I'd been meaning to write something like this for awhile, but finally got around to it when my friend Cat asked me to put something together for this year's Team in Training team.
It's not exactly blog-format-appropirate, but I like what I wrote enough to include it here verbatim
First, thanks to all of you for being here. I heard you all were riding Hagg Lake today and it made me smile...I have fond and not so fond memories of racing my bike out here in three consecutive weekends of monsoons last spring. Second, I am sorry that I am not here to meet you myself. I am down in Corvallis supporting my cycling team at a big road race, but hope to make it to a Saturday workout later in the spring. And thanks to Cat for reading my words for me. I have faith that she'll be able to convey the perfect amount of cantankerous wise-assery that I have become known for.
Some of you know me, but many of you do not. I was part of the very first Team in Training Pacific Crest team in 2005 and was hooked from the first moment I stepped onto the track with my new teammates. I was a mentor and captain for the 1/2 ironman teams in 2007 and 2008 and a swim coach last year. Although I have transitioned from triathlon to over the last two years, I still consider the Pacific Crest teams part of my extended family.
On February 23, 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. For those of you not fluent in cancer-ese, that means . The five seconds that it took the doctor to give me my diagnosis completely changed my life. At I was a state champion and reluctant part-time attorney. At I was a 32 year old cancer patient.
Over the last six weeks, I have undergone three different surgeries to remove the tumor in my left breast and several infected lymph nodes. I start four months of chemotherapy . That will be followed by 8 weeks of radiation treatment later in the fall. If you want the hard and fast medical details, Cat can direct you to my blog.
We all started this TNT journey for a reason. Mine was because law school interfered with my ability to really support my mother while my grandfather died of Leukemia in 2001. I felt like I had to put something back into the world to make up for what cancer had taken from my family.
But what I want to talk about is why I stayed on my journey. Take a minute and look around you. This was my the reason. My teammates.
These people will become your rocks in the next few weeks. Some of them only until Pacific Crest, some of them for much longer. These are the people that will not only ride with you in the rain and get catastrophically drunk with you during race weekend, but will also be the first to contact you on scan days or bring you food when you're too sick to get out of the house.
One of my rocks is my boyfriend Ricardo. Not surprisingly, we met through TNT last year. In fact, our first real conversation was out here at Hagg Lake a year ago. It took me six months for me to realize that he liked me, but it has been worth the wait. We are an odd couple. I am 155 pounds of leg muscle and stubborn obnoxiousness. He is small and smooth and suave. When we ride together, he climbs like a mountain goat. I climb like a monster truck. But, somehow, we make it work.
Ricardo was the one that found my tumor and harassed me into getting it checked out when I was sure it was nothing. He has held my hand in recovery rooms and has helped me unwrap my bandages after every surgery--probably because he gets to fondle my boobs in the process. He hugs me when I cry and pulls my ear when I get difficult. I get great care because he flirts with the nurses and he has an uncanny ability to make me laugh in waiting rooms. You haven't seen anything until you've seen a confused Mexican play with your prosthesis bra in front of your surgeon. Or talk about boob drains in front of your father.
Without TNT, I would not have Ricardo. Or Cat, who visits me even though she is deathly allergic to my worthless housecats. Or any other of the dozens of people who have lit up my life in the last six weeks. I think about that every day.
I love riding, partially because I'm blessed to be a talented racer, but mostly because riding bikes is an experience where our humanity tends to shine through most purely. I have never seen human joy and suffering like what I have seen on training rides and at the end of bike races. The people that are brave and wise enough to show those emotions to the world are the people that you need in your life when the going gets rough. My going is rough right now and the people I have depended on the most are the ones that I have pedaled with over the past six years.
My hope for all of you is that you will never have to lean on your TNT family like I have had to lean on mine. That the worst experience that they ever have to get you through is a flat tire or a hangover. But it should be comforting to know that these are the people that have the strength of character to step up in times of crisis and chaos.
You should all be very proud of yourselves for starting this journey. Not only are your efforts improving the lives of cancer patients, but you are opening yourself up to a world of friendship and camaraderie that only exists on two wheels.
Now get out there and ride.