Monday, March 31, 2014

Random thoughts

Today's post is a random mess of my thoughts, for better or for worse!

  • I am still very impressed with my Garmin Forerunner 10 and one of the neat features I enjoyed on my run yesterday was the auto pause and resume feature.  The trail I frequently run on crosses several busy streets and therefore usually requires some stops at stoplights.  While my legs appreciate the brief break, I either have to manually pause my app on my phone or suck it up and take a few extra seconds on my time.  With the Forerunner 10, if you stop moving the watch will auto pause, which is very handy at stoplights!  As soon as you start moving again, the watch resumes.  
  • I tried a GU yesterday during my run, as I mentioned, but I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I suppose it gave me a bit of a boost, but it wasn't terribly noticeable to me.  I wanted to try it for a few reasons, not the least of which is that GU's are offered on the race course for my half.  Apart from the strange consistency and less than appealing flavor, I seemed to respond well to it and didn't have any GI issues, so that's good to know. 
  • I got incredibly hungry about mid-way through my run, which was a new sensation.  It was a quick on-set feeling and it didn't last long, but it was strong!  I felt famished and started dreaming about a big glass of chocolate milk after my run.  I imagine that it didn't last long because I think the GU started kicking in at that point.  
  • I know I've said this before, but I am quite possibly the worst training plan follower...ever.  I was reading a story from the Runner's World Facebook page and confirmed that I am, in fact, the worst follower of a training plan.  The article highlighted four tapering mistakes that runner's make and my run yesterday included two of them; playing long-run catch-up and jumping up in long-run mileage (in my case from 7 miles to 10).  I'm trying not to let it psych me out, which is easier said than done.  I felt like the first mistake, in particular, spoke to me.  I went out yesterday to ease my mind, but did I produce my best effort (gosh, I hope not) and leave myself exhausted for race day, like the article suggested?  I think training for this half has been as exhausting mentally as it has been physically!  I need to trust myself and besides, it's too late to second guess what I did yesterday. 
I love this quote and am thinking of writing it on a piece of paper to keep in my pocket on Sunday!

"You were strong enough to get this far. You are strong enough to keep going." 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

10 miles

Yet again, time has flown by me and I have been woefully remiss in blogging.  I think life will return to "normal" soon, but I guess it's a matter of what "normal" is.  This week I got back into the swing of things at work (somewhat; I had a late night meeting on Tuesday that wasn't exactly me at my "A" game, but I'm getting back in the groove), Nick had his 1st grade concert on Wednesday night and did wonderfully, yesterday, we had a belated birthday part for Jack-Jack (I will have another post on his party soon), and this evening, Nick had his Blue and Gold banquet for Cub Scouts.  It has been a fun, busy week; so much so, that Jack and I crashed last night after his party and slept straight through to this morning!  I had a lot on my to-do list last night, but I figured I must have needed the sleep if I slept so long and hard.

One of the things on my to-do list this weekend, besides the above, was to go for a 10-mile run.  Given the events of the past few weeks and my lingering hip pain, training has needless to say, fallen by the wayside.  Prior to this weekend, my longest run was 7 miles and I wanted to get 10 in before the half next week.  I figure at the point that I can do 10, what is another 3 miles?

Mentally, I have been having a panic attack about the race much of this week and feeling incredibly unprepared.  I knew going into this that it would be hard for me to stick to a training plan, but I had no idea the curve ball that was in store for me with my dad's illness and passing.  I wanted to push myself to 10 miles to see if I could make it through the race; I knew getting through 10 miles would be huge for me.

I am pleased to say that I did 10 miles today in 2:25:28, but I'm not sure how much it did for my self-confidence.  My pace was considerably off from my norm of 12:30 -13:00, in fact, my average was 14:33. I intentionally started out slow to conserve energy, but never got up to speed, even after taking a GU around mile 4.  I have a few theories on why I was slow; I have been eating crap for several weeks (car trip food, eating out a lot as we travel, etc.) and my weight has crept up as a result so more weight to carry equals a slower pace, my hip was nagging me again, although not as painfully as before, and I was incredibly thirsty from about mile 5 on after I finished the water in my bottle.  I thought there might be more water fountains further up the trail, but there weren't.  When I finally found a water source at around 8.5, I chugged two small bottles of water, which was probably not the smartest idea, since it made me a little nauseous.

