Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Anne's Perspective on the Amgen Tour of California

While I wouldn’t have chosen to join the club of cancer survivors, there are certainly perks to being a card-carrying member. What survivor hasn’t pulled out the old cancer card to get out of a traffic ticket (check), to convince your family to do something ridiculous they otherwise wouldn’t have done (check), to get out of having to do something you really didn’t want to do but have no other legitimate excuse (check), or to impress someone with your super human cancer fighting feats (check). In addition to these little perks, every now and then my cancer card gives me an opportunity of a lifetime. From February 14-23 I will be attending, for the 3rd year in a row, the Amgen Tour of California. That’s 750 miles across the state, from Sacramento to Escondido and everywhere in between. Not only will I get to experience every city along the route, but I also get to watch all of the cyclists just feet from the finish line, meet cancer survivors along the way, and travel with all of the teams full of good looking men. Nope, it never gets old.

Several years after finishing treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma I decided to become a professional cancer advocate by joining the staff of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) and the UCF board of directors, which have both led to amazing perks. In partnership with several other leading cancer organizations, NCCS participates in the Breakaway from Cancer Initiative, which is a complementary component of Amgen’s sponsorship of the Tour of California. The initiative was created to raise awareness and funds to support valuable services and programs, provided free of charge, that help people living with cancer. Much like the cyclists working together, every survivor needs a team to go up those mountains, enjoy the view on the way down, and pull us along when we need it. As the NCCS representative, I am fortunate to staff a booth at each stage and provide people with information and resources. Oh, and did I mention I’ll be just feet from the finish line?

My first introduction to cycling came when I joined UCF’s Team Fight for the program’s kick-off season. Early in 2007 I signed up for the Iron Girl Triathlon to celebrate my 10th cancerversary and raise money for UCF. It’s no 7 Tour de France’s, but it was my first competition since I was diagnosed and my first-ever triathlon. So after I signed up I did a lot training, and by training I mean thinking about and putting off getting and riding a bike. Sure, I’d caught a little cycling on TV flipping through channels, and I lived in Austin when Lance started his amazing winning streak, but I didn’t quite understand all those cycling enthusiasts. Spandex? Really? When I got to my first Tour of California in February 2007 I finally understood what the buzz was all about, though I renewed my personal resolution to avoid spandex.

First of all, who knew cycling was a team sport? I had no clue how much each teammate was helping the leader. Nor did I ever think about what happens when cyclists have to go to the bathroom or eat. Or how they fix problems with their bikes. Or what they do each night after the competition (massages). While my first Iron Girl Triathlon did not involve any bathroom breaks, moving lunch bag grabs, or bike malfunctions, I like to pretend my race was just like the Tour, except even harder because I did 2 additional sports. I had fans and my teammates cheering me on (gotta love the race bibs with your name), I got a medal when I was done, and people kept asking me if I’d won – and I kept saying I did. Exactly the same.

This year the Tour should be even more exciting, especially since Lance will be riding for the first time. Things will be crazy: we will GET IT ON LIKE DONKEY KONG; there will be PANDEMONIUM IN THE STREETS OF SANTA ROSA; and the cowbells will be deafening when there’s ONE TO GO ONE TO GO ONE TO GO ONE TO GO ONE TO GO! I leave for my 10-day cycling extravaganza on Friday and can’t wait. Stay tuned for some updates from the road – I’ll make sure to take pictures from, yup, the finish line. And maybe I can get another one with McDreamy like this one from 2007.

UCF Board Member

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