When Matt Purdue and I started the YSC Tour de Pink on the East Coast in October 2004, it was small, I mean very small. 6 riders. Matt and I would speak to the participants the night before we rode out and generally every day of the route. We randomly asked people to come to the stage, made up and gave people awards and generally improvised each night. It was fun, silly, and completely without a process until pretty much the day of. We were riders, volunteers and g4 staff; we were a family and really didn’t worry about too much structure.
As the Tour grew and the YSC added event staff and we created committees, things became more formal. We realized it was very important for the participants to meet the survivors and caregivers that benefitted from the funds raised by TDP for YSC. I was afraid too much formality would take away the family sense of community, the fluid and unplanned nature of the meals where people spoke. Boy was I wrong. By really thinking about what we wanted to get out to our community of riders/volunteers/staff/friends and family, we met and heard from some of the most amazing people who changed other people’s lives.
For me, one of those people was Libby Hodges. We started TDP West Coast in October 2010. It was small and intimate the way East Coast started. In 2011, our second TDP West Coast, Libby Hodges and her sister Lisa McGrory were our survivor speakers. They told their story of sisters being diagnosed with the same disease, with one sister’s disease advancing rapidly and the other’s staying stable. The oddity of breast cancer, sisters both with breast cancer but with very different diseases.
Libby was diagnosed in 1996 and metastatic in 2006. The cancer would stabilize and come back elsewhere, stabilize, move on again. She told a room that was pin drop silent her story. Libby used humor, sarcasm, honestly and emotion. When she and her sister finished telling their stories, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We stood, honored the sisters and we admired every pedal stroke they took. Over the next 2 years they came back with a bigger and bigger team. Riding hard and riding strong. Libby trained and pedaled like the “never give up” gal that she is. We became fast friends.
In 2011, after 13 years of stage 1 and 2 breast cancer, my cancer metastasized. I immediately got in touch with Libby. As many of you know, I am not a gloom and doom person, I did not want to join a mets support group. I have amazing support in my breast cancer friends and my non cancer family, friends and partner. Libby and I were kindred souls and I knew speaking with her would be what I needed. This love fest continued by phone and text. As my cancer did crazy things, so did hers. Finally my cancer went to my brain. Scary shit and she was there. There are very few people that can understand what it is like to live with metastatic disease unless you are actually living it. The thought that the disease has gone where it wants and you are playing whack a mole b/c it does keep coming back. However, Libby never gave up.
Now some of you may say by deciding to end treatment in the Spring, she gave up. It is just the opposite. Libby did not let cancer rule her. She ruled her cancer. She made decisions about her treatment in consultation with her doctors but it was always Libby ruling the cancer. Her decision to choose quality over quantity, as she so eloquently wrote, was her ruling cancer. Libby chose how to lead and how to exit this life. That my friends is not “giving up” but “taking charge”.
Many of you know that I am agnostic bordering on atheist. I do not believe when someone dies another angel gets its wings. I think it is a nice expression and I am not criticizing those who say it. Everyone believes what they want and everyone has different definitions of faith. When Libby passed over yesterday (7.18.14), the soft breeze came to Libby and with loving care cradled her soul and took it to a beautiful and peaceful place.
Libby lived her life with honor, integrity, love of friends, family, humor, spunk and beauty. Where she goes next, none of us truly know. I believe her spirit, her soul, will find a new place in the universe and will continue to bring wonderful things to others. This next journey for Libby will hopefully be peaceful, pain free and worthy of Libby.
I will miss our chats, texts and emails. I will miss being on the bike with her and talking about all the body parts that were ruined that day…. in gory detail. I will miss my mets buddy. I will miss the light in the Spoke Spinner Lemon Heads Team this year because that light was Libby. But we will all honor her in California in October 2014. Libby would demand humor and happiness, not sadness and gloom. We will give her that.
Cancer did not rule Libby. Libby ruled cancer. For this I am eternally grateful for her helping to show me the way.
Libby, you will always have your own special place in my heart. I will name one of my brain tumors after you. Sorry kid I will probably name it and then have to kill it. But I know you understand.
Rest, fly, pedal and tap me on the shoulder in October or at least give me a push up a hill!
Love you always.
P.S FUCK YOU CANCER. Libby made her choices, cancer did not.