STELLA – WE RIDE FOR YOU!
From the moment a team of doctors entered our two-year old daughter’s hospital room at 12:30a.m. on June 24, 2011, looked us in the eyes and told us that her MRI showed a mass on her brainstem and that we would be referred to the oncology team – the incredible life that Mishi and I had built for ourselves exploded, destroying every facet of the world we knew one piece at a time.
In the days, weeks and months to come following Stella’s diagnosis, MIshi and I would learn to live knowing that our beloved daughter, our Stella – the love our lives- was going to die and that there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. Getting up each day, taking turns holding Stella (who could no longer walk) on the couch in our living room, while the laughter of the kids outside riding their bikes rang through our house, was like shrapnel to the soul. In those days, I couldn’t fathom how we would ever truly feel any kind of happiness again. There are no words to describe the incredible hopelessness that washes over a parent when they are faced with the imminent reality of losing their child forever.
I remember sitting in our living room, watching Dora the Explorer for twelve hours at a time. Stella found such comfort from Dora during that time and the rest of us were losing our minds each time the theme song started. Just when I swore that I couldn’t take one more second of Dora, another episode started…..again and again. The funny thing is that now, I find more comfort in that theme song than I ever imagined I could. Back then, we had constant headaches, stomach aches and sore bodies. We sat and we sat. Watching. Waiting. Is this another dip? We would ask ourselves. Stella has slept for days. Will she plateau like she always does, or is this it?
It was a form of emotional torture that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.
During that last summer we had with our girl, I fell in love with cycling. Somehow I managed to get myself off the couch one sunny afternoon and onto a bike I had borrowed from a friend. One thing led to another and all of a sudden I had found my release. A way to cope. A way to break up the day, stretch my body and feel strong again.
Inspired by an extraordinary young man named Adam Fedosoff, one day, shortly after Stella died, I decided to do something bigger than I had ever done before. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone. WAY outside. I called up my beloved sister-in-law, Julia, and roped her into signing up to do the Tour for Kids bike ride with me. A 100km/day, four day cycling event that supports the three cancer camps in Ontario – Camp Oochigeas, Camp Trillium and Camp Quality. Yes that’s right – 100km a day for four days. What was I thinking?! Actually, I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that I wanted to do something to honour my Stella and this was it. One day when I was out on a ride, I found myself envisioning Stella’s beautiful face and mischievous smile on the back of a shirt – my shirt. That was it. I knew right then that I had to do it. That night, I sat on Stella’s couch, logged into my desktop at work and marked the date registration opened for the ride in my calendar.
Before I knew it, we were registered. Stella’s Stars – a team of two.
Nothing could have prepared me for the impact that participating in the Tour for Kids ride had on who I am and the way I face the new life that DIPG forced upon us. Standing at the start line on Day 1 of the ride, my bike adorned with photos of Stella, a picture of her beautiful face stretched across my back and my heart beating out of my chest, was a moment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. There we were, Stella’s Auntie Jula, her stuffed animal, “Fred” and her mommy – standing tall with 600 other riders. 600 riders who were there to give as much as they could physically and emotionally over the next 4 days to make a difference in the lives of children affected by cancer.
Julia and I spent those four days in August busting our butts (literally), pushing ourselves beyond, cycling headlong into our stretch zones, and healing parts of our souls that we never imagined could feel better. Being there, in the thick of it, with other parents who have suffered the same horrible loss that I have, provided me with a sense of comfort, sadness and inspiration that I can’t describe in words.
The cause that Tour for Kids supports is simple and extraordinary all at the same time – it provides kids with cancer with a chance to go to camp. A chance to make friends, connect with people, challenge themselves and above all else, have fun. I grew up going to camp and I’m well aware of how camp enriches one’s life but I’m also lucky enough to work at Camp Oochigeas and I’ve seen first hand the magic that occurs around a campfire at night, part way up the climbing tower or in a small interaction between two people.
At Camp Oochigeas, kids realize that they’re not alone. How can anyone not want to get behind that cause? Stella didn’t live long enough to go to camp, but I would have given anything for her to have had the chance.
Tour for Kids was an incredible journey of freedom and healing for me and I am forever grateful to have had the chance to be a part of something so inspiring and to be in the company of such extraordinary people.
I am forever changed.
So thank you Adam – for your unstoppable drive, unwavering commitment, incredible courage, and for getting me on a bike and helping me look outside of myself. All this, without ever having met you.
And thank you Stella – for packing enough joy into my soul to carry me through this life without you by my side.
On August 14, 2014 – I will ride for you.
Please help give kids like my Stella the chance to go to camp by sponsoring my ride!
To donate click on the following link:
Tour For Kids 2013: