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Stay Tuned…

Over the Edge

Even when you’re ready, letting go can be harder than you expected. 

About two months ago (Feb 9), I was approached about a fundraising project for the Cancer Association of Spartanburg. I was asked if I would raise $1,000 and then rappel from the top of a 10 story building. The Fit, Challenge Accepting, LOVER of the limelight girl in me literally JUMPED at the chance to sign up. I signed up immediately, made my initial donation to get it started and then…. thought — I’ve never raised that much money in my life — what was I thinking? (yes, the second thought came from fear of not being able to raise the money — not at all the actual repelling down the building — go figure).

During this time, my mom who was diagnosed with lung cancer in September of 2016 had just taken a turn for the worse earlier this year and when the suggestion came through to join this project, I had just gotten home from a long day in Gaffney with mom. That was day 47 of mom’s final battle. The battle ended at day 72.

I posted on social media and emailed a few close family and friends and then the project left my first priority for a few weeks… there were a few things taken precedence as mom’s condition worsened. But then, there was a day where it entered my mind again. I don’t remember what mom said or what our conversation was — shocking, I know. But I left her side one Saturday morning and drove to train a client at her house. I did a facebook live video and brought the BIG ASK (as I now am very familiar with since starting work with a local non profit). My goal was to raise those funds by the end of the day that day. I had them raised by the end of that 30 minute training session. My poor client had to workout to interrupted music because of all the notifications going off. (I apologized but refused to turn them off — she understood).

Telling mom:

Katie – “So, mom, I’m going to jump off a building in your honor!”

Mom – “UM, please don’t.”

Katie – “Mom! It’s totally safe — c’mon it’ll be fun. It’s in honor of your fight against cancer and the funds go to help others like you.”

Mom – “You know this won’t cure me.”

Katie – “Yes, mom of course I know”

Mom – “Ok, have fun – be safe – I’ll watch — maybe from heaven.”

Katie – “Thanks, mom!”

Peak Week –

Peak week is a term I use often in preparing for figure competitions. It’s the week before the big event and it’s when everything falls into place perfectly (or so is the plan). The week leading to the big jump (more on this later), I receive an email congratulating me on making the goal and that my scheduled time would be coming soon.

Now – everyone who knows me knows I’m a girl who never has just ONE thing to do on any given day. Same is true of this week — this day — this event. I immediately write the coordinator back and beg for the first or at least an EARLY spot. Because… I’m catching a plane that same day… and would like to not have to catch it on the way down, if you know what I mean… I’m sure American Airlines may frown on my attempt to perform some kind of Mission Impossible feat to swing from my rope to the wing and then find a way inside the plane. Im up for the challenge, but I’m sure there’s some regulation against that.

I was given a 10:20 time slot and then had booked my flight for the latest possible time out that day — 3:57 — Day one of “things coming together perfectly”  is a success.

The week got a little more crowded as I started a new job that same week. I had a social event during the week for the new job and then also attended a social gathering on Thursday night before the big jump (remember, we’ll hit that statement again soon). Truth be told, these events had nothing to do with the stress of packing that ensued later — I was headed to Kansas City — it was going to BE COLD and quite honestly, I was not looking forward to the clothes I had to pack and just kept putting it off.

T MINUS 24 hours

Thursday began at 4:00 am. Why? Because this girl is trying to be in prep for a competition and that requires fasted cardio BEFORE the day begins. and it’s on the OTHER side of town… These sound like excuses or complaints – nope, just makes life a little harder. My head hit the pillow at midnight that night.

Big DAY – the Big JUMP…

Good morning world! Oh it’s 5:00 am… why is there beeping going on at 5:00 am?? Fasted cardio remember? yea. So I bargain with the alarm for a few more hours… do some shuffling in my head about what I can pack, what I need etc. I find the gym at 6:30 for fasted cardio and I go longer knowing I’ll probably only get in one session today. Then I meet my trainer at 8:00 for back and biceps day… yea, I’m aware I’m going to have to hold a rope, blah blah, it’ll be fine. I do a quick makeup and hair check (yes, slightly vain and yes, they put a helmet on top of that perfectly fixed hair… no big deal) and head down the street to the AC Hotel for registration.

