I don’t even like bikes. I never learned to respect them and always felt like they didn’t respect me. So why in the world would I decide to ride 200 miles from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. on a bike?
Actually, my decision has nothing to do with bikes or wanting to take part in the swim/run/bike triathlon craze that so many people I know are in. I am doing this because of cancer.
One of the first things my oncologist told me after my bilateral mastectomy was that I had to start exercising. I rolled my eyes at her. Yeah, yeah I know, exercising is good for you. Whatever. I was more focused on trying to get my life back to “normal” after having my sense of normalcy ripped away from me with a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 36.
During the next year, doctor after doctor, and friend after friend told me I should start exercising. I ignored them with determination. I remember telling a friend at one point, “If one more person tells me to exercise I am going to scream.”
For me, that first year was about getting my life back to normal — the way it was before. I never exercised before — why would I start now? I also had no idea what type of exercise to do. I hated riding bikes, the gym sounded like a pain, and running was boring. Yoga was suggested often, but it is such a scene in NYC and I didn’t care to sit in a room with a bunch of strangers while I hot flashed.
As I completed my first year of cancer, I took a close look at myself. I weighed my success in getting back to normal and realized I had failed. The hard realization that I had to find a new normal was hard to swallow. My body had become so weak from all the surgeries that I was finding it hard to walk up a flight of stairs.
Crap. My doctor was right. Now what?
This past fall, as I was celebrating my first year of cancer behind me — I had the unique pleasure of attending YSC’s Tour de Pink (TdP) bike rides as a spectator. Founded by YSC in 2004, our Tour de Pink® events present an opportunity for survivors and supporters alike to come together to raise awareness and money for the more than 250,000 young women living in the U.S. today who were diagnosed with breast cancer before their 41st birthday.
My job as CEO includes attending these events, and, while I felt eager to support the riders in any way I could, I never had any intention of doing the rides myself.
The East Coast ride, which took place from September 23–25, 2011, was my first TdP as a spectator and I was overwhelmed with the power of the event. The community of supporters and survivors was incredible, but deep down I knew it wasn’t for me.
A few weeks later I went out to California for the October 14–16 West Coast ride.
Maybe it’s because I’m from California. Maybe it was because I was physically in such bad shape and getting fed up with my body. Or maybe it was because it was such an outrageous idea, at that ride I began to think …. “Maybe I can do this.”
So one month later, after careful consideration, I made a commitment to take my body back from cancer and join my fellow survivors and supporters in the 2012 Tour de Pink challenge.
I have a long way to go, since I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without exhaustion. But one thing I am is a fighter and I have chosen my weapon. So, watch out cancer — I’m pissed off and coming to get you!!!