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Monday, September 21, 2009

Two cancer journeys, only one way through.

Yesterday Brad and I got to go for a great ride. He planned the whole 40 mile trip which took us down to the tip of Park Point, back along the shore of Lake Superior, and up a hill that loomed large in my psyche. We had ridden up it about a month ago.


It is a very steep, long hill. I am still stinging with the knowledge that the last time I tried to make it up, I gave up. I let my mind overpower me, and I simply gave up. I am usually not a quitter, but it was clear that I had made the decision from the start that I was not going to make it up the hill. I quit way sooner than I needed to, and Brad rode past, making it all the way to the top. I did a walk of shame up the hill which had no shoulder, bad footing, rocks and chunks of asphalt, garbage, etc. as cars whipped by me at 40 mph. Honestly, it wasn't all that much easier to walk the hill. By the time I reached Brad (who had kindly pulled over to wait) my calves were screaming from trudging up in my bike shoes. I felt so darned defeated. To his credit, Brad didn't say anything. He knew my pride was hurt; not because he had made it, but because I had done the one thing I hate: quit.


So yesterday he informed me that we would be taking that hill on our way home. I was nervous all the way, wondering how I would fare. But to my surprise, it was a completely different experience. My heavier training schedule, coupled with our friend Mike's "Confidence Building 70 mile Killer Ride" from a couple weeks ago had worked wonders. I breezed up that baby. I was even ahead of Brad. I felt so good, in fact, that I suggested adding on to the ride. It really is amazing how much attitude can effect the outcome of certain situations.


Yesterday took me up another kind of hill. Julie called me in the morning to tell me it was time to do something about her hair. The chemo had finally kicked in and it was coming out fast and furious. I had agreed to cut it for her. I was dreading seeing her beautiful naturally curly mane fall away; I knew it would be hard for her, but it was going to be hard for me too. Baldness makes it really hard to ignore the fact that your friend is fighting cancer. Again. So, this wasn't really my hill alone, but it was a hill: and an even bigger one than the one I conquered on my bike.

I got to her house and Sara, her neighbor and friend, had brought over a beer for each of us (perfect!). Plus, our friend Kim was put to the task of photographing the process. Julie had decided this was not something to be sad about. It was something to try to have some fun with. So, that's what we did. I started out by giving her a cute little wedge cut in the back. Then she ended up with a long, curly mohawk which we all agreed looked fantastic! I thought Sara would explode with distress over the short mohawk and lone lock of long, curly hair we left on top. It really got weird when her whole head was shaved and only that long piece was left. She looked like a seriously twisted Kewpie Doll. Finally, the last cut was made, and she was bald. Smiling, laughing, the same Julie as always, just a little lighter on top. Truthfully, she was absolutely radiant. We all put on some lipstick and gave her a kiss on the head.


I realized that the experience of cutting off her hair was the exact same as riding the bike up that hill. It was all mental. Cutting off her hair was a threatening hill to climb when we first thought about it, but once we were over the hump, we were all relieved and happy, especially Julie. I can't imagine a better example of attitude effecting the outcome of a given situation.


Here are a few photos of the transition:




While I get to ride my bike, Julie has to sit for countless hours of drugs being pumped into her veins. Drugs that do NOT make you feel good. But drugs that are clearly doing the job. And both Julie and I know what we need to do: keep our head down, with our eyes fixed on the horizon, our mind focused on the long term gains and not the short term discomfort, holding tightly to only those things that we really need to get us through, and casting away the baggage. We're both going to make it. Neither of us are quitters. I know this to be true. I love you, Julie, my friend. Pass the beer, and I'll laugh with you all the way through to the downhill side.

1 comment:

  1. Alane I love reading your blog- you are going to be so awesome on this ride, I'm excited to see you next week and so glad we got to meet!
    ps. I can relate to letting the house go, I swear there a million "to-do's" I'm putting off until mid-October:)

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