“I am riding to honor my mother, Kilby Garabedian; I am riding in memory of my friend, Elizabeth Sewall; I am riding to honor my friend, Lorraine Stanfield. I am riding because I am survivor.
Elizabeth and I originally met through mutual friends doing sprint triathlons. Elizabeth was an amazing person: warm, kind, direct and honest at the same time. I can vividly recall the last triathlon we did together in Nantucket all because of a few quick and brutally honest words from Elizabeth early in the race. She was deep in dealing with chemo and treatments from a recurrence that came years after being clear of breast cancer. But she was still training, positive and upbeat about life. We started off during the swim in the same bracket and she quickly pulled away from me. Even with the debilitating chemo she could still kick my butt in the swim. My timing chip was ripped of my foot accidently by another swimmer so I knew at that point there would be no record of my race and I would receive a “did not finish” in the official record. I was mad. I ran out of the water into the bike transition area grumbling and considering stopping my race. Elizabeth’s bike was next to mine and she was slowly getting ready to get onto the bike. I explained what had happened and I know I was whining. She grabbed my hands looked straight into my eyes and said, “get on that bike and enjoy this race!” It honestly shocked me but I did just what she said. And now I remember riding my bike through an unbelievable thunder and lightening storm where the sky was purple and I could see the flashes of light slicing through toward the beach. I remember running in the driving rain, my feet squelching in my shoes and lifting my face up to feel the rain on it (and I usually hate running in the rain) and I remember watching Elizabeth cross that finish line with pure joy on her face. Those few words gave me a gift I will never forget and think of often. I am riding in memory of my friend, Elizabeth Sewall.
I am riding to honor my mother, Kilby Garabedian. She has endured so much over the last ten years. That is when she was diagnosed neuroendocrine cancer and an unfathomable roller coaster ride with cancer began. Because of that cancer she needed open heart surgery, half her liver removed, and countless other procedures, surgeries, IV drugs every month. It was difficult but she is a tough cookie who meets things head on and gets whatever is needed done. We knew she could end up dealing with this cancer for a long time but amazingly she was tumor free for almost 5 full years after the treatment she received for this rare cancer at Dana Farber. At her 5 year checkup a new spot showed up and it turned out to be ovarian cancer. More surgery and chemo ensued. She was lucky – because of the screening she received because of the first cancer, the ovarian cancer was caught very early and after a year her doctor said goodbye and didn’t expect to see her again. At her next checkup they found yet another cancer. Everyone, including her doctors was surprised. Who gets hit with 3 types of cancer? More chemo and radiation followed. Her journey with the “C” has had many ups and downs and yet she has been so determined and positive through it all. She is so tough, so strong and doesn’t wallow. She still works, she spends time with her grandkids, and she enjoys her life. She is an inspiration. I am riding to honor my incredible mom, Kilby.
I am riding to honor my friend Lorraine who recently went through treatment for breast cancer at Dana Farber. We have known each other since our children were in preschool together. She and her husband are fantastic people and I whenever we spend time together I always feel like my life is enriched. They are a musical family and we often get to witness happiness and joy through singing. One of my favorite moments of the year is when friends come together to sing Christmas Carols at their home. Adults and kids of all ages come together in song. It is always beautiful and moving. I had a tiny part in her community coming together to help her through the treatments but I have always felt like there should be something more I could do. I am riding in honor of my friend Lorraine.
I have considered doing the Pan Mass Challenge for almost 16 years. That was when at my postpartum checkup for my first daughter the nurse said, “hmmm…I feel a lump in your neck. It’s probably nothing but let’s get that checked.” I received treatment and have been cancer free for 15 years. I am so grateful for that but I have always felt helpless throughout my friends’ and mom’s diagnoses. I didn’t realize it would be this way but after signing up for the Pan Mass I feel a little less helpless and a little more like I am actually doing something tangible. I know training will be a challenge and frankly I am a bit scared. But when I hit a tough hill I am going to think of my mom’s balls to the wall, let’s conquer this attitude, and think of the joy Lorraine can show singing even when she is in a scary place and also remember Elizabeth words to stay in the moment and enjoy the experience surrounding me. I am riding because I am a survivor.”
To donate to Team Elizabeth’s ride, please visit our Team page on the PMC site. We greatly appreciate every dollar donated. Thank you.