All good things...

Over six months ago, I found myself sitting in a small pub in Oxford, chatting with friends over a pint and I had a crazy idea. I don't think I would have ever expected this idea to grow into what it has become, affect as many people as it has, or to be more successful than I could ever have imagined. Heck, had you asked that night, I probably wouldn't have even thought I had the stones to go through with it.

Yet here I sit overlooking the Toronto skyline, finally able to reminisce about one of the greatest journeys of my entire life. However, I realized this morning, that like all things, this story eventually needs to have a final chapter, and the past week could not have summed up a better conclusion.

After my Sept. 23 ride out to Oakville with Kevin Leshuk, Celgene Canada was gracious enough to feed me, surround me with amazing people, donate $10,000 to the ride, and even bring in a film crew to document the day and some points about what this ride meant to me.

In addition to Celgene's generous contribution, I can not say enough about Ortho Biotech, who was there from the beginning with a $4000 contribution and motivation for the road. I had a chance to meet with them, as well as some members of the Princess Margaret Hospital and have videos of those meetings as well:
Click here for videos

Last week, I attended the launch of the Molly & David Bloom Chair in Multiple Myeloma Research at the Princess Margaret Hospital. It was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with some old faces and an incredibly positive night. The atmosphere in the air was truly one of strength and hope. With Dr. Donna Reece confirmed as the head of the chair, and over $4,000,000 at her team's disposal, everyone could feel that this was the start of something big. Myeloma research has come a long way in the past years, however with PMH's hard work, and the support of so many incredible and generous people, I feel like the coming years will see more than just treatments; we will see a true, and definite end to Myeloma.

For me personally, perhaps the best news of the past week was speaking to my father on Sunday night. Just recently, he had an overall checkup after finishing a half-year long treatment cycle and his health couldn't be better. He is still being monitored monthly, however I am confident that by the time this awful disease starts to act up again, his options will be numerous and once again, effective.

I already devoted an entire entry to thanking the countless people who made this journey possible, however let me wrap this up by once more acknowledging; my former company in the UK, Cyan UV, for their generous donation and support, Rocky Mountain cycles for their help with my little Gladys, Myeloma Canada for their amazing support and help, the amazing people who helped me on the road, and everyone who was able to make this trip such a success with your donations, words of support, and cheers. And yes, to answer your question, that was a horrible run-on sentence. With the support of so many, this campaign was able to crush my initial goals of $35k and raise a current total of $49, 523.79. I say current total, because donations are still trickling in, and I am confident we'll easily top $50,000.

**(Update Nov. 27, 09) I've just been informed that in fact the latest count puts us at $53.384.79!!! Apparently 'trickling' was a bad choice of words!

I could write for hours about what this trip meant to me, but I feel like I've said what needs to be said. The biggest piece of advice I can offer to anyone after this life-changing experience is that if you are EVER considering doing something foolish, crazy, out of this world, completely impossible or downright insane... there's no better time to start than right now.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for donating. Thanks for caring.
-And don't worry... I've already got a few more ideas in mind for next year.

A visit with Celgene

Last Wednesday, I had a fantastic opportunity to visit the Celgene Canada headquarters in Oakville. They even managed to convince me to hop back on my bike for a bit (though I promised myself I wouldn't even look at the thing until next spring) and ride with Kevin Leshuk, their GM, from downtown Toronto out to their offices in Oakville.

We started the morning at Princess Margaret Hospital. I rode there from my apartment on the waterfront, and I have to admit, it was a strange feeling to be back on a bike after even 2 weeks away. Add to that, I was riding in downtown Toronto during rush hour traffic, and it was a bit of a change from the desolate roads of the Canadian wilderness. I met with Kevin and the media crew and after a few "Hollywood moments" (read: doing multiple takes of us biking down University St.) Kevin and I were free to head out on the road.

We rode down Simcoe & Spadina to the lakeshore path. There was a small hickup on Queen St. when my skinny little road wheels became lodged in the streetcar track and I found myself stuck in a rut, in the middle of a major intersection with cars honking all around. However, we were very soon down on the lakeshore path and on our way toward Oakville.

Kevin and I had a great chat during the ~2hr ride. He's an avid mountain biker and was really interested in learning more about road biking, and about the kind of perseverance needed to complete this trip. I on the other hand am a fledgling, young entrepreneur and was very keen to speak to someone with a great business sense and a lot of good advice to offer.

By the end of the ride, we were laughing like old school mates and already had dirt on each other (ok, Kevin probably had more on me). Our arrival at Celgene was a fantastic welcoming, with the entire office out front to welcome us. I had a few complaints from the employees about not doing a better job of humiliating their boss, but truth be told, Kevin was probably in better shape than I was after I had sat on my butt for 2 weeks (and he had already rode 40km into Toronto that morning!).We went inside where I gave a small presentation on my journey, the people I met, my experiences with myeloma patients and how (I hope) this campaign helped the myeloma community. I think it was important for a company such as Celgene, who make a fantastic treatment for myeloma, to hear a more personal side to the myeloma community and the people who they are helping. We did a small Q&A session as well, which was nice for me, since it made me recount some memories of my trip after I had been long enough away from the ride to reminisce about them.

