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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thoughts from the Ride

Over a year and a half ago, I had just gotten home from a really nice walk with my girls (Hayley only a baby), when my sister Chantelle called to tell me that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer. I remember being really shocked. I had visited them in their Alice Springs home only the month before and at that time Daniel was at peek fitness, riding his bike to and from work everyday, as well as other exercise. I really didn’t know what to say in that moment.

After a much shorter period in Alice Springs than they had expected and hoped, Chantelle, Daniel, and their two beautiful daughters moved back to Adelaide so that they would have the family support they would need while Daniel went through chemo and surgeries to fight his cancer. Thankfully that battle was won and he is in remission, but it has been a long and hard journey for their whole family… and that’s only what I can observe as a third party – I can only imagine what it would be like to go through the initial uncertainty of what lay in store, then the reality of chemotherapy and other treatments, as well as other changes necessary in order for the spouse who had cancer to recover.

I want to say that Daniel has gotten through all this with grace and good humour and, although it was not lacking previously, my respect and admiration for him has grown as I have watched him over this time. This can be said for my beautiful sister also.

As you probably know, this weekend Adelaide hosted it’s first Ride to Conquer Cancer (benefiting the Flinders Medical Centre), and despite obvious difficulty Daniel decided to jump on board, and then formed a team as he was joined by my husband, Jonathan, and my Aunty Glenyse and Uncle Brian. I was proud of all of them for raising the money they did, and happy for my husband to do it, but I don’t think I realised the power of an event like this – to the community, and for its participants individually - until I was there watching it all take place. There are a few things I would like to say about it.

First of all, the power of community; perhaps some of the riders had the foresight that I lacked but I got to thinking while driving home after the conclusion of this race… and wondered whether the individuals who signed up thought it was a nice idea, and a challenge they’d like to take on, but that their fundraising contribution wouldn’t actually be that significant. Well that’s the power of community; over 400 people decided that finding a cure for cancer was worthwhile enough, important enough, or vital enough to ride 200km over two days; Many others agreed that the cause was great, and volunteered to help in other ways; People in organisations were willing to provide the food, water, overnight accommodation, etc. to make it happen; yet others contributed money to the cause; and because of this collective effort A MASSIVE $1.6 MILLION dollars was raised to aid cancer research. That is enormous, and if I recall correctly, the biggest fundraising campaign in South Australia EVER. As individuals we may not have a lot of power, but as a community we can make a LOT of difference.

I got to wishing that I could have volunteered in some capacity over the weekend, and then I thought – well, it did impact on me for one of those riders to participate, but I thought it was important enough to do what it took to let it happen anyway… being in a community means different things for each member of it. – As an aside, Jonathan tells me that the crew made the ride a great experience!

I have also had cause to reflect on what a wonderful family I have – immediate and extended. My Aunty and Uncle came all the way from Mt Beauty to participate, and brought road bikes as well as the expertise to ensure they were well maintained. I can’t say enough about the difference this made – it was the difference! My sister ran from checkpoint to checkpoint with her girls to cheer Daniel and the team on all day for two days. (Not literally. That would be crazy. She drove of course.) It has been one more way she has been a great wife to her husband in his journey.  Chany, today and throughout the time since Daniel was diagnosed, your inherit qualities of love and compassion have shined through – I have been told throughout my life that I am like you - and for that I can hold my head high! Daniel’s parents, my mum, my sister Kathryn and her family, my brother Adam and Teresa, and other Aunties and Uncles all joined the journey at some point or another over the course of the weekend. I was sitting at the finishing point for day one for a considerable amount of time yesterday, and there was definitely no individual or group that got a larger cheer than Mixed Nuts! The Howes also had my girls overnight Friday to make it easier for me to be at the start with Jonathan. I really love that I have family around me who strengthen, encourage, support and cheer each other on. That’s what families are for.

The last observation I have brings me back to where this post began. The Ride to Conquer Cancer was challenging for all of its participants, but none more so than the cancer survivors. I probably can’t do justice to what I want to say, but Daniel, you have inspired me in many ways. Thinking about what Daniel achieved today and everything that it took for you to get there, I say to myself, ‘If I have challenges, I can face them. If things are hard going, I can face it with positivity. If it feels to difficult, I won’t give up.’ You really are one of my heroes, and I’m proud to call you brother!

This year’s Ride is over, but there’s still time to donate. Over the past few decades cancer research has come so far, and those diagnosed have much better chance of survival – but there is still work to be done. If you are in a position to donate, please do... but if not keep an eye out for The Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014, and help anyway you can!