A Decade of Riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge. A Lifetime of Lessons Learned.

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A week ago I rode My Cancer Fighting Bike, in my 10th consecutive Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Ten years. In a row. I am proud of that. Very proud.

Not proud that I have ridden thousands of miles.

Not proud of the training endured each and every year.

Not proud of hooking up My Bike to the trainer and spinning in the living room because it was too dark to get a decent ride in after a long day at work.

It’s not about the athletic achievement. Strange, but true.

The PMC is not about Me.
And that’s the beauty of it.

In the 10 years I have ridden, I have learned more about the human spirit than I ever thought possible. I have learned that people are at their very best when they’re doing something selfless.

And that is beautiful.

I have learned how riding in the PMC means more to the 100s upon 100s of people lining the streets along the route, than it ever will to me. And that’s saying a lot. Strangers. Clapping and cheering. And thanking me. Thanking ME. Over and over. In the pouring rain. In the extreme heat. Over and over. Thank you. Every year for 10 years. Some of the faces are the same. Some are new. All are grateful.

I am here, because of you.

To hear that. To see the look on their face, as they tell you that. Thanking you. With their whole heart. Sincere. Genuine. Pure. It means everything. Everything all at once. And it continues to overwhelm me. Year after year.

Here’s the thing: I believe them. We are making a difference. A real, life-saving, cancer fighting difference. They are living proof.

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I have learned that the most generous of people are the ones you barely know. But who know you. And believe in what you are doing. They move me to the core.

I have learned that people who volunteer their time at the PMC have a tougher job than any cyclist riding. They are kind, patient individuals who smile with their heart. Angels. All of them.

I have learned that the smallest of gestures, gestures requiring the most minimal of time, are the most profound. A kind word. A ribbon remembering a loved one, honoring their fight. A quick note saying, “I will be thinking of you this weekend” means the world to people. Find the time. You are not that busy. It’s worth it.

I am proud to be a part of the Pan-Mass Community. So proud. It has become a part of who I am. It has woven itself into the very fabric of my being. I feel like for one weekend a year, I am a part of something great. Really great. Impactful. To be surrounded by people doing the same is inspiring beyond words. I am finding, as the years go by, that the PMC feeling stays with me longer and longer each year. It changes your perspective. Your focus becomes on what is truly important in life. And isn’t that wonderful?

The PMC isn’t about me. But by accident, I have become a better human being because of it.

Here’s to the next 10 years.

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Ups and Downs

Not much running this week due to some medical drama, but of course that doesn’t mean I have nothing to talk about. Sadly for my poor husband, my mouth still works just fine.

And what a rollercoaster of a week it was.

I started off my week with a biopsy on Monday morning. Yeah…the dreaded “B” word that you always hope (pray, beg, plead) will at least not be followed with the dreaded “C” diagnosis. After a few difficult days, I was incredibly lucky to learn that my biopsy had a great – “clean,” “negative,” benign” – whatever heavenly word you want to assign to it – result. Phew. Big exhale. Bullet dodged, crisis averted, time to hit the reset button and return to life as usual. Minus the running. Not quite yet.

I, of course, learned a few things (or in some cases, was reminded of things I already knew) while I was sitting around fretting and not running:

1. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. While facing the prospect of a cancer diagnosis, I mostly focused on the fact that I would have to cancel a few of my upcoming races and tried to sort out (bolstered with multiple google searches on exercising during cancer treatment) which ones I thought I could still squeeze in, which ones were maybes and which were off the table. Because, you know, when a woman with a loving family and dear friends is faced with a serious illness, the most important thing is getting the spring and summer racing schedule in order. It’s refreshing to know that Scarlett O’Hara lives on inside of me and if a real crisis ever hits, I’ll be able to live in happy denial for at least a little while.

2. My family is awesome. My friends are amazing. They make the Steel Magnolias look like a bunch of self-absorbed weaklings.

3. It’s tough to be positive when you become a “patient.” I felt much more upbeat about the whole situation until I arrived at the medical center for my biopsy. Then it became apparent to me that all of the lovely – and they were truly lovely – people there were treating me with kid gloves because they saw me as a potential cancer patient. Eek. That scared the ever loving shit out of me. I haven’t received that many sympathetic looks since I was pregnant and managed to dump the entire contents of my briefcase on a train platform at Grand Central Station in 2001. I don’t do well being on the receiving end of a pitying look. When someone else sees you as a patient, it is hard for you to feel strong. Or positive. I need to remember this the next time someone I know is ill.

4. I cannot take my health for granted. I am so lucky to be able to run, cycle, ski, spin, and do all of the other active things that I like to do. Even if I take the best care of myself possible, stuff happens, and something beyond my control could take away my ability to be active when I least expect it. I always enjoy exercising, and definitely enjoy “the moment” when I am running and cycling, but I don’t think I properly appreciate how lucky I am simply to be able to do those things. Well, at least I didn’t. I sure do now.

5. I’m crabby when I can’t get out and do something active on a beautiful day. Tuesday and Wednesday, two of the most beautiful days weather-wise of the year, were tough on my psyche, especially since I didn’t even feel up to taking a walk. I haven’t returned to running yet, but was able to ride these past 2 days, and oh, what bliss! Blue skies, warm breeze and an open road. Heaven. But I still can’t wait until I can run again. Maybe Sunday. Maybe Monday. Not a moment too soon, whenever it may be. My Glycerin 9’s look sad and lonely.

6. When it comes to your life, “uneventful” is not synonymous with “boring.” If you have good family, good friends and good health, that’s more than anyone can hope for. Excitement is overrated and the next time I feel bored, I’m going to revel in it. And maybe throw a party.

Have a happy, healthy weekend everyone!