Skip to content

My Livestrong Story – Chris Carter

September 14, 2009
I think every child is born with a love for bicycles.  There is something about riding down the road under your own steam, with the wind in your face, it’s freeing.  The first bike I remember was blue, had ape hangers and a banana seat.  I got it when we moved to Austin in 1979.  I loved that bike…and my Star Wars tennis shoes.  My Dad and I would ride our bikes down to a pond on the outer edge of our neighborhood to go fishing or just cruise down the steep hills. My parents were divorced shortly after we moved here and somewhere along the way I put the bike down and the memories of freedom that went with it.
In December of 1997 my Dad noticed some spots on his forehead and went in to have them removed.  Two weeks later he had more spots.  A week later we were notified that the cancer was back and he was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma from a spot on his back. Over the years, my Dad and I had not been as close as I would have liked, so during the last months of his life I tried my best to reconnect.  However, knowing that he would die somehow proved to be an insurmountable wall to climb.  On May 14th, 1998 I lost my Dad to cancer. With only six months between his diagnosis and his death, there were many things left unsaid and many questions left unanswered.
That very same year, after complaining of chronic back pain, my Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer.  The tumor was about the size of a grapefruit and had spread to her lymph system.  Unfortunately, my Mom was part of the 1% of the population that could not handle the standard chemo treatments.  At her doctor’s urging, she started a regimen of experimental drugs trying for a cure.  In July of 1999 Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, launched a worldwide crusade against cancer and gave my Mom what those drugs could not – Hope.
In 2000, she bought Lance’s book It’s Not about the Bike.  I was not going to let the distance that happened between my Dad and I happen to the two of us.  I bought my own copy of the book and began following Armstrong right alongside her.  That year I quit smoking, bought a bike and fell in love with the freedom and joy it had once given me as a child.  My mom and I sat glued to the TV in  2001 as Armstrong rode to his 2nd Tour win over long time hopeful Jan Ulrich of Germany.  That was one of the best months of my life.  She died December 28, 2001.
I can honestly say that if it was not for the bike I would not be writing this today.  I am not sure how many miles I rode that year, but I have been riding ever since.  In October of 2002 Bicycle Sport Shop sponsored Ride2Drop, a Lance Armstrong peloton project fundraiser I had organized in memory of my parents.  The ride was a one day trip from Austin to the coast.  I wanted the ride to be unbearably tough. I wanted to be put in the position to have to choose between quitting and suffering – Cancer patients don’t have an opportunity to just walk away.  I felt that somehow that would bring me closer to my parents.  So, on October 26th, 2002 sixteen of us left Austin in hopes of reaching the coast.  Seven finished, including me.  The last fifty miles was the hardest miles I have ever ridden and by far the most therapeutic.

I think every child is born with a love for bicycles.  There is something about riding down the road under your own steam, with the wind in your face, it’s freeing.  The first bike I remember was blue, had ape hangers and a banana seat.  I got it when we moved to Austin in 1979.  I loved that bike…and my Star Wars tennis shoes.  My Dad and I would ride our bikes down to a pond on the outer edge of our neighborhood to go fishing or just cruise down the steep hills. My parents were divorced shortly after we moved here and somewhere along the way I put the bike down and the memories of freedom that went with it.

Carter_DadIn December of 1997 my Dad noticed some spots on his forehead and went in to have them removed.  Two weeks later he had more spots.  A week later we were notified that the cancer was back and he was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma from a spot on his back. Over the years, my Dad and I had not been as close as I would have liked, so during the last months of his life I tried my best to reconnect.  However, knowing that he would die somehow proved to be an insurmountable wall to climb.  On May 14th, 1998 I lost my Dad to cancer. With only six months between his diagnosis and his death, there were many things left unsaid and many questions left unanswered.

That very same year, after complaining of chronic back pain, my Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer.  The tumor was about the size of a grapefruit and had spread to her lymph system.  Unfortunately, my Mom was part of the 1% of the population that could not handle the standard chemo treatments.  At her doctor’s urging, she started a regimen of experimental drugs trying for a cure.  In July of 1999 Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, launched a worldwide crusade against cancer and gave my Mom what those drugs could not – Hope.

Carter_MomIn 2000, she bought Lance’s book It’s Not about the Bike.  I was not going to let the distance that happened between my Dad and I happen to the two of us.  I bought my own copy of the book and began following Armstrong right alongside her.  That year I quit smoking, bought a bike and fell in love with the freedom and joy it had once given me as a child.  My mom and I sat glued to the TV in  July of 2000 as Armstrong rode to his 2nd Tour win over long time hopeful Jan Ulrich of Germany.  That was one of the best months of my life.  She died December 28, 2001.

I can honestly say that if it was not for the bike I would not be writing this today.  I am not sure how many miles I rode that year, but I have been riding ever since.  In October of 2002 Bicycle Sport Shop sponsored Ride2Drop, a Lance Armstrong peloton project fundraiser I had organized in memory of my parents.  The ride was a one day trip from Austin to the coast.  I wanted the ride to be unbearably tough. I wanted to be put in the position to have to choose between quitting and suffering – Cancer patients don’t have an opportunity to just walk away.  I felt that somehow that would bring me closer to my parents.  So, on October 26th, 2002 sixteen of us left Austin in hopes of reaching the coast.  Seven finished, including me.  The last fifty miles was the hardest miles I have ever ridden and by far the most therapeutic.

Advertisements
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Ward permalink
    September 14, 2009 5:41 pm

    I am so very proud of you and who you have become Chris. You have come so very far from the days of our early 20’s yet stayed close to your big heart. Your story and the one that lies beneath are an inspiration to me and many others. I am comforted by the fact that you are one of my few lifelong friends.

  2. Jerry Ann Ward permalink
    September 14, 2009 6:12 pm

    Hey, Chris! Haven’t seen or heard from you in ages. Scott just sent your very-well-written story to me. I read it with awe! I, too, am so very proud to know you and to have known you for so long! Keep up the good work and continue to challenge yourself throughout life. I think that’s the only way we can LiveStrong no matter our circumstances.

    Love,
    Jerry, Scott’s Mother

  3. Robert Scribner permalink
    September 15, 2009 12:31 am

    Wow! Chris I saw this story and am sitting here shocked. It has been years since I have seen you and I am so proud to know someone with the character and determination that you show.

    Keep it up! You are a great example.

    Robert Scribner

  4. roostertx permalink
    September 16, 2009 10:20 pm

    Thank you Scott, Jerry and Robert. Your comments mean a lot to me. It was through friendships like yours that I was able to climb such tall walls.

    Carter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: