Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Film retraces bike racing history November 12, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 9:27 am
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cycling_sunsetI recently saw promotions for a new documentary about a team participating in the 1928 Tour de France. Le Ride is a film by Phil Keoghan (the host of the Amazing Race television show), that tries to recreate the route ridden by the four-man team from Australia and New Zealand. I wanted to see the film so was happy when my cycling club sent notice of a viewing in the area.

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I’ll share some highlights of the film without giving away too much (most of it follows well-documented history of the 1928 event and teams anyway). The film follows New Zealander Harry Watson and his Australian teammates, Ernie Bainbridge, Percy Osborne and Sir Hubert Opperman, on their journey to this great race. Yes, this team only had four riders compared to other teams of 10 (I already felt tired for them upon learning this). They were the first English-speaking team to participate in the Tour.

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Phil did much research on the race and the team, providing interesting insight into the bikes of that period, bike racing, the Tour de France and France in general. I loved watching the many people he met during his research and learning fascinating facts.

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It seemed crazy that he, and his friend, Ben, were going to ride circa 1928 bikes through France, high into the mountains! Especially after being used to the brakes, design, handling and comfort of today’s bikes. These vintage bikes were steel frames with no gears. No shifting during hill climbs or descents. No carbon frame or shocks. They did use some modern day equipment, such as cycling clothing and helmets, which was smart.

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As you may imagine, today’s France is much different than 1928 France. The road system is paved, more expansive and much busier. Some of the route no longer exists. Keep in mind that today’s Tour de France is approximately 2,000 miles; in 1928, the race was over 3,300 miles in 29 days. Yikes! The race back then was meant to eliminate riders, and it did – 164 riders started, 41 finished. It was quite stunning to learn that the cyclists rode more than 100, sometimes 200 miles in a day with climbs of 10,000-20,000 feet. They sometimes biked up to 20 hours in a day, starting at midnight or before dawn. And I thought biking RAGBRAI through Iowa was a physical challenge!

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I can’t tell you how many times my mouth dropped open in surprise, awe or disbelief. I’m already in awe of the grueling physical, mental and emotional challenges that cyclists today master to participate in the Tour de France and other rides. But learning about the riders in 1928? Total respect and awe. My leg with the titanium rod seriously started aching as I thought of the physical challenges facing these riders (I know, I have a hard time turning off the empathy in me)!

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At the end of the film, they showed a picture of the four Australian cyclists before the Tour began and then at the end of the Tour. Have you ever seen images of our U.S. presidents before they start their presidency? And again after? You usually note physical changes, aging and stress/worry lines after these challenging years. Well these notable changes appeared in the riders in less than a month!

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A few of my favorite highlights:

  • Amazingly beautiful scenery captured with great filming skills.
  • The camaraderie between the crew was evident. I often laughed.
  • I loved seeing all the towns they visited. I would have loved to be there, meeting residents and taking in the different areas, cultures and experiences.
  • Learning so much about the evolution of cycling over the decades.
  • I am motivated to someday attend the Tour de France.

The downside to the movie? I’m so anxious to ride my own road bike outside again in warm, sunny weather! I look forward to watching this film again.

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Food, shopping, history at Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace October 13, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 4:15 pm
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Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston

Arriving early for a conference gave me a beautiful day to explore Boston. Motivated to get the most out of my time in one of my favorite cities, I woke early on my second day and after a sweaty workout in the hotel’s gym, I set off for new sites. (And, yes, I did shower before setting off, in case you wondered!)

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On a recommendation from a friend, I headed to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. I had researched the location prior to leaving Detroit, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was busy! People milling around everywhere, spilling out stores and relaxing at restaurants and bars. I loved it all!

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Cobblestone streets take visitors along several buildings – North Market, South Market, and Quincy Market Colonnade – that house more than 70 retailers. Some of the stores are popular around the country, like The Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, while others are more local to the area, like Make Way for Ducklings (okay, I really just love this name!), Local Charm and Revolutionary Boston.

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When you enter the Quincy Market Colonnade building, you’re greeted by

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Great Hall inside Faneuil Hall

an…..interesting smell. It’s a multitude of food vendors battling for aromatic space in the air. Lobsters, oysters, sandwiches, gelato, frozen yogurt, pizza, salads, sausages, smoothies and much more provide delicious options to please any hungry patron. But you must be patient. Especially if there on a weekend. At lunch time. Note to self, don’t visit marketplace around lunch time on a Saturday.

