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.
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.
It has been a while since I shared in this space. Our world has become very agitated, on all levels and much of my daily bandwidth has been internally focused on family, friends, and our country. This week, my attention has been re-centered on my own personal activism, ending cancer in my lifetime. Then I wake up this morning, reminded of this cause, by World Cancer Day.
But first, a call-to-action. Or maybe better said, a call-to-activism.
What I strongly believe is that the world is a better place when we are inspired by a cause to make it better. We may differ in what the cause is… doesn’t matter. What if each of us could have the passion and commitment to rally for a group of people in need or the betterment of our civilization, and if we could attempt to leave our planet in a better place when we leave than when we were born, and if we could take the baton from the generation before and give it to the next knowing that we made a difference, then we could really get some amazing things accomplished. Being an advocate and an activist is more than just writing a check. That is called being a donor or supporter – which are still important roles. But without the activist, there are no donors. Without the activist, there are no causes. Without the activist, our culture and society will not move forward. I ask you, what is your cause? Find one. Develop your voice. Inspire me to support you. Become an activist!
And now back to my cause….
This week, I crossed paths with our cancer enemy in many ways.
Sunday: We delivered a meal to a family that is battling breast cancer. It gave us a chance to check in and see what else we can do to help. And to listen.
Monday and Tuesday: I kicked my PMC training for 2017 into high gear with some long training sessions. As I spin, I think about all those I have been riding for and about my fellow Living Proof riders.
Thursday: We learned that a family friend passed away after a long battle. Devastating news for all of us.
Friday: I got two bits of good news – a dear friend celebrated her sixth cancer-versary (aka 6th year from her diagnosis) and a Forza-G teammate learned that she has now 36 months cancer free.
And now today, it is World Cancer Day. Maybe you knew that. You probably didn’t. I have spent the last hour or so looking up the latest stats and research. The news on the cancer front is mixed.
Here are a few stats that I’ll bring to your attention:
The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024. In the U.S., cancer death rates have been dropping since the early 1990s. (Analysis: Research is creating treatments that are saving lives!)
Approximately 40% percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. (Analysis: That is 2 out of every 5 people. Yikes!)
More than 60 percent of the world’s new cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America; 70 percent of the world’s cancer deaths also occur in these regions. (Analysis: Our advances here in the U.S. have not yet been shared with the developing world. No surprise here.)
So more people are surviving and the death rate is dropping here in the USA. But not everyone is surviving. For many a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. Sometimes within weeks or months. Sometimes it may take years. Either way, I believe that the diseases that we know as cancer as curable and that we can be part of the generation that made cancer a disease of the past, like small pox and polio for the generations that came before us. So on this World Cancer Day, give a hug to a survivor, you probably know many, do something nice for someone in the midst of treatments, and consider supporting or donating to the research that will make the curing of cancer possible.
As I prepare for my 11th Pan-Mass Challenge, I think about our family friend who is going through cancer treatments, a teammate who recently had surgery to remove her latest cancer threat, and another teammate who lost a sibling to this disease. I won’t stop until the mission is accomplished – to end cancer. This is not a moonshot – ending cancer is a game-changer for all the generations to come. #itstimetoendcancer
Today is the 20th anniversary of my first last round of cancer treatment. For those reading who are confused by that last sentence, on July 24, 1996, I received my final radiation treatment as part of my treatment against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was cancer free until the Spring on 2011, when I found a lump and started chemo. So today is the anniversary of the first time I had my last cancer treatment.
Yesterday, I got out for my first 50-mile ride since the spring, due to all the ailments I mentioned in recent posts. Today, Mark and I backed it up with another 55 miles. We got toughened up by some mechanical issues. My 10th PMC is merely two weeks away, I haven’t always loved my time on the bike. Only in the last few years, since my recurrence, have I truly fallen in love with cycling, finding the time on my bike to be a glorious place to think about my situation, my life, the world around us, and to think about the far to many people that I know who are battling cancer or have recently succumbed. I keep looking for more motivation to help inspire me in my fundraising efforts. What I realized today, especially after coming back after today’s ride to learn of the passing of a teammate’s friend, is that I can’t be more motivated or passionate. I, like so many, live and breathe the cause of defeating cancer as quickly as possible. Every day that passes, more lives are lost or changed.
