Saturday, September 27, 2008

Here are the fundraising details

After months and months, weeks and weeks, days and days of thinking, I have finally come to the realization that it is time to stop thinking and get busy with actually writing this letter. I have a big project coming up and it is time to take it out of my head and put it onto this paper.

In May of this year I turned 54. I was born in 1954, which means that this is my Golden Year, the year when my age matches my birth year. This past May I gave myself a one week bike ride on the Outer Banks and celebrated that birthday riding, thinking, and wondering.

This year also marks my 20th anniversary of being an ovarian cancer survivor. Additionally it is my 29th anniversary as a uterine cancer survivor. I am grateful to be alive and grateful to be celebrating this Golden Year.

Finally, these times feel scary to me. My country is in flux. The economy is wobbly. The news is filled with things that frighten me. As I write, we have only weeks to go before election day. I feel the need to do something that will be positive, good, healing.

In honor and appreciation of these things I have decided to take it all outside myself and attempt a very large challenge. In March and April of 2009 I am going to ride my bicycle across the United States. And I am going to dedicate this ride to spreading the word about the importance of understanding the early detection signs for ovarian cancer. They are subtle, but they do exist and I, though I didn’t realize it at the time, am alive because I was lucky enough to have had some of those signs and, most importantly, to have paid attention to them. My cancers were caught very early, in Stage 1 in both cases. I am incredibly lucky, deeply thankful.

I will be teaming up with existing national cancer organizations whose goals are in line with mine: spreading the word about the early detection signs for ovarian cancer. I am also teaming up with Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), on whose board I serve, to help spread this word even farther. I am anticipating doing events in cities with WCR members as I make my way across the country, educating our members and other women about the early warning signs. I will also be present at some WCR dinners and fundraising events before and after my ride which will give me even more opportunities to get my message out. Finally, I am working with local organizations to get the word out in this community. I anticipate a number of speaking engagements, both before and following the ride. Education about the early warning signs will be my focus.

The details of the ride are this:

I will dip my rear tire in the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, California on March 4th and will ride until I can dip my front tire in the Atlantic, in St. Augustine, Florida on May 4th. The route will take me through Arizona and New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

In all I will ride over 3100 miles. I will ride for 50 out of 58 days. I will ride approximately 60 miles each day with one day off each week to rest, do laundry (!) and, I hope, connect with women and men along the way, sharing my message.

I will ride with others, a group of around 30 women. This is a supported ride: our luggage will be carried for us, we will stay in motels, and our breakfasts and dinners will be provided. If we can’t make it one day, a van will give us a lift. I hope to ride all of the miles. This is my intention. This is my goal.

The fundraising aspect of this ride is optional. It is safe to say that I will probably be the only one riding for ovarian cancer awareness as this disease continues to be under publicized and under funded. Most women miss the early warning signs and their illness is not discovered until it is very late in the game – frequently stage 3 or 4. Most women die of this disease, if it is discovered at all. I hope to change this. I hope to make a difference. I hope that this ride and this overt attention will help people, women AND men to pay attention to early warning signs. I hope to help educate people about early detection. Early detection can really make a huge difference, the difference, frankly, between living and dying.

The ride will cost me around $10,000.00 which will cover the ride fees, my airfare, transporting my bicycle, and my ancillary expenses. My commitment is to pay for the ride on my own from my savings and with some assistance from my sisters and one or two other key individuals. One sister has been taking me out to dinner already, supporting me by pumping me up and telling me she’s my biggest fan. This is her pledge. She is my self-proclaimed cheer leader. The other sister has pledged her support too. I am grateful for that, and am also committed to paying for most of the ride on my own.

I am also very intent on raising a significant amount of money for my cause. That, as you have no doubt guessed, is the reason for this letter to you. In years past, when I rode for AIDS Vaccine Research, I was able to raise over $50,000.00 in the three rides I did. To me that was a huge amount of money. I’d like to raise more than that this time. And I’d like you to help me.

I pledge to you that every single cent I raise from this fundraising will go directly to ovarian cancer education. The groups I am working with and for whom I am raising funds do a number of things: print pocket-sized cards, brochures, and other informational pieces which describe the early warning signs. I will be handing these out along my way. These groups also do advocacy work, conduct educational seminars, and provide support to women in early diagnosis and treatment. They are bringing ovarian cancer out into the public eye. I am working with the key people in these groups. I cannot say, at this moment, exactly who is going to get what. But I promise you that I will only contribute to organizations who are doing exactly the work I want to support.

I have worked out an arrangement with Jubilee! which is the spiritual community I belong to here in Asheville. They have agreed to accept all funds for me. Donations in support of me will get sent to Jubilee. At the end of the year, you will get a listing of your contribution, along with the ability to claim the donation on your taxes. Once I have collected all the funds, Jubilee will write donation checks directly to my chosen recipients. Again, just to be clear, this money will not go to me.