I was then presented with an incredibly generous donation in the form of a giant novelty cheque (one of my dreams!) and enjoyed a well-earned lunch. I was glad to be back in cycling mode where I was able to once again make a pig of myself and eat 3 or 4 times a normal human. We then wound up an amazing day and I headed home to continue on with my life.

Today, just over a week later, I find myself deep into city living, working contracts all over the city (and country in some cases) and slowly becoming a normal human being again (well, as normal as I ever am). There is one more element to my grand plan which I still have yet to do. As I mentioned time and time again, this ride was inspired by, and done for my father. Yet, in the entire time since I've returned from the UK, I think I have seen him a grand total of around 5 days.

As such, in 5 hours, I hop on a plane back to Manitoba to catch up on some much needed family time. Dad and I are planning on doing some true stereotypical bonding and heading out fishing... my timing was just a little off (I hope this doesn't turn into ice fishing). The rest of the family will be joining together the following weekend for thanksgiving where we'll get to sit and enjoy ourselves in the house we grew up in for the first time in a very long time.

Upon my return, the only thing left to do will be count up the donations, present PMH with their share of the contributions, and try my hardest to hang onto memories of one of the most influential experiences of my life.
PS: Kevin, if you thought I was just being nice when I insisted on taking the giant cheque, I assure you, it still sits proudly in my office and will continue to do so for a very long time. Trust me... I already tried to cash it to see if we could get $20,000 out of you, so I know now that it really is just novelty. ;-)

Cross Training

Well, after a nice long bike trip, I guess Myeloma Canada thought it would be a good idea for me to get some running in to keep my training regime diverse. I teamed up with Lisa Ray who was recently diagnosed with myeloma at the young age of 37 and we set our marks on the Toronto 5k Your Way run for the Princess Margaret Hospital.

On October 18th, Lisa, myself and a handful of other supporters from Myeloma Canada will be taking to Queens Park to participate in a 5k run to help support the tremendous research at Princess Margaret Hospital. If you'd like to learn more about the run and Team Myeloma Canada, feel free to see our page below:

Now all I have to do is find a good swim meet and I'll be a fund raising triathlete.

Aftermath: Reflections

Finally, I am starting to feel settled. It's been well over a week since I arrived in Toronto yet not even a day since I've finished unpacking, setting up my apartment, and generally, settling in to a new city I'm trying to call home. I'm still definitely in a transitional period, but things are calming down.

Nearly immediately upon my arrival, I locked my bike up in secure storage that my building provides and haven't looked at it since. I've had some friends ask if I wanted to go for a bike ride and likely gave them a look that should have made their heads explode. I've walked over an hour across the city to get somewhere instead of hopping on my bike for 10 minutes. Generally, I still have no desire to get back on that infernal/wonderful machine.

That said, this Wednesday, I will be cycling out to Oakville from Toronto (around 40km) with the Canadian GM of Celgene. Celgene has made a generous donation to the pedal and is coordinating the ride from Toronto to Oakville and a small ceremony/presentation at their offices in Oakville. In short... ready or not, we're back on the road soon!!

While we won't have final numbers until some time in October, I can let you know that fund raising has exceeded my expectations. With a huge push in donations upon my finish (were you guys waiting to give me a reward at the end?) and a couple of large contributions from companies and individuals, we are officially over the $35,000 goal and now knocking on the door of $50,000.

I can't even describe how grateful I am to everyone who helped me reach this mark and how much it means to the myeloma community. Considering that my initial plan was to ride from Calgary to Toronto to raise $3500, you can imagine how blown away I am to know that this ride really did make a difference. This unquestionably makes the fact that I still can't sit straight worth while.

I bicker and moan a lot, but I do miss the ol' girl. I'm curious to see what riding her for 40km without an extra 20-30kg of weight on my back tires will be like. Loaded or unloaded, it'll be good to get back on a more efficient mode of transportation. This whole walking business, while novel, is really becoming a slow, awkward means of travel.

Running however, I realized is not a better idea. I went out for a run on Thursday and learned the importance of cross training. I don't know entirely what muscles are used for cycling vs running, however I can tell you that they are not exactly the same. In fact, based on my experience, they appeared to be opposing each other. Thus, after building up massive muscles from cycling a "flight worthy distance", I felt like I was dragging a boulder behind me with each step forward. I only ran for about 7km, but was more exhausted than even my longest days on the bike and have legs that feel like stones still 2 days later.

Oh, and the beard is officially gone. It was a badge of honour which I wore with pride at the end of the cycle. However, after nearly a week in the hot city, it began to itch and I started to notice the wide birth people gave me while walking around the city. I'm now just another Joe, walking down the streets of a city of endless possibility.

