Oh the People You’ll Meet

Today was a very special day. Let us step away from the route, hills, and biking for a moment to focus on the real impact of our biking. We were able to meet a plethora of amazing people today and conduct portraits that were both emotionally charged and awe inspiring. As we said goodbye to Pittsburgh (and our wonderful hosts) and the state of Pennsylvania for the last time, we were greeted by cold front that had most of us shivering and trying to avoid the shadows of the trees to get into the sunlight. Fortunately for us, one of the steepest climbs of our journey greeted us as we traversed over 1000 feet in a matter of 2 miles. That climb got our blood pumping and warmed us up immediately. On our way out of the city, one group decided to grab a cup of coffee from a local shop where they met Debbie Swoger, the shop owner. Seeing 6 bikes already outside the shop, other groups also stopped and crammed into the quaint shop. Over a cup of coffee, 12 riders shared with Debbie and began to realize how special of a woman they had met. Five years ago, Debbie lost her 35-year-old daughter to an undiagnosed illness and chose to care for her daughter’s then 2-month-old and 9-year-old children. Her strength in her faith and resolve stirred up our enthusiasm and we were lifted for the rest of the day.

Then, at the last rest stop, with just 17 easy miles to go, some riders decided to get ice cream for the third time that day. What started as a sugar-high-motivated quest for ice cream quickly turned into an opportunity for a portrait. We met Michelle, who was a survivor of both uterine and ovarian cancer. Her mother and grandmother both had breast cancer, but she never let her family’s history determine her own outcome. She went through successful treatment of her cancer, but unfortunately, the chance of the cancer returning is high. She continues regular treatment and checkups monthly.

After arriving at our new stayover in Wheeling, West Virginia, our hosts not only provided showers for us, but also cooked an impressive feast. Everyone asked for seconds of dinner and especially ice cream. At the conclusion of dinner, some of the church members who had experiences with cancer were willing and incredibly open in sharing their stories.

We talked to Robert B. Lee Jr., a throat cancer survivor. Robert was diagnosed with throat cancer shortly after his return from serving in the Vietnam War after he had been experienced problems with his voice. He underwent radiation treatment and has remained cancer-free for 20 years.

Reverend Ed Thurmond shared his story about being a caregiver for his wife Sandy while she underwent cancer treatment. While he experienced many feelings of despair and frustration with God after his wife passed away, he emphasized how he has grown stronger in his faith throughout his experience. The Reverend now ministers to those in similar situations and helps them cope with the hardships of caring for a loved one with cancer.

Another member of the church, Roseana Livingston, worked tirelessly to provide full time care for her husband with liver cancer. Throughout her husband’s battle and after his passing, Roseana was comforted by her faith and the church every step of the way.

Ann Thoburn has experienced cancer from several points of view. She was a caregiver for her husband, who had been given only six months to live but ended up fighting for six years. Then, in 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent treatment and defeated her illness, but the cancer returned in fall of 2012. Ann was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal breast cancer, but maintains an incredible positive attitude and gives all of the credit for her strength to God.

Finally, we spoke to Kim Strauss, who was a caregiver for four of her loved ones. Her niece Nadia lost her battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 18 years old. Kim’s mother passed away from colon cancer a few months before Kim’s sister lost her long battle with breast cancer. One of her dear friends passed away from lung cancer. Kim provided so much love and support over the years, but of course feels an emptiness after so much loss. She emphasized the importance of a strong family support system during a fight with cancer.

We heard stories of triumph and well as unfortunate outcomes. But for all the pain we heard, we approach tomorrow even more determined to ride and more importantly, to find a cure for cancer.



Comments (1)
  • Tory Cross Tory Cross says:

    This is so awesome, and I’m glad you guys had a chance to meet so many incredible people! Their stories will stay with you, and it’s so great to be riding for people like this. Great job 2013!

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