I felt ok until about mile 8 and then my body felt like it was shutting down.  My legs felt like lead and then they started to cramp on me.  It was strange, though.  Rather than cramp in my calves, it was mainly in my hamstrings.  The charlie horse sensation in my hamstrings lasted long after I stopped running, too, which was annoying.  I ended up run/walking much of the last two miles, which kind of irked me.  I completely let my mind get the best of me and I know I could have run the whole 10 miles.  On the one hand, I don't care, because I did 10 miles darn it and there is absolutely nothing wrong with walking.  On the other hand, I'm competitive with myself and I wish I had pushed through.

At this point, I know I can finish the half next week one way or another.  Although I had a time goal floating around my head for the past few months, I just want to cross the finish line.  With all that has happened lately, that is all I can ask of myself.  Crossing the finish line will be huge and it will be a fantastic feeling.  There will be other halfs (I am already planning for October and the Halloween half) where I can train properly and focus on time.  The race on Sunday is about finishing what I set out to do a year ago after I did the relay.  If I have to drag myself across the finish line, I will.  That medal is mine!

I saw a few fun things on my route today, which makes the time go by faster.  There were so many people out on the trail, so it was great people watching.  I figure 1) it was a beautiful, sunny, warm day and 2) it is the weekend before a huge marathon and half marathon so people were trying to get one last long run in, thus all of the people.  Everyone was really friendly, especially the bikers.  I had one gentleman run past me in the opposite direction near mile 4.5 and he whooped and hollered and said "great job" which was nice.  I also ran past a woman with a shirt that said "Cancer sucks" and I was feeling particularly worn out and her shirt gave me a little extra boost and reminded me to run for my Daddy.  Lastly, about 3.5 miles in, I saw some graffiti on the trail.  I don't normally condone destroying property, but this particular graffiti made me smile.

A little motivation for my 10 miler today
I was explaining to my mom that about a half mile further up the trail, I found more graffiti of the random, childlike nature (phallic symbols, skulls and crossbones, beware danger ahead nonsense) and in hindsight, I suppose my perceived encouraging graffiti was actually a note about what was ahead.  I'd like to think that it was a little sign for all us runners trudging through long runs, though, so I'll stick with that story.

I actually feel pretty darn good even after running 10 miles.  I have very little soreness and we even walked to Nick's banquet tonight, so it was nice to stretch out the legs even more.  I think what today's run taught me is to change my expectations about Sunday.  It is not the end of the world if I have to walk a bit to get through the race and in the end, my one and only goal is to cross the finish line.  I am proud of myself for going beyond what I ever thought possible and today's run marks the farthest I have ever run in my life.  T-minus 7 days until I push myself even farther and accomplish a huge goal of mine. 

"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world." 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A new running toy

When I got back to work yesterday, I had a wonderful surprise on my desk.  I am now the proud owner of a sweet, pink Garmin Forerunner 10! I have had my eye on this watch for a while and I am fairly certain that I squealed with delight when I saw it on my desk.

Isn't she pretty?
Prior to yesterday, I had not gone for a run since the St. Patrick's Day race on the 15th.  My hip pain was pretty intense and that, combined with the fact that I was going to Ohio last week for my Dad's memorial service, led me to take all of last week off from running.  

I was really nervous about taking a full week off given that my half is next Sunday and frankly, I still am concerned about it.  The longest run I've done to date is 7 miles, but I plan to do 10 this weekend, so I hope that will help boost my confidence.  In all honestly, though, resting my hip was absolutely the right thing to do. 

I noticed Sunday that for the first time in a few weeks I didn't have any hip pain when I walked.  I'm not sure if this was due to the reprieve from running or the deliciously firm mattress on the bed in our hotel room.  My husband hated the mattress and complained of back pain, but I never felt better.  I didn't have any of my normal body aches and I'm beginning to wonder if he and I are going to have to get a sleep number bed so that I can have a firmer mattress and he can have a softer bed.  It was really nice not having that nagging pain in my hip, but I was afraid that the pain would return when I started running again.  I was right. 

