46. A Literal Love Hangover ...or when you realize how far you've come
The first weekend in March, I participated in an event called Cycle For Survival.
Now I had done it before , being a “support rider “for friends who are leading on the stage, and raising a decent amount of money because I mean who doesn’t want to give money to cure rare cancers?
But this year was a slightly bigger deal. Obviously my cancer diagnoses has had something to do with it, but it was more.
It would be ten years since I lost my mom to “complications from Amyloidosis” (A man sitting next to me in my first chemo infusion was also being treated Amyloidosis, but it was no longer a death sentence. Because of the research it was now being treated as a chronic condition.)
And to make it even more significant, my brothers and my #rideordie bestie Beth, were going to be there as my team.
Thing is, I didn’t quite know how much it would impact me, until a day later when I sat exhausted, stuck in an emotional hangover that literally lasted two weeks.
Call it the post chemo “emotional “ shoe dropping, or the synchronistic convergence of variables that made this particular place, in this particular time one of the most memorable in my lifetime.
And at the risk of sounding like an over enthusiastic pre-teen, it really was that extraordinary.
Let me take a step back to explain. I was already slated to be a support rider, but a few weeks out from the event, it turned out that one of the “lead “ instructors had an injury and had to drop out of the event. Knowing that I was going to be riding anyway, and because she knew I had very personal reasons for supporting this cause, my regional boss Stephanie reached out to ask if I would step up to fill the emptied “lead” position.
i’ve been teaching throughout my treatment, a good portion of my classes are not intense cardio workouts, because i know that would have pushed my body too hard, in addition to chemo . However, when I’ve managed to get my own workouts in, cycling has been part of it, not to mention the playlist I started at the very beginning of this whole thing. So when she offered, of course my answer was “Yes!”
Then the #CycleForSurvival people reached out to ask if i would be the speaker that opened the last hour of the ride. (It’s a four hour event, and every hour is introduced by someone who has life has been effected by rare cancer.)
So I built my playlist, rehearsed my speech and practiced teaching my part of the ride, making sure I could do it without breaking down in tears.
My brothers Ed , Ted, and I lazed around the house during the rainy day, saving our energy for our four hour ride, and then we headed over to the event.
I could feel the nerves starting. I watched the first team of instructors rock it out cheering from the side as I made sure I had all my stuff and got mic’d up.
The performer in me wanted to “stick the landing” and because I thought I was going second in our hour i figured I would have a little time to gain my bearings and “ feel the room “. So of course when it was our turn to go up, and I was directed to go o the “first bike” I got confused an was like “Umm…Wait , No…”. but silence in front of a couple hundred people is like silence on the radio : THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY. So I said “Screw it “ and plunged in full steam ahead. For those who know me from my days bartending at the Village Idiot in NYC, it was like being back there again, attempting to rally a crowd to a fever pitch with songs they could connect to, building within that group a larger sense of community.
All my work friends and bosses had hung around from the earlier session, and when I took over they were dancing and throwing their support to help keep the other riders engaged.
But what they did next floored me.
After my final song, my boss Devin took the lead, I felt some relief, but was generally pleased with the way it had gone. My heavy lifting was over, and I merely had to support and ride and cheer…until things suddenly got very quiet.
The song “I’ll Be There” came on. As I looked around I saw all my friends, collegues, my entire work family, all approaching carrying flowers. It was kinda like getting “crowned” Queen of Cancer, but with such an outpouring, I literally could not breathe. (That’s not hyperbole, I seriously started choking on my own phlegm.)
It broke me wide open.
Since the onset of this whole thing I have felt a little naked. I haven’t had the energy to put into putting up a “front.” I have people who have openly questioned the authenticity what they consider to be “too good an attitude” for my particular set or circumstances, and to them I’ve said plainly “ this is not the worst thing I have experienced.”
But until something is over, you don’t realize how much energy has been put into simply getting through it. Energy once spend on petty anger, fear, sadness, frustration and guilt, turns it’s focus to prioritize that which matters most: survival.
And when you are through. like thunder after a shock of lightening, it shakes loose all those emotions from your core.
Through the crowd I could see my brothers approaching, and as I regained my breathe, I hurried as fast as I could off stage to throw my arms around them both.
I had made it though this first part.
I was here.
I was still alive.
I was loved.