National Kids Cancer Ride

All the feels…

Well, it has been a week of all the feels.

Someone wise told me recently that to make friends as an adult, you need to be put in a novel situation with a group of strangers and have an adventure. So, I suppose, that to make friends that feel like family, you need to just add some adversity (like headwinds, rain, cold and peeing in the bush… and meeting some kids with cancer) in the mix. I can certainly say that hugging my team of riders and crew of volunteers on Saturday as we arrived in Point Pleasant Park, it felt so great, and hugging them as we left, so bittersweet. The adventure was over.

Many people have asked “so, what was it like?”… and it’s so tricky to answer. At various moments it was such a high, and others such a grind. Sometimes I was so hot and sweaty, and others so cold and shivery. I was always hungry (and frankly, am still). My legs hurt a lot, until they didn’t really much anymore, and then they were just sorta tight… and the bits that sat on my seat are fine, really. But that doesn’t sum it up at all. At the end of the day, the way I can describe it best, was that the whole thing felt like a summer working at camp. Up before dawn, get dressed, put on sunscreen, eat, play, eat, play, eat, play, eat, play, eat, shower and then crash out hard in bunk beds to get up and do it again. Push yourself hard, bring others with you (especially the crabby ones), give lots of hugs, dance when you’re happy, laugh till your stomach hurts. Even the going home part – all of a sudden you’re back in Kansas, and wondering where the colour went. Well, for me, sort of.

Before I left Halifax, I got to meet up with two amazing women that I’ve hardly spoken to in the last 10 years, but were one of those previous adversity “families” – my girls from residency. The thing about these kind of families, it doesn’t really matter how much you’ve talked, or why you’ve not been – the same love is still there. Emma and Robyn, sending hugs to you both and all your adorable kidlets till we see each other again.

Then when I arrived back – I got so many more hugs. Colleagues and friends teared-up at seeing me. When we were riding, most of the time it felt like ‘another 40km’ on top of the last – and I think I lost sight of what an immense feat we all just completed. I had some colleagues tell me that they had been feeling burnt out at work, as we’ve had a stretch of so many new kids with bad prognoses, and that us riding gave them something to cheer for, and that refilled their tanks for our work. I had my own extended family tell me that they found it so nice to connect with me over this ride, as I’m often far away and see them so rarely. I was most taken aback by the response from the families I care for. So many of them truly felt like I was riding for them (which I was!) – and their tears at how much it meant to them left me in awe.

 

This is not to say that I didn’t return to a list of mundane life tasks… cut the grass, do the laundry, vacuum the house… but I also have the privilege of living in a world that is directly impacted by the good that comes from the money we raised. I get to see the results of clinical research translate to better outcomes for our kids, I get to watch them benefit from the supportive programs in hospital that get funding from these rides, and I get to hear the stories of how camp was the best part of their whole summers. To my co-riders that may be feeling the post-ride lows, please know we made a huge difference. Whatsapp me if you need a story.

Speaking of camp though – this week is also the announcement that Camp Trillium and Camp Oochigeas are merging to provide more to kids with cancer in Ontario. As a current member of the Trillium Board of Directors, I was a little nervous about how those in the trenches (which I used to be, as a Trillium counsellor and Ooch camp doc) would feel. It is such a giant relief to know that everyone I’ve talked to is feeling nostalgically sad because this will mean some changes eventually, but excited for what this can bring to the families we serve.

And finally, I am humbled. Just before I left for the ride I was sent an email telling me that I’d been nominated for the Hamilton Health Sciences Pat Mandy Inclusion Award. This award is granted to a person that advances equity, diversity and inclusion among patients, colleagues and learners in the health system. Tonight was the awards dinner, and while I didn’t ‘win’ – it hit me. I couldn’t imagine higher praise than to be identified by those colleagues with whom I work most closely – my other ‘adversity family’ – as a person who fits these ideals. At the end of the day, providing great care to all, especially to those who are typically excluded or underserved, is the best thing I could imagine someone saying about me.

So in summary. My sometimes cold-ish heart is feeling pretty melty. I am lucky to get to serve the families I do. I am lucky to be surrounded by my amazing family – the ones I was born belonging to, and the ones I’ve found along the way. Now is a good time for hugs if you want them, cause I might be back on my bike by Saturday.