Half-life

I am often telling Michele that “today is another one of MY DAYS“. An anniversary that only I remember – the days I found a lump, the days I was diagnosed, the days of my surgeries, the days that I found out that the cancer that had invaded me was gone, the days that the treatments ended.

Today is another one of those days.

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.

Thank you!

Donate here: http://www2.pmc.org/profile/AS0171

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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?

Recapping PMC 2014 and My Trip to Maine (part 2 of 3)

(read PART 1 here)

SATURDAY, AUGUST 2nd: DAY 1

from Sturbridge to Bourne

Our 8th annual PMC Living Proof photo - me and my amazing friend Diane!
Our 8th annual PMC Living Proof photo – me and my amazing friend Diane!
We only see each other once a year, but I wouldn't trade those brief moments for the world.
We only see each other once a year, but I wouldn’t trade those brief moments for the world.

Despite riding nearly the entire day in the rain, Saturday was an absolutely amazing day – we had so much fun, as there was little traffic. I felt no lingering effects of the leg cramps from the day before. The rain really picked up after Mile 80 in Lakeville.  By the time I got to our team PIE STOP in Wareham to see Michele, Shannon, and the rest of the Deckers, I could barely feel my hands. That pie was so good, but all I craved at that point was a hot shower and clean clothes, both of which were easy to get – as long as I got on my bike again and rode 6 or 7 more miles in the rain.  After 100 miles, that was pretty easy.

My favorite part of PMC weekend, which I have talked about many times before, is reconnecting with fellow survivors at the Living Proof photo, especially my dear friend Diane, who it turns out was riding with one of my new teammates all day long (hey Diane – you really should join our team, we have PIE!), and one of my personal inspirations, Carie, who rode this year’s PMC with her son!

The official 2014 Living Proof photo. Over 500 survivors rode or volunteered at this year's PMC.
The official 2014 Living Proof photo. Over 500 survivors rode or volunteered at this year’s PMC. This group thanks to your donation gets bigger (AND LOUDER) each and every year. Yes, I am in there somewhere.
Our official Team Forza-G photo, 51 total riders this year! Weve now raised over $1.75 million to date and over $285,000 in 2014.
Our official Team Forza-G photo, 51 total riders this year! So far in 2014, we’ve raised over $285,000.

 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3rd: DAY 2

from Bourne to Provincetown

The roads were wet in the morning, but dried out by mid-morning. Again, a great day on the bike with my team. I had the opportunity to lead our peleton for a few miles.   We rode together all day and a large group of us finished together. My thanks to Mike Weiner for riding with me up Route 6 into Provincetown when I fell back from our larger group. We really cranked it up those last few miles. My final mileage over the three days was 260 miles, not the 300 miles that I had planned but nevertheless the most I have ever ridden in one weekend and by far the most fun I have ever had on the bike.

Our team Living Proof ranks grew 50% this year with the addition of Betsy, who kept us all in good spirits with her humor and energy all weekend.  Our plan had been to take our team Living Proof photo on Saturday, but the world conspired against us. Thankfully, we found each other in Brewster at the 2nd Sunday rest stop.  I’d go for a bike ride with these two any day, any where, any weather.

Annual Team Forza-G Living Proof photo! Betsy (left), Suzanne, and me.
Annual Team Forza-G Living Proof photo! Betsy (left), Suzanne, and me.

 

Read More: PART 3: #DADCHEMO UPDATE

GO BACK and read PART 1:  DAY ZERO

Please make a donation today to remember those who have past, to honor those who are stricken, and to end cancer in our lifetime. Thank you!

2014 Sunday PMC Jersey

2014 Sunday PMC Jersey

At my request, Team Forza-G has produced this special team jersey with the official PMC Living Proof patch for its 3 Living Proof members.

There will be over 300 cancer survivors riding the 2014 Pan Mass Challenge  this year. I am so privileged to be among them. I will wear this jersey as a reminder that for everyone that progress is being made, that the ultimate goal is getting closer, and that a world without cancer is possible.

When you see this jersey fly past you going up Ocean View Drive, say hi!

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Finding The PMC On The Side of a Mountain

I recently sat down with a friend over a cup of coffee. We’ve met each other a number of times at networking events over the past few months, but this was really the first time we had sat down and gotten to know each other. The conversation eventually came to cycling and my involvement in the PMC. I had my favorite PMC polo on, and my friend, named Andrew, recognized the logo and told me that the reason he recognized it was quite an interesting story. After hearing him tell the tale, I asked him if he would be willing to write it down so I could share it on my blog. Here is the story, which I think shows the type of people that are involved in the PMC – risk-takers, passionate, and COMMITTED:

A few years ago, I planned a three week family vacation to Idaho and Wyoming.
 
We spent a week in the luxurious Teton Village. Since I am an avid mountaineer, I found no joy in sitting by the pool or shopping in Jackson. Instead, I set my compass needle westward and scaled the hills behind Teton Village.
 
Of course I didn’t realize, nor care that I was going up double diamond ski runs in reverse, I just craved the effort and elevation. It mostly class 2/3 stuff. After one particularly challenging section, I stopped to rehydrate and take in the view.
It was late spring and the wildflowers were amazing. I noticed a small piece of metal sticking out of the ground.
When I picked it up I noticed a small tag which read: Closer by the MILE.
PMC Tag: Closer by the Mile
This small piece of metal was found by my friend Andrew as he was hiking up a double diamond ski slope near Jackson, WY while on summer vacation. Why this CLOSER by the MILE tag was there stuck in the ground, we will never know.

Fitting, since I was miles from anything with miles to go to get to nowhere.

When I got back later that night, I looked it up and found that it must have been detached (perhaps violently) from a bike.
Now why anyone in their right (or even twisted) mind would attempt a double diamond downhill, I have no idea, but I will salute them nonetheless.
So that is my story of how I came across my talismans of endurance.
Thank you Andrew for letting me share your story. I love thinking about some fun-loving PMC rider or volunteer, screaming down the side of a mountain on their mountain bike, loving life and living it to the fullest. To do that, you have to be COMMITTED, which is what the PMC is all about: