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Trail Running Helped Me Thrive Again After Cancer

The right mindset enables your journey back to well-being

On the trails with Deke, my chocolate lab

We all have different reasons to run. Running can be hard at times because it does require some effort. Part of my normal is running on a regular basis. It’s one of those activities that motivates and inspires me.

I knew running wasn’t going to be possible for a long time after the cancer diagnosis in 2014. Prior to the treatment, one of my last runs was May 2014 with both my sons — two weeks before my double mastectomy was scheduled… and it was scheduled on my 49th birthday. Seriously. This was my second round with breast cancer and was caught early again thankfully – considered Stage 1, but it was also considered aggressive.

It can be normal to put a veil on and cover what you’re really feeling. I hid behind my smile and joked about the situation. The chemo treatment and surgeries took quite a toll on me physically and mentally. Physical therapy had to be prescribed because I was in a lot of pain on the right side. I know I smile all the time because smiling does make me feel better.

Yet all I thought about was running. And when you can’t do something, you want it even more. I wasn’t able to even jog around the neighborhood during treatment. I walked in the nearby woods daily and at the nearby park regularly (foothills of the Appalachians). But this is just not the same as running for me. It was almost 18 months before I could regularly run.

There were two medical setbacks in 2015 that slowed my attempts to get back into a running routine. That made me afraid and frustrated. That type of fear can be debilitating, so you look for all kinds of excuses. 

I decided to take this unexpected “time out” and write my first book RealThings: 6 Ways to Embrace Life. This process helped me reflect on what’s important in life and was very healing. What mattered became front and center.

Thrive (by Arianna Huffington) was one of the many books I read during my cancer treatment. Her message is part of what inspired me to write my book and to share. We all have personal wake-up calls and Arianna Huffington wrote Thrive after experiencing one herself.

You need to take a step back and figure out what’s important, what should you spend your energy on. Our culture defines success as driven by power and money – that is basically a two-legged stool – it’s not balanced. Arianna believes that we need another metric to create balance our lives – make it a three-legged stool.

To thrive is about having a more meaningful life. We need to rely on our intuition more, have a sense of wonder and be more compassionate and giving.

You’re happiest when the life you live reflects your nature, your values, and your interests. And you will thrive the better you know yourself.

I saw a lot of pain in that chemo pod in 2014 that I will never forget. It was a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves, reach out to others and connect.

One of the reasons I’m attracted to running is its simplicity and the ability to connect with others outside. Trail running is an escape to reflect on the beauty of our surroundings, it’s quiet and allows me to contemplate. Some of my best ideas happen during a run.

I am thriving again.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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