Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ride To Conquer prompts conversations about cancer, making it well worth all the work

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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Look who's Crushing the Tumour With Humour again, and taking yet another crack at the Ride To Conquer Cancer

Anybody asks me how I'm doing these days, my automatic response is, "I'm outstanding."
I'd like to tell you that it's because I'm so well adjusted after four-plus years of being cancer free. I'd like to say that I'm so enlightened because I'm mobile and active despite having six rods and a bunch of bolts and screws holding my back together from a Solitary plasmacytoma tumour attacking my T-2 vertebrae.
Sorry. I'm not nearly that noble.
I go with "I'm outstanding," as my default because there were two or three people in a row about a year ago who asked how I was doing and you could see the fear in their faces when I told them I was "crappy." I can't recall what the issues that were bothering me actually were. It could have been work or the house being messy, or, quite likely, the lame-ass performance of my Terry McKaig League fantasy baseball team.
Didn't matter. They went straight away to the cancer being back. You could see the panic. I felt horrible for them. I couldn't back track quickly enough.
A buddy of mine, Bob Mercer, says that cancer is one of the scariest things in the world to endure but the word itself -- CANCER -- may in fact by the scariest connection of letters ever.
That is why I'm going back for another crack at the Ride To Conquer Cancer. It's a 200-kilometre ride, from Cloverdale to Seattle, that goes the weekend of Aug. 29-30. If you're interested in donating, my personal page can be found here. I'm working on updating it.
We'll be having a fundraiser in the coming couple of months. Look for updates. I'll probably be begging lots of you for auction items.
I don't want to talk about cancer. I don't want to think about what happened. But I don't want to avoid it. I don't want people to panic about the very idea of cancer.
For some messed up reason, ever since I was a little kid I worried about dying on the operating table from some crazy complication during a rather routine procedure.
I had eight surgeries. Eight. Eight times I tried to say goodbye to my wife. I was scared out of my mind. I had a whole speech worked out. I didn't worry about her without me, I'd say. Carol-Ann is the toughest person I've ever met. I'd tell her that. I'd tell her, too, that I would just miss her, that I had so many things I wanted to go see with her and do with her.
She would smile and hold my hand and the proceed to tell me why I was going to be OK. Our surgeon, Dr. Robert Lee, was such a pro and so invested, she would say, and, by the end, he understood every inch of my system. So did his crew, Carol-Ann would explain.
By the end of her speech, I was psyched up. It happened every time. I was ready. I was going to my Super Bowl. My chin would be sticking out, all proud and defiant. In my head, I called it my "Jay Leno moment." (Apologies to Mr. Leno, who I am certain is a devoted reader of blogs about dudes with cancer.)
The nurses would be wheeling me out of the room and I would be telling Carol-Ann, "I will fight for you, I will fight you," again and again and again.
It's stupid. It's crazy. We did that dance eight freaking times. And you know what? We survived it, to the point that I am able to put my fat ass on a bike and pedal for a bunch of hours over two days. (Oh, mercy, it will not be pretty.)
I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm aiming to prove it again.