Ride Marshaling at YSC Tour de Pink South

As I said in my last post: ”Breast cancer survivors share a connection, and I’ve come to learn that in some unconscious way by helping others, I’m helping myself to heal and spin a positive out of something that was negative.”

This past weekend, I had the honor of ride marshaling at the Young Survival Coalition’s (YSC’s) inaugural Tour de Pink (TdP) South – a 3-day, 200 mile charity cycling event, which raises funds to ensure that no young woman faces breast canceralone. While I’m a fairly seasoned cyclist and have participated in a number of charity rides, this was my first experience at a YSC event, which I quickly learned is quite unique. There were approximately 100 cyclists participating in this first year’s event, and I expect that will grow quickly as word spreads. Cyclists traveled from all over the country to participate in this ride that took us from Orlando, Florida, down the east coast to finish in Jupiter, Florida.

Every rider seemed to be a breast cancer survivor, co-survivor, or riding in honor or in memory of a family member or friend affected by breast cancer. Without doubt, there was a first-person connection to the cause for all participating. While this was an ‘inaugural’ event and new to Florida, there were many repeat participants. I was surprised by the vast number of cyclists who had participated in either of the two other YSC events located on the West Coast (California) and on the East Coast. We met cyclists from Texas, Washington, California, Arkansas, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Kentucky, and more locally as well. One very special lady I rode with all three days completed her thirteenth YSC event this weekend, with two more to go in the fall, in celebration of her ninth year of survivorship. Nary twenty miles into Day One, we were talking about our respective breast cancer experiences and the nitty-gritty of its effect on us. I was able to share current information with her about the availability of genetic testing, which is no longer as cost-prohibitive as it once was thanks to Ambry Genetics.

Every rider had a story to be told, heard and shared… some were sad and almost too much to bear, but more often than not there was an overwhelming sense of camaraderie, joy, and celebration. They collectively referred to themselves as ‘family’ and it was clear there were lifelong bonds forged and friendships made at the TdP.

Given that this was my first TdP experience and I was participating as a ride marshal, I spent the better part of the weekend helping others. It also occurred to me that while I am a breast cancer survivor, I’m a cyclist first. Right, wrong or indifferent, I’m glad that I don’t think of myself as a breast cancer survivor above all else. Yes, it has added to who I am as a person, but it detracts nothing. I’m still the smart, funny, sarcastic, occasionally dramatic girl I always was, just with a little more toughness. As the saying goes, ‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” And as survivors, we are a collective group of women (and some men) who are strong and resilient, able to make lemonade out of lemons. I’m proud of every rider who pedaled to the best of their ability, raising money and awareness for the Young Survival Coalition.

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