Play by Play:

I arrive and start my IG story of the journey to check in and registration and such. Registration is on the second floor. Good morning, please sign your life away here and sign it twice. There are waivers with phrases like, “Inherently dangerous, loss of life, at will, choosing to go, liability waived, etc”. Initial all the boxes and sign. Check.

“Now, I’ll take your phone and your keys.” Well dang it — my “fans” will simply have to wait for the after pics and not follow the journey. I knew in advance the phone had to stay put but was was hoping to hang on to it a little longer.

I walk in the staging room for my harness. I meet briefly with a guy dressed in army fatigue who will “assess me” — he looks me over, asked,

“Do you have pockets in your clothing?”

“No.”

“You’re good to go, have fun.”

Harness me, baby!

Ok, this harness is like full on gear. I was expecting just a saddle harness around my legs — nope — FULL body. Safety first, ya know. I step into the harness and she says now give it a good tug to tighten it. Nope — doesn’t tighten.

“We may need the smaller one.”

“Great — say that a little louder.”

laughs, but does say to her buddy, “We need the smallest harness you got.”

From there we move on to helmets and gloves. I was surprised to find out my good friends had pushed me so far “over the edge” in fundraising that I was given a GO PRO helmet to video the wonderful experience for all family and friends who gave.

They hang all the necessary clips and equipment from our hooks and we are then escorted up the elevator to LEVEL 10. It’s a gorgeous day but a little chilly — breezy.

Instructions on How Not to Die

We are met with a guy who is now going to explain the ropes. It’s a simple explanation that basically says — you’d have to do something REALLY wrong in order to be injured during this process. He explains the automatic break and the two ropes and how to go and how to get stuck and if you get stuck, how to get un stuck. I go first on the “try it” round and I pass, so they send me on my way to the steps.

The walk is an interesting one (and not only because I’m walking with a very snugly fit harness slightly violating me in the crotch area). It’s interesting because it feels slow… like slow motion almost. There are plenty of volunteers and staff standing around watching the journey… and none are saying anything. I finally ask — are ya’ll ready for me? Sure we are — come on over.

I get to these really cool purple steps and a nice gentleman hooks a green cord to me and sends me up the steps. I’m confused because I’ve rappelled before and I can’t think of what this cord would be for…

There’s also a guy (at this point, I’m wishing I had asked his name… all of their names — rather than calling them guy one and two — but yea, I was looking down 10 stories…forgive me for not being more polite). Once you go up the steps — I was thinking you backed off from there and again my mind is wondering how this will work — nope, dear one — follow the guy.

I then climb down backwards on a ladder to get to the actual hotel ledge. Ahhh, ok, now this feels familiar. Not familiar – like I’ve stood on a hotel ledge before — but more like the mountain experience from 2003.

So Guy 2 chats with me some and begins hooking up the other ropes. “Showing me more ropes”…  I look down to see Dad and then look around to see if I can recognize others — nope. Only easy to recognize the man always in orange. Other volunteers and smiling and watching. I’m the only one on deck at this point and they ask me if I’m going it alone. I am. So Guy 3 comes around and over and stands next to me. Ever politely waiting for me to finish whatever I was waxing eloquently about before introducing himself (not as Guy 3… but yea, I didn’t catch his name) and then says, I’ll be giving you your final check. Well, thanks, Guy 3, you seem pretty important.

He turns on my Go Pro, says I’m good to go. Radio’s down to my belay below and I hear him respond, “Belay on for Katie on blue”.  That is a familiar sound too and suddenly I feel really grateful for Guy 4 below. I mean –on a mountain, he holds your life in his hands — as does the guy up top.  In this situation — not as much, but still, I was thankful for him.  Guy 3 unclips my green cord — OHHHH, I think to myself, that cord held me on the building until time to “jump”. Got it.

