As riders on the NKCR we have two kinds of family. Our “regular” family (our relatives) and our wheel family. Our wheel family are the people we develop bonds with on the ride, who we depend on to get us through the day both on and off the road. In short, our riders and volunteers. In my experience, I have developed strong, famillial, relationshiips with many of the members of the 2017 NKCR, and this is also happening with members of the 2019 NKCR. We lean on each other, providing support and that little extra push (physical, mental, emotional) when it is needed. It’s hard to put a finger on when and why it happens, but I suspect that it is a combination of the physical and emotional hardship that we subject ourselves to each day for 18 days that makes it happen.
Today we rode for Sean, son to one of those extended family members; Chris Collins. Sean began life with a heart condition that required open heart surgery at age 7. He recovered from this to love playing hockey and soccer. At age 9, he was struck on the hand, and the bump continued to grow, eventually being diagnosed as cancer. He endured aggressive surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy sessions, and was cancer free after 14 months. About a year later, he got anohter bump iin his leg. After yet another tough battle, this cancer was beaten. However it again returned, and since the chances of successful treatment were nil, the family decided for quality of life, and Sean gained his angel wings in July, 2007. Sean had two books written about him. In the book “Ten Needles”, he is quoted as saying “live every day like it’s your last day of school, happy and excited for the day, for the moment…”.
Today we rode to the Terry Fox memorial in Thunder Bay after a brief shuttle from Atikokan. It was a tough day both physically (due to cold and headwinds), and emotionally for me. Fortunately my wheel family (and real family) was there with hugs (from those who were there) and text messages and calls from those who are not on the ride this year. I ended the day in the shuttle after lunch as I was a bit light headed and it wasn’t safe to be out anymore. Emotionally I struggled with what was to come at the memorial, and I recalled the story of Greta from our 2017 ride. I asked our crew chief Mark if I could speak about this at the memorial, and he allowed it. The context can be found in this blog from 2017. Many of my wheel family carry or wear wristbands that are in memory of kids that have earned their angel wings, and frankly we have far too many of them. It is my hope that through our rides and our fundraising, we eliminate the need for these damn things.
Now we are off in our shuttle to our rest stop in Marathon. Tomorrow we will brave the roads and weather again (safety permitting) to continue our ride, fundraise and spread the word. Until the next time, thank you as always for reading.