My name is Ryan Hart and I am 33 years old. I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in August of 2008 at the age of 25. It has been nearly eight years since that time, and though many of those years of treatment were depressed and dark, these days I find myself more open to the light and beautiful than I ever was before. Cancer and proximity to death have changed the very fabric of who I am, and I am currently in the process of learning about this new person I have become and his place in the world.

In 2013, I volunteered at the Tour des Chutes with a group of teens from the Boys & Girls Club where I was the Teen Director. A few years earlier, I had acquired an old Schwinn road bike that became my primary source of transportation. Growing up in Central Oregon, I had never thought much of road biking, but I fell in love with the speed and the constant dance with other vehicles. Biking became a part of my therapy, providing a place to work out my energy, to feel strength and courage, and to remind myself of the beauty and health of the world around me while surrounded by so much suffering and pain. Watching the bikers come across the finish line, especially seeing the cancer survivors cross the line and receive their roses, was deeply moving and inspiring to me and awoke in me a hunger to compete myself.

Since that day in 2013, I have lost friends and compatriots to cancer, loved ones to other diseases, and have faced many of the great challenges of my first 33 years of existence. In the last year, my life has changed. Gone is the isolation and illness that defined me for so much of my journey through cancer, and in its place is a new family I could never have wished or hoped for that has reminded me how wonderful it is to be alive and how tenuous that hold can be. Although 2014 and 2015 brought with them new medications that kept me from competing in those years, my hunger has not subsided and I plan on signing up for the 25 mile race this year with an eye to the longer races in years to come.

I had occasion to ask a young gentleman fresh off of a 100 mile bike race if he felt a sense of accomplishment or empowerment from the race he had just completed. “I’m just glad I don’t have to pedal anymore” he replied. I doubt he knew the impact of that statement but it has come to be a guiding principle in my life, reminding me that the accomplishing of our goals for health, for self, for well-being don’t come with fanfare or parades at the end but with sore legs and aching lungs and exhaustion as we stumble across our respective finish lines. In those moments, it is our faith, in gods or philosophy or ourselves, that provide the courage and energy needed to carry on.

In many ways, the Tour des Chutes is a sign that my own pedaling is coming to an end. Cancer is in full retreat and I am stronger every day. I am close to finishing my master’s degree in Behavioral Psychology which I intend to put to use helping other chronically ill patients improve their quality of life and gain mastery over their illness. For the better part of the last decade, I have struggled with depression and despair and pain, as do most cancer patients, often seeing no end in sight. I’m not sure exactly what it is that kept me alive while so many I knew succumbed to their illness, but I feel a great sense of purpose and joy in my life and plan on living well both for my fallen friends and for myself. My education combined with my personal experience puts me in a good position to do just that.

I recently bought a new road bike from Sunnyside Sports, completely ignorant of the fact that Mr. Bonacker was a partial owner. My journey has come back around, full circle, as journeys are wont to do, and I can feel this detour into cancer coming to an end, the larger highways of life again coming into opening before me. Finishing the Tour des Chutes will be the achievement of goals a long time coming, as well as a symbol of the resilience of humanity in the face of grave illness and distress. I think we lionize survivors sometimes, looking only at the gritty endurance and quiet heroism so many of us embody, and not enough at the dark and ugly days of suffering that our resilience is built on. As I ride this summer, I will think of the people I’ve lost, of the hard lessons I’ve had to learn, and of the fact that, no matter how tired I am, I’m damned lucky to be able to pedal at all.

dude!

ME

Tour des Chutes board member and brain tumor survivor, Dillon Caldwell, shared this heartfelt anniversary remembrance with us and we felt the need to pass it on.

A very important anniversary of mine passed last week in quiet. It’s hard to imagine how quickly and how far my life has rebounded in the past two years. In fact, it feels like a distant dream at this point. So usually I just keep my eyes ahead and more or less ignore my past. But how are we to change this broken world, when we so easily forget those things that change our own lives for the better? I can’t just ignore mine.

