Team in Training: Why I run

team in training luke bryan TNT LLS leukemia lymphoma hey girl

A few weeks ago, I signed up for Team in Training.  For me, it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, but also one of the scariest.

Team in Training is an organization that works in conjunction with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in order to raise awareness and money for blood cancer research.  When you sign up to be a part of Team in Training, you agree to raise money for the LLS and participate in an event of your choice – typically a marathon, half marathon, or triathlon.  TNT provides a coach to help train you for the event.  The event I signed up for the the Disney Princess Half Marathon.

Now, if you are new to the blog, I’d like to just give you a little bit of background on myself.  I am a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor.  I was diagnosed about three years ago, and after 6 months of chemo, I have been cancer free for 2 1/2 years.  I found out about Team in Training during my treatments and have wanted to participate ever since. Why?

It’s definitely not because I like running.  In fact, there might not be anything I like less than running, except maybe laundry.  Nope, that’s not it.

Here’s the real reason I wanted to join TNT.

I have three kids.

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When I found the lump in my neck, my youngest was about three weeks old, my middle child was only two and my oldest was almost eight. Of course the younger two were too little to understand what was going on, but my daughter was scared. She didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know what to say to her. Sitting down with her, trying to find a way to explain to her what cancer is, what it can do, and that I had it was one of the hardest things I have ever done and in retrospect I probably did it all wrong.

We found out I had cancer on a Friday. My husband took me to the doctor. When we got home, he went into work, shared with his boss the situation and was immediately sent home. On Sunday, we went to church and I shared that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and I wanted prayers right away. We had only lived in Arizona about three months so I was amazed at the outpouring of emotion I saw there. People were praying for me, hugging me, crying… there was an outpouring of emotion that was not at all what I had expected. Up until this point, I hadn’t really talked with my daughter about what was happening beyond saying I was sick, but when she saw people crying and hugging me, she started to realize the severity of the situation. At this point, I knew I should have talked with her prior to sharing it with other people. Hindsight is 20/20.

You never want to tell your kids you might be dying.

I didn’t want to scare her. I never mentioned the word cancer or talked about dying, although she eventually realized that lymphoma is cancer and cancer is deadly. But I never said I wouldn’t die either. I didn’t want to lie, and that’s a real possibility when you have cancer. Ultimately, I just shared that I had something called lymphoma, and that even though I didn’t look or feel sick right now, there was a sickness in my body that I had to fight. And that fight, going through chemo, was going to make me a lot sicker before I got better. I think presenting it that way was a good way to explain it – she was prepared for me to be sick and knew that it was normal, nothing to be scared about.

You should never have to tell your kids you have cancer. 

We are in the age of information.  Technology is never far from our fingertips, and a cure for cancer is out there, we just need to find it.

Now that we are past it, I have been trying to pay it forward. In the past, my husband, the kids, and I have participated in walks to raise money for Lymphoma research and I think it really increases their awareness of how many people this affects, but I wanted to do MORE.  That’s why my personal goal is to raise around $5000 towards Lymphoma Research.  Because I don’t want YOU to have to tell your children you have cancer and feel the uncertainty that I felt.

light the night survivor lls tnt tshirt i walk

Being diagnosed with cancer is not something that just happened to us – it’s something that changed our lives – and from the other side of that journey, I can see that it was a blessing. But it’s only a blessing because of the treatments that I was able to recieve, treatments that got rid of my lymphoma, made possible by past donations to amazing orgnizations like the LLS and TNT.  It’s only a blessing because I survived.

And that’s why I run.  It’s not because I like running… it’s because I want everyone to LIVE.  I don’t want anyone to experience what I did, being afraid you might die, having to tell your kids.  I run so future generations can live.

How can you help?

1 – Donations

Of course, I appreciate your donations.  Every little bit helps – $5, $10, $100 – I am grateful for it.

But over the next 6 months, I’m going to be getting really creative as I work to raise $5000.  So in addition to making a donation, here are some other ways you can help.

2 – T-Shirts!

100% of the the profit raised from these T-shirt sales will be donated to the LLS Team in Training Program to help continue to find a cure for blood cancers!