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Faneuil Hall is a cool historic building to visit while at the marketplace. Built in 1742, the hall has been used for public debate, meetings, special events and more. Faneuil Hall served as the seat of government during the Revolutionary period. It’s full of beautiful architecture inside on the first and second floors. You can almost picture our ancestors sitting in the chairs listening to debates and informational meetings, participating in decision-making and encouraging change.

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After I wandered for a while, I realized I was starving. I walked through Quincy Market a few times before deciding I was a bit overwhelmed at my choices. I tried to get a spot at Cheers – yes, an authentic replica of the famous TV bar – but the line was crazy long. And, did I mention that I was starving at this point? After passing the Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar a few times, I decided I could eat some Mexican food. I found a spot at the bar so I could look outside at people walking along the cobblestone street. Mija has an open air patio and bar, which was great in the beautiful weather. I met some nice people also sitting at the bar, all from outside of Massachusetts. That’s one of the parts I love about traveling away from home – meeting people and hearing their stories about traveling.

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So worth the splurge at Berry Twist

After filling up on Mexican food and a drink (although I skipped sampling from their extensive tequila menu), I wandered through the marketplace a bit more. Several street performers were at various spots, including a juggler, musicians and a magician. After the performances, I headed to the waterfront. It was bustling with activity but I found a shaded spot on the grass under a big tree to enjoy a pretty water view and relax.

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There are many walking options near the marketplace. The waterfront is across from the marketplace so you can walk along that. The Freedom Trail also runs from this area.

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A fun fact I learned while washing my hands in the restroom is that Paul Revere, as the first president of Boston’s Board of Health, supervised the outhouse inspectors, who were responsible for ensuring residents properly emptied out their outhouses and didn’t let them overflow to prevent disease. And, now, you too, learned a fun fact.

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It was a fun day at Faneuil Hall and the waterfront. I’m happy for the opportunity to explore a great part of the city and meet so many friendly people.

 

Visiting the John F. Kennedy presidential museum October 12, 2017

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Campaign banner from Detroit!

It’s been several years since I visited Boston, one of my favorite cities. So I was excited to travel to this harbor town last weekend for a conference. I decided to head there a little early to enjoy exploring.

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Amazing weather greeted me when I arrived mid-morning at the hotel. A seamless check-in to the hotel provided awesome views of the city. It was time to enjoy the day!

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I love history and exploring new places so was excited to learn that Boston is home to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. I decided this would be first stop in my exploration. John F. Kennedy became the 35th president on Jan. 20, 1961, the youngest president (43 years) and the first Catholic. He is a president I grew up hearing much about. Of course his assassination, and conspiracy theories, fill American history. Movies, books, stories. But he is also a president who served and led during important moments of our country’s story – racial desegregation, the Cuban missile crisis, advancement of mental health care, creation of the Peace Corps and many other important historical moments.

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“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

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I love learning about history and cultures. And our presidents, love them, hate them or you really want to forget them, play a significant role in shaping our country. It was very interesting and inspiring to walk through the museum, reading transcripts of

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Transcript clips from inauguration speech

interviews and speeches; seeing gifts and items collected by JFK and Jackie Kennedy through their time in the White House; watching clips of speeches, debates and foreign trips. It was powerful to watch the video of his inaugural speech with the typed transcript near it highlighting where he changed words as he spoke. We learn about the presidents through history classes in school, and JFK’s death is a major piece, but I liked learning more about other moments in this time.

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A replica exhibit of Robert Kennedy’s office of the Attorney General showed the blunt challenge of the Civil Rights movement, that truly continues in today’s divisive political climate. Robert was the youngest attorney general at 41 since 1814. But he was aggressive in fighting for equality, young people and a strong justice department to stop crime and corruption.

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“We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

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The museum also features Jackie Kennedy, who became first lady at 31 years old. She was a big supporter of arts and culture, working to restore and preserve the White House by establishing a White House Fine Arts Committee, and the position of White House curator.

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Campaigning for JFK

President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 in Texas. The shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested, but killed by Jack Ruby the following day. There have been lots of conspiracy theories about his death.

