Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Prayers for Papa D

“Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal”
 ~ David Crowder, Come As You Are

Me and my Papa D. I'm everything
I am because you loved me.
Call it fate or someone playing DJ, but I heard that song for the first time as I was on my way to the doctor's office. On December 11, 2014 we learned that Papa D will not be participating in the clinic trial and his doctor recommended we get hospice in place. The doctor felt getting hospice involved early on would be good because my dad will have more options when it comes to managing his symptoms/the disease. While we are saddened about the trial and that hospice is the next step, we take comfort in the fact that this situation is not under our control, but under our Heavenly Father’s, and He knows what is best for my dad and this situation. None of us are promised a tomorrow and regardless of whether we have a life-threatening illness or are the healthiest person on the planet, this news serves as a reminder all the more just how much we need to enjoy the moments we are given. And in typical Whitcomb fashion, that’s just what we are going to continue to do!  

We definitely haven’t given up nor have we lost hope, it’s just now our hope has a slightly shifted focus. We believe God is only one who knows how much time any of us have on this Earth, so we’ll trust in His plan and try to just keep swimming. We may not know what the future holds and the road ahead will be full of ups and downs, but we are so thankful for our faith, family, and friends to help us on this journey. 

Love to you all.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


It was two years ago today that I received the news no one wants to hear. After the tumultuous year we had already been having, the words "You have cancer" were not ones I was prepared for. Even though something inside me knew something was wrong from the beginning, I had still hoped and prayed endlessly that my gut instincts were wrong. Unfortunately, they weren't. Today marks the two year anniversary of my diagnosis and rather than repost the thoughts from last year even though those thoughts still ring true, today I decided to focus on the blessings over this past year.  

Earlier this year, I lost two very dear friends, Kris Stefanac and  Julie Nelson Duellman, to this dreaded disease and I miss them terribly but the blessing of their courage, strength, and most importantly, their friendships, is something I carry with me every day and  I am a better person because of them.

I have been blessed with a husband who loves me unconditionally, even on days I'm not so easy to love, and who encouraged me to accomplish a feat I never thought possible; blessed with two sons who continue to bring happiness and joy into my life; and blessed with a family like no other. I am also blessed because I have re-connected with the Whitcomb Clan, my dad's side of the family with whom I lost touch many, many years ago. I am thankful I have been given a second chance with them and  look forward to making many happy memories with them.

I have been blessed with friendships that continue to stand  the test of time and blessed with new ones I have made over the year. 

I am blessed that God has given me another year to spend with  those I love and the opportunity to make cherished memories with each and every one.

I am thankful for all the blessing in my life and count you all at the end of every day. Love to all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A wearable tribute to my brother brought back to life

The night my brother was murdered in 1996, he was wearing a peace sign necklace. Shortly after he died, I found a similar one and for more years than I can remember afterward, I wore the necklace every single day. When it would break, I'd buy a new one. Eventually, it got harder and harder to find a peace sign necklace until finally, my wearable tribute to my brother became a thing of the past (and I'm sure those who know me won't find this hard to believe but still have every necklace).

Since Karen at Aviron Jewelry created such a work of art with my beautiful runners necklace, I asked if she could make another necklace. She said for this design, she could use a silver peace symbol. I loved the idea! (you can read more about the meaning behind the peace symbol in my post: "More then just a piece of jewelry"). Once again, Karen did not disappoint and the necklace turned out to be more beautiful than I imagined. And the leather chain was a perfect addition since the necklace my brother was wearing the night he died also included a leather chain.

I love ankle bracelets and after going all summer without one because my favorite one broke and I really couldn't find one that really appealed to me, I figured if Karen was making me another necklace, why not have her make an ankle bracelet, too. Even though this piece doesn't have the special meaning behind it like my necklaces do, it is beautiful and I love it all the same. The summer may be over and the colder weather may be on it's way, but you can be certain I will wear my ankle bracelet until the flip flops and capris are put away for the year!

So now I have two more custom-designed pieces added to my collection, two more treasured possessions that will I cherish. And thanks to Karen at Aviron Jewelry, the wearable tribute to my brother has been brought back to life.

Visit Aviron Jewelry on the web, Facebook, and Etsy.

You can read more about my brother and a life taken way too early on the tribute page I created for him on Facebook: Home Free - In Memory of Richard G. Whitcomb, Jr.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lose yourself

"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted. One moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?.....So here I go, it's my shot. Feet, fail me not, this may be the only opportunity that I got."

