Today we rode 70 miles form Gillette to Buffalo.  Our ride today was dedicated to Eleanor Schuh, the grandmother of Maddy Schuh.  Eleanor is currently battling liver cancer, and Maddy had asked that we keep her grandmother in mind as we continue our journey west.

Even though today’s ride was shorter than our recent rides, it turned out to be just as challenging.  Throughout the day, we faced strong winds and a hot sun.  Also, we encountered some construction on the interstate about midway through the ride.  Unfortunately, the construction meant that there was no longer a shoulder for us to ride on.  In the end, some members of the team walked along the construction and others were shuttled. After our challenging ride, we made it to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.  There, we enjoyed homemade Sloppy Joe’s!

On a side note we will ride up the big horns tomorrow! After dinner, the team conducted some interviews for the Portraits Project. We had the opportunity to chat with Curt and Loretta. Curt Newcomb was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma after a blood test showed some unusual levels of proteins in his blood. “There’s a big difference between someone telling you ‘So-and-so has cancer,’ and a doctor telling you, ‘You have cancer.’ I approached this like I do to every other challenge in my life. There’s three key elements; one is your faith in god, two is having a great wife that will support you, and the third is having self-confidence. Curt went through multiple bone scans and several bone marrow biopsies. He underwent a year of chemo, a stem cell transplant, and then two more years of chemo. He told us about the importance of having a good attitude. “I’d go to the hospital and see all these people that maybe were worse off than I am, maybe not, but you look at them and it’s obvious by the look in their eyes and the look on their faces that they have given up. And they were letting the cancer control them. And that didn’t make sense to me.” Curt also described the important role of his support system. “All my friends and family didn’t treat me like I was sick. They knew that would’ve been a mistake, so they treated me like they always had. And I think you have to surround yourself with positivity and faithful people. If people keep telling you you’re sick, sooner or later, you’re gonna start believing it.”

Loretta Funk-Culpepper was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 and underwent a mastectomy. Six years later, the cancer returned in the other breast, and she once again opted for surgery. Loretta had trouble finding other women who had similar experiences as herself. “It was a very frightening thing because you don’t know what to expect, you can’t find anyone to talk to who has been through that experience and can give you reassurance. And I think that was the most frightening part of the whole thing.” In addition to breast cancer, Loretta’s mother had colon cancer. With this knowledge of family history, Loretta had an examination and discovered that she had colon cancer. She was able to have the growths removed through surgery. She stressed the importance of being tested and gave some advice to other women who are going through similar experiences. “There’s nothing to worry about, you can’t do anything by worrying. Put it in God’s hands and you’ll be a lot better off.”

Hearing their experiences with battling cancer was a great opportunity for the team to remember why we ride.  It was the perfect reminder of why we work so hard and a good motivator to conquer the mountains tomorrow.

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