A Confession and Turning a Corner

Blog posts have been sporadic for 2-3 months.  I love writing in the blog.  I also hate it now.  It is a beautiful blessing to share my story, but most importantly to really reflect on and articulate what we are going through as a family.  But every blog post I write now is reminder the original plan was that I was supposed to be in remission right now and this was going to all be in the rear view mirror.  My story was different than God’s story and now it just about me developing more trust in His story.  I’m learning to surrender my story.

I have completed 9 weeks of chemo.  It was more challenging than I could have imagined.  Some days were absolute torture and other days were just fine.  Mostly I struggled emotionally to keep things together.  I’ve noticed things in my body that scare me.  I can’t bounce back like I used to.  Everything hurts most of the time.  I walk gingerly and like an old man, but for no reason I can tell.  I find myself curled up or hunched over for no reason.  I have felt closer to death than anytime since Jan 6th which was the day I was pretty sure I was going to die.

And in the same breath I can say that there have been times during the past two months that I’ve never felt more alive. I got involved in some disaster relief efforts for Puerto Rico which lit a fire in me that I was afraid may have been previously and permanently squashed by the disease.  For short stints I’ve been able to sprint hard on projects and feel so fulfilled and called to a cause.  It has been a beautiful thing.

The big SCAN NEWS came in two weeks ago.  9 weeks of chemo did exactly what it was supposed to do — made my tumors in the lungs smaller by an average of 25%.  That is a big deal.  Especially from where I’ve been.  It is the first scan I’ve had in a year that DID NOT show tumor progression.  This is the first time Dr. Chandramouli has called with good news.

I’ve mostly just tried to take it in stride and not get overly hyped up about it, but I think it’s okay to yell out a HECK YEAH! every once in a while.  I was able to take the last two weeks off from chemo and now I’m starting back up this Friday December 1st on 9 more weekly treatments.  It is a full repeat of what I went through already.  Makes me shake in my boots just thinking about it.  This treatment is in my head.

So while I’m going to enjoy my next 36 hours before this Friday’s poisoning, I’m ready for this next wave.  I’ve got a better sense of what it will be like and how I can manage the suffering.  More time in bed.  More anti-nausea and pain medication.  More time on my knees rekindling the desperate dependency on Christ that I felt more regularly during radiation.  More time with Camilla.  Less time with the five crazy kids that run around my house (just kidding, sort of).

Thank you for the faith and prayers and support.  This really has been a victory.  Our victory.

 

 

Aaron Evans hijacking the blog…

Thanks, Jarem for letting me hijack your blog for a single post.

 

If you are reading this post it is likely because you know Jarem or are battling cancer, know someone battling cancer, or are striving to stay positive in your own personal battles inherent to life. In the few years that I have known Jarem, I have been inspired by his exuberance and love of life, optimism, and care for others. When he was diagnosed with cancer, these attributes (among so many of his other positive attributes) were magnified as he chose to fight cancer. What has been amazing to see is that Jarem’s fight to beat cancer has not turned his focus on himself, but rather he has maintained an unrelenting focus on helping others face their individual challenges. His focus on individuals is what makes Jarem so special- he cares for individuals, he helps individuals, he uplifts individuals, he prays for individuals- it is this focus on individuals that allows Jarem to have such a significant impact on so many of us. He doesn’t try to do everything for everyone, but he does strive to do something for someone. To that end, I want to do something for someone. I want to help Jarem in some small way in his fight to beat cancer.

 

I was going to approach this “No shave November” with a goal of raising $500 for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation before shaving my admittedly ugly Fu Manchu that has been growing for 6 days now. However, I decided that such a goal was too low and that I want to challenge myself and each of you to get out of our comfort zones and try to do something a little more substantial for Jarem. To that end, I would like to raise at least $2,000 this November for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

 

There are several ways to donate.

  • You can Venmo me directly (@Aaron-Evans-2) and I will make one contribution at the end of the month, or
  • You can donate directly to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. If you donate directly to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, please make sure that we get the funds to the right place by filling out the form as noted below.

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Once you have donated, please add your donation to the following Google Doc so we can track our progress. If you wish to remain anonymous, write “anonymous” in the name field.

 

Additionally, please share this information with others and invite them to donate to this wonderful cause. I imagine there are many people like me wanting to do something, but just don’t know what to do. The Huntsman Cancer Foundation uses all donations for cancer research.

 

Together we can make a difference.

But If Not

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them…fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Daniel 3:14-18

I guess you know where this post is going with that intro.  The scan results came back and the cancer has progressed.  Immunotherapy (Keytruda) wasn’t successful.  I guess that is not a totally fair statement.  The specifics:

I had four small tumors in my neck and those were resolved as the radiologist eloquently reported.  Sweet.

The tumor in my tongue is less pronounced.  Awesome.

There is no evidence of disease in my pelvis.  Aight, aight.

Then the pathological prose —  multiple large cavitary masses in both lungs which are compatible with metastatic disease.  Wham-o.  Also, [insert favorite expletive here].

But here is the deal.  I feel better than I have all year.  I have no symptoms.  I have energy.  I am sleeping well.  My feet don’t hurt as much as they used to.  My saliva is coming back.  But I’m not getting better.  I have 5 squamous cell tumors in my lungs that are each around the size of a quarter.  I don’t get it.

I found answers and inspiration in a great sermon by Martin Luther King that I will share at the end of the post, but first some logistics.

Back on the chemo train

(feel free to skip this part, it’s really just for the medical geeks and my mom)

I’m switching off of immunotherapy and onto a chemo regiment that will start this Thursday September 14th.  The regiment will contain 6 cycles and each cycle is 3 weeks long (18 weeks total).  A cycle is like this:

  • Day 1 – IV infusion of carboplatin, 5FU, and erbitux for several hours.  I leave the infusion center with a backpack pump that stays connected to me for the next four days and drips in the remaining dosage over 96 hours.
  • Day 4 – I return to the infusion center to have the pump removed
  • Day 8 – IV infusion of erbitux for a couple of hours
  • Day 15 – IV infusion of erbitux for a couple hours

The plan is for me to do this three times in 9 weeks and then do another scan to see what the lungs look like.  Assuming we’ve made a dent in the tumor growth we’ll keep on this path for another 9 weeks.

In all honesty, while chemo is the pits, I’m really not dreading it that much.  I just need it to work.  I don’t care about all the side effects.  We can get through those.  I just need a serious cancer-cell-killing-chemo-cocktail.

 

Striving for “Though” faith

Camilla and I are doing fine.  We really are.  We probably wouldn’t tell you if we weren’t, but we are actually doing fine.  We’ve already been through this mental, emotional, and spiritual blood bath enough times that we really just took the news in stride.  When we got the news last Friday night I pouted for a couple of hours while she wrangled the kids.  And then we went to Culvers.  And then we proceeded to have an epic Labor Day Weekend with the kids.  This is just another step in the process.  We are taking each day as it comes.  Each is a gift and joy can be found within it.

I’ve always joked with Camilla that I might join a Baptist church as a part-time member in addition to my membership in the LDS church.  I just love hearing the Good Word preached with emotion and passion and even flair.  If they ever let me teach early morning seminary, watch out!

You have probably already read or listened to Dr. Martin Luther King’s impassioned sermon called “But If Not”.  It is worth spending another 23 minutes to re-listen to or read.  Daniel 3 is the text for the sermon and faith is the topic.  Many similar sermons have been given from this text and on this topic, and I just love listening to Dr. King preach it.

Everything in my life pre-cancer has always worked out.  Life wasn’t easy but everything seemed to resolve eventually into the best possible outcome.  It was easy to have faith in God and His plan for me because it always seemed to be exactly what I would have chosen for myself.  While I never verbalized it this way, in retrospect I can see that Dr. King could have been categorizing my relatively untested faith when he described the “If” faith.

If all goes well; if life is hopeful, prosperous and happy; if I don’t have to go to jail; if I don’t have to face the agonies and burdens of life; if I’m not ever called bad names because of taking a stand that I feel that I must take; if none of these things happen, then I’ll have faith in God, then I’ll be alright.

But it is the “Though” faith that I want to get to, the level of faith I believe the Savior deserves from me for saving me through His grace.

And the ‘though’ faith says “Though things go wrong; though evil is temporarily triumphant; though sickness comes and the cross looms, neverthless! I’m gonna believe anyway and I’m gonna have faith anyway; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the LORD of hosts is with us;  Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. My faith is a ‘though’ faith.” And this is the essence of life and religion.

Right now, more than ever before, I know that this whole mess can be resolved.  I know that God can heal me and that the treatment plans can work and that I can live a long and wonderful life with my wife and kids.  I know that.

But if not.

Yet will I trust Him.  Yet will I worship Him.  Yet will I love Him.

Hope and Elephant Cookies

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#hopefightschildhoodcancer is a wonderful fundraising and awareness campaign that Kneaders is putting on for the month of September.  It is inspiring and specific, which are my favorite types of initiatives to be a part of.

Here’s the deal:

  • Like all of us, the Worthington family (founders of Kneaders) has been impacted by cancer when several years ago they had a grandson diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma (which coincidentally is one of the two cancers I’m fighting right now).
  • There is some breakthrough research happening right now at the Huntsman Cancer Institute with Dr. Joshua Shiffman and the study of elephant proteins being effective at killing human cancer cells.
    • It is fascinating stuff.  I toured Dr. Shiffman’s lab at Huntsman this week and listened to him present some of his findings.  Hearing his enthusiasm and optimism for what they were finding was so energizing!
  • Kneaders has a goal to raise $300k to help move Dr. Shiffman’s research through the process of “laboratory bench to clinical bedside”, a process that usually takes several years and millions of dollars.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Eat cookies.  Kneaders will be selling elephant sugar cookies and other elephant paraphernalia throughout the month of September and all proceeds will go toward the fundraising goal.  Go to your local Kneaders and pick up a few dozen cookies and share with your friends.
  • Contribute online or at a Kneaders store.  Obviously this isn’t as much fun as eating cookies, but it saves your waistline and some of you think that eating cookies is what gave me cancer in the first place so this is a way for you to get involved and keep your conscious clear.  You can make a contribution here starting September 1.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about HOPE recently.  You’ll remember from some of my initial blog posts that the formula we are trying to prove out is

HOPE + PATIENCE > CANCER

My mom even had some shirts made up for our family because, well, when you don’t know if something is true but you really hope it is true you just make it into a shirt and then it starts to feel more real.

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Looking at the shirt makes my mind jump to the conclusion that what we are saying is that HOPE can BEAT CANCER.  But it has been insightful for me to read the formula as it is written, that is, hope and patience are GREATER THAN cancer.  I don’t know if hope will beat cancer in my case, although I still hope it does.  Cancer is most likely going to be the cause of my death at some point (unless I die from overeating at my Fantasy Football Draft this weekend).  But, the ever-wise Camilla has often reminded me that

hope is GREATER THAN cancer because it contains a power to continue to feel joy and enjoy life in the face of uncertainty.

So then HOPE IS POWER.  Not necessarily power to change the challenge we are facing or the outcome it will inflict, but power to change our mindset.  That certainly sounds a lot greater than the uncontrolled dividing of cells.

“Happy is he…whose hope is in the Lord his God”  Psalms 146:5

Now go buy lots of elephant cookies.

August Health Update

I’m still here, alive and kicking!  I’m actually doing better than that and probably better than I should be.  I’ve continued my immunotherapy (Keytruda) treatments through the summer on an every three week cycle and have my sixth infusion next week.  After that infusion I’ll get a full body CT scan to determine the effectiveness of the treatment and should be getting those results back around September 12th.  If the scans show that the cancer isn’t growing and its either staying the same size or shrinking I will stay on the Keytruda path.  If we see any new cancer growth that would suggest Keytruda isn’t working we’ll look at other treatment options that might include trying some different chemotherapy agents (barf, figuratively and literally).

For the most part I feel good — really good compared to how I’ve felt at other times this year.  I don’t feel any cancer symptoms.  Any discomfort I have are the side effects of previous treatment — jaw pain from surgery, dry mouth from radiation, and no feeling in my feet from chemotherapy.  I’m skinnier than I want to be at 155 pounds (compared to the 185 pounds I was at the end of last year).  But the only practical complaint on that is that I had to buy a bunch of new clothes.  Inject my body with poison and I stay pretty positive.  Drag me to the mall to spend a bunch of money on clothes and I lose my freaking mind.  Kudos to Camilla for dealing with my orneriness.

The build up to this September scan should feel pretty significant, but for whatever reason it hasn’t so far.  I’m trying to not place too much emphasis on it in my mind even though in truth it is a pretty big deal.  If the cancer has spread, it’s not over and I’ve got other paths to pursue.  If the cancer has not spread, that is great news but it doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods.  This is just another of the many milestones on what will be a lifelong fight with The Monster.

My oncology team has been clear with me that the goal of Keytruda isn’t to cure my cancer.  They gave me the unenviable label of “incurable” back in May and Keytruda has no clinical evidence yet of fully curing people in my state.  Rather, the goal of Keytruda is to give me as long as possible (hopefully several years!) with no cancer spread.  By the time the Keytruda loses its effectiveness our hope is that new treatments will have been discovered and approved.  But Keytruda treatment for squamous cell is so new and the treated patient base is still so small that it feels like the unexpected could still happen.  Maybe I’ll be the one that has a miraculous response.  You just never know.

What I do know is that Keytruda is an easy drug on my system.  I’ve experienced essentially no side effects whatsoever.  Where radiation and chemo jacked (and are still jacking) me up, Keytruda has been such a non-issue that I hopped on a plane for a work trip a few hours after my last infusion.

Here are a few pictures from the amazing summer we’ve had as a family.  I can’t think of 3 month period of time when we’ve had more fun as a family or as a married couple.

 

The annual Millers / Hallows Newport Beach trip with a picture on the bench outside of Dad’s Banana Stand in Balboa with all of the knuckleheads.

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Carlsbad / Encinitas with Spencer and Aly.  Disclaimer:  sand crabs were harmed in the making of this memory.

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One of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is go up American Fork canyon which is just 15 minutes from our home and roast marshmallows.

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Team Jarem at the Huntsman 140 fundraiser was an unforgettable experience.

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Huntsman 140 Team Jarem 2017 (38 of 91)

Devin (Camilla’s brother) and Brittney were married and all 14 Dickson grandchildren were there to see it.

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Camilla and I spent a weekend in Chicago with some friends to support her favorite baseball team.IMG_7612

I love my job at TruHearing and the great people I get to work with.  My team members live across the country and we all get together in person about twice a year.  Here we are doing the zip line tour in Sundance.

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Roman (aka “Chancho”, aka “Humpty”, aka “Bubs”) has made every day a mixture of laugh-out-loud moments and cleaning up some disaster that he created if you take your eyes off of him for 30 seconds.  He was born two weeks before my initial diagnosis in 2015 and has been a light and source of happiness for our whole family.  He turns two next month and can be heard quoting parts of Nacho Libre throughout the day (“I need to borrow some sweats!”).

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My dad and brother and I spent a weekend in Chicago together.  It was the first time we have ever done a trip with just the three of us, and it won’t be the last.  I out ate both of these dudes!IMG_7680

More time up in the mountains with friends.  I’m not sure you can beat a Utah summer!IMG_7697

Many nights after dinner we just enjoy time outside and watch the kids jump on the trampoline or ride scooters around the park.  I’ve missed way too many family dinners and nights like this in the past because I stayed too late at the office.  It used to give me anxiety to think about having to wrap up my work by 5 or 6 so that I could be home, and even when I was home I was thinking about work.  Making that switch in my mind and being both home and present each night has made a world of difference.IMG_7701

When “Choosing Joy” Doesn’t Feel Like an Option

Weird

I’m kind of in this weird stage right now.

I feel mostly normal.  I feel good.  Sure my voice has changed a little, my smile is lop-sided, I have a heck of a time saying words like “thirty-three”, and I take a sip of water about every 15 minutes.

But overall, and certainly relative to times early this year, I feel great.  If I bump into someone that is seeing me for the first time since March or April, they usually do a double-take.  Shoot, I even took my shirt off at the pool a couple of times this weekend to flash my 157 pounds of white flesh.

But while feeling good, well, feels really good, I’m constantly wondering what is going on inside of me and if I’m actually getting better.  I have my next immuno-therapy infusion on July 11th and then another on August 1st.  Sometime after that I’ll have a CT / PET scan and we’ll find out how my body has responded to the Keytruda (and the gallons of carrot juice I’ve been drinking).  So I guess we’ll know more then.