Aftermath: Thanks

I had a video conference last night with the Myeloma Canada conference in Calgary. We set up a link to have me speak to the reception held last night. While I didn't really get a chance to speak to individuals, it was nice to know that so many amazing people who I had the chance to work with on this journey were together in one room, trying to make a difference for myeloma.

It was then that I realized that one of the updates which I needed to post was a thank you to all of the people whom I was lucky enough to have help me with this campaign. When I started planning this journey, I was ready to operate under my usual mode of doing everything myself, however it very quickly became clear that there was far too much for one person to handle, especially while on a bike.

Everyone at Myeloma Canada was instrumental in helping me organize this ride, plan local events, contact media, and make introductions to myeloma patients across the country. While only in existence since 2004, this organization has come a long way and I believe is instrumental in providing education, support, and aid with research to the Canadian myeloma community. While granted I did this ride to support them, I also could not have done the ride without their support.

A warm meal, soft bed, and hot shower may seem like fairly basic amenities, but when you're on the road for 6 weeks, they become one of the most glorious luxuries of your desire. The hospitality on the road was enough to recharge my batteries until my next stop and remind me the real reason behind what I was doing: the people. Nathan, Michelle and the boys in Swifty put me up and introduced me to Benton in Moose Jaw. Towlers in Virden felt like I was already home. Jake & Jess in Winnipeg drove with me in and out of the city and took some gorgeous photos along the road. In Kenora, I got to go out boating with Ron & Claire Noseworthy. Dryden introduced me to Nordlunds, some amazing cooking and the knowledge that I love wild rice, if it's cooked properly. The next day in Ignace, I had an incredible conversation with Don McIntosh about engineering, business and life in general. When I arrived in Thunder Bay, Mark and Ena Conliffe welcomed me into their home and helped me prepare for my difficult journey around Superior. When I finished one of the hardest weeks of my life, Jill Lang Ward and her husband Ted were waiting for me in Sault Ste. Marie with everything except a red carpet to welcome me to town, and an amazing party with cake, and live music! Even though I didn't stay with her, I still need to give a huge thanks to Carol Westberg in Calgary for coordinating the start of the ride with me. She also helped put me in touch with Jungle Jim Hunter, who I have been speaking to weekly on his radio show, and has been a great inspiration. Mona Dartige in Regina brought together a wonderful group in Regina to join me for lunch and an always appreciated chance to talk. Thank you to everyone for your kindness; you helped keep my body and mind going.

Some companies played a big part in this cause as well. Celgene and Ortho Biotech both pleged generous donations to the ride, but more importantly, have developed drugs which help fight back at myeloma. Cyan, my employers in the UK were kind enough to contribute, even after I had to make the difficult decision to leave my job and return to Canada to be closer to family. Rocky Mountain cycles provided me with a great bike at cost which, while I may have cursed at times, was obviously essential to the trip!! My good friend Shaun helped me pick out all my gear at Campers Village in Calgary and thank God we went for the warmer sleeping bag. Anthony at Primal Screen in Calgary made up my shirts for free and has been encouraging me with updates the whole way along the ride.

Unquestionably, my biggest thanks has to go to family. My sisters were a huge help with media releases, places to stay and support when I was having a bad day. My brother in law Scott whupped his friends at a golf tournament and was kind enough to donate the winnings to my ride. My other brother in law Morgan organized an escort for 4 days out of Calgary to keep me company at the start of my ride. Be sure to pass my thanks along to the other fine officers who were with me along the way: I wish I had you guys through the insanity of Ontario!! My cousins, aunt & uncle coordinated a great get together in my hometown and helped to raise over $6000 in a town of only over 1000 people (and thanks to Kirkup Agencies for collecting local donations).

My parents worried about me the whole ride. My mother actually called me one night since I was slow in updating my website and she feared the worst. She has always encouraged my adventurous side and while concerned for my safety, was ecstatic that I was continuing to lead a life of ridiculous ideas and endless adventure. My father has been my inspiration for nearly everything that i've done with my life, and this ride was obviously no different. As I said to the confernce last night, if someone ever asked me to do something like this again, I'd laugh in their face and walk away. If however it could help my dad even a bit, I would bike to the moon. Thanks mom and dad for making me, me. I may be a little bias, but I think you did alright.

To the person I ineviably forgot, I also have to thank you profusely for whatever it was that I also forgot that you did. I swear that this is not an indicator of how I valued your contribution, but more a sign that I probably took in too much sun, have gone a little mad in the bush and am slowly losing my already fragile mind. If I didn't forget anyone, neglect that last statement, especially the part about losing my mind.

Lastly, to all of my friends, old and new, thank you for your support. Whether it was a donation to the fundraiser, a little note to get me through the day, or a promise of a cold beer and a warm meal at the end of all this, every little bit kept me going.