Why I Ride for Huntsman

2010 was a year of cancer for me. My mom had fought cancer in 2006. She was treated at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Six months later she called me and said she was in remission.

Three years later I had just moved back to Utah when she called me and said the cancer was back. She had Hodgkins lymphoma, but she chose not to fight it. They gave her six months to live. Mom lasted 15. She was a tough lady. But as the cancer moved from her lymph nodes to her brain, her mental faculties began slipping. She forgot to pay bills. In August 2009 I started coming over to her home once a week, balancing her checkbook and paying her bills.

My Own Scare

In May 2010, I moved my mom to a nursing home because her needs were greater than my brother could handle. At 56 I moved her into a nursing home.

A few days later I went to an endocrinologist for my hypothyroidism. She did an ultrasound and found a suspicious lump in my thyroid. The doctor ordered a biopsy for two days later. Since I was already caring for someone with cancer, this was kind of scary. I rode my bike to the clinic and they stuck a long needle in my neck. Then they couldn’t get it to stop bleeding for several minutes.

Annie came and picked me up from the clinic, since the nurse didn’t want me riding my bike and possibly causing the neck to start bleeding again. The nurse said they would have the results for me in two or three days.

We got home forty minutes later and the answering machine was blinking. The message was from the clinic: “Hi, this is _________________, a nurse in Dr. ________________’s office. We have your results. Please call us as soon as you get this message.

Crap. Giving me results that quick. That can’t be good.

I called back, looking at the clock. It was ten minutes to five. I’d probably get her voicemail.

Nope. The nurse answered. She told me the biopsy tested positive for a follicular neoplasm.

“I’m sorry, what’s a follicular neoplasm?”

“Cancer.”

Oh.

The world lost all of its oxygen for a few minutes as she gave me the phone number of a surgeon they recommend do the surgery. I called that number and set up an appointment. Then I started researching. As a journalist it’s what I do. The first thing I found gave me hope and made me a little mad at the nurse. It said 95 percent of follicular neoplasms are benign, but there’s not a great way to know until the thyroid is removed and examined by a pathologist.

So. It was safe to breath again. Two weeks later half of my thyroid was removed. The pathologist said the tumor was benign. Whew.

Except I was the only one spared. Two weeks after my surgery, I held my mom’s hand as cancer took her out of this life. It wasn’t pretty. Her spirit fled her body, which could no longer keep her alive.

A Promise to Keep

During one of our visits before she died, I told Mom that I was going to participate in an event and raise money for cancer. Two years later, I decided to keep my word. I looked around and found an event, the Huntsman 140. It was a ride from Delta, UT to Salt Lake City. It was put on by the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where Mom had received treatment. I thought it was a good way to honor her. Also, in 2011, my grandfather had died of respiratory failure. Not cancer, but since he had only half a lung due to cancer, I say cancer killed him.

Me riding my bike in the Huntsman 140.
At the start of the Huntsman 140

I had ridden my bike before, but never for a huge distance like this. My bike was a 1985 steel-frame Fuji ten-speed with shifters on the drop tube. At the time, I knew nothing about endurance events, or planning for nutrition. I rode my bike everywhere that year, trying to build up the endurance to do the event. I ended up raising $1100.

During the ride, I wore one of Mom’s necklaces and carried my grandpa’s pocketknife. It was incredibly hard. Iwanted to give up at one point, but I kept going.

When I finally reached the finish line, I sat down and cried. I was exhausted. Annie was worried about me.

But I had kept my promise. I raised the money and completed the event.

More Losses

As hard as it was, I enjoyed the long hard ride. A year later, J.B. Liddle—my family doctor, my neighbor, and my friend—died from cancer. Shortly before he died, he told someone he was going to get better. Not only that, he was going to run a half marathon to raise money to fight the disease.

But he didn’t get the chance. J.B. was one of the best people I ever met. It felt unfair that such a kind man with so many plans for the future would lose his life. I decided that I would run the race for him.

Crossing the LOTOJA finish line in 2012.

Except I hate running. I spent two weeks training for JB’s half marathon before I decided to do something else. Instead, I signed up with Huntsman Hometown Heroes to do LOTOJA, a 206-mile bike ride. With the help of some fabulous writer friends we raised $4,300. JB’s name is on a brick at the Huntsman Institute.

I finished the 200 miles in 12 1/2 hours. I was sore, tired, and swore I would never ride that far again.

Making My Ride Count

I found riding my bike addictive. Long distances, mountains, and steep descents are enjoyable now. My carbon fiber bike weighs about half of what that old Fuji weighed. I know a LOT more about training, nutrition, and mental toughness.

I had a dream to ride Highway 89 from Canada to Mexico. But I wanted it to be about more than just me and my bike.

I have lost more friends and family members to cancer. So I contacted Huntsman and we’re working together one more time. It’s a crazy road so I thought I’d aim for a crazy amount. $10 per mile was a huge stretch. I don’t consider myself a salesman or a fundraiser, so this is way outside my comfort zone. But It’s still doable.

I like the Huntsman Cancer Institute because they serve people throughout the Intermountain West—where I live, and where this road is. It’s also supported by the Huntsman family, which means they pay the foundation’s overhead. Every penny I raise goes to cancer research, helping to find ways to beat this enemy that enters and leaves my life. Sometimes only scaring people I care about. Sometimes making them fight for their lives. And sometimes taking their lives.

That’s why I ride for Huntsman. I hope you’ll join my fight by donating.

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