So to answer this question, I sat down with my good friend Gary Bonacker yesterday to discuss our changing lives and where certain events have left us today. We joked about how his outstanding successes with medical marijuana treatment have turned him into a real-life Benjamin Button. We made plans to ski together next week — something neither of us would have expected to be possible when we met, the both of us in far less fortunate health at the time. And we discussed my racing plans for the upcoming season.

I’m far too hard on myself. I’ve been lamenting that I’m not able to ride my bike enough with all this beautiful snow for about two months now, with no end to this healthy Cascade winter in sight. Sure, I’m doing what I can to build fitness by flogging myself half to death on the turbo trainer and getting out to play in the snow with some pretty great people between sweat-fests. But when I look at my past off season, riding more miles than I could handle in Southern France, I can’t help but think that my competition is doing far more than I am now to prepare for the next race. As a result, I keep telling myself that my season is going to get off to a slow start in comparison with my last.

Well, I’m not sure anyone knows the truth in all that until race season does finally hit later next month. But I’m feeling more optimistic about my training, and my life in general, after a bit of reflection with one of the sagest men who ever did ride this great big sea of sage we call home. Because for all that loose pessimism, I’m reminded of the fires I rode through to get where I am now. I can compare snapshots of training all I want, but what really counts is the resolve that underlies my motivations to toe that next start line in spite of everything that life throws my way.

As Gary and I agreed, no degree of training or racing can much compare to the challenges of a chronic, life altering disease like the one that brought the two of us together. In light of something like that, everything else is just life. That’s the stuff, good or bad, that we fight so hard to hold on to. And regardless of how fast I can pedal a bicycle, I’m so grateful to be where I am today.

Sure, life might leave us hanging every now and then. But shoot. Worst case scenario? Wake up the next morning and try again, over and over until your time is finally up. Just don’t forget all the days that came before. There’s far more good in them, even in the worst of the bunch, than we like to admit. After all, we are nothing more than that which we were on all those yesterdays. Every one of them leaves its mark. Keeping that simple truth in mind helps me to make each tomorrow brighter than the last — even when tomorrow’s very existence is called into question. Because that final tomorrow will come for each and every one of us. So here’s to making the rest of them count.

–Dillon Caldwell

You can read Dillon’s full story in the Bend Bulletin HERE.

 

SusanStribleTdC

Susan Strible – December 2015

 

 How did you first become involved in TdC? 

In July 2014, I did the 50-mile ride with my family and it was so magical. I loved being a part of it and it had a lasting impact on me. The community feel, the supportive atmosphere, and the way the cancer survivors were honored, all sparked something deep inside of me. Even though cancer was not something I was intimately acquainted with at the time, I felt a strong connection to this event and the people involved.

A couple of months later, a friend invited me on a group run in Shevlin Park. On that run I met Leslie Cogswell, the Executive Director of TdC. We chatted about her work with TdC and my background in Marketing. I was so enamored of the event, and Leslie’s engaging personality, I told Leslie that if she ever needed any Marketing help to please keep me in mind. Not long after, Leslie invited me to join the Tour des Chutes Board. Thrilled to be included as part of this team, I never looked back. I rode the 50-mile route again in July 2015, this time as a board member.

What has the event meant to you in the past? 

In the past, the event meant the support of three things that are important to me: 1) Community. This event brings together several hundred of our friends, neighbors and family members to share love and support for each other, 2) Fitness. From walking three miles to riding 100 miles, this event celebrates movement and physical fitness, and 3) Cancer Survivor Support. This event directly supports and honors Cancer Survivors in Central Oregon and celebrates their ongoing fight. These three things are still the cornerstones of why I love this event. Of course, my perspective and commitment has deepened through my own recent experience with cancer.

How has that changed now that you are yourself a survivor?

Ironically, the day I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in early October 2015, that evening we had a Tour des Chutes Board Meeting scheduled. It didn’t occur to me to skip the meeting. I thought, what better place for me to be than surrounded by these supportive board members, many of whom have battled cancer themselves? That meeting and the support I received that evening helped set the stage for how I was going to face this terrible diagnosis.

