The Ride - Troy Wellicome
Many of you won't have time to read this, which is a relief in one way because I typically don't feel comfortable sharing anything personal beyond my circle of family and close friends. But I've been told that it's good to step outside of one's comfort zone. We'll see.
Right now, I'm on holidays with my Mom & Dad, along with my brother and sister and their spouses, to celebrate my parents' 60th anniversary. Tonight all of us are gathered around a table for drinks, sharing old stories and laughs. After we polish off a couple rounds, a waitress comes to our table - unexpectedly - with a tray of spherical glasses filled with a glowing, lemony concoction. To me, each small globe on the tray looks like a tiny sun.
The waitress places one of the yellow drinks in front of my father, who just turned 86, and one in front of my mother, who turns 81 this summer. Though no one says it aloud, each of us wonders when it will no longer be possible for our family to gather as a whole. I catch a glimpse of a healed cut just below my Dad's temple, where a cancerous piece of skin was recently removed. The doctor's words had calmed my parents, "Nothing to worry about. Not a serious type of cancer. It'll be fine in no time." My mind turns to my wife's parents, who would have shared their 60th anniversary this year, but my mother-in-law, Joan, passed away December before last. It was a shock for my wife's family when they first learned that Joan had pancreatic cancer. Their doctor had no calming words to offer in Joan's case.
The waitress, Natalia, hands a yellow glass to my sister, Karen, who listens as my brother tells a running joke from our childhood. Seeing Karen smiling, I think of what she's been through - about what life's handed her. Twenty-three years ago, she first learned that her adopted daughter, Jemery, had a rare childhood cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. I try to imagine how all the hours, days, and months of worry and soothing, spent in various clinics and treatment centres, affects a person's pysche, and their spirit. Jemery succumbed to cancer when she was 12-years old. My own eldest daughter turns 14 this summer.
My mind jumps to Linnea, a friend still so very alive in my memory. Triple-negative breast cancer took her life last September, when she was 32-years old. I then think of two other friends, each with daughters the same age as mine. Both friends were diagnosed with cancer, though different types and in different years. Jeff, healthy and cancer-free for 12 years now, survives non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And Shawn, currently awaiting surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in his neck, as well as his thyroid gland. Visiting his GP a couple of months ago for an annual check-up, the last thing he expected to hear was the "c" word. Thankfully, he said, papillary thyroid cancer is a 'good' kind of cancer, with a 98% cure rate.
These are just a few of the people in my life that have been touched by cancer. Each of them have battled. I often think of them, but am now able to see and talk to only some of them. The scientist in me can't help but think that one important difference between the 'good' and 'bad' cancers - and who has survived them and who has not - might simply be the amount of research that has been completed on each type of cancer to-date.
My turn comes to receive one of the little, yellow glasses. When Natalia hands it to me, I am compelled to ask her the significance of the drinks, as none of us had ordered them. Her lips form a gentle smile, and she answers, in a thick accent, "This is special drink in my country. We drink it whenever my family used to get together. Please enjoy." As each of us holds a lemony orb up with our right hand, I ask Natalia if there is anything in particular her family would say before drinking it. She replies, "In my language, we have saying that means...mmm... something like... In good health."
And now, after sharing the personal story of cancer's course through my life thus far, I'll do another thing that makes me uncomfortable. I'll ask something of each of you. Promise me that you'll do at least one of the following:
(1) donate to help me raise funds for The Cancer Foundation,
(2) forward the link for my Ride To Conquer Cancer personal page to your own family and friends, and
(3) each time this summer that you see the yellow sun glowing up in the sky, say to yourself, In good health.
thank you so much,
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