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Running For More…

The personal blog and website of Kristen Cincotta

Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

New Year, New Beginnings

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Welcome to 2016!

Much has happened since the last time I clicked myself over to this blog, with new beginnings happening all over the place. Since today is the first day of the new year, it only seemed fitting to give everyone an update about where I’ve been, and more importantly, what’s on deck for 2016.

Career Changes

By far the most significant change for me has been a job change, a change that was not unforeseen. I was employed at the CDC as a research Fellow, and my Fellowship was scheduled to end on Thanksgiving day, 2015.

One last stunning sunset over Atlanta, as seen from my office at the CDC.

One last stunning sunset over Atlanta, as seen from my office at the CDC.

Going into the final year of my Fellowship, all parties involved were both expectant and excited about the likely possibility that I would be staying on permanently at the CDC, as part of the rapidly growing Prescription Drug Overdose team. My team had the funds to hire several people and both my supervisors and I wanted me to be one of those people. However, over the summer, I learned that it wasn’t going to be possible. I’m not going to go into the details as to why here, but suffice it say, everyone was disappointed that it didn’t work out, including me. I LOVED being a part of the CDC, I really liked the vast majority of the people I worked with (both at the CDC and beyond), and I was pretty dang excited about several big things that were/are in the pipeline for the PDO team. To compound things, even as it became increasingly apparent that the primary project that I had been working on throughout my Fellowship was taking significantly longer to wrap up than expected, there was just no possibility of extending my Fellowship further. To be completely honest, it made for a pretty difficult last few months, especially as new people with less experience than I had were brought in to the permanent positions that I had been hoping to land. I wanted to stay and finish my project at my high standard of work, and instead, I felt like I was being pushed out the door. I would not give up my time at the CDC for anything – I had dreamed of working there for as long as I can remember and I am thrilled I was able to make it happen. I just wish things had ended on a better note.

A major SABCS highlight - meeting Dr. Susan Love and several Komen Advocates in Science at the Brinker Awards Reception.

A major SABCS highlight – meeting Dr. Susan Love and several Komen Advocates in Science at the Brinker Awards Reception.

BUT! When life closes a door, it opens a window, as they say. And in this case, life has opened a giant, beautiful bay window for me, with a stellar view of the future. With a bit of persistence and a good bit of luck, I was able to secure a job with Susan G. Komen as an Evaluation Manager, focusing on scientific research programs. In this position, I will be joining the team at Komen that is responsible for assessing the impact of the dollars that Komen has invested in breast cancer research over the years, identifying research successes that have stemmed from those dollars, and helping to improve Komen’s research programs overall. I will also get the opportunity to take these rusty blogging skills out for a spin by writing some pieces for the Susan G. Komen blog, email newsletters, and other social media properties. It is, in short, my dream job and in just three short weeks of employment, I have already had a career-high moment when I got to attend the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on behalf of Komen. I have followed the news coming out of SABCS for years, dating back to when my mom’s oncologists presented her case there during one of the case study sessions. To be there in person, just days after starting my new job, was an amazing experience. I cannot understate how excited I am for this new opportunity, especially given how crushed I was to have to leave a job I loved at the CDC.

Lifestyle Changes

The cherry on the sundae that is my new job is that in addition to doing work that I’m genuinely passionate about, I am going to get to do said work from home! My greatest frustration at the CDC was being forced to adhere to a standard 9-5 workday, with little freedom to manage my own time. While I will still have regular hours at Komen, working from home does give me a bit more flexibility. I will be able to do things like fold laundry while thinking through tricky problems, go for runs on my lunch break, and other things like that. At the CDC, I was easily spending 2.5 hours in the car every day between driving to & from daycare and commuting to work. Being able to just pop Dash over to daycare (or better yet, run commute him over on nice days!) and come right back home is going to save me TONS of time. Dash is about to have his own new beginning starting next week when he transitions to a new classroom at his daycare, so it’s nice to know I’ll have a little more flexibility in the event he needs me a bit more for the next couple weeks too. Plus, my beloved Shenanigans never really forgave me for taking an office job (she developed severe separation anxiety), so to stay home with her all day, every day, just feels right. Feeling like I’m in control of my time again has me VERY optimistic for everything I’d like to get done in the next year. And speaking of things I’d like to get done in the next year…

Volunteering with Komen Atlanta

I am once again serving as the Teams and Recruiting Chair for the 2016 Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure!

One of my homes away from home!

One of my homes away from home!

As always, the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure will take place on Mother’s Day weekend, returning again to the Lenox Mall. Race registration will “officially” open on Monday, but shhh…. a little bird told me you can actually register now (click here)! And to make things even better, this year I have a 25% off discount code that everyone can use to save some money. Simply enter “KCincotta2016” during registration and the computer will do the rest!

In addition to recruiting new teams and participants directly, I am also taking on something new this year – I have recruited 10 absolute superstars to serve as Race Ambassadors for the Race this year. I’ve already held one training session with them that left me totally jazzed up for the potential impact of this program on our Race registration, and especially on the performance of our teams. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this group in the coming months, so be prepared. As a I said, these ladies are superstars – longtime participants, top fundraisers, big time team captains. They are going to really push me to bring my best to our Race this year – I can’t wait!

I am also trying to launch one other initiative for Race that centers around improving the Race experience for our best performing teams on Race day. I don’t want to go into too many details here because it’s still in the preliminary planning stages. But – I AM looking for someone to join my “Teams Team” and head up this new effort for me. I’ll be there to help along the way, but I’ve already committed to launching the Race Ambassadors program this year and don’t want to give either program short shrift by trying to do both all by myself. So if you, or someone you know, might be interested in working with me on this new effort, let me know by shooting me an email. Thanks!

Volunteering with Atlanta Track Club

Dash trying out the indoor track at the snazzy new ATC offices.

Dash trying out the indoor track at the snazzy new ATC offices.

Last June, I was thrilled to learn that I was selected to once again serve as a Community Ambassador for my beloved Atlanta Track Club. The ATC has really helped me become a “real” runner over the last few years, and I’m honored to be able to spread the word about everything that they bring to our local running community. However, shortly after my Ambassador term started, I decided to back off of any racing until I knew what was happening with my job situation (and more specifically, our financial situation). I was already committed to the Atlanta 3-Day in October and I needed to devote my limited training time to that event anyways. So I didn’t really do much running between mid-July and mid-November, despite my best intentions. And as you can imagine, that made it pretty difficult to trumpet all the wonderfulness of the ATC.

Thankfully, right around the time I was tip toeing back into the running world post 3-Day, all of the Ambassadors were invited to extend their terms by an additional six months or so, so that our terms aligned with the calendar year. I sent off an email accepting that offer within seconds, knowing that this was my chance to really bring my best efforts to my Ambassador gig. So, you can expect much more from me about my experiences with the various programs and races that the Atlanta Track Club offers, both here and on social media, throughout 2016. Yeah!

