This past Friday I had the privilege of attending a Pasta Dinner for the Connecticut Challenge in Westport. This is a fundraising event empowering survivors of Cancer. They host a bike ride every year that people can participate in at different levels. This year my Sister-in-Law chose to do the 75 mile ride. She rode in honor of my Mom, and then took donations and rode for others as well. You can ride in memory of those lost, and those who have survived. It was extremely emotional realizing I was now part of this “club”.
As a family member you are in denial that your loved one has cancer. Then, if they pass, you are left with the thought of, “did that just really happen?” Its a matter of how fast, how painful, or how inexplicable things happen. So, when Erika asked me to attend the dinner I was nervous. It ended up being an excellent way to get my feet wet with cancer survivor’s and families.
While we were there we made Memory posters for the people Erika was riding for. I made my Mom’s and added a couple things: DOL for Dirty old lady (dad’s nickname for her), a shamrock, a heart, and of course mickey ears. If I was more artistic I would have done more, but it was nerve wracking even writing in memory of on paper.
When the poster’s were done they were staked into the ground so the rider’s saw them when they rode out. Truly empowering. The dinner was pasta’s, salad, bread, and desserts. It was sponsored by Newman’s Own (Westport is Paul Newman’s town) and was really wonderful. I of course classed it up with a juicebox.
My Mother-in-Law is a cancer survivor and was there helping us out. Erika also had her friend, and a coworker there whose sister is going through cancer. We all wrote out posters, and chatted about our experiences. It was touching when a volunteer came over and asked who Erika was riding for, and we pointed to all the posters. He nodded and said, “You’re also riding for my daughter over there”. His daughter is 12 and still fighting cancer. I don’t know what I would ever do if one of my boys had cancer, but the strength these families show is remarkable.
At the end of the dinner we went over to the boards they had set up, and wrote all the names. Again, to see all the names was a touching moment.
The next day Erika did the full 75 miles. I choked up a bit when I saw a picture she posted online.
My Mom had a thing for Monarch butterflies. Growing up we used to trek down to the beaches, cut Milkweed, and grow caterpillars. She would also grow them in her class. In school, she was known as the bug lady as well. Erika said seeing the butterfly before she set out was like seeing my Mom stop by to say “hello, you’ve got this!” I couldn’t be any more honored or proud of my Sister-in-Law. To have that big of a heart to go out there and ride for this cause is tremendous. To see the people touched by cancer is so touching, and to know you’re not alone is an added comfort. She will be riding again in September for the Smilow Cancer Center: Closer to Free ride. She is going for the 100 mile ride! I wish her all the luck and more with that. I also can’t wait to make some posters with the boys, and cheer her on!
To see more about these fundraisers click below: