Thank you

Sissy painting a craft at the Hospitality Apartments that she would later give to my son. A few days later, she lost the use of her fingers due to neuropathy.

Sissy painting a craft at the Hospitality Apartments that she would later give to my son. A few days later, she lost the use of her fingers due to neuropathy.

It was September 3, 2011, when I had the “talk” with Sissy in her hospital room at MD Anderson. My brother had passed away April 11, just five months before, and my mother was a few floors down having Gamma ray surgery for tumors in her brain. Sissy’s neuropathy in her fingers had limited her hand functions so I was her hands that day feeding her tacos. (She didn’t like the hospital food and demanded breakfast tacos from the corner store)

“You should take up running” she said.

She saw my health deteriorating and I was the only one who didn’t have cancer and had absolutely no excuse to be as unhealthy as I was. She knew I would have to deal with the stress of losing three of my family members in a very short period of time. And it didn’t look like I was on my way towards handling it very well. For that, she worried.

A few weeks after she passed away, I started running.

She was right.

Running, combined with all the other great positive factors of my life, became the perfect therapy that was necessary to not go down the depression rabbit hole that consumes so many.

After a year of running marathons, I took up the sport of triathlon. The world of marathons and triathlons both became lifesaving tools for my physical and mental health. But even more important, let me be clear about WHY I DID THIS: 

Sissy wanted me to do this so that I could save myself. I agreed to do this so that I could help save others. The reality of it is that both occurred and continue to do so.

When I ran, I struggled tremendously. I was the heaviest I had been in my life (aside from being pregnant with my first born) and I was never an athlete in high school or college. Running with the extra weight on my body was really really difficult. It was a constant self defeating battle when I felt myself jiggle up and down and every which way and I wondered if everyone around me could see my boobs, belly and back fat try to do the macarena. I wondered if the world could hear me heaving up the trail gasping for breath. Could they hear the water slosh around in my stomach? Am I chaffing? My thighs would NOT let go of each other!!! My shorts would crumple up between my legs and it was sooooo embarrassing!!!

After a while, the vanity diminished. Every photograph of me had been posted for public scrutiny on social media. My sports bra had smushed my boobs into flat blobby pancakes that looked like they were trying to greet my belly button with a big bear hug. My lonja and cellulite made every effort to let the world know it was there all around me. And trust me… the community I live in is still small enough for everything to come back around to me. I won’t lie. All the hazing hurt and knowing who it came from hurt even more. But rather than focus on what I looked like or who was saying what, I focused on my accomplishment. THE FINISH LINE!!! THE MONEY I RAISED!!! THE AWARENESS I BROUGHT!!!

The life I may have helped save. 🙂

The level of local cancer awareness skyrocketed over the last few years. I would love to think my actions were a part of it. As a result, I think that this was the first part of the promise that was fulfilled. Awareness, prevention, detection and fundraising conversations were buzzing all around me. I was invited to attend this function and that fundraiser and begged to promote this organization and that event… and I did all that I could to attend and promote each and every one. It’s impossible to measure the level of success or how big of an impact these strides were. In my heart, this is what I am most proud of… especially when I was in Washington DC for LLS. If I could, I would love to do this full time for the rest of my life.

So when someone snickered about how I should be so much skinnier and so much faster with all the marathons that I did, I smiled and turned the other cheek.  Of course it hurt. That was their intention. But I realized that it was also their problem. My intention was different.

After an injury in my last marathon, I took up triathlon and learned how to swim and ride a bike. I also learned to look even more ridiculous than a middle aged chubby marathoner. Here’s a term that gives shivers down the spine of other women like me: TRI SUIT

ya… it’s like a horror story in seven letters.

Can it get worse? Absolutely! Try THIS term:  WET SUIT!!!

So why did I continue? Because, honestly, that was just about it for all the bad stuff. My cause was much bigger than the vanity of the above mentioned horrors.

Running 26.2 miles was physically one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Why? Because it was painful on my legs? No. Because I was forced to deal with the doubt in my head for 5 hours. I learned more about myself in the last four miles than I did my whole life.

The woman who starts the race is NOT the same woman who finishes the race.

The woman who starts the race is NOT the same woman who finishes the race.

Cycling 108 miles up the mountains of Nevada was the most thrilling and sobering experience of my life. Climbing up that mountain on two wheels in the blistering desert heat in the dead of summer was physically taxing but the three sisters… wow… what a rush!!!

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And the biggest lesson I learned was in failure.. not being able to swim CapTexTri. It is through failure that you learn the most. I do think that my ego got involved and I should have dropped out of the race because of my health (I really did know better) so that this wouldn’t have happened. I became wrapped up in other people’s goals and lost sight of why I was doing what I was doing. I am grateful now for the feeling of defeat I experienced. It will make my triumph much sweeter at my next tri. For me.

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This may not be something that others experience but I am grateful I did. I had a spiritual awakening from within me while doing all of this. I connected to a silent and vital part of me that impacted my emotional well being.

Once you conquer the fear, see past the vanity, tame the ego and allow yourself the opportunity to experience genuine happiness at the same time helping someone else without expectation of that person doing anything in return for you or even knowing who you are… that right there is living life to it’s fullestat least it is for me.

The above was all about the cause (cancer) and the physical sports (marathon and triathlon). But let’s be honest… most everyone out here is still most interested in WEIGHT LOSS and “thinspiration”…. you know.. looking like a Victoria Secret Angel. How much weight can I lose? What’s the secret to losing weight overnight?

There is no secret. It is consistent hard work with an awesome playlist and great friends by your side.

