The following is my personal journal entry from 12/9/2020:
"Today, I met with my oncologist to review labs and follow up to see how I am doing. It has been 7 months of Tamoxifen and port flushes. Sitting in the room after the nurse took my blood pressure and temp, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the wall with knit hats in plastic bags in magazine holders. It was surreal. It was sad.
There used to be reading material in this room as you wait for the doctor/nurse. These knit hats used to be on display in the lobby. There was a basket and a couple foam heads to display these knit hats as they were free to chemo patients losing hair. Those of us awaiting labs, chemo treatments and etc would interact trying to lift each other up. Offer support to each other or share stories. But when COVID came, the lobby and these "holding tanks" were stripped of anything not nailed down. No magazines, no pamphlets, and no knit hats. Only 2 or 3 chairs now sit in the lobby and these bagged knit hats on the walls where I wait.
Before surgery, I had met with those that would perform my radiation treatments after chemo. Their lobby at that time had a table with a large puzzle, coffee, donuts or cookies set out for those waiting on a loved one or waiting to be called in. How nice of them and I looked forward to that. . . but. . . then . . . COVID. By the time I got there for radiation all of that was gone. I was to come in alone, masked, asked the standard COVID questions, temp taken and told to sit in the far chair. It was bad enough having breast cancer and now to be treated with very little contact as possible for my own good as much as theirs. It felt so sterile and cold. My last day of radiation I rang the bell but received no hugs or celebrations with the staff. Just me, waiting for the nurse to sanitize the rope for me to ring the bell and go.
This is what COVID has done to those of us that have been fighting cancer the past year. What is hard under normal conditions; with COVID, it forced many of us cancer patients to fly solo like a kamikaze pilot. This is a disease with a treatment that tears a person down emotionally and physically over a period of weeks, months or years. The treatment sucks so bad that people pre-COVID planned actual celebrations the end of it. COVID took that away from several of us. I got my certificate and the nurse said sorry no hugs as she looked at me as I cried and rang the bell.
Those knit hats in plastic bags represent how I felt as a cancer patient during COVID. Fighting to be prevalent and present while being isolated for our safety."
This will be the first Pink Gravel Donation Drive since Jon and I opened The Pink Gravel Fund with the Emporia Community Foundation (ECF). While donations can be made to the fund at anytime, during these 17 days donors names will be entered into a drawing for a Marc Jacobs Pink Tote Bag.
QUICK STORY BEHIND THE TOTE: I was given $$$ from my parents right after the Halloween on Main Street event Pink Gravel hosted with the Dwight CDC. My Mom said in so many words "use this for Pink Gravel however you want". So for several days I carried it in my pocket trying to decide if it should be applied to the fund or put in the bank just to cover future expenses. Well, one weekend I was out looking at Halloween stuff on sale, I saw this bright pink tote tied up and tagged like it was something special. Honestly, I don't carry a purse or anything, so I was unfamiliar with the brand. Turns out Marc Jacobs is up there on the brand names list of bags. I starred at it for a long time somewhat mesmerized by the color and wondering how I could use this for Pink Gravel. Eventually, I decided to buy it and figure it out later. I couldn't pass this hot pink bag. By the time I got home with it, I had figured out a plan to use it for the first Donation Drive for The Pink Gravel Fund.
SEVERAL WAYS TO DONATE:
If you have any questions about how to donate, where to donate or about the drawing. Please send an email to: email@example.com.
From August of 2020 to October 2021, Pink Gravel LLC has been my vehicle to raise enough money to open a fund within a non-profit organization. So, in the past year plus, without being too pushy, I semi-silently fundraised and set 100% of Pink Gravel's profits to the side. My husband and I volunteered or rode in events in order to introduce folks to the Pink Gravel logo and name. We drug our kids, aka The Pink Gravel Crew, to many gravel intersections to cheer and assist participants on fun rides or organized rides.
I have to give a shout and thanks to the following for their support in the early beginnings:
>> Joe (Solstice Joe) for his sponsorship of the original Pink Gravel tee shirts. It wasn't anything we asked for so the least I could do is give the Solstice top billing on the back of the tee. This is the shirt I live in and the ones you see worn at SAGs and such.