This has to be one of the best running songs of all time. It was one of my motivational songs during the 12 weeks of my half marathon training. At 0730 on October 12, 2014, I got my shot...

There really are no words to describe what it is like to be able to say I accomplished a feat I never in a million years thought I would or could do. Thank you to my husband, Paul and my brother-in-law Eric, for encouraging me to try a half marathon and Paul for his faith in me, especially on the days I had none. I may hurt like crazy right now, but the aches and pains are worth it.  

This half certainly wasn't easy, especially since 11 miles was the furthest distance I ran during my training. During the last two miles of the race, it was quite grueling and I honestly did not know how I would be able to finish. My left knee/IT band was hurting so bad I could barely bend my knee and it honestly felt like I couldn't take another step. God must have known I needed some encouragement because all of the sudden, almost out of nowhere, my big sis, Nadine, who was fighting her own pains as well, ran up next to me and we finished the race together. And someone must have been playing DJ because shortly before we approached the corner to the final stretch, "Lose Yourself" started to play on my iPhone. So with my sister by my side and the reason behind my determination to run this half in my heart, I crossed the finish line. And for the fact I ran the entire way except for about a half a mile of the course, this experience will go down as one of the best days of my life. 


My goal was to finish the race with no expectations in regards to time/pace:
Run time: 2:17:20
Pace: 10:30 
273nd of 413 runners overall 
129th of 234 females
21st of 36 females in my age group 

What's Next?

Now that I have completed a half, many people ask if I'm going to try at full marathon. I can honestly say I have no desire to even attempt one.  I know, I know, that's what I said after my first 5K when Eric and Paul said I should try a half. But I can honestly say I really have no desire to do anything longer than a half. That was plenty long enough for me. To be honest, I really don't even think I am going to make half marathons my "thing." That's not to say that I would never do another one. As a matter of fact, I'd like to train differently next year so I can run the Northern Ohio Marathon again and not have the issue I did with my knee/IT band. One thing is for certain: I will definitely keep running. I plan on doing as many 5Ks as my schedule will allow and would also like to do some local 10Ks as well. I am even going to join a running club. I guess you can say that not even do I just keep swimming, I just keep running.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Papa D, this one's for you...

I have already written about my interest in running and the motivation behind what I do, how I like to wear things that keep me motivated as I run, and that I am running the Northern Ohio Marathon on October 12 (actually, just the half marathon, I'm not THAT crazy…LOL) in honor of my dad, affectionately known to everyone as Papa D, the name my oldest son gave him when he was little, who is currently waging the war against lung cancer.  I've shared the story of my runner's necklace and the meanings behind it. Even though I knew I was having the necklace made, I was trying to think of way to acknowledge my dad in a special way. When I ran the Race for the Place, I had a custom shirt made with "Just Keep Swimming" on the front and on the back, created a design that acknowledged my "sisters in pink" and especially my dear friend, Kris. I thought about making another shirt but wanted something different. I thought about making a small sign that I could perhaps pin to my shorts or perhaps getting some body paint and write something on my arm or leg. Nope, didn't like those ideas either.

And then I thought, "what about a headband?" I have never been a headband person, that is, until I started running. At first, I wanted them so I could keep my hair out of my face, and then discovered how wonderful they were at keeping the sweat out of my eyes. After trying a couple of different brands and not really being pleased with the products, I found this awesome place online called Hippie Runner and decided to give them a try. Their headbands were a fraction of what I had paid for the other headbands so I was skeptical if they were any good. Would they really stay put like they claim?  Well, if it's any indication of whether or not they are, let me say I have nearly 20 headbands from them so far. They really are perfect. And with a "buy 4 get the 5th free" promotion they always offer, what's not to love?! Now, not only do I wear them for exercise, but I wear them when I go to the beach, camping, or any time I don't want to have to mess with my hair. Yep, add headbands to my list of addictions.

Anyway, remembering that Hippie Runner made custom headbands, I decided to contact them to get the information on what was involved in having one made. If I could create my own design and have them make it for me, that would be perfect!  Since I was already a big fan of their products, I knew I'd be pleased with the results. And pleased I was! Their customer service was awesome, the process was simple, I emailed my design, and in less than 24 hours, they had my custom headbands printed and shipped on their way to me.  Of course, I couldn't decide what color to get so I ordered 2. =) I was ecstatic when they arrived just a few short days later. They were PERFECT!

So now I had my runner's necklace and my headbands, but me, being the sentimental fool that I am, I had to take it one step further…I decided to have my dad “sign” my headbands. Geeky perhaps, but that’s how I roll.  Now these headbands have even more of a special meaning to me and I cannot wait to wear one of them on race day. Now I just have to decide which one....

