There were times when I didn’t know where I was. I was riding a bicycle up a hill unsure of where exactly we were. Was this Colorado, Utah, Nevada or California? If the hill was steep enough or the heat and sun so broiling brains were being poached I could forget who I was, but I never forgot what I was doing or why. I rode a bicycle across the country so Duke's Comprehensive Cancer Center and other great research institutions cure cancer in our lifetime. I have a personal stake in this race as we all do.
Strangers always save our lives. How do we thank people who work daily to save our life? Hi, my name is Martin and you saved my life....well, THANKS. Seems a tad small in comparison to gifts received. There are researchers, doctors and administrators at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center working to save my life (and yours) as I write this. Least I could do in return, my thinking went, was ride a bicycle, build a web site and share my journey and never ending gratitude.
Riding a bicycle across the country was easy compared to sacrifice and service people such as Dr. Kim Lyerly, head of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, Karen Cochran, head of Duke’s development of a new hospital (and her excellent team) and Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center board members (read my note A Room Full of Heroes
) make. Every day these friends and thousands of others dedicate themselves to saving our lives.
My bicycle journey lasted two months. Their service is a lifelong calling.
It is impossible to thank everyone striving to save me, you and your family. These angels are too numerous and noble. Their lives are beacons of hope, light we step into when needed. They have no expectations. They don’t expect or require our thanks or gratitude. They would do what they do even if our manners were so poor we took them for granted. I can’t take breathing or living for granted, none of us can (really) despite a dangerous tendency. I’m grateful and humbled by knowing people willing to do so much. I’ve finished a lifelong dream of riding a bicycle across the United States. My dream is static. It has a terminus.
Strangers working to save our lives work on an organic dream, one that changes moment-to-moment and day-by-day. There must be days when, like riding a steep hill, these health care heroes are not quite sure where they are. Their brain is poached by scientific rigors. They’ve seen cancer take one more good person. They feel defeated and frustrated. I know and have experienced this moment, this moment of self doubt and concern. I kept going because I knew I was not alone. I hope every cancer doctor, nurse, administrator, development person, orderly and researcher reading this note knows they are not alone. We "happy few" are with you in gratitude. We walk, ride and run together.
Shakespeare's Henry V says, "he who sheds blood with me this day is my brother." I have many brothers and sisters. Dennis Hopper was my brother. Roger Ebert is my brother. Jimmy V was my brother. Gloria Steinem and Nancy Regan are my sisters. Susan Komen was my sister. We bleed together and too often we die together. Our battle against cancer must and will be won.
We are winning. Some cancer survivors ride bicycles across a big beautiful country. Some cancer survivors write new symphonies, paint paintings, carve sculpture or are loving mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers and sisters. We lucky few stand on each other’s shoulders and say THANK YOU to every stranger / angel fighting for us. You give the most precious gift – time. We link arms in gratitude. We lift our voice in a chorus of appreciation. Together, we cure cancer in our lifetime
Thanks, Thanks, Thanks,
Martin W. Smith
Founder, Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer
August 25, 2010