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Time to Go for a Ride

Posted on June 11, 2014, 6:20 AM
Time to Go for a Ride

By Sue

Sue, RN, BSN attended Franklin Pierce College and Elms College earning Bachelor degrees in Biology and Nursing. She is also one of the Bristol-Myers Squibb staffers embarking on C2C4C Ride, More Miles for More Memories, a brave cycling journey across the country benefiting Stand Up To Cancer. Thanks to some amazing generosity, every dollar these riders raise will be matched by Bristol-Myers Squibb , up to $400,000. Please go to and make your donation today. Help meet the goal of $400,000 that will turn into $800,000 for cancer research!

The pain started between her shoulder blades, across her upper back. She thought she had pulled a muscle, exercising and grooming horses, hauling hay, cleaning stalls…she was the Stable Manager at a horse farm. It was her dream job! For my big sister, DeeDee, walking through horse manure was a “tip toe thru the tulips.” Months of muscle relaxants, pain medications, physical therapy, using a heating pad so much it actually burned her skin….no relief.

I finally realized my big sister was “in trouble” when I called, heartbroken to learn she had just lost her beloved horse. Her equine “soul mate,” Ozzie,” had become suddenly ill, and she had to put him down. Through her sobbing, her broken words, there was something different in her voice. It didn’t sound like her. It was strained, weak, and there was a higher pitch to it.  Right then, the little sister in me transformed to the Oncology Nurse. She had lost weight, she was having difficulty swallowing. Everything she was telling me, everything I was “hearing”…it was not a pulled muscle.

After the initial shock of her diagnosis, DeeDee faced her lung cancer with her “bring it on attitude!” After all, our family has traveled this journey before. Our younger sister, Betty, was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in 1984 and was told she had six months to live. It was she who reminded DeeDee, ”we may have cancer in the family but we have miracles too!”

Every treatment day, DeeDee would pack her “chemo bag.”  It carried her horse print throw which she would wrap herself in, as well as her “chemo pony,” a little stuffed animal horse which was delivered to her one day in the infusion suite. The pony, which looked exactly like Ozzie, came with this message: “I am your chemo pony, I’ll stay right by your side. And if you want to run away, I’ll take you for a ride. In the warmth of the sun, or the light of the moon, we’ll gallop away, and you’ll feel better soon.”

I spent as much time as I could with DeeDee, sadly most of it in the hospital. She would often speak about Ozzie. She would giggle as she would tell the story of how he would steal her hat right off her head and then proceed to play a game of “catch me if you can!”  Her eyes would fill with tears as she looked at his pictures.

Occasionally she found peace in a sleep induced by the morphine she needed to control her pain. Her eyes closed, a soft smile would come across her face and she would lift her hands and hold them as if she was holding reins. Tears streaming down my face I would whisper softly to her, “Ride, DeeDee, ride!”

We talked a lot about “riding.” She her beloved horse, and me…well, my bike! She was thrilled when I was selected to ride in the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Ride! She loved my motto: “I am going to sit on my butt to Stand Up to Cancer!”

When the official training started for the ride, she was again in the hospital. Her room was on the sixth floor, so I would “work out” by running the stairs. I believe she deliberately would ask for something from the cafeteria, located on the ground floor, just to see me sweat!

Her desire to live was strong, but she was physically getting weak.  The cancer was taking its toll. One night after procedures to drain fluid from around her heart and in her lung, DeeDee looked at me and said, “I think Ozzie’s coming to get me…getting ready to ride.” I replied, “not tonight Dee…not tonight” but wondered how much more could she take.

It was a few weeks later, surrounded by her family, in a room full of love….Ozzie came and took my big sister, DeeDee, for a ride. It was April 1st…the one year anniversary of Ozzie’s death. Kindred souls reunited.

Now it’s my turn to honor her and “go for a ride!” My big sister, DeeDee, fought for her life. I will honor her and Stand Up to Cancer by riding for her in the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer Ride. The hours I spend on my bike will be nothing compared to the hours my sister spent in an infusion chair getting chemotherapy. The pain and fatigue of tired heavy legs will be nothing compared to the pain she endured. I know the hills I climb will be nothing compared to the mountains she climbed.

It’s time to go for a ride. I’ll provide the pedal power…my sister, DeeDee, will provide the inspiration.

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