This coming February, I'm running the 2013 LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon in honor of a brave young woman named Kate Voth, who I met while we were both attending St. Edward's University. Kate epitomizes what it means to live strong and be a cancer fighter, and I am honored to run each mile in honor of Kate and her fight.
After having melanoma removed from her shoulder in 2004 and removed from her scalp in 2008, Kate was diagnosed with stage four melanoma in February 2009 when melanoma was found in her liver and right adrenal gland. She was 22 years old.
Now 26, Kate continues her relentless fight against cancer. The past four years have included five more diagnoses of melanoma (left adrenal gland, heart, sacrum, back and hip), a number of resection surgeries, biopsies and countless scans. After undergoing interferon, investigational treatments and radiation, Kate began her seventh cancer treatment, an oral chemotherapy called Zelboraf, in June 2012. Recently, she discontinued that treatment, as it was unsuccessful.
Melanoma currently remains in Kate’s liver and left adrenal gland, and has recently spread to her brain. In addition, cancer in her sacrum has resulted in a fracture of the bone, forcing her to avoid any high-impact activities, including her absolute passion: running. Doctors say it’s a wildcard as to whether Kate’s sacrum fracture will ever fully heal and, as a life-long runner who aspires to participate in ultra marathons, Kate finds her inability to run the most challenging part of her cancer fight yet.
It's easy to find reasons not to get out the door and run, but we should all remember that running is a privilege. If Kate can't run this one, I, along with the rest of Team Kate, am going to run it for her.
LIVESTRONG serves people affected by cancer and empowers them to take action against this disease that is now the world's leading cause of death. LIVESTRONG has become a symbol of hope and inspiration to people affected by cancer around the world. Although the organization has gotten some negative press recently due to the Lance Armstrong doping scandal (he has stepped down from the LIVESTRONG organization because of this), make no mistake that their work is admirable and the help and support they give to families and victims is outstanding.
The money I raise will go to support programs and services, which inspire and empower people affected by cancer, and all funds raised by myself and the rest of Team Kate go directly to LIVESTRONG on behalf of Kate Voth. If you or someone you know is diagnosed, these resources will help you face the challenges of cancer, head on, and live life on your own terms. LIVESTRONG.org/GetHelp
If you or someone you know would like to support the LIVESTRONG foundation in honor of Kate, please pass along my fundraising link below, and above all, cheer for me and the rest of Team Kate on February 17, 2013 as we run that race for our friend.
Posted on 1/18/2013 by BAMFMeredith
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed..
'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.
The sand is everything else---the small stuff.
'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Spend time with your children.
Spend time with your parents.
Visit with grandparents.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your spouse out to dinner.
Play another 18.
There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.
Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter.
Set your priorities.
The rest is just sand.
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented.
The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'
The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend.
Merry Christmas, y'all
Posted on 12/21/2012 by BAMFMeredith
I told myself that this morning. I looked at myself in the mirror and literally said "GET OVER YOURSELF." I needed that.
I've been having basically what I can only refer to as a month long pity party for myself and even I'm annoyed with it. Things have been very stressful in my life lately, when it comes to finances and unexpected set backs, as well as with some problems my son is having in school/behavior wise. I will be the first to admit that I am not very good at handling stress. That is a major fault of mine and I really need to get better at it. When I am stressed (and I mean more than just every day stresses that we all have) I don't treat myself well. I eat very badly and way too much, and I don't have the drive to exercise. Instead of talking about what's weighing on me, or doing things to alleviate the stress, I go into a dark, food-filled place. I keep it a secret from those I love because I feel like I'm burdening them with my problems. NONE of this is a healthy way to deal with stress and anxiety. I'm well aware of it. And I really, honestly thought that after years of therapy and being in a healthy, loving relationship, and being generally okay for a long time that I was done with that. That I was "fixed." Like I couldn't go back to that place again. I was wrong.
Feeling this way is one of the reasons I let my weight get out of control (ok, out of control for me). At my heaviest (non-pregnant) weight I was 170lbs. On a small, 5'3" frame, that is a lot of weight. I'm fortunate that my body is extremely proportionate, so it wasn't as noticeable that I'd gotten so heavy, but I had. I was wearing a size 14 and I was on the verge of hating myself when I had a come to Jesus moment, much like I'm having now. Last January I looked in the mirror and said "GET OVER YOURSELF" and made a change. And now I'm doing it again.