I went for a run yesterday with my friend Mary so we could test out our watches and I noticed the hip pain flaring up again.  I have a message into a local sports injury and rehabilitation center so I am hoping to get into see a doctor before the race next week to see what might be causing the hip pain.  I am doing this race come hell or high water, but I'd rather be relatively pain free while doing so.  

We did 3 miles yesterday and although my legs felt like lead and I thought I was dragging, it was a pretty great run. And can I just say how awesome the Garmin is?  I haven't even scratched the surface of what this watch can do, but I love it and can't wait to keep learning more about it.  I loved that it was easy to use, the screen was easy to read, and the accuracy was fantastic.  After our run, it was neat to upload the data to Garmin Connect to access further information (pace vs. elevation map, animated depiction of your run along the route, etc.).  If you own a Forerunner 10, what are some of your favorite features of the watch? 

Disclosure:  I was not asked to review the Garmin Forerunner 10.  I purchased the watch myself and wanted to share my experience with it. 

I will keep the below quote in mind over the next few weeks! 

"Think positive, and positive things will happen." 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mentally and Physically Exhausted

Sorry again for the lapse in blog posts; it has been very busy around here the past week or so.  My Dad's memorial service was on Saturday (which would have been his 56th birthday) in Ohio, so we drove up on Wednesday.  Prior to our departure, I was a busy bee scanning old photographs to use in a video for the memorial service.

We got home late last night and I am beat!  I did a three mile run today, which felt great!  I'm feeling exceptionally tired both mentally and physically, so I'm going to head to bed to get some rest.  I will be back tomorrow for regularly scheduled blogs, I promise.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What a difference a year makes

I was so nervous heading into the St. Patrick's Day 5 mile race this year, due to my difficult run yesterday and my nagging hip pain, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went.  Although, my race morning got off to a rough start with a rookie mistake I made.  I left my race bib on my kitchen counter and I didn't realize it until I got downtown and parked my car.  I was irritated because even though I also track my time on MapMyRun, I also wanted to get an official race time.  Then to add salt to the wound, I realized that without a bib, I couldn't get the free Michelob Ultra at the finish line.  Oh the horror!

Luckily, I got downtown early enough to mosey over to the race day registration area to see if I could get another bib.  I re-read my confirmation e-mail and realized that race day registration bibs would not have timing chips and I was a little bummed.  However, when I got to the registration area, I noticed that they had race day pick-up for pre-registered runners, including bibs with timing chips.  I explained my silly mistake to the woman at the registration table and she was very sweet to give me a new bib with a timing chip and update my bib number in the online system.  Crisis averted!

The starting line
The weather was gorgeous today, which was a vast improvement from last year's race.  Last year, the weather was gloomy and cold, but today was sunny and almost warm!  I was worried about my hip, but I just took it slow to start and tried not to overdo it.  There were some pretty intense hills on this course, but I just slowed my pace to push upward and onward.  I stopped to walk for a few brief seconds at each of the two water stations to drink my water, but otherwise I plugged along.  I always enjoy people watching at the St. Pat's race; there are always interesting characters to see (and a lot of beer), which can help make the miles go by faster.  I saw one spectator with a sign that made me smile (although I tried not to). It read:  Smile if you're going commando.  Very clever.

When I crossed the finish line, I couldn't help but think of my awful run yesterday and how much I needed this race today.  It was a difficult, but great run and I needed the boost to my self-confidence.  I was also reminded about how far I've come on my running journey and how much can change in a year.  

Pre-race photo with my friend, Stacy 
Last year, I trudged through the St. Pat's race and was in the midst of my Couch-to-5K program.  I walked most of the race, with the exception of a few running intervals, the longest of which was .7 of a mile.  When I finished the race, my back ached with such intensity that I could barely sit still in the car and I was nearly in tears at the restaurant during our post-race lunch.  I took some ibuprofen and I'm fairly certain that I slept most of the rest of the day.  I was still proud of myself for setting out to do the race at all and I was pretty pleased with my finish time of 1:16:03.