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“It is not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

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May 29, 2017 marked the 100th birthday of John F. Kennedy. A special exhibit, JFK 100: Milestones & Mementosfocuses on historic milestones in President Kennedy’s life by featuring 100 artifacts, photographs and documents. Some of the items include handwritten notes, a suitcase used by JFK during a 1960 road campaign, and a few of his neckties.

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I always enjoy visiting our country’s historical sites as it’s a good way to remember what we’ve been through, survived and should learn from so we don’t repeat our disappointing or scary moments (and yet, history does repeat itself).

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The library and museum overlook the water, fitting since JFK was an avid boater. After my museum visit, I walked along the paved trail, thoroughly enjoying the breeze while watching boats in the water. A beautiful day.

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For hours and admission information, visit the library and museum’s website.

 

Working together to fight cancer September 25, 2017

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Ready to make a difference!

As you know from my previous blog, my birthday was spent in Washington, D.C. meeting with members of Congress to discuss cancer-related bills and issues. I meant to write a follow up immediately after my return……but, well, personal and work ‘stuff’ has provided very little free time (I won’t share how little time has been spent on my bike seat. Insert sad face).

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Quite frankly, some of my time has been spent fighting back against the latest proposed disaster of a healthcare bill. This newly proposed bill would have detrimental effects on millions of people, including those with pre-existing conditions. In fact, I encourage you to call your Senator now to ask them to vote NO on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. You can click here for a list of Senate phone numbers.

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Thankfully, my time spent in D.C. was successful, fun and motivating. I joined 400+ volunteer leaders and staff of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network at a leadership summit and lobby day, where we talked to our legislators about important cancer-related issues. Our requests included:

  • Increase funding for research at the National Institutes of Health to $36 billion;
  • Support the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (H.R.1676/S.693)
  • Support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act (H.R.1017/S.479)
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Grateful for the past 20 years.

There is something about being in a room with 400+ cancer advocates….empowering and motivating. There is something about standing with dozens of other cancer survivors…hopeful and grateful. There is something about meeting with elected representatives to work toward a common cause…..exciting and satisfying.

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Our first two meetings were with our Michigan senators. Both are supporters of our many cancer-related priorities, which I’m grateful. I always enjoy meeting with my senators and their staffs, who are friendly and welcoming. After those meetings, our group split into smaller groups for meeting with our representatives from our home districts. I attended several of these House meetings, all productive. I particularly enjoyed meeting with Rep. Sander Levin. We had an energizing conversation about health care. All in all our meetings were productive and promising in the fight against cancer.

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The evening brought the Lights of Hope ceremony. This touching event included more than 25,000 tribute luminaries lining the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. Each bag represented a cancer survivor or someone who died from the disease. It was an emotional journey as I walked among the bags, many decorated with pictures, messages and items of memories. Somehow, both my honor bag and my dad’s memory bag ended up beside each other. I admit as I stared at those two bags, for a moment I felt alone. I missed him deeply in that moment, overwhelmed with the ongoing question of how I survived and he did not. Yet, as I looked around the reflecting pool, at the thousands of bags lit to reflect unity against a disease, knowing I am one of millions who fight daily to make a difference against cancer, I felt comfort too.

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Beautiful Lights of Hope!

I’ve been asked many times over the past 20 years why I put so much energy into this fight. People wonder if I feel obligated. There is some truth to that. Even though I know my dad would say don’t feel obligated, live your life for you. Yet this is my life, and I like it, I appreciate it. I thrive in the environment of helping others, standing together to fight back against a disease that knows no boundaries in who it touches. Or takes from us. I am alive, with a voice that can share my story, and his story. A voice to talk to members of Congress, doctors, health care executives, fellow cancer survivors, caregivers and advocates. I am alive with a voice so that even those who can’t speak, those in a hospital getting treatment, those too sick or tired or scared, still have a voice.

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While I may feel a little obligated to speak out as I breathe, I mostly feel great passion and motivation to work for a positive change that can help others affected by cancer. There is a deep genuine belief in me that if we wrap our arms around the good, the strong, the dedicated, if we all as individuals stand together, this disease will not win.