Running in General

With my GOTR race buddy, before she totally smoked me!

With my GOTR race buddy, before she totally smoked me!

As I already mentioned, I began tip toeing back into running in mid-November after a bit of a break over the summer and early fall. I did my best to complete the “Striding through the Holidays” challenge that the

awesome ladies at Another Mother Runner organized, which was great motivation to get back into more consistent running and workouts. I also ran with my friend Julie’s daughter in the Girls on the Run ATL 5K, during which Niblette (her online nickname) absolutely dusted me. I was pretty dang proud of her wheels, but boy, was that the kick in the pants that I needed to get serious about running again. So I sucked it up, set some goals for myself for 2016, and got started. I rolled directly from the Stride challenge into training for the Publix GA Half Marathon (now being run by the ATC – holler!), following the final 14 weeks of the AMR Half Marathon Finish It! plan. This plan is a bit higher mileage than I’ve been running lately, but with more flexibility in my day to day schedule (see above), I am certain that I can handle it. I am also certain that my butt needs to really feel like I’m training for something if I’m going to stick with it, so hopefully this plan hits that sweet spot. I’ll wrap up my third week of training on Sunday and I’m pretty stoked with how it’s going already. More to come on that soon.

Beyond the Publix Half, I’ve got some other big running goals as well. But since this post is getting monstrously long already, I’ll save those for their own post. Cliff hanger!

Blogging

Celebrating with my Atlanta run-blogging ladies at our annual holiday get together.

Celebrating with my Atlanta run-blogging ladies at our annual holiday get together.

Throughout this beast of an update post, I’ve alluded to the fact that I’m hoping to blog A LOT more regularly over the next year – about Race for the Cure, about ATC, about my running in general, and many other things. I feel like I promise this to myself and the four people out there reading this at least once every few months, but again, with a more flexible day to day schedule, I’m super optimistic that I can actually make it happen this time. I love having this outlet to share my thoughts, successes, and struggles, and I really don’t want to let it languish as I have in the past. I’m going to let the content evolve naturally as I see what happens with my new job, but I definitely want to get back to regular training updates and race updates as a start.

So that’s a bit about where I’m at and what I’m looking at for 2016. The last time I was this excited to kickstart a new year was when I started my Fellowship at the CDC, when I had a lot of similar things on tap. Thanks for joining me on this ride – let’s make it great!

Welcome to the world, Dash!

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Seventeen days ago, my husband Mike and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary by welcoming this guy into the world:

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As most of you know by now from social media, his name is Dashiell Reeves Cincotta and we affectionately call him Dash. Although my pregnancy was easy, Dash’s birth was not. I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of the details of his birth story in this public forum, but suffice it to say, three days of contractions (two days worth of which were induced following my water breaking) does not make for fun times. The length of time between when my water broke and when Dash was born also led to some nervous moments immediately after he arrived as well. Thankfully, everything turned out for the best and everyone has been doing well since then.

We have now been at home for two weeks, slowly figuring each other out and learning our new family dynamics. My mother-in-law was here for the first week and was hugely helpful, especially when it came to letting me catch up on sleep and recover from labor and delivery. She was joined by my father-in-law and brother-in-law last weekend, making them all Dash’s first visitors. While it was great to be surrounded by so much love and support, I think that by the time everyone left, both Mike and I were ready to be on our own as a small family and try to find our own new routines. The past few days have been a wonderful mix of happy baby snuggles (I could let this guy sleep on my chest for days!), frustration over seemingly cause-less baby wails, proud parenting victories (no crying during bath time last night!), and a love between all of us that grows exponentially with each passing day.

Dash 22

During the time since Dash was born, the world said good bye to Robin Williams. His passing led to a lot of discussion about the need for open dialogue around depression. In that spirit, I can honestly say that while things get better every single day, being a new parent has been a hard adjustment for me. I knew it would be physically exhausting, but the emotional toll it has taken has been a surprise. The best way to describe how I feel is this: I feel homesick. Not for a place, but for other times. I loved being pregnant and now realize that I wasn’t prepared for it to come to such an abrupt end. Our lives pre-Dash were easy and free, if a bit quiet in recent years. Shenanigans was the center of our universe for a very long time and I hate the idea that she is feeling neglected due to a change she had no say in. The thought that I can never go back to those times hurts my heart immensely, as it always does following a major life change. I also miss my mom more than I thought humanly possible. Knowing that, for the first time ever, my life has moved on to a stage that she will never be a part of makes everything that much harder. I am leaving her behind with my old life and that thought breaks my heart on a daily basis.

All of that being said, with each passing day, things get a bit easier. Sleep certainly helps, as does having a wonderfully supportive partner. I’ve also done better this week about getting outside for some fresh air and exercise most days. I can’t wait until next week when I can start running again, even though I know it will be challenging. Writing things out, as I’m doing here, also helps me to make sense of things. Returning to some of these old habits is a helpful reminder that not everything in life has changed and even those things that have changed, haven’t necessarily changed for the worse. Life just looks a bit different now and that’s ok.

As for Dash and I, we’re taking things one day at a time. We fall deeper in love with each other by the minute and I find that if he sleeps for too long, I actually miss him. Even with all of the emotions that I’ve been wrestling with, I have rarely felt overwhelmed by Dash himself. Holding him and realizing that I really do have the ability to comfort and soothe this tiny person in a way no one else does has been incredibly reassuring. I am genuinely amazed that he finds my singing voice soothing. Spending time looking into his big, curious eyes and feeling him snuggle into me has been very comforting to me in much the same way that holding Mike’s hand has always made me feel better in times of stress in the past. I already find myself wishing Dash would grow slower and stay this tiny forever, even as I simultaneously long for the days when he can take care of himself a bit more. I have not for one second regretted our choice to become parents.

Dash 27

I promise that not all of my blog posts going forward will be quite this personal, or even this Dash-heavy. But since I know a lot of people are checking in on me and are curious how I’m doing, I thought I would share a more thorough update. From here on, though, things will be back to blogging business as usual, as time and Dash allows. Next week starts my official “training” for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day, so you can expect to see training updates popping up regularly (hopefully weekly!). I’m not fundraising for this race, since completing this race is enough of a challenge for me at this point, but I always have my eye on the cancer advocacy world and will try to mention different events and opportunities as I learn about them. I’m already thinking about posts around the Stand Up to Cancer telethon on September 5th and both the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Atlanta walk and the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure in October. I’m also confident that I’ll be tying on my Komen Atlanta and Atlanta Track Club volunteer shoes soon enough. So there will be plenty to write about in the months to come. Plus you never know when I’ll throw in some Dash updates, so definitely check back regularly.