>> Justin after our help at his Nebransas 100k made a nice contribution that was a surprise and appreciated.
>> And of course, Mark and Renee for embracing Pink Gravel into the Pony Express Gravel Dash 120 fold. Without even a nudge, they took Pink Gravel and ran; putting Pink Gravel large and proud on their volunteer shirts in 2020.
It has been these random kind acts so early on that motivated me and the Crew to just keep doing as we do without being annoying ha ha. We rarely - if ever - asked for money in return; we just wanted to be able to wear our pink shirts and get a slice of pie if possible.
And it has worked.
After 1.5 gravel seasons, $3000 has been raised. I am tickled pink! It was time to shop around for a area foundation that would welcome the purpose of the fund as well as fit the communities the foundation served. After a suggestion from another foundation director, I reached out to Becky of the Emporia Community Foundation (ECF). It did not take much for her to embrace the purpose of the Pink Gravel Fund. In one week, an application was completed, submitted and approved on October 15, 2021. My dream of a Pink Gravel Fund became a real thing. Wow, just wow!
For those not familiar with the Emporia Community Foundation (ECF), the ECF mission is to connect caring people with causes that build stronger communities within the Emporia area which includes Chase, Coffey, Greenwood, Lyon, Morris, Osage and Wabaunsee counties. The Pink Gravel Fund does extend to Riley County in addition to the seven specifically listed in the ECF. So that is EIGHT counties in Kansas for the Pink Gravel Fund to serve and provide support for breast cancer patients and survivors.
The Pink Gravel Fund is up and ready to accept donations as we speak. If you go to the ECF website and click DONATE you can select the Pink Gravel Fund. (or click the button below) Any amount welcome and all donations via the ECF to the Pink Gravel Fund is tax deductible. The short description of the purpose of the Pink Gravel Fund is to provide support for breast cancer patients, survivors and awareness. The support intended by the fund will occur when an application is submitted by a breast cancer patient or survivor that resides in one of the eight counties is reviewed and accepted by the Pink Gravel Advisory committee and the ECF Board. Examples of a Pink Gravel grant request could be to help with: a utility bill, purchase item to provide comfort during treatment, assistance for treatment travel expenses.
The PINK GRAVEL FUND plans to begin taking grant applications in the SPRING/SUMMER OF 2022. Watch for more information to follow after the first of the year.
In the meantime, if you would like to make an online donation, click the button below.
Mailed checks should be made out to the: Emporia Community Foundation (or ECF)
with PINK GRAVEL FUND in the memo line.
Two years ago... this week, life changed for me forever.
You may think I am back to normal-ish looking from the outside. I'm not.
Unless you have "done cancer*, it is never over. Sure, the hair is back, no ill feelings with current treatment drug, and of course still alive.
But I have:
It makes me cry "pissed off tears' thinking about how much this diagnosis changed life . . . and I am one of those that caught it fairly early yet it took the whole 9 yards - surgery, chemo and radiation.
So please, as we near the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month, get to know your boobs. If it has been awhile, call your doctor and have them check your boobs or schedule a mammogram if necessary.
FIRST OF ALL: the next Just A Chill Ride-50K (JACR) is moving back to it's original weekend and will be OCTOBER 1, 2022.
This was originally posted in the JACR Facebook event for 2021.
"As I sit here waiting for my shoes to dry after sitting in the rain watching my beloved Chiefs have a rough game. I may have dropped as many F-bombs as the team dropped plays.
ANYWAY . . . I am so appreciative to those that came out to the event Saturday, October 9th. We had many new faces and several familiar. Better yet, no 911 calls were made! Thank you (riders) so much for coming and supporting Pink Gravel's event. Without your participation and interest this would still be only an idea in my head. I did not ride this year but focused on making sure the riders were taken care of.
THANKS to the Pink Gravel Crew consisting of:
*Jon, my husband, for riding and being the wonderful social bee he is. Jon did a great job going with my float mode yet kindly interjects to keep me on task.
*My Mom and my coworker, Deb, for being troopers for the 2nd time and helped with no certain idea what I have left them to set up and do. I kept telling them I'd leave a note, but the only note left was telling them not to set anything on the trunk of Jon's old Mercedes.
