Uphills and Downhills

I am going to do a solo 50K! That is how my recently written post was going to end. I left it to rest so I could come back to editing with a fresh mind. In that time frame, life has once again changed. I went in for my most recent scan and the results were not as good as I was hoping. There is a new liver lesion, about 3.7cm in size. My cancer markers are all drastically up also indicating the cancer was moving again. The current plan is to get a biopsy on the liver tumor and make sure it is in fact a breast cancer metastasis (mets). The likelihood of it being anything else is slim, but we have to check to make sure before we move on to a treatment plan. The good news is that the bone mets are all stable so the current treatment is at least working on them. Once we have the biopsy confirming that the tumor is a metastasis then we will move on to getting some radiation directed right at it. We will also be using the biopsy to send a sample of tissue for genetic testing to see what meds might work well against it. So here I am back in the waiting game. This process will take about a month to work itself out. Time to hurry up and wait!

What does a reasonably crazy runner do with this kind of information…run. I spent the weekend hitting the trails. I did a nine mile loop near my house, with a brief stop on a ridge to call the family and wave from my house up to me on the ridge. My youngest found that to be super fun looking at the spec of her mom up on a little ledge up a big hill. The next day I went for a six mile run up a nearby local peak. Knowing that despite this news I was able to tackle the peak and make a pr time back down gave me great perspective. Trail running in many ways mirrors the course of cancer. Both have steep ups and mood lifting downhills. At some point in a long run you enter a pain cave and for sure those exist in the world of cancer treatment. When I trail run I don’t think about too much else because I am looking at the trail just in front of me. It is a moving meditation. A reminder of what mindfulness can do in running and in life. If I keep my eyes and focus on the trail then I can keep myself from falling and getting hurt. If I keep my eyes and focus on what I am able to now, run up mountains, then I can keep the worries about the negative future problems at bay.

I can run a mountain! That means I can tackle this next hurdle! I will continue on my 50k plan until the doctors, or my body, tell me I should change plans. Look ahead one week at a time and keep on plugging.

See you all out on the trails! Keep running reasonably crazy!

Fundraising site: https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/Mariasol-Gutierrez

Youtube: PocoLocoRunner https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ybZAeTYg1L3sfQADdayTQ?view_as=subscriber

Instagram: @PocoLocoRunner


Questioning Myself, Sleep, Results and Research

For this whole past month I have been fighting some nasty illnesses, and finding myself knocked out by fatigue. All but one of the children have been sick with one kiddo having an ear infection, pneumonia and bronchitis. She and I spent the better part of three weeks separated by the whole house, quarantined in our respective rooms. It was during this time that the fatigue set in conveniently at the same time that my white blood cell count dropped, particularly my absolute neutrophil count. This means that I was at particular risk for getting sick, and it also made me tired. I thought when the counts came back up that my fatigue would decrease also, however that was not the case. I thought maybe it was because I was fighting off the family illnesses, but as they all started to get better the fatigue did not leave. I was continuing to train for my 50k’s and so I began to wonder if maybe training for the 50k was an unrealistic goal while homeschooling, parenting, and fighting off cancer.

My coach Nicole (@seeenserun on instagram) worked with me and brought my long run mileage down and decreased the intensity of the hard workouts. Still the fatigue progressed. It peaked after I did a road trip where I drove back and forth by myself. The first half because I love to drive and the second half because I was the only one driving back. I went from that trip into taking care of the kids by myself, because my husband was on his work trip. As soon as he came back it was clear that he was sick and I moved out of our bedroom so I would not get his illness. I went from being able to run 14 miles at the end of December to struggling to get in 8 miles last week. I spent the week wondering if this was really something that I could do. 50k is no small distance, fighting cancer is no small energy drain. Can my body do both? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I have come to no great conclusion. All I can do is try to change some things and keep trying for a bit longer before I decide if I should rein it back into maybe the half marathon distance.

Once I moved back into the bedroom I realized how much I had gotten in a sleep deficit. I had one night of great sleep and suddenly I felt like a whole other person! My optimism came back and I felt ready to do the 50k again. By the end of that day though the fatigue had settled back in some. It is clear to me now that I need to make sleep a bigger priority if I am going to consider this challenge. Once I have gotten some regular good sleep I will readdress if my body can handle this endeavor.