Now, as a cancer patient, I’m on the inside and I’ve seen first-hand how this event, and the money raised, benefits Cancer Survivors in Central Oregon. I’ve been able to receive the healing touch of Reiki therapy, massage from a therapist trained to treat chemo patients, I’ve listened to an inspirational talk given by an ovarian cancer survivor, and received nutritional advice from the Cancer Center’s Dietician – all at no additional cost. These programs exist, in part, because of the money raised by Tour des Chutes.

Tour des Chutes has changed for me in that I see it as so much more than a fun bike ride or 5K run/walk. It serves a critical need in our community and it’s part of what makes Central Oregon a wonderful place to live.

Would you mind sharing a bit about your journey through being diagnosed with cancer and how that has affected your perspective? 

No one expects to be told they have cancer. It’s a terrible shock. Since that day, I’ve managed to keep my focus on getting through chemotherapy (I just passed the halfway point), surgery, and radiation, and then getting on with my life. I haven’t spent much time dwelling on whether my life will be shortened by this disease. Whether it will be shortened or not, thinking about it will not change what is to come (easier said than done – I’ve shed many tears around these thoughts). Also, I’ve found that reading about my type of cancer, triple-negative invasive ductal carcinoma, and about others’ experiences with cancer does not improve my state of mind. I find that my experience is what matters, and so far, I’ve been able to create my own reality, without any expectations put on me by outside information. My mind is more able to stay positive by focusing on my family, my friends, and my work. I do not want cancer to define who I am.

Any final thoughts on survivorship?

Every day, I’m blown away by the support from my family, friends and coworkers. The one silver lining in all of this is the amount of love that has utterly surrounded me. In a very strange way, cancer equals love. The power of love and human caring is one of the strongest tools in our cancer-fighting arsenal. It’s surely the one that feels the best. I’ll be forever grateful to all of those, near and far, who have made me feel loved and supported. It has made all the difference to me.

I’ve been able to deepen relationships with my friends who’ve dealt with, or are still dealing with cancer. They have inspired me to be strong and fight, while recognizing my desire to keep my real life sharply in focus.

On survivorship, whenever I hear this word, I think of Gary Bonacker, the founder and inspiration behind Tour des Chutes. A constant source of encouragement, he said, ‘I don’t just want to be a survivor, I want to be a thriver.’ My goal is to ride the 50 miler again in 2016, this time as a thriver. Whether you walk, run, ride or volunteer, I hope to see you out there on July 9, 2016.

 

pastors

Thom Pastor is the husband of breast cancer survivor and last week’s TdC survivor highlight subject, Krista. Thom has been an active part of the Bend cycling community for quite some time, and has made a point of being an active supporter of the TdC in the past few years. In 2013, Thom (a professional chef), hosted a fundraiser dinner that was auctioned off for several hundred dollars at our July event. Here Thom has graciously and openly shared how cancer has affected him, as the spouse of a survivor, and how his experience relates to this special event. As mentioned in last week’s post, we find the Pastor family’s story inspiring in that they were both so willing to share how they each tackled this new reality in their lives, together. Because cancer is such an engrossing, enveloping disease, it not only hits those of us who are admitted to cancer care regimens. Rather, our entire families are diagnosed on day one, and how we handle this diagnosis together makes perhaps the most difference of all. Thank you, again, for sharing your journey, Krista and Thom. We are so happy to have you both riding with us, and thriving, again.

“’Start where you are. Use what you can. Do what you can.’ Arthur Ashe originally spoke those words and there are none better to describe my relationship with Tour des Chutes.

I first rode Tour des Chutes in 2008. My wife was years from being diagnosed and only did it to cross a 100 miler off my bucket list.

The daughter of my wife’s best friend had recently beat cancer and one of my work friends was also a survivor. I thought it’d be a kind gesture to ride in their honor, and armed with a sharpie that’s what I did. I’ve ridden each year since making 2015 my 7th ride. Despite those connections, I didn’t feel the gravity of the event for many years.

Three years ago I wasn’t riding with a vague connection anymore. The 2012 TdC was the first my wife Krista ever attended. It was her first year as a survivor and didn’t get to ride. She was only about one month down the road to recovery, still in very bad condition. Still, one of the volunteers made her day by giving her a yellow rose.

