run, katie, run

Remember way back in August, when I announced that I was training for a half marathon? Have you been curious about how it’s going? No? Well, that’s fine. I’m going to tell you about it anyway!

I’m not going to lie: the first couple of weeks were rough. Extremely rough. You have to remember that I’ve never been a long-distance runner. I’ve done a couple of 5k races — and none without stopping at some point before the finish line. At week two of my training, I was seriously questioning my ability to even run a few miles without quitting or keeling over.

Fortunately, it got better. I pushed on, and I’ve been steadily increasing my distance each week. I hit a slight bump around the 5-mile mark, and again last week when I was sick with a stomach bug. But I’m now able to run over 6 miles on my long runs without stopping. I’m running my first “prep” race tomorrow night: a 5k. My goal is to run a 10k in December, too, to get me used to running in a group and powering through some of those race-day jitters that I know I’ll have in February.

I have to admit that I’m proud of my dedication. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this motivated about something, and I’m the type of person who always needs a goal to work toward. I’ve gone from dreading what race day might be like, to genuinely looking forward to it. I’m even starting to think about racing beyond the Disney Princess.

But, uh, I guess I should see if I survive this race, first. One step at a time, Katie!

Though I’m making excellent progress with my training, my fundraising still needs help! I’m running on a charity team, which means that I must raise a minimum of $1,000 by January 2 to participate on race day. Please take a moment and consider donating to the charity I’ve chosen: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Your donations are tax deductible and they assist thousands of sick and premature children who are fighting for their lives in hospitals across our country.

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apple, facebook, and fertility preservation

I haven’t written about infertility treatments in a long time. It’s not that I don’t think about them. I do, but it’s a topic that is settled in a pocket of my brain, as I’m no longer living through the motions each day. Yet, sometimes, there are news stories and other current events that pop up and put infertility treatments back on the front burner for me once again: like this one about Apple and Facebook paying for their female employees to freeze their eggs.

I read about it when the news first broke yesterday, and then I watched a segment about it on NBC last night. It was during dinner, and I think I surprised Joey a little bit when I blurt out: I don’t support this.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what the thought process was behind this choice. I wasn’t there when either company decided to offer these services to their female employees. So, perhaps the idea behind it is noble. However, it doesn’t feel that way – not to me, a young woman who has lived through the depths of hell when it comes to infertility. To me, it’s a “noble idea” masking a hidden agenda: Please delay your childbearing to focus on your career.

I love my career. I enjoy working, and I think I’ve achieved some success in doing what I love. Yet, we (as women) truly don’t need to hear another message like this in our lives – that delaying our family building for our work is the only way that we can achieve success as working women. Maybe this isn’t the message that was intended to come across, but it certainly is the underlying one. It serves as a reminder that we can’t have both. We can only have one or the other.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Companies like Apple and Facebook are powerful enough to stop this kind of message that implies there has to be a choice between one and the other. Why can’t these organizations, instead of focusing on career vs. family, support their female employees in a quest to have both? Why not, instead of offering women the choice to delay parenthood, empower them to be the best working moms they can be – if that’s the direction these women choose?

We must stop suggesting that women can’t do anything and everything they want to do. We can! We simply need the support to do so, and groups like Apple and Facebook should be behind us. Yet, instead of supporting us, it feels as if they are unfairly swaying this conversation – intentionally or not.

These two companies also have the power to heavily influence the public and their employees’ perceptions of how fertility works, and the second message they are sending with this initiative concerns me, too: Egg freezing is the golden ticket to having children later in life. That’s 100% untrue. We know this, but only because we’ve lived through it. Aging ovaries are just one of the many causes of infertility. You can freeze your eggs until you’re blue in the face. It doesn’t mean that your uterus will work in 20 years or that you will be able to carry a child. It doesn’t mean that your partner’s sperm will be strong or agile enough to fertilize those eggs. There isn’t even a guarantee that your eggs will survive the thawing process.

Egg freezing does not guarantee conception, implantation, or a successful pregnancy. Are Apple and Facebook relaying this information, or the percentage odds that go along with it, to their female employees who choose to take advantage of their program? Do outsiders who are reading these news articles and considering employment with either company understand the intricacies of the human reproduction process enough to make an educated decision about their family building? I highly doubt it.

I fully support fertility preservation for those situations that truly warrant this type of medical intervention (i.e. cancer patients). However, I don’t appreciate organizations encouraging women to delay family building because it suits their agenda – especially when these organizations don’t provide women with all of the facts about fertility first, and especially when these organizations are two of the loudest voices at the dinner table.