I haven't weight myself in about 3 weeks, and I don't plan to for at least another week or two. I'm sure I've gained a few pounds back, although my clothes still fit, so that's a good sign. I can tell I don't have the same muscle definition I did a month ago though. The only thing that's really saved me has been the distance challenge I'm registered for with a few girlfriends, requiring me to run certain races, including a 10 miler the weekend before last. Thank God for that, otherwise, my running shoes would still be in my closet, untouched.
Today, I am going running after work. After I cook dinner for my family, I will go running on the treadmill in our apartment gym. I will run at least 3 miles. Not much, but it's something. I want you guys to hold me to that, too. I'm going to go to bed early and get up at 5:30 to lift weights tomorrow, too. I will get used to getting up early again and hitting the gym before the day starts. I will resume my yoga practice as well. I will do these things. I owe it to myself, to my family, and to y'all. If I make my mind and body well, then I can see more clearly to fix the problems I am dealing with personally.
Truthfully, problems are not that bad. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes on my back, and a wonderful family. I have a good job, and although I don't make great money now, I have a future with my company and the potential to really be financially successful in and industry that I love. My boyfriend has a good job with the same kind of potential. My son, although he is struggling right now, is healthy, happy, full of life, and things will get better for him because he has so many people who love him and want to help him be successful. So, right now I'm committing to get over myself, and make a positive change.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
(It's cool if you're not a Bible-reader or Christian, but for me, personally, that verse really speaks to me and encourages me.)
Posted on 11/07/2012 by BAMFMeredith
When I was 16 I got to go on a drama nerd's dream trip: a week in NYC with my high school theatre club! We got to see 7 Broadway shows and 2 off-Broadway shows in one week, plus tours of Radio City Music Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Museum of Natural History, the entire theatre district, Empire State Building, a ferry boat tour that took us to Ellis Island, and of course: the World Trade Center.
We had picnics in Central Park, running around Manhattan like kids in a candy shop armed with an old school Nokia cell phone and a metro card. In retrospect, it was probably REALLY irresponsible to let us run wild in this big city like that, without a chaperone, but we had the time of our lives and we stayed close to the theatre district anyway. One of the days there, we went to the World Trade Center. This was June, 2001. We got there and immediately couldn't believe just how tall the buildings were. It seemed impossible that they could stand up right! We were lucky that it wasn't windy that day, because that meant we got to go to the observation deck on the top.
We took one elevator about half way up, then had to get off and get on another elevator, then once we got to the top of that one, there was another 2 escalators we had to take to the top. I'll never forget the nice, old man at the top of the escalators. I think perhaps he had some sort of mental handicap, and his whole job was just to smile and greet people coming to the observation deck at the WTC. He was so kind and had the brightest smile. When we went to that top floor, we were then allowed to go outside where the telescopes were and take a look at the city from a bird's eye view---no, seriously, you could *barely* make out the Statue of Liberty from way up there! It was amazing how high up we were.
We finally left, as we had a matinee of "Rent" to make it to that afternoon, took some pictures before heading off to our next destination, and never thought in a million years that one day those towers would be gone.
3 months later, I'm waiting for the bell to ring for school. My senior year of high school, and I had choir first period. A friend of my boyfriend's came in saying "Oh my God, guys, a plane just ran into the World Trade Center!" It didn't even cross our minds what was really happening, we just thought, at that point, it was an accident. We watched in horror on the TVs in the classroom connected to our choir room as we began to realize, this was no accident. And the second plane hit. Then news of a plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania, and one hitting the Pentagon. No, this was no accident.
Ms. McQuiston's 2nd period AP English 4 class. My friend Jack, who had been to NYC with me months before, and I sat next to each other watching the TV silently. That's all anyone did in classes that day. Watch the news. You could see bodies flying through the air, as people jumped to their deaths before the towers collapsed. We had just been there. Same time of day. Did that sweet elderly man at the top of the escalators go to work that day? What about the girl at the show ticket counter there toward the top of the WTC? Or the cute little Asian ladies who ran the gift shop on the observation deck? As briefly as I encountered any of those people, I will never forget their faces. And of all the pictures I took on that trip (I used up at least 4 disposable cameras!), this is the only one that I've managed to hang on to. I'll never forget the day I took that picture, and the day those towers disappeared.
Posted on 9/11/2012 by BAMFMeredith
Most days I wake up, this 30 lb skinner me, and I feel good. I appreciate the way that I look. I admire my newly discovered definition in my legs, my stomach that's flatter than before, and my waist that looks much smaller than it used to. Most days I like the way I look, and I see that my hard work, so far, as paid off. I feel attractive when I get dressed. I feel fit, strong, and healthy. I choose an outfit easily, because I like the way clothes look on me now, and I'm not just "dressing to hide my flaws" anymore.
Most days, I am happy with my appearance and motivated to see even more results. Most days, I am glad when I get a message from a stranger on MFP telling me how inspiring I am, or from a friend telling me how amazing my transformation has been. Most days, I believe it when my sweet boyfriend tells me I'm beautiful, because I feel beautiful. Most days, I feel validated and proud, and glad that I inspire others.
But then...there are days like today. Where I wake up, and feel every bit as heavy as I did 30 lbs ago. Where I feel like I look fat in everything I try on. Where I look in the mirror and I don't see muscle definition, or a slim waist...I see saddle bags on my thighs, and a jiggle in my stomach. I see arms that will never look thin enough in a sleeveless top. I see legs that will never look good in shorts. I see fat. I see a girl that still needs to lose at least 30 lbs. I don't like what I see. I am not proud of anything. I don't feel like I've accomplished anything.
I know in my mind what I have acheived. I know that I have lost 30 lbs, because I used to weigh 170, and now the scales says 140. I know that I have lost inches, because the tag in my jeans used to say 14 and now it says 8. I know that my breasts have gone from an uncomfortable size to a more manageable size because I used to fill out a 36DD bra, and now it is too big, and a 36D bra fits perfectly. I know these things. I am told I look great, I am told I'm inspirational, motivational, a role model. I know all of these things. But today, I can't help but look in the mirror, and not see any of it.
I'm sure there are women (and men) who will say "I've had to lose so much more weight, you don't even know what it means to be fat." I've heard it a million times, on this site, actually. You don't see what I see when I look in the mirror. Today, I don't see what everyone else does. Today, I see fat.
When does that change? Does it ever go away? Will I ever stop having days like today? Where, although my pants are loose, and my top, which was once tight on me, is now loose and flowy as it's supposed to be, I still feel like I weigh 170 lbs? Or like I weigh 140 lbs, but that's still far too much for a girl who's 5 foot 3? I don't feel strong, or thin, or attractive, or even super healthy really. No, today, I feel fat. Like I have been working at this for 8 months now and still have at least that long to go.
To be clear, I don't want to be showered with compliments. That's not what this is about. I know the facts. In my mind, logically, I know what I have accomplished. But when I look in the mirror...well, today anyway....I just see fat. Body dysmorphia is a bitch. Has anyone beat that bitch down? Because I'm ready to fight.
Posted on 8/27/2012 by BAMFMeredith
Well any crap mood I was in yesterday has been completely washed away. I could not be more proud of and impressed by my sweet 5 year old, Jett, than I am right now.
This morning when I dropped him off at school, his teacher told me the sweetest thing about him. There is a boy in his class who likes to wear lip gloss, plays with the dolls and play kitchen, and likes to sit with the girls in the class. The other day, this little boy was sitting in their "dress up" area with a girl from the class and he began to put on makeup. Eyeshadow, blush, etc. The little girl began to tease him and tell him that "only girls wear makeup" and things of that nature. It has to be hard for a 5 year old boy to understand why he's different.
At that moment, Jett went over to them, put his hand on the boy's shoulder and said "Well sometimes boys feel like girls in their hearts, and that's okay." His teacher, a member of the GLBT community herself, commended Jett and said "That was very kind of you! Where did you learn that?" And Jett's response was, "My mommy taught me that."
I thought "when did I teach him that??" and then I remembered. We were watching Glee a couple months back, and in the episode the character "Unique" was introduced. For those not familiar with the show, this is the female stage alter-ego of a young man on the show. As Unique began to perform Jett asked me "Why is that boy wearing girl clothes and singing a girl song?" And in the simplest terms I could come up with I explained to him the "some boys feel like girls in their hearts and some girls feel like boys in their hearts" thing. It was a really brief conversation, and he never asked about it again.
