PMC Update, Day 1 Sturbridge to Bourne

So, where was I?  Ah, yes, we hate cancer….A lot has happened since Friday night and I haven’t had a chance to update you all, but now I am home and I will try to bring you up to speed.

I must say the weekend went very smoothly for Susan and I.  Up at 3:30 Saturday morning, we dragged her VERY LARGE suitcase onto the school bus. This giant red rolling piece of luggage got quite a few stares and whistles from the men who were able to carry only a small backpack and live in the same clothes for 3 days. Unfortunately for Susan, her bag was very cumbersome because she had to stuff a sleeping bag into it along with her clothes and of course a few extra pair of shoes; just in case.  I had the luxury of Mark being there as a road crew mechanic to take my blanket with him in the van.  The reason Susan even had a sleeping bag was just in case we ended up in the tent again like last year when we got locked out of our room. Unlike me, Susan is always prepared for any situation that might arise. I on the other hand, am not, as was obvious when my own luggage ripped apart in the rain and I was left carrying a garbage bag (brought by the ever-prepared, Susan), looking a little like a homeless person.

Susan and her suitcase

The ride on Saturday was uneventful–  No flats, no accidents, no physical pain for either of us. No Lance siting, either, although we heard lots of stories at the end of the day regarding whose friend’s friend got to ride with him.We rode the 110 miles on Saturday from Sturbridge, taking in the extra 38 mile difference from the Wellesley start we have done in the past. Susan was a trooper, rolling along with the crowd as I continued to get into ‘race’ mode and zip ahead, attaching myself to groups that passed me. At certain points I would stop and wait for Susan, and then everyone I had just passed, rolled by me. Then I would stay with her for a little, until I got the urge to rush away again. I had a hard time, especially on the up-hills, going slow and steady. My instinct is to race ahead whenever I can and Susan was very understanding of this, knowing that we both have our own riding styles.

The 2nd to last water stop on Saturday was in Lakevillke where the Pedal-Partner’s tent was set up. The pedal-partners are children in treatment at Dana Farber and are sponsored by one of the many teams at the PMC. In order to have a pedal-partner you must have at least 5 members on your team . Since Susan and I are a team of 2, we don’t have a pedal partner. The tent was filled with children of all ages , some bald, some in wheelchairs, some on bikes….and they were all smiling –happy to be a part of the PMC and knowing that our ride and fundraising are part of saving their lives. Susan and I walked a way from that tent a little taller, with reinforcement once again of why we do this every year.

We arrived at Bourne around 2:30, a half hour later than last year, which is pretty good considering the extra hills of Sturbridge, our short night’s sleep, and the fact that it was quite hot.   My plan of attack last year once reaching Bourne was in this order :

Beer–Shower–Food–Beer–Massage–Bed.

Because we stopped for beer first last year, our roomates scoffed the lower bunks, leaving Susan and I to the very wobbly upper beds, which in turn led us to trying to steal another room, getting locked out, becoming homeless, and finally crashing in on Mark’s tent. It was all a little too much for Susan so she changed-up the order of things this year.  Her plan of attack was as follows:

Shower–Beer –Food–Massage–Bed.

At first this system seemed to work better as we were the first to arrive in our rooms, pulled the wafer thin mattresses to the floor and avoided the bed in the sky.  The problem occurred when we missed the third step altogether–food. After our showers, we immediately met up with my friend Michelle who was a volunteer at the PMC and her younger brother Robbie who I hadn’t seen since High School.  This led to many beers and laughs about how Michelle was volunteering in ‘logistics’ and basically the only thing she did all night was to get Susan a water. (I realized the next day that we stood and drank beer with these guys and never sat down.  After 110 miles riding, we never sat until we went to bed that night.)  You can see here in my picture with Billy Starr that we were feeling little pain at that point. When he asked me who I was I said “I am Fran the Great and you are Billy the Greater, so take a picture with me…” I figured his ego may not be big enough and he might need a little boost from me.