He walks away and I look to Guy 2 standing beside me He says, Ok, sit back and away you go.

Katie – “I flip this back to go, right?”

Guy 2 – “Yes – but not all the way down”

Katie – “oh yea, got it. So I jump back and bounce down right?”

Guy 2 – “oh no. This is not a rock and not a real rappel. It’s a slip down a rope… like a slide — don’t kick the building or our windows please.”

Katie – “OH… so just let her go and I’ll slide down —  like a ride?”

Guy 2 – “yes. more like a ride.”

I realize at this point — that I was stalling and that my poor hand hadn’t left the ladder. And I thought, you silly girl — you have to let go. I was ready to go. Never once felt nervous, never once felt dizzy looking down…but yet… my left hand wouldn’t let go. Like it instinctively knew to fight for life — it knew letting go of a building when you stood on the ledge of it was probably not the smartest idea.

I did let go and the ride down was smooth as glass — kinda. I wanted to fly down the rope but there’s a built in break so if you start going to fast, it locks and you have to re-set. I loved the cheers. I loved hearing my Dad. I loved everything about it.

After – my thoughts were a blur. I wanted to watch for others. I wanted to do it again. It went too fast. It couldn’t be over….

At home, I finally ate breakfast — remember the morning start… fasted cardio, back and biceps, jump off a building… yea, never ate. The rest of the morning was a struggle — there were so many emotions but so much to do. I hadn’t packed yet — and I desperately needed a shower. I rushed around and got everything done and was actually very early leaving for the airport.

On the drive… the tears came. My mind relaxed enough to remember mom. To remember all 72 days of her journey — why I even did that today. So much of today — reminded me of that journey — but not until after. During the jump, it was fun, I laughed and smiled and joked with all the volunteers but after, here — in the reflection: These are the phrases that caught me with a lump in my throat —

          “It was too fast, it can’t be over, just let go — but my hand instinctively doesn’t want to”

I had over a year and then a full 72 days of knowing, preparing and saying goodbye. But still — the time came and my heart hurt and forever going forward is now changed. It’s always too early and no matter how fearless you are leading up to the moment… the moment can still have you leaving your left hand on the ladder a little longer.

Thank you, Cancer Association of Spartanburg, Over the Edge, AC Hotel and Level10 and all of the volunteers and all of those who gave. This 30 seconds or so — this day — has blessed my heart so much and your gifts have blessed so many for years to come.

 — Pictures to come… come back for updates when they are ready.  Or check all my social media pages —

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Life is hard… or is it?

I’ve heard that many times and in many situations. My answer used to be, “Well, consider the alternative.” In short, saying, it could be worse, you know. You could be — not living at all. But that’s not an entirely accurate reflection of what would be “worse”.

I started thinking – life is hard. Death is easy. Because it’s done. See, living is a process and actually so is dying. Dying is hard. Death — the end of that process is actually quite simple. It’s that way with anything.

The process of dieting to reach a goal weight or to just simply get to a healthier state of being: HARD. Once you’re there at the goal – easy. BUT the PROCESS of keeping it: hard. Any process is hard. The easy is so short lived because there is always another process coming behind it.

I compete in figure competitions and usually take about 10-12 weeks of dedicated cutting and training to get to “show ready”. That process: SO VERY HARD. And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it – it’s always still so hard. But the end: the stage: EASY.

Running: training for a half marathon or a full or even a 5k or 10k – the TRAINING is SO HARD. Crossing the finish line  — or even the race itself many times if you’ve trained well, Easy.

I could give so many more examples, but they all prove the same point. Processes are hard because they are processes. Redundant? Not at all. It’s the striving, the growing, the getting better or trying to obtain that makes “life hard” as so many will complain of at some point. Life is quite easy for anyone who is not striving to become anything.

