The following story shared by Team CMMD Cyclist Jill Maki:
This time last June, I waited wheel-to-wheel at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge, with my fellow Team CMMD cyclists, to ride my first century ride — 100 miles from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. I was nervous but very excited to tackle one of the milestones in a cyclist’s “career”, but then sadness crept in as I could not help remembering why we had all assembled that sunny June morning – remembering those that we’ve lost and raising money to fight this dreadful disease. The American Cancer Society Bridge-to-Beach is Team CMMD cycling’s equivalent of the Broad Street Run. We train all winter and spring, battling the elements, battling tired legs, battling spin bikes and grueling computrainer classes, just so we can tackle this ride. We all have a story, and my journey into the world of cycling started with a loss.
Three years ago, the world lost an amazing husband, father, son, brother and friend. That man was my husband, Chris, who was diagnosed with metastatic urothelial cancer at just 39 years old and passed a year later. The year following his death was a tumultuous one for me to say the least. I was now left alone to raise three young girls, manage the house, the finances, and keep my sanity. I came across an ad on Facebook one day for the Ride to Conquer Cancer to benefit the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn where my husband was treated. I read through the details – 150 miles of cycling over two days, with a night spent camping in between, and a $2500 fundraising minimum – and thought…there’s NO way. It was 6 months away, I didn’t own a bike nor had I ever ridden a road bike, and there was no way I could ever raise that much money. I put the idea to rest until it popped up again on my feed a few weeks later. Those of you that know me, know that I don’t usually back down when it comes to a challenge. So, on that very evening in April 2014, I clicked the link and registered for the ride. It was a turning point in my life in more ways than I could ever imagine.
On a borrowed road bike, I set out for my first training ride about a week later. Nine (yes, nine) painful miles later I was questioning my decision. I kept at it throughout the summer, working my way up to 50 mile rides a few times a week. I found immense solace in my long rides with plenty of hours to escape the challenges at home – paperwork, kids, finances, estate planning, and more paperwork… all the things that come with being a newly widowed parent. I reflected on my husband’s illness and how he handled his final year with grace and dignity, working up until 10 days before he passed, not willing to give in to the cancer that was slowly ravaging his body and taking his independence. I reminded myself, as I climbed the many grueling hills in Chester County, that this is nothing compared to the surgery and chemo that comes with cancer. As October neared I was confident I could finish the back-to-back 75 mile rides and I blew the fundraising minimum out of the water by raising $9,000.
The Ride to Conquer Cancer was an amazing ride for me. Despite pouring rain the first day, I completed the 150 mile ride and was hooked. Not only could I push my body to do something I never imagined, I could make a difference raising money for a cause I felt so strongly about. Fast forward a few months to an encounter I had with Dr. Christine Meyer. I had just switched to her practice a few weeks prior and wanted to meet her while I was in the office. I told her about my story and my ride and she said “you have to meet Lalitha”. And so it began…the creation of Team CMMD cycling. Within a few months, Dr. Lalitha Trivikram had hatched a plan to get “some” riders to do the ACS ride. Not only did she get a “few” riders, she got 40 that raised over $30,000 for ACS, AND we were awarded the Rookie Team of the Year for our efforts.
Since its inception, Team CMMD cycling has participated in a dozen or so local charity rides, including the Chester County Challenge for Cancer and the Cure for Cam cycling fundraiser. In less than two weeks, Team CMMD will have nearly 100 cyclists participating in the ACS Bridge to Beach. It has been such an amazing journey for me to be a part of this group, to have supportive teammates and training partners every step of the way. I can’t wait to be waiting at the base of that bridge ready to tackle another 100 miles. Cancer sucks, but we need to keep pushing forward and know we ARE making a difference with every mile ridden and every dollar raised. Go TEAM CMMD cycling!
Jill bowing her head in a moment of silence before the race