#WhyIPMC guest blog by Elaine Lavelle; 2nd-year Living Proof rider
Last year at this time, my husband and I could not imagine we’d be in this position – preparing for our second Pan-Mass Challenge. We thought the PMC would be a one-time event for us, a bucket list item crossed off, an accomplishment to be proud of. The thought of going back to friends and family who had been so generous and again ask for more, the daunting task of preparing for the ride – it seemed unimaginable. Yet, here we are, second-year riders. Seems crazy but as we quickly learned, the powerful magic that is the PMC just has a way of sticking with you and compelling you to do more.
I’ll admit; doing it the second time around presents its own set of challenges – that first timer excitement and sense of urgency are not quite as strong. Some discouragement set in as I got back on the bike feeling like I would never be able to ride 100 miles, let alone 190 and dreading what it would take to get there. But the universe seems to have a way of jumping in when you need it most (although not always in the way you would choose!).
In mid-June, I headed off to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for my first annual check up and mammogram since having DCIS, an early non-invasive form of breast cancer in 2016. I was feeling pretty confident – I had already had two clear mammograms six months apart. I had been fortunate to join a clinical trial and had received a breast cancer vaccine designed to increase my body’s immune response to better block the protein HER 2 that was associated with the type of cancer I had. I had two low doses of chemotherapy, an easy lumpectomy and that was that. I had even struggled with identifying as Living Proof since I felt my cancer journey had been fairly minimal, but ultimately decided I was indeed living proof of how research is changing the course of cancer treatment.
And then…the universe stepped in. The mammogram showed two areas of abnormality. I returned in two weeks for a biopsy and a malignancy was confirmed, now invasive. It seems my plans for late summer/early fall have changed a bit. Despite my rocked world, one thing was crystal clear to me right away – there is nothing that will stop me from doing the PMC. This unexpected twist will have to be worked around that. In our first year, we rode for many family members and friends who were fighting this battle or sadly, had lost. Our backs were covered in ribbons, so many ribbons. It was our inspiration for signing up for another year and now, in an instant, things have shifted – this year, it’s personal too.
So here we go again. Climbing the hills of Northeast Pennsylvania, putting in our miles, reaching out to just about everyone we know for support and donations; ticking off days on the calendar and nervously anticipating the first weekend of August. And in between, I talk with doctors, wait for next steps, arrange appointments and begin working my way through the maze of treatment options, determined to kick this ugly disease squarely in its big old rear end. Here we go again…