For now, though, a deep and sincere thanks to everyone for their well wishes and supportive words. While we haven’t been able to respond to everyone’s texts, tweets, emails, phone calls, cards, and Facebook messages, we have read and appreciated every single one!

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All of the gorgeous photos in this post were courtesy of Allison DePalma Photography

Army of Women Call to Action – Looking for Buffalo Area Participants!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

If you’re checking in for a Baby C update, he’s still not here. He’s taking his sweet time deciding when to come into the world, just like his Mom did!

But hey, while you’re here, I’ve got another great cause that I wanted to write about today. I can’t help myself, you all know that.

Anyways, I regularly get emails from Dr. Susan Love’s Research Foundation soliciting qualified participants for an array of breast cancer-related studies through their awesome and unique Army of Women initiative. Admittedly, most of the time, I don’t pay enough attention to the details of each study to find out if I’m qualified for the studies. But with not much to do these days but wait for Baby C (and get some actual work-work done from home), I’ve actually been taking the opportunity to look at some of the things that land in my inbox on a daily basis. And lo and behold, this Army of Women study caught my eye today. I’m not qualified for this study (I’m too young and can’t get to the study site easily) but with a large family and a number of friends from the Buffalo area, I figure that there’s a good chance that someone in my extended network will be. So I decided to share the details here and even if you’re not interested personally, maybe you’ll take five minutes to share the details with your network as well.

Please note that I’m not posting this particular call to action because I think it’s the best or most worthwhile of the many Army of Women studies. I’m posting this one in particular because I know a lot of people with connections to the Buffalo-area and geographic barriers are often some of the hardest to overcome when recruiting participants for a study like this.

Project Title A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome

Researcher Susan McCann, PhD, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Study Summary The purpose of this study is to determine whether adding flaxseed (a food high in compounds that can change hormones) to a regular diet changes hormones that are related to breast cancer risk and if the effect of flaxseed differs between African- American and Caucasian women.

Who Can Participate? You can sign up for A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome if you meet ALL of these MAIN criteria:

• You are a woman between 45 and 75 years of age.

• You have stopped having your menstrual periods (you are postmenopausal).

• Your last menstrual period was more than 12 months ago.

• You have never been diagnosed with any cancer (basal and squamous cell skin cancers are OK).

• You have never had gastric bypass surgery.

• You have NOT taken estrogen or other female hormones (hormone replacement therapy, nonprescription hormones, or herbal supplements for menopausal symptoms) within the past 2 months.

• You do NOT eat flaxseed or take a flaxseed supplement regularly.

• You are NOT allergic to seeds or nuts.

• You have NOT taken antibiotics in the last 3 months

• You live near or are willing to travel (at your own expense) to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York

• You self-identify as:
o Non-Hispanic White OR
o Non-Hispanic Black

After you RSVP, the research team will contact you to ask additional questions to be sure that the study is a good fit for you.

What Does Participation Involve? If you sign up for A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome, the research team will contact you to confirm that you are eligible. If you choose to participate in the study, you will be asked to: 

• Be randomly assigned (like the flip of a coin) to eat 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day for 6 weeks or to maintain your usual diet. Two months later, you will switch into the other group for 6 weeks. 

• Complete an interview about your diet, health habits, medical history, reproductive history, and other information related to a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. 

• Attend 5 morning visits throughout the duration of the study at the Prevention Center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. At these visits, you will be asked to provide a blood sample and have your height, weight, and body fat measured. You will also be asked to bring a urine sample from the night before and a small sample of that day’s bowel movement that you collected at your home. The research team will provide the containers for these samples, and instructions on how to collect them. The research team will also call you periodically to ask you everything you ate and drank in the past 24 hours.

Where? Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York

If you are interested in participating, or know of someone who might be, please click the image below to be taken to the Army of Women site for this project. And hey, while you’re on their site, please consider signing up for future Army of Women calls to action by clicking “Sign Up Today” in the menu bar at the top of the page!

Army of Women Logo

PS – Michelle’s IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to supply protective equipment to the healthcare workers in Liberia on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak is still going strong. In case you missed it yesterday, please click here to learn more about her efforts and how you can contribute! Thanks!

Baby C Update and a Cause Worth Supporting!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Hi all!

Since today is my due date, I thought I’d start with a quick Baby C update, but then I wanted to post about something that I think is really important – my friend Michelle’s IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for medical supplies for the medical aid workers trying to contain the deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

From our maternity photoshoot at Piedmont Park with Allison DePalma.

From our maternity photo shoot with Allison DePalma.

But before we get to Ebola, an update on me! I have somehow gone an entire 40 weeks with almost no posts about my pregnancy. That was entirely by accident, due to a number of circumstances beyond my control. However, if you’ve been following my #100HappyDays challenge, you’ve seen plenty about all of our last minute preparations. At this point, we’re feeling prepared, if not yet ready. I’m not sure anyone ever feels totally ready for this magnitude of a life change. But we are prepared. We’ve taken birthing classes, breastfeeding classes, a baby basics class, even infant CPR. We’ve both had haircuts, eye appointments, and dental cleanings. The dog has had a bath and her most recent shots. The baby’s room is FINALLY done and we think we have everything we need for these first few weeks. Mike has been diligently cleaning every inch of our house and every linen/baby outfit he can find (truly, that’s all been his efforts and I could not be more grateful!). Heck, I even got my nails done last week so they’d look halfway decent in those new baby photos. So we’re prepared.

Baby C, however, doesn’t seem to be quite ready to make his big appearance just yet. I haven’t had any signs of early labor that I’ve recognized as such, so we’re thinking he’s going to take after his mom and come into the world a little behind schedule. But that’s ok. I’ve been lucky to have a fairly comfortable, non-eventful pregnancy so I’m not sitting here in misery. I’m excited to finally meet this little dude who’s been wiggle-worming his way around my insides for the last nine months, but I’m actually fine with waiting for him to be ready to enter the world. For now, I’m finishing up some things from work (from home at this point, thankfully!), taking care of some things around the house, and just generally taking it easy. We’ll be sure to spread the word to excited and anxious friends and family once there’s actually news to tell, I promise.

Now, onto my friend Michelle’s IndieGoGo campaign. Doctor Michelle is my college roommate and is easily one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met (and I know some pretty impressive people). She is Harvard-trained in emergency pediatrics and global health and has lead medical outreach efforts all over the globe. Of the many places where she has worked, Liberia has captured her heart. She speaks passionately about her experiences there and the wonderful people that she’s gotten to work with. Her great pride in how far they have come is clearly evident.

