The first funeral I officiated was for a 4-year old boy. I had met Sean (name changed) and his mother through my work as a chaplain at Akron Children's Hospital. He was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer at 18 months of age and was in and out of the hospital over the next three years, during which time I got to know Sean and his Mom. My experience with Sean and his family--as well as other patients and families I've met through my work as a chaplain-- has stayed with me over the years, as I have learned that cancer can strike anyone, no matter his or her age.
On March 20 I officiated the memorial service for Steve Hallam, whom I've known for more than 20 years. Steve rode 50 miles in VeloSano in 2015 and 2016 so that he could raise money toward cancer research. He did this while undergoing treatment for Stage IV cancer. Thanks to gene therapy that had only recently been developed through cancer research, Steve outlived his prognosis by three years and could dote on his granddaughter, Penny, who was born soon after Steve finished his 2015 VeloSano ride. At Steve's memorial service, the tributes from Steve’s friends in his cycling group, his book club and poker group, and his department chair at University of Akron's College of Business, were a testimony to what a beloved friend and colleague Steve was, and to the joy that a person can derive, no matter his life circumstances, from doing something he loves. Steve loved cycling and derived great joy from training for and riding in VeloSano. Steve loved teaching, and did so until three weeks before his death. I am honored to ride in VeloSano in memory of Steve, though I may be sending some unkind thoughts his way while I try to ride up Fairmount Hill toward Cleveland Heights!
There are others who have died of cancer and will be in my heart while I ride, and whose names will be on a card taped to my handlebar, among them Aunt Sarah and Uncle Mike Halliday; Russ Pry, Summit County Executive, who in addition to being a champion of Health and Human Services was a genuinely great guy; Jim, Fred, and Bill (husbands of BFGoodrich friends Dee, Vicki, and Deniece); and Harvey (Cranford High classmate who died this year). And there are people like Lee, who has bravely fought cancer for years; Richard, David and Kathy, who are in remission; Dale, Liz, Elizabeth, and Karin, who are long-term survivors; Gary and Ramona, who have been in treatment for the past year or so; and John, Mary, Nick, Jennifer, and Lynn who were just diagnosed, in whose honor I will be riding as well. I am also riding with gratitude that my melanoma was found in 2015 and treated early.
We all know people whose lives have been cut short by cancer or who are now fighting it. By donating to me and VeloSano, you will help me meet my fundraising goal and together we will make a significant impact improving cancer outcomes through innovative research.
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Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for supporting VeloSano and cancer research. Every dollar makes a difference.