With that on the back burner I got a lot of good news in this last month. My cancer markers at the beginning of the month were the best they have ever been, with one even dropping into the normal range. The doctors are confident part of the reason they are so good is my running. So even if I drop my race mileage goals I will keep running around 30 miles a week. For those of you with a strong medical background or a strong desire to know the exact numbers. My CA27-29 was at 55, although it came up to 59 after my month of fatigue. My CA15-3 was 30, although it also came up a bit in the last month to 41. Also on the good news front. I got my every 3 months PETCT scan to check how my cancer is doing. Everything is pretty much stable. No cancer sites are metabolically active. Which is great news!! There was one spot that looked like a lymph node inside my pelvic wall that was active. My doctor says that because the lymph node is very small, and because it is not in an area that breast cancer travels, he is not worried about it. Looks like we will keep an eye on that spot, but he thinks I may have just had a scratch or something that caused that lymph node to be active.

Other exciting news is that I have my fundraising site up and running. This is such an important cause to me because research is the main reason I am doing well. If there was not some funding invested in metastatic breast cancer research they would not have the medications I am currently using and doing so well on. There are so many new and exciting avenues of research that are looking promising and so much more left to be discovered. Since all funding for research is private now it is critical that we get the money to the scientists who can do the work and change lives like mine. Please head on over to the website and think about donating some. If you can’t spread the word about my venture via this blog or any of these social media sites!

Fundraising site: https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/Mariasol-Gutierrez

Youtube: PocoLocoRunner https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ybZAeTYg1L3sfQADdayTQ?view_as=subscriber

Instagram: @PocoLocoRunner

Instagram: @PocoLocoRunner

Big Announcement!

I have been very busy since I last wrote. With the holidays and the kids end of school activities it has been fairly chaotic. Although truth be told with 4 kids and doctors appointments my life is always chaotic. We have had a few birthdays, Thanksgiving, dance performances, soccer games, and the usual appointments and blood draws. I have been mulling around my next running goals in what time I have to think. At first I thought of doing another half marathon, but given my current medical status I wanted to push the limits a little more. I have been intrigued with ultramarathons for a while, but have not wanted to spend the time needed to train for something so big. At the same time I really wanted to use my running not just for me but for a purpose. I have spent the month of November trying to find a way to put these two goals together. Finally near the end of the month it came to me. I found an organization called Metavivor. It is an organization that takes donations and funnels the money collectively into research aimed at metastatic breast cancer research. Only 2-5% of breast cancer research is geared toward metastatic breast cancer research. If you think about how much awareness is brought to breast cancer throughout the year, 2-5% is a tiny amount. Metavivor aims to raise this number and bring awareness to this segment of the population.

Once I found this organization I knew I needed to work with them. Then I just had to figure out how to incorporate my running into this plan. I did not want to do something in October because it feels so inundated with the Pink and early stage breast cancer. I wanted this awareness to be year long. It hit me how the number four is involved in my life. I have four girls, I have stage four breast cancer why not do something that revolves around this number. I settled on four 50k races in 2020. I ran it by my running buddy to see if it was too crazy an idea. She laughed, smiled and told me it was crazy, but reasonably crazy! My family agreed they thought I could do this. I am amazed at the confidence that the people in my life have in me. They are unfazed at my reasonably crazy ideas. To have such support is amazing. My doctor gave me the final approval and planning began.

I hope to chronicle this reasonably crazy journey with you all each week as I take on the training that is required for this endeavor. I hope you all follow along and share this blog and the soon to be created youtube channel also aimed at allowing people to follow along. Please also share my fundraising page which I will add as soon as I get it up and running. Lets get some more money involved in this element of breast cancer!

Delinquent blogger

Photo by Chrissy Martin

I am sorry I have been gone for so long and not updated you all. Back at the beginning of summer we had some major internet problems and while I had a couple of posts written I was not taking the time to figure out how to get them posted from my phone. I also could not print due to the internet issues. Consequently, I discovered that I cannot do a sufficient job editing just on the screen and that I need to print it out to do a decent job of self editing. Now those two blogs seem terribly out of date.

So what did I do all summer? I lived. A lot. My live in babysitter daughter was home for the summer, and with her kind help I did everything I had wanted to do the summer I was diagnosed. I hiked once a week with my mom. I started a run streak that began memorial day and lasted until the Fourth of July. Then I started upping my mileage. I did one long run a week with my best running friend (my BaRF). We got up to 8 miles before school started. I worked on strength training in between runs, thus making guns (and clearly puns). As a family we laughed and enjoyed each others company, particularly in our new above ground pool. My scans continued to show that my metastases were stable. It was a glorious summer. I felt so alive and capable. I felt like I could look further into my future than I had since the diagnosis.

