On Saturday, October 14, I completed my bike ride from Newtown Square to the Golden Gate Bridge. Family and friends were there to greet me, and this amazing journey was complete!
I officially began Ride Hard Breathe Easy on August 24, but the idea of doing something for all lung cancer patients started in December of 2011. Mom was dying of lung cancer, and our family knew she only had one or two more weeks with us. I promised Mom I would do something in her honor, and for all lung cancer patents, and that something would become this bike ride.
Mom was always amazing, loving and caring for her husband of 51 years, their six “wonderful kids” (her words) and their 19 grandchildren every minute of every day. She asked her kids to be pallbearers, gave her jewelry to her daughters and grandchildren, and joked with Dad about “his next wife.” Even while dying, Mom continued to be selfless, kept her sense of humor, and Mom was doing what she could to ease our pain. That simply was Mom – always loving, always caring and always protecting.
Our family had learned the facts about lung cancer and we committed to honoring Mom and helping all lung cancer patients. Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the world, and in the United States it is the top killer of men and women in every state. Even worse, the five-year survival rate of lung cancer patients is 19%. So, we started “Kathleen’s Krew” and have raised over $85,000 since 2011 for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.
But I yearned to do something bigger for Mom and after doing a 67-mile charity bike ride in 2016, I decided I could do a much longer ride. And this ride would focus on raising money and awareness for lung cancer.
For me to complete this ride, I knew I needed plenty of help. Mom had a saying that “many hands make light work.” Indeed, many hands were helped from the very beginning and throughout the entire ride. Over 30 SAP colleagues and former SAP colleagues were part of a team of 100 people that planned every element of the ride, including the route, the bike, the videos, and much more. There was also a dedicated SAP team that built a site that tracked my progress, biking statistics, and connected to the daily blog and Twitter (@ride4lungs).
There were more than 150 people at the SAP office in Newtown Square for the start of the ride, and three SAP colleagues joined me for the initial day of riding. Ride Hard Breathe Easy officially started, and over the more than seven weeks it took, we would cover 3,553 miles, climb over 136,000 feet, and pedal over 1.1 million times. There were some very tough times going up hills in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, and yet I can honestly say that every day was great.
Different drivers came in for three to six days to ride the van, support me, and to simply care for me as I made the way west. Many hands do indeed make light work and we had loads of fun. We saw amazing scenery — especially in Colorado, Utah and California — and shared laughs every single day. I thought of Mom and Dad daily, felt their presence and magic, and I am convinced they made sure the weather cooperated since I rode my bike for over 252 hours, and we had less than six hours of rain.
We also experienced kindness in every state, from people donating to the cause, a bike shop doing a tune-up of the bike for free, and total strangers cheering me when they heard about the ride. Everyone we met was impacted by cancer, many of them by lung cancer, and they were very grateful for what we were doing.
Growing up, Mom and Dad stressed the importance of family, and the toughest part of these 52 days was being away from my wife, my son, and everyone in the family. Our family is very close, and they frequently sent texts, cards, and even cookies. Now I am excited to be home, to spend time with family and friends, and I am deeply proud that we made a difference for lung cancer patients.
I am very grateful to SAP for giving me a chance to make the world a better place, and I ask that you consider being a part of Ride Hard Breathe Easy by donating at www.rhbe.org. My family, friends, and I took care of the costs for the ride, so the money raised goes to two established organizations — Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Lung Cancer Alliance — so they can help patients and their families, research this disease and work to erase the stigma associated with lung cancer.
Thank you, SAP! And now, it’s time for me to get back to work.