Check out all their cool headbands on Hippie Runner's website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More than just a piece of jewelry

For whatever reason, I have been bitten by the running bug. Ha, never in a million years would I ever say that. I initially started running because I wanted to run The Gathering Place's 2014 Race for the Place 5K the first Sunday in June (National Cancer Survivor's Day) in honor of my dear friend, Kris Stefanac, who passed away from triple negative breast cancer at the age of 35 this past January. Memorial Day weekend, another dear friend, Julie Duellman, passed away from her second battle of breast cancer. So the race took on a whole new meaning. I wasn't planning on doing well at the race, I was running it "just because". I surprised myself how well I did and it kind of inspired me to keep running. I have been horrible at any sport I tried and finally found something I can do and am not too bad at so why not, right? I did another 5K at Holden Arboretum a month later, and signed up for a couple more 5k this past summer.  Because I did so well at the Race for the Place, my husband, Paul, and my brother-in-law, Eric, said I should try a half marathon. At first, I laughed. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. So this summer, I have been in the process of training for my first half, the Northern Ohio Marathon, scheduled for Oct 12.

Running has become more than just something to do. I feel like every time I run, I am running with a purpose or mission: to honor and/or remember those I care about who have been diagnosed with cancer... the fighters, the survivors, and the taken....sadly, the list is long and seems continue to grow every day. Those warriors inspire me to keep going when I feel like I can't run any more...Kind of hard to explain but perhaps there are some who know what I mean. 

After I started training for and officially signed up for the half marathon, I made it a personal mission: I am running this race and will finish it, come hell or high water, in honor of my dear Papa D; my dear, sweet father who is currently waging the war against lung cancer. Papa D, this one's for you!!! ;-)  

Typically, when I've done my long runs as part of my half training, I've worn something to "inspire" me if that's what you want to call it; a shirt, a headband, etc. I thought a necklace would be perfect for any run, long or short, and even on days I’m not running and need some inspiration.  I contacted Karen, the owner of Aviron Jewelry, with my idea and in a few short days, she made my dream a reality.

Because this necklace would be more than just a piece of jewelry to me, there were several elements I wanted to incorporate into the design. I shared all of my ideas and thoughts behind the elements and Karen so beautifully pulled them all together in a way that made sense. I couldn't be happier:

The silver chain

Silver represents strength and has also been said to be the beacon of light in the darkness. Goodness knows there's been some dark days in my life and the "beacons of light" were at times the only things that kept me going. And during those dark days, heavens knows I needed strength. The silver chain's strength holds it all together…

The cancer ribbon

This represents the family and friends who have been afflicted with any form of the horrible disease. Having a silver ribbon also signifies the strength each one of them have/had through their journeys.

Copper disks

Copper is a healing metal and teaches of living life to it's fullest. Healing is much more than just a physical one. Sometimes we need mental healing, too. Since we aren't promised a tomorrow, we should all try to live life to the fullest, like each day is our last. 


This is the color of peace. The night my brother was murdered, he was wearing a peace sign necklace. I wore a similar necklace for years after his death in his memory and still have it, even though it's broken. There is a Bible verse that has become an important one with all the trials and tribulations my family and I have faced in my life: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6, 7)


Blue is the color of the sky and sea.  It is often associated with depth and stability.  It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.  The blue enamel used sparkles like the sun reflecting on the ocean. Not only do I love the ocean/beach, but I have a strong faith (thanks to my parents) and believe that this life is not the end. Because of my faith, I will see my loved ones again in heaven one day.


The word "hope" was one of the most important elements of this design. "For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11)  This has always been a  favorite verse of mine. I even referenced it during the speech I gave at our reception the day I married Paul. Without hope, we have nothing and it's something we should never give up on.

So that's my story. Short and to the point it is not. But something this special and so near and dear to my heart deserves more than just a sentence or two. Thank you again, Karen and Aviron Jewelry, for making this a reality. Your work of art will always be more than just a necklace to me….

You can find Aviron Jewelry on Facebook and Etsy

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thank you, Customized Girl, for making these dirty girls very, very happy!

