Team Stella Stars!

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Team Stella’s Stars is All Geared Up and Ready to Ride for YOU Stella!

We’re ready Stella.  Your Auntie Juju just bought a bike.  That’s right.  She bought a black bike and she’s clipped in – just for you.  Fred has been sitting on our mantle all year, right beside your Dora doll and the Stella doll that looks just like you.  In less than two weeks, I will take Fred off of her perch and carefully pack her in my bag along side of the chicken that you used to torment me with.  I have the velcro that we’ll need to adorn our bikes with photos of your beautiful face and ties to secure Fred and chicken to our handle bars.

We’re ready.

We’re ready to push ourselves far enough out of our comfort zones that we wonder if we’ll ever come back and we’re ready to tax our bodies beyond imagination.

We’re ready to ride for YOU.

There’s something about this ride that makes me feel so close to you – like you’re here with me.  Second only to the feeling I get when I stand in the door way of your room, which is now your little brother Hugo’s room.  The first time I did this ride it had only been 10 months since you died in my arms.  It was the first time in two years that I felt strong – physically and emotionally.  I was so proud to wear your face on my back.  Proud, comforted and sickened all at the same time.  Never, in my worst nightmares, did I ever imagine that it would be me who was wearing a shirt with my dead daughters face on it.  That was always someone else – the parent in that tragic story I read about on the front page of the paper – and now that person was me.

My Stella’s Stars jersey’s are folded, clean and ready.  Your Auntie Juju and I can’t wait to throw them on and join hundreds of other riders in pedalling our hearts out to do something that’s truly extraordinary – send kids to camp.  The funds raised from this incredible ride go towards making kids lives better.  Kids just like you, Stella, will get the chance to experience the magic of camp.  They’ll get the chance to realize that they’re not alone.  They’ll have the chance to make friends and to have fun.  You would have loved camp – I just know it.  From the day you were born, I had it all planned out.  You would go to Camp Tanamakoon when you were 7.  That day never came and there is a special place in my heart for the loss of what could have been.  I never had that chance to send you to camp but this bike ride gives me the chance to help send kids just like you to camp.

So this week, I will clean my bike, pack my gear and wait patiently for August 14th to arrive.

I know you’ll be sitting over your shoulders cackling your head off all the way as we huff, puff, spit and sputter our way up the endless hills just hoping that one of us will fall – something that I know you would find more humour in than anything on earth.  When my legs ache and my throat burns and I don’t think I can make it up one more hill – I will think of you.  I will remember the look in your eyes as you used your whole body to try and muster up the strength to stick your tongue out to communicate the word “yes”.  I will remember the day that you taught yourself to hold a paint brush between your teeth when cancer stole your ability to use your hands.  I will remember the sound of your laugh and I will remember what it felt like to hold you in my arms.

On August 14, 2015- I will ride for you big girl.

Please help give kids like my Stella the chance to go to camp by sponsoring our ride!

To donate click on the following link:

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2697865&langPref=en-CA&Referrer=%26Referrer%3dhttp%253a%252f%252fwww.tourforkids.com%252fontario%252fdonate%252f#&panel1-1

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Hope and Bicycles (By: Aimee Bruner)

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By: Aimee Bruner

It’s hard to have hope when one of the top doctors at a world renowned hospital looks you in the eye and tells you that your daughter has an inoperable tumour, for which there is no treatment proven to be effective, wrapped around her brain stem, that she likely has between 3-6 months to live and that during this time, she will lose her faculties one by one.

For Mishi and I, there was no hope for the life that we had planned for our little girl.  There was no hope that we would get to watch her walk through the doors of kindergarten, dragging a backpack bigger than her, for the first time.  There was no hope for soccer practice, summer camp, growing up with her best friend and big cousin Gracie by her side, playing with her cousin Xavier or bullying her baby brothers.  Very early on, Mishi and I needed to muster up the strength and energy that we would have poured into hope itself and transform it into our new mission in life:  happiness and comfort for Stella.

It was through embarking on this mission that we learned to find hope even when it was hiding in places we never thought to look.

When Stella lost her ability to speak and Mishi and I were desperately clinging to any form of communication that DIPG had not yet stripped away, Stella learned to stick out her tongue to communicate the word “yes”.  And there it was, staring us right in the face – hope.  Not hope for the future that we would never get to have with her, but hope that she would be heard even when her voice was stolen.

