Archive for December 2017

Fighting Cancer and now the 10K at Walt Disney World Marathon – Bindu Panapalli’s inspiring story!

Today is the third in my series of inspirational stories shared by Cigna. Today’s is the story of Bindu Panapali, her fight with cancer and her hard work with Achilles International leading up to running the 10k at Disney World in January!

Cigna is the primary sponsor of the Walt Disney World Marathon event in January and they have invited me to take part in a Blogger / Social Media Meet Up over the weekend. I am super excited about that!

Hope you enjoy the article!

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Bindu Panapalli, 47 years old and resident of Glen Allen, Va. near Richmond, always felt a desire to help people with cancer through research. By February 2016, she found herself at the start of 18 months of firsthand experience battling the disease through three surgeries and eight rounds of chemo – she just didn’t know it at the time.

Her journey began with a scheduled surgery to treat fibroids and a hysterectomy, leaving her bedridden. Six weeks later, persistent pain led the doctor to find a bowel obstruction and scheduled another surgery. This time, the doctor discovered ovarian cancer and it spread. Six rounds of chemotherapy, which also caused numbness in her leg hindering her ability to walk, stretched from summer into the fall. By November, the third surgery removed the rest of the cancer, but the battle still required two more rounds of chemotherapy in February 2017 before she could finally say she would feel like she’s truly recovering.

Bindu Panapalli – Fightning Cancer to running 10K

“I never thought I would get cancer,” Bindu recalled. “Even before all this, I wanted to help people with cancer as a researcher. After the diagnosis and treatment, I volunteered at the cancer treatment center every Thursday encouraging people during chemotherapy treatment. I was even on the bone marrow donor list.”

By August, she felt ready to start thinking about a return to work. She researched what her employer’s Cigna disability insurance benefits offered including the vocational coaching program, so she requested referral. That’s when she met Robin Randol, her Cigna vocational coach, who offered assistance.

“Every customer’s needs are different,” said Robin. “What she wanted was to build up her physical strength, so we talked about self-care and various strategies and tips to address fatigue and stamina. She also wanted to find a new job that matched her passion. We talked about career goals, updated her resume, and I provided help researching job leads.”

Well-educated, Bindu’s background includes nearly enough for a doctorate from India. She hopes to take her work history, education, and personal experience to help people.
“I want to help people,” said Bindu. “I want to interact with patients. Not sit in a lab anymore, but a make a real difference in people’s lives. Now, that I’ve had this experience fighting cancer, I can be even more helpful.”

Robin helped prepare her for job interviews and gave her the encouragement she’s needed to help take back her health and move closer to a job for which she can feel truly passionate.

One of the training programs Robin offered was the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events. Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their health and return to work goals by providing: access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment, software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.

As a result of her hard work and dedication, Cigna offered Bindu the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World® 10K presented by Cigna on Friday, January 5th as a member of Team Cigna. She will be guided on the race course by Jonathan Prokup, Cigna’s executive sponsor of Achilles International and General Counsel for Cigna.
“I’m celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary in January at the race,” said Bindu. “When I cross that finish line, I want to raise a glass and celebrate life.”

The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals.

“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Robin. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively affect all areas of your life.”

“Cancer is a part of me,” said Bindu. “It changed my life completely. Now, because of Robin, I’m back at work part time work with a new employer building towards full time. I want to thank Robin because now I can look forward.”

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An amazing story! Good luck to Bindu on the Walt Disney World 10k! Maybe we will see you on the course.

Hope everyone enjoyed the article!

 

Sonya Hazel – car accident left her with a serious break but now she is recovering and is out to run the Walt Disney World 5k!

Hi All! Just wanted to put up another inspirational article shared by Cigna. 

Cigna is the primary sponsor of the Walt Disney World Marathon event in January and they have invited me to take part in a Blogger / Social Media Meet Up over the weekend. I am super excited about that!

The article today is the story of Sonya Hazel – who was involved in a car accident with a distracted driver and through therapy, hard work and help from Cigna is coming to Walt Disney World in January to run the 5k race at the Walt Disney World Marathon.

I hope you enjoy the article.

