On a related note, I didn't want to interrupt my trilogy of blogs about the Austin Challenge, not for continuity, but because I wanted those posts to be light and inspiring and hopeful.
However, just as the blog comes in threes, so does bad news.
As I mentioned in that series, I learned of my loved one's father dying while we were in Austin. The shame of it was that he was on course for treatment, and we were just helping to establish a support network for him. LIVESTRONG was just becoming a part of that. But, cancer is cruel, and it took his father just as he was feeling confident about how to approach his father's illness.
When I got back from Austin, I tagged my friend, Ryan N. Weiss, in my photo album on Facebook, just as I did in Philadelphia and after the New York City Century Tour, so he could see that I was still riding for him and his fight against cancer. Ryan had been released from the hospital just in time for the Philadelphia Challenge. We'd hoped that he would be in attendance, but with the weather, and just having left the hospital, he wisely opted to stay warm and dry at home and not risk his immune system. We'd exchanged messages here and there, and he always commented on my photo albums or updates and we kept in touch that way for some time. Usually, within minutes of tagging him in my notes or albums, he'd post a "Like" and a comment.
But not with the photos from Austin. I got worried. I went to his profile on Facebook, as his cell phone was cut off and he wasn't logging onto IM anymore. I saw a note that if anyone wanted to see or speak to Ryan to contact his wife's cell. I messaged her and she said that Ryan fell ill once more and it was bad. The cancer was ravaging him again.
I'd been trying to set up a chance to speak to him over the phone, just so he could hear my voice and that I cared very much for him and wished him well and strength when I saw a wall post go up on his Facebook profile that read, "OMG RYAN ILL MISS YOU 4EVER ALWAYS IN MY HEART YOU WERE MY GREAT FRIEND I WILL CHERISH ALL OUR MEMORIES THERE WONT BE A DAY I DONT THINK ABOUT YOU R I P MY DEAR DEAR FRIEND"
I jumped to his profile, and R.I.P. postings were cropping up left and right. He passed away before I had a chance to say goodbye.
Not long after, someone whom I can't call a close friend, but certainly an inspiration, lost his fight to cancer - like Ryan, cancer of the brain. Michael Patrick's story had been passed onto me before I had the chance to meet him. He raced mountain bikes while going through treatment. He'd had a very long battle with cancer (unlike Ryan, whose battle was absurdly brief), but rode whenever he could. Thanks to my friend, Sean, I had the chance to meet Michael this past Summer and ride with him. He was such a nice guy.
Some friends and family wonder if LIVESTRONG is good for me because it seems like since I've gotten involved, I only befriend, and lose, people who are fighting cancer. What I try and explain is that, of all the people lost this year that I knew, all of them were friends and colleagues with nothing else in common except they had cancer. Most of them weren't involved with LIVESTRONG. Not until, when their fights were made public, I approached them to see if there was anything I could do. Some didn't respond to the offer, others embraced it.
But that's what's so insidious about cancer. You don't have to be involved with the fight or the cause to be touched or even surrounded by it. Had it not been for LIVESTRONG, I still would have lost these amazing friends, colleagues and inspirations.
LIVESTRONG at least has provided me, and some of them, an outlet for the sense of helplessness and an opportunity to find some hope.