At 6:00 pm,  we realized that it was time for my “living proof photo” down by the waterfront and we all ran down for that. This is always a bittersweet moment in the day, as 200 plus riders, all cancer survivors like myself gather for a photo.  This year Billy gave a little talk and toast which was very nice.  Then we figured we’d better eat, but, unfortunately when we ran back to the food tent, dinner was being cleaned up.  We managed to snag some cold, limp hamburgers and a baked potato but that was about it.  All I really wanted at this point was a cup of tea–which was to be an impossibility over the weekend even though Dunkin Donuts was a sponsor. Tea drinkers are definitely discriminated against in this country.  I think I should move to Ireland.

So off we went to bed in our hot dorm room with empty stomachs and sore legs, once again setting our alarms for 3:30 am.

(To be continued…)

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We Hate Cancer

So after six months of riding many, many miles–sometimes starting as early as at 5 am, sometimes on as little as 3 hours sleep, sometimes in 90 degree heat– we have finally reached the weekend of The Pan Mass Challenge. After 1600 miles, and numerous encounters with deer,squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and one poor deceased cat, Susan and I are tucked into our hotel beds in Southbridge,waiting to be woken by our cell phone alarms at 3:30 am so we can embark on our 190 mile journey all in the name of raising money for cancer research.

As the summer wore on and our miles added up I found myself getting increasingly agitated with having to get up so early and ride. There were many day that I just wanted to stay in bed, text Susan and tell her I wasn’t going to ride that day. Of course I didn’t do that, even on days that I hadn’t gone to bed until 2:30 in the morning. When you ride a hundred plus miles in a week it is easy to get bored with it all and lose sight of why you are on that stupid bike to begin with — easy to forget the real reason you put your body through this.
But here, tonight, I remembered the reason we do this, the reason we train all week, ride our bikes for hours on end when we should probably be cleaning the house or mowing the lawn or walking the poor dog, who looks at you with sheer disappointment every time you walk out the door with your helmet on, is quite simple…. It’s because, as Lance Armstrong said tonight, because….we love to bike and we hate cancer.
We hate cancer,we hate cancer, we hate cancer……….
(This I will continue tomorrow as it is now late, Susan is asleep, and if I don’t get to bed there is no way I will be able to ride 112 miles in the morning……so I will check back once I get to Bourne. )

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Keep Moving

I was seven years old the day I walked home from school to find an empty house, cleared of all it’s furnishings, the halls echoing back my voice as I shouted, “anybody home?” It’s a clip, just a celluloid sized snippet of a moment that I recall — sitting on that front porch, wondering where my family had gone and why no one bothered to tell me that they were moving to another house across town. Perhaps they did.  Perhaps I forgot, as seven year olds are apt to do.   This particular move was only the first of many moves, often at  six or ten month intervals.  In response to the transient life I was given, I learned a thing or two about adjusting to change.

For most people, change is scary– wheather it is changing jobs, or moving to a new city, or going back to school. It’s the storm cloud in the distance, the open chasm that looms over the edge of the cliff, sometimes it can feel as vast as the ocean with no land in sight. Some people will do anything to avoid the fear of the unknown and stay in miserable situations like a dead-end job, a loveless marriage, or an over-mortgaged home far too long, simply to avoid what lay on the other side.  The devil you know is far better than the one you don’t…as my mother would say.

Sometimes change  is thrust upon us– like every time my family moved to a new town.  I was not consulted, just told every six months or so, “Ok, pack it up Franny, we are moving again”. Or if your partner decides to leave or you get fired from your job. This particular kind of life altering change is tough to take because you did not choose it. You are told that it is time to get going. You haven’t had time to prepare. So this type of change feels extremely daunting.

The second type of change; the one I have begun to revel in over the past few years with my renewed understanding that life is so fleeting, so precious, so ridiculously brief; is change that is self-initiated. This is the type of change that makes me try new things like a jewelry business, or starting a bakery and makes me continue to stretch the limits of what my body can do physically by upping the ante from sprint triathlons to olympic distance races.

What usually happens is that we stay in situations far too long out of fear and then a change is thrust upon us. But what would happen  if we had initiated the change ourselves, before it got so bad, before the house was in foreclosure or before the boss was yelling at us on a daily basis? If we had initiated the change ourselves and not waited for someone else to do it for us, then not only would the outcome not be so bad–it would be amazing.

It’s taking that first leap that is so very difficult.  Deciding that that’s it, something has to change.  I deserve a great life, an exciting life, a happy life. And trusting that although it may be tough for a while, you will always land on your feet.  Somehow, my father instilled that in me.  I have always known that I will be ok.  That life will throw some crap my way but deep down I have always been confident that I will be fine. I believe I have many guardian angels–but that’s a blog for another day.

Sometimes it’s easy to initiate the change, but it is the second step that is hardest.  Maybe it’s easy to start the ball rolling, but once it goes over the cliff, chances are you can’t get it back.  And that is ok. The other aspect of accepting change is not to look back. Just keep moving in a forward direction and eventually you will get to a place where you are happy and fulfilled.

Because what is the alternative to change? Stagnation. Living without moving forward.  Where there is no change there is no learning, no growing. In my constant quest to figure out why on earth I am here, I now understand that my only goal is to be the best person I can possibly be and while striving for that, to help as many people along the way as I possibly can.  I can’t do that if I am stuck in  rut.  I can’t do that if I don’t challenge my goals on a daily basis.  I can’t contribute to society unless I am consistently trying to change myself or my world for the better. It’s an on-going process and I don’t feel as if I am even close to where I should be…which makes me want to continue to push things a little further.

There is one more major factor that must be in place, when trying to change your world. You have to have friends who support you. I am lucky enough to have some of the greatest people in my life who constantly support me, encourage me, root me on. They are always available for tea or a phone call, or a late night chat–even when they are exhausted and probably have to get up early in the morning.  Without these  beautiful souls in my life I am not sure change would come as easy for me. If you are lucky like me and have these people in your life, hold on to them. These are the ones who will tell you that no matter what changes you make, they will be there for you–even if it means sailing out onto the vast ocean with you or scaling the chasm.  Even if they think you are crazy. And that’s ok, because sometimes what seems like a crazy idea is exactly the change that the world was looking for.

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Dear Driver,

I know that you hate me. I feel your hatred rattle my bones when you drive up next to me, so close that if I were to turn my head I would see my reflection in your passenger window, stay there for a minute and then step on the gas like you were squashing a bug. Your hatred mixes with the dust in my mouth as you rev your engine past me, in your SUV, your Toyota, your pick-up truck. I try not to take it personally as I point my face downward to avoid the fumes and pedal my bike faster.

I swear at you. I call you a stupid, lazy, gas guzzling, bastard. You give me the finger and call me a psychotic, spandex-wearing, left-wing bitch.

And then you are gone.

My adrenaline remains high because you have driven away and I can’t resolve this argument. You don’t get to tell me that you are late for your meeting  or that if you come to work late one more time that the boss said he’d fire you and you overslept today because you had to drop the kids off at the babysitters, so having to slow down for me and my bicycle, really pisses you off.

I don’t get to tell you that I am riding in the PMC to raise money for cancer research and that I am on this road during the morning commute because I have too many miles to log and there are just so many hours in a day. Since you don’t stop, I can’t explain that I am a cancer survivor so this race is particularly important to me. I don’t get to tell you about the health benefits of bicycle riding. But this I fear would fall on deaf ears because you would probably tell me to go ride on the bike trail, to “leave the road for the cars”–like you screamed at me that time out your truck window as you cut me off in that intersection in Groveland. Remember that? But you are always gone in a flash of dust and gas and exhaust so I can’t explain to you that the bike path is more for families with toddlers on tricycles and babies in jogging strollers.

I need to ride with you on the road, shoulder to shoulder–even though most times that shoulder is littered with sand and glass so I must maneuver into your lane for a few seconds–which you claim I do on purpose, just to spite you.