Then school and the start of soccer season came. For the first time we had so many activities that I was buying two tanks of gas a week to get to all the soccer practices. Three days a week I was spending 1.5 hrs a day minimum driving to activities. All the activities made my anxious kiddo more anxious, and we would have a few nights a week with little to no sleep. My runs were now dictated by soccer practices. I would run as much as I could in circles around the fields and try to squeeze in a long run with my BaRF each week. As we are two homeschooling moms with other kids in school, this was also a scheduling challenge. The runs gave me some mental help, but the last two months I have been more fatigued and more mentally worn down. The scans continued to show stability which was uplifting, but by October I had to take some mental health days. I missed out on the family visit to Balloon Fiesta and two days later I headed into starbucks for a day to myself. These were drastically rejuvenating, and provided me time without any kids asking for help, to drive them to activities, or middle of the night wake ups.

Now soccer season is winding down and giving me gradually more and more time, bringing me back to this blog and you all. I am tossing around some crazy ideas so more on that later!

Barbells and Roller Coasters

It’s been a crazy month. But wait, I have four kids. Every month is crazy. My oldest kiddo turned 15…we signed her up for drivers ed. So much to think about. It is also the one year anniversary of my neck surgery. I have been mulling this one for a good portion of February. Hard to believe a year ago I was driving across town to an unknown fate that involved me desperately needing a neck brace. I had a very sweet surgeon and when I went to see him on the first of this month he could not help pulling up my original MRI. He shook his head as he told me that he has never seen someone come in with no neurological symptoms, a spinal cord compressed in half, and a bone completely eaten up by cancer. Then he turned to me and told me that he has no idea what my future looks like because he has never seen anyone like me.

At that point it hit me again. Just six months before my surgery I was in Orlando at Universal Studios. That means that I was riding roller coasters. I was being whipped from side to side, my head on a bobble, as the rush of fun and excitement filled me. To think that I had a bone completely eaten up and my spinal cord was compressed. I had no idea. How in the world did my head not topple off leaving me in a totally different place? Life is a crazy ride.

As my doctor smiled and shook his head again at me I realized how absurd my next questions were going to sound.

“So will I ever be able to ride roller coasters again?” He laughed again. I felt emboldened and asked my second question. “Also can I use a barbell on my back for squats?” He laughed and smiled a warm smile. “These are your questions? Roller coasters and barbells?”

Yes these are my questions. Roller coasters so I can ride them with my kiddos. Barbells so I can get stronger because I am am pretty darn sure that the only thing keeping my head on were my neck muscles. He released me from having to see him again. While I am happy to be sent off to a world of barbells and roller coasters I am hesitant to take the final steps away from him. I know how quickly things can unexpectedly change and I like having this guy in my corner.

In my other corner I have my oncologist. He also had good news for me. I had another PET scan, another 1000 dollars. The pain in the pocket is hefty, but when you find out that it shows no signs of active disease it’s easy to put the cost behind you. Yes, you read that right. The cancer is not doing anything. It has no metabolic activity. It is just sitting there with much of it a bit smaller. Then the doctor came at me with more good news. My cancer marker protein levels have dropped by a hefty 10. I was at 87 in January then 77 in February and then down to 67 this month. That is the lowest they have dropped since they shot from 20’s right before surgery up to 70’s right after surgery. My numbers have been so weird my doc has not been able to use them much, but he can’t deny that this drop is good. Life is good.

Now I head off to amazon to pick which barbell I want to put on my amazon wish list. I think I might wait a little while until I have built up some more neck supporting muscles before I dive into the world of roller coasters again. I’ll take being the outlying patient if it means I get to be strong and ride roller coasters with my kids.



My youngest and I are working on the same thing, perspective. Well, I guess the whole family is always trying to work on that right? Turn that frown upside down. Although I am not talking about getting rid of a feeling. I think it is ok to acknowledge a sad or mad emotion, but I also feel that it is how we respond to challenges in life that defines us. We can acknowledge the sadness and then work on finding the positive in a situation.

This past week has been a prime example of changing perspectives. I knew I was not in the most positive place. I knew a run would help me. In fact, I have not run since thanksgiving. I was struggling on where to find a spot to put it in. Then I realized I could have one of the older girls watch them after school while I ran around the school. It was the perfect idea. One older girl had a sport and one could watch while I ran. Then we would all finish at the same time. My youngest had a different perspective. She did not like the idea of me going for a run at all. Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of no outside time for exercise. It was a major blow. I spent the next two days bummed. I had to change my perspective.

