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Felice Shapiro Headshot

Broken Ribs, Coma... Sign Me Up!

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SPECIAL FROM BetterAfter50

I have a secret and I need to share it.

After riding the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) bike event for 27 years, it's time to come clean.

Since 1980, this 190 mile bike-a-thon has contributed $338 million to cancer research. By 1984, the PMC had established itself as the largest grossing fundraising event for the Jimmy Fund. By 1990, the PMC had become the most successful cycling fundraiser in the world.

The truth is, this event is exhausting -- the two-day ride starts in Sturbridge, MA and ends in Provincetown, MA. There is no question, the commitment to ride this event over these 27 years has disrupted my family's schedule, my health and altered the way I live my life. But hey, it's a fundraiser, so it's not supposed to be about me -- except I'm the one pedaling.

I started riding the PMC because I'd been dating the founder and my sisters and I all jumped in. I wanted to support his efforts, it sounded like a good cause. I didn't know anyone who had died of cancer except his mom, who I had never personally met. But I had been a road biker since I was 16 years old and the event sounded fun.

After my first 190 mile, two-day ride my butt was sore, my hands numb and I was exhausted.  But -- I was hooked.

I had a serotonin high that zinged through my veins for days. It wasn't just from the biking. Hundreds of people cheered us from the sidelines holding signs saying "survivor" and thanked us for saving their lives! Oh yes -- sign me on for the next ride!

So what's the big secret that keeps me coming back for more?:
  1. Hyponatremia. Ever hear of it? Oddest thing but not rare -- when they say drink, drink, drink it's not really what they mean. I almost died of it on my ride 15 years ago. I over-hydrated. I drank too much water and flushed all the electrolytes out of my body, had a grand mal seizure and was in a coma for two days. This was a life changer, as you would imagine. It took me months to get my balance back, regain my short-term memory and get back on the bike. But I did it.
  2. Missing my true blood cycling sisters. We called ourselves "The Four Cycling Sisters," Jane, Julie, Emily and moi -- then we dropped to "Les Trois Soeurs" (that's three sisters) sans Emily, and then there was Julie and myself until a few years ago. Good news, everyone is healthy, they all contribute to the ride AND I totally miss pedaling with them.
  3. Broken Ribs! My son Jake started riding when my betrothed, Bill, and I collided two weeks before the event six years ago. Bill broke five ribs with that fall. Jake stepped in for the full event. Up to that point he'd ridden 20 miles at one point in his life but hey, he was 19. He's ridden every PMC since then and Bill joined us the next year and is now too fast for us to follow.
  4. Singing & remembering Steve Jobs: My younger son, Cal, and Rob Resnick of Timeflies have signed on to the PMC dedicating their song "I Tribute" as a fundraising vehicle for the PMC. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg7iLyzB3L4
  5. I am superstitious, so I have to keep riding: Amazingly, all the people I've dedicated my rides to have survived. SO I have to keep riding. My godson Oliver was the first person I dedicated my ride to. He had childhood leukemia and today at 25, he has a great job, a girlfriend and a full life. He's a survivor. Two dear friends are cancer-free of Lymphoma and another adult free from Leukemia.
Last year, a friend who was diagnosed with colon cancer went through a year of treatments and we were all on pins and needles -- and I was on my bike fundraising and riding for her. She was given her cancer-free news this past fall.

This year I am dedicating my ride to a PMC friend who works the event. She recently got a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer. Figuring out what kind of treatment is available to her is her journey at the moment. The money we raise makes her journey possible.

So this year, despite lack of training, I will ride again to do my part. I am relying on muscle memory to get me to the finish. The event is one month away I haven't even logged more than 50 miles in a week and I probably won't. This year's ride will be tough but I am hoping for a tail wind and will fuel myself on the fumes of cheering survivors to push my pedals.

To learn more, please visit http://www.pmc.org/donation.asp?topic=/online

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