I wonder if you stay mad at me all day. I don’t stay mad at you. Once you are past me, I let you go and put that energy into pumping my legs harder and riding faster. I grip the handlebars tighter until you are out of sight and then I relax again.  In your vehicle there is no outlet for your anger except to rev your engine, lay on the horn, and maybe turn up your radio. Does every cyclist you see for the rest of the day feed into your hatred. Does that co-worker in the desk next to you who commutes to work from the north shore, get under your skin? Do you make fun of his helmet behind his back? Secretly pray that he doesn’t get that promotion?  I don’t know because I am not you. I am me—a psychotic, spandex-wearing left-wing bitch, who isn’t trying to ruin your day,  who is just trying to co-exist with a stupid, lazy gas-guzzling bastard like yourself.

ps. Have a nice day.

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Drowning

As the school year comes to a close, I am finding it harder and harder to keep it all straight. End of year picnics, brunches, dances and finals all fighting to be remembered in a brain that has about half the memory capacity that it used to. Sports schedule changes and team dinners are announced in  daily  e-mails that get looked at and put aside to respond to at a later date and then forgotten. Three separate schools all with different end-of -year activities all hoping for a piece of my time.  Time which I see ticking down, my personal time, those precious hours alone soon to be over as the final half -day looms above me. Add to that work, running, biking, spring clean-up inside and out and general daily living; it’s enough to make someone feel like they are drowning in a sea of expectations.

So is it just a coincidence that I almost actually drowned at Walden Pond 2 weeks ago?  In the midst of all this scheduling  and training, Susan and I rode to Concord.  The plan was that we ride the 25 miles there, I swim, and then we ride 25 miles back. Simple enough,  I am training for an olympic distance triathlon(.8 mile swim/26.2 mile bike/6.2 mile run) so this should be no problem, right? The problem was that it got very cold.  That Thursday the temperature had dropped to about 50-60 degrees, down from 80 degrees the previous week.  I hadn’t noticed that the only two other swimmers that day had wet suits on and I didn’t.

Needless to say I found myself smack in the middle of the pond, dizzy and disorientated coupled with a very disturbing sensation of not being able to move my arms.  For a short time I considered just closing my eyes and resting because I couldn’t move from my vertical position. I started to panic when I realized that this is how “strong swimmers” drown.  Had I closed my eyes at that point I am sure I would have sunk to the bottom. It’s very difficult to explain how close I was to that point of sinking, but I know that I was, the same way you  instinctively know when your kids are sad even when they say they are ‘fine’.

In an article my friend Beth sent me the other day called “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” (See Full Article Here) it states that,” Drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect,” but rather it is “almost always deceptively quiet.” It was extremely quiet out on the pond that day.  Susan sat 1/4 mile away on shore waiting patiently for my return so we could ride home, but I had no way to alert her, because “drowning people are physiologically unable to call for help.”  And I couldn’t move my arms–this is called The Instinctive Drowning Response.  “Drowning people cannot wave for help.  Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface.”  

At some point, which seemed like a very long time but I realize now had to have been only seconds, I got on my back and kicked without using my arms.  I made my way toward the side shore and after a few minutes flipped back over and swam back to Susan, the whole time consciously hugging the shoreline. We then rode home to Reading and although I was quite shaken by the whole experience, I was more baffled as to why it happened.  I didn’t think I was that tired getting into the water and I am strong enough to be able to handle that kind of training.

I found out later it was a simple explaination.  The water was cold that day.  Colder than I thought since I was hot from my bike ride when I entered the pond. A little research told me that cold water that enters your ear can cause dizziness while swimming and that a cheap pair of earplugs would alleviate the problem. It’s true.  I swam yesterday with earplugs and had no problems.

Although I am now safely on land I can’t get the image out of my head.  And as my days get more and more crammed with activities and responsibilities and as my life seems to be whizzing by, often I am left with the same feeling that I am drowning. Just like in the water, drowning people on land get very quiet; as they get busier and more overwhelmed by their lives they close in on themselves and become quiet and distant, unable to call for help.  I’ve witnessed this first hand in friends who are overwhelmed and depressed–they move toward solitude–I’ve done it myself.  At the time when you most need to talk and vent , you lose that ability, because you are just trying to stay above water, get through your day, not forget something like your daughters chorus recital or your son’s soccer dinner.

Most fascinating to me is this business about the arms. A drowning victim cannot move his arms. At Walden that day, they felt as heavy as lead and I couldn’t get my brain to move them no matter how hard I tried.  I’ve had this happen both in the water and on land. There have been times when I have been so overwhelmed that I just can’t muster the energy to wrap my arms around someone.  But that’s what I should do.  A hug can be a life-line.  At those times when I feel like I am drowning in life, if I could get my arms to move it might make it better.

So look around today; look for the signs. If a friend or family member is getting quiet on you, pulling away, beware, they may be drowning in their own life. Try to get them to talk to you, try to get them to use their arms, you just might save their life.

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Going it Alone

Being alone has been at the forefront of my mind recently. My teenage children 17, 14, and 11 have been particularly ornery lately and all three, even the nice middle one, have been using me as their punching bag. Quite often in the last few weeks I have thought and said out loud that I would like nothing more than to live alone on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  I wanted everyone to just leave me alone. It’s more than just a whimsical thought, believe me, I have considered it seriously. They are at an age where they don’t seem to really need me except for money and rides, all which could be provided by their father or other mom-stand-in.

Ah, to be alone. It’s what I crave–minutes, hours, days of endless me-time.

When it comes to exercise and training I prefer to go it solo. I’ve never been one to join running clubs or biking groups, although I am frequently asked.  I have always preferred to run alone, swim alone (dangerous, I know) and up until recently, bike alone. When I started training for my first triathlon, I used to bike alone. I would ride fast 15 mile sprints to prepare for my races. It never occurred to me to go further than that.

That all changed four years ago when  Susan showed up after having hip surgery .

“Hey, can I go biking with you some day. I’m not supposed to be running as much on my hip.”

“Sure,” I said, remembering the last woman in town who asked to bike with me.  After a fast and precarious ride around the Wakefield rotary at Lake Quannapowit during morning rush hour, I never  heard from her again. It worked once, I was sure it would work again.  Susan didn’t look so tough to me.  If the rotary didn’t throw her off than the straight shot up Charles street with the trucks and potholes would surely send her away and I could get back to my solo training in no time.

“We’ll go tomorrow,” I said, “I’ll take you to Wakefield, by Lake Q.  See you then.”

Well obviously you know how that ended. Three Pan-Mass seasons later we have become official ‘bike partners’. Susan, my sherpa, my bike-Nazi was tougher than I thought. Her slight frame and matching outfit belied her core strength and tenacity. When we got home from the 13 mile ride replete with every obstacle imaginable short of coyotes, she said, “That was great. What time tomorrow?”

And so began my slow slide from solo-biker to biker-dependent. Nowadays it is Susan who maps our routes and she is always the one who insists we ride even when I am advocating going back to bed–just for a little while. Usually if Susan isn’t riding, neither am I.

But yesterday Susan was working and it was a beautiful day and I didn’t feel like running; so I rode alone. At first it felt wonderful.  I was free to go fast or slow, whenever I wanted. I cut some sharp lefts in front of cars that Susan would never have allowed and pushed through yellow lights where Susan would have stopped. I felt liberated and independent. ‘I don’t need Susan to ride with’ I thought.

Yesterday as the miles rolled by, and I was imagining my cottage on the cliff and how happy I would be to be alone and away from my family; I was thinking how quiet and perfect it would be. Then I saw a biker riding while talking on his cell phone.  If Susan were there we would have scoffed at that together and discussed the dangers of cell-phone use in all moving vehicles.  But I just shook my head.  Then I saw a bird eating an egg. I surely would have mentioned that to Susan and something along the lines of “eating your young” and maybe how I could understand that a little these days.  But she was not there, so I rode along–making mental notes of my surroundings and as the miles added up and my ride continued I started to get lonely.  It seemed so great when I had started out a few hours before but now I wanted someone with me to notice all that I saw.

