It’s a Ride and a Race

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.

11 years riding, 21 years surviving

This year’s PMC, my 11th ride, will be my way to personally celebrate my 21st anniversary of my initial bout and 6th anniversary of my recurrence. PMC weekend is always very emotional for me. This one will be no different. It will be the first PMC with our new arrival, Adam Winston, along on the sidelines. While his arrival and watching our daughter graciously and lovingly become a big sister have brought us great joy this year, we have also lost too many family friends to cancer. We also have watched too many others, including my dad, go through the various stages of cancer diagnosis, cancer treatment, and cancer recovery.

I ride the PMC because I don’t know what else I can do to end cancer except raise money, raise awareness, and be thankful for the opportunity to just be able to ride.

As I continue training so I can ride 200 miles in 2 days in August, I say to you thank you for all you have given me through the years in your friendship and support and, of course, your generosity. Together, we have already raised more than $75,000 since I started riding. Since you are reading this now, I hope that you will take another moment to help me in the cause to help end cancer in our lifetime. Any amount is welcome, and I am grateful for your contribution. Thank you!

The PMC raises more money for charity than any other single event in the country, $547 million since 1980 and $47 million last year alone! This success is the result of a lot of people riding for, and caring about, a cure. And because every penny matters, 100 percent of your donation goes to DFCI.

I’ve made a personal commitment to ride and raise another $10,000 this year. I hope you can help me reach this goal as part of my 21st anniversary of survivorship.

Please donate to my ride by clicking one of these links:

Make your donation to help end cancer today!

Every donation brings us closer to the end of cancer.

No Longer An Oncology Patient

Last Monday, August 22nd, I went to the cancer center for another set of bloodwork, a CT scan, and a follow-up with my oncologist. After that follow-up, I wrote this:

Usually, I hope to come back from these visits being called #boring. I’ve spent the week reflecting on this news – I knew it was a possibility and it is really great news. And I am slowly but surely getting used to the fact that the safety net of these follow-ups is no longer there. I am cautious though. And I will be vigilant. I have to be. I’ve already had one recurrence. And while you and I both want to think that Hodgkin’s won’t come back a third time, the fact of the matter is that is just a wish, a hope, a dream.

What I know today is

  • that I am still cancer free after five years,
  • that I am healthier physically and hopefully mentally than I have been in years,
  • that I have a strong support system around me,
  • that I am inspired and committed to do my part to rid the world of cancer,
  • that I am indebted to my wife and our daughter, our family, and our friends for all the love and support during these tumultuous days,
  • that cancer is beatable and I will advocate until my last days for the treatments to continue to improve so that a patient’s quality of life can be maximized
  • that I need to figure out what this whole ‘not being a cancer patient’ thing is all about
  • that my #lifewithcancer continues, because it has helped shaped my thinking, defined a purpose, and focused my passions.

In this space, in the very near future, I will share some stories from my 10th PMC, which was earlier this month.  It was a fantastic weekend for a bike ride. Til the next time…

Yours in life,

Andy

 

 

Consider Yourself Asked! Please make a donation

If you are reading this and you have made a donation to my ‪#‎pmc2016‬ ride across Massachusetts – again, I say thank you! If you have not made a donation yet, here’s the scoop. Next weekend, I am riding my bike 200 miles in 2 days as part of the Pan-Mass Challenge. We are raising money for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 100% of each donation is tax-deductible and will go to DFCI. Each dollar matters. I ride because I can – I am a two-time cancer survivor. The Dana-Farber is the research center that first found the treatments for Hodgkin s Lymphoma, which I battled. Our goal this year is to raise $46 million and we need some help.

I am asking you to make a donation today. Here’s the link:http://pmc.org/egifts/AS0171. It will take you a few moments. And it’s simple – your donation will save lives.

Please check out my blog for more stories about my cancer journey and my ride.

Another Anniversary – this time #20

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.

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Yesterday, in 90+ degree heat, teammate Mark (at right) and our friend Bill (center) took a break on our 50 mile ride in Annapolis.

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 many reasons. I recently blogged about many of them here. I ride for my fellow survivors and our loved ones who have been taken from us to soon. I ride to inspire a belief that cancer can be overcome because of ground-breaking research and to help raise the funds to make that dream a reality.

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.

Thank you for making a difference.