*Melissa Hopkin for offering to come with her husband to help. I am learning you don't turn down good help. Mel went and set up shop at the 2nd regrouping location which allowed me to check on my lunch ladies before heading to join her.
*Matt Hopkin for providing us with kick ass CP tubs that contain various supplies and Hammer products. Matt has provided these to us for several events this year. Thank you!!!
*I will also thank my kids - the OG members of the Pink Gravel Crew - for being honest with Jon and I in asking for a weekend off from gravel events. (I know, right?!?!)
While Pink Gravel does not look or ask for sponsors, we get a lot of help from the previous gravel events that Pink Gravel rides in or helps with. Thanks to the following for giving Pink Gravel your SAG leftovers to be used by us at other events we work and our own... (Cliff bars, Floyd's of Leadville, Hammer, Gu, and more)
* Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash - for being the first event to really push Pink Gravel out there. The Hoffman's have been great friends to us. The PXGD is a great grassroots event that offers a variety of gravel experiences. If you haven't done it, do. Held in September.
* Solstice Gravel Grinder - for being one of the very first events I personally worked SAG at before Pink Gravel existed. Joe has been another great friend and supporter of ours. Check out Joe's race 2022 Solstice Gravel Grinder in June.
* Haddam Hounds Hundy - A challenging event that my husband has rode and I just go to support. It is put on by our dear friend Todd. He may not know this, but he is my inspiration behind starting the Chill ride out of my little hometown of Dwight. The HHH event is held in August.
* Lazy Horse Brewing & Winery - the last 2 years we have been given some brew to share and turns out the Pink Gravel lunch ladies really like it. Look for their ultimate chill ride in May Lazy Horse Gravel Grind 2022 .
* Bleeding Kansas Gravelduro - I have personally worked SAG for this event all 4 years of its existence, the last two as Pink Gravel. This is a different take on gravel races. I love working with Marcia as she knows she can count on me to be there. This event is also held in September.
* Special shout out to the Unbound Gravel woman's camp for donating a variety of GU products during Pink Gravels stint at the Bleeding Kansas. It was unexpected and appreciated. Strong group of women right there and all inspiring. I am proud to say I have completed two 100mile routes at Unbound (formerly DK) precancer, hoping to get one more UB100miler post cancer. This is a huge June event held in Emporia, Ks.
As you can see, we have a wonderful group supporting us and working with us.
Thank you and love you all! See you around and see ya at the next chill ride on Oct. 1, 2022!"
The following is from a collection of posts from Katie's page:
"My girls told me about this organization a while back....when I looked into it I thought "wow that's neat....I'd like to find a way to help" But in true me fashion I put it in the back of my mind not knowing just what to do. Well, by golly now I've found my way!!! . . . "
"I struggled with what to share and not share at this point. But, here it is....this is a small part of why I wanted to partner with Pink Gravel. Yesterday I left out a very important detail... the founder of Pink Gravel just happens to be my children's stepmom. (Yes, you read that right, she's my ex-husband's wife) Two years ago, if you had told me that Ms Amy would start an organization that I would feel the desire to help with, I would have told you "yeah...nice thought...but doubt that will EVER happen"
Well, things have a way of happening in ways we would never expect. Just a few short days after the stepmother of my children got her cancer diagnosis, my own mom was diagnosed with cancer as well.
These events have changed my life and heart forever. So much more could be said about these experiences over the last two years but for now I'll just say CANCER SUCKS!!
Cancer patients are warriors!! I feel the family and friends are the army standing by their side. But not all people have the support they need before, during and after cancer. Pink Gravel was created in part to help with that and many other things.
I believe what Ms Amy is doing through Pink Gravel will impact the lives of many and I'm grateful she has agreed to allow me to play a small part in her efforts.
. . .
ONE FINAL THOUGHT (I saw this in church today and felt the need to share)
One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through..... and it will be someone else's SURVIVAL GUIDE"
Katie's pink gravel punkins available for purchase
Sold as a pair for $20.
The Pink Gravel Punkin is 2.5" h x 3.5" d
Mini orange Punkin is 1.5" h x 2" d
* sizes are approximate as each is handmade and height does NOT include stem
Please remember this is being done to help raise money for the PINK GRAVEL FUND.
For each set purchased PINK GRAVEL will receive $10!!!