Alone is good in small doses, for short rides. But the long haul demands company. I imagine my cottage on the cliff would be similar to my bike ride. At first I am sure it would be quite liberating to be alone, sleep as long as I wanted, cook for myself, and have no one yelling at me.  I could take sharp lefts and speed through yellow lights and for a while that would be great. But when the sun came up over the water and the seagulls fought over a fish on the shore, who would I share that with? Without others along for your ride to share in the beauty and absurdities this world offers –it’s simply not as fun.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It

So…according to some wack-job in California, the world will be ending tomorrow.  That means I don’t have to clean my house.  Not that I was planning on it anyway.  I don’t think I have cleaned my house top to bottom in  about 10 years. The last few times my house was really, really clean it was at the hands of someone else.

For a short but glorious time two years ago, I had a housecleaner, courtesy of my great friends that I met through my gym. I got friendly with them around the time of my cancer diagnosis–possibly because of my cancer diagnosis. I had been going to that gym for about 7 years and I tried not to interact with anyone. I  just went to my classes, worked out in the back and left. There was one girl in the back, Elaine, and her mother, Ruth, who I started to talk to in the early morning classes. I think  I told them first about my cancer.  Through Elaine and Ruth  I became friendly with a few of the instructors, Rose and Heather, who then ran a benefit for Breast Cancer at the gym in my name.

At one point Rose, Heather, Elaine, Ruth, Peg,and Jane  all pitched in to pay for a house cleaner for me while I was going through Chemotherapy. They barely knew me at that point. It was an act of kindness I will not forget. Two woman showed up at my door and spent all day cleaning.  Washed the floors, cleaned the counters, scoured the bathrooms, changed the sheets. And they came every week while I was in treatment. It felt decadent for me to have this luxury but I knew it was because of what I was going through and that one day I would be strong enough to clean for myself.

The last time my bedroom was cleaned and free of strewn laundry was  the night I had my mastectomy and was in the hospital. My sister, Mary came with her friend Nancy and cleaned my bedroom like it had never been cleaned and bought new linens for the bed and fresh curtains.  It was an incredible feeling coming home from the hospital, weak and broken, to be able to lay down in a brand new bedroom.

And then there was Kathy and Carla.  Who showed up at my house the night before my very first Chemo treatment with a bucket of supplies and a mop. They knew how important it was to keep out germs and how susceptible my immune system would be to infection.  When they left, my floors were sparkling and I could breathe easier.

I am not the cleanest person in the world.  I seem to be far too busy these days to be bothered. But at least now I am able to clean my house and am not hampered by illness or too sick from treatments. I just choose not to. I know it will get cleaned, eventually, after I run and write, and eat, and make necklaces, and shop, and pay the bills. It will get done, maybe tomorrow. Oh, well not tomorrow, I guess because the world is ending.  From what I understand only the ‘good’ Christians will be saved from this Rapture.  If that is the case, then I guess I will be left behind because my mother told me that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ and when God gets a good look at this house–I’m in big trouble!

And if the world doesn’t end tomorrow and there is someone in your life that has cancer right now and going through chemo and you are wondering what you can do for them?  Hold off on the flowers and fruit-baskets.  Instead, either get them a housecleaner or show up with a bucket and mop.  Or contact this organization Cleaning for a reason. And if they protest, don’t listen, that’s just foolish pride.   When someone is weak and sick, a clean house can do wonders. Seriously, it’s the nicest thing you can do for someone.

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Get in Line

Toe the line . Stay on the straight and narrow. Onward and upward. It’s what we hear from a young age. Life is about pushing forward in a straight line. That’s what we are raised to believe. If we keep our ‘eyes on the prize’ we will attain our goals.