 

2016: How could it be 20 YEARS…or 10 YEARS or 5 YEARS? Where does the time go?

[Note: On the occasion of today being World Cancer Day, I finally sat down to write my annual appeal that lives on my PMC donation page and I am sharing it here for your reading pleasure]

 

Many of my college friends will remember the day, in February 1996, the year after I graduated, when I told them I had cancer. During those days, these friends gave me more than I could ever hope to return to them.

Many of my Boston friends will remember when I held my first PMC fundraising event at Harpoon in July 2007. On this day and over the years since, these friends have supported my ride, joined me on the road, and given me more than I could ever hope to return to them.

My Baltimore friends remember learning that my cancer had returned in April 2011. In those days and the years since, these friends and families have been integral in getting me through treatment and the long recovery that followed and incredibly supportive of my PMC efforts despite the fact that many of them have no idea where Sturbridge, MA is. These friends have given me, Michele, and Shannon more than we could have expected, and we can only hope that we can match the generosity of love and spirit that they have shared with us.

When I get on my bike, whether it is in the basement on the trainer or out for ride… it is these moments and these friends who I think about. These moments act as a reminder of what I have been through. The surgeries. The horrible chemo treatments. The unforgiving recovery. That first ride after chemo, all 2 miles of it. The dozens and dozens of blood tests and CT scans. The uncertainty of what is next. These friends motivate me to get over that next hill, to go for that next ride, to spend another hour in the basement on my bike going absolutely nowhere. Because so many have told me about family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer… or have been lost to this disease. I push and grind and push and grind each year to raise funds for Dana-Farber so that these friends no longer have to worry about the hearing the dreaded words You have cancer or your child has cancer or your mom has cancer.

This year’s PMC, my 10th ride, will be my way to personally celebrate all these people and moments. PMC weekend is always very emotional for me. Being with all the cyclists focused on raising massive funds for a cure and spending time with fellow survivors is always very moving and emotional. I feel like I am either crying or laughing the whole weekend. As this year coincides with my 20th anniversary of my initial bout and the 5th anniversary of my recurrence, I plan to spend a lot of time connecting with friends who have help me and my family through the years and through the treatments and say thank you. I ride the PMC because I don’t know what else I can do to end cancer except raise money, raise awareness, and be thankful for the opportunity to just be able to ride.

So, as I embark on 8 months of training so I can ride 300 miles in 3 days in August, I say to you thank you for all you have given me through the years in your friendship and support and, of course, your generosity. Since you are reading this now, I hope that you will take another moment to help me in the cause to help end cancer in our lifetime. Any amount is welcome, and I am grateful for your contribution. Thank you!

Make your donation to help end cancer today

Final Training Ride for #PMC2015

HAY! My training partner, Forza-G teammate, and friend Mark and I on training ride in Baltimore County (July 2015)
HAY! My training partner, Forza-G teammate, and friend Mark and I on training ride in Baltimore County (July 2015)

This morning, I completed my final training ride for this year’s Pan Mass Challenge. I didn’t take a selfie (this photo was taken last weekend). I just rode and thought about the people who have shared their cancer connection with me. It’s hard to ride with the sun rising in your eyes that are full of tears. Frankly, you do get used to it.

I set some goals at the beginning of the year – to be a more impactful advocate for cancer survivors, to be a better fundraiser for the PMC, to be a more engaged teammate to Team Forza-G, and to train my tail off. If I can do these things as well as my training has gone, I can rest well. I have already ridden more miles this year than any other year and this month, I have ridden more miles than I have in any other month of my life. After 1,331 miles and an estimated 82,000 feet of vertical climbing, I am officially done training and ready for the PMC.

My focus is now on enjoying my 3-day ride across Massachusetts with my 55 Forza-G teammates and our families, the 5,500 plus riders, the 3,000 plus volunteers, with all of the well-wishers along the route, and without a doubt, with my father-in-law Norm, who will be riding in his first PMC this weekend!

Special thanks to my training partner and teammate Mark D’Agostino for sharing many laughs along the roads of Maryland and Pennsylvania with me throughout the winter, spring, and summer.

Now it is my time to ask you. Will you push on with me? What are you willing to donate today to help end cancer and to see an end to the pain, suffering, and sadness that this insipid disease causes?   What if it was the life of a loved one, a friend, or a college roommate? What if it was your child? What if it was you?