ME Before and After

ME
Before and After

So it’s pictures like THIS that garner more attention than anything else. I understand. Believe me I do. I was never obese when I was young nor was I an athletic jock. I was a regular kid that, because of the times, was out the door at sunrise and was expected to be home at the dinner table at 5:30pm every day. I walked the senderos at the ranch, played on the beach, rode around for hours on my “Miss Daisy” banana seat bike around our hood, I was in ballet and girl scouts and in high school I joined the dance team… I did stuff. I was active. And that kept me healthy enough to be …. average.

My family didn’t have a lot of money and never really went to lavish vacations or gave each other grand gifts. We celebrated each other and holidays with feasts of food. Over time, I guess it made an impact on my mental state and I associated food with happiness and family.

So when I learned that my baby brother was depressed and miles away from me, my mother was battling cancer and miles away from me getting treatment and Sissy was with her doing the same thing, and I was having terrible issues with a woman at work and my husband was either working over time or was in another State for work… Worried, sad and lonely, I turned to food to fill the void of happiness with family.

I gained an incredible amount of weight. I hid from society and feared it’s rejection. I promise you, you’ve never seen more elastic waistbands in your life than what was in my closet. It was velour yoga track suit heaven that never saw the inside of a gym.

All this changed quickly while on my quest to fulfill Sissy’s promise. I didn’t lose 45 pounds over night but in three months of consecutive walk/jog workouts, a visible difference was blatantly obvious. And not just in the way my clothes fit. The smile came back on my face as well. My attitude became more positive. Everything about me was… nicer. My confidence in myself was restored. But caution: there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. And unless you conquer the demons that control your desire to look a certain way, be a certain size, weigh a certain number… and you achieve it… what then? When you step back and take a look at what unhealed insecurities, greed and jealousy do to a mind, you see poison. Be careful of the wolf that you feed. We all have both within us.

One year and a half after running and triathlon training allowed me to mix things up in my workouts. My body got used to doing the same thing over and over again and began to plateau easily. I got used to the incredible shrinking Myssie and the compliments that came with it. Intensifying the workout by increasing speed or distance was a quick fix for that plateau.. but it also took the fun out of all that I was doing and began to feed the green monster of competition that lives inside me and those I was close to at the time. My green monster is a powerful creature. It took my focus away from my goal, away from my promise… and for this, I am so very very sorry Sissy.

This is not what she wanted for me.

Certainly, this was not what Momma wanted for me either.

I came to a time in my life where I was able to see all my mistakes, all that I could have been, all that I could be.. and the cost associated with each. I am now at a very sobering moment where I can accept that I cannot change my past but I can still mold my future and the future of my priorities.

I watched a movie recently about a man who was able to travel back in time. He used that gift not to make him rich but to go back and spend more time with his dad who died of cancer. Even though in present time, his father had passed away, he could go back and ask him for guidance and advice or just play a game of ping pong or walk the beach with him.

So there I was, laying down sprawled across the couch with “About Time” playing on the big screen TV above me, blubbering like a fool as memories raced across my head trying desperately to figure out which point to go back to. Would it be the time we were coloring Easter eggs around the kitchen table? Would it be hearing her sing “The Girl from Ipanema” while Daddy played the song on the piano? Would it be the time when she was driving me home at midnight from Fiesta’s night parade in San Antonio and we were talking, laughing and singing all the way home until I threw up because of all the lollipops I ate that day? Would it be the afternoon of my wedding day, getting dressed in her bedroom? Would it be making s’mores with the girl scouts while camping at Bentsen Park? Or just cuddling up with her on the bed while she read her book night after night? Would it be the time we went to watch Eric Clapton in concert and she reached over to hold my hand when he sang this song?

And whatever moment I chose to go back to, what would she have advised me to do when asking her about how to deal with those people who were always so mean, vindictive, jealous, etc? Am I a good mom? Am I giving people good advice? Is what I’m doing making the difference I intended? Do I keep the job I love or take the one that pays more? I’m worried about Dad. What can I do? How do I know if I’m doing the right thing?

“Oh baby, all I can tell you is that when I had those questions and my mother wasn’t there anymore, I prayed and gave it to God” she said.

I’m really trying.
I’m really trying.
Get down low.
Total defeat.
I’m tired.
Thanks, Dad.
So I’m almost
up-to-date with my story.
As all families do,
we got used to life after death.
And it was still fine.
And things settled back into their
traditional rhythms season after season,
and are much as they have always been.
And we’ve got used to
Kit Kat being happy again.
And then we got used to her being a mum.
Albeit not a very good or even safe one.
And in the end,
I think I’ve learned the final
lesson from my travels in time.
And I’ve even gone one step
further than my father did.
Okay, I’ll do the kids.
No, don’t worry. I’ll do them.
Yeah, you do them, you lazy bum.
The truth is, I now don’t
travel back at all.
Not even for the day.
I just try to live every day as if
I’ve deliberately come back to this one day
to enjoy it as if it was the full final day
of my extraordinary, ordinary life.
Hello, you’re down already. That’s great.
Thank you so much for that.
And in we go.
Posy? Posy!
That’s fine.
We’re all travelling through time together
every day of our lives.
All we can do is do our best
to relish this remarkable ride.
Yes, yes, yes…
Okay, I’ll see you then.
Bye-bye.
See you later. (quoted from the script of About Time – 2013)

Thank you Momma and Sissy.

Thank you Donny via Foo Fighters. Thank you Xavie for more reasons than you’ll ever know. Thank you to my sons for cheering me on and teaching me to swim and joining me in so many local 5ks. Thank you sponsors, your funds went to help someone struggling to make a co-payment, get gas money to drive to MD Anderson, catch a flight for emergency treatment, hide a bald spot and best of all, give hope. Thank you to my team members, fellow athletes and all my coaches for the time pounding the pavement, donated gear, words of advice and free tire changing services. I am forever grateful.

Thank you.

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