I was sitting in a big leather chair at the Cancer Center of Kansas receiving my first chemo treatment. It was a 4.5 hour process - mainly due to it being the first one of the series with additional instruction and prep. My husband and my Mom joined me as we sat at one end of the room that contained about 6-8 of these chairs. Each with a rolling IV pole hem. It was very surreal. I had known for a month that I would getting chemo, but here I sat actually "plugged in" via a port that had been implanted in my chest. Today, I still have that port. It is easy to find as a 1.5 inch scar marks the spot.
I get emotional thinking about that day. Will I still have these emotions two years from now? three? or four? I suspect yes. Especially if FB and my journal app continues to remind me of past posts. I laugh about those posts now as I remember when this all started, I said to my mom or maybe it was my siblings or husband how I was not going to be one of "those people" that overshares their cancer troubles or hashtag "insert cancer phrase here" on social media. Nor was I going to wear pink tees, bracelets and cancer ribbons. That stuff wasn't for me. I don't need to "advertise" my experience. No way was I doing that. But. . . here I am. . . writing on my Pink Gravel page.
While I eat those past words, I do know why my thought process changed. It wasn't accidental. And I know some may be disappointed that I failed to resist. Especially after scrolling past my posts. . . my long posts. I admit, it can be annoying; but those posts and shares do serve a purpose to the one fighting.
Now, I can only speak for myself. I learned those actions are not done for attention or a sympathy grab. (I actually don't handle attention too well, it makes me uncomfortable) I found that embracing cancer ribbons, quotes and hashtags helped get through it all and continues to be apart of my healing process. While my body was cut, injected with chemicals then blasted with radiation; my brain was left hanging trying to grasp my new physical weaknesses, side effects and challenges. All the same time, trying to remain calm and not freak out. I also did not want my family, my friends to freak out or feel sad about what I was going thru either. If you worry about me, then I worry more, then you worry more and so on. I found rallying behind cancer awareness, sharing stories, wearing pink and liking anything with a screw cancer vibe was a welcomed distraction for my brain and it is a fun way for others to show support . . . especially when limited due to Covid. These actions made my low moments shorter and less frequent which in turn helped keep the family spirits up too.
So a win, win.
And let's be real, who doesn't have fun rocking hot pink?
The following was posted by The Mid South team to their Instagram and Facebook accounts on January 5, 2021.
Very sweet of my husband write and very cool of The Mid South to publish. Gives me the feels every time I read it.
The Mid South writes:
This story was shared by Jon from Manhattan KS.
2020 has been a challenge is an amazing understatement! What a year it has been. Ours actually started Halloween 2019 when my wife, Amy was handed a real challenge. That is when she received her cancer diagnosis. After a little crying and hugging, I swear to God, the first words out of her mouth were "I'm not going to get my Bobby hug".
COVID-19 hit just as she was beginning chemotherapy and we were advised to stay home. This was a tough decision as we had so many friends competing and wanted to be there to support them.
As you can imagine the chemo and radiation were brutal, but she never lost her spirit or sense of humor, at least in public, even letting our girls paint her head like Easter eggs. Her energy was zapped and simple walks were as tough as a 50 mile ride in a Kansas wind storm.
The pictures attached are from the Virtual Solstice Quarantine Ride 100k in Beatrice Ne., her first ride just a few months after chemo and days after radiation. It was hot and extremely windy. We took it in 10 mile chunks and just kept pushing. SHE NEVER WALKED A SINGLE HILL!
While recovering, she realized there just wasn't a support group for active people recovering from cancer and wanting to get back into competition. Thus Pink Gravel was born. She created a foundation to support, sponsor and encourage those recovering and trying to get back up and running, riding, whatever. She finished 2020 off by providing SAG support at several events and even hosting her own, Just A Chill Ride with chili, cinnamon rolls and Lazy Horse Brewery beer for all who attended.
We deferred last year's Mid South entry, so we will be there with all of our Black Squirrel Cycling League friends representing the Pony Express Gravel Dash and Pink Gravel and ready to roll. And this year will be even more special when she rolls over that line.
Even if Bobby has to put on a hazmat suit, that girl deserves a hug!!!"
If you have cycling friends like mine, they have been posting their 2020 Strava, Garmin or Wahoo accomplishments the last couple days. It is truly impressive to see what others have done. 2000 miles. 6000 miles, 8000 miles, 10,000 miles! Wow! Congrats! Takes a lot of time on the seat and effort to rack up those miles.
Personally, it is a bit intimidating. Others have obviously spent more time riding than myself in 2020. Many legit reasons and some straight up lazy ones contributed to much less activity in comparison. If not careful, I could easily plunge into a downward spiral and be upset about my lack of activity.
My few hundred miles.
I wasn't about to share my stat for 2020. . . till the other day, when I was talking of the thousands of miles my friends had for 2020 and then turned to scoff at my own statistics, my sister said, "Hey, that's at least one mile a day." I don't know if she realizes the mental shift she just instilled.