Being a patient patient can be a struggle sometimes.

Blog

I like writing “in the blog”.  But mostly, I have loved the thinking and introspection that always precedes the writing.  Initially, and naively, I thought by about this time of the year the blog would be winding down, I’d be in remission, and we’d all move on from this experience better people, but we’d most certainly move on.  The way I look at things now is pretty different.

This is going to be a long twelve round boxing match, and it might even be like a best of seven series of twelve round boxing matches.  It is always going to be there and we’ll always be fighting it in some capacity (physically, mentally, so forth).  Boxing is the worst, amirite?

So what does that mean for the blog?

I don’t know.

I intend to keep updating when there are major health-related milestones since that was the initial purpose.  But during this period of time when those types of updates are only occurring every few months, I might slip in a few entries on some retrospective thoughts from this experience.

Choosing Joy

My wife has a motto that she’s lived by for years and clung to for the past six months — Choose Joy.  It is a great concept and a great motto and probably something that most of us could do more of most of the time.  There really is a lot of good in life and we would do well to accentuate the positive and choose joy.  But that isn’t always the case.  Some of us might feel like joy is elusive some of the time.  Or all of the time.  Or at least right now.

Over dinner this weekend my wife and I were talking about some of the really tough challenges that several people we know and love are currently facing.  Just to name a few…chronic and debilitating health conditions, unrelenting depression and anxiety, a suicidal teenage child, an unfaithful spouse, and the list goes on.

She made a profound comment that I had to share.  I’m paraphrasing below:

I think there are some situations where you really can’t choose joy.  You are paralyzed by the challenge and choosing anything, let alone joy, doesn’t seem possible.  You have to get help that comes from outside of your own agency.  Maybe it is a friend or a family member or a doctor or even a medicine, but something has to help you get back to a place where you are again free to choose.

There’s a lot there to think about.

While our conversation over Chick-fil-A was focused on some of the challenges our friends are going through, I thought back to so many family members, friends, doctors, and even medicines that have helped me get back to the place where I could choose joy.

It was a great reminder that we don’t do anything hard in life entirely alone.  During the worst times of treatment, I probably fooled myself into thinking I was being pretty awesome by putting on a positive face (which is not the same as choosing joy).  I’m kind of dumb like that.  The list of who and what it took to get me to a place where joy was even a choice is a lengthy list, no doubt.

And for that, I am grateful.

 

 Drafting

Yesterday was the Huntsman Heroes 140 and 5k, a cycling event and fun run to raise money for cancer research and celebrate our local cancer community.  I’ll try to put into words what the experience was like, and I will fail miserably to do it justice.  But first a quick health update.

Health Update

I’m scheduled for my third infusion of Keytruda on Tuesday.  To date, the side effects have been minimal.  It is a 30-45 minute infusion through my port and then the nurse puts a superhero band-aid on me and sends me on my way.  I’ve felt well for most of the past month — good energy, able to eat lots of food, working, corralling kids, golfing.  It has been great.  Three more Keytruda treatments and then another CT scan in August to tell us if it is working.

I’m dealing with a few lingering issues from previous treatments, but given where I’ve been, I can’t complain.  I’ve started to have a little bit of neuropathy, which is numbness of the toes and bottom of my feet.  There is still some pain in the right side of my jaw and up the right side of my face.  I don’t have any saliva so the constant dry mouth makes it difficult to sleep more than a few hours at a time and I carry a water bottle with me at all times during the day.  They should nickname me the waterboy.  That is some high quality H20.

DRAFTING

Yesterday “Team Jarem” participated in the Huntsman Heroes and the experience was incredibly special for me.  Our team consisted of about 60 cyclists, 35 runners, and 20 event volunteers plus lots of other onlookers and supporters.  A friend from work put everything together for our team and got tons of support from our company (TruHearing) and lots of other individuals.  There are 100 reasons why this experience was so touching for me but the biggest one was because a concept in cycling perfectly depicts how a support system actually helps someone fighting cancer.

Throughout my battle with cancer I’ve had lots of people say something like “I’m praying for you and thinking about you, but I just wish there was something more I could do.”  There seems to be this underlying feeling that if they aren’t bringing my family a lasagna they aren’t making a real difference.  And nothing could be further from the truth.

