In September of 2017, I will again be participating in The Sears National Kids Cancer Ride, to raise money for childhood cancer research. Many people are wondering why am I doing this a fourth time and why in Canada. First, let me explain the why- why I am riding again.
On October 21st of 2004 my life was normal, just one day later a phone call from the doctor changed everything. I was told my oldest son Michael had mass in his abdomen and few days later it was confirmed that he had primary liver cancer. How could this be, he was seventeen, finishing his senior year in high school, had been accepted to college and looking forward to life.
After being told about his cancer, Michael started chemo and in February of 2005 had half his liver removed along with lymph nodes in his abdomen and chest area. After the surgery at UPMC, Michael spent two weeks in the hospital recovering and was ready to live life again, back to the life he knew before, the cancer we thought was gone. Michael’s life for a few months was “normal.” He went to school, went fishing with his friends, went to the Prom, graduated from Williams Valley High School and was ready for college. Sadly, things changed just a few short days before he started college. On a routine visit during a scan to make sure things were ok, we found out the cancer had returned.
After over a year of trial medicines and my son pretending everything was fine, the cancer took its toll. In October of 2006, Michael was again in the hospital, I sat there as the doctor visited him and Michael asked” how long do I have to live?” The doctor, taken back setback by his question answered this brave young man and said maybe a month or a month and a half. Now at nineteen, my son called his friends to the hospital told them the news. On November 13th of 2006, the cancer won the battle with Michael. It shortened his life but it did not change the way he lived it.
Many people have asked “Why Canada?” When I participated in my first Tour for Kids, I met several people with stories like mine. We belonged to a club. No one wants to join, and you don’t invite anyone into “we lost a child to cancer Club.” Over the 7 years of participating in Tour for Kids and SNKCR, I met many parents that belong to that club. Their pain and tears were no different than mine. The loss of the child felt them as empty as I felt. There were no borders separating us, just one common cause and that was to find a cure for childhood cancer. Parents should not experience the pain, sorrow and emptiness we have felt, through the loss of a child from cancer.
After my third cross Canada ride in 2015, I decided to take a break from childhood cancer. It had consumed my life since Michael’s diagnosis in 2004. What I realized during this break was childhood cancer is part of your life and there is not going back. For a year, I struggled with finding the path of my old normal self. In September 2016, I rejoined SNKCR not as a cyclist but as a volunteer photographer. I photographed children and their families dealing with childhood cancer, I heard their stories, I saw their pain, and I shed the same tears as these families.
In September I will cycle across Canada one more time. Why Canada you might ask, it is simple; I ride for childhood cancer.