It used to be that everyone believed that cancer could happen to anyone else, but never them. We all just went on living our lives under the impression that we were invincible. That’s when we were younger.
Fast forward to now, 2017, and many of us have now experienced either losing, or almost losing someone, to cancer. Some more than others. Some of us may have even been diagnosed. We find ourselves paying attention to things now – what we eat, what we inhale, what we do. How will it affect us? Can we get cancer or another disease from it? Even as I sit here now, typing this out, I can smell smoke coming from a nearby cigarette. I’m asking myself if sitting outside, in the sunlight, on my lunch break, is worth the potential harm that inhaling the smoke may cause me.
When I started at L Brands, the teams around me had already begun to rally behind Pelotonia 2017. Established in 2008, Pelotonia had one goal: end cancer. The model remains simple, 100% of every dollar raised by Pelotonia Riders, Virtual Riders and Volunteers goes directly to fund cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. This company’s leadership, the employees and the community around us all support this mission with their hearts and souls. I’ve only been here two months and that is already so evident to me.
Now, let me explain to you why this is so important to me.
My paternal grandfather lost his battle to colon cancer.
My mom’s best friend beat her battle with breast cancer.
My father-in-law, despite bouncing back from every adversity that challenged him, unfortunately lost his battle with the extremely rare disease of Amyloidsis.
I had or have relationships with all three of those individuals, but the person I was closest with was my father-in-law, Mr. Rick. He is who I think of every time someone mentions Pelotonia, or cancer, or rare diseases. I am drawn to Pelotonia because it helps to fund cancer research in general, not specific diseases and cancers. There are ones out there that there simply aren’t a lot of resources available or people that know what to do with it. That was the case of Amyloidsis. We as humans are discovering new ones more frequently than we would like to. There are even ones, like Mr. Rick’s, that are so incredibly rare. Just because we don’t have a lot of knowledge on it yet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter. That the person who has it doesn’t matter.
The symptoms ultimately began in Fall 2009, although Mr. Rick didn’t seek serious medical help until early summer of 2010. I had just graduated from college and moved home to Pittsburgh, while my now-husband, Rick, was finishing up over the summer semester. Between then and March 2013, when he passed, we watched as doctor’s confided in each other and consulted materials about a disease that they knew nothing about. At the time, we were told that only 1 in 100,000 people in the world would get this disease. The odds were against us. The disease began to attack his organs and he was in desperate need of a new heart.
Bring us to early 2011. The family had to write a letter to the insurance companies who were denying Mr. Rick from being put on the heart transplant list. They had determined that he wouldn’t live long enough after the transplant to deserve the heart. We had to tell them, “Listen, this guy is a fighter. He’s going to surpass all odds, he always has. He’s a dad, a husband, a friend, a musician, someone who made an honest, positive impact to the world around him. Even though this disease made his treatments a huge trial and error guessing game, he still matters.” I speak for more than just myself when I say this: he was everything to a lot of people.
On March 17, 2011, Mr. Rick received his new heart.
By receiving that, he was then able to continue with his experimental treatment and receive stem cell transplants in an attempt to rebuild his organs.
Then, on September 29, 2012, he was able to attend and partake in our wedding. We chose September 29th because it was my husband’s parents (Mr and Mrs Rick) anniversary.
Our first anniversary would have been their 40th.
But on March 7, 2013, we lost to the disease. I say we because we were all in this together. Mr. Rick, Mrs. Rick, their daughter Amanda, their son and my husband Rick, myself, and all our other family and friends who were in this battle with us.
I have decided to ride the 45 miles during the Pelotonia event the weekend of August 4-6, 2017. In addition to that, I’ve committed to raising $2,000 to support cancer research. Between the training to ride 45 miles and asking people for donations, this journey won’t be an easy one for me. But Mr. Rick’s journey and fight wasn’t easy, either. I do this in his memory, but ultimately I know he’s right here with me.
All I ask is that you consider making a donation to my campaign. Even $5 helps make a difference. You and I, we can make a difference together.
Let’s do this. For Mr. Rick. For everyone who has been affected by these awful diseases. I encourage sharing this story, or your own, with your friends and family. Together we can, and we will, make a difference.
Link to my Pelotonia page for donations: www.pelotonia.org/aeyles