rancic and Sheryl Crowe reveal their breast cancer to the world and create a public platform to educate and gain support in the fight against the disease, I think that many people still have a very warped perception of the traumatising reality of this disease.

Because real women are not back in the workplace within a few weeks of invasive surgery and treatment. Normal women would never conceive of adding to their family in the same period as their diagnosis. Normal women do not regain control over their bodies in the first few months. Real women suffer physical and mental scarring and above all, a pervading fear that takes a long time to heal. Real women have to rebuild their lives after the ravages of cancer.

And yet, in spite of that dark period in their lives, these wonderful women do fight and they do heal and they and their families eventually emerge from the tunnel with the sort of passion, and strength and zest for life that we envy them for.

The girl with the burnt orange wig showed me that strength at the orthodontists. And if I’d have been half the person that she is, I would have asked her RUOK?

‘Without the disease, I might have just plodded along this life not really appreciating the beauty of every breath’ Jacki

‘Back’ courtesy of Opiatefilms at www.flickr.com

http://canceraustralia.nbocc.org.au/breast-cancer/home/home