Out on the road I was in a weird headspace. Normally a chatty ride I wasn’t talking to anyone. A few hours into it I fell in with two guys about my fitness level. This was the first year my wife’s name was the one I sharpied. At some point one of the strangers asked how she was. I choked out a few words. Somehow my goal of finishing the ride under 5 hours came out and they decided to help. They didn’t say anything, they just rode with me and we traded pulls for about 50 or so miles. Two friends helping a stranger, near silence, for hours.

I only realized they were holding back to help me after we started climbing just past Tumalo Park. Maybe they sensed I needed to be alone, maybe they were bored, but they wished me well on my time goal and Krista’s health…Then dropped me like a rock. They were gone up the road and I was alone.

Many people say it’s healthy to have a good cry every now and then. Just wait until you’re by yourself climbing in the summer heat with 90 miles behind you and 10 to go. I passed some survivors, got passed by other survivors, and read every name on every bib. I was thankful my sunglasses and sweat hid the tears. It was cathartic in the truest sense. It’s what I needed, and continue to need.

Checking the clock at the finish, it was 11am. I couldn’t believe I hit my time goal exactly on the button. I saw the two guys a bit later and thanked them. I think we hugged, but I’m not sure because one thing TdC has is plenty of sweaty, stinky hugs. It’s hard to keep track. I found Krista sitting on a swing, frustrated, sad, and determined to ride the next year.

In 2013 she did ride, and continues to. Not yet the 100 miler, but one year she will.

Start where you are.

I plan to help pull her through her first 100 mile Tour des Chutes.

Use what you can.

I’ll probably drop her on the final climb, though. Sometimes the biggest rewards come from lone pursuits. It’s not about speed, it’s about the journey.

Do what you can.”

-Thom Pastor

Krista
Krista Pastor is a local breast cancer survivor (diagnosed on 5/23/12). We’ve known her and her husband, Thom, for several years now as active supporters of the TdC and avid cyclists. In her own words, Krista generously recounts some of her journey and how she has directly benefitted from this great event and the St. Charles community programs we support. We also find the Pastor family’s story inspiring in that they were both so willing to share how they each tackled this new reality in their lives, together. Because cancer is such an engrossing, enveloping disease, it not only hits those of us who are admitted to cancer care regimens. Rather, our entire families are diagnosed on day one, and how we handle this diagnosis together makes perhaps the most difference of all. Thank you Krista and Thom for sharing your journey. We are so happy to have you both riding with us, and thriving, again.

“My first Tour des Chutes was 2012. This was a month and half after my breast cancer diagnosis, and 3 weeks after my bilateral mastectomy before starting chemotherapy. My husband Thom rode the century ride and I came to observe the atmosphere and watch my husband cross the finish line in my honor. That year I was too weak to ride but vowed I would the next year. I have participated in riding in the 2013 and 2014 TdC events.I ride because I can, because I am alive. I ride for my fellow survivors too. I ride for my best friends daughter, my cousin, my aunt, and my ‘Nanny.’ The support, love, and generosity that TdC gives to the function itself, our community, and to St. Charles and every survivor is amazing and is my favorite part of the TdC. The support system that St. Charles is able to offer survivors in central Oregon is priceless. TdC directly [and solely] funds these necessary support systems.

I have benefited directly from the generosity of the TdC. During cancer treatment I was able to connect with survivors at the Defeat Cancer dinner and learned how to find help managing long term pain management. During cancer treatment I was able to receive meals at the Defeat cancer dinners. The Defeat cancer is where I learned about the support treatments like massage, Reiki, acupuncture, and education. Without the support I felt lost, confused, I was in pain, and felt alone. TdC directly funded support I desperately needed. One particular Reiki session I arrived defeated inside, ready to give up, but the love, support and treatment received on just that one particular day raised my spirits and helped me to continue on.

As a mother, wife, and employee, 33 is too young to stop having duties to tend to daily.  TdC and its generosity to the support services helped me to continue to work through treatment and be more present for my family.

There is a difference between surviving each day and living each day during and after cancer. TdC absolutely created a way to help me ‘live.'”