Team "Get Dirty and Just Keep Swimming"
When I heard that the Dirty Girl 5K Mud Run was coming to Cleveland on August 9, I decided I wanted to form a team. Since my matra throughout my breast cancer journey has been “just keep swimming,” it was only fitting that my team name for the mud run should be “Get Dirty and Just Keep Swimming." I was so excited when a friend and her friend and two of my coworkers signed up to be on my team! Oh the fun we were going to have!!!  I already had a storefront named Just Keep Swimming on the custom t-shirt design website Customized Girl, so it was a no brainer that I would have them print the shirts I designed. I won't go into all the details since the controversy with the Dirty Girl Mud Run was all over the news but right before we were set to order our shirts, we learned the Cleveland event was canceled. Bummer...big time!  In the days that followed, the new organization that took over the event were trying to decide if they could still make the Cleveland run happen.

Some very happy dirty girls!
So my dilemma was whether to order the shirts for my team not knowing if the event was going to happen. Even though we really wanted the shirts for the event, we were running out of time to order them and had no idea when the decision about the event would be made. With a little over a week to go, it was finally announced that Dirty Girl Cleveland was back on so now we had to figure out how to get our shirts on time. Customized Girl saved the day! When I explained the situation to their customer service department, they kindly offered to work with us on the expedited shipping charges. We never would have received our shirts on time if it wasn't for Customized Girl. Thank you, Customized Girl, from the bottom of these Dirty Girls' hearts, for saving the day and helping us complete our costumes with your awesome shirts!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Calling All Girls, Wanna Get Dirty??

Another 5K? Oh Yeah, Baby!

Well, when I was saying I needed to find another 5K, I wasn't really expecting something like this. How much fun would this be….gettin' dirty for a good cause?!?! What the heck, count me in!

Get Dirty and Just Keep Swimming

Join my team "Get Dirty and Just Keep Swimming" to help support breast and ovarian cancer awareness. Dirty Girl’s official charity, Bright Pink, is the only national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women while providing support for high-risk individuals. 
I am an 18 month survivor this June because of early detection and would love for you to join me for a day of mud, fun, sisterhood, and friendship. No athletic and/or running ability needed. And you can receive $10 off your registration by entering the promo code MUDGAL10.
 Click here to join my team!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why not throw t-shirt designing into the mix…

Keep Calm and Just Keep Swimming Storefront

How it Began

I found this really cool place online that makes custom apparel when I was looking to design a tank top to wear for the Race for the Place. After several weeks searching high and low for online stores that A. weren’t overly expensive and B. had no minimums, I decided to go with Customized Girl, based out of Columbus, Ohio. While they were more expensive than a traditional screen printer, for the fact I could custom design a tank top for me and design something similar for anyone else on my team who wanted a shirt AND we could all get different styles and there was no minimums, I was willing to pay a little extra. I absolutely LOVED the shirts I ordered when they arrived and couldn’t wait to wear them. A repeat customer I would be! On my quest to find a tank top with another saying on it a couple of weeks ago, I really didn’t like anything that was already available on the internet so I thought, "why not design my own and go back to Customized Girl and have it made there." So that's what I did.

The story continues…

Not too long ago, a friend at work shared with me that her fiancé’s sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and asked me where I got my tank top from. She wanted to get something that had her soon-to-be sister-in-law’s new mantra “f#ck cancer” on it. She was just going to put the words on a shirt and I remembered seeing a shirt online somewhere that had the “u” replaced with the breast cancer ribbon so I told her I’d come up with a design and see what she thought. In the meantime, I was on the website and noticed Customized Girl offered storefronts: you design shirts and when they are purchased, you make a small commission. I thought, “why not.” And there is how my storefront “Keep Calm and Just Keep Swimming” came into being.

What’s really cool about the items on my storefront is they truly are customizable.  If you like a particular design but don’t want the shirt it’s on, or say, perhaps you want to put it on a coffee mug instead, all you have to do is simply select the design, and in the in the upper right corner and select “Customize this Design.” On that screen, you can add text, swap out the item, add something to the back, make the design larger, smaller, etc. You could even put the design on a shirt for your favorite pooch! The possibilities are endless!

I will admit, while the commission may not be all that much to where I'd be quitting my day job in the foreseeable future, I am pretty excited that I can incorporate my love of graphic design into creating “fun wear” for myself and others. All proceeds from my t-shirt sales will be donated to The Gathering Place's Annual Race for the Place 5K.

Here’s the link to my storefront:  Keep Calm and Just Keep Swimming

Check back often as I will be adding designs as the spirit moves me.


Thanks to all the t-shirt sales I had over the last year, I was able to donate $73 to the Gathering Place's 2015 Race for the Place 5K.