In life, we are given many opportunities for hard and rewarded with a few fleeting moments of easy. When you enter a process, or make a goal or decide to try something new: accept that it will be hard and focus on when the easy will arrive. I challenge you to wait for the easy as you endure the hard. Try not to rush it. There are prizes along the way in the hard and if you rush through it, you may miss them.

Mom is dying of cancer. This process is hard. Her easy is coming and thankfully this easy is not fleeting but will last for eternity. As I drove home tonight, these were my thoughts — thoughts of how long this is taking, how hard some days are, how i have so much less room to ever even consider that this might be hard when my dad is there 24/7. (and my mom would correct me for using numbers in a written post — I’m going to leave it though). I’m thankful for the prizes along the way and I’m thankful for God’s mercy in reminding me of them tonight.

Prizes along the way — the sparkle in her eye when she wakes up and realizes that I’m there. The love in her voice when she says, “It’s been a fun day today, I’m glad you were here.” The silent glances she gives me when Dad has left the room and is getting her medicine or her water or whatever else she asked for. No words are spoken but she speaks with her smile and her eyes. These are prizes meant only for me and I will keep them. And if the hard is needed for me to appreciate the prizes — then, Jesus, bring the hard and I’ll thank you for it.

Friends — life is not hard — LIVING is hard. It’s designed this way. Embrace the hard, be thankful for the hard and look for prizes.

My Mom Loved Me Too Much…

My mom loved me too much to throw me in the deep end of the pool and watch me “learn to swim”.  But I’ll save you the questions and the wonderment…. did I learn to swim? No, I never did. I was not given the die or swim hard lesson on figuring out how to stay alive and then learning to swim. But also, to this day, I would simply be classified as “I won’t drown” but I don’t “swim” well either.

There are two ways that people learn or succeed in life — consistent hard work and effort because they are motivated within themselves to become better. Or life events and circumstances force their hand — they are pushed to either survive or fail and those are the only options left.

Today, I reflected some on my upbringing. My childhood rearing, if you will, And in general terms, it was uneventful. Now, mom will tell you I was the child who kept her on her knees — I was the one of two children that she “worried” over. Well, someone had to be, right? I was the kid who wanted to grow up too fast — wanted to date, had older friends who could drive before me and could go to late movies and have sleepovers etc. My extent of “rebel-hood” was staying out with a group of seniors (4 years older than me) til after 10 pm one Friday night. My mom was beside herself when I arrived back home and I believe that was by far my worst lecture in my teenage years. It ended with me being threatened to be home schooled for the remainder of my high school career (all 4 years remaining). This sounds simple and like it wasn’t a big deal — trust me, it was huge and I never made that mistake again. (Staying out without proper communication as to where I was).

In my adult life, few times have I made a major change in my life by my own accord. Life in it’s beautiful way has always pushed. I’ve needed doors to slam shut before I would even attempt to look for a window, let alone, another door.

Today, one by one, doors are slamming and I’m being pushed by life to find the window. My instinct of treading water is kicking in because that’s what I was taught — to tread water to survive, not to learn to properly swim and make new waves. Sometimes trial by fire is the best trial.

So while my mom loved me too much…. thank you, life, for being of the hard corps, hard knocks mentality and pushing me to where I need to be. New horizons loom. I embrace them with excited anticipation of where the new road leads.

Over The Edge – the journey.

I was sitting by a fire in a local hotel lobby with my best girlfriend when my phone rang. That call changed my life but it wasn’t until two years later that I even began to realize just how changed it was going to be.

In September of 2016, my mom received her diagnosis. After months of a lingering cough and sore throat and then many more tests and doctor visits, the answer came:

Stage IV small cell lung cancer.