-Krista Pastor

Ian

After a breakthrough performance at this year’s Amgen Tour of California, in which he finished 7th overall and 3rd in the queen stage finishing atop Mt. Baldy, Team Sky’s Ian Boswell visited his hometown for the first time in over a year. During that visit, we were honored to sit down with him over coffee and ask a few questions about just what the Tour des Chutes means to him.

 

Dillon Caldwell: How did you get involved with the Tour des Chutes?

Ian Boswell: I knew about the Tour des Chutes long before I ever participated in it. In 2011, I was riding for a team that benefitted Livestrong (Bontrager-Livestrong) and we were asked to ride this event in support. I’ve known Gary through family and his involvement in the community forever, so it was a really good excuse for work. The Tour des Chutes was always one of those things, similar to the Pole Pedal Paddle, I guess, that brings the community together and highlights the good riding season here in Central Oregon.

 

DC: And so how many, in all, have you participated in?

IB: I’ve only ridden it twice now — 2011 and 2012. Both with the Bontrager-Livestrong team. [Ian has been in Europe during the TdC, competing in World Tour cycling races, ever since. He still offers his support in any way he can each year though, perhaps most notably through donating signed Team Sky jerseys for our on-site auction.]

 

DC: I remember trying to keep up with you and your teammates on that 2011 tour. It was back when we still rode McKenzie Pass for the century route. Trying to keep up on that climb just about killed me. You guys were just winding down for a hard week of NRC racing at the Cascade Cycling Classic. Do you remember finding that this was pretty good training for the CCC?

IB: [Laughs] Definitely. But yeah, I think that was one of the really neat things about that team… that it was more (similar to the TdC itself) about riding your bike, but also about spreading the message. And the fundraising aspect as well. But yeah, I remember that being a really hard ride. We made it really hard. It’s a long ride, a great workout, but it’s really nice to just get our there and share the experience — stopping at all the rest stops, chit chatting with other friends from the community, sharing the road with others who have gone through the cancer experience. I think it’s a great thing.

 

DC: Is there anyone in specific who inspires you to ride the Tour des Chutes?

IB: My mom had breast cancer, actually twice — it came back after five years. So, to be riding with other families who have been touched by cancer… I think it’s an awesome experience. Especially to be there at the end and to share those stories, to see survivors coming across the line and picking up their roses. It’s a special thing. Also just the awareness aspect of the TdC is really powerful. I remember the first time my mom had cancer, it was a really scary thing but we mostly avoided talking about it. I guess cancer has become a much more “mainstream”, if you will, disease, where people are much more open about it and willing to talk about it. I think that’s one very important thing that events like this one help with — it helps shift the public perception about cancer to something that otherwise healthy people also have to deal with. You know? Everyone can be affected. Any lifestyle can lead to cancer. And events like this show that there is a really supportive community out there. There are many people that have gone through the same thing and to be able to reach out and use the help that is out there, is a great thing for us all. And also just to celebrate the survivors. Those of us who have come out the other side and are still able to enjoy a good day on the bike.

 

DC: Will you be riding the TdC this year? And do you have any tips for first-time riders or course highlights to mention?

IB: I will not be able to ride this year, again, because I’ll be racing over in Europe. But I hope I will be able to join in again in the future. I would say to all riders, pace yourself. Because there are, what, five distances? Pick a distance that is comfortable for you. It’s great to challenge yourself, but don’t go overboard with it. I think the most important thing in an event like this is just to do what you can to ensure you have a good time. And realizing that what you’re doing is much more than just riding your bike.

 

DC: Well, do you think you’ll do alright in the Vuelta this year [likely Ian’s first Grand Tour] without the Tour des Chutes for training?

IB: [Chuckles] Uhhh, questionable… without all those extra miles in my legs and missing all the cookies and burritos at the end.

 

DC: Yes, how do you feel about that burrito bar? I hear they have this thing at the Taco Stand in downtown Bend called the “Boswell Challenge”, where they’ll give you the five pound burrito if you can eat it in under five minutes.

IB: The burrito bar. Another great example of the amazing community support for this ride [generously provided by Long Board Louie’s Eastside]. I guess one of the highlights of the ride for me is that burrito bar. Buffet style, you can make as big a burrito as you want. Lots of guacamole!

