Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thank You, Seagull Century Team!

You’re moving a bit slowly, but still making progress along this route that you have never before traveled. It’s not so bad, as things have felt fairly level. Then you get to an uphill tick in the grade, and it’s harder, but still doable. Suddenly, you round a bend, and you see an impossibly steep climb ahead. But you know you have to climb it, so up you go. You’re giving it your best shot, but feel yourself slowing down despite your most determined efforts. “I can do it,” you say to yourself. “I can do it.” The hill gets steeper and steeper. “I can do it.” You cannot believe how tired you are. “I ---- can ---- do ---- it,” you gasp. You reach a place where the steepness and difficulty is more than you can imagine. You have never felt more fatigued, exhaustion wrapping itself around you like a shroud. You feel like you are barely moving. Waves of nausea and mental confusion sweep over you. But you don’t stop. You shift into a lower gear, reach deep inside, and keep moving. And suddenly the hill crests out! You know that there will be many more stretches like this before this race is through, but for now, you are on a little downhill section. You’ll face the next hill when it comes, and not before.

Maybe you think that I am talking about a bike race, but I am not. I am trying to communicate what a blood cancer patient going through chemotherapy or radiation is experiencing on their wild, multi-month ride. And what a tough ride it is! Not everyone is lucky enough to finish this race, and when they don’t, the outcome is not a “DNF” in the results page, but an obituary.

But thanks to you, and to so many like you who are part of Team in Training, the race through the valley of cancer and over its the imposing mountains will become less difficult in the future. Your hard work, your dedication, and the fundraising you do will help level the hills and add an extra gear as people struggle through their difficult treatments. Just as many more people survive cancer now than did 10 or 20 years ago, so even more will be surviving 10 or 20 years for now. And you will have helped make that possible. I, and all survivors, thank you deeply for this.

You’ve done the hard work, the training, the long rides, and the all so important fundraising. Now it is time to go enjoy the Team in Training experience at an event with your teammates. It is your reward! I am in awe of your ability to cycle 100 miles! And while I doubt you will experience any hills in Coastal Maryland like the ones I described earlier, you just might encounter some wind. From my limited experience with cycling – mostly on old one speed bikes – wind in your face seems as hard as a hill. I remember once riding along the hard sand of a beach for about four miles. I decided to go into the wind, so I would have it at my back for the ride home. As I reached the end of the beach and turned around, the wind immediately switched 180 degrees, and it was literally like riding uphill both ways! I trust that won’t happen to you at the Seagull Century.

So, go have a great ride, and a great experience. Create amazing memories to tell your grandchildren and your great grandchildren about. And please accept the sincere thanks of this blood cancer survivor. You are making a difference, and it is appreciated.