In the face of slowly watching our daughter die, Mishi and I were lucky enough to bring two incredible boys into the world.  Sam, with his gentle spirit and sensitive soul and Hugo, the sweet sweet boy we would never know if it weren’t for Stella and the horrible hand the universe dealt her.  There it was again – hope.

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to take part in the Tour for Kids Ontario bike ride.  Just like we did last year, Stella’s Auntie Jula and I geared up and formed Team Stella’s Stars.  We rode more than 400km over 4 days in honour of Stella and to help raise much needed funds for the three oncology camps in Ontario – Camp Oochigeas (where I am lucky enough to work), Camp Trillium and Camp Quality.  Doing the ride for the second time around was a bit easier because we knew what to expect.  That being said, when my dad arrived at my house at 5:00a.m. to take Julia and I to the start line (thanks daddy!), I had barely slept the night before.  Aside from not being packed early enough, I couldn’t sleep.  So, after only 2 1/2  hours of shut eye, off I went to join 500 other riders for 4 days of fun, compassion, heart-ache, physical torture and the very best of humanity.  As we wound up the road leading to the start line at Caledon Ski Club, my heart was racing.  I was cold and nervous.  As we drove through the gates, we were met by rows of Ambassador boards.  Photos and stories of incredible kids lined the way and there was my Stella, the first board in line.  Front and center.  My heart filled with joy but I could feel the heavy weight of the fact that my kids face was on a board because she had cancer and she died.  As my eyes began to brim with tears, I noticed who was sitting right next to her.  Adam Fedosoff— the boy I never knew who inspired me to believe in myself enough to buy a bike, train and ride in honour of my Stella.  Adam – sitting up tall on his bike like the champion that he is and Stella, with her curls glimmering in the sun.  There they were, sitting, waiting for me.

Stella and Adam

Hope.

One of the amazing things about this ride is how instantly bonded you become to complete strangers and people you barely know.  After all, you spend over 6 hours a day riding beside, in front and behind one another.  Julia and I had the complete honour of riding with the bereaved parents of an incredible girl whose spirit, energy and love was too big for this universe.  On day one of the ride, her father said to me “I didn’t think she would die.  I had hope.  She was in remission.  I had hope.  And then it all went to hell so quickly.”  Instantly, I felt trapped underneath the sadness I had for what he, his wife and his kids had to endure.  For a moment, I couldn’t speak.   Calm and stoic, he kept riding and the few minutes of silence that followed soon felt right.  A few hours later, after climbing countless hills and barely half way to our final destination, I looked ahead to see him, this man who watched his daughter die, pedaling away, music blaring from speakers he had rigged to his bike, tapping his hands and toes to the beat.

Stella and Tamara

Hope.

Before and after each day of cycling, there was a dedication.  Family members, parents and kids got up to speak about their experience with cancer.  At the start line, we listened to a father fight back tears as he spoke about how long and hard his daughter suffered from cancer before she died.  Although you could feel how decimated this experience has left his soul, he also exuded the drive, energy and grit that it takes to call people to action.  And that’s what he did.  He ended his speech by shouting “Cancer – you’re a coward and we’re coming for you.”

Hope.

My amazing colleague spoke the next morning about the loss of her baby brother and her experience with Camp Oochigeas.  You could hear a pin drop when she spoke about remembering his smile.  Describing this incredible little boy, she was overcome with emotion and tears.  As she struggled to compose herself, a bereaved mom walked up, put her arm around her and stood by her side for the rest of her speech.

Hope.

That same mom bravely spoke about the loss of her kind, strong, athletic teenaged daughter as photos of her in the hospital flipped across the screen at the front.  She and her husband take a week out of their lives every year to volunteer at Tour for Kids.   They make 600 sandwiches, load trucks, serve food at rest stops, patrol the roads, stack chairs, set up tables.  And they come back and do it all over again the next year.  This amazing mom recently bought a bike and has her sights set on riding next year.

Hope.

On day three, as I rode behind a man who was on his final round of chemo and watched as he pulled over to the side of the road and got down on his knees until the wave of nausea had passed, I realized that there was hope all around me.  After a few minutes, he got back on his bike, put his head down and climbed up the hill.

Hope.