Shirts are lavender burnout workout tees. On the back, it says “I ran and I ran and I ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened. ~ Wilma Randolph” followed by the LLS Team in Training Logo. On the front, cancer survivors will have the word “survivor” printed on the front of their shirts. Shirts for non cancer survivors will be left blank on the front.

LLS shirts tnt team in training survivor purple cancer hodgkin's lymphoma leukemia

Shirts are $18 plus $5 shipping. If you would like to order more than one shirt, please contact me directly via facebook or at mrsamy@hotmail.com so I can combine shipping for you and send you a custom invoice. Also, if you are local and would like to pick up your shirt in person, please contact me so I can waive shipping and send you a custom invoice.

You can order via this link:  https://payableform.appspot.com/forms/79y82

3 – Dollar Days

Follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/amyelizabethallen) or Instagram (@amyallenfitness) to participate in Dollar Days once a month.  Not sure what that is?  Follow me to find out.

4 – More to come, I’m sure, as I figure out new ways to raise awareness and money!

Thank you!

Amy Allen

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My first post chemo ponytail!

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#throwbackthursday

My first post chemo ponytail! How many of you can relate?  This picture is from about 9 months after my last treatment.  I’m still amazed at how fast my hair has been growing – thanks Shakeology!

The Neulasta Shot

I knew chemotherapy would be bad. I knew it would make me sick, nauseous, and tired. But I didn’t realize that the shot the next day would be worse. I had chemotherapy every other week. And the day after chemo, I went back in to get a Neulasta shot to boost my white blood cell production.

 

From what I understand, the Neulasta shot basically tells your body to start producing more white blood cells because the medicine in the chemotherapy is going to kill all the ones your already have. It’s like what happens when you get the flu – the way your bones start to hurt – times seven. I dreaded going in for the shot more than going in for chemo. Not only did the actual shot hurt (and I’m not a baby about shots, but this one was bad), but it also made my bones hurt. Bad. Like I couldn’t take a shower for several days bad because each tiny drop of water felt like a bullet hitting my bones.

 

But as much as I wanted to (and I REALLY wanted to…) I never skipped it. And I never got really sick. I was never hospitalized for low cell counts, and I was never hospitalized for extreme sickness, so for me, I have to say it was worth it. If you are on the fence about it, do it. And if you are thinking about skipping it, don’t.

Product Review: Biotene Gum

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Product Review:  Biotene

I don’t typically chew gum, but I just about invested stock in this company while going through my treatments. I don’t think my dry mouth was as severe as it could have been, but these products are amazing. I personally used the gum (almost every day), the toothpaste, and the mouthwash. I strongly recommend having them on hand to use for the dry mouth associated with chemotherapy.

Here is a link to purchase the product on Amazon. (I don’t get any kick back from this, so feel free to use it or not! It’s just here for convenience).

Product Review: Nioxin

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Product Review:  Nioxin

 

If you have read any of my story, then you probably know that I didn’t lose my hair during cancer. You can watch more about that in my YouTube video. But my hair did thin out quite a bit and so to combat that, I used a product called Nioxin. It’s just a shampoo/conditioner/scalp treatment for thinning hair, but it helped me tremendously. It thickened my hair and stimulated hair growth in the areas where it was most thin. You can get it from a beauty store like Ulta for just from Amazon. I highly recommend #6 which is specially formulated for thinning, chemically treated hair. Even if you have never had a perm or had your hair colored, go for the chemically treated one because you have so many chemicals in your body from chemotherapy.

 

Here is a link to the product on Amazon (I don’t get any kick back from this, so feel free to use it or not! It’s just here for convenience).

Overdoing it

Okay, I can’t be the only oneIMG_0498 who does this. As soon as I found out I had cancer, I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be there to raise my kids. I was scared that my two boys wouldn’t remember who I was. I was scared that someone else would help my daughter get ready for her wedding or be the one to hold my grandchildren.

So I overdid it.

If something happened to me, I wanted to make sure that I went out with a bang. I wanted to create memories that even if the boys didn’t remember, they could at least look back at the pictures and think of me. I wanted to take my daughter to her first concert, even through she was only eight because what if I wasn’t there to do it when she turned fifteen. I wanted to take my son to meet his favorite person in the world, Mickey Mouse. I wanted to dress up like The Incredibles for Halloween because we had the perfect family for it and what if I wasn’t there next year to do it with them? I wanted to create the biggest, best birthday parties my kids had ever had because what if it was the last one I had with them? I wanted to be there to see them do everything.

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And so I overdid it. Really, in just one short month, before I even started my chemotherapy, I packed it in.

I took Madison to her first concert, Taylor Swift. It was a surprise for her eighth birthday. We got makeovers and sang along at the top of our lungs.

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The whole family got in the car and drove to Disneyland so Mason could meet Mickey Mouse and have one last family vacation before starting what we expected to be a miserable six months. 

We didn’t dress up like the Incredibles that year. I ordered the costumes but the sizes didn’t match up… it just wasn’t meant to be in that time. But the costumes were bought and I let my husband know that they needed to be the Incredibles the next year if I wasn’t around. But I was. And we were.

IMG_9521 I had the BEST birthday parties ever. And I had always been a little extreme with cakes, but this year, I went over the edge. I set the standard high – I’m going to have to dial it back in over the next few years.

And do you know what positive thing came out of this? We lived. People always ask “What would you do if you knew this was your last day?” We lived like these were my last days. We created memories. And the experience taught me to appreciate life, to not take any time for granted, to not think that one day we’ll get around to it, to do it now before it’s too late. Each day is a gift. Unwrap it. And then go ahead and make the most of it.

Get in the picture!

Have you seen this article? It’s written by a photographer who wouldn’t get in front of the lens because she was ashamed of her weight. Or maybe this one? It’s a mom who realized that she was never in pictures with her kids. They didn’t like the way they looked and so they stayed out of the pictures. I think this is something that can happen so easily with cancer patients and survivors.

 

When I started to lose my hair, when it thinned out, when I got it cut so short, I stopped being in the pictures. I didn’t want to see myself that way. I can only think of one picture I have of myself when I was going through chemo. And I didn’t mean to be in it.

 

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This was at my middle son’s birthday party. He turned three in March, so I was about ¾ done with my treatment at this point. My hair was getting pretty thin and it had been quite a while since it had been colored. It wasn’t me. But you know what? He didn’t care. And from the other side of the journey, I regret it. Now there is a big period of my life, almost a year, where I stepped out of the picture. I was there, but I didn’t think I would want to remember it. But I do. And I regret not being in the picture.

Product Reviews: Shakeology

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Product Reviews:

There are so many products I use, things I’ve discovered by trial and error and I wish someone would have just told me from the gate… so this is the first post in a series of products I would recommend to someone going through cancer treatments.  These are products I used, I loved, and I depended on during my treatment.

 

Shakeology

 

Shakeology is a nutrition supplement. You can add it into a normal diet or use it as a meal replacement. In my opinion, it is the best on the market. It is 100% natural, no artificial ingredients or sweeteners, and it contains more than $40 of fruits and veggies in each glass.

It also has over 70 super foods, including many that are associated with cancer fighting or cancer prevention (check out my board on pinterest for some of the ingredients that are thought to fight or prevent cancer and what they do!!).

 

I initially ordered Shakeology to lose weight after my youngest son was born. When I found out I had cancer and started chemotherapy, I decided to keep drinking it as a nutrition supplement. There are so many days that you just don’t feel like eating and I always felt that even if I didn’t have anything else to eat that day, I would feel good knowing that I had all those fruits, veggies, vitamins, minerals and super foods already in my body.

 

As I went through chemo, I realized that Shakeology seemed to be helping me deal with the side effects typically associated with treatments. Let me give you some examples…

 

One side effect of chemotherapy is constipation. On days of my actual treatment and 2-3 days after, I didn’t drink Shakeology. I developed an aversion to everything I ate on those days. And during those 2-3 days, I could not go to the bathroom. My nurses prescribed a stool softener for me but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I soon realized that as soon as I had my shake on Day 3, I would go to the bathroom within 30 minutes. It wasn’t a fluke. It happened every time. Even my husband noticed and when I would complain about constipation, he would tell me to go drink my shake. And this makes total sense! One of the things that Shakeology does is improve your digestion and regularity.