Doctor Michelle in Liberia

Sadly, Liberia, and its neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea are currently facing one of the worst Ebola outbreaks that the region has ever known. To use Michelle’s own words from the IndieGoGo campaign page:

In a world where conflict and war is raging on across so many countries, this is a war with no sides and no fault. There were no instigators, there will be no winners but the victims are many. The number of people killed by Ebola in this three-country region is more than half the total number of deaths from all prior outbreaks in Africa combined. Healthcare workers are on the frontlines where the sick flock, their safety is in jeopardy while they charge straight into danger to care for their own people.

Ebola is a highly contagious virus with no cure and no vaccine that spreads easily through contact. In the people that it affects, it starts out like any cold with fever and vomiting but turns into deadly internal bleeding. Ebola infection has claimed the lives of 12 brave healthcare workers and infected over 30. Only 1 in 3 infected with the virus are expected to survive this deadly disease, making the frontlines of healthcare in Liberia as deadly as armed conflict. Yet these brave individuals put their lives on the line to treat emergencies, pregnant women, children and those with chronic disease. Healthcare cannot come to a halt while Liberia waits for Ebola to go away.

As in all developing countries, medical supplies are scant and an outbreak like this taxes the few resources that the healthcare workers do have. To help ease this burden, Michelle has created an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for the healthcare workers in her beloved Liberia. You can read more about their needs on the IndieGoGo page, as well as more detailed information about how these funds will be distributed. But keep in mind this one number: $2.50 is enough to provide a healthcare worker with one set of protective equipment. That’s it.

Michelle’s initial goal for this campaign was to raise $10,000 in two weeks. Her friends and family blew that out of the water in the first day. So, as is Michelle’s relentless way, she raised her goal. She is hoping to raise $250,000 in the next 30 days. I hope that you will consider giving to this important effort. You can do so at the link below:

Click here to donate in support of the healthcare workers in Liberia in their fight against Ebola!

I am lucky that when Baby C decides he’s ready to enter the world, he will be doing so in a well-equipt medical facility where his risk of contracting scary infectious diseases is nonexistent. The same cannot be said for the healthcare workers in Liberia that Michelle considers to be family. Please consider making a donation to this most worthy campaign today!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Welcome to 2014!

First and foremost – apologies for sort of disappearing a bit in December! While I am usually pretty busy this time of year (as we all are), this year really wiped me out. In addition to the normal hustle and bustle of the holidays, I also ended up having multiple orientations for some things I’m taking on this year (including serving on the Komen Atlanta Community Grant Review committee and acting as an Ambassador for the Atlanta Track Club), a number of parties with new friends and old, and a five day trip home to upstate New York, something we haven’t done in YEARS. Unfortunately, due to our work schedules, the only time we could schedule that trip was two weeks BEFORE Christmas, right in the middle of the month. The timing of that trip threw me off so much that I’m STILL playing catch up. Seriously: I’m still working on getting our “Christmas” cards out. On January 2nd. OIY. All in all, it was such a crazy month that by the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, Mike and I were perfectly content to just stay in by ourselves and relax.

Celebrating the season with some of my fellow Atlanta-area running bloggers, a wonderful group of ladies!

Celebrating the season with some of my fellow Atlanta-area running bloggers, a wonderful group of ladies!

On top of that general busy-ness, I also haven’t been running, thanks to a knee injury that just will not heal. When I initially hurt my knee back in October, I planned to take off a full month and hope for the best. After that month was up, I could tell from just my day to day activities that my knee was still pretty inflamed, so I decided to take December off as well. Things finally started feeling better over the last couple weeks, so in the hopes of participating in the ATC’s Resolution Run on New Year’s Day, I attempted a short run last weekend. It did NOT go well. Less than a mile in, my knee flared up and felt just as bad (if not worse) than it felt back in October. It was incredibly discouraging. My fellow running bloggers have been writing and sharing their running goals and race plans for 2014 and I couldn’t even finish three miles, let alone start planning for next year. Honestly, it was kind of a crummy note to end the year on.

Nope. Never made it there. Boo.

Nope. Never made it there. Boo.

However! I can’t let that get me down. Instead of moping, I’m making my first resolution of 2014 to figure out what’s wrong with this knee once and for all, figure out a plan to get it back to where it needs to be, and follow that plan to the letter until I’m back out on the roads and running the way I want to be. That means it’s absolutely time to find a doctor. I gathered some recommendations from friends on Twitter and on Facebook (thanks for your input, friends!), and established today that my health insurance doesn’t actually require a referral to see an orthopedic specialist. Tomorrow, I’m going to start calling around and see who can see me in the next couple weeks. Fingers crossed that by the end of this month, I’ll have the beginning of a game plan to get back to running again.

So, given that ongoing frustration and the general chaos of the holidays, it’s been pretty easy to fall out of my “Running for More” groove. However, I love writing here when I get the time, even if it is occasionally sporadic. Plus, with the new year starting, a lot of exciting things are happening that I’m really looking forward to:

  • As I mentioned above, I’m serving on the Komen Atlanta Community Grants Review Committee again this year. I’ll be reviewing my assigned grants over the next month and in early February, I’ll meet with the rest of the committee members to decide on our final funding recommendations to the Board of Directors. The whole process is intended to be confidential, so I probably won’t say much more here. But suffice it to say, working through this process will be eating up a big part of my January!
  • As an ambassador for the Atlanta Track Club, there are two non-race events next week that I’m really looking forward to: the town hall to discuss the future of the Grand Prix race series at 6pm on Monday, January 6th and the Annual Member Social on Thursday, January 9th. Look for a post with all the details on both of those over the weekend. Just as a note, though, ATC has asked people to RSVP for the town hall by Friday, January 3rd. If you’re interested in attending, please shoot a quick email to feedback@atlantatrackclub.org.
  • Finally, as this year’s Participation and Teams Chair for the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t mention that registration for this year’s race (which will take place on Saturday, May 10th) is now OPEN! This is a GREAT goal race if one of your resolutions is to get in the exercise habit and improve your physical fitness. Our race is open to runners and walkers alike, so regardless of your personal goals, we’d love it if you made taking part in our race your goal. Also, as an added bonus, if you use the discount code “earlybird” at checkout, you can save $10 off your registration from now through January 15th. If I convinced you to register, you can do so by clicking on the link at the end of this post!

And finally, I really do intend to go back and fill in some of my blogging gaps from back in October. Tentatively, I’m planning to write those up over the next couple of weeks (I think I’ve got five posts to write). I think I’m going to back-date those posts when they’re done so that they make more sense in the archives and then I’ll write a quick wrap-up post with all of the links once they’re done.

