Dick Maynard Column Ocober 08, 2008
'Live Strong’ can be more than words on band
“Live Strong.” To me, it’s a simple slogan printed on the yellow band around my wrist. But for many, “Live Strong” is a daily way of life.
It’s almost impossible to find someone not touched in some way by the dreaded diagnosis of cancer. The good news is there are an ever-increasing number of people, including many I call friends, today living with the battle against cancer in their rear view mirror.
Like bike riding companion Big Gear Bob. We’re two geezers with much in common. We both love exercise, are fathers to three daughters, and each married way better than we deserved.
Big Gear is Bob Burgeson. Best known as a State Farm agent in our valley for over 30 years, our biking bunch nicknamed him Big Gear because of his insistence in pedaling the hardest to push “big” gear on his bike. Others say he can do that because of great strength, I maintain he’s too lazy to shift to a more comfortable gear.
Over the past decade, Bob and I have pedaled across states from Montana to Iowa and ridden terrain as different as the Colorado National Monument and North Dakota. “Big deal,” you say, lots of folks ride bikes.
Well it is a big deal, because for over 10 years he’s been riding long distances while battling Parkinson’s Disease.
We also play a ton of golf. Last year, returning from Cobble Creek, Bob announced he wouldn’t be a part of the annual late fall St. George golf trip. “Why not?” came the question? “Well,” he continued in the understated manner one expects from those raised on the plains of North Dakota, “I’ll be busy being treated for bone cancer.”
So began a long six months of waiting rooms, doctors, needles and uncertainty. Bob continued to golf in the every Wednesday foursome, where occasionally we’d get a detail or two about the ongoing fight, but Bob usually steered the conversation to other topics. According to Big Gear, “ Don’t worry, I learned to deal with PD (Parkinson’s Disease), I’ll deal with multiple myeloma.” Despite the assurances, we worried.
For years Bob and I talked about skipping our yearly “guys only” bike ride and have our wives as company on a pedaling sojourn to Washington’s San Juan Islands. So it was decided the perfect time would be when the bone cancer was down for the count.
When, or if, the trip would take place was in doubt back in February. Bob, along with wife Mic and daughter Sonja, took up residence in Denver for a month where doctors harvested Bob’s cells, nuked ’em, and then returned the now cancer free cells back to Bob’s innards. (The preceding illustrates my total lack of medical knowledge.) Just know, last March, walking three blocks to breakfast was exhausting. Forget about riding a bike.
Switch to last week. He and I pedaled the six-mile climb up Orcas Island’s Mount Constitution with its 10 to 12 percent grades. It was just two geezers, feeling young again, on a beautiful Puget Sound morning. But then I was much more impressed than Bob.
I suggested a journey from struggling to hike three blocks in March to pedaling a mountain in September, deserved a column. Big Gear disagreed. “You know,” I argued, “you might give hope to somebody just starting the same battle you’ve finished.”
“OK,” he agreed, “Just don’t make it too fuzzy.”
Let’s hope “fuzzy” it ain’t. But thanks to modern medicine, great doctors and outstanding family support, Bob is one of the ever-increasing number of cancer survivors, evidence to those fighting the disease that the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t have to be an oncoming train.
And it is for them we say, “Live Strong.”