On the last night of the ride, a father spoke about his 7 year-old daughter who has a brain tumour.  When I watched this little girl hold her mother’s hand as her legs wobbled and her arms shook as she struggled to get up the stairs to join her dad on stage, I instantly felt sick.  My stomach turned and my chest was crushed under the memory of Stella struggling to walk while her arms shook out of control.  There I was, sitting under a tent surrounded by 500 people, crying my eyes out.  The tears were unstoppable.  What a beautiful family they were.  Her father spoke with absolute grace.  I couldn’t take my eyes off this girl.  A little girl who was smiling from ear to ear, as a monster sits inside her head.  Just when I was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to compose myself to remain in my seat, a campfire sing song started, lead by my incredible colleagues at Ooch.  There really is nothing like a campfire song lead by Alex Robertson.  The campfire closed with the goodnight song that Camp Trillium closes every campfire with.  Under a tent packed with hand clappers and loud voices – there she was.   This 7 year-old wonder, wobbly legs and all, singing her heart out into the microphone.  She knew every word and in between each verse, she let out a huge cackle.

Hope.

Each day of the ride brought something different.  The one thing that was so familiar though was the calm and beautiful energy of my beloved sister-in-law.  I really can’t imagine doing this ride with anyone else but her.  It’s precious time we have together and these 4 days out of every year are unlike any other to me.  It’s also so fitting that Julia is by my side during this ride (who area we kidding – she’s way ahead of me!) because Stella adored her in a way that was completely unique to other people.  Julia’s ability to be present with Stella and give her all the time in the world was such a gift to Stella and to us.  Now, when you do a 400km ride over the course of 4 days, you’re bound to run into at least 20 huge hills a day.  True to form, Julia’s calm energy would explode at the base of each hill as she gained the momentum she claimed to need in order to make it up the hill without falling over.  She would power past everyone saying “sorry, just gotta pass on your left” in the most gentle way possible as she attacked the hill.  People would either say “who is that?!” or “here she goes”.  It made me laugh every time and as I watched her move off into the distance, I could always see Stella’s beautiful face on her back.

Hope.

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On the last day of the ride, I had a little extra adrenaline with the thought of  the finish line in sight and seeing my family.  Hanging out at the back of the pack, waiting for the last group to start (that was us), I was bent over laughing my head off at a mother who lost her amazing daughter to cancer just over a year ago.  A mother whose daughter was stolen from her right in front of her eyes.  Cancer took the hope that she and her husband had and stripped it away as they watched their youngest daughter die.  And there she was – dancing her heart out.  She didn’t care who was watching.  With the music blaring, surrounded by 500 people and their bikes – she danced her heart out.  Just like her daughter did.

Hope.

The last 10km of this ride are usually very emotional for me.  I’m overcome with bursts of energy and tears.  As we climbed up the winding hills around the corner from the finish line, my heart started to beat faster than it had over the past 4 days.  I could hear people cheering and I new we were close.  One last turn and there we were – climbing our final hill.  True to form – Julia lead the way and I followed, chasing Stella’s face all the way up the hill.  And there they were.  Lining the road – my beautiful family and friends.

Hope.

Once again, Julia and I were lucky enough to have the honour of riding on day 4 with a friend who, despite having the ability to ride over 200km plus a day, pushing over 35km/hr, chose to ride with us.  Just like she did last year, she made sure that we got across the finish line in once piece, while honouring our girl at the same time (thanks Pearlman!).  Before we rode our last 100m, we stopped and unraveled the old green “We Miss You Stella!” banner from last year.  Just like last year, Julia and I wobbled back and forth, almost slamming into one another and crashing to the ground and just when we needed it, our trusty cyclist buddy swooped in to help carry the banner.  As we rolled towards the smiling faces holding medals and giving hugs, a little voice echoed inside my soul – “We did it.”  We did it Stella.

 Stella Banner

“There are defining moments in a life – when faced with the choice of giving up or going on.” 

Hope.

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TEAM STELLA’S STARS IS ALL GEARED UP FOR TOUR FOR KIDS 2014!

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 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:

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2220086&langPref=en-CA&Referrer=http%3a%2f%2fwww2.tourforkids.com%2fontario%2fdonate%2f#&panel1-1

 

Tour For Kids 2013:

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Sesame Street Land, August 2011:Stella Elmo

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FOR STELLA (by Aimee)

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By Aimee Bruner

This time last summer, I was losing my daughter right in front of my eyes.  She was weeks away from death and weeks away from slipping through my tight grasp forever.  My heart was breaking in ways that I never knew it could.  Mishi and I spent all day, every day, nestled on the couch, holding Stella in our arms.  Our bodies aching from spending almost a year sitting in the same corner of the couch – one arm cradling Stella’s head and the other doing whatever it needed to do to make her laugh or smile.  My muscles still hurt on the left side of my body from time to time and the carpel tunnel in my left wrist from holding my girl has still not gone away.  I hope it never does because sometimes I feel like it’s the closest thing to her that I have left.

