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
I have been riding with Erica’s flag for 3 weeks now. It is not because I don’t have anyone else to ride for (at least once a week I read on Facebook of a new person diagnosed). I have resisted taking her flag down because I just did not know what to write. Even though Erica is surely going through the worst time of her life, I’ve decided to use a little humor to educate others on what it is like to have a colonoscopy.
Weigh yourself 24 hours before the procedure. (The reason for this will be revealed at the end.)
“This is not your father’s colonoscopy.” As a high school student in the 80s I remember my Dad complaining about the bottle of “chalk” he had to drink the night before. Today the toughest part is choosing what flavor of Gatorade you want. Choose wisely because you have to drink 64oz in 2 hours! While you are picking out that Gatorade get a movie. You will only need one because it will take you 4 hours to watch it. But this is a free night from work or any kind of meaningful conversation with your significant other so take advantage of it. (There is no way you will be able to concentrate on work or discuss with your partner who left the top off the toothpaste when you will need to proceed quickly to the bathroom every 13 minutes. Not to mention the sounds coming from the bathroom while you are in there.)
The Colonoscopy must not be confused with the Sigmoidoscopy. This latter procedure is truly barbaric. They only go in 3 feet but you do it awake. If there is a “blockage” they take the scope out, you “clear” the blockage, and they start again. If my Dr ever suggested this I would go find another one.
The worst part of a Colonoscopy is getting the IV started. You sleep through the rest! When you wake up you are on your side with a nice warm blanket over you. There is a nurse or your partner there. It is all a piece of cake. When you are fully awake you are told the results and then the best part of the entire thing. You are told to fart. As a “rookie” you might try to let it out softly. But the nurse (your private fart monitor) will not let you leave unless the fart is loud enough and long enough for her standards. Yep, the louder and longer you fart the sooner you get to go home!
You will be “starved” when you leave the Dr office. (Yep, you will have to walk out past all the people waiting to go in after just issuing the loudest and longest fart of your life.) If you can hold out, wait to eat until you get home. As soon as you get home weigh your self.
That is it. That is all there is to a colonoscopy. It takes 8 years for a Polyp to go from nothing to cancer (Not all Polyps turn into cancer but do you want to take that chance?) The recommendation is to have this procedure done every 5 years after age 40 or 45. If your family history includes colon cancer or Polyps you should start sooner.
Erica, I know you had no chance to catch your Stage 4 colon cancer with the use of a colonoscopy. Being 30 now your Polyps probably started when you were 25 or younger. No one tells someone this young to get this procedure. I hope you are ok with me using your fight, your flag, and a little humor to get those in their 40’s and 50’s to get it done. Maybe with this journal a couple people will be spared the fight you are going through. At the very least you now know that a total stranger thought about you every day for the past three weeks. FightLikeHell Erica!
So why weigh yourself 24 hours before the procedure and then as soon as you get home? Because I like to give people the facts when they accuse me of something. After my last colonoscopy I can now reply, “Nope I’m not full. Only 3%.” (6lbs is 3% of my total body weight) The accusation, “You are full of shit!”