20

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.

20for20

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).

Please Donate Here: http://www.pmc.org/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?

Everyone Has A Reason

I am so thrilled to share this video with everyone. Not because I am in it, although I am very honored and proud of being included. It is because for my many friends and family who only know the PMC through me, this is a chance for me to introduce you to some of my very special teammates on Forza-G.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you:

  • our team founder and insatiable captain Matt Dillis,
  • my great friend and perhaps the best person I know, Jaime Schier, who talked me into doing the PMC,
  • and my fellow cancer survivor Betsy Bowman who inspires me with her humor, spirit, and love of life.

I would love your comments. Thanks to our teammate Jay for conceiving of and producing this video piece.

 

We Are Forza-G

Members of Team Forza-G talk about the origins of the team and why they ride the Pan Mass Challenge. Video courtesy of Last Minute Productions.
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The 2015 ride is 2 weeks away – please help us achieve our fundraising goal by making a donation at http://www.pmc.org/tf0086.

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The Big PMC Announcement (with Video)

Thanks to all my friends and family who donated to this year’s ‪Pan Mass Challenge – every single dollar you donated is heading to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Saturday night at a gala event at Fenway Park, the Pan Mass Challenge announced the largest total gift in the history of the event (and $1 million more than the goal). This gift brings the 35-year total donation to $455 million. It is the largest sum ever contributed to a charity by any athletic fundraising event anywhere in the world. The $41 million gift is $2 million more than the 2013 donation. This increase is a tribute to the commitment all of you have to this mission and this event. I personally have friends and teammates who have gone to Dana Farber for their treatment and are Living Proof that your donation is saving lives. On behalf of these friends, I humbly say THANK YOU!

I know that the research done at DFCI has made me a cancer survivor twice over as well. And I believe that one day, we won’t have to do this any more because DFCI and others will find the cures for all cancers. Until then, I am grateful for your donations, support, and encouragement. I’d share more right now, but I’ve got to get on my trainer – ‪PMC 2015 is just around the corner.

Here is the video they showed Saturday night at Check Presentation event to announce record-breaking donation by the Pan-Mass Challenge to Dana Farber. Sure if you did the slow-mo, I’m in there somewhere- certainly in all those Living Proof  photos.

This pretty much wraps the 2014 PMC year with a big live-saving bow. Only 56 days until I register for PMC 2015 so we continue on the path of stopping cancer.

 

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!

22 years old, and I was already a cancer survivor

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On the day I turned 23 years old, I was already a cancer survivor. It changed my life. Now I am committed to help others enjoy more birthdays! Click to make your donation!

It was 18 years ago today.  The day that I first became a cancer patient. It was certainly a day that changed my life.

I didn’t think back then what life was going to be like when I was 40 years old.

I was just hoping that I’d get to 23.

And now, all these years later, I am still going and committed to helping create a world that is not afraid of cancer. A world that cure and control cancer once it enters a body in a way that is humane and allows everyone to maintain their quality of life. That is why I am asking everyone to make a donation to my annual PMC ride for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute today.

Would you donate $18 today to help me celebrate my 18th year of survivorship AND to create a cancer-free world? That seems like a pretty good deal. To top it off, I will pledge to ride 1 minute on my trainer tomorrow for each dollar donated before 12 midnight tonight.

Please Donate Here: http://www.pmc.org/as0171

PS – Not to hedge my bet here, but should you all outdo yourself and lots of donations come in (a great problem to have right), I will still ride 1 minute on my trainer for each dollar donated today, but will do it with the next week. Seriously, there are only 1,440 minutes in a day and I don’t think I can sit on the trainer for an entire 24 hours. But I would pledge to do it by the end of the week.

PMC 2013 – More than just a ride

It has been 2 weeks since the ride, and I have stayed away from trying to write about it. It has been quite difficult for me to try to capture the experience as well as to come to terms with fact that I finally achieved the goal that I have been dreaming about since the day of my first chemo treatment. The PMC weekend, the ride, the camaraderie, the emotions, the meaning is unique for each and everyone who rides, volunteers, or stands along the side of the road and cheers. And for me, this PMC was the most exceptional of the eight that I have been a part of since 2006 (6 on a bike, 1 on the sideline with chemo, and another changing kegs in Sturbridge and Bourne for Harpoon).