I'm just so impressed and in awe that a 5 year old child could take that simple explanation and apply it to the situation like in his class. He gets it. He gets that everyone is different and it's ok. He gets that we should be kind and have compassion for others who are different. I wish more grown adults could get it as much as he does.
We all have those days as parents where we think "did I do my job today?" or "I hope I taught them the right things" but today...today, I know that I did my job. And I'm just so proud.
Posted on 7/03/2012 by BAMFMeredith
Although my progress has been a lot slower than many of the other people I've seen on MFP, this is the product of 6 months of hard work...let's see how much ass I kick in the next 6 months :)
Posted on 6/29/2012 by BAMFMeredith
BAM! Haven't been able to wear these lil Abercrombie denim shorts in YEARS but finally they fit! I wore em to happy hour last night, and I felt HOT! Just wanted to brag on myself a little and show off my progress :)
Posted on 6/22/2012 by BAMFMeredith
Father's Day is coming up this Sunday and this is my second father-less one. My dad's birthday was May 12th, so this past month has been...long. Not as hard as last year, but just has had me thinking a lot.
How does my Dad being deceased have anything to do with me being on MFP? Well, friends, I thought I'd share how I got here. How I let myself go. And how I'm becoming a better person every single day, thanks to you guys.
I never had a weight problem really for most of my life. I was always very petitie and didn't really think about working out or eating healthy. My mom has always been into health and fitness, so I guess I always ate pretty well growing up due to her being in charge of the groceries. I played volleyball in middle school, because all the girls in our class did (went to a small private school). Then I was involved in musical theater for a large part of my life, which required quite a bit of dance training, so I got exercise there. Went to college on a musical theater scholarship, so I kept dancing and not worrying about what I ate. I was never bigger than a size 4 until I got pregnant when I was 21.
I lived a really, really normal life growing up. My parents were married, my dad owned his own business and my mom was in education, we lived in a decent neighborhood, and were your really typical all-American middle class family. Then, when I was 17, my dad had a stroke, and was hospitalized. That is when my parents learned that he had AIDS. Not HIV...AIDS. They didn't tell me or my sister for 2 years.
How he contracted it, I will probably never know. All I do know is that my mother did not have HIV (she was tested every 6 months for about 5 years after finding out just to be sure), neither did anyone in my family. In a way, that stroke was the best thing that ever happened to him...we'd have never known otherwise, as he wasn't one to go to the doctor unless he was forced to. He was always so healthy and fit, it was almost unbearable to see him in a hospital bed.
For 2 years, all I knew was my dad had a stroke and now had to take medication for it and take it easy. During those 2 years, my mother revealed a lot to me about their marriage, how miserable she had been, how controlling he was to her, and how badly she wanted to leave but felt like she couldn't. Then one day, my parents had me come over and sat me and my sister down to tell us they were getting divorced because my mom had an affair. I hated her for months. I hated the man she left my dad for even more, although it wasn't his fault. (Note: my mother is now married to him, and I have forgiven her, and she is my best friend. Just because people do horrible things doesn't make them horrible people). Shortly thereafter, my dad told us that he had AIDS, and that since my mother was leaving, it was important that we know everything.
I went from this happy go lucky college student that had everything going for her, to deeply depressed and worried about everything. My dad's health, my sister (who was 13 at the time), everything. I fell into a lot of drinking and partying to deal with it all. Which is how I met my son's dad. Without getting into too much detail, he was a manipulative piece of shit who made me alienate myself from my friends and screwed with my already messed up head in a major way. I became pregnant at 21...and gained 70 lbs.
I was eating my feelings. It was easy, I could blame it on baby weight, but truthfully, I was hurting so much and so sad and I felt like the only thing that was there for me was food. So I ate whatever I wanted, wasn't exercising at all since I'd given up musical theater, and I hated my life. After my son was born I hopped on the yo-yo diet bandwagon, lose 10 lbs here, gain 10 lbs there...I just didn't care anymore. I'd even go as far as to say I wasn't a very good mother for the first couple years of my son's life, because I was so depressed.