I would love to have your support on this ride.

Thank you so much in advance. This is a huge challenge for me: not only the ride, but leaving my work, my home, my dog and my cat. I have not been away for this length of time since I started my business 21 years ago, so this is a personal sabbatical of sorts - a time to reflect on these blessings I have. And a time to give back.

Thank you so very much for sticking with me. Thank you for considering joining me. Thank you for helping me make this positive contribution to life.

Thank you very, very much.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting closer

I have just sent out another letter to another person who, I hope, will be the one who will help me get connected to an organization that is working to educate women about the early warning signs of ovarian cancer. I'm not going to jinx myself here, but, if it works, I'll be able to "go public" soon!

I took my new shoes back to the bike shop and had them adjusted and am looking forward to riding with them. It took DAYS for my knees to stop hurting after their maiden voyage so I hope the adjustment works.

My back has been sore and that, too, has kept me off my bike. Sheesh!!! My pilates instructor says that it is a temporary setback. The lesson is - Don't sleep in hotel beds! GOSH - every time I do, I wake up with a terribly sore back. It hardly seems worth it. That's not true - but I DO wish that I could go away and not end up aching.

Hopefully it will be better soon.

I want to ride on Sunday and Monday. I need to stop hurting.

So there you have it.

September 25th. A sad day for me, as it is the day I will always remember as the marker of my failed relationship. Four years ago I was celebrating a union. Today I just remember how lovely that day and time was and wonder about how it turned and became a failure. I have learned a lot and will be much more careful in the future. For now, I concentrate on my bike ride.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Figuring it out

Charley Castex, the psychic fellow I consulted recently, urged me to think big when it came time to move on this bike ride project. I'm now in New Orleans at a conference of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and have been stepping out, talking about the ride, working on connecting women in food with this project of mine.

Yesterday during our Info Fair, our trade show, I tried on a chef coat from Chef Designs. It fit me PERFECTLY and the sponsor said they'd send one to me. I tiptoed out from my comfort zone and told them, quietly at first, about my ride project. I then blabbered on about how I'd like to do some events as I ride across the country, sharing the early warning signs for ovarian cancer, speaking with women in the food world and others. We'll have a day off a week and maybe I could hook up with a local woman-owned place to do an event. Well, these gals got VERY excited about it and chirped about how they'd like to help, which did catch me off guard. But as they talked, I got excited too, letting their enthusiasm wash over me.

Later, during our dinner, the time when we celebrate the women in our industry, I saw them again and they said they were REALLY excited about my ride and told me they really want to do more. So I'm not sure how that will all work, but it makes me think that staying small and keeping this to myself is not necessary, and that this ride could really be a big thing.

So shall it be.

Today is my last day here. I'll fly home tomorrow. Back to work, back to training, back to my life and to the letter and to the next phase of this thing.

Oh - it also looks like I am getting closer to making the connection to a funding recipient. Hope hope hope. And if I don't identify any specific group, I'm going to do my letter and start the fund raising anyway.

Here goes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New shoes

Funny how something minor like new shoes can cause consternation and disruption. I went to get a bad squeak checked and ended up not only getting that taken care of (it was an inner seal inside something or other) but checked on my cleats too and lo and behold, the suggestion was for me to get new shoes. Of course all this came from the bike store folks, but the shoes I have been wearing were given to me about 6 years ago, so I HAVE gotten my money's worth. The new shoes are different but I will get used to them. The great thing about them is that they don't clack when I walk (the others' cleat guards were worn down to their nubs, exposing the metal cleats and making a bad noise and causing me to slip around when I walked.) But the other, even better part, is that the new ones clip into my pedals very easily. With the other shoes, I was having to jam my feet in , hoping they'd catch. Lately it was taking four or five attempts to get the shoes seated in the pedals' cleats, and those attempts were often made while I was out on the road. Not good.

Today I rode a fairly easy 20 miles. Last weekend I rode 40 miles on Sunday and 40 on Monday. It still is amazing to think that soon I will be riding 60 miles every day. But, to be fair, that will be my only responsibility during that time. No work, no obligations other than to ride. That will be good. These days a ride is still a big event. And it is often only a part of my whole day. I try to convince myself that I will be fine during the actual ride, but aches rear their head and fear of failing takes its place. It's a hard one to squash. I'm being fairly public about this whole ride. I want to be successful on this ride and with this venture.

One more thing: I did get my vein checked out and it seems to be fine. It swells a bit sometimes and a tiny capillary pops but it does not hurt and my doctor is not concerned. So I am not either.
Good news for me.