With all of that on my plate, maybe it’s for the best that I’m not also trying to squeeze in training and races. I’m going to be plenty busy enough as it is focusing on the “For More” part of my personal mission without the “Running” bit. But first, though, I MUST finish addressing these Christmas cards once and for all before this gets seriously embarrassing!

Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure logo

Click the image to register for the 2014 Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure today!

Announcements!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Even though I am STILL furloughed from my job as a research Fellow at the CDC, my advocacy and fundraising work never stops. I finally sent out my #Run4Results fundraising letters and they have worked like gangbusters – I’m less than $170 away from reaching my goal with two and half weeks still to go before the Atlanta Marathon 10 Miler. I’ve also been easing back into training following the AllState 13.1 Half Marathon this past weekend. And I am starting to put some pieces in place for the future, including a few fun announcements!

1. I have started a team for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Atlanta Walk!

The Making Strides walk is on October 26th (the day before the 10 Miler!) and will take place at Centennial Olympic Park. Because I am still working on my #Run4Results fundraiser, I won’t be actively fundraising for this walk (although you can donate here if you are so inclined). Instead, I want to encourage as many people as possible to join my team and walk with me. It is $25 to register (or $35 on race day), with all of the money going to fund ACS’s breast cancer initiatives. It’s also only a walk, and a relatively short one at that – no running involved. My team is currently named “3 Day Tweeps” although I may change it once I see who will be walking with me. Clicking on the icon below will bring you to my team page where you can find all of the information about the event and sign up!

ACS Making Strides Logo

Click on the image above to join my team!

2. I have a new role on the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure planning committee!

Because I will almost definitely be out of town the weekend of the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure (May 10th, 2014!), I won’t be able to serve as Safety Chair again this year. Instead, I will be taking on a MUCH bigger role that is entirely pre-race: I’m going to be serving as the Participant Recruitment/Teams Chair! After seeing the numbers that we had turn out for our race last year compared to what other (smaller) cities were turning out, the staff at Komen Atlanta (including the new Executive Director Cati Stone) and the members of the Race planning committee realized that we can and should be seeing much, much higher participation levels. One of the main things that I realized during my stint on the committee last year was that one area where we could do much better was in recruiting more participation from other runners here in Atlanta. I also feel like we need to do more outreach to both the Komen Atlanta grantee organizations and to the local participants in the Breast Cancer 3 Day. So I took some of my ideas to Cati (a fellow runner and 3 Day walker), who was already looking to shake things up around our Race for next year. It turns out that she was already thinking of many of the same types of activities that I was to try to drive up our registration levels, both for teams and for individuals. So starting later this winter, and big time next spring, I will be hustling my butt all over Atlanta to get as many people as possible to take part in our Race. I am a little intimidated to actually find myself in a position to put my money where my mouth is (so to speak… ), but I’m even more excited about it. Our Race has been good in the past. This year, we’re going to make it GREAT.

Komen Atlanta Logo

 

3. I am going to be one of the inaugural Ambassadors for the Atlanta Track Club!

In a stroke of fortuitous timing, after I got home from meeting with Cati at the Komen Atlanta offices earlier this week, I found a wonderful email sitting in my inbox inviting me (and about 40 other people) to be part of the Atlanta Track Club‘s inaugural Ambassadors program. With as much volunteering and yammering on about them as I do, this position is a natural fit for me. I’ll be receiving some communications training and promotional materials to distribute and will be representing the ATC at approximately 4-6 race expos, health fairs, group runs, and similar events over the course of next year (the program will be starting in January). Seeings as I was already looking to do more outreach to the running community in Atlanta through my new Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure position, this Ambassador program is an AWESOME opportunity. I’ll be building connections through my ATC work that I can then use in my Komen Atlanta work – all the while promoting TWO fabulous organizations that I feel passionately about. WIN-WIN!

ATC New Logo

 

So that’s some of what I’ve been working on during my work furlough. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m downright GIDDY over these opportunities. But, before I can really dive into Race recruiting and promoting ATC, I need to keep my eyes on my first priority – meeting my #Run4Results fundraising goals and preparing for the Atlanta Marathon 10-Miler. Coming up in the next few days will be a three part series of posts on my final preparations for the AllState 13.1 Half Marathon and my race recap as well as a few posts about the great work of the American Cancer Society. I’ll also be posting some information about the upcoming Atlanta 3 Day for those that will be here in town and maybe even a hint about MY 3 Day plans for next year. For now though, if you would like to support me in my #Run4Results fundraiser, you can do so by clicking on the DetermiNation image below. Thanks for all your support!!

ACS Determination Logo 2

Please click on the image above to visit my fundraising page and make your donation!

 

I’m Back!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Hi everyone!

First and foremost – MASSIVE apologies for going dark for the last week and a half. After the Atlanta Track Club Singleton 10 Miler race, I came home all set to spend the rest of the day doing two things: taking a nap and writing fundraising letters for my #Run4Results fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, while I was napping, the battery in my computer ran completely down. And despite all of my best efforts, I couldn’t wake it up again. It was totally, completely dead. It turns out that on top of a number of small tics that my computer had developed over the years (I couldn’t drag and drop or right click, my battery was warped… ), my logic board was FRIED. Without a logic board, there was no using my computer. So, after three trips to the Apple Store, off my computer went to get new logic board and overall internal clean up. After a stressful week and a half, I finally got my baby back today, just about good as new!

Unfortunately, with my computer in the shop, I didn’t have many options for blogging or doing much on the internet besides monitoring my social media feeds on my phone. The only other computer in our house is my husband’s work laptop and understandably, he wasn’t comfortable with me using that machine beyond what was absolutely necessary. So I was relegated to doing all of my “computing” via iPhone – NOT ideal. It was very limiting and unfortunately, really put a cramp in my ability to run my fundraiser the way I had planned to.

Thankfully, all of that is now behind me. Given that I am currently furloughed from my job due to the government shut down, it looks like I’m going to be able to spend some time this week getting “caught up”. First priority, of course, is sending out those fundraising letters. I’m also going to write up my training from the past two weeks (which has been going pretty well!) as well as an overall September running recap. Time permitting, I will also be writing one large post on ACS and why I chose them for my fundraiser. I had intended to make those posts a series, but I think with my condensed timeline before the AllState 13.1 Half Marathon this coming Sunday, one post will have to suffice. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t write something for Breast Cancer Awareness Month which officially kicks off today. So look for that too.

I think that covers everything from my end. Again, apologies for disappearing into the internet ether and probably more importantly, extra emphatic apologies to anyone who had to endure my broken computer-related crankiness over the last couple of weeks. All in the past now!

Thanks for sticking with me!

ACS Determination Logo 2

Please click on the image above to visit my fundraising page and make your donation!

