Join us at the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin Texas on October 21st. We are celebrating 15 years of The Lance Armstrong Foundation with Austin’s largest ride ever. We invite you and your family to participate, volunteer and cheer on survivors like Rica that are raising funds to help those affected by cancer.
When I first got involved with LIVESTRONG, I was just a cyclist who was dared by a friend to ride 200 miles, and I decided someone should benefit. So, I registered my bet as a Grassroots Fundraiser. I did it in honor of my mentor who’d been diagnosed a 2nd time with cancer that week. But, it was a one shot deal. Or so I thought.
Learning more about LIVESTRONG as I got closer to the date made me realize how important this organization is to “Them” – to cancer survivors and those touched by cancer. So I registered for the Austin Challenge the next year. And I was going to ride for “Them.”
But the point was, I was riding and fundraising in honor of “Them.” And I continued to raise funds and awareness in honor of “Them.”
Until 2 years after becoming a LIVESTRONG Leader, on July 19, 2011. After having gotten a mammogram because “They” told me it was the smart thing to do, so I could have a baseline when I turned 40, I got the call every person dreads. “You’ve got cancer,” was all I heard on the other line. The rest of the call was a blank. My head was spinning. I’d had no symptoms or reason for getting the mammogram or suspect there was a problem beyond just wanting to have something to compare against later.
I looked down at my wristband and realized my head could stop spinning. I knew where to go next.
I called LIVESTRONG. I reached out to my fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders, as I was now one of “Them.” We were now a family. The next morning I received a tweet from Lance:
@rica620 hang in there Rica. We’re here for ya and all pulling for you.
— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) April 28, 2012
The morning after was the LIVESTRONG Philadelphia Challenge bike ride, and friends there not only sent me words of encouragement, but they rode for me. In October, just a couple of weeks after my first chemotherapy treatment, I was in Austin as part of Team LIVESTRONG (because, you see, I never stopped being a member), and I did the 5k (I walked most of it, but I made sure to run the final kilometer – in tears) and, for the first time, strayed from the pack and collected my yellow Survivor rose. Team LIVESTRONG was there.
The next morning, I went with my children, our bikes and a razor to the LIVESTRONG Challenge bike ride. With the help of my kids, my Team LIVESTRONG friends and a supportive group of spectators, I shaved my head. I couldn’t have imagined doing it anywhere else, nor with anyone else there. It was a team effort. I didn’t make it very far – the year before, I did close to 80 miles of the 90 I’d set out to do – this year, I only rode 10 miles. But, as I was passed, fellow members of Team LIVESTRONG cheered me on, patted me on the back, at rest areas, gave me hugs, and I felt like I was at home. I didn’t feel damaged, I didn’t feel weak, I didn’t feel broken. I felt strong. For the first time for weeks, since I’d been diagnosed, I felt strong. That’s Team LIVESTRONG.
My best advice to anyone reading this who rides for one of “Them” is to bear in mind that, at any moment in time, you may become one of “Us.” And it’s ok. We’re here for you. But, in the meantime, let that person know they aren’t alone, and while you’ll do whatever you can, you recognize that there are things you can’t do, but that LIVESTRONG can. Send them to the website, encourage them to request help, and get that wristband on them. That little strap of yellow silicone ends up symbolizing so much at those times when the only other thing you can wear is a johnny coat and an IV.
As my 13-year old son answered when asked how he finished the 90-mile LIVESTRONG Challenge this year, he answered, “I rode the 90 miles because my mom couldn’t this year.” Run for Us. Ride for Us.