Monday, August 29, 2011

The Yellow Roses

I rode my first LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia last year. I rode as a supporter - not as a survivor. I was touched by cancer only by losing my grandmother when I was 5, my aunt, who kept her battle distant and relatively silent, who survived breast cancer, and a series of friends and mentors who fought cancer. Neither of my children, nor my parents, fought cancer themselves. And I was cancer-free. (Spoiler alert: So I thought.)

I was challenging myself physically, more in the spirit of LIVESTRONG as opposed to the literal mission. I pushed myself, but didn't make the cut-off to continue the 100 mile, as it was cancelled due to rain, and my back was giving out. But I crossed the general public line, and cried, because not only did I feel I failed my mission of 100 miles, but because I knew I'd achieved something. I was so moved by all the people cheering on the finishers, and I crossed the finish line at the same time as a survivor. I watched how he was treated, and handed a single yellow rose from a volunteer - a stranger - and in exchange, he embraced her like a long-lost family member and cried. And it was beautiful.

Ironically, after lunch, I returned to my bike, and someone had very purposefully woven a yellow survivor rose into the spokes of my front wheel - and there was no way anyone could mistake my bike for theirs - it was the only bike there with solid purple tires, Bianchi Celeste handlebar tape, and an obnoxious pink fuel box. Perhaps this person knew something I didn't.

My second LIVESTRONG Challenge was in Austin, where my son joined me, and we volunteered. I was to ride for my friend's father, who died of pancreatic cancer the day before the ride. And my heart ached for him as I had to get an "In Memory Of" bib for him. And I rode for friends and sponsors, dozens of them, who'd had me bring almost 50 bibs for the Tribute Wall. Again, in Austin, I didn't complete the 90 - we cut our rides short as we began to bonk and dehydrate more than halfway through - but we both put in 70 or so miles (not bad for a 12-year old on his first real road ride). And, again, we both were moved as our names were called and we were cheered for our fundraising efforts, even though we'd fallen short of our goal. And I saw the line of volunteers with yellow roses.

This year, we're already registered for the Austin Challenge. And I was hoping to volunteer on Saturday at the Philly Challenge. I knew I'd have to miss the ride itself, as that was the day I had to pick the kids up from camp. However, in July, I learned there was a more pressing matter I'd have to attend to Challenge weekend. I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. My bi-lateral mastectomy was scheduled for Friday morning of the Challenge Weekend, and it would be a remote possibility that I'd get out on Sunday in time to get the kids from camp. Thankfully, I did achieve that goal - I'd was able to show the kids that I was okay, that I'd survived surgery, and that I was back on two feet. And, while in the hospital, I'd been sent yellow roses.

In October, I'm going to be riding with a very different mission, and one that I'd never DREAMED I'd be doing, let alone this early in life. I'll be riding for myself. Lord help me, I'm going to have to have one of the "Survivor" bibs on my back. And I'm going to be going through that Survivor chute, where my daughter (who is signed up to volunteer to pass out yellow roses, anyway) will be giving me my yellow rose.

I love roses. I always have. It's my birth flower. It's my favorite smell in the world. But it's the one rose that I never wanted to be given. And, at the same time, I know I'm going to be so proud to accept.


Please help me and my kids reach our goal for LIVESTRONG. We are trying to raise $20,000 by September, 23 so that we can achieve Ride for the Roses status, have the chance to ride with Lance on Saturday, and have one of our airfares & our hotel covered. If we meet the $15,000, we won't have the opportunity to ride with Lance on Saturday, but we would have one of our flights and our hotel stay paid for. This is a financial burden on the family, at the moment, (though one that, I think, we as a family need to do together) and being able to raise that kind of money for LIVESTRONG, as well as being relieved of the stress of how I'd have to pay for all 3 of us to fly to Austin would be tremendous.

Not to mention the fact that the money goes to a cause that has been invaluable to me since prior to my diagnosis, through to my surgery, and now as I face breast reconstruction surgeries as well as further treatment with my oncologist.

Again, please consider making any donation you can - large or small - it all helps and goes to a life-changing organization.

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