I have been quiet for a while now – not sure anyone noticed, but that is about to change. As many of you know, my dad was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in July 2014. The last two years in particular have been hard. Other health issues resulted in him stopping chemo last Spring and resulted in repeat emergency room visits of increasing concern and severity.
Last August, after the PMC, we got up to visit him and my mom in Maine so he could see Shannon and meet Adam. At the time, I could see the toll that everything had taken on him, and suspected that this might be the last time he would get to see his grandkids.
In February, my mother called and told me to come say goodbye to him as he was again in the emergency room and the prospects were dim. I did get up to Maine to say goodbye to him, then he rallied that weekend and was well enough to leave the hospital again. For one last time. At that point, we all agreed that he would go into hospice, at home. It was a slow downward slide for much of the last three months, but over the last couple of weeks, things started to go downhill much faster.
On Tuesday afternoon (5/8/18), he passed away. Finally, after years of illness, no longer in pain. Thank you in advance for the support, love, prayers, and thoughts that you will send to me and my family.
Friends and relatives of Chuck are invited to A Celebration of Remembrance at First United Methodist Church, 703 Essex St., Bangor, on May 19, 2018, at 2 p.m. We also invites those who wish to join in conversation and refreshment to the Family Room at the church following the service.
My dad’s request was that who wish to remember him in a special way may make gifts in his memory to my Pan Mass Challenge ride. Please donate at pmc.org/AS0171.
Later this morning, my father-in-law Norm and I will be heading out to Sturbridge, MA to get ready to spend our weekend on our bicycles. It’s Pan-Mass Challenge weekend – this will be my 11th ride and Norm’s 3rd. Cycling has become a year-round activity for both of us, so training for the ride never stops. I will often be asked during the year “Are you doing the race again this year?” or “are you ready for your race?” I try not to correct them anymore – “it is ride, not a race”, I used say. Because the cycling event itself is a supported ride, across Massachusetts.
But it is a race. The race is to see how quickly we can fund the curing of cancer. I ride in 38 degrees in February thinking about cancer. I ride in 95 degree heat in July thinking about cancer. I ride the PMC, thinking about cancer. Thinking about all the pain and suffering cancer has given me. Thinking about all that cancer has taken from my friends and their families. Thinking that one day soon, cancer will be defeated. To me that means, the researchers and doctors that the PMC funds and others will have discovered and mastered the mechanisms to make cancer cells obsolete quickly and at low impact to the individual when they show up in the human body. Not some. ALL. Period. End of story. End of cancer.
It is a race. While we are getting closer to this day each and every year, we are not there yet. My dad has been going through treatment for 3 years now for pancreatic cancer with no end to treatment in sight. The mother of my daughter’s best friend has been undergoing breast cancer treatment for months now. One of my PMC teammates just lost his cousin 10 days ago. In the past 12 months, I know of countless other people who have similar stories.
Who do you know that is going through cancer treatment right now? Or has recently? Have you ever wondered…. who’s next? I know I do. I look at my wife, who hadn’t met yet when I beat cancer the first time, and wonder if she’ll have to deal with cancer someday. I look at my 7 year old and am so thankful that I am able to watch her grow up – she was 1 when my cancer recurrence happened and we didn’t know what was next. And now with our 4 month old son entering the world, I pray that both my kids will never have to hear the words “you have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” with knowledge that there is an ever so slight genetic component involved with the disease.
It is with all this on my mind this morning, that I finish packing and head out to Sturbridge, ready to ride a bicycle 192 miles in the next two days. The 6,200 cyclists that I will be riding with this weekend all do this to raise money for life-saving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). The PMC raises more charitable dollars than any other single event in the country – $547 million since 1980 and $47 million last year alone. This year’s goal is $48 million. Your donation brings us Closer by the Mile to ending cancer.
You have generously donated in the past. I hope that this note finds you well and that you will again make a donation that is going to save lives.