Stacy and I last year following the race; don't let my goofy face fool you.  I was in a lot of pain.
I felt so much more prepared for the race this year and my only real concern stemmed from my hip pain.  I knew going into this race that I could run 5 miles, but I also knew I had to snap out of my funk from yesterday.  I ran the entire race this year (save for a few seconds at the two water stations as mentioned above) and my finish time was 1:07:03, a 9 minute improvement from last year.  I felt great after the race and after enjoying a post-run lunch with my mom, we spent the entire afternoon bumming around (including buying fabric to make a sparkly skirt for me to wear for the half!).  I have a little residual hip pain, but that is about par for the course at the moment.  It is a pretty amazing feeling to know that I've come to a point in my fitness journey where running 5 miles is somewhat normal for my body and it doesn't completely drain me and leave my body in shambles.  As I look back on where I was at this time last year and where I am today (three short weeks away from my first half marathon), I am pretty proud of how far I've come. 
The finish line.  I never tire of seeing the Arch in the backdrop of many of my race photos!
Post-run picture with Stacy and her sisters
This is always a fun race and this year was no exception.  Each mile had a cheer station and my favorite was the first at mile 1, because they happened to be playing Pharrell's Happy as I was trudging up the first of many hills.  I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again; I love, love, love that song and it was wonderful to hear it during that hill.  The one thing I didn't remember from last year was the lack of post-race food.  The free beer was nice, but I was feeling hungry.  I guess the thought is that there are plenty of food vendors around for the parade, which started shortly after the race ended, but a granola bar or banana would have been nice.  I did, however, find some darling Girl Scouts selling cookies near the post-race area (kudos to whoever thought of that idea and kudos to their mom for dressing as a Samoa to help their sales) and I bought my first and only box of cookies for this year.  Hey, they were Thin Mints and therefore fit into the color scheme for the day.  Apparently, they also ran out of cups for the post-race water station and therefore, were handing out jugs of water.  It was a little strange to me, but I was thirsty and it made for a great photo op.

I'll let your mind ponder the types of comments that preceded this photo. 
I also tried BodyGlide for the first time today and I can't say enough wonderful things about it.  I bought a stick on Wednesday when I picked up my race shirt, because I've been experiencing some minor, yet annoying, chafing as I start running longer distances.  This morning while I got dressed, I put some on my upper arm where my armband sits, under my sports bra and along my waistline, which are the areas where I've experienced chafing lately.  The packaging resembles a stick of deodorant and you just slide the product on the areas you want to protect.  It is odorless and colorless and it worked like a charm; not a bit of chafing to be found after today's race.  

I feel so much better today about the half and my running.  I needed this race today to help counteract all of the negativity I felt yesterday.  As I said, sometimes you have runs that make or break you and today was luckily not the latter.  

"I got this."

Friday, March 14, 2014


Some days you have runs that make you feel invincible and on top of the world.  Other days, running humbles you and makes you question your ability to achieve your goals.  Today, my run fell into the latter category.  I came home feeling utterly defeated and doubting whether or not I can run a half in less than a month.  I have hyped up this race so much in my head and I want it to be perfect.  I am so afraid of getting injured before the race and not being able to cross the finish line or even start the race for that matter.  I have tried to turn my attitude around over the past few hours, but it is a struggle.

I took another rest day yesterday even though I brought my running clothes to work and had planned to go to the trail after work.  I stood up to go change and lost all momentum to run.  I couldn't even fathom the thought of putting on my running clothes, much less going for a run, and I didn't want to force it, so I decided to give myself (and my hip) another rest day.

Today, I figured I had better do an easy 2-3 mile run since I am doing a 5 mile St. Pat's Run tomorrow.  I can't really think of the right adjective to describe my run today, but I keep coming back to disastrous. I started out and felt the pain in my hip again.  I became uber focused on my gait and stride to try to see if I was running abnormally.  I think I was focusing too much on that and it was throwing me off.  I got a little over a mile into the run and I stopped to walk.  I was so irritated with myself.  What the heck happened to the girl who ran 7 miles 3 weeks ago?  She sure wasn't on the path today, because that girl could barely eek out a mile.  When I walk, my hip feels 99% pain free, but when I run, the impact of my foot striking the ground sends pain up my leg and to my hip joint.