 

I remember feeling so tired, helpless and unbearably sad in those days.  As I sat on the couch, caressing the beautiful curls, soft skin and button nose that I knew I would one day miss too much to survive – the little voices and laughter of the neigbhourhood kids rang out all summer long.  Bike rides, trips to the store for ice cream and riding scooters to the park.  It was happening just outside our living room window as our daughter lay dying just a stones throw away.  It was excruciating and I know, that there is a part of me that will never recover.

 

One day, when I could no longer stand the aching that was going on in my body and the feeling of weakness that went along with it – I decided that I needed to get out of the house and exercise for 30 minutes every few days.  I’m not a runner but I decided to jog anyway.  At first it was so hard – who I’m I kidding – it was always really hard for me, but I loved the way I felt afterwards.  It made me feel alive again.  It was such a release.  I could turn my brain off and just be.  After a while, every time I jogged, I found my mind wandering.  I started picturing the Tour for Kids ride – this is a bike ride that is held every year to raise money for the three cancer camps in Ontario.  I work at Camp Oochigeas – one of the recipients of the funding from the ride.  The ride was approaching and the buzz around it made me start to wonder if I could do it.  It’s a 4-day, 400Km ride and far beyond anything, physically, I had ever done in my life.  I started thinking about it constantly until I just couldn’t let it go.

 

So I borrowed a bike.

 

I started to go for short rides (I didn’t want to be away from Stella for too long) and very quickly fell in love with it.  For the first time in a long time I felt strong.  I tried to get out for a ride anytime I could but shortly after getting into my new favourite pass time, my world came crashing down when Stella died in our arms.   Everything came to a halt.  It was the horrible reality that Mishi and I knew would one day come, in fact, we had a year and a half to “prepare” for it but it was excruciating.  She was gone.  Our baby girl – the one we dreamed of long before she was born – gone.  Mishi and I were devastated and we were lost.  All of us were lost.  For a year and a half, Stella was the focus of every day for all of us.  Mishi and I weren’t just grieving the loss of Stella from this earth – we were grieving the loss of feeling the weight of her little body on our laps.  Her sweaty curls, cherub lips, painted nails, half open eyes, quiet and sometimes fading breath, her stiff legs that would lay crossed at all times and her big toe that would permanently point up as if it was flexed.  Gone.

 

As we pushed through what were some of the darkest days of my life, I stopped wondering IF I could do the Tour for Kids ride and decided that I could do it.  I would do it and that I would do if for Stella.

 

Before I knew it, I had convinced my sister-in-law (who didn’t need much convincing) to register for the ride with me.  Together  we proudly made up the Stella’s Stars Team.  As the months flew by and the ride was approaching, it was all I thought about.  One of the things that preoccupied my thoughts was our team jerseys.  I had been dreaming them up for months.  A very kind friend at work hooked us up with an amazing clothing company called Genumark.  Not only did they donate the jersey’s – they designed them too.  I never imagined that we would be able to capture Stella’s true spirit on a shirt but we did and they looked incredible.  Thank you Marc and the Genumark Team!

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On the day of the ride, my dad dropped Julia off at the start line.  He woke up before 5:00am on a weekend to get us there on time.  It was as if I was 10 years old again and he was taking me to a soccer tournament – he was adorable.  Julia and I were both excited and nervous when we got there and started to set up our bikes.  Julia attached Stella’s beloved puppet Red – who she called Fred – to the handlebars of her bike and we both adorned our bikes with pictures of our girl.  We were ready to go.  As we stood at the start line, we laughed about the fact that neither one of us knew what the hell we were doing or what we were in for.  There we stood, crammed in with 600 other riders – the energy was palpable.  From the microphone up at the front, we listened to a parent speak about their beloved child’s experience with cancer. You could hear a pin drop and suddenly, I could feel a vice grip on my throat.  I felt like someone was kneeling on my chest.  Listening to another parent’s pain, I was standing in a crowd of people and I too was the one with a photo of my dead child on the back of my shirt.  I’m part of this club now – a club that no one should ever have to be a part of.  The sunscreen that was on my skin quickly ran into my eyes that were already brimming with tears.  I took a deep breath, looked at Julia and I felt ready to ride for Stella.

