If you’ve run a marathon, you know the beginning is really exciting. You’re in a corral with rows and rows of eager people jumping up and down, stretching, taking pictures, talking race strategy. The event organizers are playing Runnin’ Down A Dream by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There are balloon arches and cheerleaders. It’s awesome.

The fall season always makes me think of the Richmond Marathon. I’ve run it twice, in 2005 with my friend Sarah and in 2007 with the Sports Backers Training Team. (Likewise, spring reminds me of the Charlottesville Marathon, my first-ever, 2004. Hills.)

If I’ve trained well and feel good, the first 6-8 miles fly by. Maybe even the first 10. Then I have a moment where I say, “Okay. I need to settle into a pace I can sustain. Because we’re gonna be out here for a while.” For miles, let’s say, 10-21, the fans and cheerleaders are farther apart. There are stretches where the scenery isn’t as good. Tom Petty is nowhere to be found. Friends are somewhere eating waffles.

During these middle miles, it’s really important to stay positive. I find myself looking around for things that bring me delight. The sign on the tree that says Nice stride…that cute couple with the puppy…the calm of the river in the early part of the day…the funny things people have on the back of their shirts…I run for wine.

If I’ve settled in, the middle of the marathon can be very peaceful. It’s a time to let my thoughts wonder. My life. My friends. My past. My dreams. Things I’m thankful for. It’s also a time to take inventory, to check in on that race strategy.

For the injured or tired or discouraged, the middle miles can be tough. When I’m a Richmond Marathon spectator, I often stand near the Mile 21 sign. I see runners who look like they’ve been through a battle. The miles leading up to the finish are going to be hard too, but if they’ve reached Mile 21, they’ve essentially made it. They have just five more to go until they hit that nice cheerleader-lined downhill to the beer and pizza. (Though there are times five feels like 50.)

Settling in

Right now I’m in the middle miles of chemotherapy. Out of the 16 infusions in my current treatment plan, I’ve completed 7 and have 9 more to go. I can’t exactly say the finish line is close, but the balloon arches that were at the start line are pretty far behind.

The phrase that keeps coming to mind during these middle miles is seeing double. On my current regimen, I get a LOT of Benadryl in my IV. I’ll be talking to my friend, and all of a sudden everything gets blurry. I can barely keep eyes open. It’s like, goodnight.

At my most recent infusion visit, I met a patient who was super-friendly. She shared her story, and we exchanged some tips. Then I said to her, “I’m so glad I got to talk with you. I have to go lie down because the Benadryl is about to knock me out.” I called to my nurses, only half-joking, “Need a spotter! Benadryl is kicking in. Seeing double, people.”

That stuff could make a bear collapse on the floor.

Seeing double also resonates with me is because of my frequent shifts between joy and angst. There are times I earnestly thank God for this trial. There are other times I feel weak and doubtful. I think about James 1: 2-8 a lot:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I don’t want to be the double-minded man (or woman), unstable in all my ways.

The treatment-related mood swings do not help. Side effects: they are real.

Recently a woman told me emphatically, “This isn’t forever. You’re going to feel like yourself again.”

Practicing joyfulness

Whether it’s the medicine or my own heart issues, it’s clear during this time I need to continually practice joyfulness. Just as I look hard for encouragement during those middle marathon miles, I need to actively claim things I’m thankful for now. So here’s something.

Two Mondays ago, to kick off Pinktober/Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my co-workers wore pink for “Team Liz.” It was awesome.

On Thursday, my friend Laura picked me up for my infusion. We swung by Ellwood Thompson’s to pack lunches. I needed a new water bottle, so I asked someone on staff where to find them. He pointed me to the display. There were quite a few options, so it look me a few minutes to decide. Then when I went through the line, the same staff member seemed genuinely pleased.

Awesome water bottle! These are so nice. Yeah, really good choice!”

You know what? Ellwood Thompson staff, thank you for being so dear.

On the way to the hospital, I told Laura we had a problem to solve. I was losing my eyebrows and eye lashes. We needed to figure something out. She texted her friend who has been through treatment and knows her way around the makeup counter. During my infusion, her friend showed up in all of her fashionable glory and gave me advice and a pep-talk. She was delightful.

Then, Laura and I went to Sephora. (I should have been napping, but how often does a mom of two little boys who is working and doing chemo have time to go to Sephora with a good friend?) Laura and I told the first staff member we saw that I needed help with eyebrows–I needed products and training. She said she could help right now.

So, in a Benadryl-laden post-chemo haze, I learned some new makeup skills.


(Co-workers, let’s disregard Friday. I thought I was rockin’ it, but later realized I went overboard. It’s cool. I got more practice over the weekend.)


Prayer requests

Thank you again for all of the support. If you’d like to pray, here are some things on my heart:

  • I’m asking the Lord to help me trust Him with the number of my days. Particularly lately, I’ve been falling asleep touched by how precious my boys are, and keenly aware of how much I want to be around for a long time. I want to be a little old lady. I fear recurrence. I don’t want to live in fear.
  • I know this is hard on my family. They are being so awesome and hanging tough. Let’s pray for their encouragement.
  • Efficacy of treatment!

John 1: 1-5: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.