We are PMC and Now We Ride!
100% of your donation will go to cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund. I have made a personal commitment to raise $10,000. I hope you can you will again support my fundraising effort.
I hope this note finds you well and enjoying the summer. Usually by now, I have already written a number of posts inviting you to make a donation to my Pan Mass Challenge ride. This year, a couple of things have kept me from my typical schedule.
First, and foremost, our family grew by one this spring, when Adam Winston joined us on April 6. Being a two-career household, balancing the unique schedules and needs of a 7-year old and a newborn, well, something had to give… in some part that has been my blogging and fundraising for the PMC. Happily, with the patience and accommodation of Michele, Shannon, and Adam, I have done more training for this year’s ride than I have ever done in the past. The bike has become my physical and mental therapy, a steady pick-me-up, a much-needed break from the swirling and shifting that our world is in 2017. While this will be my 11th PMC, I can honestly say that I truly started to enjoy cycling about 4 years ago and now am in love with it. My time with family and my time on the bike has left only fleeting moments here and there in which to even contemplate fundraising and continue to advocate for cancer research.
My second reason is perhaps a bit more complicated. Over the years, I have shared my personal cancer story and those of my family – my mom, dad, grandma, grandfather, and aunt. I have been moved by so many stories from the many survivors that I have the pleasure of knowing, and of others who have been taken from us to soon.
This year, both my mom and my mother-in-law have lost life-long friends. The mom of one of our daughter’s best friends is going through treatment for breast cancer now. I have struggled for months for the words to share about all of this. For each survivor I know or meet, there is a sense of validation. That the years I have devoted to raising money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute have been worthwhile. That the $76,000 that you have helped donate in my name via the PMC and the collective $547 million that this event has raised since 1980 is making a difference. And then there is the flipside, that it is not enough, that we are still losing people each day that should be cancer survivors and live out the rest of their days. As one of these survivors, now for 21 years, I know this is the typical survivor’s guilt. It is part of Life With Cancer.
It has always been these feelings – the validation and the guilt – that have motivated me to do this. To hop on a bike for 2 days and 200 miles to go across Massachusetts – at first, that was a challenge. Now, the challenge I have taken on is to advocate and help raise funds so that our kids and their friends don’t have to live in a world where their friends are lost to cancer when they are in high school, or college, or before they are married, or while their kids are still in school, or before they get to watch them get married, or before they get to hold their own grandchild and take them to their first game. Or to go on a bike ride with them.
Pan Mass Challenge is the ultimate challenge: to defeat cancer. If riding a bike across Massachusetts with 6,000 other folks during the first weekend in August each year gives us the best chance to make this challenge a reality, then I’m the first to sign up.
So, the PMC is only 2 weeks away, and I am a long way from my fundraising goal. I am writing to ask you and about 200 of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and family members to again donate. Everything that I have learned in the past 21 years, since I was first diagnosed in 1996, about cancer research has led me to believe that cancer will be made history, possibly even in our lifetime. It HAS TO BE IN OUR LIFETIME! But not without our help. That is why I ride the PMC – to help make this dream of a world without cancer a reality. Your continued emotional and financial support is what will make this happen.
First and foremost, it is my birthday, so it is a day that I share with my mom and dad, my family, and my friends. But this one, I have been thinking about for a while.
I was diagnosed with Type 2A Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was 22 years old. I have now celebrated 22 birthdays since that DAY. So half of the birthdays of my life. One of the images that I comes to mind is of a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, who I would sit in the radiation oncology waiting room with way back in 1996. I don’t remember speaking with her. I remember her and her mom vividly. But I’ve been thinking that her half-life day would would been as a teenager. I hope that she made it to see that birthday and many more.
Also on our mind these days is a dear family friend and her kids. All signs so far are good that she will see many more birthdays – her own, and those of her girls.
And sadly on my mind as well today are two families that have recently lost a dear family member from this disease after long, challenging battles. May the remainder of their days be filled with good memories of their loved ones, rather than the harsh realities of their lives with cancer.
