Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ready, Set...

Most days in my cycling calendar are filled with thoughts of those who could have benefited, do and will take advantage of HIV/AIDS services, vaccine and cure research for which I ride and of each generous contributor to this annual journey. Today, however, another group is top o' mind.

Immediately after publishing this post, I'll put in a full day at the office finishing the presentation due mere hours after returning home. Between meetings, I'll check off and add to my packing list then my evening will be spent surrounded in spandex, bike gear, sleeping bag (don't forget the pillow!), sunscreen, ibuprofen and where did I put that box of 2 gallon ziplock bags?!

On this packing day before yet another AIDS ride, my thoughts are full of others who know this dance all too well, including my sister Tammie who technically titled this post as it's her favorite means of moving a crowd from one fun event to the next and got me hooked on this bicycle thing in the first place. She is but one of hundreds of people I know (and thousands more I never met) who dedicated months to training and fundraising to agonize over the logistics of getting bike and unusual vacation gear to the starting line. What will get me through this day (as it always does) is the memory and complete confidence that I will see you soon (in person or spirit) with a smile on your face, ready to ride!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Farther On

Last month I shared this message with cherished supporters the old fashioned way, with gratitude to my dear mother-in-law who always includes a book of stamps with her donation check. Posted here to my equally treasured sponsors who prefer virtual communication and with pictures and hyperlinks to kick things up a notch :)



“But the angels are older
They can see that the sun's setting fast
They look over my shoulder
At the vision of paradise contained in the light of the past
And they lay down behind me
To sleep beside the road till the morning has come
Where they know they will find me
With my maps and my faith in the distance
Moving farther on”
-          Jackson Browne, “Farther On”
 
Hope is now tangible. Emory Vaccine Center beneficiaries of our 2012 AIDS ride bubbled over with excitement when speaking of promising results in their research to vaccine against HIV and stop the virus  HIV-fighting drugs had reversed the presence of HIV in a newborn, securing for her a life no longer at risk of AIDS. Yes, hope is alive after a long, dark winter. Even so, as the darkest day of this past winter drew near, I lost it, literally and figuratively.

 The silver cuff adorned my wrist each day and night for more than 15 years as a visible expression to me and the world of my commitment to fight HIV (as engraved) “until there’s a cure.” AIDS hasn’t been cured so what was the meaning in this? Was it permission to retire to my garden - yield the battle to those better equipped to make the mega-impact needed to kick this beast? …Not getting any younger… Tired... No fonder of asking friends, let alone strangers for money. It was too easy to take the bait so I released my motivation, confirmed by the absence of a scuffed up silver bracelet.

Yet I wasn’t relieved; I was devastated, not because I’d lost a sentimental memento but because its absence was premature. I long for the day this bracelet comes off for good, when HIV no longer ravages the world and bikes are ridden solely for pleasure but that day hadn’t come. The 2012 CDC fact sheet: New HIV Infections in the United States confirms that HIV infection rates from 2007-2010 changed little from the previous decade. Treatments have successfully evolved to extend lives at a cost not yet fully realized. Holes in the dike have been sufficiently plugged.  Now it’s time to finish the dam.

There’s no end to the number of worthy causes pulling at heartstrings and pocketbooks, and escape for me is nothing more than a temporary state of denial. Ten days after its disappearance, my bracelet turned up on the bottom of a laundry pile. I dropped to my knees at the sight of it, filled with the knowledge there would be more miles to ride, more money to raise, more hearts to open and heal, until there’s a cure.

This May I’ll return with the Puget Sound Riders to spend a weekend cycling 200 miles through Georgia in support of the fine, innovative HIV/AIDS research at Emory University through the AIDS Vaccine 200. My gratitude for your contribution to this effort extends far beyond mere words. It’s as energizing as a good workout, as inspirational as a good book, and all the motivation necessary to move me farther on.

Thank you for your commitment to end AIDS and bring hope to the journey.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In Memory

I miss you.

Today I rode past your house. The last place we reminisced about our itinerant childhood, shared a laugh over Seinfeld, talked of fear and finally surrender. The place robbed of the most precious things of your life and yet so full of you.

Past your house, I rode on. Our work not yet done. I am surrounded by your spirit in the memories of those you touched and in the lives of those who work so tirelessly to ensure your life and those of other brothers, sisters, mothers and friends were not cut short in vain.


Your creativity and artistic eye peek out at me from my daughter, our youngest brother carries on your style, the older one and your nephew have challenged me onto roller coasters, intermediate slopes and careening down a mountain at 45 mph (motor-free). I am grateful you remain a constant in my life.

But today, I miss you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Momentum

This week's flurry of HIV/AIDS research news took me back to the top of a long, hot climb through the Catskills. "Cure" talk contains increasingly more hopeful nuggets, even the bees are taking some credit. Things are looking up on the way to the top...



Upon arrival, your feet hit the ground long enough to wipe your brow and catch your breath. At that moment in my memory I heard the exasperated groan of my young (and exhausted) companion who had also caught a glimpse, not of the screaming downhill at our feet, but at the even higher hill to climb on the far side of it...

In the same week, the National Institute of Health (NIH) put the brakes on the largest, most recent HIV vaccine trial and sequester cuts lead to $1.6 billion in unfunded biomedical research grants, threatening to close HIV/AID research labs across the country and instantly set back progress two or more years.

"That hill? No problem," I tell my young friend, "You can pedal almost to the top on momentum alone!"  A little extra work on the downhill spin makes that uphill journey shorter and far less painful.

We may only inject a few thousand dollars at a time toward ending AIDS and easing its impact on the world but we do it every year and it always makes a difference. Emory University may receive less research funding in 2013 but the Emory Vaccine Center can count on the money we raise this month in the AIDS Vaccine 200 to keep their labs open through the downturn. Research cuts are forcing an abrupt end to the cutting-edge AIDS research by the George Mason University lab we've supported the last 4 years. Dr. Yuntao Wu's AIDS research has momentum and the $7,369 raised by last fall's Stealth Ride is seeding a grassroots effort to keep his lab open until NIH funding can be reinstated.

Thank YOU for helping to maintain the momentum necessary for the long haul journey of ending AIDS by donating a little this year, and every year, until there's a cure.
Donate to the AIDS Vaccine 200 benefiting Emory Vaccine Center.
Donate to Dr. Yuntao Wu's AIDS research at George Mason University