Running with a Brain Tumor
January 2, 2014
by Pam Morrow
Overcoming Challenges in a Truly Monumental Way
I started running in 2009 after my college roommate encouraged me to participate with her in the 5K at the inaugural Illinois Marathon in Champaign, IL. We thought it would be a lot of fun since we were University of Illinois alumni and it would go right through campus. I continued running several 5K races that year and decided to step up to the half marathon the following year. I participated in the half marathon training group organized by a local running club, Second Wind, to prepare for the race. I completed my first half marathon in April 2010 and then basically stopped running because I didn't have something to train for.
My Life Changed Forever
I was going to start training again the following spring, but instead my life changed forever on March 27, 2011 when I woke up my husband, Sam, having a seizure. It turned out I had a brain tumor. Surgery went amazingly well considering they removed a 3.5cm tumor from my brain. Some of it is still left up there so I do regular MRI screenings to look for change; however due to the severity of potential complications from treatment I have not done any chemo or radiation.
Although I wasn't training regularly I had signed up to participate in Warrior Dash in June of 2012. That date was a no-go, but my Neurosurgeon did ok me to participate in Warrior Dash Tennessee with my friend that September. So just under six months out of surgery I was climbing 12ft walls, crawling through mud and jumping over fire! When I showed my photos to my doctors at my 6 month checkup they just smiled. Not what they typically see that soon after surgery I don't think!
About a year after my surgery I started bugging my Oncologist about when/how I could get active regularly again. He cleared me to start running with the following restrictions: I had to wear a heart rate monitor, keep my HR under 160, and "ease into it". Knowing I don't "ease" into things very well I decided to join a beginner running group for women that I had helped with as a mentor when I was training for my half marathon a few years before. This time I would be on the participant side, this wasn't the typical order but I knew the group worked well to get people started running.
I joined the group and ran my first 5K post-surgery in September 2012 at the Shoreline Classic in Decatur, IL. My time was 39:43. After I finished training with the Shoreline Squad I knew I was going to need another training plan to move to or I would fall off the wagon like I did after my half marathon before. Since I knew Kelly Bails did such a great job with the Women's Beginning Running Group I decided to start working with Coach Bails Running on a personal coaching basis.
I have been training with Coach Bails for over a year now and I love training with these ladies. They keep pushing me to succeed and get faster and keep it fun all at the same time! With their help I logged a new 5K post-surgery personal record of 28:55 in October and I know with their continued help I will beat my pre-surgery PR of 27:30 next season! My heart rate is no longer a concern with my doctor. I am also very excited to announce that at this year's Indy Monumental Half I improved my time by 5 minutes to 2:20:28. I look forward to next running season to see what I can accomplish. This is all possible thanks to the help of an amazing running coach, Kelly Bails of Coach Bails Running, the support of my doctors, the love and support of an amazing husband and the grace of God!
Just after the Monumental Marathon this year I received another "clear" MRI at my two and a half year checkup. I'll go back in May 2014 and if that MRI is clear I can go to checkups will only be once a year!