I do not know Sherrill. For those who know me I also do not know how to spell. I was worried when I built this flag that the two “ll’s” was a typo. When I got to see her Facebook account, however, I was in the clear. In this case I spell fine, but her parents had issues. Or maybe it was a sense of humor. Or if she grew up here in Western Michigan it was being frugal. There was no way Sherrill could ever buy a key chain or license plate in the gift section of a Stucky’s with her name on it.
As I stated I do not know Sherrill. On top of this she recently was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer that cannot be operated on and chemo is sketchy. I took the chance and started this post with a little humor because her daughter-in-law described Sherrill as, “The life of the party…positive, generous soul…adventurer at heart….glue that keeps the extended family together.” Someone who lives up to this description has got to have a sense of humor.
As I finished this flag on Sunday it was raining and 50 degrees here in Michigan. I was again hauling wood to a coworker and listening to random songs on my iPod. The song Fight Like a Girl by Emilie Autumn came up. Wow what a great song and message for any girl/woman. As I listened to the last verse and thought about Sherrill I added a little moisture of my own to my rain gear.
Good luck Sherrill. Fight like a girl!
I met WildFlower this past January on a trip to Denver. He is part of the programs team at First Descents. (A non-profit organization dedicated to providing young adult cancer survivors with adventure therapy experiences.) It is likely that he had cancer when we met but none of us knew it. No, I do not know his birth name. To everyone in the young adult cancer community he is WildFlower.
When I was in Austin this past October I really thought my “I Ride For” flags were done for the year. I only do them while riding outside and the weather (and my attitude) was poor. I guess God had other plans. The weather got a little better, my vacation plans were changed, and I got two flag requests. This combination got me off he couch and back on the saddle.
My rides for WildFlower were at both ends of my biking extremes. The first was on The Today Bike (my mountain bike) hauling 70lbs of fire wood in Michigan against the wind at 38 degrees. The last one was on The Horse (my ultra reliable touring bike) in Florida at 68 degrees with the last 15 miles at 24 mph.
Although I did not plan it, I thought these rides were a fitting analogy to WildFlower’s fight. One moment he is riding at 24 mph with the wind at his back and the next he is hauling wood and it is about to snow. I’ll keep riding. You keep fighting
Can I be friends with someone I have never really met? Can I meaningfully support this friend despite the fact that I don’t know if we have ever even shaken hands? Does Facebook, Twitter, and reading a blog here and there count as friendship? Normally I would answer no to all these questions. Cancer, however, is not normal.
5 weeks ago I read Wendy’s blog and was crushed! I have heard her name constantly since I first got involved in LiveSTRONG 7 years ago. I have seen her at the annual Ride for the Roses event. Everyone seems to know Wendy and she seems to be everywhere, but as I started riding with her flag I realized that I could not remember ever talking to her myself.
Part of Wendy’s (at least a 2 time survivor already) blog from August 27, 2014, “Three weeks ago, everything was fine. Today, I’m looking for a Hail Mary pass.”
How could I feel this sad about someone I have never even talked to? Almost every night since that post my wife Jeri has asked me, “Any news on Wendy getting into that clinical trial?” She doesn’t know Wendy either! I usually only ride with a flag for a week. For the last five weeks I just could not take this flag off my bike.
Just a couple days ago, October 1, 2014 Wendy’s blog title was, “I’m in”. The Hail Mary pass was caught! I did absolutely nothing to help Wendy get into this trial. I also know that this does not mean the game has been won. But it was time to celebrate. (I don’t like beer and wine so it was off the the grocery store for my own quart of Ben&Jerrys – all 1,280 calories!) As I went to bed my stomic was not happy but my heart was.
Next week we will head to Austin, TX for the annual LiveSTRONG Ride for the Roses event. For the last 7 years I have always had some big goal that culminated at this event – just get invited, ride with Lance, make a presentation, ride the 100 miles, etc. This year if I’m successful will be my biggest challenge. My #1 goal is to meet (maybe for the first time) my friend Wendy and if she will let me give her a hug.