After a quick walk break, I started to run for a bit and my hip started to feel better (I wish I could remember what I did differently to make it feel good, though) but my legs felt like lead.  I let my mind get the better of me and I slowed to a walk, again.  This repeated itself for the rest of my run, which only ended up being about 2.2 miles.  After I finished and got back to my car, I started freaking out a bit (a lot) about tomorrow's race and the half, but I'm trying to keep in mind a few things.

First, I have not been taking care of myself like I should, from eating well to sleeping well and everything in between.  I'm sure that doesn't help matters.  Secondly, I ate crap today.  I had a delicious lunch from our local Chinese restaurant, but something tells me that running on a stomach full of sesame chicken (and Pepsi) is a bad idea.  I don't know how many times I have to remind myself of this, but what I eat really does affect how I run.

I'm trying really hard not to let this run (and my hip nonsense) bring me down.  A fellow blogger, Jessica, reminded me of something Dimity from Run Like a Mother said about how it is better to get to the starting line under trained than over trained and injured.  I must keep repeating this to myself or I will drive myself batty with self-doubt.

Jack had a great birthday on Wednesday and he and I had a lovely day of Mommy/son bonding, which was much needed all around.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a good race tomorrow.  Good luck to anyone else who is racing this weekend! 

"Don't let insecure thoughts ruin something amazing." 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My hips don't lie

It was another gorgeous day in St. Louis today with temperatures well into the 70's, but I took today off from running because I seem to have done something to my hip.  I've always had a little sensitivity in my right hip when I run, which I thought might resolve itself when I lost weight, but to no avail.  I typically do some hip flexor stretches to work out the soreness, but the ache I had in my hip last night and today was unlike any other pain I've had.

I mentioned that I started off my run yesterday at a pretty fast pace and I ended up slowing down, in large part due to pain in my hip.  I think I must have altered my gait due to the pain and I'm wondering if I exacerbated the pain by doing so.  My hip was throbbing when I get home, so I put an ice pack on it to help.  I normally prefer heat to ice, but the ice felt really lovely on my aching hip (I'm aware of the fact that I sound like I'm 80 when I say things like that).  My hip pain was pretty intense last night because it woke me up every time I switched positions while I slept.  I still intended to run today, though, and brought my running attire to work for an anticipated "runch" (lunch run).

Nearly every move I made today sent a shock of pain through my hip; standing up, sitting down, going up the stairs at work, going downstairs and so, I thought I'd better not push my luck.  I also noticed my hip was tender to the touch, which is new.  My worst fear is getting injured before the half so as much as I wanted to run today, my logical side prevailed (for once) and I rested my hip.  I took some ibuprofen when I got home, partly for my hip and partly for a nasty headache and I'm not sure if that helped, but my hip does feel a bit better.

I'm not really sure what this pain could mean and I'm not exactly sure what to do to remedy it other than rest, ice, and ibuprofen.  I am taking another rest day tomorrow because it is my little guy's birthday (therefore, I will also likely not post tomorrow) and I'm hoping that two days of rest will lend itself to a pleasant run on Thursday.

I am running a race on Saturday (our local St. Patrick's Day race) and I got my bib in the mail today.  I'm really looking forward to this race.  I "ran" it last year doing a combination of Couch-to-5K intervals, but I also mistakenly thought the race was 5K; it's actually a 5 mile race.  Needless to say, I feel so much more prepared for the race this year!  I'm also pretty excited about the free beer at the end!

5 miles (and free beer): here I come!

Are you planning to run a St. Patrick's Day race this year?  

"Running is hard to explain. Yes it hurts. Yes it is one of the best feelings in the world.  Somehow that makes sense...if you are a runner." 