Running For More on National Running Day!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Me and my best girl enjoying our morning run today!

Me and my best girl enjoying our morning run today!

Happy National Running Day!

Celebrated on the first Wednesday of June every year, National Running Day is a day for runners everywhere to stand up and yell “I’m a Runner!” and tocelebrate the inherent craziness that goes along with that. There are group runs in cities across the country, race discounts to be found everywhere, and for many running and fitness bloggers, lots and lots of giveaways. Last year, I celebrated by going for a short run and then blogging a little bit about why I’ve come to love running so much. This year, I’ve got something bigger up my sleeve. This year, I’m unveiling my new blog name!

As of today, my new blog name is:

Running For More

So, why the new blog name? Well, Kristen Walks just didn’t feel right anymore. I picked that name back when my main breast cancer advocacy work was centered around the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. I walked the the 3-Day three times between 2007 and 2010 and I’ve been a fairly visible member of that community ever since. However, in 2009, I got it in my head that I was going to try to run the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure (with no idea how to train, it didn’t go well). Then in 2010, I decided I wasn’t just going to run the Race for the Cure again (with a training plan and everything!), I was going to Couch to 10K it all the way to my first Peachtree Road Race 10k. In 2011, staring at months of sitting on my butt writing my doctoral dissertation, I decided to be proactive and signed up for the Atlanta Track Club’s Women on the Move 5K training group. And the Women’s 5K race. And Race for the Cure. And Warrior Dash, because mud is fun. And the ATC’s Peachtree training group. And the Peachtree itself. So clearly, this running thing was becoming much more of “a thing”. That led to last year when I ran 18 different races, many of them with a charity component. I was officially a (self-declared) #RunningBadass.

Predictably, after I started my job late last year, I didn’t have as much time to blog. And when I did have time to blog, I found myself mostly wanting to write about running. Not about running in terms of “how to be a runner” or anything like that. There are plenty of bloggers that are much more knowledgeable about that sort of thing. I wanted to write about my training and my races, even when they didn’t have anything to do with my cancer advocacy. I felt that way even more strongly once I decided to try to do my own fundraising for my three big races this year, without the structure of an organization like Komen to guide me. Running is what I’m doing now and running is the major form that my advocacy is taking. In addition, with my position at the CDC, I have to be very careful about the public health and science information I post in public forums like this lest it be perceived as representing the CDC’s position on, well, anything. (To be clear: All the opinions and factual interpretations here on the blog are mine and are based on my professional perspective only. They are not necessarily representative of the CDC’s position on anything.) I also now have restrictions on my ability to persuade people to lobby the government, also on pretty much anything. So beyond the fact that I just plain don’t have time to research the types of posts I was starting to write last fall (like these), out of an abundance of caution, I decided to move away from any kind of post that could be potentially problematic. So that leaves me with writing about my running. Which meant that Kristen Walks as a blog name had to go.

So, how did I land on Running For More? I know this is going to come as a surprise, but it came to me on a run. I was running intervals on the track at Piedmont Park, to be specific, on a hot, dusty night. I had recently added new songs to my running playlist, and one of them was Melissa Etheridge’s song “Running for Life”. On her website, Melissa writes that:

Ford asked me to write a song for their “Race for the Cure” initiative to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer charities. I wanted to write a song that was personal; climb into people’s emotions and portray a woman who has had breast cancer but is out of it. The first verse is about a survivor. The second verse is from my own experience and the last verse is for those who have not been diagnosed or don’t know anyone with breast cancer yet. We are all running for answers and to make the situation better.

I’ve probably heard this song hundreds of times. I find it incredibly inspiring and always have. I also relate to many of the lyrics:

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend I run for life

Those are all reasons why I run, which was what struck me during this particular run. So as I made my way around the track (probably not as focused on my pace as I should have been during speedwork), I started to think about whether any of those lyrics could work as a blog title. And none of them felt quite right. They didn’t quite encompass enough. They are all reasons I run but none of them are THE reason that I run. And then I got to the last lines of the song:

We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

BINGO. Running for more. It was perfect. So I raced my butt home (ok, I had just done intervals – it was probably more of a trudge) and did a quick Google search. Miraculously, I didn’t find a single other blog using the name (if there is one, I apologize!). Even more astonishing, the URL www.RunningForMore.com was available. It was fate. And a short ten minutes later, it was mine.

So, what does Running For More mean? (I’m into the rhetorical question thing today!) To me, it truly encompasses all of the the things that I’m running to have more of in my life:

  • More AWARENESS of the need for more breast cancer research funding. And cancer funding in general. All biomedical research, really.
  • More EDUCATION on the risk factors for breast cancer, things you can do to protect your health, and the early signs and symptoms that something might be wrong.
  • More FUNDING for research, educational outreach, patient support, political action, and so many other aspects of the fight against breast cancer.
  • More HEALTH for myself so that breast cancer and other chronic diseases don’t steal years from my life like they have from my loved ones.
  • More EXPERIENCES through participating in great events, running in fun races, and volunteering for wonderful organizations.
  • More FRIENDS like those I have met through my advocacy and running.
  • More FUN!
  • And most importantly, more TIME. Time with my mom, time for other moms, time for everyone. Cancer has shortened too many lives. I’m O-V-E-R it. Through running and all those things I listed above, I’m running to give everyone, including myself, more time.

So those are the topics you can expect me to (try to find the time to) write about on here in the coming weeks and months. A lot more running, but still holding on to the best stuff from before. I’m excited about this. I hope you are too!

 2013 National Running Day Image

PS – Hey, graphic designer friends! I would love a new logo for that upper left hand corner, as well as possibly a new banner pic for the splash page. Anyone want to help me out?

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going – Goals for 2013

Monday, March 4th, 2013

So… I got a new job, blogged about getting said new job, and then promptly got so busy at said new job that I haven’t blogged anything in over two months. Whoops.

Ultimately, while I’m bummed that my blogging has slid by the wayside, I think it’s probably okay. I really want to build this short term fellowship opportunity with the Injury Center at the CDC into a full time job and a life-long career in public health, so disappearing down a hole to really focus on my work for a bit is exactly where my primary focus SHOULD be right now. For those who are curious, it has been going well. My project is really starting to take off and I continue to really enjoy both the type of tasks I’ve been assigned (and in some cases voluntarily taken on) and the type of thinking required to complete them. It’s been a challenge, but one that I’ve found very motivating. And I L-O-V-E being a part of the CDC community!

IMG_1632

This binder was my best friend for a while back in January.