In cycling, DRAFTING is when a rider tucks in close behind another rider or pack of riders.  In doing so you expend 20-40% less energy because of the reduced wind resistance and some other benefits from laws of aerodynamics.  Other benefits of drafting include when a rider has a flat or needs water or food he has people that can help him during a long ride.

So my response to those amazing supporters wishing they could do more has always been something like “Just knowing that you are in my corner and on my team helps me” — and that is because of the concept of DRAFTING.  I still have to get up everyday, jump on the bike, and pedal my guts out.  You can’t do that for me.  But when I know you are riding with me I can tuck in close and push forward while expending less energy.  Those tough headwinds don’t impact me as much.

Highlights from the Huntsman

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My brother-in-law got married yesterday at 3 p.m.  This is a picture of him at the finish line after riding 30 miles.  At 10:30 a.m.  On his wedding day.  Seriously.  He told me later that night after his wedding reception that he considered it a privilege to ride for me.  I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.

Everything looks good on Camilla, but take a closer look at these amazing Team Jarem shirts designed by members the TruHearing Marketing Team.  The sleeves say “Fly the W” and you all know what that means by now.  The use of the yellow road lines to make a T and J are clever and cool looking on the front, but look at the back of the shirt.  It is a mountain made out of individual lines.  Lines on a cycling jersey typically represent “wins” the team has had in previous events.    There are 33 small horizontal lines to represent the radiation treatments I went through.  There are 6 thicker lines to represent the chemotherapy treatments.  And there are two really thick lines that make the peak of the mountain to represent the two mouth operations in 2015 and 2017.  All are considered victories we have had as a team.  Are you tearing up yet?  I am.

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When what you are fighting for is to be able to have more time with family like this, motivation is ever present.  I didn’t get a picture of everyone from my and Camilla’s family, but I’ve been drafting behind all of them through this experience.  One of Camilla’s cousins that hasn’t biked before trained all spring and did 75 miles!  Another that lives in New York ran in a half marathon in her town since she wasn’t in Utah.  I had one uncle ride 75 miles and another 140 miles.  My parents sold bbq sandwiches several months ago to raise funds for the event.  My brother didn’t train at all and hopped on a bike and busted out 30 miles.  The list goes on.  Grab me a box of tissues.

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30 to 40 coworkers from TruHearing rode 30 miles, very few of whom had ever ridden a road bike prior to joining Team Jarem.  I had several other friends and previous coworkers join the team and ride various distances, one that I hadn’t seen in 10 years even drove down from Idaho for the weekend.

And then there are the crazy ones.  There was a group did the full 140 mile trek, much of which had a gnarly headwind.  These guys were on a bike for 10 hours.  They told me that when they had a tough stretch someone would say “This is for Jarem.”

I could tell from everyone’s faces as they crossed the finish line that while they had suffered through it, they were all elated to finish and to have accomplished such a great feat.  One coworker was joined by her dad for the 30 miler.  I had never met him before this weekend.  He labored through with a bad knee and finished an hour or so after some of the slower riders in the pack.  When he crossed the finish line we embraced and he said “We are with you.”

I’m drafting as I talked with everyone about their experiences.  No headwind for me.  Actually, I think I’m feeling a tailwind now.  More tissues please.

For those of you that know me well, it isn’t uncommon to see me tear up.  I used to find it embarrassing but I’ve never been able to control it so I’ve learned to just accept it as how I am.  And while I’ve teared up many times since my diagnosis in December, I’ve never really had an ugly cry — you know like the face contorting, snot flowing, body shaking, uncontrollable cry.  But yesterday afternoon as I drove home in my car alone and tried to take everything in that I had just experienced, I wept.  It was a full on ugly cry.  I just lost it.

So for those of you reading this who participated in the event this weekend you know that what I said in the first paragraph proved true — my attempt to describe the experience doesn’t do it justice.  And for those of you that are reliant on my account of how it went, come join us next year.  Team Jarem will be back at it.

I’m grateful that I can tuck in close behind so many wonderful family members and friends as I pedal through this and other tough experiences in my life.  The benefits of drafting are real, and turns out they are critical to making it through.  Grateful.