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This disease has changed my life in many ways. It has broken me, motivated me, led me down many new paths, taken people, and brought people to my life. It is the one thing I think of every day for the past 20 years. It has taught me to stand up to fear and anger, embrace love, hope and kindness, grow courage and strength and motivation, seek love and laughter, enjoy the simple things. It has shown me that one person can make a difference to someone, and many people can impact millions.

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I invite you to be the one person to join the many. Get involved. Make a difference. You can get started by checking out the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network wherever you live.

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Lessons learned biking across Iowa (on RAGBRAI) August 1, 2017

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I made it to the Mississippi River!

I did it. I made it across Iowa. I biked 200+ miles, raised money to support people facing cancer, and achieved a personal goal while acknowledging 20 years since my cancer diagnosis.

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If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve been training all spring (okay, more like the past year!) to join Team LIVESTRONG at the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) to raise funds for and awareness of LIVESTRONG’s programs and services for people affected by cancer. I did this in part to honor 20 years from my bone cancer diagnosis and in memory of my dad who always believed in helping others before cancer took him from us. It was a special way to help others facing the disease that forever changed my family. And I did it.

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When I decided to join Team LIVESTRONG on RAGBRAI, I’m not sure I really understood what I was getting into (ha, always a good reason to throw yourself into something!). A friend wanted me to ride last year so I decided to help the support team/staff last year for a few days to get an idea of the event, but I didn’t ride. By the end of that week, I was inspired enough to go home, buy a bike and train for the hundreds of miles I planned to attempt (read that blog). And train I did (with many thanks to friends who shared endless tips/insight into cycling, rode with me or encouraged my crazy idea). I admit that I was ridiculously nervous in the days leading up to the event. I guess I doubted my ability to bike so many miles with the titanium rod in my leg (I seriously need to stop doubting myself. I’m starting to annoy myself.). Guess what? I did what I set out to do.

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If it’s possible to say you’re proud of yourself without sounding stuck on yourself, then I’ll say it. I trained hard, absorbed as many tips and tricks as I could, asked a zillion questions (sorry and thank you to my coach), read blogs, watched videos, mentally and physically prepared, raised funds for LIVESTRONG’s programs and services. While I wanted to ride the entire 400+ miles of the 7-day event, I took my surgeon’s advice and rested in between the biking days, achieving almost 200 miles. I felt physically awesome after each day. My leg started bugging me as the week wore on, but I’m convinced that it’s from sleeping on the ground in my tent (a perfect reason to invest in a thicker sleeping pad) rather than biking (and I feel fine now). I learned enough to be even better next year (eek, did I just type NEXT YEAR?).

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The week brought many high moments and some lows (a very dear friend had a health

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So fun being on a bike!

issue on the bike, causing him to fall and be injured. He thankfully will recover but it caused some terrifying moments of worry). I learned SO many things about me, other people, biking, Iowa, and life. Enough to fill half my new journal while in Iowa and inspire multiple blogs (if I had the energy to write that much at this time)! For now, I’ll share just a few lessons with you.

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There are some really good people around me: I’ve shared in the past about the awesome camaraderie and kindness of my LIVESTRONG friends. As much as cancer sucks, it is a common bond that ties many of us together. From the other RAGBRAI newbies to the multi-year veterans, I shared many laughs, hugs, tears, drinks, jokes, smoothies, dances and, of course, miles on the bike with my 70+ teammates. They pushed, pulled, encouraged, cheered and supported me. I have deeper bonds with those who started as friends, and many new friends. And outside of the team, I was surrounded by thousands of other cyclists. As I waited 30 minutes in line for a shower, I had a wonderful conversation with a mother and daughter who I ironically rode beside me for a few miles earlier in the day. They recognized my Michigan Awesome jersey and tribute cards. It was a great opportunity to share LIVESTRONG’s programs and services, and simply get to know two friendly women. I thought it a little weird when a man randomly commented on my ‘beautiful scar’ running along my femur, only to learn his wife is a also a bone cancer survivor and he was going to tell her of my accomplishment on the bike to motivate her to stay strong. There was the young woman who brought me to tears and shared a hug as she talked about her dad also dying from multiple myeloma. And the many others who told stories of how LIVESTRONG’s programs and services helped them or others. These stories, these moments, filled me so much with motivation, joy, appreciation and sadness (that this disease still affects too many).