I should also point out that while I haven’t been blogging, I haven’t completely given up my breast cancer activism either. Back in January, I spent a somewhat delirious week and a half absolutely buried in Komen Atlanta Community Grant applications, followed by a fascinating evening listening to really smart, engaged women discuss the merits of the various grantees. It was a great experience throughout and even though the final grantee list for 2013-2014 hasn’t been posted yet, I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year. I’ve also been attending committee chair meetings for the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure that is fast approaching (May 11th – have you registered yet?). My committee work has been basically non-existant thus far (as Safety Chair, there isn’t much to do until closer to the race date), although that will change this month when my responsibilities really kick in. However, it’s been eye-opening to sit in and listen to the behind-the-scenes chatter of how all of the pieces come together for race day.

The other thing that has been eating up my time in early 2013 has been running. I have been running my butt off this winter. I’ve already notched two PRs and came dang close to a third one, all the while training for my first half marathon that will take place just 12 days from now (EEEK!). I’ve spent a little bit of time over on my Kristen Runs pages updating my race results thus far and I’m in the process of updating my 2013 race schedule as well. You can be sure that I’ll post a quick update once that’s all set, hopefully by next weekend.

All of which brings us nicely to what I HAVEN’T been doing and how I am about to rectify that, starting tonight. And that thing is FUNDRAISING.

Back in January, I had big plans for a post about New Year’s Resolutions and my personal training and fundraising goals for 2013. And then one thing (work deadline!) led to another (grant reviews are due!) led to another (I need to update the race results from last year first… ) led to another (business travel? what’s business travel?) led to another (the dog ate the furniture!)…. and it just never happened, despite having actually set my goals for 2013 weeks and months ago. I wasn’t honestly sure I was going to even dedicate a blog post to my goals this year, but then tonight I saw that no less than Dean Karnazes wrote on Runner’s World that for fitness goals and resolutions, March is the new January, so I’m taking it as a sign. Plus, I clearly need some public accountability since I’ve been slow to get off the ground with some of these. So, without any further fanfare, here are my 2013 goals for (1) Running, (2) Fundraising and (3) Advocacy:

Running Goals

Celebrating at the finish line of the Hot Chocolate 15K in January!

  • Sub-30 minutes 5K – Not to spoil the ending, but I’ve already done this TWICE this year after never breaking this barrier before!
  • 10K PR – Because I’m SICK of getting slower at the Peachtree every year.
  • Complete two half-marathons – I’m definitely running the Publix Georgia Half Marathon on March 17th (my birthday weekend!) and I’m planning on running the AllState 13.1 Half Marathon in October on Mike’s birthday weekend as well.
  • Complete eight Atlanta Track Club Grand Prix races – I really want that sweet end of the season shirt. We’ve completed two already!
  • Volunteer ten times for the Atlanta Track Club – This isn’t a random number; there are end of the year gifts for volunteering ten or more times and I’m annoyed that I didn’t know that last year.
  • Total annual mileage of > 750 miles – This is notch up from the 600 something miles I ran last year. With my half marathon training, I’m well on pace to hit this goal!

Fundraising Goals

Advocacy Goals

  • Weekly fundraising updates and monthly training updates here on my blog
  • At least two blog posts per month not related to my races or fundraising to continue to spread the word about the need for more cancer research funding and how everyone can get involved.
  • Volunteer with Komen Atlanta or other local cancer not-for-profits at least six times this year (beyond my Race for the Cure and Community Grants commitments). In particular, I’d really love to get more involved with the American Cancer Society.

So those are my goals. Out there for everyone to see and read. I have always been a very goal-oriented person. When I set goals, I intend to do everything in my power to achieve them, even when things get tough and the world seems to be working against me. I WILL reach each of these goals, even those I’m already behind on.

Speaking of which… if you just read my goals, you hopefully just said to yourself, “Wait, if you’re trying to raise $1000 for this Capital Campaign thing by the end of March, why haven’t I heard anything about it???” Well, the reason you haven’t heard anything about it is because it took longer than I anticipated to get everything for that fundraiser up and running. But the good news is, I’m finally ready to kick off that fundraiser, which I’m calling “Run for the ROC“. And I’m doing it TONIGHT, in my very next blog post!

My BIG News – Dr. C Got a Job!

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

So… I sort of fell off the #NHBPM wagon. The goal was to write 30 blogs posts in 30 days. And I promise, I had every intention of doing just that. But yet, it’s now December 3rd and I only wrote/published 3 posts. I feel sort of bad about that. But not too bad, because I had a REALLY good reason for not posting:

I GOT A JOB!!!

It was a very long hiring process, one that honestly stretches back to last December when I applied for a public health policy research position on a team working on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As it turns out, I didn’t get that job. But my resume did catch the eye of the team lead, who also serves as the acting branch chief for the Health Systems and Trauma Systems Branch in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention (DUIP), which is a part of the larger National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). When the next possible opening on the TBI team came up in May, she got in touch with me and we had a phone interview that went great.

And then I didn’t hear anything more all summer, other than assurances that NCIPC/DUIP were re-organizing and they’d be in touch. In the mean time, I continued applying for other jobs (and hearing nothing… ), researching possible fellowship opportunities, and networking, networking, NETWORKING. Anyone that I came into contact with who had even the most remote connection to a place I wanted to work or experience in the fields I’m interested in, I was all over it. In August, I spent over an hour chatting up a very nice woman who happened to work at the CDC while hanging out at my friend Kristin’s pool. And that conversation was where I learned about ORISE fellowships.

ORISE is an acronym, that stands for Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, a Department of Energy (DOE) institute focused on recruiting scientists and engineers to work on a whole host of health, science, and engineering issues. ORISE itself is a physical place located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that is managed by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) consortium. However, not all ORISE scientists work in Tennessee. Rather, ORAU also sponsors a series of ORISE fellowships at a number of member institutions and partners, including at the CDC here in Atlanta.

So, what does this have to do with my new job? Well, as part of the big reorganization over in the NCIPC/DUIP, a team working on public health policy relating to prescription drug overdose (PDO) was relocated into the Health Systems Branch, which, as I noted above, is currently under the direction of the head of the TBI team that I interviewed with. The PDO team happened to have openings for two ORISE fellows to work on a two year project evaluating a series of state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). And my contact, who was still looking for a way to bring me in, recommended that I apply for the position, which I did.

And then I didn’t hear anything for over a month.

Thinking that the lack of communication meant the fellowship was a long shot at best, I soldiered on, pursuing networking opportunities with a commitment that could best be described as “relentless fervor”. As part of this pursuit, I figured out a way to attend the Network for Public Health Law Conference here in Atlanta in mid-October. The conference was awesome and I learned A LOT. But more importantly, I met A LOT of people who were generous with their time and really went out of their ways to help me build my networks within the public health field. As it turns out, one of the people that I met at the conference just so happened to work on the PDO team at the CDC. And he went back to his team lead and talked me up, effectively moving my resume to the top of the pile.

