My Booty started with a broken rear brake lever so my first stop in Bootyville after setting up camp was at the “Bike Medic” tent otherwise known as “Bicycle Sport.” My sweet bike couldn’t possibly have been in better hands, after all, that’s where I purchased her. Ilan said he needed a couple of hours, but that he could have it fixed for me before the ride started. And he did! Whew!
While my bike was being tended to, I took a stroll around Bootyville. The first thing that caught my eye was a tent set up for The Melting Pot. The Melting Pot is one of my favorite restaurants, so I was curious about what they would be serving. Nobody was at the tent yet, so my curiosity would have to wait.
Along the other side of Bootyville, I found a large Booty themed canvas on a table scattered with black Sharpies. I picked one up and adhered my thoughts to the material. So did others.
Directly next to that was another place to display your thoughts. Mine was pretty self explanatory.
Feeling empowered by my public declarations of hate, I snuck back to The Melting Pot tent. Damn, still nobody there. I began walking back to camp.
My jersey. It started with a silly idea I had one early morning in January. I was registering myself for the event when I started remembering the whole reason Booty means so much to me: my Grandma dying from ovarian cancer when I was 12. I started thinking about the last movie I saw with her, “An American Tail.” I found the theme song on Youtube that morning and I watched it with tears in my eyes.
I wanted to hear your stories. I wanted to be affected by you. I wanted to cry with you. And delight with you. And be angry along side you. I wanted to honor you and your losses and survivorships and fights. This would be the defining factor in this year’s Booty for me. But how could I factor that in to the bike ride?
There is a line in one of my favorite songs that says, “I want to tell the world I’ll give them all a piggyback and try to take away my negative effect.” The song is not necessarily about cancer, but it is about holding up the weight of someone who is sick. If you have watched a loved one fight cancer, I challenge you to listen to this song and not feel something.
And so the idea of the piggyback jersey was born. I asked everyone who would listen: My family. My friends. My Facebook friends. Forum members. My co-workers.
And you responded…in a big way. I received names week after week and day after day.
Your Granddad, Duke, died of brain cancer. Your mom, Lillian, died of ovarian cancer. Your Uncle Dale died of brain cancer. Your Aunt Bettina beat stage 3 lung cancer. You lost your Mom, Elizabeth last Christmas to colon cancer and you feel alone. You survived cervical cancer and found a surrogate to carry your biological child. Your cousin Melissa died of stage 1 cervical cancer. Your dad, Ron died of colon cancer after a 7 year battle.
You lost your sister, Lorraine, in April to breast cancer. Your sister in law, Missy, is fighting breast cancer. Your friends Jim and Clay were both recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and are undergoing surgery next week. Your dad, Arnold died of Lymphoma while your mom, June is currently fighting breast cancer. Your wife lost both her parents, Viv and Al, to cancer as well as your good friend, Ed. Jen has been fighting breast cancer for 3 years. Emily beat thyroid cancer when she was 19. Judy, Bob and Sarah all beat cancer!
Jody is currently fighting breast cancer and just finished her second dose of chemo. Your Mother in Law, Barbara, is a breast cancer survivor. Your grandma, Giggi, died of esophageal cancer. You’ve lost your mother in law, Ginger and grandmother, Betty. You lost your mom, Nancy when you were 1 year old. Your friend, Velinda, just celebrated 12 years cancer free! Your Uncle John has survived throat cancer twice. Your friend Heidi survived rectal cancer and is currently cancer free. And the list goes on and on.
YOU affected me profoundly this year before I even threw a leg over the top tube. Last year, I defined my own experience by riding 300 miles and breaking myself physically and emotionally. This year, you defined the experience for me. You gave me 84 names to give a piggyback to; to take along with me on this journey. And let me tell you, they all came willingly. I could feel them rustling in the wind behind me as I rode and so I thought about them constantly. And when I wasn’t riding, I displayed my jersey at camp for everyone to see.
I don’t know my final tally. My odometer crapped out Friday night after only 30 miles. I was so upset when I noticed. I wanted to be able to tell you all exactly how far I carried your loved ones. In the end, I spent about 12 hours on the bike. I estimate about 170 miles.
My head was dizzy and I was beat as I left Bootyville, but as soon as I got home, I was ready for more.
I‘m already thinking of next year; I hope you will all decide to be involved again. I hope that sharing your stories was as therapeutic for you as it was for me. I hope you realize although you have lost a lot to cancer you don’t have to lose yourself. I hope you never forget your loved ones. I hope that you feel ok with crying about your loss even if it’s been 23 years, like me. I hope you keep fighting and I hope you beat the shit out of cancer. I hope you never feel alone and I hope that someday, if you need it, there is someone there to give you a piggyback.
F*ck Cancer. Cancer sucks. Booty doesn’t. Thanks for playing and I’ll see you next year!