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I’m stronger – mentally, physically and emotionally – than I give myself credit for. This week taught me that I need to believe in myself more. I admit that I was ready to throw up that first morning as we pedaled out of the campsite. But a few miles in, I found myself smiling at friends as we shared the beautiful morning on our bikes, and a few miles later, I settled in as we rolled along the road, and a few miles later, I laughed aloud at the pure joy of being on my bike. As the week progressed and I biked more miles, helped take care of my friend, laughed until my stomach hurt, cried, listened, shared, hugged and simply felt myself be in the moment, I realized that I may never have all the answers to life, but I’m doing a pretty good managing it right now.

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Sunrise on the runway.

We live in a beautiful country. When I told people that I was joining LIVESTRONG to bike across Iowa, many people replied, “You’re spending your vacation in Iowa? In the July heat?” Well, yes. I’ve come to love Iowa. As we moved east across the state, the land started to roll into hills and the scenery turned even prettier. I was in awe of our campsite in Waukon on the last night as we were tucked at the end of a runway at the municipal airport overlooking farms filled with soybeans, corn and cows. The sunset’s colors streaming across the skyline made my breath catch and the glorious night sky filled with stars brought tears to my eyes as I thought how incredibly fortunate I am to be alive to experience this magic.

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Life is short, so don’t waste it. When you or someone close to you endures something serious, it makes you hit pause on life for a few moments (or it should). You can’t help but be reminded that life is precious. As cliché as it is, it’s true that we only get one life. Don’t settle for less. Twenty years ago, I had that reminder slapped in my face when I was diagnosed with cancer. Thirteen years ago when my dad died from cancer, it struck me again. There’s been many other moments throughout life to reinforce that thought. It’s why I search for happiness in all I do; why I left an unhappy situation to seek true love and joy; I explore places away from home to meet new people and experiences; I try not to hesitate to share how I feel; I push myself to be a better and stronger person;  I embrace new adventures and opportunities, I try to laugh and soak in the joy of life.

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Sometimes you have to throw caution, responsibility, worry and fear into the

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My fun bike, Ruby.

cornfield and ride your bike. Despite being nervous about riding the first day, I knew that I would be okay once I got on my bike. I trained on this bike, I fit so well on this bike and I truly love riding this bike. There is something about being on the bike that eases every pressure in my body and mind. It’s a freedom that’s hard to describe, especially as a bone cancer survivor. When my femur was replaced with a titanium, I gave up a lot of freedom. I can’t ride my beloved horses, run, play tennis, volleyball nor many of the activities that I once enjoyed. I think of this rod in my leg from the moment I get out of bed to the moment I lay back down. Don’t get me wrong – I am forever grateful to have my leg because there is an alternative. I never want to hurt my leg, but I need freedom. And riding my bike gives me that. Very little beats the moments when you feel the wind tickle your skin, the sun warm your face (while wearing sunscreen) and the power of your body moving with the bike. You have to soak in the scenery, breathe in the air and think of nothing but what’s around you.

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It’s easy to make a difference in the lives of others. More than 70 people came together to bike across Iowa to raise awareness of and money for programs that support people facing cancer. So many of my teammates have their own stories of cancer in their lives, and also had stories of sharing LIVESTRONG with others as they biked the route. It takes one person to make a difference. Together, we raised more than $140,000 for these programs and services (thanks also to many of you who donated to our cause).

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As fun as this trip was, and as proud as I am of myself, the point of this trip was, of course, more than my story. It was about coming together as a team for LIVESTRONG, for people affected by cancer, raising money for programs and services that support thousands of people fighting this terrible disease, sharing stories and information to ensure we are all one in the fight. And it was a heck of a lot fun being able to help others.

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There’s still time to donate to our LIVESTRONG team’s fundraising efforts to help more people facing cancer. Click here to donate.

 

Exploring our nation’s capitol June 14, 2017

washingtonmonumentLast week, I was in Washington DC for the One Voice Against Cancer lobby day to meet with my legislators regarding funding for cancer research and prevention programs. I was honored to be selected by LIVESTRONG to attend this event with more than 100 other advocates from across the nation.

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The experience was awesome and my meetings were positive and hopeful (read about the experience). And I do love being in Washington, DC. I love the history of our nation, watching American and foreign tourists learn about and remember the past (hoping not to repeat some of it). I love the excitement and energy that drifts through the town. I love exploring the different neighborhoods and cultures. I love meeting with our legislators and their staff to work together to change the tide for people touched by cancer.

