National Kids Cancer Ride

Keri’s thoughts

Keri posted this on Facebook and I thought I’d share it here…

Where to start ….(sorry it’s a long one)

I’m not one for blogging or big lengthy posts on social media, however, this month I feel deserves recognition. A month dedicated to raising awareness and the ability to promote a life beyond paediatric cancer.

First off, to Ron Mitchell Sharon Andres, Jeff Rushton and Mike Smith….
Thank you so much for all your tireless efforts in planning and executing such and incredible event. I can’t tell you how proud and privileged I feel to be chosen as one of the few crew, for the inaugural 2017 “Chase” team. I would be short 18 new family members if it wasn’t for your combined efforts.

Only my NKCR family would understand what it’s like to try and explain the ride when asked how it was upon your return. It’s impossible, the sheer depth of raw emotion shared can never be explained in words. So instead, to try and honour all the feelings, all the times I was blessed with goosebumps to remind me to be present in this beautiful life, for all the times I got to stare at the stars and be grateful to be alive and healthy, I’ll try, ill try to explain the day to day life for all those inquiring. It’s clearly taken me a few days to even remotely grasp all that I experienced.

We started out as complete strangers, I maybe knew 4 or 5 people from the previous national ride in 2016. We met in White Rock, BC on Sept 12th and the rest is literally a part of history. As a group, we had 2 days to prepare and introduce ourselves before we embarked on an incredible 8 day, 24/7 ride across the country. 2 Days! To gain 100% trust in strangers. Trust that they could hold us up when we needed a shoulder to cry on. Trust that they would care for us and keep us safe on the roads all day and night. Trust that they would hold on, without judgement, to our rawest emotions when we took a leap and let them surface. Not something easy to do in today’s society. I’m so thankful I took the leap…..

The ride is initiated with a back-wheel dip in the pacific ocean at White Rock beach. So sure enough, after little to no sleep (because we were up packing our entire lives into two RV’s), we arrived at the beach shortly after 7am on Sept 14th. We are greeted at the beach by family members and onlookers, either supporting their loved ones or curious as to what kind of a production they are looking at? We of course don’t do anything lightly or without a bang…tends to attract some eyes every so often. And not just because we were often all running around in matching dresses! (Men included ;p)

After a heart felt dedication from the Coast to Coast Against Cancer founder Jeff Rushton, we all gathered in a group, committed together arm in arm, with tears of joy, sorrow and excitement, that we would get to the other side of this country – safely, raise funds and bring awareness to people along the way, all while arriving in Halifax in better shape mentally and physically then when we departed 8 days earlier.

Once we departed, the daily routine remained quite similar. I often referred to us as a well oiled machine! Our goal was to keep the riders healthy, fed and in good condition to get back on the road for their next shift. We had 8 completely immortal riders in total (I can say that now that we are all home safe and unharmed). There was 3 riders on the road at all times. They each were entitled to two 9 hour breaks all week. Otherwise they had 3 or 6 hours in between each 3 hour ride. They barely slept, barely had time to recover, but never batted an eyelash. When it was their turn to get out there and commit to the road, commit to getting us however many kilometers ahead they were responsible for, they just did it. They woke up at 3am some days after a 60 minute nap, ate oatmeal we shoved down their throats, got taped up with radios and accomplished what to me, was the impossible.

The dedication that existed in this team was incredible. As they rode across the country, the immediate follow vehicle would read them dedications of all the stories Coast to Coast has accumulated over the last 10 successful years of the national ride – either of direct friends, families or special children they have encountered over their journey. Stories of sick children and their families. Stories of some who did not survive, stories of the despair families go through and some stories that bring tears of joy, tears of survival. Stories about the lucky children who lived to talk about their illness and beating the shit out of cancer. This team was full of dedication for all those that couldn’t be on the road fighting for themselves.

For eight days straight we managed to shower in an actual bathroom, twice. These guys will forever remember the blue bucket shower, conveniently located on the side of any major highway or back road they were so lucky to transition at. We were limited as to how much water we could put in the bucket to make sure we would have enough water to get to the next refill station. We’d fill the bucket with 1/3 of warm water at best. They’d get their 2 minutes of privacy in a tent on the side of the road, standing atop of a children’s colourful puzzle piece floor so they wouldn’t step on anything too sharp. Not ideal conditions for anyone, as I’m sure you would agree.

As the days and nights all started to roll into one, you’d think something would start to fail, someone would fall behind, moods would suffer from lack of sleep, lack of toilets, or the simple comforts of home. BUT, it didn’t. When things got hard, we rallied together, when people needed to sleep – they got told “get in that bed, you’re off duty”, when people suffered from repetitive bowel movements in the bushes, we all stepped up and became the Food advisory board (and cheered out loud for solid poops!). When bikes broke down, we found people to help roadside. Nothing mattered, nothing made us falter. ALL 19 of us were selfless and committed to the same goal. We were a team, we did everything together, if one person was struggling, we all stepped in to hold them up, to complete the job, to step in and support in any way we could. This ride was full of people: doctors, finance, media, technology, truck drivers, insurance, nurses, passionate volunteers. You name it, we had it covered. But out there, out on that road, none of us had individual roles. None of us had professions that put one above the other. For a brief 8 days, a group of 19 strangers became completely aligned for a cause greater than the shit society fills our days with.

I’ll never forget the feeling I had upon our arrival in Lower Sackville, NS on Sept 22nd,in the pitch black. It was a tough last stretch of road, a dangerous one full of traffic and re-routing. But of course, the team pulled it off. I went running from the RV that parked after its final follow commute. It didn’t matter if I wanted it to come out or not, the emotion and tears just started rolling out of my eyes. Every one of us, running around to hold each other and congratulate each other on what we just accomplished. Not a single accident, not a single fight or disagreement. We just did it, what most said couldn’t be done, we did it! We all stood in this parking lot wiping tears out from our eyes, hugging each other shaking. A surreal, proud moment. Sharon – thanks for holding me up.

On Saturday Sept 23rd, (after joining team 1 & 2 from the full ride) the riders dipped their front-wheel into the atlantic ocean, 6000 kms away from their starting point and 1.1 million dollars richer in donated funds to this amazing cause that brought us all together in the first place.

I went on this trip to give to the children and families who need us, who need the support from the people who aren’t in the middle of the crisis. But us, as NKCR family, we leave this trip with so much more than anyone could imagine. We are there to selflessly give to others who need us, and yet we come out full of life we didn’t know we had. We gain family members, lifelong friends, we gain perspective, we gain second chances. Our hearts learn to expand and welcome so much more than just what the eye can see.

There’s a little thing called NKCR withdrawal, we all talk about it, it’s the transition back in to reality when you get home from a life changing trip like this national ride. I know I was warned of it last year, and this year I went in wiser to it. But this fabulous Chase team, you’ve hit home harder than I anticipated. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking me in, for letting me be a part of something so fabulous. Thank you for all the permanent memories. Thank you for holding me accountable to a second chance. Thank you for the clearer perspective and new-found gratitude towards the daily struggle with my beautiful HEALTHY children. There aren’t words to describe the importance of the universe and its timing. Until I get to hug you all again, I’ll hold on to these transitional emotions and memories of greatness that keep gracing my mind with your presence.

“Hey guys”
Thanks! XO

(Also to my friends who aren’t on FB – Craig Tyndall, Erik Jensen, Brent Wilson, Mike Britten, & of course #wheresmylarry )

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