As you can easily surmise from my inscessant social media-ing, I love cycling 100’s of miles across Europe as part of the London to Monaco ride in the waning days of September. I love riding up the hill to the Prince’s Palace in Monaco the day before seeing all my buddies by the pools and at the parties and on the yachts durring the Show. I love the people I’ve met for the the first time (who happen to be rocking matching lycra kit at breakfast before the sun rises in some crazy 2.5 star hotel). And I love for the people I’ve ridden every mile of this magnificent ride with over the last 3 years even more every year.
But this story isn’t about all that, really. This story is about family, and cancer, and adventure, and fear, and figuring out what to do when you don’t know what to do. And most of all…love.
The photo above that was taken this summer shows my wife Caroline (rocking her amazing green jumpsuit and movie-star good looks), and her mom Georgianna. As you can see, the movie-star good looks run in the family.
But what you can’t see is that Georgianna has cancer. She’s had it for a long time, and she’s taken every type of horrible treatment, and she been to a million doctors with the hope of keeping it from spreading so she can spend more time with her family and friends in the places she loves the most.
And she was in the place she loves the most (the special house on the rocky shores of Camden, Maine where her family has gathered every summer since her parents had it built in the early 1940’s) when Caroline got a call that every daughter who’s already lost a parent to cancer, fears. Georgianna’s health had taken a very sharp turn for the worse. She was rushed to the hospital and the doctors weren’t able to pinpoint the cause of the infection or the virus that appeared to be sucking the life out of her. She was really, really sick and there was no guarantee that the antibiotics the doctors prescribed would work. In fact, when she’d showed no real signs of improvement after 3 days in the ICU, Caroline of course, wanted to drop everything to be with her.
But I was in Europe.
And she couldn’t drop everything to be with Georgianna because, the Camden house is a 3.5 hour drive from where we live, and there was no one to be with Sam…because I was on a 7-day-long jaunt across Europe followed by days of chillin’ by the pools, and at the parties, and on the world’s most opulent superyachts in Monaco.
Georgianna was very, very sick. Caroline was scared and hurting. And I was powerless to help. In fact, it was worse than powerless because I was unable to help simply because I was on day two of my writing assignment that brought me to London to Monaco’s glorious gambol across Europe followed by days of chillin’ by the pools, and at the parties, and on the world’s most opulent superyachts in Monaco…
I’m not sure what country I was in on day three of the ride when it became obvious that I was in the wrong country. I needed to go home. I needed to be with my family so Caroline could be with her Mom. I needed to take action to do whatever I could to help ease the pain of the people I love most.
The one way airline ticket, leaving the next day from our next destination city (the earliest I could get), cost $2,176. I would have paid $10,000 if I’d had too. And I’m sure you’d have done the same thing. But, because of the time difference, and my need to ride that day’s leg (so I could get to the closest international airport the next day), I couldn’t talk to Caroline to tell her I was coming home until that night. In the meantime, I told the organizer of the ride that I was leaving, then I simply I checked out mentally untill I finally connected with Caroline via the hotel wifi somewhere in Switzerland.
And then, she told me not to come.
Don’t come..stay there…do your job…the antibiotics have finally worked.
“Really?” I said. “I’m still coming home.”
“You don’t have to. She’s ok, for now,” she said.
I simply didn’t know what to do. All I know is that I wanted to do the right thing what ever the cost. Caroline wanted to do the right thing. We all want to do the right thing.
What’s the right thing in that situation?
What would you do?
You know what we did? We talked. Caroline vented. Georgiana (who happens to be a fluent French speaker and “grande francophile”), laughed the raspy laugh that comes to those who have been to the edge and said when I asked to talk to her…”Now Bill, it would be a shame for you to come home from your grand adventure now. I’m ok! It took a while, but the antibiotics killed whatever it was that caused everything to shut down so dramatically.”
So, you know what I did?
I’m spite of not getting a wink of sleep, I somehow shifted gears in my mind long enough to spend the hour on the phone to cancel the $2,176 plane ticket, and then appear at breakfast at 6am instead of getting into a $500 cab to the airport at 3:30 am!
Then my friends hugged me and said how happy they were I was still there.
Then we all rode 25 miles straight up the Col du Grand Saint Bernard that separates Switzerland from Italy (and that Napoleon marched through with his invading troops). And then, just like I cried with gratitude last year during our epic climb up Mt Ventoux, I was climbing an iconic climb, and crying with gratitude again.
And this year, we still had another 100 miles to ride into Italy once we got to the top.
Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
And please, do yourself a favor and give the people you love a hug.
That’s always the right thing to do.