It’s a little over 24 hours after the fourth RealTime Cancer Climb and I thought by now I would have words to describe my experiences of this week, and specifically yesterday. I’m not quire sure if I do but I’m going to flow something out here and hopefully it will give you a grasp of the week I’ve had.
It started with an email that I received from a student last weekend telling me that one of their buddies and classmates had died on Saturday night. His name was Jason Pickett and I didn’t ever get the pleasure of meeting him but have heard his name consistently for the past 8-10 months as I spent time in schools where his significant group of friends attended. I knew then that the Climb would take on a new meaning for those students who have been connected to RealTime Cancer (RTC) and Jason. I think I was right.
A few days later while I was at a school doing some Climb promo I learned that a former RTC student team member, who graduated two years ago, had relapsed. Matt Maharajh is an O’Donel High graduate and he attended my first ever high school presentation at OD. He was the first student ever to stand in appreciation of hearing my story… hearing Matt’s news was a major shock to me. I immediately called his dad to learn that he had started chemo the day previous and that he had a tough night. I dropped a card into him just before heading to Signal Hill to promote the Climb on the NTV news, where, thanks to Toni Marie Wiseman I was able to steal a few precious seconds at the end of the news to give Matt a “thumbs up” and a “hang in there.”
That same day I heard from a lady who I had never met, her name is Leeanne, and a month ago her 27 year old husband Ken Drodge had passed away. Her message was cause for many moments of reflection by this 27 year old cancer patient. Leeanne shared some of the journey she had taken with Ken and it was apparent that she and her friends were very committed to joining me on Signal Hill.
The word “special” jumped into my mind as that is the feeling I got when I started to think about the Climb that was now less than four days away.
The week progressed, the energy rose as I made my way around to various schools and I really was sure that this year’s Climb was going to be something different, something special. It was one of my busier weeks of the year and on Friday afternoon I went to the airport to pick up a little buddy of mine who traveled from Nova Scotia to climb with me again this year. Ailyena had been to the Rock only once before… at last year’s Climb.
Saturday arrived and I was a little slow getting going and there were a few unexpected things to do, as is always the case. A little late arriving, I delivered the only real responsibility I had that day (other than getting my butt up the Hill), which were the Climb shirts. And then I was largely free to move around and chat with Climbers as they arrived, which I was able to do in previous years, but not to this extent!
As the first several Climbers arrived I was chatting with Leeanne and a few of her friends when this guy appears over my shoulder… and standing there in front of me was Matt Maharajh. I wasn’t quite sure it was him but it was. Recently, and by “recently” I mean less than an hour ago, he was discarded from the hospital after five days of chemotherapy and he came straight to the Climb. Wild… and the “specialness” continued to rise.
Then we’re registering people, the crowd was building and I spotted a face that I recognized but once again was unsure if I was actually seeing her in person. Darlene Howard, a key teacher at a local high school to which I’ve presented, had relapsed last fall just days before I was to present at her school. I presented at the school with the teachers fully aware of the situation but the students had not yet learned of Darlene’s new challenge. It was my worst presentation ever… And I hadn’t seen Darlene since that day. And now here she was in front of me, having attained another remission, she explained, and then relapsed again a couple of months ago. Her voice was strong and we had a chat, she informed me that she and her children pray for “Mommy’s friend Geoff” every night. I was amazed to see her and so touched that she was at the Climb to tackle Signal Hill and come down the ocean-side stairs just as she did last year!
The weather was the worst it’s been, but the energy was the most exceptional. I have words for how I feel about the day and I’m not sure if they accurately describe things inside me but they are a good start… “humbled” by the response of others, in “awe” of the support RTC has and continues to receive and a new “awareness” of how connected I am to others who have walked similar roads as I.
I have always wanted this organization to be much more than one guy telling his story to other people and for a whole collection of reasons I understand that that process is well underway. I am as excited about the road ahead as I have ever been, I want to thank everyone who helped organize and deliver this year’s Climb and to everyone who climbed (wherever you were) I hope your experience was something “special.”
I went “non-stop to the top” just like my little buddy Philip, and the feeling on top of that Hill yesterday has stayed with me for 24 hours now. I hope you have been able to get a grasp inside, there’s a party going on in there and it’s not stopping any time soon.
Live life. Love life.