I will undoubtedly be serenaded with “Happy Birthday” a number of times today. I am thankful to be around to hear those lyrics. Twice in my life, my birthday was shrouded by the specter of cancer. Then, thanks to all the research, clinical trials, and bravery of the cancer patients who came before me, I received life-saving treatment. I will never forget those birthdays as the uncertainty and fear that filled those days have motivated me to this day.
Today, I encourage you to think about the people in your life – do you know someone who is going through cancer treatment? Do you know a survivor? Do you know the pain and struggle of a cancer diagnosis and treatment firsthand?
There are many rides, runs, walks, and charity events raising money to fight cancer as well as innumerable other diseases. The Pan-Mass Challenge, which I will again ride in August, is raising money so that cancer will be cured. 100% of your donation will go directly to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s unrestricted funding. In this day and age where research funding is under attack, these funds are crucial. You can learn more about how the Dana-Farber uses these funds here. I hope that in honor of my birthday and in honor and memory of those that you know that have battled cancer, you will make a donation today. It will save lives. It will move us one day closer to the end of cancer.
Nearly all of us have these dates that are burned into our memory banks. The obvious ones are the days that we got married or the days our kids were born. Other days stick because of their historic significance. Some of these days are sad, as we mark the loss of a loved one. It is on these days when we often are perhaps our most contemplative and reflective. We try to understand where we have been and were we are going, and perhaps, if we are lucky, we can understand the path that we have followed.
Today is one of these days for me. As I have mentioned in this space many times before…. the picture below shows me as I am getting ready to receive my 12th and final chemo treatment five years ago today. I have friends who celebrate their birthday today and know of a few couples who celebrate their anniversaries. But today, this day will always be one of reflection, mixed with happiness and remorse. As we move into this new era of not being actively monitored, obviously there is a joy of survival. But the memories of those who have passed from cancer, the images of the children that I saw each week while getting radiation 20 years ago, the conversations I had with fellow patients who were parents and grandparents – those are etched in my mind as well, a ongoing reminder that my mission to beat cancer did not end on this day five years ago, but that it had only just begun.
This year, as I have been sharing my 20th and 5th year anniversaries of my cancer treatments, I have received tremendous support, both emotionally and in terms of donations made to my PMC ride. Donors to my ride have been more generous than ever, contributing over $9,000 to the PMC and Dana Farber this year. And the PMC team that I am so proud to be on has also received unprecedented support this year, as we have already surpassed our team goal and eclipsed $500,000 in total donations brought in. But this PMC event, for me, is more than the money. There is a passion, a commitment, that is common among the PMC ridership that I cherish – we are all motivated to see the day when cancer is no longer the formidable foe that it has been for all of human existence. I share a bond with an even more select group of the ridership who have experienced cancer first hand and, this year, have had more interesting conversations with my fellow Living Proof riders than ever before. It is our shared desire and commitment towards this goal that pushes me onward.
There were days this summer, in the midst of training for the PMC, when I was questioning whether or not my tenth would be my last. Or if I should at least take a break. But then to be around the riders, the Living Proof, and my teammates for an entire weekend – those thoughts quickly were swept away, knowing that our work is not yet done. That work that I committed to be a part of when I left the oncology ward five years ago today – to end cancer in our lifetime. My part is small, to provide some motivation and inspiration to fund the research for the cures. But it is my part, my mission, my passion, my commitment.
I will end this ramble by sharing a quote I took from a speaker at a conference that has been guiding my vision for my #lifewithcancer moving forward – excited to see what comes of it:
“Do not spend you life trying to prove yourself. Spend your life trying to improve yourself”
Yesterday, Team Forza-G reached a milestone – $500,000 raised this year for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Pan Mass Challenge. Very proud of this achievement by our team of 62 riders. Thanks to all of you who have donated to my ride this year!