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Return to Running

After nearly two weeks off, I went for a run today.  Huzzah!  I intended to go for a run yesterday, but I had the urge to do some spring cleaning.  Going through my dad's apartment and the weather in general has given me the itch to de-clutter and clean.  In addition, guilty admission time:  my Christmas tree was still up until yesterday and it was well past time to take it down.  I usually take my tree down around Martin Luther King day at the latest, but that is around the time my dad was hospitalized and it wasn't really a priority.  I took down the tree, cleaned a large portion of our storage room out and got rid of a bunch of clutter, which felt great.  After that, I went to dinner with my mom and Nick and then we went through a bunch of pictures at my mom's house to get ready for dad's memorial service next weekend.  It was really nice to go through photos of my dad's life and reminisce.  So with such a busy day yesterday, I decided to give myself one more day off and start fresh today.

It was beautiful today and with daylight savings time starting yesterday, I was able to go for a run after work tonight.  I didn't get going until about 6:45 but I was able to get 5K in before the sun went down.  I love daylight savings time!  When I first started running, I took off.  It felt so great to be running and I felt light on my feet.  I should know better than to start out so fast though; I couldn't keep up that pace and my legs were a little sore (I guess from my spring cleaning adventure?).  I slowed down and enjoyed the rest of my run.  I struggled a bit, but the struggle was nice.  I am able bodied and have two legs capable of carrying me where I want to go and I tried not to take that for granted today.

I can't believe the half is in less than a month!  I have equal parts excitement and nervousness running through my head, but mostly excitement.  I can do this!

"I'm going to succeed because I'm crazy enough to think I can." 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Coping with grief

It has been a very long time since I posted last, but there has been a lot going on in my world.  I had a great run last Tuesday at lunch and I was all set to post about it when I got a phone call I was dreading.  My dad's friend from church, Shirley, called and I missed her call.  She left a voice mail and once I got Jack to sleep, I called her back.  Luckily, my mom had stopped by for a bit and was still at my house because Shirley had called to tell me that his doctor's appointment that day had not gone well at all.  The doctor said that my dad did not have long to live.

I've been a little vague about my dad's illness out of respect for his privacy, but he essentially had an issue with his pacemaker that led to his hospitalization in the middle of January.  While they were working to fix his pacemaker (replacing the battery and a lead wire), the ran a bunch of other tests and discovered a suspicious spot on his liver.  After a biopsy, they discovered he had a malignant melanoma on his liver.  About 6 years ago, he had retinal cancer (which I've now learned was ocular melanoma) and it metastasized to his liver.  He visited an oncologist the second week of February and the oncologist said he had stage 4 liver cancer and there was nothing that could be done, at which point, Nick and I made a trip to Ohio to see him.  We had a good visit and during that visit, we discovered that the oncologist wanted to run further tests to see if my dad was eligible for a cutting-edge treatment.

Two weeks ago Thursday, he had a bunch of tests run, as well as last Monday.  On Tuesday, he went to the oncologist to begin his first treatment and the nurses had started his iv to begin an infusion.  At that point, the oncologist came in and pulled Shirley, who had accompanied him to the appointment, to the side.  He said he was sorry, but nothing could be done and the prognosis was "not good at all."  Shirley said that my dad's family lived out of town and asked the doctor if  he meant that she should call his family to have them come up.  The oncologist said yes and that he would be surprised if my dad made it through the weekend.  I found out after I got to Ohio that the oncologist actually had said he thought it would be more like 2 - 3 days.

I broke down that night and was pretty inconsolable for much of the night.  I decided that I was driving to Ohio the next day (Wednesday).  I know that doctors can be wrong with their prognosis, but I wasn't willing to take the risk and I knew I would regret not going to see my Dad.  It was hard seeing him a few weeks ago because he was a shell of the man I remember, but I knew I needed to be with him.  I had planned to go by myself, but as I was getting ready to leave town, I realized it was not a good idea for me to go by myself and my mom said she could come with me.  I was so relieved that I didn't have to make the trip on my own and my mom was a godsend.  We drove to Dayton on Wednesday  night and finished the drive to Canton early Thursday morning.  The closer I got to Canton, the more my nerves set in.  I was afraid that I wouldn't make it in time; I was afraid of how my dad would be when I got there; I was sad because I knew it was likely the last few days I had with him.  Shirley had asked me on Wednesday afternoon if my dad knew I was coming and I told her he knew.  Honestly, I told him on Wednesday because I wanted him to know I was coming so that he could hold on until I got to Ohio.