I finally worked up the nerves to leave my son's dad. I don't know what did it, I don't know what light went off in my head, but I just did it. I found a job, and I just did it. That's when I ran into my now boyfriend, Jason. We've known each other since high school, but we happened to run into each other one night when I was newly single, and it just clicked. I was really beginning to feel like myself again. Then, my dad was hospitalized for pneumonia on Christmas Eve, 2008.
He pulled through, and came home January 3rd, 2009. All was well, I thought. Until he sat me down and gave me a serious reality check. He had revised his will and his life insurancy policy, and listed me as the beneficiary. He gave me all of his banking information, all the info for the savings account he'd set up for my son, everything. I was in charge if anything happened. Because it was a reality, that something could happen at any moment.
While I was able to continue building my life and relationship with Jason, the constant stress of "is my dad okay today?" hung over me like a dark cloud. I think my dad worried about me a lot and just wanted me to be successful. I finally got my dream job, where I am now, in September of 2010. He was so proud of me. He helped me set up my 401k, advised me on a benefits package, everything. He was just so proud that I'd finally made it. I took Jett (my son) trick or treating in his neighborhood and helped him hand out candy to the kids that Halloween. Then I stopped by for a visit about a week and a half later, and could tell he wasn't feeling well. He had a doctor's appointement the next day, so I told him to call me if he wanted me to take him. That would be the last time I'd see my dad. He didn't call me.
November 15, 2010. I'm sitting in an extremely important meeting with several of the top beer distributors in Texas. My phone will not stop ringing (it's on silent of course) with an unknown number calling me. As soon as my meeting is out I rush to my office to listen to the voicemail. It's an officer with the Austin Police Department asking me to call her as soon as possible. I call her back and she keeps asking where I am because she needs to speak to me in person. Not wanting a cop to show up for me at my new job, I refuse to let her and basically force her tell me what's going on over the phone. She says "Meredith...is Michael _____ your father?" I said "Yes...why??" a long pause and then "Meredith...I wish I didn't have to tell you this over the phone, but he's been found in his home...I'm sorry, he's passed away."
I don't even know what happened next. I don't even remember getting from my office to his house. All I know is at some point Jason picked me up from work and took me there. I had to call and tell my sister, my mom, my aunt...I had to tell the same story over and over again that day, that week. I had to plan a funeral, I had to file his life insurance policy, I had to do all these things that my dad had told me exactly how and what to do, but somehow it was like taking a test I never even opened the book for. I had to explain to Jett why we couldn't go to Pop Pop's house anymore. That was probably the hardest of all.
I climbed back into depression. Food was comforting again. And I almost stopped caring about myself altogether. That's when Jason made me get help. I will thank him for that for the rest of my life.
I went to counseling for over a year. I finally learned how to grieve properly, how to not let it consume me, and how to love myself again. Then I realized I'd let myself go in the process of everything. I don't know what exactly happened, or at what moment everything changed, but around Christmas/New Years this past year it was like I suddenly realized I have so much to offer and so much going for me, and I owed it to myself to be good to my body. I had to heal from the inside before I could even think about the outside.
Then I heard about MFP. And then I started making friends on here. And it was like the spark had been lit, and I found myself again. You guys have been so important in all of this. Knowing that I'm not alone, that you guys are working hard to change your lives too, it makes me feel powerful, unstoppable...because I'm not alone. Jason is a wonderful boyfriend and an incredible person, but he's never taken his emotions out on his body like I have, he doesn't understand the triumph we feel over choosing grilled chicken and veggies over a cheeseburger. So I want to thank you guys for being such an important part of my healing process.
While the scars are still there, the wounds are closed now, and I can finally say that I don't hurt anymore, and that I am truly, deeply, happy. Happy Father's Day, Dad, I love you and I'm sure you're enjoying a nice single malt scotch up there in heaven. Also, tell Meem (my grandmother) to quit bitching, she's in heaven, she has no reason to nag people anymore.
Posted on 6/13/2012 by BAMFMeredith
Posting for a side by side...again...since I am technologically challenged and didn't do it right the first time...
Photo 1: Size 10 skinny jeans from Express, no stretch, straight out the dryer, March 9, 2012.
Photo 2: Same size 10 skinny jeans from Express, no stretch, straight out the dryer, May 11, 2012.
Posted on 5/11/2012 by BAMFMeredith
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