Monday, May 12, 2014

25 Ways to Burn 100 Calories ...

Now that I have been counting calories, it’s pretty surprising to see how quickly what I eat adds up. I bought a heart rate monitor to use when I exercise to see how many calories I am actually burning. I use MyFitness Pal to track both calories going in and calories going out and at times, it’s frustrating because limiting myself to a certain number of calories in a day leaves me feeling like I’m starving by the time dinner comes around but it’s also making me more conscious about what I’m eating which, in turn, is helping me make better choices. For instance, one Double Stuffed Oreo has almost the same amount of calories as six pita crackers with a dab of cream cheese and raspberry jalapeño jelly on them. I would be lying if I said I didn’t grab an Oreo from time to time for a quick sugar fix, but having six crackers as opposed one cookie is definitely a lot more satisfying so my calorie counting ways is helping me think twice before reaching for those cookies when I want a snack.

Since burning calories is important if you are trying to lose or keep off weight, I am always looking for ways to burn a little extra. I came across the following article this morning listing 25 ways to burn 100 calories and thought it was interesting enough to share. Chewing gum, eating an apple rather than drinking apple juice, or playing pool? How great is that! I was especially pleased to learn bowling made the list because we bowl just about every Friday! And rather than sit down after it’s my turn, I usually stand “just because”. Now I know that standing is helping me burn just a few more calories!

Happy Monday and enjoy!

"25 Ways to Burn 100 Calories Just Like That" by Ava Feuer

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Interesting Article on Hydration

This was a very interesting article on hydration and how men's and women's needs differ so I thought I would share.

Are the Hydration Rules Different for Women

When I was doing the fitness challenge group last month, one of the "posts of the day" was about eliminating sodium from our diets; not just eliminating chips, pretzels, and high sodium foods, but leave salt out of recipes, don't use it to enhance the flavor of your food, etc. so reading the comment about how women should consume a little bit of salt before a good workout kind of caught my eye. If what the article says is true, I just might have to get myself a bag of Ruffles to eat before my next run. That counts, right? =O)

In all seriousness, I thought it was a good article and worth sharing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Personal Victory!

Today I signed up for the Race for the Place 5K.

The weather was nice when I got home from work so I decided to go for a run. I was feeling a little tired and a little unmotivated so I thought for sure it would be a short run. Oh, how I was wrong. I am not sure if it was runner's high that kicked in or because I was thinking of my friend, Kris, throughout my run and for some reason I was feeling inspired, but today I ended up setting a new record myself: 4.51 miles with a pace of 9:50! This may not be that big of an accomplishment to someone who is a seasoned runner but for someone like me who has only been on 10 runs in the last year, and for someone who only a few short months ago could barely get out of bed to do anything because she was in such a slump..yeah, this is huge!

Commence happy dance!

The "Race" is on...

Today, I officially signed up for my first 5K. On National Cancer Survivor's Day (the first Sunday in June), The Gathering Place holds their annual Race for the Place.

Last year, I did the 1 mile walk. This year, I am running the 5K in memory of my dear friend and sister in pink, Kris Stefanac. Click the link below to go to my personal page and read more...and feel free to either join me (they offer a 1 mile walk too) or sponsor me for this great cause.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Keeping the Wheels on the Bus

Why is it that I do so well (for the most part) saying on track, drinking lots of water, and watching what I eat during the week but then the weekend comes and the wheels completely fall off the bus? Perhaps this weekend was just bad in general because my husband was out of town and I didn't feel like cooking? Friday nights we bowl so we did  our usual pre-bowling dinner. That was supposed to be my "cheat night." My sons were both off doing their own thing on Saturday so I met a girlfriend for dinner. They were home different times on Sunday so I had a "date" with my oldest for lunch and a "date" with my youngest for dinner. Over the course of the weekend, I ate out four times (ugh) and while I didn't completely pig out, I certainly didn't pick the least calorie options.  I think I'm just going to have to chalk this up as my "cheat weekend!"

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The benefits of ginger

Most of us know the importance of drinking plenty of water. I thought I would share this information with you.

The medical massotherapist my oncologist has me see and I were talking about the importance of water. She recently attended a seminar regarding our lymphatic system and one of the best ways to keep it functioning properly is by drinking lots of water. Many of us already know the health benefits of adding lemon to our water, but did you know that ginger has great health benefits as well? 


Happy first day of May 2014 and welcome to my blog. "Just Keep Swimming" from the scene in Finding Nemo became my mantra in 2012 after a series of unfortunate events in my life brought me to the point I was ready to raise the white flag. Rather than sink, I chose to swim.