Karsten Hagen

karsten

 

Karsten is a native of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, WA), and a Bend local since 2009. He’s the regional sales manager for Giant Bicycles USA. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging onto his wheel, you know that he’s also one hell of a giant on a bicycle. Karsten is a regular donor and a big fan of the Tour des Chutes, even though his busy work schedule usually prohibits his direct participation in the event. We caught up with Karsten between bike rides and bike sales for a unique local perspective on just what makes this event so special for him, both as an avid cyclist and as a prostate cancer survivor.

 

Dillon Caldwell: How did you get involved with the Tour des Chutes?

Karsten Hagen: I’d known about it for years, just through my involvement in the community, but I didn’t ride it until the summer after my prostatectomy. I don’t remember who convinced me to do it but I got to ride with a “survivor’s number”, which was really cool. That year, 2012, was my only opportunity to ride the event. I did the hundred miler that year. I’m used to being around bikers. I was with all these guys who don’t race, but were obviously strong as hell. There’s this whole contingent of cyclists in this area with no real desire to race but who are incredible recreational cyclists. It’s really neat to see.

 

DC: Being a really strong rider and racer prior to your cancer experience, do you remember feeling particularly conscious of that survivor’s number?

KH: So the thing I always battle with is, “Do I really want to wave the survivor flag?” Sometimes the answer is yes, absolutely, because I want guys my age to know they need to get tested and they need to be aware of it. But at the same time, my struggle is, “God, you know, here I am wearing my survivor number. That doesn’t make me special.” Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m calling attention to myself that I don’t need to. That day [on the Tour des Chutes], was I conscious of that special number? Definitely. I feel like people’s perception of a cancer survivor is that they need to be bald and really sick looking. And I’ve never been in that position.

 

DC: What is your favorite thing about this event?

KH: Number one, it’s a non-racing event that brings people together from all over the country to ride bikes together for a good cause. For both personal and professional reasons, I love seeing people riding bikes! The story of the founder is pretty interesting. Gary’s own story is enough motivation to want to do it… for me. Even though I haven’t been able to ride it for the past couple of years due to work, I want to see it succeed.

 

DC: Does anything about the TdC stand out to you as being unique from other cancer fundraising events you’re aware of?

KH: I really like that the event is locally organized and locally funded, that it’s not affiliated with larger bodies. I appreciate that it’s a Central Oregon initiative. The fundraising seems very transparent, which is cool. The local flair, the local food vendors… I think that’s a very unique flavor.

 

DC: Will you be riding the TdC this year? And do you have any tips for first-time riders or course highlights to mention?

KH: I will not be able to ride this year, again, because it’s during our national sales meeting in Colorado. But what I can tell people is that it’s Central Oregon in July. You never know what the weather is going to be like, so usually its best to bring everything you own. When I rode it, we started the ride in the morning, in the low 40s. By the end of the day, I remember walking around in a T-shirt, flip flops, and shorts at the venue. And the food along the route… it’s unreal!

Thursday, May 7th, 6-8 PM, downtown Bend.

Register at Deschutes Brewery and Pub during our kick-off party or early on line and receive a complimentary pint, music from Matt and Rachel of Wampus Cats and fun raffle items.

Last year many came early and stayed late. It was enjoyed by all. Don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy the celebrations of the Tour des Chutes community.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE:

2015 TDC Jersey:

FrontBack

Cotton t-shirt from Next Level.

TdC bracelet made especially for Tour des Chutes from Spoke-Bracelet. Hand crafted by Cynthia Brown- Grochowski.

Front and Back Gold Publish

REGISTRATION is  NOW OPEN!

 

Gary Bonacker and Leslie Cogswell on Tuesday, October 14, awarded the St Charles Foundation an $85,000 grant to be used specifically to fund their Cancer Care and Survivorship Programs. These programs serve adults throughout the region through the efforts of the St Charles Foundation. Click here for a list of programs.

St. Charles administrators and the Tour des Chutes team thanked TdC sponsors, volunteers and two thousand event participants for making this donation possible. They also discussed plans for the 11th annual event coming in July of 2015.

Big check (800x400)Gary with roses (800x800) G_L_John Jepson (800x531)  St Charles Admin (800x647)