When she called, she was calm, as was I. Information received and life continued on. At least, it did for me. Mom’s routine, however, changed immediately and considerably. I don’t remember the time frame but the next few months were met with biopsies and scans to determine what kind of lung cancer this was since she never smoked. Who knew there were “kinds of lung cancer”?? I didn’t — until now. Now I know there are three categories with two -three types within each category and the breakdowns continue from there.

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Once treatment began, mom experienced good and bad days – both physically and emotionally. Emotionally for me — it hadn’t really sank in yet. Mom still seemed to be mom. When she was asked how she was, she would say, “It’s fine. I’m fine” and she smiled so convincingly. Christmas 2016 – she was so small, so frail – but with her cheery voice, “I’m fine! I’m great! I feel great!”.

By the summer of 2017, I had almost forgotten she had cancer. Her last visit with the oncologist, he was blown away by how her explosion of cancer had dissipated. There were little to no signs of it remaining. However, the initial prognosis from Sept 2016 was — this is metastatic, it will return, you will die from this. I don’t mind blunt doctors who speak fact. I appreciate it. So we knew, to be thankful for every day.

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Prizes along the way

Mom had many prizes along the way. She married a man in love with Clemson football and while I was young, mom appeared to tolerate it…but that love grew to an all out obsession once her parenting duties subsided. A lady who once said “Orange was not her color”, now had it as a staple in her wardrobe. She met Coach Swinney and became fast friends. He prayed that she would make every home game in the 2017 season – and she did.

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When the journey took us – over the edge

In December, mom had a routine scan scheduled. I actually had a scan on the same day for fear of a brain aneurysm. Typically, results take a few days, and there’s no rush to hear from your doctor. Mine had my family physician so concerned, he ordered the scans to be read immediately and called me within an hour of my leaving the procedure. Coincidentally, Mom received a call that quick as well.

Katie – All clear.

Mom – Please come in first thing in the morning.

The cancer returned and it was metastatic. Metastatic lung cancer is a beast and not to be taken lightly. The journey from December to now (February 10) is blurry at best now. There were weeks in the hospital, days in hospice house, and now days at home. Routines have changed — mom’s and yes, now, mine.

Cancer had touched my family before now — many times. But it had brushed by it. It hadn’t really grabbed me until it knocks on your front door and lives with you. My mind never pictured these days from that September call. I never saw myself running to and from a hospital and learning the names of nurses and staff. I never saw myself knowing the ins and outs of procedure rooms and supply closets. I never knew I’d make friends with other family members on the same oncology hall as we were. I never pictured the sights I’d watch, the things I could handle, or the help I could give. I never imagined laughing at things mom had said and then bursting into tears with the same breath.

Over the Edge Upstate – Cancer Association

During mom’s hospital stay, she received five radiation treatments. The staff were great but I was blessed to know a lady who worked in the office. She sat with me each time, explained how it worked and was just a friendly face in a rough situation. When this same friend sent me information about #overtheedgeupstate I was on board immediately. I’ve attended fundraisers for the Cancer Association before but because I was interested in the event. Cancer hadn’t touched my life at that point. Today – I’m thrilled to go over the edge because I love all things athletic and active – but the ask for the funds is different. Once cancer touches — grabs — your life, perspective changes.

Many have asked about where the funding goes and have expressed frustration with other Cancer Research fundraisers etc. I understand not all non profits are perfect. I understand being cautious with where you give. But I also understand and appreciation what Cancer Association does: they support the patient and the family.

Visit their website to view their services and where the money goes. Any support is appreciated. If you desire to support me in raising funds and jump over the edge of the ACHotel in Spartanburg, SC – you may DONATE here.

The three reasons I give:

  1. It’s local.
  2. It supports the patient and the family.
  3. It supported my family.

We never know where we’ll be sitting when the call comes that changes our life. We can’t be certain the change will be from good news or hard news. There may not be a fire, or a best friend. When the call comes, I pray you have all the support you need to face this life change.

 

 

 

“I’ll tell you when you graduate.”

