Friday, June 19, 2015

RFR 2015 Day 4 (Ely to Delta, 112 miles)- The Ministry of Angels

For me, this is always the toughest day.  Sit bones are sore.  Feet are sore.  Legs are sore.  Hands are sore.  Get the picture?  But, we know that the worst day on the bike is still better than the best day of chemo. And, that's why we do this.  So we can help raise funds to relieve pain and suffering and help find a cure to this disease.  So, the soreness will go away, the battle will not.  At least not for now.

Many who know me know that I have cancer.  Not had.  Have.  I was first diagnosed and treated in 2009.  It went away for about a year and a half.  In November, 2011 we learned it had come back.  It's been with me ever since.  Probably always will be.  But, it's "indolent" (medical term for slow growing), and until/unless it transforms to "aggressive" (medical term for aggressive), we just wait.  And watch.

So, for the last two years, I've made it my goal to be the first one up the first pass- Sacramento Pass. The climb itself is a metaphor for life, but also for one's battle with cancer.  No one else can ride my bike up the pass.  No one else can suffer for me. I have to do it on my own, even with people around, cheering me on during the climb, and more waiting for me at the top.  So, I've made it my goal to be the first one up, to show cancer and myself who's in charge, who's ultimately going to win, and who's not backing down.

Well, this year I knew I wouldn't be the first one up.  Pulled it off the last two years, but I'm not as strong this year due to more training for a marathon than in past years.  I knew it.  I owned it.  But, I still left as quickly as I could, hoping I could at least try.  But, I knew it wasn't gonna happen.  And, as I heard my friends closing in on me, I was happy for them they were riding well, but a little bummed that I couldn't pull it off.  Again, it's not about being FASTEST up the hill (though that matters), it's really not even about being first up the hill (though that plays into my metaphor better), it's about me doing all I can to own this summit, and not the other way around.

So, as I'm pedaling my guts out, Ravell pulls up next to me.  I'm not listening to any music, because I want this to be as spiritual of an experience as it can be.  So, I'm focused, and listening to the road and myself breathe.  Ravell gets by me and says, "You're the survivor here, we're going to escort you to the top."  HUH?  I immediately am overcome by emotion.  I say "Ravell, no, you guys are riding strong, go on to the top and crush it."  He says, "No.  I want this."  And that was it.  He dropped back to let Zo, Rich and Larry know, and it was end of story.  So, I turned myself inside out pushing to the top, knowing these four strong riders, and even stronger men were right behind me.  Talk about even more of a metaphor!?!? As I approached the summit and finally could see the sign, I got out of the saddle and sprinted as fast as I could- but at the same time I was beginning to be overcome with emotion and to sob.  Uncontrollably.  Here's the best way anyone who wasn't on that part of the ride right then can visualize it- and this is a perfect memorialization of the moment.

Now that you know the story, this picture comes better into focus.  That's not exertion on my face, it's sheer emotion.  Those aren't cyclists behind me, they're angels.  Four of my best friends, and four angels who were carrying me to the top of a metaphor that means more to me than many might understand.

LDS apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk entitled "The Ministry of Angels" a few years ago.  It's probably my all-time favorite talk from my all-time favorite apostle.  I now quote him, "And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal."  These four angels were seen, known, and mortal. They were my angels, and they are my friends.  Ravell, Zo, Rich and Larry- I love you all, brothers.  I will never be able to repay you for the kindness you showed me, but I hope each of you felt in my embrace and my words my love and gratitude for each of you.

The rest of the story yesterday just doesn't matter as much.  My wheel got out of true again, we trued it back up.  I suspect it will go out again Saturday until I can get it into the shop.  But, for a ride that's all about raising awareness for cancer, and driving fundraising, the real life example of cancer support and love was witnessed on the road yesterday.

Much love.

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