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After a whirlwind of meetings, I decided to stay an extra day for a bit of sightseeing and fun. It was a bright, sunny, cool day in DC. After breakfast at Bob & Edith’s Diner, we started our exploration by heading toward the National Mall.

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No matter how many times I visit Washington, DC, I love touring the national monuments, museums and memorials. I’m always a little in awe of how large these monuments are….large and impressive in their architecture, construction and meaning. I get reflective, motivated, and emotional thinking of the situations that stirred such thoughts and speeches from these historical figures. So many of the quotes are as meaningful and relevant to the world today as they were when spoken decades ago. I would love to know that our current elected officials walk through these memorials at least once a year, but alas, I truly wonder how many of them have never visited. I think it would be a good reminder of the honor, and major responsibility, of representing the American people.

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The Washington Monument greeted us, standing tall with blue skies above and American flags surrounding it. We walked around toward Thomas Jefferson’s Memorial, overlooking a tidal basin from the Potomac River. People relaxed on the steps, enjoying the breeze, while others were on paddle boats and kayaks in the basin. We then walked to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which leads you through the historic years of his terms. FDR’s memorial leads to inspiring and memorable quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr and a large statue of the man.

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It never fails that I get emotional walking through the Korean War Memorial, with the statues of soldiers ‘walking’ through the greenery and the images of men and women engraved on the wall. I can’t help but touch these images, wondering who they represent, who came home, who didn’t. No matter how many times I walk through the memorial, tears always fill my eyes and my heart beats in gratitude for all those who served to protect us and also sadness for those lost. The emotions continue through the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and World War II Memorial. This is one of my favorites as I love standing near the center, looking around at the wreaths representing every state, knowing all of these make up our great country. As we wandered through the memorials, veterans of all ages from many of our wars also toured each memorial. I can’t begin to imagine their thoughts or memories. I can only be grateful for their service and sacrifices.

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Mainelobsterroll_beerWe stopped at Luke’s Lobster in Penn Quarter for lunch where I enjoyed my first Maine lobsterroll and poppyseed coleslaw, along with my first Allagash craft beer from Maine. It was all delicious!

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I really enjoyed wandering Dupont Circle. I liked the small businesses, homes, ambiance of the neighborhoods. It was busy and hip, yet still resembled a quiet, historic neighborhood. We discovered two neat record stores, filled with albums that brought back many fond memories of listening to great music with my parents. We enjoyed drinks and deviled eggs on the outside back deck at Exiles Bar. They were smoking some great smelling meat. We unfortunately made a quick exit when a woman lit a cigarette near us and we realized the outdoor deck is also a smoking area (so glad that Michigan doesn’t allow smoking outside when food is also served).

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We took the Metro (underground subway system) back to Crystal City where OVAC lobby day was hosted at the Marriott. It was fun riding the Metro many times while in DC. It gets so busy at certain times of the day (especially work day mornings!). Michigan does not have good public transportation, certainly nothing like the Metro, and I wish we did. I finally felt like I was getting the Metro down by the time I had to head home….well, okay, I sort of felt like I was getting the Metro down! I might have gotten on one (or two) wrong trains had my friend not nicely asked where I was going (when everyone else was headed the other way). Well, I would have figured it out eventually. And if nothing else, there’s adventure in exploring the places you didn’t plan on visiting!

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We ended the trip with final drinks at Highline (above McCormick’s & Schmick), which has a great open bar with live acoustic music and plenty of space to relax and socialize. I can picture many fun happy hours occurring in this space.

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It was a great day of exploring new areas and stepping into the past for reminders of all we’ve been through as a country. And just like I’m confident in our ability to make great strides in our fight against cancer, I’m also confident in our ability as citizens to find our way back to a country of kindness, good leadership and smart decisions that help many, not just a special few.

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One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Advocating with one voice against cancer June 12, 2017

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Ready to make a difference!

I had an amazing experience last week. I had the privilege, honor and fun of representing LIVESTRONG at the One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) lobby day in Washington, DC. I joined more than 100+ advocates from 35 states to have over 160 meetings with our legislative officials to ensure fighting cancer is a priority for our government.

