On September 29th I was asked by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to share my story to help inspire a group of 47 Team in Training members who had trained for months to complete a century ride and raise money to end blood cancer.
Here is my speech from that night. Every time I share my story-I feel as if the world opens up. Through sharing that night I met Roger- another blood cancer survivor who I simply cannot stop thinking about. My next entry will be devoted to him.
Inspirational Dinner Speech
It is with sincere gratitude, admiration and respect that I stand before you tonight to congratulate you on making it this far. You have so much to be proud of,.
Your early morning wakeups, countless hours on the saddle, and post ride muscle aches and pains will all seem worth it tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow is simply your reward. It is not as much about crossing that finish line, as acknowledging the journey you all committed to and have been apart of the last couple of months. Enjoy every pedal, every mile, every moment- as tomorrow is truly a celebration.
As we head into tomorrows ride I think its important for all of us to remember why we are here. When I look around the room, at these beautiful faces, I am aware that many of you have been directly touched by cancer. Some of you are valiant and brave survivors, some of you are heroic caregivers, and some of you are the critical friends and family members of those that that have survived, those that are fighting and those that have passed.
There is an undeniable heaviness in the room because we carry their stories and their memories-with us today, tomorrow and always.
They are our motivation, they are the reason we are here, they are the reason we will continue to fight, give back and cross that finish line.
As we enter tomorrow’s ride, carrying our loved ones on our backs, perhaps you can also make room for me.
On December 20, 2010 at the age of 29, I was told I had cancer.
I will never forget the out of body experience that ensued when I heard those three words.
With just three words, I was robbed of my innocence and forced to contend with my mortality.
I had no idea how to navigate and exist in this new chaotic, terrifying, and uncertain state of being.
The scans confirmed 3 large and aggressive tumors resting on my heart, my lungs and in my neck. After a series of advanced tests, I was officially diagnosed with Grey Zone Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer that affects less than 300 people in the United States. I was quite literally one in a million.
My life after diagnosis moved at lightning speed. I underwent fertility treatments, countless surgeries, scans, and then started a very aggressive chemotherapy regimen called R-EPOCh. My regimen required 6 rounds of 5- day in patient hospitalizations, where I received 120 hours of continuous chemotherapy.
During the 720 hours of chemotherapy where I was hospitalized, hooked up, and locked in, I had to contend with the volatile environement around me.As a blood cancer patient I was often put on a floor that not only treated blood cancers but also was the final stop for palliative patients. I quickly had to adjust to the fact that while I was desperately fighting for my life, my neighbors to my left and right were making peace with theirs. The sadness and heaviness that surrounded me was the motivation for me to get on the bike.
On floor 16 at Prentice Hospital, there was a dated stationary bike that never was in use. During every round of treatment in the hospital, I made a pact with myself to ride 18 miles a day for as many days as I could tolerate. With chemotherapy pumping through my veins, I pedaled faster and faster, hoping to one day join you here and now.
Biking became the mechanism that allowed me to process my feelings, escape from my reality, and reconnect with a body that I felt betrayed by. It gave me strength, it gave me clarity, and it gave me a purpose.
I stand here before you today, 21 months since diagnosis, 19 months since remission, with no signs of disease.
Tomorrow I will remember what it felt like to be locked in, tied up, strapped down. Tomorrow I will remember what it felt like to bike 18 miles with poison running through my veins.
Tomorrow I will remember what it felt like to so desperately want to join you on that bike path.
Tomorrow I bike for you- because you are responsible for saving me.
Thank you for your commitment to raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. There is truly no better organization committed to eradicating blood cancer.