To be honest, March was a month of Self-Doubt. I had 10001 excuses not to train for this 1700 mile, cross-country journey ahead, so I didn’t. Not really. No progression and loads of whining and questioning in my head….”Who do you think you are, really?? You are 50 years old and on a bike made for Real athletes, when you haven’t really ridden a bike since you were 12.”…..”Yay! You rode 35 miles in one day!(but on this trip you will be riding 70 per day for a month straight…what?!?!)….”God, I’m not sure You know what You were doing when You called me to this. “…. “That’s a hefty physical and financial goal You’ve placed on my heart—what if I CANT?”….”Maybe I’ve already done enough?”….”Maybe I’m not up to it, I’m pretty tired. This bed feels Great!”
It goes on. Until I was looking for my last video of Cory on my computer.
March, 4 years ago, was when I’d flown to California with Cory to store his things and bring him back home for treatment of his second cancer battle (Leukemia with a required Bone Marrow Transplant ) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. See, his first cancer was a pediatric cancer, Ewings Sarcoma, so he was treated at Children’s for that. And bless them, they continue to care for their patients no matter what age….so back to Children’s he went for treatment of Leukemia even though he was now 24. Turns out the Leukemia was caused by the chemo from his previous cancer, but that’s another story.
Anyway, because dates and times in grieving loved ones are triggers in our brains (sometimes without being aware), this March I was thinking fondly back to this video of him playing with his cats (a.k.a small tigers, leopards, and such—‘small’ being a relative term) that he worked with at a refuge in California. He walked right into the cage using a rope to gently lead the cat along the ledges, up, down and around….it was clear Cory and this wildcat had a bond. As I looked on from outside the cage, I was amused and in awe.
I came to the computer to look in the files for the video, so I could watch it directly instead of through the feed in my memory. I was seeking the experience of seeing him move and walk and smile on the screen…seeking the experience of seeing him Alive again,even momentarily… seeking to solidify the happiness I was feeling in remembering.
I couldn’t find it. My warm feelings were replaced with frustration and worry that the video was gone or lost. I immediately retreated into the mood I’d been in all month…more whining, complaining, and feeling sorry for myself thoughts. I started, frantic and frustrated, looking through each photo file. And up came a photo that riveted me and stopped my clicking immediately.
It was an “ID” photo of Cory, that hung on his hospital window with all of his stats and his DNR order taped to it. I haven’t seen this picture in over 3 years. He is unrecognizable compared to the image I had in my head of his lanky body and beautiful face waltzing around the cats cage only 5 months prior to this ID picture being taken.
I was frozen as I took in his very darkened skin covered with small and large patches of wounds and scabs. A completely black nose with dead tissue that would have to be replaced with a prosthetic nose were he to survive. Hairless, with glassy, bloodshot eyes…. and the sweetest smile. The sweetest, kindest, softest smile with eyes just as genial. He smiled for the camera like, well….as if his body wasn’t in the war torn state it was in. And then I remembered.
I remembered his will to live, his quiet fight, his gratitude. I remembered that he never complained and certainly never whined even in the midst of intense suffering like I’ve never witnessed before.
I got back on my bike the next day and rode 150 miles in 4 days. I remembered why I’m doing this….For the other children and mamas & dads. And when I start to feel whiny or doubt, I pull up the image seared in my head of Cory’s beautiful soul shining through the body that failed him….and I pedal faster.
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