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One Voice Against Cancer is a collaboration of national non-profits delivering a unified message on the need for increased cancer-related appropriations. OVAC has made great strides in getting Congress to increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs. But of course, the work is far from done. Not when one out of four deaths in the U.S. will be caused by cancer. I’ve been fortunate to advocate with several organizations in DC in the past. Last year, I attended OVAC with LIVESTRONG, refreshing my energy and drive to make a difference (read about last year’s experience!). So I was very excited to be selected to attend again.

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I have always been interested in politics and love advocating on behalf of others affected by this disease. I wouldn’t say that I feel an obligation as a bone cancer survivor, yet I feel so grateful and blessed to be alive that it fills me with a deep satisfaction and I truly thrive in the environment. It’s so empowering and rewarding as a cancer survivor to work with other advocates, our elected officials and their staffs to make cancer research, prevention, programs and healthcare a priority. I have always believed that it take one person to make a positive change and I’m giddy when I think of the tremendous outcomes possible when all of us work together for positive change.

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Our asks to our legislators included (check out the full details):

  • Support $36.2 billion for the National Institutes of Health
  • Support $6 billion to the National Cancer Institute
  • Support $514 million for the Centers for Disease and Control cancer prevention programs

Two other women from Michigan attended OVAC so we teamed up to attend five meetings with our various senators and Congressmen. All our legislators agreed that funding for cancer research and prevention is critical and also agreed that any slowing or cutting of funds would mean death for too many people. We know this budget process is going to be….challenging, to say the least, so we, of course, will continue to follow with the offices to ensure our representatives stay committed to helping millions of people.

This trip was also a bit poignant for me….last Thursday was 20 years since I started

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Millions of reasons to advocate.

chemotherapy for bone cancer. I can vividly recall being at the hospital, port inserted in my chest and IV drip starting, waiting for the throwing up to begin and my hair to fall out (throwing up started four days later, my hair fell out six days later). To be in DC, almost exactly 20 years later, advocating for other cancer survivors and representing those no longer with us truly felt like a beautiful full circle.

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One of my favorite pieces of this experience is, of course, the people who also attend as staff and advocates. We all come with our individual stories, whether we’re cancer survivors, caregivers, family members, friends of someone facing the disease. Yet we immediately have this common bond of cancer touching our lives, bringing us together in the fight. Each person’s story weaves into my heart and stays with me as I walk into legislative meetings and after I return home. Many of these people have become good friends, creating those bonds you know will travel long into your life. In these people, I actually smile at cancer because through the tears, sadness, anxiety and stress that cancer causes, I think of these friends and feel joy and laughter. Cancer causes such chaos and the people I meet are the beauty, the anchors to the chaos.

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I was also honored to be asked to share my cancer story as our send-off speech. My cancer story can’t be shared without sharing my dad’s story, as our treatments and outcomes are forever intermingled. Both my dad and I are examples of the impact of cancer research and treatment. Not so many years before my diagnosis, amputation was a common treatment option. Thankfully, research, better treatment protocols and new technology led to advances in killing tumors and trying limb salvage so that my femur and part of my tibia were replaced with titanium rather than amputated.

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Sharing my family’s cancer stories

My dad wasn’t given a good prognosis when we received his multiple myeloma diagnosis. However, research and new treatment options kept us one step ahead of his cancer for six years, until there were no more new drugs to try. But I will forever be grateful for those six years with him, precious moments to create so many memories to hold in my heart and mind. I know that he is beside me every time I walk into an office to ask for support.

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These are a few reasons that I advocate for funding for cancer research and prevention. There are millions more…..more than 1.7 million Americans will hear “You have cancer” this year, and more than 15.5 million cancer survivors will learn to navigate their new normal. Families and friends will say good bye to an estimated 1,645 people a day. So, yes, my friends, there is a lot of motivation to get involved.

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Attending this year’s OVAC was another wonderful experience working to help others. I never tire of these experiences, for I am alive to celebrate another day. And I believe that each success we have ensures thousands of others will be alive to celebrate too.

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You can get involved helping others touched by cancer too. If you don’t want to attend meetings or go to DC, that’s ok. We need people to send emails, make phone calls, use social media and do many other things too. Check out LIVESTRONG’s advocacy efforts, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network also does a lot of work on state and federal issues.

 

 
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