National Kids Cancer Ride

NKCR – Glenboro to Winnipeg and Winnipeg to Kenora

I missed the opportunity to post a blog yesterday – just too much going on, and with no planned shuttle from Winnipeg, no real downtime to do one…

We are over one third of the way through our journey, and by the time we stop at the Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay tomorrow, it will be halfway done. So today it’s time to look back on what has happened so far.

Going back before the ride, we spent a lot of time training and fundraising, just to get here. Every rider puts in hard time both on the bike and raising funds just to get here. Last week, we began our week flying out to Vancouver, and then a shuttle to Langley for a couple of days of orientation, and our first hosptial visit, BC Childrens. Then it was on to the ride. You can look back over my previous blogs to get an idea of that journey, but to sum it up in a few words, it is a Life Changing Experience.

Through the ride, we’re building friendships and “wheel family” that will last a lifetime. And along the way we hear such stories of sadness, mixed with stories of joy and hope. Hearing about the little ones who have earned there wings, without ever having a chance to live an adult life is heartwrenching, and I hit my first breakdown point after visiting the chldren’s hospital in Calgary. I am sure that it won’t be the last time as we constantly hear and see these stories. Today we rode for Naomi, a little girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at five years old, and earned her wings at eight years of age. Along the way she had three brain surgeries, 66 radiation treatments and 8 weeks of daily chemotherapy. She faced all of this with courage, and lived her life to the fullest, dancing to the beat of her own drum. We also rode for Emma-Lee, who is just one year old and was diagnosed with ALL at 7 months of age which is rare to be diagnosed in children under three years old, and five year old Benny, who was diagnosed with a tumor behind his eye, and is in the hospital for at least the next 6 months. The incredible thing is we met these folks by chance, as the parents met us during our lunch stops, and in the laundromat while the volunteer team was doing laundry (Benny’s mom saw our shirts and came and talked to the team). When one of our riders talked to Emma-Lee’s mom about his exeperience, and his daughter who is a cancer survivor, you could see some of the pain lifted to be replaced with hope as she realized this could be beaten.

The amount of love and help from the communities along the way has been incredible, everywhere we go people reach out, donate, and provide us with lunches, and places to have refreshments. We’ve met kids in many of the community stops along the way, but our stops in Treherne in Elm Creek yesterday were extra special. At Treherne, we met with some pre-school kids who came out and spent some time with us at our rest stop, and we had a little “circle time” just sitting around chatting.

At our lunch stop in Elm Creek, we rode through the local elementary school’s traffic circle and high fived close to 100 kids who had lined up around the stop. We then had lunch and returned to the school for an assembly where rider and cancer survivor Taylor Wheatley gave the students a brief presentation on safety (helmets for everyone, every time they ride), cancer in children, and how and why we ride. The kids were great, asking lots of questions. As the assembly completed, many came up to chat and ask further questions, and a few lifted my bike to see how light it was. One asked about the blue ribbon I have tied to my handlebars (and my blue fingernail), whiich I explained is to remember Taissa, the daugher of my good friend (and former National Rider) Ulana. Taissa earned her wings in 2001 at the age of 13 as a result of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The riding has been for the most part excellent. We were saddened to lose one of our riders to a crash and an injured wrist, and I had a slight mishap and carry some road rash for the next few days. Riding down from Lake Louise to Calgary was a real treat, despite the smoke, the views were still incredible. We also had three good days in the prairies, most of them with a tailwind. We crossed from Winnipeg into Ontario, ending at Kenora today, and began to pay the price for the tailwind, with a good stiff breeze in our faces for much of the day. Our ride was shortened due to a transport truck fire on the Trans Canada Highway, and while it was disappointing to miss the first 50 km of the ride, we are learning it’s not about the ride, it’s about the journey and how we can both influence the communities and help these kids with cancer, both financially and with hope and enthusiasm.

Tomorrow we ride from Atikokan to Thunder Bay, and end with another emotional stop, at the Terry Fox Memorial. We need to remember Terry’s words:

“I guess that one of the most important things I’ve learned is that nothing is ever completely bad. Even cancer. It has made me a better person. It has given me courage and a sense of purpose I never had before. But you don’t have to do it like I did…wait until you lose a leg or get some awful disease, before you take the time to find out what kind of stuff you’re really made of. You can start now. Anybody can.”

I will leave you with some pictures that have been shared and posted of the ride recently.

Until the next blog.

Rich Meesters

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