For a runner, the straight line is to add miles to your distance training while getting faster in your race times. It’s a simple formula–train more, train smart and you should progressively get better. Unfortunately I seem to be moving in the opposite direction.  Lately my runs have become more and more difficult. The bones in my legs have been aching  and the bottoms of my feet are sore. I have noticed over the past few races I have participated in, that my times are getting progressively slower. I used to run in the 7-minute mile pace, now I am crossing the finish line just under 9.  And I noticed today on a training run that my gait was much more labored than usual. I considered cutting my long run short that day because I was so tired. I have been making many excuses over the past few months; Maybe I’m coming down with something? Overtraining? Not getting enough sleep?  These all may well be true but I am convinced now that it’s something else–a combination of age and medication and the final result of what my body has been through the last few years finally taking it’s toll. Try as I may to continue on that straight line, life keeps pushing me off making me zig and zag and adjust my sightline to my goal.

Last week,  my 17 year old son had surgery on his knee –the fourth  in 3 years. This kid who loved hockey and baseball and committed himself to both sports since he was a toddler was told that he not only needs a bone transplant but that his knee is degenerating and will need a full knee replacement in the near future. He will have to re-adjust his goals and reinvent himself. He will need to step off that line for a while and take a different road through life. He faces a choice at this point in his life–to give in to self pity or get back on the line.

And it’s not just the physical changes and injuries that sideline us.  Recently, I attended the funeral of a friend’s husband.  Instead of listening to the priest, who seemed determined to read us the entire bible front to back, I focussed my attention on the 14 year old son as he sat in the front row staring at the coffin of his father. I watched this boy, uncomfortable in his dark suit, arms crossed, his skater sneakers thrust in front of him –I imagined this boy hardening like cement. I knew he would be forever changed from the boy he was the week before when his father was still among the living. Thrown off his straight line of childhood and shoved into adulthood before he should have to be.

We could all list a dozen incidents that happened in our lives that changed us permanently.  Sometimes they aren’t cataclysmic but could be as simple as meeting a particular person–someone who changed the course of your life forever–maybe got you involved in an activity you would not have done before like fishing or biking or feeding the homeless. Something that switched you to another track.  Or it could be the death of a parent or sibling, a move, a divorce. You could step off a curb and break your ankle which makes your lose your job and therefore discover some other career path you may have missed if you stayed where you were. So many events beyond our control that continuously push and change us, reform who we think we are or should become.

How do we keep moving forward when life’s circumstances are determined to undermine us? When outside actions change who we are or what we believe is our own lot in life? How do some people forge ahead while others lay down and give up? My friend Gina says that no matter what happens to us, the straight line is always there–in your heart.  I believe she is right.

You have to keep your own personal line way deep down where nothing can touch it. The line that defines who you are and what you stand for. Because if we keep our straight line in our hearts and know with clarity what we believe in and who we are and continue through the pain or boredom or frustration that surrounds us at every turn, then I think eventually whatever is crooked in our own lives will straighten out.

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Let the Training Begin!

Old Bike

New Bike

To say that I was nervous yesterday for the first long ride out on my  brand new,ultra light,racing bike I got for Christmas would be an understatement. I was shaking and sweating and actually found myself whining like a 5 year old to Susan …“I want my oooold bike back…” Although I had been riding a racing bike with very thin tires for the past eight years, it had straight across handlebars as opposed to the curved racing handlebars. It doesn’t seem like it should be a big change but it was. Not only do I have to learn to ride in a crouched down position but I have to manage the breaks underneath and learn a whole new gear system–I had 3 in front and 8 in the rear and now I only have 2 in front and 9 in the back.  Trying to navigate around the sand, the potholes, the hundreds of joggers and dogs out for the first nice Sunday since last year,was a feat of pure will and I didn’t think I was going to make it 2 miles up the rode.

Fortunately, the body adjusts to  anything and after about 15 miles I was feeling more confident. We ended up riding 30 miles which puts us ahead of last year when we didn’t do our 30 miler until May.  This is good because according to my sherpa, Susan, we have to ride about 2,000 miles in training this year since we are going an extra 40 miles from Sturbridge instead of Wellesley.  Last year we logged about 1,700 miles in training.  Not exactly sure where we will find the time, but if the weather cooperates, we should be fine.

Here we are on our first ride looking pasty and a little goofy.

I’ll be sure to keep you all updated as we progress through the summer months and will hopefully have few problems to report.

