Monday, July 2, 2018

My First Ride - 2018

To give you a full life update AND tell you all about the Ride for Roswell seems a little overwhelming right now. So I'm going to stick to a Ride recap, but I'll tell you that I'm doing ok. I'm not as great as I'd like to be, but I'm sure as hell doing better than I was a year ago!

Crazy that it's been a year, right? Last year I sat at home on the day of the Ride as several friends rode in my honor. On that day I would've given anything to be able to join them. This year? I rode with tears in my eyes and the happiest heart I could have.

Last week the emotions started the night before the race during the Celebration of Hope. Cancer survivors and their families get together to celebrate the hope that Roswell represents. It's impossible not to shed a tear. Survivors are grouped by cancer type and march together in an opening ceremonies type procession which eventually leads to the lighting of the torch - this torch stays lit until the last rider crosses the finish line the following day. The entire ceremony is very emotional. As I was waiting with the GYN group, I talked and joked with the woman next to me. Turns out she lives close to where I grew up and her husband and I graduated from the same high school. Classic Western New York two degrees of separation! And I've learned over the years that this is classic Roswell Park as well.

While we were getting ready to line up for the procession, I saw a familiar face. Laura and I have been messaging with each other for about a year now. She is an osteosarcoma survivor. For the last year, we've bonded over our cancer battles and how to be good moms to our little ones while we're not feeling our best. A lot of our chats happened in the middle of the night when neither of us could sleep - because of pain or stress or side effects. The funny thing about our friendship was we had never actually met in person...until this night. I immediately recognized her beautiful family, from pictures she had shared, and I rushed to say hello. I'm so grateful for relationships like this. While support from friends and family is important and necessary, having some people who truly understand how you feel is something special.

The morning of the ride was drizzly, but that didn't stop almost 8,000 riders! So crazy! I rode 20 miles with Shannon - one of my Red Shoe Adventures teammates. Last year I couldn't imagine going that far. Frankly, just sitting on a bike last year seemed impossible - I could barely sit on a chair.

I was honored to be one of eight members on the Red Shoe Adventures team. I'd like you to meet the other seven:
Shannon - we've worked together for a few years now and most recently we ran together as part of a Buffalo Marathon Relay team.
Lindsay and her father, Chuck - Lindsay was the reason my son made it through day care. They shared a special bond from day one. Over seven years later and she's still an important part of our family.
MJ, Grady, & Katie - MJ and I worked together about ten years ago and I'm so grateful we've stayed in touch. We were part of the WOTAs - basically a group of kick-ass women. MJ rode with her husband Grady and her daughter Katie was with us in spirit!
Tiffany - Tiffany has been one of my sister's best friends since high school, so she's been a part of our family since we were young.
I'm grateful for each member of the team!

Another important part of the team has been all of you. When I first set up my donation page for the Ride, I set a goal of $1000. It was a lot for my first ride, but with all that Roswell Park has done for me, I felt I needed to do something big in return. The day before the ride, when I checked in, I found out that I almost TRIPLED my goal! Incredible! You all are incredible. And our team total? $5,292!

I owe one special donor a gigantic thank you for making that number possible. One of my fundraisers for the Ride was to sell t-shirts with my red shoe logo on them. I had asked my friends on Facebook for recommendations for affordable options for t-shirt design/production. As always, my pals came through with plenty of ideas. Then I got a private message from someone I haven't spoken with in almost 20 years. A high school friend and swim teammate. He offered to buy all the t-shirts I needed so I could sell them for 100% profit. Completely unexpected. Brian Davis - from the bottom of my heart, Thank You. That was incredibly kind and generous.

One of the special touches to the Ride is the finish line. Painted on the pavement is the name of every survivor participating in the Ride. Crossing the finish line in any race is a big moment, but crossing the finish line at the Ride For Roswell and seeing all those names - the names of the people you're riding for - including your own - it's indescribable.

After the ride, a woman found our team tent and presented me with this hat:
This kind woman had marched, the previous night, with my mom in the breast cancer group at the Celebration of Hope. The two of them had struck up a conversation and my mom had told her my story - about my red shoes and my blog and the team. My mom had been wearing her red shoe gear. She happened to come across this hat that was for sale at the Ride and bought it, remembering my story from the previous night. She hoped to track me down and give it to me.
Why does this hat say Red Shoe Adventures?
I'm not sure how far this dates back, but each year, there is a giant piece of fabric that riders/patients/survivors can sign. Then New Era takes the fabric and uses it to make hats. The thing is, this was my first Ride - so it wasn't me that wrote that. I messaged a couple friends to see whose art work it was, but no one claimed it. The next morning I was checking the "On This Day" memories on Facebook and this is what I see:
My friend Liz drew this at the 2017 Ride For Roswell and she had posted this picture on Facebook last year for me to see. Liz and I had met just a few months prior to the 2017 Ride at our local YMCA where we were doing the Livestrong program together. Livestrong is a program to help cancer patients and survivors build strength after treatment.
The woman who bought the hat had seen MJ, who was wearing her Red Shoe Adventures team shirt, and that is how she found our tent.

Spring 2017 - Liz and I meet.
June 2017 - Liz draws Red Shoe Adventures message at Ride for Roswell
July 2017-June 2018 - New Era makes message into a hat
June 22 2018 - Fellow breast cancer survivor learns of my story from my mom
June 23 2018 - The hat made from the fabric that Liz drew on - a year ago - is delivered to my team tent.

Can you believe this story?? What a special gift from the weekend. Thank you, my friend!

I know this post is a little late but thank you, friends and family, for your support - both emotionally and financially during the Ride. Thank you for your donations to Roswell Park and more importantly, for your words of encouragement leading up to the ride.

Here are some more pictures from the weekend:

The crew at the Celebration of Hope

Cheering for the torch lighting

Sparkle shoes for a special occasion

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