 

So off we went, from Oakville to Waterloo.  116 km, 5hrs and 23 minutes of riding, too many hills to count, 3 rest stops later……and we were there.  Day one was done.  We made it – sore bodies and all.  I was proud of us.  Over the next three days, Julia and I would push ourselves more than we ever have in our lives.  We taxed our bodies beyond belief.  The hills were ridiculous and seemed never ending at times.

 

Each time I found myself struggling to push my way up a hill and it hurt so much that I didn’t think I could go any further – I pictured Stella’s little face. I thought about everything that she went through, everything she lost – and I pushed forward.  She didn’t have a choice in the matter – she had to lose her ability to walk and be anchored to the couch and watch her friends come over and run around playing with her toys.  She had to fight to talk only to let out nothing more than a squeak.  She had to give up her potty for diapers and she had to figure out how to swallow with a tumour strangling her brain stem.

 

All I had to do was ride a bike up a hill.

 

Each day of the ride brought with it new adventures for us.  It was truly amazing to be a part of such a moving and inspiring event and I loved having the chance to do it with my sister-in-law, whom I love deeply, at my side.  Her gentle spirit and quirky sense of humor are a true reflection of who she is and the reason why Stella found so much comfort in being around her.  Julia and I spent most of our time on the ride laughing at each other and ourselves and I feel forever bonded to her.

 

On the last night of our ride, at dinner, I spoke about Stella and about Camp Oochigeas – two incredibly important  stories to tell.  I was asked to speak about Stella months before the ride but I originally declined.  I was too nervous to speak about her for the first time publically, in an environment that was connected to my work.  The only other time I’ve spoken about her was at her funeral.  What if I broke down and couldn’t recover?  A friend talked it through with me and helped me get rid of my cold feet.

 

I came to the realization that I needed to tell her story.

 

I wanted people to understand how incredible she was and I needed them to understand what we lost.  So that night, I threw on a clean Stella’s Stars jersey, took a deep breath and locked eyes with the 600 riders in the audience.  I told them about my beloved curly haired mop top of a kid and the exquisite joy she brought into our lives.  They learned that she had a thing for physical violence, pigs and chocolate Tim Bits and that even though the tumour robbed her of almost all of her faculties one by one – Stella chose joy every time.   I explained her love of ice cream and that we made sure that she was able to eat ice cream for breakfast every day for the rest of her life.

You can watch the speech on YouTube here:

 

The next morning, on our way into the cafeteria, I was stopped every two feet by rider after rider on their way out.  Each one of them saying  “I just ate ice cream for breakfast and I’m riding for Stella today”.  At first, I thought that people were just being kind but as I entered the cafeteria, I saw 600 riders eating ice cream for breakfast!  Each one of them, with the appropriate amount of protein, carbs and fruit on their plates – right beside a big plop of vanilla ice cream.  In the servery, right beside the yogurt station, there was a big vat of ice cream sitting under a sign that read “For Stella”.  My heart was full and for a moment, it felt less shattered.

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Thank you Tour for Kids for honouring my little girl.

On the final day, I spent the last hour of the ride quietly crying on and off.  I kept envisioning the moment that I’ve spent the last year leading up to – crossing the finish line.  I’ve replayed this moment in my head many times over the past year and now it was finally within reach.  As we fumbled towards the finish line and it was finally in sight, Julia and I pulled out the green banner we made to carry across the finish line. “We Miss You Stella”, it said.  We tried to coordinate ourselves by riding just close enough together that we could each take and end of the banner.  After a few failed attempts and close calls with the graveled road below – a friend who has just a touch more skill than we do in the cycling department, came to the rescue.  With her help, we made it.  Pedaling towards the finish line, I felt weightless, just for a moment.  I wanted to yell “We did it!” at the top of my lungs….just like Dora.  The finish line was packed full of our family and friends who were all decked out in Stella’s Stars shirts.

 

As I stopped my bike and looked around, I could feel it – she was there.

 

We did it Stella.

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This ride was incredibly healing for me in ways that I never imagined.  Connecting with other parents – parents who have been forced to walk where I’ve walked and who know the excruciating hell that I know – made me realize that Mishi and I are not alone.  To all brave parents who reached out to me – thank you for sharing and thank you for listening.

 

I learned about a different kind of strength and perseverance.  I learned about the power of group of people coming together with the same goal in mind.  I learned about humanity and I learned about myself.

 

I rode for me – for my broken heart and for her.  I rode for Stella.  I will ride for Stella until I can’t ride a bike anymore.

 

Tour for Kids 2014 – here I come!

 

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