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mother. marathoner. blogger. reader.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Profiles of Inspirational Women: Michelle Wolfer

It's been awhile since I've posted about the amazing women that cross my path on a daily basis. Women who inspire, support, encourage, and strive to make the world a little better. Michelle Wolfer is one of these women.

Meet Michelle.

I stole this beautiful picture from her twitter feed
She is a wife, a mom to 4 grown children, a teacher, and a cross country and track & field coach.

I met Michelle when I randomly joined her #earthathon team, #uponeaglewings, a few weeks ago. At the time, I had NO idea that she is currently battling breast cancer. She is not just battling breast cancer, she is FIGHTING it. She is tenaciously, aggressively giving it hell. She has chosen life, chosen to #FightLikeaGirl, and to #runwithcancer.

Her commitment to running and to living life is awe inspiring. Her twitter feed, @lutherungirl, can make you smile even on your worst day. I knew I needed to share her story, to profile another amazing woman who, despite everything, still laces up her sneakers and does her thing.

I asked her a few questions and she kindly agreed to answer them...

When did you start running? What drew you to the sport in the first place? How many races have you run? Any running moments you are especially proud of? 

I ran for fun in grade school and competitively in middle/high school and for two years in college at the division I level.  I ran mid distance and distance.  I ran my first marathon in high school.  Our coach made us sign up and I wasn't happy about it at first but after I finished, I was hooked.  I took a hiatus from running competitively after college because life happened.  I started training for my second marathon when my youngest child was in third grade with a friend, his teacher.  I have run 13 marathons, 4 half marathons, 2 15Ks, and a handful of 5Ks.  I would love to qualify for Boston and perhaps that will be my goal after I win my fight with stage III Breast Cancer.

When were you diagnosed with cancer? What are some of your symptoms related to treatment? How do they affect your day to day life? 

I have a history of breast cancer on my mother's side of the family so I have always been proactive about getting my yearly mammograms.  Because I have dense breast tissue my family practice doctor decided that I should consider a breast MRI which I did in August of 2014.  The report came back with suspicious areas of concern. Unfortunately, my doctor retired and no one followed up with me about further tests.  I should have called to ask for results.  My BIG mistake.  In February I noticed a small lump (about the size of a pea) with a bruise around it.  The bruise would come and go which I thought was weird so I decided to call the new family practice doctor.  He had no idea about my August MRI and was very apologetic that no one followed up with me.  He ordered a breast ultra sound with possible biopsy.  The radiologist decided not to do the biopsy (even after I pleaded my history, case and concern) and just sent me on my way saying it was probably a hematoma and would go away in several months.  My family doctor was furious and sent me to another radiologist in the Fort Wayne, IN area.  By the time I had my first biopsy the tumor had grown to the size of a walnut (about a two week time frame) and had a red rash outside the bruised area.  He took 7 biopsies and my worst fear was confirmed.  My biopsies were positive for breast cancer.  My family practice doctor did some research over the weekend and decided I would be best served to meet with a breast surgeon and oncologist at Indiana University Simon Breast Cancer Center in Indianapolis.  

When I met with both doctors in Indy, the breast surgeon did an immediate biopsy of the rash and confirmed that it was cancerous.  I was diagnosed with level III Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a very race and aggressive form of breast cancer. This is the same form of cancer my aunt was diagnosed with 3 years earlier.  She is doing well but continues to have some related medical issues.

I have tolerated my treatments pretty well but my oncologist had to dial back the amount of chemo because my white blood cell count has been almost wiped out.  He is baffled and amazed that I haven't had many side effects and attributes that to my healthy lifestyle.  He has asked that I dial back my running miles so I remain healthy during my treatments.  I was running about 50 miles a week and now average about 20*, some of which is walking per my doctors orders.

*just to put this in perspective: I, Lauren, run 20-30 miles while training for a MARATHON. Michelle is basically running the same amount while going through CHEMOTHERAPY. #mostawesomewomanever*

The plan is to shrink my tumor before surgery if my white cell count isn't compromised then I will undergo radiation after surgery.  I will be having a radical mastectomy due to my type of breast cancer.  I remain full of hope. I am strong, positive, and a fighter!  I absolutely love my doctors and that is huge.  I don't think I could get through this without the support of family, friends and my running community.  I continue to teach but do take a few days off during treatments.  I'm off for the summer thankfully as chemo is once a week now.  I will be facing my surgery in the Fall and will of course take some time off.

How did you get involved in #earthathon? What kind of impact do you see this type of relay having on the community? 

I discovered Earthathon in early December and logged miles for the "race before the 1st race".  I was asked to be a team leader for the first race that started in January.  We were asked to name our teams and my quote below reflects the name #uponeaglewings 

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and 
not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

 We were one of 10 teams.  I enjoy leading our team in the 2nd race as well!  I think Earthathon brings runners from all over the planet together and is so encouraging.  