Without a doubt, all the training I did this year, starting on the trainer in January and then doing over 1,000 miles on the road since April, paid off. I rode with groups of my teammates nearly the entire weekend. Saturday, I think, I surprised them all with my energy and my pace. I kept it up on Sunday, leading the entire Forza-G train of 25 or so riders over the Bourne Bridge to start the day, and then riding the rollers with 2 other teammates, both who are excellent and experience riders, and alternating with them who pulled the train. To be honest, and my teammates Brian and Tom can attest to this, I have pretty much never pulled in the past PMCs. But there I was, taking my turn when it came up. It was 125 miles into my 8th PMC weekend, and I had finally figured out how to do this cycling thing. I kept rocking and rolling all day long, enjoying the Forza-G train on our second segment of the day, cruising up Ocean View Drive, blasting up Route 6 and through the dunes at the end. At the end of the day, and the days that followed, my legs weren’t tired. My, er, seat and the balls of my feet – that was another story. That being said….

Here are my highlights of the weekend….

HIGHLIGHT 1: Mile 100, Day 1

Thanks to the indomitable  and amazing Kathi Nelson, our cycling team, Forza-G, is the only team to have its very own Pie Stop. Yes, pie. Blueberry, cherry, apple. And more! This stop, right along the route in Wareham, has become a great meeting spot to see friends and family. The day 1 finish is only a few miles away in Bourne and this is certainly the best stop of the day. This year, Michele’s whole family was on hand, it was a fantastic way for them to get to see my teammates and to see the ride itself. I was also thrilled to share some time with Shannon, who at age 3 is just starting to understand that I ‘do a big ride’ and that there are ‘a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of bicycles’. Certainly a PMC Kids Ride will be in her future soon.

(click photo to see full pic and captions)

HIGHLIGHT 2: Living Proof Photo

Without a doubt, the best moments of my weekend were seeing my family at the team Pie Stop and the Living Proof photo. This year’s Living Proof pic was the largest ever. I was thrilled to share a few moments with three very special people who have ridden with me, inspired me, and have given me so much even though we only spend a few minutes together each year. Blessed to know you: Carie Capossela, Suzanne Merritt, and Diane Gibbins – and I look forward to our next time together.

(click photo to see full pic and captions)

HIGHLIGHT 3: Provincetown Finish

On Sunday afternoon, riding in Provincetown for the first time since August 2010 was pretty much as overwhelming an experience as I have had in the roller coaster that my life has been since March 2011. When I crossed the town line while riding on Route 6, I was riding alone. I was riding well, riding at about 17 or 18 mph into the wind, but had been dropped by a group of teammates just after the final water stop. It was one of my few times riding alone the entire weekend. When I have dreamed about getting back to riding the PMC, dreams that I remember having in the days following finding the lump in my groin, I have often thought about this very stretch of road. I was glad to have this time, about 30 minutes, by myself, to just ride and reflect.

There was a lot to reflect on.  Everything that Michele and I have been through since I last finished the PMC. The dark days of chemo. Being so grateful for all the sacrifices our family made for us. The months and months of recovery. Struggling to get our life back on track. Building great friendships in Baltimore. All of the people who I have met who are battling cancer and those who have been taken from us to soon. The families that I know that have been devastated by cancer. All these thoughts and memories just flooded over me, some good, some bad. It was an experience that I am so thankful that I was able to have and one that is pretty much impossible to put into words.

As I made the turn to head into the Dunes, I was pleased to see a group of my teammates, waiting for me and some more of our team who were behind me along the road. One of the best Forza-G traditions  is that we do try to make sure we ride into the finish together and share the moment of crossing the line together, 192 miles away from the start. And then we make sure the PMC Rookies (1st-time riders) get a photo….

And what is the result of all this cycling? Well, right now, the PMC has already raised over $30 MILLION in 2013. The goal is $38 million, so there is still a way to go. But this goal is just another step in our campaign towards the end of cancer. A campaign that we will achieve, by working together, by believing, and by riding.  If you have not done so already, please consider joining our campaign by making a donation.

[I will have more thoughts and recollections from PMC 2013 Weekend, plus some ‘riding stats’ at some point soon]