As I sit here writing this, I am trying to figure out exactly where to start. There’s been so much going on in the last few months, many good times and some very challenging ones that have consumed most of my time and left little time for blogging.
Well let’s start with some awesome news about my upcoming race season. I’ll start off by announcing that I have joined a fantastic cycling team called Erace Cancer Cycling Team. The team was established in 2012 by Peter and Lori Kofman. Peter lost his dad to cancer a few years back and they made it their mission to raise funds to help those fighting cancer. Peter and Lori amassed a group of racers and club members that were more than just highly skilled riders. They were a team of people with incredible spirit that wanted to add greater purpose to their racing and their lives. In 2012 alone, they raised $50,000 for Princess Margaret Hospital. For 2013, they are raising funds for Camp Oochigeas, a kids with cancer camp and an incredible cause to raise money for. In less than a month, they’ve already raised over $10,000.
Since I’ve been back to racing, I’ve wanted it to be more than just about riding fast and getting on the podium—although I really do enjoy that part too! My inspiration to “never surrender,” even when I was gasping for air with legs pumped full of acid while out on the race course came from those who couldn’t do what I was doing. I knew I was privileged to be able to ride and I would give it everything I had out of respect for those that couldn’t. Erace was the perfect fit for me. Not only do I get to continue to race, there is another purpose to it, beyond trying to be an example of what can be accomplished after cancer, helping others.
My ah ha moment that I knew that I had made the right decision to join Erace was when I attended a team meeting. I sat in a room with many of the other racers at the urban location for Camp Oochigeas in Toronto, Ontario. We listened to the Director, Alex Robertson, explain what “Camp Ooch” does for so many. It is a facility that helps kids learn, cope and experience many wonderful things while undergoing treatment for cancer. It’s a place that provides a way of lifting their spirits and living life to the fullest at no cost to the kids or their families, while they face the difficulties brought on by a disease that a child should never have to experience.
Camp Ooch has no government funding and relies on the support of the public and volunteers. The funds are used to send kids to a super cool and medically equipped camp where the kids can be kids. There is also an urban location where, for those that cannot travel, they can still enjoy activities like rock climbing, creative events, learn to cook and an assortment of other fun things. The camp is also equipped with a full chemotherapy and blood transfusion facility surrounded by evergreens and wilderness. I can tell you that this one very thing is amazing. My memories are still vivid of having spent many days staring out of a hospital window at the city streets as the cherry coloured, toxic cocktail pumped into my veins. All the while I would envision being out in nature and yearning for the feeling of a a gentle breeze brushing my pale face as I felt the necessary poison robbing me of my remaining health.
As I sat and watched the intro video filled with bald children embracing all things wonderful in the outdoors, their smiles consumed most of their face. I felt my heart break and the tears welled up in my eyes as I understood their internal suffering, their elation from the smallest things and the want for more time. I love my life and in the smallest ways, I hope with the things that I do that I will help them find hope, strength and love in theirs.
In order to try and do my part, I have started a personal fundraising page on the Camp Oochigeas site. If you’re interested in helping make the lives of kids with cancer a little bit easier while they are facing such a dreadful disease, please click on this link and donate what you can to “Camp Ooch“! You will be helping bring a smile to many young and hopeful faces. We were all children once and if, for only a moment, you envision how different your childhood would have been with such a diagnosis, it isn’t hard to want to help.
My choice in direction, I thought, would mean the end of a great Ambassador sponsorship with Opus/OGC. They had provided so much valuable support in 2012. My contract as an Ambassador for them had ended and knowing that I wouldn’t be wearing their jersey at the races for 2013, I was certain would eliminate any chance at sponsorship for this coming year. Much to my surprise, this turned out not to be the case. They made it clear that they were in full support of my mission and were excited that they could also be a part of my goals for 2013. As a result, I am thrilled to say that I will continue to represent their product in 2013 with the continued support of Freewheel Cycle and I’ll be racing on bikes that can make me fly!
So how did I find my way to this point? Well there were several very impactful situations since I finished the frozen turkey cyclocross race. I became somewhat the frozen turkey put away until the holidays. Now I’ve been taken out, cooked up and there are a lot of leftovers, surely enough until the end of 2013—I was a big turkey!
I’ll start it off with two significant cancer scares. It’s always nice to think that once you survive the chemo saga, life is good and you’ll make it to being a 100 years of age (that’s my goal at least). It isn’t the case and as I was poked, prodded, scanned, scanned and poked some more and then waited for the appointments to get the results. When the appointments came, I found myself sitting in a room for an extra hour where each second felt like 5 with my heart beating rapidly and the room suddenly feeling warm. Outside the room I would hear whispers. My breathing would become laboured wondering if it was me they were talking about. Were they about to come into the room and say “hmmmm….I’ll be back”! Exit the room only to return fifteen minutes later with a serious look on their face. I say that because I’ve been there. Fortunately, neither situation was cancer but the anxiety that builds with the thought of having to begin the fight again and enduring chemo was, to say the least, draining. It is impossible to describe how ecstatic I am that I am currently in the clear and able to pass yet another milestone of hitting five years since I finished my chemotherapy! I can’t say it enough—it’s great to be alive! Hell ya!
Another huge moment in my life was being alive to watch my husband turn 50. It may not seem like much to some but considering my circumstances over the last five years, I am not taking anything for granted. My husband Steven is the most incredible man I know, the love of my life, the man who made me feel beautiful when I was bald and weak and he is my driving spirit when I am running out of my own. It was a beautiful moment to be there wishing him a Happy 50th on a Joe Louis birthday treat during a winter bike ride, surrounded by a huge group of riders. It was another awesome time creating another fantastic memory doing what we love to do, spending time together riding bikes.
The rest of my time was spent painting while managing my constant side effects from my past chemo days. My days of pain were motivators to create fun Christmas paintings made into cards. Regardless of my situation, my time is spent well and even if I struggle for a smile, I will make it happen through my art and the smiles I see from those that have enjoyed viewing my newest pieces. My biggest highlight for my artistic creation was having Erace Cancer Cycling use one of my Christmas paintings as a thank you card to all the donors for the Princess Margaret fundraising in 2012. Peter and Lori Kofman have shown unwavering support to me in 2012 and their desire to share my work to the masses, I am truly thankful for.
So here I am today, training indoors (I don’t do -12 C with 60 km winds) working towards the upcoming season of races. My brain searches for fundraising ideas so that smiles, comfort and hope can be brought to more kids at Camp Ooch.
Steven placed my awards from the last two years in the window, in my now training area, so I can be reminded of what one can truly accomplish when you stay focused and work hard. I have, in the last few months, acquired even greater drive, focus and a more extensive inner dialogue to dig to the deepest part of my spirit to “Never Surrender”! I know where I want to go, how I want to inspire people and how I can make a difference in the lives of those around me. I hope you join me in this journey and may we both carve a positive, permanent mark in life!