A mile plus for each day. Humm. . . that is still not too shabby. Throw in cancer, Covid-19 restrictions, canceled events, weather, work, and remote schooling. Not bad at all. I can honestly say that a majority of those miles I collected was with my husband and great friends. Each has a good memory attached to it. 64 - Solstice Quarantine ride, 38 - Lazy Horse ride, 34 - Just a Chill ride, 100 miles of FHNT.
Taking a little time to reflect and appreciate those miles brings a smile. Good times.
So, if you are like me, intimidated by the miles you see being posted, instead of feeling bad for not doing more, embrace your miles. Feel proud you made the effort to get out. Think of how many didn't or couldn't.
It is still something and not nothing.
Cuz let's be real. 2020 sucked. So rejoice in the fact you didn't let your Strava account get deactivated due to 366 days of inactivity.
And that my friends, is positive vibing!
This is my post I made on American Cancer Society 50 Squats A Day December challenge FB page. It came about seeing people share their accomplishments of doing 10, 20, 50 or more squats in a day. This is apart of Pink Gravel's story and the role I hope it can play for others looking to be active in any capacity during or after the battle.
I am impressed by those who go above and beyond the 50 squats each day. I think it is awesome! If I was doing this a year ago, I'd be right with you. But someone decided I needed to fight some boob cancer this past year, so I am still trying to just be more active a bit more everyday till I can get a true routine back.
As I tell people about my cancer experience, I remind them of how in college there was something known as The Freshman 15; well, I found there is the Cancer 15. My weight gain came not during the treatments but after while the effects of the treatments were working themselves out of my system. Not to mention a pill I now take for the next 5 yrs which is known to enhance weight gain not make me run fast. (I know, right?)
So many days I wake up, making a conscious effort to choose that today will be that day that I REALLY will get back to being active. I sometimes even grit my teeth and look in the mirror at myself and say it out loud. "For real, Amy, today we are going to do it"
"But, but, but.... it is hard," says my body. "I already fought cancer now you want to do this?" My body is obviously not on the same page as my mind. Eventually, by evening, the mind is tired of fighting my body and says, "Ok, sit on the couch this evening, but tomorrow we try this again."
"Sure," my body says with fingers crossed.
That is where I have been for awhile now. I completed all chemo and radiation early May 2020 and slowly adding pounds. It made me sad inside. I have stopped beating myself up about it daily and have accepted it as a part of the cancer experience.
I am ready for a new chapter now. My come back. My cancer come back. And I really think this ACS challenge is where it starts. I can feel it in my thighs....literally.😁
So if you power out 50 squats in one go or sprinkle them throughout the day like me, you are all awesome!
50 squats is 50 squats.
Here we go, here we go, here we go now! It is December 2020! And today marks the beginning of a 50 squats a day challenge Pink Gravel signed up for. . . wait . . .what . . . 50 squats? What the heck??? But that will hurt?? Eegads!
Gotta start sometime and somewhere. But no worries, Pink Gravel will knock this out easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? It will get done but not look pretty. 🤪
These simple challenges, I believe, are a great ways to motivate and kickstart a good habit. If anything wakes the body up to accomplish more in a day, why not try it.
Pre cancer, last year in 2019, I was pretty active on my bike riding miles of gravel for fun and in events. Cancer treatments took my energy and gave me aches and pains; made it not fun to even walk at times. It was hard to accept. It took a change in mental attitude to not beat myself up for not being able to do things like I used too. I learned to accept my situation and not be so hard on myself. Roll 7 months forward to today. . . I now seem to have no problem with lounging around. My poor bike hasn't seen me in weeks. So, reasons are needed to get back in the saddle again for 2021.
On the back of that, Pink Gravel is going to host a challenge. A PG-13 Christmas Challenge. It will begin on December 13th and end 13 days later on December 25th! All that you have to do is for those 13 days, move for a full 13 minutes. That is it. Should be easy as you have all that decorating to do for Christmas, or shopping, or cooking or cleaning, right? An event for this has been created on the Pink Gravel Facebook page where you can join and share your daily progress during the challenge.
Plus, Pink Gravel may have a little finishers award for those that participate. (And no, it isn't the bike)
One reason Pink Gravel exists because cancer touches us all in some fashion. I think my family was groped by cancer - ha ha - my mom, my dad and myself as well as other family and friends. Sadly, not all have made it. So I make it a point to not shuffle my feet in sadness or wallow in my personal pity party. Doesn't mean I don't have those moments, I do. I just make a constant effort to keep them short as I want to enjoy life, cause you just never know.
Treatments and the side effect of those treatments for cancer can be as hard on the body as the disease itself if left alone. So while some get down and say we'll never find a cure; I say, we can for sure continue to improve how we treat cancers and that is good, too. Right?
Being that half of my battle occurred during Covid-19, I had to invent ways to stay out of a slump since I couldn't be around people. My personal touch on treating my cancer (especially during Covid-19 times) was - and still is - via humor, sharing my experience through activities and stories, and looking for positive ways to embrace what life throws at me - how I embrace cancer. Pink Gravel is an extension of that attitude.
On that note . . . surely there are a few Chiefs fans in this group. The pic is me embracing what was thrown at me. Artwork by my daughter.
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.