Having just spent 4 days on Mackinaw Island it was impossiable not to reminisce about “simpler” times. No cars on the island so only horses and bikes. And of course walking. The houses and hotels are big and very open so that the breeze can blow through. And at night when most of the day only visitors are gone, it is quiet, slow, and peaceful.
But. I could still get to the internet. The roads were paved. We did have air conditioning in our hotel room. And I was only 2,580 steps from a Starbucks. So it really was not the “simple” life. We were just pozing.
As I biked around, over, and through Mackinaw Island I wondered what Mary thought of that “simpler” time. I don’t think she is old enough to pre-date cars, but I bet there were some horses around when she was a little girl. I imagine she, like the rest of us, think fondly of times when “things” went slower. When not everything was a rush. When writing/receiving a letter was the way we communicated long distance.
But back when she was a little girl cancer meant The End. There were no successful treatments and even worse no hope. Mary, like much of her family, is battling cancer with modern day treatments which bring with it that hope for more days with family and friends.
So Mary here is to the thought of days where things moved slower and letters were written and not just typed on Facebook. AND where we can benefit from today’s resources like modern medicine and Starbucks.
The Road Rider
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
Today was supposed to be my “day off” from biking. I’ve been riding hard for 6 days in a row. One of these rides included my personal best 45 miles alone. I knew when I was out yesterday that I had to take a day off. My legs were just shot. They hurt on a flat road going with the wind.
Last night a Facebook conversation with a LiveSTRONG friend changed this plan. My friend just found out that his mentor of over 2 decades is running out of time. He shared a lot with me about what this mentor has meant to him over the years. At times they have even been competitors but always remained friends. (I cannot share more because both wish to remain ominous.)
So this morning I got up and road with/for Bobby. It was 50 degrees here in Northern Michigan and raining. The route I choose had just under 2,000′ of climbing. With shot legs, today ended up being one of my slowest of the year. Even going down hill was slow as my rain gear acted like a parachute. I thought of calling Jeri to come get me a dozen times. I also thought how much easier this would be after a couple rest days. But then I thought of Bobby and the fact that no one on earth can rescue him and that he cannot take a day off fighting cancer to recover.
When I told my friend that I would do a flag for Bobby right away he messaged back, “You Rock!” All I do is ride my bike with a flag behind it. My friend “Rocks” because he is dumping his plans to go visit his mentor in the next 24 hours. Bobby “Rocks” because he has not only influenced an entire career of my friend, but got a stranger to ride in the rain today with a little more water on his cheeks than what came from the sky. Peace be with you, Bobby. You Rock