[Side note: When you are looking for a job, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, will tell you “It’s all about who you know!“. I was told this three separate times at my dental cleaning in early October alone. Reluctantly, I admit that they’re right. But what people don’t tell you is that you, and you alone, control who you know. So if your current network isn’t generating promising leads, get out there and meet new people!]

Shortly after I got back home from my networking trip to DC (like I said, relentless fervor!), I had a phone interview with the PDO team lead and another senior member of the team. It was on a Friday morning, it lasted 27 minutes, and I had no idea if they liked me or not. After a weekend of trying to convince myself I didn’t blow it while simultaneously preparing for another networking meeting with a public health lawyer at the CDC the following Monday (RELENTLESS FERVOR), I received an email on Monday morning that basically said “Congratulations on being selected as an ORISE fellow! Here’s 800 pieces of paperwork we need to start working on to get your hiring approved and processed.”

I was FLOORED. But I was also cautious. In all of my networking meetings, I had learned that opportunities with the federal government can fall apart just as easily as they come together. So I tried my best not to say anything until everything was finalized (although my mom leaked it to my 94-year-old grandmother who then posted about it on my Facebook wall… ), which happened the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. So while I was stuffing my face with turkey and potatoes and pie, I was also incredibly grateful that after a long, frustrating search, I had FINALLY landed a fantastic position where I will get hands on experience learning how public health policy is set at the federal level.

I’ve now been at work for a little over a week and I’m still really excited, even though all I’ve gotten to do so far is paperwork and background reading. I hadn’t really considered working in drug abuse policy, but I’m finding the material stimulating and intriguing. Prescription drug misuse and abuse is a huge public health problem across the country right now and different states are trying different things to counter it. My job, then, in a nutshell, will be to help figure out which interventions and controls are working (and why) and which aren’t (and why). It should be a fun challenge and I know I’m going to learn a lot!

The one caveat, though, is that as a guest researcher at the CDC, my understanding is that I need to be careful what I choose to blog about here. In terms of “reporting” on the fundraising and awareness events that I try to take part in on a regular basis, I think I’m fine to keep blogging away. Likewise, fundraising for private organizations like American Cancer Society and Komen for the Cure. However, there are obviously confidentiality issues relating to the work I’ll be doing at the CDC, so beyond what I’ve shared in this post, I probably won’t write much about that specifically. Additionally, I need to be careful that any health and science posts (like my “cancer awareness month” series) are not misconstrued as approved by or representing any kind of official position by the CDC, ORISE, ORAU, or the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services. A simple disclaimer should do the trick, but I’ll probably err on the side of caution for a while just to be safe.

Finally, I strongly suspect (although I haven’t seen it confirmed anywhere yet) that I am not supposed to do any public advocating or politicizing on issues pertaining to government-funded research, including the current state of said funding and the potentially detrimental effects of sequestration on it. It is something of a conflict of interest to be advocating for protecting/increasing CDC funding when said funding levels have huge implications for the future of my fellowship and whether or not I get hired on as a permanent CDC employee. So PLEASE. Since this is the only thing I’ll be writing publicly about sequestration from this point on, do me a favor and look it up. Look up the effects that an 8% across the board cut in funding will have on NIH, NSF, FDA, AHRQ, and yes, CDC. If you do nothing else, read through this report from Research!America. Read the info that AAAS (especially this report), CIBR, and the Society for Neuroscience have compiled on the issue (note, those links will take you to their sequestration pages). This letter by the Coalition for Health Funding is also worth a read, as is this ACS CAN blog post on sequestration and breast cancer research. Read the Cures Not Cuts! website. And CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. The US government funds the vast majority of biomedical research in this country, research that will find the cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and yes, someday, cancer. These potential cuts to research investments will have ramifications for decades. We’re falling behind already. We cannot afford any more budget cuts to our science and research budgets and everyone needs to make sure their representatives know it. This PDF from Research!America includes sample letters, tweets, and Facebook posts that you can use as inspiration. Do it for me. Call it a “Congratulations on the new job!” present.

So that’s my biggest news. But I do, actually, have other news as well, this time on the volunteering front. The day before I found out that my fellowship was approved and I had a start date in place, I was asked to be on not one, but TWO important committees at the Atlanta affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with whom I’ve been volunteering at health fairs and fundraising events since late last winter.

First, I will be serving as the Safety Chair for the Atlanta Race for the Cure which will take place at Atlantic Station in May (registration is now open!). That means that I’m responsible for lining up the medical and ambulance support for the race as well as making sure everyone is where they should be and everything runs smoothly on race day. As I’ve gotten more involved with the local running community here in Atlanta and I’m pretty comfortable with the medical community here as well, it’s kind of a perfect fit! Organizing, race planning, and health care – it’s a perfect fit! I thought I had my first planning meeting for Race for the Cure committee tonight (we meet on the first Monday of each month), but it turns out that doesn’t start until next month. As best as I can, I’ll try to post updates and you can be sure that come spring, I’ll be recruiting as many people as possible to take part in the race!

Second, I will also be serving as a member of the Community Grants Review Board, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. For those who don’t know, 75% of the money that the Komen affiliates raise throughout the year (including through the Race for the Cure) stays with the affiliates and is redistributed throughout the local communities in the form of community support grants. The majority of these grants go to fund breast cancer initiatives and patient support work at local healthcare providers, community support centers (like YMCAs) and cancer support organizations. I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to help direct how Komen Atlanta chooses to use their funds. I have grant review training on Thursday and will have until early January to review my assigned grants. Then in late-ish January, I will get together with the rest of the reviewers to decide on which grants to fund for 2013-2014. I’m really looking forward to experiencing this aspect of Komen’s work from the inside and as best I can, I’ll try to keep everyone posted. However, to avoid conflicts of interest and all of that, I will need to keep the specifics of much of this work private as well.

So that’s how the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 are shaping up for me. After my defense last December, I thought my whole life would just start moving forward immediately. I fully expected to have a new job in place well before I graduated in May. I never anticipated that I would be unemployed for as long as I was. Moreover, I had no idea how restricted I would be financially because of my lack of a job, which, in turn, restricted the charitable work I was able to do. In short, throughout most of 2012, I felt stuck in the mud when I all I wanted was to be finally moving forward. Well, after almost a full year of fighting to get unstuck, I can proudly say: I AM UNSTUCK. I have a new job that I’m really fired up about where I’m going to learn a lot about public health policy, law, and hopefully communications from inside the federal government. I have two great volunteering gigs where I’m going to have a real influence on how a large breast cancer not-for-profit does their work. I honestly haven’t been this excited for the coming year in such a long time. It’s such a great feeling to finally be on my way!