Riding for Mom

Posted on October 23rd, 2010

Same legs, different bike

Tomorrow morning I will set off for the fifth year in a row on the Alyn Hospital Charity Bike Ride. The Alyn ride is a 5 day ride through some of the most spectacular areas in Israel. Each rider must raise a minimum of $2,000 in donations to the Alyn Children’s hospital to enter. While you are in the saddle, you can’t help but think of the children of Alyn on whose behalf you are riding. These are children who have been severely injured in car accidents, terrorism, or suffer from terrible disease. The concept of Alyn is to make a bike ride just hard enough so that you have a tiny notion of how hard every day tasks are for the kids of Alyn. Just as you feel the triumph of completing a tough physical challenge, you can understand a little how these kids keep pushing themselves to get better.

Yet this year, I am not just riding for the kids of Alyn. While my legs and lungs will be in the Judean Desert, my heart will be in California.

Mom this Summer at Bryce Canyon

It was the day after Rosh Hashana that I got the e-mail from my mother. She needed an operation and quickly because blood tests had shown a dangerous change that could be attributed to several factors. For me, the only real downside of Aliyah is how far you end up from your family. But when there is a need, thank G-d we can always hop on a plane and be on the other side of the globe in 24 hours. So I ended up spending the holidays with my parents in California. The operation was a complete success. We were all very relieved.

Unfortunately, after the operation came the diagnosis that my mom has cancer.

My Mom has Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Now a number of people told me how this was very lucky since this is a very “treatable” cancer. The problem is that talking about a very “treatable” cancer is like referring to that “very polite” Nazi who is sitting in your living room. He may not burn down your house, but he’s still a Nazi. Sorry, but we just don’t feel so “lucky.”

Cancer means chemo, and chemo sounds like a horrible nightmare. My Mom has only been through the first of eight treatments and yet has already suffered from a host of horrible ailments oddly enough caused not by the cancer but by the drugs that are treating the cancer. Yes, the medicine to make you better does a real number on the rest of your body.  So while it is a good thing that the Allies have found the “polite” Nazi and are trying to kill him, the shoot-out is destroying your living room.

It’s not that I have never experienced physically suffering. I have done more than a few long distance runs and bike rides where all I wanted to do by the end was crawl under the nearest rock. Yet my suffering was all my choice. And from the sounds of things, my adventures are nothing like going through a single session of chemo. I would rather run until my toes fell off one by one than go through chemo.

But my Mom is tough. I have no doubt that she will get through the chemo and finish cancer free with her arms raised triumphantly like Lance Armstrong. She is not going to let this cancer beat her. While she has good days and bad days, she is looking forward to the end of this whole process where she can enjoy life again.

So this week, whenever the hills get steep and the trail seems to go on forever, instead of complaining I will try and keep my Mom in mind and realize how fortunate I am to pick and choose when and how I suffer. She is much tougher than me. I can always get off the bike and rest.

They give you a yellow jacket when you complete your fifth Alyn Ride. The jacket is not just an appreciation for the years spent raising thousands of dollars for the children of Alyn. The jacket represents the great physical accomplishment of riding twenty-five days through some of the hardest biking terrain in Israel. It represents thousands of kilometers that you have trained for the rides. It is a reward for the days when you rode even though it was freezing cold or boiling hot. It is something that you can keep long after you have washed the mud and grime away.

But as proud as I am to have earned this jacket, I’m not keeping it. No, I am going to give the yellow jacket to a certain person who is bravely riding her own ride right now. And while that ride may be extremely difficult, the finish line will be oh so sweet.

Mom, you are in my thoughts every day. I know you can get through this. Enjoy the jacket.

Live Strong.


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  1. rutimizrachi says:

    Amen! Dang, she’s gonna look good in twice-earned yellow!

  2. Miriam & Harvey Poch says:

    We’re not riding, but we aure are praying. Success to you and refuah sheleimah to your Mom. May she enjoy the jacket for many years to come.

  3. Tova Rubenstein says:

    Go Yarden! Thinling of you. the kids from alyn and your mom, who is fortunate ti have such a strong positive support team

  4. Cina says:

    Go Yarden.
    We wish we could join you on this venture!! Alas, we simply have not trained!
    Refuah Shleima to your mom. May she live a long life and receive nachat from your accomplishments and family.
    Mayer and Cina

  5. Yehuda Miller says:

    Yarden, please let your mom know that she is in my prayers.

  6. Jill Smudski says:

    Yarden, your writing about your Mom brings tears to my eyes. She is in my prayers and you and your family are in my thoughts.

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