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Sonya Hazel, 42 years old and resident of Riverdale, Ga. near Atlanta, didn’t have a chance to avoid that truck on February 23, 2017. The driver attempted to pass her while texting and driving. Like many distracted drivers, he misjudged the distance knocking Sonya’s car out of control. Her vehicle finally came to a stop after hitting a passenger van and breaking a highway wall. When the police officer arrived on the scene, she could hear him talking to the dispatcher. Judging by the vehicle, he thought she died in the crash.

“Before the officer arrived, I couldn’t feel my legs and, as silly as it sounds, I remember thinking my husband would be so upset when he saw the car,” said Sonya. “When the officer ducked down to see inside the vehicle, I startled him when I spoke.”

The emergency room doctor thought she might have gotten away with just a sprain and applied a temporary cast. When she visited the orthopedic surgeon, he took x-rays and found a serious break. The injury caused so much swelling that she needed to wait several weeks until April before surgery could be performed. The mental scars might last the longest.

“To this day, I haven’t been able to drive my car very far,” said Sonya. “The few times I’ve driven, I just pray and play loud music to focus on driving and everything around me.”

Following four to six weeks of therapy that ended in October, she said she felt about 85 percent back. As a mom of five children including four adults and one seven-year-old daughter, she feels the hole of that extra 15 percent still ahead of her.

Sonya Hazel – 5K – Cigna Run Together

“I still can’t do certain things,” said Sonya. “Before the accident, I was always active. It’s been a real adjustment for my daughter. I’ll know I’m back at 100 percent when I’m able to keep up with her and run around with my grandson when he’s born next April.”

On the road to recovery and mentally itching to return to work, she asked more information on Cigna’s vocational coaching program. Soon after, she received a call from Bethany Roefs, her Cigna vocational coach, who offered assistance.

“Bethany comforts and encourages me throughout this process to help me get back to work,” said Sonya. “I feel she knows me and cares about my situation. She’s been my liaison between my employer and me and has been right there throughout everything.”

“From the beginning, Sonya’s top goals included returning to work,” said Bethany. “Making sure she stayed on track, I helped coordinate between her doctor and employer to make sure she found the right return to work plan that allowed her to fully recovery without a setback.”

Sonya’s looking forward to returning to work and getting back on track with her career.

“The day of the accident, my boss planned to talk with me about a promotion,” said Sonya. “Now, I’m looking forward to just earning a full paycheck again.”

One of the resources Bethany offered, the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events, helps people like Sonya build up physical strength and stamina.

Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their return to work goals by providing access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment, software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.

As a result of her hard work and dedication to return to work, Cigna offered Sonya the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World® 5K presented by Cigna on Thursday, January 4th as a member of Team Cigna.

“When Bethany talked about my progress and asked if I felt ready for a 5K, I assumed she meant a local race,” said Sonya. “Then she told me Disney – surprised doesn’t quite say it. I’m grateful and see it as a challenge to get my body over that last physical hurdle.”

The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals. She will be guided by Joan Harvey, vice president of consumer health engagement for Cigna, on the race course.

“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Bethany. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively affect all areas of your life.”

“At one time I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk without a cane,” said Sonya. “Look at me now getting ready for a 5K in Walt Disney World. Once I’m able to return to work, I’m really on my way back to the old Sonya again.”

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Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed the article.

Good luck to Sonya on the 5k race!

Asthma can’t keep this accomplished runner and former preemie from achieving her dreams.

Hi Folks! Something a bit different for me today – I am going to share an inspirational piece courtesy of Cigna!

Cigna is the primary sponsor of the Walt Disney World Marathon event in January and they have invited me to take part in a Blogger / Social Media Meet Up over the weekend. I am super excited about that!

As part of this they provided some inspirational stories to share with you folks and this one spoke to me. I won’t give too big a preamble but it involves Chelby Elam and an after-school mentoring program in Philadelphia helping kids get involved in long-distance running and I can only imagine how my life would have changed if I had gotten interested in long distance running 20 or so years earlier than I did!

Hope you enjoy the article, it made me smile!

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Born three months premature, Chelby Elam of Philadelphia always dealt with asthma and a heart murmur. Since joining Students Run Philly Style, running has made her lungs stronger, and she hasn’t had an asthma attack in years.

