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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.