Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Celebration of Thanksgiving, Please Give...

Long time readers of this blog know that I have done four century or century-plus bike rides with Team in Training and have raised thousands for them. I admit, though, that moving cross-country, getting married, buying a new house, and life in general has kept me off my bike for, literally, a year. I’m hoping to do some riding this weekend, though, and to get back in gear (pun intended).

In the meantime, though, I got this email today from our friend Ted. When I met Ted, he was Nadene’s first cycle mentor. A former navy pilot, Ted towered over me. And he outweighed me by a good fifty pounds, I’d say (I was skinnier then). And he was a very nice guy. I had the pleasure of riding with him a few times when Nadene and I were dating and I was flying back and forth across country. He had survived leukemia but had neuropathy in his feet, which made riding long distances painful, and he had developed a sensitivity to the sun, which required him to wear long-sleeves and cycling tights and full-fingered gloves no matter the temperature. So perhaps choosing to ride centuries in places like Tucson and Hawaii does not quite make a lot of sense. But he did choose, and in doing so helped motivate and inspire many others.

Last year, just as Nadene and I were starting to train for our second Tucson century-plus, Ted relapsed. He went back in the hospital and none of us knew if he’d come out. You see, getting leukemia these days is scary, but the survival rates are very, very encouraging. But getting leukemia a second time—relapsing—is a very different story.

One day, as the team was getting ready for a ride, a car pulled up. We all had gotten email updates about Ted’s condition over the prior weeks. He had clearly been fighting for his life. And he had, for the moment, won. They were sending him home. He would still need further treatment, but for the moment he could go home.

When Ted got out of that car, none of us could believe it. That big guy who towered over me had shrunk by half, it seemed. It was like a horror movie where you see the young, healthy character have the life sucked out of him, leaving him a shriveled old man. Ted had lost so much weight and so much energy, he could barely stand on his own. But stand he did, and thanked us for riding, for doing what we could do to help find a cure. His skin was peeling off all over his body; a side-effect of the chemo. He used a walking stick to support himself, and leaned on his wife or a friend.

I think we were all inspired by Ted that day and for the many days after, as his recovery continued. I’m very pleased to report that today Ted has ridden more miles in the last year on his bike than I have! He is doing very well and even participated in the recent Hawaii ride with Team in Training.

Today I got an email from Ted that struck me as so eloquent and so perceptive that I just had to share it. I think I’ve described that Team in Training is a “perspective-adjusting” event. What seemed so important when you started training seems far less important after you meet those who have fought this battle. Here is Ted’s email:

The Cause:

When I was in Honolulu, I saw this quote: “Standing before a grave, who can be sure that he has done his duty? It is a hard thing to have survived when we owe our place to the dead.”—Rene Quinton, Soldiers Testament (1930). While this is about soldiers, it is directly applicable to the battle against Leukemia. I am alive today because of those who have died as doctors developed the protocols that have kept me alive. I think about those I know who have died, whose graves I am figuratively standing before. The man I never met in the room next door who died the day I had my first transplant. John, the only person I had ever heard of who had survived the same type of Leukemia I had for more than 2 years. I was devastated and scared when he died. Amy, I helped do Bone Marrow Drives for her. We found a donor, but she died of complications during preparations for her transplant. Mary, my elderly friend, who chose not to get treatment. Bob, whose chemo never worked. Linda, who came to visit me in the hospital last year with her husband the day she was re-admitted to the hospital with a relapse. I never saw her again. She died the day before Christmas.


There are others who survived. People like myself, Dave Christensen, and Colleen Heublein. Cycle participant and marathoner Sean Voisen. Marathon participant Maria Petri. Teammate Anna’s husband. My nephew’s new Father in Law. A young girl named Alexis, who had the highest viral count her doctor had ever seen. My Transplant Twin Craig, who got his transplant the same day I did. When I relapsed last year, he did too. Michelle, from the San Diego LLS. Also from LLS, Dianna Wake who just celebrated 10 years cancer free, and Jenna Kolb, the San Diego/Hawaii chapter Executive Director. My friend Dean, who has had 3 transplants. I could go on and on. These people represent hope for new cancer survivors. Hope is good, but YOU represent the Dream.

The Dream:

We each have our personal dream. My dream is to hold my grandchildren or great grandchildren on my knee, and know that blood cancers have been cured. To know that they will never have to suffer what any of the people I have mentioned have suffered. I am participating in these programs to make that dream a reality.

The Heroes:

Every battle has its heroes. Heroes are exceptional people who do exceptional things to help those who can’t help themselves. Heroes are people who unselfishly help people who need help even when they don’t know them. You can be a hero. You can help make my dream a reality. You can help make it easier for me to stand before those graves, knowing that, with your help, I did enough, that we conquered the foe and won the battle. Your participation, no matter how small, makes you a hero to me. Help me to know I have done my duty for those who have gone before. Your donations can make a difference. You can donate by credit card on my web site at

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I know that I am thankful Ted is still with us, and I am especially thankful for the health and well-being of everyone in my own family. If you can, please mark this celebration with a donation to Ted’s efforts. Every donation is tax deductible, of course.

My best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving.


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