“My dad loves to run, so I would go to races to support him and saw lots of kids wearing Students Run Philly Style t-shirts,” said Chelby. “It was cool watching them cross the finish line. I felt inspired to join even though I wasn’t a runner and never really enjoyed competing in track.”

 

Chelby Elam and her Dad – Students Run Philly Style

Students Run Philly Style is an after-school mentor program that gets kids involved in long-distance running, teaching life lessons along the way. Philly schools have their own teams that train together three times each week, coached by a teacher, leader, or parent.

“My Dad became our Students Run coach,” said Chelby. “It’s been so much fun to spend time together running – even though sometimes he bugs me with the dad jokes he makes up to keep our spirits high on long runs.”

“Teamwork and encouragement are two of the biggest lessons I’ve learned,” said Chelby. “Everyone is so supportive- even teammates you don’t know that well. It’s so important to help your friends when they’re struggling.” Another important lesson “is to just enjoy the run, which is different than running track. We’re not competing against each other. We’re all there to have fun.”

As a result of Chelby’s hard work and commitment to her health, The Cigna Foundation, a long-time sponsor of Students Run Philly Style, is sending Chelby and her dad on an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World in January. As a symbol and extension of her health journey, she will participant in the Walt Disney World® Half Marathon on Saturday, January 6.

“The Cigna Foundation believes that achieving and maintaining personal health means that communities need trusted places they can turn to for information and services,” said Mary Engvall, Executive Director of the Cigna Foundation. “We support nonprofit organizations that offer better health opportunities wherever and however they’re needed in the communities where we live and serve.”

“Chelby really stands out in our program because she works so hard. Watching her and her dad running together is a testament to the work we do to help the kids in our community and represents what our partnership with the Cigna Foundation is all about,” Lauren Kobylarz, Program Director for Students Run Philly Style.

Chelby and her dad participated in the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November, and the Walt Disney World® Half Marathon will be her first time running out of state. She’s excited to come back to Orlando, a place she hasn’t visited since she was little.

“It’ll be so nice to run in warmer weather, for sure, and to see the different scenery,” said Chelby, “This is really a stepping to my next goal: running the full Philly Marathon in 2018.”

Outside of running, Chelby is a dog walker and freelance photographer, and a member of the Journalism Club. She served as a media intern for the Democratic National Convention, when it came to Philadelphia, and the Washington Post, and continues to volunteer at Students Run Philly Style.

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I hope you enjoyed Chelby’s story!

Good luck on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Chelby!

 

Running Road Blocks

Hi Folks!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been invited to participate in Cigna’s Blogger and Social Media Meet-up (super excited!) and as part of that they have passed along a bunch of inspirational stories and infographics that I can share.

So I will do a series of posts using this info to pass along some of this cool info to you folks. I see others involved in the meet-up are already starting to share this info as well – to find those posts look for #cignaruntogether on Twitter and other social media! Very cool stuff!

As I was looking at the info packet Cigna sent along I saw one infographic that spoke to me right off the bat and I am going to do a quick write up on this one and tie it into my own experiences and thoughts as well as into the Walt Disney World Marathon course.

#cignaruntogether

Cigna Run Together – running road blocks

(please ignore that their runner seemed to jump from 5 miles to 13.1 and back to 10…)

Mile 1 – Set your own pace and save energy! Makes sense to me – at the start of the full marathon their is so much energy in the air you are going to want to fly out of the corrals but try to pull back on that instinct and save that energy later in the course. Things can be crowded in the first few miles as well so you don’t want to cause an accident either.

Mile 5 – Pace yourself. Listen to music and enjoy your surroundings. On the Walt Disney World Marathon course this puts you right before the entrance to Magic Kingdom – enjoy that run down Main Street toward the castle, it is hard to express how amazing that section of the course is! Also, take advantage of the park bathrooms if you need to and skip the scenic porta-potties.

Mile 10 – Self-doubt may start creeping in. Focus on yourself, not on the other runners. I like to say “run your own race” and it is especially true at a runDisney race. You can have fast runners doing character stops, getting passed by slower runners and then catching back up and blasting past again – you have thousands of runners out there doing their own thing, don’t waste mental energy on what they are doing. This is not always the most exciting mile of the Disney World Marathon but Animal Kingdom is coming soon and runDisney does try to have character spots and entertainment along the way to keep you going.