When I saw my dad Thursday morning, he didn't seem that different than when I saw him over Valentine's Day weekend, other than the fact that he was a little more jaundiced.  It was good to see him, but it was also really sad.  He wasn't himself; he was weak and in pain.  We visited a lot on Thursday and I brought him his favorite (at least lately) chicken noodle soup from Panera.  I had to talk to my dad about a few difficult things on Thursday, including his DNR and hospice care.  It was really hard, but it needed to be done.  I had planned to stay at the nursing home on Thursday night with my dad, but he gently kicked  me out so he could get rest.

On Friday, my dad's pastor came to talk to him about the DNR and hospice care and we made the decision to sign him up for hospice.  He was very tired most of the day on Friday, but he was a trooper.  My grandparents and one of my uncles were arriving that afternoon, so he was trying to stay awake and alert until they arrived.  Once dad was on hospice, they brought him the Rolls Royce of wheelchairs and a new, more comfortable (in theory) mattress.  They also requested more pain medicine for him, although I had to raise a little hell to get it for him because there was a bit of a disconnect somewhere in the process.

We went to dinner on Friday night and I went back to the nursing home to settle in for the night.  Dad tried to kick me out again, but I told him I'd like to stay if he'd let me.  I told him there was no where else I wanted to be and he said he would like me to stay.  Friday night was good on the one hand; my dad and I had some lovely bonding moments and I wouldn't trade those for the world, but it was also really hard on the other hand.  He was in so much pain and it was really hard to watch and be useless to help.  I did my best and I hope that I was able to help in some small way.  Once the pain meds finally came through, he was a bit more comfortable, but he also wasn't acting like himself.  He got a little ornery early Saturday morning with one of the nurses and I and I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't my dad talking.

Dad liked to get up during the day, especially when he had visitors (his room wasn't conducive to large groups of people) and go to the dining room to visit.  Unfortunately on Saturday, though, he wasn't able to get out of bed.  He slept most of the day and we took turns sitting with him.  Later that afternoon, the hospice nurse gave me a booklet about death and the timeline for dying.  As I was reading the booklet, I noticed that my dad had a lot of the symptoms that fell in the "hours to minutes" time frame for death.  As such, I was really reluctant to leave for dinner, but since I had been at the nursing home all night, my family encouraged me to go get a bite to eat before settling down again at the nursing home for the night.  My mom stayed with dad and I went to eat with my grandparents, uncle, Shirley, and her friend, Chuck.

When I got back to the nursing home, my dad was still sleeping and mom offered to go back to the hotel and get my glasses (by this point, I had been wearing my contacts for almost 48 hours) and a change of clothes.  As soon as she left, I noticed that my dad's breathing was very labored and I started to get a bit hysterical.  One of the sweet nurses came in and said "honey, this is going to get really hard.  Are you sure you can handle this?" to which I replied "Whether I can handle it or not, I'm not going anywhere."  I did not want my dad to be alone.  I held his hand, put my head next to his on the pillow, and talked to him for a long time.  I said a prayer, told him how much he was loved and by whom and I told him I wouldn't be who I am today without him.  At that point, he squeezed my hand a little bit and I'm not sure if it was a little twitch or not, but I feel strongly that he heard me and squeezed my hand to let me know he did.

My mom got back a little while later and saw I was upset and asked if I needed her to stay.  I said yes and about 15 minutes later, with my mom and I by his side, my dad died.  I can't really express how hard this has been.  I would not have wanted to be anywhere else than by his side, but I had a really hard time reconciling the fact that one minute he was there squeezing my hand and the next, he was gone.  I keep telling myself that he isn't in pain anymore, which is a huge blessing because he was in so much pain, but I miss him so much.  I've wanted to call him at least a dozen times since I got home and I can't.

