Give Me Your Lunch Money
Well, not me, really. It’s for a good cause. I promise.
This year, for the first time, I’m riding Pelotonia! Here’s my rider profile. This post is meant to address why. It is certainly the most open and personal writing I’ve ever put on the internet, and has been a good moment of reflection for me on an experience I never really gave much thought.
There was this afternoon, not so many years ago, when we found ourselves struggling to stifle fits of laughter in this quiet little shop. People there kept glancing over, with curious, but unsmiling expressions. This wasn’t a place where people had a good time. I was with my mom, shopping for wigs. I was 15, and she had just started chemotherapy.
Our brush with cancer isn’t something I talk about much, and most people who know me are surprised to hear it. But I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on those years, finally trying to understand and appreciate their gravity. I’ve seen it as a terrible experience that we got through and moved past, but in hindsight, it actually helped shape who I am, how I think and feel, and how I approach challenges and tough situations.
So, what does going through adolescence with a quiet family cancer battle do to someone? Spending some of my most formative years not only dealing with the roller coaster of high school, while remaining supportive at home was pretty draining — and as sympathetic as my friends were during that time, few could truly relate to the situation. But I’ve noticed this perspective shift; one that many people might not experience until much later, that starts to bring on thoughts about what’s really important to me, and where I want to spend my time and energy.
The biggest thing, looking back, might have been the attitude we had the entire time. It was positive. We tried not to let it interrupt our lives, and we still had a good time. My mom always says that each of us seemed to adopt some kind of role or job during those years, and mine was almost that of the comic relief — to bring a little bit of ‘normal’ back. We were the ones having lively conversation in the chemo center, taking laps through the hospital corridors so we could go home early, and laughing about terrible, awkward wigs in a quiet shop.
Years later, I still try to handle situations like that; with positivity, focusing on possibilities and not dwelling on the negatives — no matter how overwhelming. I think that’s what strikes me about Pelotonia. The culture around it, and everyone involved, radiates positivity. It’s open and honest, able to make real progress, and won’t give up on that. The riders and volunteers are proud, collaborative, and fired up. It feels like natural, like they are approaching the goal with the same mindset that I have.
So that’s the real reason why I’m riding this year. Yes, it’s an organization I’ve always followed and cared about, and have done a ton of research into during a student project at CCAD. I’ve always liked to ride, and have been pushing myself to go further and get in better shape lately anyway. And clearly, it’s a cause that I have a personal connection to. But going a little deeper, finally reflecting on and writing about my experience with cancer for the first time, is what has me off my feet and doing something about it.
For my first year, I’m riding 45 miles, and will be raising a minimum of $1,500 to support cancer research at OSU’s James Cancer Hospital — and, if you’ve read this far, I’d kindly ask you to consider a donation to my ride. If each person gives the cost of a nice, solid lunch for one day, I’m betting we can reach the goal, together. And thank you, everyone who has and will contribute what you can!
I’m also continuing to sell my screen printed posters leftover from Pinchflat 2017, a bike poster show that took place in May, with the proceeds going towards my ride. If you’d like a poster and are able to give $30 or more, add “Pelotonia + Pinchflat” in the notes when you donate, and I’ll be in touch to get you a print!
By the way: since 2009, my mom has been through 13 surgeries, 8 sessions of chemo, 2 decent wigs (and a few bad ones), 28 zaps of radiation, and countless strange side effects from the various ongoing drugs and preventative treatments. But she’s also going on 8 years cancer-free, and has been finished with reconstructive surgeries for 2 years. Our whole family is changed because of it.