Mile 13.1 – Break the race into chunks and focus on the next mile marker. You are in Animal Kingdom now which is very cool to run through – amazing scenery. After you come out of this park though you have some road miles ahead of you that aren’t really exciting but keep your mind distracted looking for some interesting things – like the runners’ graveyard staffed by Haunted Mansion cast members and the McDonalds…

Mile 18 – wall may be nearing. Think positive; it will give you more energy. At this point you are entering the ESPN sports complex and some runners have expressed frustration and this part of the course – but I like to enjoy it in pieces. For example running on the 1/4 mile track, it is fun to enjoy the bounce of the track after lots of pavement, also the run through the baseball diamond is very cool. Plus enjoy the shade where you can get it in this area – it is one of the few places on course where you can get some shade from the Florida sun.

Mile 23 – Exhaustion is setting in. Visualize crossing the finish line. You are now entering the Hollywood Studios park and from here on out there is always some kind of scenery or cool area to keep you positive. The 2 miles after you leave ESPN and before you get to Hollywood Studios are the hardest to push through in my opinion – there isn’t a lot there to keep you going but once you get through that you get a string of visual treats right up to the finish line. You get Hollywood Studios, the beautiful walking path towards Disney’s Boardwalk Resort area, fantastic views around the lake seeing the Dolphin, Swan, Yacht and Beach Club resorts before entering Epcot and getting see all of World Showcase except Canada. Then you have your final stretch toward Spaceship Earth, the run by the choir at mile 26 and then the crowds cheering you down the final 0.2 miles. Miles 21 through 23 are where I start concentrating on my Pieces of Magic items that I bring along to remind me of my family and to keep me motivated.

Mile 26.2 – Celebrate! You will be tired, you may just want to crash out and go to bed, but make sure to take some time to wander around with your medal at Disney World. You will get congratulations from other runners, from all the Disney Cast Members – it feels good, as it should – you just finished a marathon! Also make sure to move around to keep the legs loose and work some of the lactic acid out – if you can do some walking around you will feel better the next day as opposed to just sitting around getting stiff.

 

Thanks for reading and let me know what you do to keep moving through the miles!

2 week out update for Dopey Challenge #2

Ok – I am back – it’s been busy the past few weeks so I haven’t been doing the blogging I want to do but today marks 2 weeks out from our travel day to the Disney World Marathon weekend and my 2nd Dopey Challenge (7th Goofy? wow…) and I figured I should find some time to get in here and give a quick round up of where I am and get everyone up to date on what is going on. (it is going to be a long one…)

I will start off with a major cool surprise this week as I was invited to attend the Cigna Blogger and Social Media Meet-Up over the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend! I have read up on how fun the event can be from some of the runners I follow on Twitter and it sounds like a great time. Honored to have been invited and very excited to attend!

And with that wild announcement out of the way on with the update…

 

Where do I stand running wise?

Running has been going decently well – furthest I have gotten on my recent longer runs has been 14 miles – which is not long enough but at least showed I could still do something. I have had several 10s in there as well so the 14 wasn’t a fluke.

For the most part my legs have been good. The ankle that has caused me grief for the past year and a half seems very solid so that seems to finally be truly solved – major sigh of relief there!

I am however having an issue with my right knee. Over the years this knee has caused me some grief (going back to high school football…back in the dark ages…) but I am still surprised it has popped up as an issue now. Mostly because of how / why it started bugging me. That is, I didn’t seem to do anything bad to it running…I seem to have buggered it up by having a nap on the couch a week or so ago…

That deserves an explanation I suppose.

So about a week and a half ago I sat down on the couch with my legs up on the ottoman to do some reading and promptly fell asleep. I had my legs crossed at the ankles with my right leg underneath…when I woke up a couple hours later I had not moved at all…and when I stood up my right knee would barely hold my weight – it had been hyper-extended pretty good by the weight of the other leg being on top of it for a few hours. Getting old sucks. The knee improved quickly just by moving it around but ever since it gives me shots now and then when I run. So I have been taking it easy with how hard I am running as truly injuring my leg right now would not be a good thing.