 

Another place I noticed reduced side effects was in my hair loss. One of the ingredients in Shakeology is Maitake mushroom (more on that in another post!). It is thought by the American Cancer Society to reduce hair loss during chemo (link) and it is in Shakeology! You can read more about my hair loss journey here or watch my YouTube video here but to sum it up – I didn’t lose all my hair! Over the course of 6 months, I only lost about 1/3 and kept enough that I never had to shave my head. And the rate it has come back in has been phenomenal. I’m not going to lie. My hair has always grown fairly fast, but since starting Shakeology, it’s growing at about twice it’s normal speed – almost an inch each month. And that’s not just my opinion. I’ve brought this up numerous times and my fellow Shakeology drinkers agree – it significantly speeds hair growth and improves the health of your hair.

 

I experienced very little nausea. I was given a nausea medicine via IV prior to starting each treatment. But I was also sent home with additional nausea medicine that I never had to take. And I think Shakeology might be part of the reason for that. The Maitake Mushroom among other ingredients is thought by the American Cancer Soceity to reduce the side effects of chemo, including nausea. And guess what. Yep, that’s right, it’s in Shakeology.

 

Finally, there’s the energy factor. Shakeology fuels your body with the food you need and the difference it makes in your energy level is amazing. I felt tired for 2-3 days post treatment but once I was back on my shake, my energy shot back up. I literally had more energy during my treatments than I had had for the four years prior. And I still had a newborn baby waking up several times a night!

 

This product literally helped me so much, I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. I signed up to be a health and fitness coach through the company who produces the product so I that could continue to share it with my friends and family as well as other people who are going through cancer treatment. It’s a product that I fully believe in and have been drinking daily for a year and a half. And the way it makes me feel is so amazing, I will continue drinking it for the rest of my life.

 

*Just as a disclaimer – Drinking Shakeology did not cure my cancer. I believe that was caused by completing my treatment plan and through the power of prayer. But I do believe that Shakeology lessened the side effects of chemo because mine were significantly less than anyone else I know. I also believe that changing your diet will decrease the chance of cancer returning in the future. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am just an ordinary person, sharing my personal experience. You will have to decide what is best for your future.

 

Read more about Shakeology here!

 

Foreshadowing

I’ve noticed a trend in my life. Anytime I start to get complacent or cocky or think “that could never happen to me,” that exact thing happens to me.

 

For example, I watched Super Nanny one time – remember that show? And I remember thinking “I’m so lucky; my daughter would never act that way.” And later that day, she acted exactly that way, throwing an outrageous fit in front of my friends. Completely embarrassing.

 

Another example. I was at church one time, listening to someone asking for prayers because of a situation going on in their lives that required a lawyer. I specifically remember thinking how lucky I was that in my life I never dealt with situations like that, and that same day, I ended up needing a lawyer.

 

Seriously. This happens to me a lot. And when it happens, it’s like I need a lesson in humility.

 

A few days before my youngest son was born, my mom called me to tell me my grandfather had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We had a long conversation about what his treatment options were. I thought he shouldn’t even attempt chemo. I had seen what it does to people, especially older people, and I didn’t want to see him go through that. I thought he should just enjoy the rest of the life he had left. My mom disagreed. She thought he should have chemo and fight it, prolong life as long as he could.

 

I clearly remember thinking “I’m so glad I don’t have to make this decision.” I knew what I would do. I would fight. I had two (almost three!) kids to raise. They would need to know their mama. I didn’t want someone else to be their “mom.” But I never thought I would have to make that decision within a few months. I never expected to be going through chemo with my grandfather and comparing out war stories and our port scars. It was like a smack back to reality – don’t get too comfortable. Don’t get too cocky. Because that’s when the hard lessons have to be learned.