#microblogmonday: a house, a home

We sold our first home together last November — prior to our move to Seattle. Since then, we haven’t quite felt settled. We didn’t feel rooted in our Seattle apartment (because of the apartment itself, not the city), and we’ve been living with my mom since our return to Orlando in June.

It looks like this is about to change. We put an offer in on a house close to downtown earlier last month, and it was accepted. The loan application was processed this past week, and everything is set for us to close on Halloween.

I hope that signing the paperwork on this house will be the last hurdle to putting our feet back on the ground after what’s been a tumultuous year. To me, it feels like we are at long last finding a home after a year of living without one.

in the waiting room

Nearly 15 years ago, my mom discovered a lump in her armpit. She was 48 years old and had no family history of breast cancer. She’d had regular mammograms, she was healthy, and absolutely none of that mattered. She became a statistic anyway. Eleven years later, I had my first breast cancer scare that resulted in the removal of a lump from my right breast. I was only 24 years old. My second scare came two years later. I still live with that lump inside of me — and the hope that it isn’t a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode.

Now, at age 29, I am by far one of the youngest patients at my breast specialist’s office in our local hospital’s cancer wing. My relationship with this office is one of mixed emotions. I walk in there every six to 12 months (depending on my specialist’s recommendation for a next appointment), and I feel many things.

This is the same office my mom walked into all of those years ago and learned that she had cancer. Cancer which she went on to survive. I think of her first when I walk through those doors and sign in at the front desk. I think of how we laughed and cried as she shaved her head before her first chemo treatment to soften the blow of her inevitable hair loss. I think of the nights when I slept on the floor in her room so that I could walk her to the bathroom when she was too sick to move through the darkness by herself.

After I sit myself down in one of the oversized chairs in the waiting room, my eyes try not to wander as my mind shifts to the other patients sitting beside me. Sometimes, it’s easy to feel their emotions or guess their stories. I’ve watched some come in with giant smiles on their faces, cookies or donuts in hand, hugging the nurses left and right. I’ve also watched those who sit silently in the corner with stacks of large envelopes on their laps. Their latest scans. Their fate. In a way, it reminds me of the waiting room at an RE’s office. Everyone has a struggle. Everyone has a story.

Finally, the nurse calls my name. It takes a while sometimes. My doctor is meticulous, and she will spend hours with a patient if necessary to ensure best possible care. We walk straight to the ultrasound and exam room. As we pass the doctor’s office, I recall the fear I felt sitting in front of that desk on my very first visit. The wonder over whether I would become a statistic, too.

The nurse takes my vitals and leaves me to it. She doesn’t need explain the routine anymore. She simply says, “You know the drill.” I undress from the waist up and place the paper drape around me as I wait for the ultrasound tech to arrive. When she does, we start immediately — scans of the right breast first, and then the left. Photo after photo after photo. The doctor arrives, and we go through the drill again. More photos, more examination of what’s on the screen, and then a physical exam. We go over my history, and my mom’s, in detail. Every. single. time. At long last, when we’ve analyzed every piece of information in front of us, we talk about next steps.

What do I feel at this moment? I used to feel fear. Fear for myself. Fear for my family. Fear for my daughter, after her arrival. I was afraid of the known, the knowledge of what was inside of me. I was also afraid of the unknown and what every lump and bump could become over time. Now, I feel relief. I know that seems strange, but I’ve realized that it’s more comforting to know than not. Many people wonder what lies beneath their skin, while what lies beneath mine is looked at under a microscope.

I’m no longer afraid of breast cancer. I’m aware of it, but I don’t fear it. Knowledge is power — for me, at least — and here is what I know: I know that I’m doing everything that I can to ensure I don’t get breast cancer. I also know that this may not be good enough and that genetics are not necessarily on my side. Yet, taking charge of my own health is something. Even if it doesn’t prevent me from a diagnosis, I feel it will enable me to have better odds. I know that I am lucky to be able to take charge of my own health. I’m fortunate that I have health insurance and an excellent doctor to look after me, because deep down I know that for every one of me, there are thousands of others who are not as lucky.

As I leave the building and walk toward my car, my final feelings pass through me. Relief is still one of them, as my blood pressure settles for the first time in the last few hours. Hope is the other. Hope that my next visit, my next set of scans, will be as uneventful as this one. Hope that when I write about my appointment on Twitter or Facebook, it will remind others to take a moment to do a self exam or schedule a check-up. And hope that the more education and awareness we have, the less this disease will take from all of us in the future.