May 2013 at the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse in NY
I've run the gamut of emotions the past week; sadness, anger, guilt, regret, you name it.  I feel gypped that my dad won't get to see the boys grow up or see me finish my half marathon, but then I think back to others who've lost parents or loved ones at a much younger age and I try to feel grateful for the 31 years I had with him.  31 years is a lot, but I want more.  I'm angry because he was 55 and too young to die and I still need him.  I'm angry that we didn't catch the cancer sooner, that my dad didn't go to the doctor (someone gave me a photo of him from Christmas and you can tell he is sick in the photo.  I have a photo of him from when we saw him last May and the difference from May to December is shocking.  He did not look well) and take care of himself.  Then I think to myself, so what if we caught the cancer 9 months earlier?  The prognosis for liver cancer is not good, so would my dad have gone through months of arduous chemotherapy or radiation treatments for the same result?  It was hard enough watching him suffer the past 2 months and I can't imagine watching him suffer longer.

I feel guilty for not realizing that he was sick, but then I remember how private my dad was.  I regret that my dad and I were not as close as we used to be.  We used to talk every Sunday and see each other more often, but we both had our own lives and we knew that we loved each other even though we didn't talk as much or see each other as much.  I mentioned to my dad that I was sad we weren't as close as we used to be and I was sorry for that, but glad that we spoke every day since he was hospitalized in January and that we saw each other twice last month.  He said it was ok and it was part of life and being a grown up.  I am grateful for the past two months of getting to talk to my dad everyday and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have been with him during his final days and when he passed.  As hard as the past few days have been, I wouldn't trade them for the world.  He knew I loved him and I know he loved me.

May 2013 Four generations of the Boyd family
We stayed in Ohio until Monday evening and I made the decision to bring my dad to St. Louis to be buried at our national cemetery.  My dad was an Air Force Veteran and a very patriotic man.  His funeral was this morning, complete with military honors and I think it is what he would've wanted.  My grandparents are buried at the same cemetery and it feels right having him here in St. Louis with Matt, the boys, and I.  We are having a celebration of his life at the end of the month (on what would have been his 56th birthday, actually) in Ohio and that feels right, too.  Canton has been his home for nearly the past 10 years and having this celebration at his church with his second family is the right thing to do.

I'm trying to cope as best as can and also keeping in mind how Matt, the boys, and my mom are grieving, too.  I find myself fluctuating between a complete loss of appetite and bursts of incredible hunger.  I find myself in moments of complete grief, where I break down and cry until the feeling passes.  I also find moments of smiles and laughter thinking back on fond memories of my daddy.  I'm trying to take care of myself as best I can, but there is so much to do and think about and so I take things hour by hour.

May 2013 - best Bebaw ever
This whole experience has taught me some very important things:

  1. Life is too damn short.  Don't take those you love for granted, don't sweat the small stuff.  Laugh a lot, love fiercely, and enjoy life. 
  2. When you are in the darkest time in your life, light shines through in the form of those that care about you.  I have been blown away and humbled by the love and support that I have received from my family and friends.  I am blessed beyond measure and I appreciate each and every one of you who has given me a hug, told me you loved me, listened to me jabber on, and offered your support and help.  I think in his final days, this really sunk in for my dad, too.  He and I talked about this on Thursday and he said he didn't realize how much people cared about him until he was sick.  
  3. As much as it sucks to think about, death does happen so it is best to have everything in order.  It's best to plan ahead instead of trying to take care of things when you are in crisis mode, believe me.  Matt and I have already said that once the dust settles in the next few weeks, we are going to sit down and work on our wills, power of attorneys, and make a binder of all of our pertinent account information, etc.  It's unpleasant to think about, for sure, but I'd rather be prepared. 
July 2010 - Nick's birthday at the zoo with Bebaw
I appreciate you reading this long post; it was very cathartic to write.  I am going to try to get out and run this weekend.  The weather is supposed to be beautiful and I haven't run in over a week.  It will do my soul some good to run and clear my head.  

I know these two little boys have a special guardian angel watching over them
In loving memory of Robert Emmett Boyd
March 22, 1958 - March 1, 2014
I love you, Daddy, and miss you so much
Rest in Peace