Katie's goal is to sell 50 sets.
CLICK HERE TO PLACE AN ORDER
Fun fact...Each PINK GRAVEL Punkin set takes Katie approximately 4 - 5 hours to crochet and sew.
Thank you Katie for your time, energy and support of PINK GRAVEL.
Sometimes I stare at myself and think how ONLY 1 YEAR AGO I was sporting just milometers of hair and now have this mop. Am I fortunate? Am I a lucky one? Did I get a "good" cancer? I guess it depends on your thoughts of cancer in general. There are many variables that an individual's diagnosis should never be compared to another.
Every cancer diagnosis sucks.
Every cancer diagnosis can end in death.
Every battle varies. Individuals attack it in many ways from treatments available and with varied mental strategies. So much is dependent on the timing it was discovered. You can't necessarily fight what you can't see or feel or know. You can try to avoid but not actively fight. (this is my opinion)
That is why it is SO IMPORTANT to know your body and NOT be afraid or hesitant to go to the doctor and express your concerns. The weapons used to combat cancer have evolved so much. You can't use them if you avoid the diagnosis -avoid the doctor - in the first place.
I think how easy it could have come out differently for me. If I had waited another week or worse yet waited until my next mammogram. For several weeks I knew and yet was scared to call. If any luck was involved, it was in overhearing a conversation at work that finally spurred me to call and make an appointment back in September 2019.
So . . . Here I am in green, with this mop of wet hair. Feeling lucky that Pink Gravel was asked to work SAG for this event in two weeks.
Yeah. . . I took the long way to get here. *wink*
Funny how we get so worked up about hair. And more so when facing chemo. While inside it indeed bothered me, it gave me an opportunity to do things I wouldn't with my old hair or hair in general. I had fun with it and even miss my bald head.
I haven't cut my hair since the last chrome dome buzz on May 4th 2020. I think the curl growth is winding down now. More seems to be straight, I'm hoping some waves stay at least as I am ready to loose this curly mullet.
THIS PAST WEEKEND my lottery ticket entry into 2020's Unbound 100 mile event was cashed in 2021.
I am sad to report I did not make the checkpoint cutoff time on the 100 mile Unbound course in order to continue on. My 54.8 miles took me over 5.5 hours to complete. Race started at 7am, cut off was 12:30pm with cut off departure at 1pm. I didn't get there till after 1pm.
The Unbound finish line in Emporia, Ks is in itself one of the reasons I love this specific race. There is something about that final stretch that is rewarding and makes the miles worth it. I sit here feeling disappointed and incomplete for not having that experience this year. To the point it is like I wasn't even there. I came home without a finishers cup or sticker. I just have a dirty bike, a sunburn, crap to put away and sore lady parts.
MY RIDE: The first 33 miles was fast (for me). It was tough but I felt good. I had plenty of time to get the next 21 miles to reach the checkpoint with time to spare. Then mile 38 came. I had a known bike issue looked at prior to the event but not the time to get it repaired. When shifting from low to high gear in front, I had to make sure I was in the lower 4 gears in back to shift to front big ring or it would push the chain off and onto my right peddle. Beginning at mile 38 I had this happen twice at bad times causing me to lose a good roll up the next hill. I'd have to stop, put the chain back on, then muscle up the incline from a dead stop.
With 15 miles to go, I found I was out of water. I had a chance to snag some a couple miles prior but thought I still had a full bottle under my seat only to realize when I went for it, the bottle was empty. I had already swapped it out. No water made it difficult to want to eat my dry bars which in turn made it difficult to climb. Shade was scarce during whole course, so the sun was taking its toll on me as well. Slowly the cutoff time cushion evaporated.
I realized I was not going to make it with 8-9 miles to go.
I was pissed. I let myself down. I walked 3, maybe 4 hills in those last miles, I don't remember as I was cussing under my breath and holding back tears because it didn't matter anymore. I was done after I reached CG. Fifty four point eight (54.8) miles for nothing is all I was thinking then. Honestly, I still feel that way a bit now. Trying not to dwell. But my personal competitive seed is going nuts over this failed finish.