I have a strength training program I got a while ago. So I got that out. I set up my workouts in my calendar and I got going on one. The exercise endorphins kicked in. My mood picked up. My perspective completely changed. I started thinking about what I could do instead of what I could not do. Sure I may not be able to run outside right now, but I could regain my guns. I could strengthen my neck muscles and my back muscles. I began to feel more positive. I realized I could do running inside. The kids were happy so I jumped on the treadmill. It was boring as heck but I got 3 miles in. Boom! New strategy formulated. I will get strong and try to get one to two runs on the weekend when my husband is home. I will not get alone time outside as much, but I will get stress relieving exercise in with the strength workouts.

With my perspective changed I had renewed energy to help my kiddo work on changing her perspective.


Sunrise or sunset?  You decide.

Happy New Year

MVIMG_20190101_163342It’s been a while. We have been crazy busy. Lately all of my time has been focused on my youngest kiddo. She has been having a very rough time for the last nine months and it has recently come to an anxiety filled head. The poor child has spent much of the last few months in tears off and on. She hates to be away from me and forget about traveling. Yet we had a big family trip planned to another country. I tried a highly recommended book which helped but the closer we got to the trip the more difficult life became for her. We finally found a therapist who could get her in and seemed like a good fit, but we did not have many visits before we left. I tried a countdown calendar made by her to help her get ready. That did not help…in fact it may have made the anticipation worse. The early morning of the trip was filled with tears. She did not want to get in the car. Once I convinced her to get in she napped until we got there. Then there was a massive crying screaming as we got to the airport and had to get out. Then I had to convince her to get on the plane. She had to know where the bathroom was, and she had to have an aisle seat so she could flee to it when she needed to. Quiet crying and constant fidgeting was the order of the day. Nothing like 20 plus hours of travel on a plane next to an anxious kiddo to give you time to think about life.

Here this poor kiddo of only eight years old is filled with a shaking anxiety. Why? Because of me…yes I know that it is not really my fault. I know I did not cause this cancer. But it was me. It was my body. It was me who left her gymnastics early to head to the ER. I was the one who did not return for a week. I was the one who suddenly was not the super strong mom. I was the broken mom with no neck bones who she had to be careful around. The one who choked on my pills because my throat was messed up. I was the one who everyone was carefully dancing around. I was the one who always comforted her and suddenly couldn’t in the same way.

If she must take on the burden of worry about her mother then her mother will gladly take on the burden of being the only one she wants right now. I will be the one who she gets angry at. I will be the one whose arms she falls into. I will be the one who sits in a stinky castle bathroom while she seeks the quiet realm of the bathroom stall. I will be the one to find a way to make her laugh. I will stand by her side because I owe her. Because I am her mother. Because I love her more than I ever thought possible.




It’s been three months now since my last PET scan, the scan that looks for how active my cancer is and tells me if I have any new spots. To recap: scan 1 showed only bone involvement and only in the spine area, scan 2 showed decreased activity of the bony metastases and some healed liver spots. So now to scan three. I could do a bunch of nice lead up to the scan talking about how I only ate eggs for a day and was forced to go 1.5 days without coffee, but I think you all would like me to cut to the chase. The scan showed that everything is stable. Good right?! I should be super excited, and I am happy. Just not super jump-around excitement. I was hoping for a decrease. I am confused by the liver spots. He made it clear after the first scan that staying only in the bones is a good prognostic indicator. But those little buggers sit there inactive not labeled as healed, just haunting me. My oncologist told me that they will call bone lesions healed, but not liver. It was unclear why, another confusion in the land of cancer. All in all, good news, and I will take it as that and push those pesky liver spots out of my mind.

I also got some blood results back. Last month my cancer markers were up a bit. He postulated that it could be due to the fact that I had to drop my Ibrance dosing down as my white blood cell count, specifically my absolute neutrophil count, dropped too low. I postulate that this may be due to my body coming off the steroids. Either way it went from a 70’s number to 88. This increase did make me worry that I was going to have an increase in cancer activity, but as I said the scan showed clearly it did not. The bloodwork showed that I had a slight lowering of the cancer marker to 84. So good? Again confusing. He is still unsure if my cancer marker means anything as it went from normal right before the surgery to sixty something after the surgery. Another confusion, keep taking data and wait for some sort of correlation I have decided to get all my bloodwork printed since the March diagnosis, and I will be inputting that into an excel spreadsheet to help myself track the data. What can I say? I love numbers.

