Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another reason I am riding to fight cancer.

Despite my seemingly effortless prowess on two wheels, it was not always so. As many of you know, I came back to bicycle riding in my thirties, after I had my daughter. After spending an hour playing with her as an infant (or "infink", as Popeye would say), I realized that I was in terrible shape for a 70 year old - and I was only 34 at the time.

Casting around for a way to get in better shape, I landed on running at first, then moved right past it. To tell a personal secret, I don't even really like to walk, much less run.  Deciding that I should choose a form of exercise that I wouldn't necessarily hate, I ended up on cycling for a couple of reasons; it appealed to my mechanical self, and I thought it might be a nice way to get to know my brother in law Reed Hickok a little better. I started my cycling experience with an old gas-pipe ten speed that I bought off of craigslist (and still have in the attic) and I converted it from stem shifter ten speed to a bike with mustache bars and bar end shifters. Reed was impressed with my mechanical skill, and was amazed that I had done all of the work on the bike myself.

Looking at it now, not too bad. 
After I had ridden this bike for a while and felt like I wasn't going to make a fool of myself, I approached Reed in December of 2008, told him my plan, and asked him to ride the Waco Wild West Century with me in September of 2009. I rode and trained that year, and Reed rode - a lot more than I did. He called me one Saturday and told me that he had ridden a century that day - and that he hoped I was ready to ride in September. He rode the Triple Bypass that year, in fact, and had a pretty respectable time. However, toward the end of the season, Reed was in a peloton and crashed - pretty badly. It would be one thing if that crash had kept him off the bike for the rest of the season, but this was much worse; you see, Reed had a condition called "Gardener's Syndrome". He had a large tumor in his intestines, and somehow the crash either uncovered an infection in the tumor or caused one.

Now, I knew that Reed had been dealing with Gardener's for a while, in fact shortly after my wife and I were married, Reed had to go through chemotherapy to battle the tumors that came with his disease. Gardener's Syndrome comes with an increased risk of cancer, and Reed dealt with all of that with aplomb. Even when he was going through the roughest of treatments he was always gracious and poised, and it all seemed like an inconvenience to him more than anything else, and I always felt like he'd be ok, even after the crash. I knew that he was getting treatments, and I never believed that he would be anything other than fine, so I treated him as I always had, assuming that he would pull through this episode and be just fine.  

Reed's tumor killed him on April 1, 2010. 

Reed Hickok 1964-2010

Those numbers under the picture certainly don't tell Reed's story at all. Reed was Kansas City through and through, and whenever we went to visit him, we were guaranteed a great driving tour of the city, and probably  a meal in a restaurant that only the locals knew about - and I will promise you that whenever we went somewhere to eat, someone would come up to us and say hello. Reed was the kind of person that people wanted to know, and everyone would go out of their way to say hi if they saw him about. Whenever I was with him in KC, I felt like I was hanging out with a celebrity. Reed was very charitably involved, and was a big contributor to Ronald McDonald  house as well as several other charities and foundations. He was also active in the arts, and knew how important it is to support artists, and was in fact a member of an art investors group called "The Collector's Fund" that shared world class art among several private homes. Reed was also a great dad, friend, and family man, and the kind of human being that I will always aspire to be. I am barely touching on the surface of who Reed was, but he was really someone special. I always felt like a goon around him, because he had been such a good friend to my wife, and such a good husband to her sister. As the guy who was married to Reed's sister in law, I was held up to some pretty close scrutiny by the family, and he was a heckuva guy to live up to. My great tragedy? Once I decided that I was really the only one comparing myself to him and coming up short and decided to make an effort to become better friends with him, the time he had left was too short.

I still haven't ridden the Wild West, and I don't know when I will. I chose the Tour De BBQ this year mostly in memory of Reed. Kansas City really is Reed's town, and I would have loved to do this ride with him, because Reed knew good eats, and he really knew Kansas City. I'm very sad that he isn't here to do it with me, because even though he would have made me look slow, he would have made it a lot of fun, and given me a great personalized tour along the way. I'm riding the Tour De BBQ to spend some time with my brother in law, if only in spirit.

Reed's bike at his wake. 
So this post wasn't about some comedian that I enjoyed and that most of you haven't ever heard of; this post is about someone who meant a lot to my family - and to a lot of other people that you will never meet. I'm riding in order to try to prevent the world from losing more people like Reed. Me? I'm just some blogger who can't stick to theme in his blog. Reed? Reed was a guy who made a difference in lots of people's lives, many of whom he never met. And because of cancer, he can no longer make that difference, he had too many years  stolen from him - and from his wife and daughters.

I'll ask you again to DONATE to my fundraising drive today. I know that I'm just shooting to raise a few hundred dollars, but I have to start somewhere, and as you can see, I have reasons for wanting to raise this money. Maybe the ten dollars you donate is the straw that will break the cancer camel's back. 

Please, DONATE today.