MY POSITIVE TAKE: Aside from the shortcoming at Unbound 2021, I still rode 54.8 miles on THE most technical gravel I have ever ridden/seen. I can't believe this was the exact same 100 mile route I had ridden and completed in the same event in 2019 (Back then it was known as the DK). But as anyone knows, gravel roads never stay the same. My 2015 Bombpop Blue Fargo and I climbed and descended some pretty sketchy shit. Grated roads, washed outs, new sharp gravel chunks, even some thick pebble like stuff (what I call Nebraska gravel) several sections were so "new" the only line to ride was a 6 inch wide rut on the far left or right of the gravel road. These are things normally freak me out, but I rode successfully that day. I was so glad I had recently put new Teravail Sparwood tires on the week before as my previous tires would have been toast under these road conditions. . . even tubeless.
Also, this was the first time I brought kids to a race I was riding. The kids got to see me start a race and sorta end a race. It was cool to see them all in the bright pink Pink Gravel event tees with the Pink Gravel flag waving tall. My crew was waiting with hugs, smiles AND water. There were five in our group that Pink Gravel supported that day for the 100 mile course. At the checkpoint, I was rejoined by another from our group. Due to lack of room in the Pink Gravel SAG van, she and I grabbed a cooler of water and beer and sat under a tree to watch the 200 mile riders blast through as we waited for our ride to return from dropping the crew off back in Emporia. It took my mind off of what I was missing in downtown Emporia at least for awhile.
Once I got back to the camper, my daughters left, my husband returned from his finish, we ate dinner and were asleep by 8:30pm. I was too tired to venture back downtown. Though, I admit, I regret not making more of an effort to go. I guess I also got caught up in my personal disappointment.
Prior to June 5, 2021, I had decided this was going to be my last 100 mile race. It would have been my 3rd attempted and third finish for 100 miles. I was gonna stick with shorter distances for good.
Well. . . I just can't let it end like this. I now have unfinished Unbound business.
Gonna play that Unbound Lottery one more time.
Ps. I want to thank my friends, Mark and Renee, for allowing Pink Gravel to be apart of their expo tent on Friday. I am honored that they invite Pink Gravel to be apart of the Pony Express Gravel Dash held in September by being SAG hosts. This will be the 8th year for the event. Find a registration link to their event on the "FIND US HERE" tab.
What began in October 2019 was completed one year ago on May 4, 2020.
That period of time involved mammogram, sonogram, a biopsy, cancer confirmation, waiting on BRCA results, another mammogram, waiting on MammaPrint results, surgery, waiting to heal, surgery - port placement, waiting to heal, 3 months with chemo, Covid-19 restrictions, radiation everyday for 4 weeks, grow some hair out to finally have the port removed this past February of 2021. Whew, say that with one breath!
I don't think of myself as a "tough person". I really don't like pain. My parents will tell you I can be stubborn which I suppose could be interpreted as tough. But deep inside lies an overactive mind full of what if "insert worse case scenario here". I have always been like that; just maybe not as vocal about my "worst case scenario" thoughts as I am now. So if I am being honest with myself, I am very surprised I didn't get sucked into a depression during my cancer experience. I had moments of course, but nothing that lasted over 24 hrs. Friends, family and maybe even you have expressed to me how strong I have been and inspiring. Which is somewhat uncomfortable for me to hear as I wasn't going for that necessarily. I just wanted to get through it for my family, friends, myself and survive. But the support received from sharing this experience enabled me to dig deeper and avoid dwelling on those "what if" thoughts. I was able to continue forward and spot the positive, laugh at my predicament, and find the energy to keep going with a smile - most of the time *wink*. With the support, I knew I was going to be ok.
Today, it seems fitting that upon this anniversary, I find myself needing to dig deep yet again to contain post cancer anxiety sprinkled with panic attacks that appeared out of no where. I don't know what caused it to appear now . . . the cancer experience, the year 2020, or the vaccine shot or maybe I was just predestined to go thru this at 46 yrs old.
Just another one of life's challenges that requires a bigger shovel. #positivevibing
I am just a 40 something married lady with kids who likes to ride gravel when life lets me. Just so happens I was called into the Cancer Club on October 31, 2019. Fought my fight with surgery, chemo, radiation, friends, family and lots of dark humor. I find sharing my experience helps me. Maybe it can help you.