I can pour over these numbers forever and think to what they mean for the future, but that really gets me nowhere. Cancer is all about recentering your thinking. So that’s where I need to be. Where am I now? How do I feel now? Today I slung my first bag of pellets. That’s forty pounds of I feel pretty darn good. Eight months after getting one and a half bones removed I can get a bag of pellets off the ground, into the house, and into the pellet stove! I call that pretty awesome. I can pick up my younger two children and carry them around. I did my first solo run after doing some training with my kiddos. That run took me 2 miles, no stopping! That’s not bad given that 6 months ago I was just getting the neck brace off and being cleared for driving. So if you want to know how I am doing? Imagine my running. Imagine my carrying bags of pellets. No matter what my scan says, the rest of me is doing pretty damn good. What’s next? Running a half marathon, and being able to pick up my next oldest kiddo: that’s 120lbs.


Family diagnosis


At the end of February 2018 I was diagnosed with Metastatic breast cancer. I went from sitting on a gymnastics bleacher watching one of my kids have a blast, to being in a neck brace in a hospital room talking about my surgery for the next day. All within 3 hours. Once I went into surgery it was kind of all over for me. My family was left in a waiting room for hours trying to process what just socked them in the gut. The baby of the family had metastatic cancer with an as of yet unknown prognosis. I was blissfully sleeping while they wondered how bad the bones of my neck had been eaten away by the cancer. How many layers would be fused? How would I be affected by the surgery? Would I have permanent damage to my spinal cord? I was gone for about 8 hours. That’s eight hours of constant worry and unknown after a night of basically no sleep. Who was that worse for? The one who was sleeping for what seemed like 5 minutes, or the family who had 8 hours of worry? Obviously the family.

Cancer is not one person’s diagnosis. It is a diagnosis for the close friends and family. They worry about every ache and pain. They worry about not making you worry. They worry about what if…? They care for you when you cannot care for yourself. Shoot after the surgery I had it fairly easy. I lay around for a few months while my family picked up all the slack. My in-laws watched the kids so my family could be at the hospital. My older kids helped cook. My mom cooked, cleaned, and drove us all everywhere! My husband cared for the kids and was a rock for everyone while he attempted to maneuver around everyone who was helping or wanted to help. Shoot the whole east mountain community came together to help support me! This is not a individual disease it is a community disease.

As you see the ads for wonder drugs that help happy cancer patients and you see the support breast cancer research signs, think of the families and friends impacted. Support the families and friends who are at the center of this disease. Give a hug. Lend a hand or a shoulder. Make sure they are taken care of too.


Pink Month, 2018


1st day of pink month

Here we are again…October 1st. The beginning of pink month, the month where we are bombarded with the color pink. These days there is so much pink that I feel overwhelmed by it. I personally have never liked pink. When I was a kid all it represented to me was the “girl” color, and I tended to be a kid that did not like to conform…just ask my mom. Then I gave birth to four girls…that means at least one of them was destined to love the color. It forced me to reexamine my feelings about pink and realize that having the freedom to like pink was one of the elements of feminism. It’s not just about being able to pick blue; it’s the freedom to choose your color. Then the hammer of cancer was dropped. I was truly bombarded with the color and all my pink ill will returned.

This year the onset of pink month makes me pensive. I frequently hear and see ads for breast cancer awareness. “Self exams every month!” “Get your mammogram!” “Catch it early!” People sometimes get irritated that the professional sports players are wearing that ugly color and could they just move on from this.

But what does the inundation of pink mean to me? It means that I am reminded that despite my ability to train with my kids for a 5K, despite my ability to carry my almost 10-year-old around the house, despite my ability to strength train, despite my ability to exercise up to 3 times a day, despite my ability to drive solo to Colorado and back, despite my ability to lift many heavy boxes at Ikea and pack them neatly in the car…I have metastatic breast cancer.

I am sure everyone is now thinking aren’t there more physical reminders than the color pink?…And yes, the massive neck surgery, the monthly shots in the butt, the daily meds, and the hair falling out are reminders as well. However, I live in denial. The reason for that is that I need to keep some normalcy for my kiddos who have grown up too fast with this disease. Part of the answer is that I refuse to let the pink keep me down. A lot of it is that life does not stop; it keeps plugging along, and as a mom I have kiddos that rely on me no matter what. Not just kiddos; but girls, girls who have me as their model. That is a boatload of responsibility, and I do not take it lightly.

So what do I do now in this pink month? I will let myself be enveloped in pink. I will let others dislike the color and still more be empowered by the color. I will tell my story so that friends think to do checks even though they are under 40. I will remind my friends to get mammograms if they are over forty. I will tell women to take time to take care of themselves. I have and will continue to force myself to open up, and let people see what metastatic disease can look like. I will let my raw wounds be revealed to the world. Don’t worry I won’t show you all my scars, unless you ask.