By Sarah Garcia
Each year, through Cure on Wheels, Inc., a group of cyclists embark on a four-day journey from Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, to the steps of the state Capitol in Tallahassee. For the three years I’ve worked at Moffitt, I’ve watched these crazy people bike more than 325 miles.
This year, I decided to be crazy too and join them.
It actually started out as a bit of a joke. I use an indoor spin bike and last year my colleagues from Moffitt’s Strategic Communications department playfully suggested I bike to the capitol. I shrugged it off, but in the back of my mind the wheels started spinning (pun intended).
In 2012 my husband and I started cycling after I injured my knee from running. One of my new Cap Ride friends has a theory that inside every cyclist is an injured former runner (I think she’s right). We kept our bikes, but stopped riding when I was expecting our first child in 2015. We now live a couple miles from a great bike trail, so last year I decided to get back into cycling for exercise and a bit of me-time away from our two kids.
Each ride got me more excited about being on the bike again and helped to fan that tiny spark in the back of my mind about the Cap Ride. I love a challenge and knew committing to this ride would give me a goal to chase after.
On the flip side, the Cap Ride is about so much more to me than fitness and a good challenge. Although I don’t work in a patient-facing area at Moffitt, I – like so many of us – have a personal connection to our mission.
My oldest sister was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in August 2014. She was only 43-years-old. She was treated at Moffitt and underwent multiple surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Miraculously she is now cancer free, but the road was rough, and it took a physical and emotional toll on her.
Over the past few months I contemplated whether or not I could actually do this ride. Could I complete it? What if I'm sick or feel too tired? What if I get hurt? But in thinking about all that a cancer patient endures, I quickly erased all doubt.
Cancer is so unfair: no one signs up for it, they can’t just back out, chose to quit or make it stop. So when I think about all the reasons I could back out of this ride, I realize they are trivial.
The Cap Ride journey culminates with Moffitt Day – an opportunity for volunteers, patients, team members and others to share Moffitt’s mission with lawmakers and advocate for state support including funding for cancer research and patient services.
Now, back to these crazy people. Some of them are cancer survivors. Some have lost loved ones or stood by their side as they battled cancer. Some work at Moffitt. Some work at Moffitt and battled cancer. Some are quirky. They are from all different backgrounds and walks of life.
These crazy people took me under their wing and let me train with them, encouraged me and ultimately pushed me to a place where I really feel ready for this ride. Collectively, they are nothing short of amazing!
I’m proud to begin this journey today with a group of crazy cyclists I now call friends.