My mom has cancer. She has chosen within the last few weeks not to continue treatment and let the disease do what it will. This is probably the best gift she has ever given me.

Mom has always had a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. She taught first grade, then middle school and high school grammar for well over thirty years and one of her favorite responses to anyone who questioned her was, “I’ll tell you when you graduate.” This was in response to questions for why she had certain rules or did things the way she did. Any question, really, her response was, “I’ll tell you when you graduate.” For those of you wondering — yes, most of the time, the questions were forgotten and very rarely did graduates actually return to her for these answers.

A friend of mine has always referred to death as graduation – the ultimate graduation. As mom is nearing graduation, she has begun telling stories. Stories of my childhood, her childhood, her teaching days and a few made up stories are thrown in too.

I came in the room one day and overheard this:

Katie was my difficult child. She was strong willed and determined. I would take her into the bathroom for a spanking thinking, “I will break this child.”[her will] But there was no breaking her. She kept me on my knees more than anything else.

–Another mom — What finally worked? Because she seems to be a respectful adult? –

Katie LOVES to win. She has to be number one. I finally learned to reward her for doing right rather than breaking her will to do wrong. We created a chart of stickers and that girl would do anything to have more stickers than her brother.

 

IMG_0651.PNGAs I listened, I laughed a little. I began playing competitive sports in the sixth grade and the competitive gene only grew stronger over the years. Now, as a competitive figure bodybuilder, the words, “I couldn’t break her” ring truer than they did when I was five. I found a trainer who has pushed me past any limit I ever thought I had and has said the same. She will not quit. She does exactly as I ask without question and she has to win.

I started 2018 with one goal – An NGA pro card and one show in mind. June 2nd. And then – cancer. I’ve competed enough to know — it is never wise to train for a show if there is ANYTHING else going on because you will be distracted and there’s no room for distraction in this game. I was ready to bow out, to put the goal on hold and then I heard the above. Now, mom has never advocated my competing but she now, with all filters gone has smiled when she tells visitors how strong I am. While it wasn’t her first choice for dreams and goals for her daughter — she still supports any dream I have.

Training continues. I still pack fish and greens and take them to the hospital and now to Gaffney when I go home to visit. There’s a deeper focus this time.

Mom always said, “I’ll tell you when you graduate.” She wasn’t lying — she is looking at graduation day and telling me everything I ever needed to know – about myself, about her and about this thing we call life.

Thanks, Mom.

Meet the trainer who doesn’t love working out

“For you, Katie, working out is life.”

Unfortunately, it’s not. I love so many things about fitness and about a great workout — but no, the act of working out is not life for me. The friend who made that assumption assumed that I gym time was a “release” for me or an outlet or something I looked forward to daily. I’ll admit, I don’t. I don’t look forward to the workout of the day. Usually I’m super tired from everything else I’ve done that day and pushing myself through weight lifting is not something I enjoy – but something I know I must do because I enjoy the result.

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Working out is a discipline for me so it’s easy for me to relate to clients who aren’t “gym junkies” by nature. I have to play mind games with myself for those early morning fasted cardio workouts and when there was no time in the day for the weight training and it’s 7:00 pm when I’m finishing up my “work day” as a trainer, hitting the gym for my session is the last thing I want to do.

So why do I do it? Because I love the stage. I love competing. And that love is enough to drive me to do things that aren’t easy or aren’t fun. I’m not the girl who gets a runner’s high or is constantly looking for gains simply for the joy of gains. I’m the girl who loves the transition, loves the stage and loves the race. So — to be on stage, there’s behind the scenes work to be done.

If working out is a chore for you, find the reason you love doing it. Either you love how you feel after or you love how much energy you have throughout the day or you love maintaining a steady weight while enjoying the foods you love. Whatever it is that you love – focus on that and grab the mental toughness you need to build habits.

I’d love to hear what drives you in they gym. Comment below or on my Facebook page. 

Thanks for stopping by.