Here is what I know about Kerri. She and her husband just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. She has 5 kids. There is either a Grandkid on the way or she is already a Grandma. While she grew up in Holland, MI and graduated 2 years behind me, she now lives in Omaha, NE. And Kerri is battling breast cancer RIGHT NOW!
As I road with Kerri’s flag I tried over and over again to remember her from high school. I am embarrassed to write that I was too self centered then (don’t know if I’m much better now) to connect any of the dots. I looked Kerri up on Facebook (where I got the information above) to be able to look at some pictures. While I do recognize a few of her friends, pictures of her now still left me blank.
I almost abandoned this flag because I did not want to admit that I could not remember Kerri. Then I was reminded of my most valuable care giving lesson (I seem to have to learn this one over and over again.) DONT THINK – JUST DO IT. It is so easy for me to rationalize why I should not go the hospital, and once I get there why I should not get on the elevator. “They don’t want to see me.” “What am I going to say?” “I’m just going to make them uncomfortable.” “They would be more peaceful if I just stay home.” I know this is all crap, yet I still find myself convincing Jeff Mulder to not do something that might be meaningful.
So here it is Kerri. I am sorry that I do not remember you from West Ottawa. (Hopefully you don’t remember me either.) Our fellow Panther Rameen alerted me to your fight. While Lake Michigan is very cold this summer, the bicycling here is fantastic. For just under 200 miles I road with your flag behind me. I thought about your family, your fight, and what I would write. My hope is that you will ignore the fact that I’m generally selfish, and know that for a couple weeks in your home town a “stranger” road and prayed for you.
PS I even spelled your name wrong on the flag! My excuse – I started riding “with you” before I looked you up on Facebook. There is just no way to turn an “a” into an “e”. At a minimum this will give you something to talk about at your next class reunion. “Remember Jeff Mulder? He could not spell when he was 17 and still cannot spell at 47.” Sorry
The last day of RAGBRAI was a failure. In fact the entire week was a bust. As I write this conclusion I am filled with awe at what a failure I am. I had one goal and I did not even come close to achieving it.
My goal for this past week was to give more than I receive. I have been trying to accomplish this goal for the past 4 months. I thought for sure I could do this during a week of riding across Iowa. As I head home I’m ashamed of my failure.
Background – My Mom does a daily radio show called Wisdom of the Wounded. 4 months ago her program challenged her listeners to try to give more than they receive. I’m usually up for a challenge epically when someone says it cannot be done. So for the past 4 months I have tried to give more than I receive. No success but surely a week of debauchery in Iowa would be my opportunity.
Over the course of this week I: Road over 400 miles, climbed over 16,000′, spent 20 hours in a car, ate nothing but junk food 8 days in a row, changed a lady’s tire who instead of thanking me made me listen to 20 minutes of complaints, spent time alone when I wanted to be with others, spent time with others when I wanted to be alone, pulled at an uncomfortably slow pace against the wind and rain for a couple I did not think would not make it to the next town, and skipped a day of riding so others could eat at Mr Pork Chops. I slept on the ground, lost a pint of blood to mosquitoes, and had to constantly talk to strangers.
Despite all this I am leaving Iowa with significantly more energy than I arrived with. I got to: watch a teammate pull others together with skills I have never had, hear the story of a lady who lost her son to cancer this year as she was surviving her own battle (and who is a damn good biker!), I got a little piece of string to remind me of our connectedness and of Kate, watch as a team decided that the “needs of the one out weighed the needs of the many” after a very hard previous day, I got to spend a full week with one of my kids and watch him demonstrate social skills I’ll never have, I got to cry for the brother of our teammate who is running out of time and then get pissed off enough at the unfairness of this to sustain my fight for the rest of the year, and for 8 days I got to be apart of the corn, beans, grass, clouds, rain, wind, and wonderful people of Iowa.
So my Mom’s challenge to me remains unfulfilled. I tried this week but failed to prove her wrong. How about you? Can you prover her wrong? Can you give more than you receive? I bet you cannot!
PS. Many have asked if I will be back again in 2015 for my 4th RAGBRAI. I don’t know yet. It will depend on my family, my goals for 2015, and my “calling” when it comes time to register. I must say though that is is tough to say no to something that gives me more energy than it takes away.