March 11th, 2015 -
Next Monday marks the halfway point of my radiation and chemo treatments for pancreatic cancer. These first 14 sessions represent three weeks of long rides back and forth to the VA Medical Center at Durham, NC; almost five hours of travel time to experience just 16 minutes of radiation therapy. At the end of each day, I clamber from my daughter's car and feel a sense of anti-climax. It is another milestone on my journey from illness back to well health, but why do I feel the other shoe is about to drop at any moment?
Maybe it's because that other shoe has hit the deck so many times before. I've been enduring problems with my pancreas since Labor Day of 1998 - almost seventeen years of frequent in-patient stays for pancreatitis, two major surgeries to remove most of the organ, and a couple of minor surgeries to remove other organs or repair damage created by the major operations. I've now spent time in hospital during almost every holiday except New Years Day and Thanksgiving - I've spent Labor Day weekend in hospital three times. The cycle of getting sick, getting treatment, and then recuperating has managed to slow down my Ride Around America project to a near standstill far too many times for me, but I remain convinced that I will finish the task.
In November of 2008 I enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health System. The private and community hospitals systems I had been through had done nothing for me except prove that not having a good health insurance plan is a very quick way to bankruptcy and despair. Veterans Affairs was my last resort to finding some definitive help for my problem. While not without some peculiar and sometimes frustrating procedures, the VA has been a salvation of sorts. I frequently tell people that without VA behind me, "I would be dead or living under a bridge somewhere."
Aside from the support of my family, my single treasure throughout the last seven years has been the knowledge that at the end of these various ordeals I would be able to get back upon my Honda and return to my quest - my Ride Around America. No longer do I believe I will be able to ride five hundred miles a day six days a week to finish the last 100,000 miles in a year or two. I turn 65 this summer and the roads ahead now represent a marathon and not a sprint to the finish. The plan now is to run about 1,200 miles each week and if I don't finish the entire thing it will be because somebody has pried my cold, dead, hands from the grips of my handlebars!
The oncologists tell me that at the end of these treatments I should expect to live many more years. I point them toward their own studies that say otherwise, but they insist my malignant cells were discovered very early and the prospect of a wandering metastasis is unlikely. I hope so. Because soon after the last treatment I hope to be back on the road, wandering from county to county, monument to monument, as I ride to fulfill my goal of visiting every county in the lower 48.
This is an expensive project and I have reached the point where I must rely upon the help of others to finish the mission. Can you assist with the offer of a back yard where I may pitch my tent for a night or two? Just send me a note from the CONTACT menu tab. Do the same if you want to ride with me for a few miles or so - I always appreciate another rider showing me the best way to and from another memorial. If you are a potential sponsor I really want to talk you.
I am available to speak to civic groups, veterans organizations, and schools. My presentation runs about 40 minutes and the focus is upon the adventure of touring by motorcycle and learning the history of our republic through the monuments that honor our veterans. I need about 40 days lead time to ensure my route planning matches your schedule. Again, just send me a note using the form on the CONTACT menu tab.