Sunday, October 11, 2009

24 Hours of Booty Newsletter

I was asked to write an article for the 24 Hours of Booty newsletter talking about my recent experience at the Columbia event. Here is a reprint of the newsletter.

October 2009 Newsletter
Moving the Mission Forward- Alli Ward
Alli Ward is a 24 Hours of Booty participant and cancer survivor. She donned the coveted number 24 at this year’s Columbia Event. After meeting Alli, and listening to her story, we asked her to write a little bit about her experience at the event.

In the summer of 2007 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, the cancer continued to spread and the prognosis was not good. I started a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins and the treatment held the cancer at bay for several months. Last year, I learned about 24 Hours of Booty and decided at first to volunteer and then felt the call to participate as a rider. I had been a cyclist previously and saw this as a perfect opportunity to challenge myself and my body to do something I enjoyed as well as raise money for a cause close to my heart. I had recovered somewhat from my previous treatments and was getting stronger. I was not sure how much I would be able to ride, but I was looking forward to the first lap the survivor lap. I wanted to celebrate my improved health and lay claim to the title of cancer survivor. I was overwhelmed by the support from my family and friends and exceeded my original goal by raising $750.

One week before the event, I learned that the tumors in my lungs had grown and several more popped up. I was devastated, but was still looking forward to participating. Unfortunately, the inaugural Columbia event in 2008 was cancelled due to hurricane Hannah. I was saddened that the event was cancelled and even more so; very disappointed that I would not be able to ride the 2.25 mile loop celebrating myself as a cancer survivor.

Throughout this past year my cancer has continued to spread and my health has deteriorated. As 24 Hours of Booty in Columbia approached, I knew I would not be able to participate this year. Just one more thing the cancer had taken from me. I mentioned in passing to a new friend how much I wanted to be a part of this year’s event. He realized how much the survivors’ lap meant to me and contacted a local bike shop and arranged for them to donate a pedal powered rickshaw. Owen committed to pedal me for first lap and despite my health he found a way for me to participate in the survivors’ lap. Owen contacted the 24 Hours of Booty staff and they were excited about me participating in the event and were very supportive. As the weekend approached I was not feeling very well, but was looking forward to the event and found myself driven by the excitement of being able to join in on the fun. This year, once again, I was overwhelmed by the support of my family, friends and some strangers who learned about the rickshaw and donated over $800. On Saturday I showed up early to volunteer and was welcomed with open arms by the staff and coordinators of the event. I believe they were as excited and touched as I was that someone (my friend Owen) went out of his way to arrange a way for me to ride. An hour before the kickoff the skies opened up and it began to rain, but this did not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the riders and other attendees. I was given the very coveted number of 24 and with Owen pedaling we started off on the first lap of the day.

Other riders volunteered to pedal the rickshaw and I was able to complete 10 laps including the ceremonial last lap on Sunday. The last part of the lap included a hill that was tough with the added weight of the rickshaw and passenger. Volunteers and riders helped us by pushing us up the hill. Throughout the weekend I was able to spend time and interact with other riders and the Booty staff, including Booty’s founder Spencer Lueders. I was overwhelmed by how many of them understood what the event meant to me and was able to listen to their stories about how cancer affected their lives. I was also given the opportunity to share my own story. 24 Hours of Booty is more than a fundraiser, it is an opportunity to empower survivors and the community to get involved in the cancer movement. Athletes and ordinary people gave time out of their busy lives to ride for a cause. They rode in rain, sunshine, and throughout the night and demonstrated that they understood how cancer affects people’s lives and the importance of doing something to recognize the impact of this disease.

I will always remember that weekend and it has given me strength to face my future. I met many inspiring people and formed new friendships that will assist me in my journey. I am facing tough times ahead, but I also have the memories of what it felt like to be a part of such incredible experience. The feeling of the wind in my hair, the shouts of encouragement and the thrill of each lap will encourage me to keep fighting and live strong.

Final lap in the rickshaw- pulled by Spencer Lueders

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