Many of you know that my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Because we live so far away, I often feel at a loss as how to help or encourage her and my father-in-law. Through her strength and resolve, Michelle reminds me that hope is the greatest gift I can give them and myself.

Do yourself a favor and follow Michelle on Twitter @lutherungirl. She will help your spirit soar. (oh! and join us on team #uponeaglewings at earthathonrelay.com - Michelle will send you awesome, encouraging, supportive tweets!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: Ruby

I strongly believe that life is too short to spend reading books that are not enjoyable. 
Recently, however, I've read a string of books that I've grudgingly and somewhat unwillingly forced myself to finish. 

First up was Moby Dick, a book that took me weeks to finish. It was all about whales, boats, and crazy people. 

Then I read 12 Years a Slave, which is a harrowing account of a Freeman's kidnapping and sale into slavery. While Moby Dick was just plain boring, 12 years was emotionally exhausting. The constant cruelty and abuse suffered by the slaves was upsetting and overwhelming. Of course, it is important to remember this part of our nation's history and this book serves as a great representation of that time but it was still difficult to read.

Then, as part of Blogging for Books, I started reading Ruby by Cynthia Bond. I have a bad habit of blindly choosing books without really learning what they're about. I'm about halfway through this book and I can't bring myself to finish it. It's well written, has some beautiful language and imagery but it's just too much. Too much imagery. Too much sexual violence. Too much hate and pain. My heart just can't take anymore. I'm not attached to the characters enough to want to discover what happens to them. With 12 years, I felt invested in the lives of the slaves but the characters in Ruby left me with no feelings at all.

Clearly, this book was not for me but I don't regret giving it a chance. I'm sure it will find its way into someone's heart.

Disclaimer: while I received a free copy of this book in return for a review, all opinions and views expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Product Review: JWalking Designs Running Skirts

When I first started running, I was baffled by running skirts.

Why would you want to run in a skirt?

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that there are shorts under those skirts.

Now, that that dilemma was solved, I had another pressing concern...

how long are those shorts?

One year, while on vacation, I forgot my running shorts. I tried to run in a pair of cotton shorts that I used to walk to and from the beach.

BIG mistake.

The thigh chafing was epic.

Ever since then, when I see a pair of shorts shorter then 5", I cringe. literally. I literally cringe from the memory of that awful experience.

Most running skirts don't have shorts that are longer then 3". In fact, most don't even tell you the length of the short which isn't helpful for a girl suffering from PTTCS (post traumatic thigh chafing disorder).

Last week, during #runchat on Twitter, Alison from JWalking Designs reached out to me to let me know about her fabulous running skirts with a 5" short!

photo courtesy of JWalking Designs
These fabulous little skirts are made in the USA and constructed from eco-friendly recycled material. They are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable to wear in both hot and cold temperatures. 

Alison kindly agreed to give me a discount on a skirt and although I am completely in LOVE with the plaid skirts, I chickened out and ordered the little black active skirt. I wasn't wholly convinced I would wear the plaid skirt unless I had a perfectly matching shirt. It's an issue I've had since childhood. 

Within a few days of ordering, I had my skirt and took it for a 3 mile run on a nature trail near my in-law's house.

I ordered a medium and it fits like a dream. The wide waistband holds in the smush left over from my babies. There are 3 pockets, one on the back and one on each side. The longer length of the skirt keeps me covered but still feels flattering.

While running, I noticed that the shorts do tend to ride up. Now, given my thigh chafing history, I may be overly aware of such things. Honestly, I think adding a strip of elastic to the bottom of the short to help keep it in place would cement this skirt's place as the greatest running skirt EVER. 

It really is a fabulous little skirt that you can wear ANYWHERE to do ANYTHING. The gym. The playground with the kids. The supermarket. The school drop off line. The options are pretty much limitless and if that wasn't enough....

I HAVE A DISCOUNT CODE!!! (is there anything better then finding something awesome and being able to save a little money at the same time? I think not.)

Take your little fingers, head over to jwalkingdesigns.com, and use the code RUNNINGMOMS to receive a 10% discount! 

A BIG thank you to Alison for sharing her great product with the RSWK family!

If you purchase a skirt, please reach out to Alison via Twitter @JWalkingDesigns and let her know what you think!

*Disclaimer: while I received a discount towards the purchase of a skirt, all opinions & views expressed are my own.*

previous post: the life of a mother runner

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

the life of a mother runner

I was so desperate to run this morning that I made my kids go outside to play in the front yard while I ran up and down the sidewalk.

Over. and. over. again.

For about a mile and a half.

I had to stop once to find the sidewalk chalk after my daughter got bored following me on her plasma car.

And then I had to stop to take the clothes out of the dryer and put a new load in the washer. 

Not to mention the numerous drive by (or run by) comments to my son, "NO! Don't hit the ball near the house! Put that bat down! Pick up that plastic bag! Put it in the garage! The garage! THE GARAGE! oh for goodness sake."

Multi-tasking at it's finest.

This, my friends, is the life of a mother runner.