Why Nicole Pagano, and the Green Street Pharmacy, is Tuff eNuff

Nicole Pagano and customers at  the Green Street Pharmacy in Ithaca NYNicole Pagano is a pharmacist, running enthusiast, mom, and small business owner – she and her husband own two pharmacies, including Tuff eNuff Challenge sponsor, Green Street Pharmacy.  She took a few minutes out of a busy morning in the store to tell us why she is doing the Tuff eNuff Challenge – and why you should, too!

TeN: Did you do Tuff eNuff last year?

NP: Yes, my friend Andrea, a few social worker friends, we all did it together, thought it was a good cause & we had such a blast.  But this year we have Dr. Bezirganian  on our team!  I think right now it’s just 3 of us – but a friend we know in Binghamton hasn’t registered yet.  We have a lot of “maybes” still.

TeN: Did you have a favorite challenge last year?

NP:  The ropes on the tires.  For me it was really fun because I’d been working on my upper body strength, so to just swing across on my arms, I was like, “Yeah.  I just totally did that!”  For women especially – we tend not to be strong in our arms, so once you get to that point…last year, I couldn’t do one pull-up and now I’m just swinging across with my arms!

TeN:  How did you get started?

My youngest son was born in June 2010, and I started running in March 2011; I was unhappy with my weight but mostly started because of stress.  My husband and I own two pharmacies, and have 3 kids, and it can be so stressful – I just needed to do something to deal with it.  Running is a wonderful outlet for me.  In May of that year I ran my first 5K and I haven’t stopped since!  Last year I did six half-marathons but I find I like the obstacle courses more.  I did the Tough Mudder, and when Tuff eNuff came up I thought, “absolutely” because this is for a good cause, and a personal one.

TeN:   It’s personal to you because the Pharmacy is so close to the Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County?

Yes, we’re right down the street from the Council.  We treat a lot of people with addictions here.  Also I believe Cortland Prevention Services does a lot of services for folks who are transgender, or have gender identity or homosexuality related struggles.  We help people like that here, also, partnering with Planned Parenthood.  Those customers are the people I connect with – so many times they are prejudged, and I love that they can walk in here and just be who they are.  I hate that people are so prejudged, now in 2014.  I’ve had a number of people say they walk into other pharmacies, get treated meanly right off the bat, looked at funny…it’s very sad for me.

Everyone who works here is very accepting.  We all have our secrets – you don’t know mine, the first day you meet me – but everyone who comes to my (pharmaceutical) counter – it’s automatically all laid out there for me to see, and for me to jump to conclusions about a person (based on medical data) is really unfair.  We need more people to realize they all have their own secrets they are hanging onto, you know?  The world would be better, maybe…

I love the cause.  The more we partner together the stronger we become.  We have a really close relationship with the Council, in general – we do our jobs better working more closely together.

TeN:  Are you doing any sort of training for this year’s challenge?

NP:  Not anything specific – I see a trainer twice a week anyway, just in general, and I have a ½ marathon in October – it’s just part of my training in general, so I will be ready to go.  For the rest of my team – I don’t think so!  But I think they are going to get there.  It’s teamwork, after all.  We all have different strengths, and what someone else struggles with, I can help and the other way around.  We’ll help each other over the walls.  Literally!  (Laughs)

TeN:  That is the whole overall metaphor of the Challenge – life is full of obstacles and you need help to get over them!

NP: At the beginning when we were all in that trailer & they were speaking – Andrea and I just started tearing up because it was so symbolic – for all of life.  We all have these hills we have to climb, some are steeper than others, sometimes you want to give up… this is how I got Dr. Bezirganian  to come in – the people we treat, in some ways, have more obstacles in life than we do.    I guess with addiction you don’t ever reach an end, per se – you are always in the middle of the journey.  But there are victories – and (in the race) once you’ve pressed up that hill, you feel like, “nothing can stop me!  I can’t be beat!”  I love that feeling, and I love when I see other people have that feeling, and facilitating other people getting to that feeling!

And I think the more challenges you overcome, you adopt a thought process, “nothing can stop me.  I might struggle, I might bleed, I might fall down.  But I can do this, because I did it that time before, and that time – and it really empowers a person to know that they can get through anything.

TeN:  It helps you believe in yourself?

NP:  Absolutely!  And it gives other people confidence in you as well.

TeN:  If someone were thinking of doing Tuff eNuff but was “on the fence”, what would you tell them?

NP:  I’ve known a lot of people who weren’t even thinking about it but did one.  Andrea – the friend I was telling you about – Tuff eNuff was her first race ever!  And I think it’s because I get so excited… it will make you feel fantastic!  I’ll be there to help you!  And it’s not individual – strangers will be there to help you!  It’s a group mentality – we want everyone’s success.  That’s what I tell people – it’s not an individual thing everyone will support you.

Do the race!   It’s really well put together, the volunteers are fantastic! Everyone is enthusiastic, and it really is so symbolic for the journey through life.  We all have obstacles, we all have difficulties – it’s very powerful.