To those of you have supported team ‘Kicked by an Angel’ in the past few years, we give huge thanks to you.   This 192 mile bike  ride that supports Dana Farber and the Jimmy fund has raised millions of dollars and funded so many test treatments that have become protocol, not to mention the new Yawkey Way Cancer and Oncology Center. (See PMC blog article here): pmc-money-helps-launch-new-state-of-the-art-cancer-center-at-dfci (which I saw last month when I visited my oncologist and I must say is beautiful, open and airy.)

This year I ride for all those who have died from this horrible disease–my dad,my mom,my brother-in-law Bob, and for those on the front lines now fighting so hard for their lives, Meg, Steve, and my cyber-friends at Mothers with Cancer– Susan and Judy, and for all your loved ones who you miss dearly.  I ride with the soul purpose of raising money and awareness to keep the momentum going in research in hopes that one day not only will treatment be safe and easy but affordable to those in need and with the greater hope that prevention will cease the need for treatment.

If you would like to sponsor me please visit My PMC page.  Thank you!

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Fearless

When I was growing up, my mother was ridiculously afraid of lightning . Whenever a storm threatened our family my mom would unplug all the appliances, make us put on our sneakers and wear rubber bands around our wrists and sit in the middle of the room until it passed.  We were not allowed to take showers or, God forbid, talk on the phone because everyone knew that Mrs. so-and-so was electrocuted right there in her kitchen one day while she talked to her daughter on the telephone and Mr. so-and-so was killed while lathering up in the privacy of his own bathroom.

Whether these horrible occurances actually happened didn’t matter– we never investigated further, taking my mother’s word for it.  Unlike the kids today who question the validity of everything we say to them, we tended to take our parents’ word as gospel. Just like my lovely friend Clare who still believes that lightning can come up through the toilet because her father said so. Actually, that may be true.

So now as a mom, I have spent the last 17 years following in my mother’s footsteps and passing on my phobia’s about lightning to my kids.  Around my house, when it thunders and lightnings, everyone knows to look for me as I might be crouched under a table, or running to my basement. My kids have seen me get out of bed in the middle of the night when the lightning flickered like a strobe light around the house and sit for hours in the middle of the upstairs hallway –the only place without windows. They’ve seen me have panic attacks and stay sweating in my car with the windows rolled up tight, refusing to go across the parking lot into the store until the storm had passed. They’d witnessed my utter breakdown when I was stuck with them in a metal canoe, in the dead center of a lake when a storm rolled in faster than I could paddle to the opposite shore–my own personal idea of hell.

But yesterday, when it thundered outside my kitchen window and the dog slunk upstairs with her tail between her legs to shiver under my bed, my oldest son looked at me in mocking expectation.

“Are you freaking out?” he asked

“Nope.”

“Really?” he said with a disbelieving cocked eye-brow.

“Lightning doesn’t scare me anymore,” I said. “Neither do bees, or the dark, or anything much. Having cancer took care of that.”

“That’s cool,” he said, and went back to his texting.

Sometimes we don’t realize that things have changed within ourselves until we say them out loud. I hadn’t even realized that my fears had subsided until I voiced it.  Being told you have cancer, then being told it’s aggressive, then getting through surgeries and chemo–Well, hell, if I can do that, what exactly can lightning or a bee sting or the dark do to me?

It was well known to anyone that knows me that I was afraid of lightning, but my other fear lingered quietly in my mind–my fear of death.  That isn’t one, most people talk about. My fear of death and dying always stayed low, crouched behind my couch, waiting to jump out and say ‘boo’. And although that fear still lingers in some aspect, it seems to have shifted a bit since my diagnosis.  It seems now, that more than I fear death as it exists, I fear ‘not living’.

My fear these days is that I will not squeeze as much life out of each day as is possible. Living without purpose and gusto doesn’t make much sense to me anymore.  Lightning will strike, bees will sting, the dark exists,death will happen, there is not a lot I can do about those things. But life on the other hand–there is an awful lot I can do about that.

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