I still hope to get in a real good long run over the next week to clear the cobwebs but at this point it will just be for convincing myself I can as opposed to actually improving my conditioning.

 

My weight:

I have been getting my weight to go down – probably down about 5-8 pounds from where I was 2 months ago which is an improvement but still not where I need to be. Back in 2015 when I ran my first Dopey Challenge I was around the 220 pound mark and I am sitting above the 240 point right now – so I have a lot of work to do but obviously that won’t be fixed before the races in 2 weeks. But I have made positive improvements and I expect to keep that going so that I can train and run better races later in 2018. I have to take the long term goal of getting my weight under control – it took me a few years to get where I am so I won’t be able to fix it overnight. (on a side note my half and full PRs were set at about the 220 pound point – 1:46:00 for the half – I am tall and carry a fair bit of muscle so the 220 on me is not as dramatically overweight as it might sound…)

 

Kids’ training:

This year we are doing the 5k race as a family – so my wife Heather, our son (11) and daughter (9), and I will all be running the 5k.

I will then be doing the 10k with our son before going on and doing the half and full on my own to finish out the Dopey Challenge.

We did the ProBowl 5k together back in February but this will be the kids’ first taste of a real runDisney race and I want them in good enough shape that they can enjoy it and not be struggling with the distance or the cut off times.

How has their training been going? Probably more consistently than mine actually…

Our daughter has been doing 1-2 mile run/walks a few times a week as well as walking the pups with me. She also has run club before school twice a week. So she will be quite ready. She has crazy good natural running form too, so I really hope she keeps an interest in running.

Our son has been doing a few 2 mile runs a week plus occasionally longer. He might have some troubles with the 10k but the hope is at a minimum we can do the first 5k in a strong fashion and then really enjoy the back half of the race – because if he has to do some walking there it will at least be the most fun places to do that and we should have a time buffer to make sure we can finish. He did seem to have some issues earlier in the training with his form –  a lot of clomping and almost looked like he was going to trip himself all the time. One of his feet bends inward a bit and the shoes he was wearing seemed to be amplifying the issue. For an 11 year old he has pretty gigantic feet and we had to move up to smaller adult size to get him a decent pair of running shoes. But on the positive side of that, because we had to go with an adult size we could get him very good quality running shoes – once we did his form improved immensely.

Heather has been training as well so we will all be ready to have a really good time with the 5k race!

 

Overall – where is my head at?

Frankly my running has been on a slow and steady decline since spring 2015 when I got a bit sick and I have struggled with motivation and training since. My weight has slowly gotten worse as well over that time frame. And to top it off stress has been beating me up pretty good too.

BUT it seems like in the past couple months I have been able to start to make improvements in both my running and my weight and just feel better physically and mentally overall. I have a lot of work ahead of me but at least I am feeling positive about running and being healthy again.

I am going into these races with no real game plan either – I haven’t been in an organized race since the Spruce Woods 50k ultra back in early May and I haven’t done a road race since Goofy Challenge back in January. So I really have no idea what is going to happen on the races, how fast I will go, how I will feel, everything is in the air here.

Surprisingly I did get corral C from a time I had from last spring – I am probably not in the shape I should be to be in that corral so I might move back voluntarily but on the other side of it I am wondering if getting those extra few minutes isn’t going to be a good thing in case I implode spectacularly on the marathon. Which is entirely possible at this point.

So…what does that mean?

I am feeling generally positive going into the races but I am not expecting miracles from myself. My times for the longer runs I have done lately say 5 to 5.5 hours could be possible but I realistically expect closer to 6 hours for the full.

My plan is to run the races with my gimbal and a camera (for the 5k and 10k for sure and hopefully all 4 races) to take video and pictures and to distract my brain so that my body can do what it needs to do.

So with all that said for the marathon I am hoping to start with a pace to finish in 5 hours with the expectation that it my poor conditioning will catch up with me after about 2 hours and I will slow down significantly while still shooting to complete in 6 hours. That then gives me a buffer for things to go spectacularly wrong and still be have time to finish…

 

Alrighty – thanks for sticking with me through that one – it was definitely a long one…if I could post more frequently these things would be shorter…probably something I should remember…

Good luck to everyone on their training and if you see me at the Walt Disney World Marathon please say hi!