All of this reminds me of what lays ahead of me in two weekends. I will ride my bike 200 miles across Massachusetts and complete my 10th Pan-Mass Challenge.
I ride the PMC for birthdays and anniversaries. I think about all of the birthdays that I have had that without that radiation treatment back in 1996 that I would have missed. And, as every cancer survivor knows, there are lot of anniversaries – the day you were diagnosed, the day you started treatment, the day you finished. And hopefully, the day you found out you were cancer-free.
I write a lot on my birthdays and these anniversaries. I am reminded every day that I am a cancer survivor, but on these days, for some reason it takes on a different meaning. I have not been shy about celebrating my 20th year of beating cancer the first time, my 10th Pan Mass Challenge ride, and my 5th year cancer-free since round 2 in 2011. I am proud to be Living Proof that all the research that this ride and many other worthy events has funded and I share all of these things with the world with the hope that the momentum we have in defeating this disease will continue until the job is done.
Since I started this post, odds are, someone was told that they had cancer. I know that they are probably very afraid and scared of what is to come. We all have the opportunity to create cures for cancers. I got one. Then I got another one. Not everyone does. Please give the gift of life today by contributing and sponsoring research and treatment at the ground-breaking Dana-Farber Cancer Institute! Click here to donate.
Last Sunday was National Cancer Survivor Day. Every year, this day has become a day of reflection on what cancer has given me. Here is a list of all the special things and people that swirled in my mind this year. They are in no particular order.
I don’t remember all the details. I know I was at the office of the ENT (ears,nose, throat) surgeon who had removed an enlarged lymph node from my neck the week before. It was at Highland Hospital in Rochester, NY. It was sort of a grey, drizzly day.
The words from the doctor, that’s what I remember. I don’t even remember the doctor’s name. Just his words….
“The pathology report on the lymph nodes says that you have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.”
I don’t really remember anything else from that day. I think maybe I called my parents and told my bosses at work. February 22, 1996. I was 22 years old.
It was twenty years ago today, the day my personal cancer journey began.
So much has happened along this journey since then. The surgeries. The radiation. The long recovery. The years of follow-up scans. The family and friends who have also had their journeys. My aunt. My Grandpa. My Grammie. My mom. My colleague at Harpoon. My dad. The self-exams. The unbelievable, irrational feeling of finding a new lump 5 years ago. More surgeries. Chemotherapy. Another long recovery. More scans. More uncertainty. The realization that at any point in time, you can be back on the surgery table to remove another lump and facing more treatments.
Those are the emotional and physical hurdles. But the journey has also pushed me to advocate and fundraise for better treatments and cures for cancer. I started cycling and doing the Pan Mass Challenge in 1997 – this August’s ride will be my 10th. With the support of my family and friends, we have collectively raised over $65,000 for the world-renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a great team devoted to this cause – we’ve raised over $2.25 million in the last 10 years. Being a part of the PMC as a Living Proof rider has been the most important thing I have done in my life, outside of being a husband and father.
And what does this anniversary hold for me today? Another follow-up visit to the oncologist, of course. Another trip to the Cancer Center and more blood work. No scans today, hopefully, unless the blood work suggests that a look is needed. I’ll get an update on what the next treatment would be should the lymphoma return. And I really hope it is the most boring appointment ever.
Would you donate $20 today to help me celebrate my 20th year of survivorship AND to create a cancer-free world? Cancer-free – it seems far-fetched, but I’ve been following the world of cancer research for 20 years and I know that this is not a pipe dream, moonshot idea – each and every day, we are closer to this goal than ever before. So $20 to support this effort seems like a pretty good deal. To top it off, I will pledge to ride 1 minute on my trainer in March for each and every dollar donated for each dollar donated by the end of February. My dream is that I will have to spin for more than a 1,000 minutes next month – that’s almost 17 hours of training. I’ve done 1,000 minutes since the start of the year (7 weeks).