Sept 18 2017
As I sit here reflecting on the past two weeks (yes, it’s been just over two weeks already since I left for Vancouver and the start of the National Kids Cancer Ride!), my head and heart are all jumbled with so many thoughts and emotions.
I haven’t posted in a while, and wanted to explain why, and then fill you in on some of the happenings since we came into Ontario. This has been an incredible journey, and it actually started when I signed up for this ride.
Each day, we’re on a very tight schedule that repeats each day … wake up at 6am, eat, cycle, eat, cycle, et, cycle, eat, cycle, shuttle, sleep, and repeat 🙂 I eat what feels like a refrigerator full of food each day! And I’m afraid I’m going to look like bum butter when I get home as I’m using so much of it! Our crew chief keeps us on time as we have commitments we need to get to at each stop, by a certain time, so we have to be efficient at each stop. Some days, by the time we get in the shuttle, I’m pooped! And also trying to process the happenings of each day.
The other things is that when I flew out to Vancouver on Sept 3rd, I wanted to soak in the experience and be as fully in the moment as possible, both with the people we’re meeting along the way, and also with our ‘wheel’ family. Several riders and several volunteers have had children or a niece or a family friend who has died from cancer … each day when we do a dedication to a child, or they see their child on one of our ambassador boards, or they hear stories from parents and doctors in the hospitals, a part of them relives the pain their child experienced and they went through.
For me, sinking into the moment and being present is sometimes being there for a grieving parent who is doing his/her best to get through each day, whose sorrow is so deep and they want to share and talk about their child and just want someone to listen; sometimes it’s being there for a friend reaching out from a distance, who just lost a dear friend to cancer, leaving behind two small children; sometimes it’s one of your new mates wanting to tell you about their family, who they are and what they like to do. Many of these moments have come up and I’ve really wanted to be in the space to just listen, be in that space with them, and learn.
Many of these are reasons why I haven’t been blogging over the past 3 days. And here’s a few things I learned from sinking into these moments more and being present: sometimes people just want to share and have someone to listen … to share who their son or daughter was, and how they sometimes are just doing their best to get through each day because their pain is so deep, I learned that although we see these parents as courageous and strong, they often feel like they are just moving through the motions to get through their days. I’ve learned that a parent’s sorrow is ever present, whether their child was 2, 15 or 25 … at any age, they are still someone’s child and the anguish of losing them is terrible. I’ve learned that it’s ok to sometimes just sit back and reflect on the day, people I’m meeting along the way, children I’m meeting who have had to endure far more in their young lives than most people go through in a lifetime, and the many random acts of kindness I see daily … and it’s ok to do this while disconnecting from technology. I’ve learned that we live in a remarkably beautiful country … the people and the landscapes are breathtaking. I’ve learned this and so much more.
As we have a long shuttle right now, and some of my mates are sleeping (I would if I could!), I wanted to share with you some of the happenings over the past 3 days.
There is such kindness in this country. As we move from community to community, we are so grateful for the hospitality and warm welcomes we receive; meal; warm places to go into; kids greeting us with curiosity, random acts of kindness all over (people getting out of their cars to give us donations, a $1000 anonymous donation, a free lunch), friends and family coming out to greet and support us and warm our hearts (we miss them!!!!!). And we truly do live in a beautiful country … the varying landscapes across the provinces has been awesome to experience on a bike.
Over the past 15 days, we’ve only had one rain day when we were in Marathan, travelling to Wawa. The skies opened up like I haven’t seen in a long time, and continued all throughout the night. The forecast for the day was foggy and wet, but inside it was hot and sunny with an amazing warm welcome from the staff at the Gchi-Waaswaaganing Visitor Information center. It was cold and wet getting out of bed, and the warm delicious breakfast they provided us was wonderful. Because of the heavy fog in the area, the decision was made to shuttle us to our first rest stop and reassess from there as it was just too dangerous to be on the roads as vehicles wouldn’t be able to see us. We ended up with a short ride today (51km) as the poor weather continued throughout the day.
Almost all of our other rides have been in hot sunny weather, and the need to properly fuel and hydrate is critical. The rides are tough, physically and often emotionally too. I’m in awe of what the human body can do though when our mental commitment and strength is strong.
Over the past week, we’ve dedicated our rides to amazing and inspiring children. Daxton is a one year old little boy who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Following months of treatments and surgery, Daxton’s most recent scans show no sign of cancer! Daxton’s is a story of HOPE and this is why we ride.
While in Blind River, we met Abby, a 15 year old girl who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 13, underwent treatment, and was diagnosed with a second cancer (neuroblastoma) and is currently being treated. She was inspiring and courageous, and told us to Stay Strong for Abby. The day we met Abby, it was a hot hard day on the road, and I was fidgeting a lot because a lot of parts hurt, and meeting Abby gave me strength to finish my day on the bike.
Katie was a 15 year old girl who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same cancer as Terry Fox. As with all the children I’ve met and heard about through the years, Katie handled this challenge with grace and courage and a wisdom beyond her years. When treatments failed and Katie was told there was nothing more they could do, Katie still lived each day to the fullest. Her friends and family rallied around her and gave her the best early sweet 16 birthday. Sadly, Katie died 6 weeks before her 16th birthday.
“Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead; don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow; just walk beside me and be my friend.” The dedication for Grant was given while The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” was playing in the background. At the age of 15, Grant was diagnosed with ALL, acute lymphoblatic leukemia. Throughout his treatments, his amazing attitude and his desire to kick this disease was inspiring, and the feeling that he would beat this cancer was never in doubt. Sadly, 7 months after his initial diagnosis, Grant passed away.
When Taissa was born, doctors told her parents she would never walk or talk. Defying the doctors, Taissa grew up walking, talking, dancing, skiing, skating, laughing, loving, and knew two languages fluently. At the age of 12, Taissa was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Although there were many miracles along the way that served to restore Taissa’s energy and revitalize her spirit, sadly they did not last, and Taissa died at the age of 13. Never forgotten, always loved.
Barrie to Toronto
The day we cycled from Barrie to Toronto was particularly special for me as I got to see many family and friends, and am so grateful for their love and support. It was wonderful seeing friends at each stop, seeing homemade signs, pink boas, getting big hugs and lots of love. And I got to see Anthony and Murphy 🙂 Feeling Murphdog’s ‘hugs’ was amazing, as was the comfort of feeling Anthony’s arms around me.
We had a police escort into Sick Kids Hospital, which was quite special, and were greeted by kids, their families, doctors and nurses at the center. We heard a very special 15 year old boy, Owen, speak about his experience with cancer. He’s had two different cancers since his initial diagnoses, and has over 1600 bravery beads (and counting). Conventional treatments no longer worked for Owen. Thanks to research and the newly approved CAR-T therapy for clinical trials, Owen was the very first patient into the trial for this therapy. And the wonderful news is that Owen is now in remission.
I don’t want any child to endure what these children, and the 10000 children diagnosed with cancer in Canada, have to go through. And I don’t want any parent to experience the agony of seeing their child go through treatments and build feet upon feet of their bravery beads, or the anguish and sorrow of losing a child.
There is hope, and we embrace it. So many clinical trials are ongoing. And more children are living beyond cancer.
We’re almost at our next destination, and tomorrow will be cycling through Quebec.
Love & hugs xoxo