Cancer creates unique conversations, and that's even with the fact I've been disease-free for over four years.
I was hanging out at one of our slopitch league games a few weeks back. A guy from one of the other teams called me over towards their dugout. Don't know him super well, but I've always thought he was good people.
It was just the two of us, standing there, looking over their pile of snacks on the bench. You've heard of beer leagues? We're a beer-and-candy league.
"I've been meaning to tell you this for awhile now," he said, "but thanks for not dying.
"A lot of people die with what happened to you."
First thought: Hallmark probably doesn't have a card for that.
Second thought: Good on him for starting the conversation.
To steal a premise from my buddy Bob Mercer: cancer is one of the scariest things in the world, but it might be THE scariest word in the world.
It is a major reason why I'm taking a second crack at the Ride To Conquer Cancer, the, two-day, 220-KM bike trip from Cloverdale to just outside Seattle that occurs on Aug. 29-30. It forces dialogue. It gets me talking about being diagnosed with a Solitary Plasmacytoma in my T-2 vertebrae back in October, 2010, and about having 20 radiation sessions and about undergoing eight surgeries after my back collapsed and about spending six months in hospital learning to walk again with six rods and a bunch of screws and other shrapnel holding things together.
The Ride to Conquer is the bravest thing I've ever done. It's the runaway leader. It's the farthest thing from my comfort zone.
I don't WANT to bike to Seattle. My bike especially doesn't want me to bike to Seattle. (Former junior hockey player turned ALS advocate Don McCusker offered to donate money to my bike seat.)
I WANT to eat pizza and sit on the couch and watch the WWE channel.
I NEED to do the Ride. I need to start those conversations. I need people to know if you're going to get sick and it's cancer in particular, B.C. is the place for it to happen.
The medical attention we received from beginning to end was next level. It was like my own all-star team. The system is messy. It's bogged down by red tape. The give-a-damn of the worker bees in it, though, is amazing and frankly quite inspirational.
This is why we do this. But it hasn't been simple.
I had lost so much balance from the operations and the hospital stay that my wife Carol-Ann and I weren't even sure if I could ride a bike at all when we bought one in the preparations to take part in last year's event.
We could sell it, I thought. It would have to go at a severely reduced price from all the scratches that I'm bound to get from crashing, I rationalized, but we could sell this.
Carol-Ann was well aware that the whole process scared me out of my freaking mind and if I had an out, like I was having trouble riding and had not bought a bike, I was going to bail on the whole process.
I still remember my first trip around the block. Carol-Ann demanded that she come with me, walking alongside. I balked. I won out. Barely.
Our Ride team coaxed and cajoled me into doing about 150 kilometres of the event last year. This winter, I connected with a trainer, a guy named Derek Baker. With his help, we've dropped a few pounds, and I hope to have less trouble peddling my way across the border and beyond this time.
If you're interested, we're having a fundraiser for the Ride tomorrow night at the Earls on Fir Street in Vancouver. For more info on that, check out our Facebook site.
For more on the Ride and my own personal donation page, check out here.