Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Amazing Story. An Amazing Lady, Colleague & Friend

On June 5th I posted an entry about Cristal Bordeleau. I called her “Rideau’s Great Unifier.” The reason being that Cristal Bordeleau brought our whole company together to raise money for her Ride to Conquer Cancer. The bike ride took Cristal from Montreal to Quebec City a distance of over 200 kilometers and occurred over two very rainy days.

Cristal just sent me an e-mail about her ride. With her permission, I am posting it unedited with some photos. The e-mail needs no commentary. It speaks for itself.

It says a lot about Cristal… It says a lot about Rideau.

I’m so proud of Cristal and very grateful she is part of the Rideau family.
From: Cristal Bordeleau
Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 11:26 AM
To: Peter Hart
Subject: Ride to Conquer Cancer 2009

Dear Peter,

Please, let me begin by saying thank you. Thank you for your support, generosity and encouraging words. Honestly, I do not believe I have all the words to express my gratitude properly. Without your support, and the family of Rideau, I would never have been able to participate in such a wonderful journey. I say journey, as to me going from point A to B is a destination, but to live in between point A and B is a journey. Saturday morning, waking up at 4:30 a.m., was quite an exploit. At that moment, my perception of life had not changed. I was just me, Cristal, preparing to cycle for a cause. I was not prepared for what lay ahead.

I arrived at the Olympic stadium at 6:30 a.m. to pick up my jersey, register my bike and myself, bring my gear to the trucks... etc. Keeping me busy, and not too aware of my surroundings. It was a lot of information to capture at once. Continental breakfast was served, and you could hear the sound of cleats and bicycles all around, it was a little hectic.

7:00 a.m., the PA system comes alive “All riders, please begin advancing to the start line, all riders, please advance to the start line, we will begin the Opening Ceremonies”…

“… First, please let me begin by saying thank you for uniting in helping raise funds to advance Cancer research for the Jewish General Hospital…”

“… Today, we are proud to say, for our first Ride to Conquer Cancer in Quebec, you are 1450 riders and together you have raised 5.7 million dollars…”

“…Please put your hands together and give yourself a great big hand of applause…”

When I heard those numbers, I stood proud for the sum, I stood proud thinking of my Rideau family that contributed to this great sum. My heart was soaring.

7:45 a.m.

“… Riders, your sweat is nothing compared to the tears and sorrow cancer patients go through, but your support will bring comfort, now be proud and ride on…”

After this sentence, I turned my head to align myself, and what I saw, changed my perception on life and human strength and unity. It cut my breath short. A young girl, no older than Veronica, was standing there with her mother, crying, tears running down her face, and all I saw was her hand touching her heart, saying “Thank you” to all the riders that were going by her. That was the face of resiliency, sorrow and gratitude. I cycled out of the Olympic Stadium, with tears in my heart and on my face. That young girl touched me forever.

Day One:

It became clearer why I was doing this, and I knew I couldn’t do this alone, I needed outside inspiration. I thought of Francine, when she hugged me on Friday and thanked me and explained to me her scare, I thought of my foster mother, that battled two bouts of breast cancer and survived, my grand-father who battled it twice and survived, and two others were with me even if I didn’t know them, Mimi, for her strength, courage, high spirits and words of caution when she visited Rideau to tell us the importance of exams, and of course your mom. I knew I was riding for two families, my own and my “adoptive” one. Love and compassion and the resiliency of those around me, got me through the first day.

Through the rain, the hills, the breathtaking countryside, I pedaled my heart out. I was also becoming quite aware that I was a little crazy for doing this on a mountain bike… that was my first “Note to Self: next time I get a road bike” :). I spent most of Day One alone on the road. This gives much time for reflection. Between each pit stop, you would have “Cheering Stations.” It was comforting to hear words of encouragement and clappers as I rode by, giving me an extra boost of energy. Along those stations, survivors of cancer exclaimed in loud voices, their thank you’s. I could only respond with moist eyes and a soft smile, no words could ever express what I felt for them.

I rode into the town of Trois-Rivieres at 4:45 p.m.. Having endured, rain… lots of rain. Heat and cold. My legs on fire. I was then told I was 15 minutes away from Basecamp. 5:00 p.m. sharp, I reached Day One’s destination. Soaked, shivering, stiff and one with my bike, I rolled into the bike parking. As I was going in the direction of the gear trucks, I heard a song that gave me a great big old smile, and made me tear up. It was not a ballad, or a love song... it was YMCA :). I was in a rush to jump in the shower, and find the warmth and comfort of my Rideau fleece.

The festivities were nice. The spirits were high. A live band was playing and Day One came to an end. 8:45 p.m., I was asleep in my tent.

The night was wet, cold but it was all worth it, except for the 1 a.m. “porta-potty” call… now that one, I could have done without… :) …..

Day Two:

4:45 a.m. Wide awake. Packed up all the gear (all wet). And headed for breakfast. Talking with a few people, it was estimated that about ¼ of the cyclist were not moving on. Many injuries happened the day before, varying between scrapes, cuts, neck braces and hypothermia. I counted my blessings, I was safe. All I had were extremely sore legs and a very tender knee, but my heart was set on moving on.

Breakfast was served, and at 7 a.m., I was ready to set out. The route was announced over the PA, even if we had the booklet, and we were wished a safe ride. As we pulled out and I was 10 km in, I knew I was in trouble. I hit 1st pit stop, and should have stayed there, but I didn’t. I continued on to pit stop 2, another 20 km away, and went through excruciating pain, but my stubbornness and determination was pushing me to get to the lunch stop. As I was pulling out, I met a gentleman that would help me get through, and little did I know, teach me a great lesson on “Never Giving Up,” but that’s a story in itself. To the lunch stop, it was 30 km and mostly uphill. Donald, is his name, talked to me the whole way. He has a beautiful outlook on life and he was named “Mr. Smiley” by all the Rescue Staff and Volunteers, and with good reason. Well Mr. Smiley and I had lunch together, and we headed off in the direction of pit stop 3, the one I never made it too.

I must admit, it was the hardest thing for me to do, as I felt I was giving up, but Donald said the right words to me, that made me give the thumbs down signal as a medical car was coming. He told me, “Cristal, what would be the purpose to completely destroy your knee today? That means you would not be able to participate next year. You are not giving up, you are saving yourself for round 2.”

… He’s right!

I was picked up, and well taken care of. Iced for 6 hours, surprisingly by Donald’s wife. Little did I know, I made friends for life. It was nice to be with Donald’s wife as I was there to see him ride in at 6pm, the very last rider to come through the arches, with a great big smile. They drove me safely home as well.

Thank you Peter for reading my journey and for the hug yesterday :)

Yours truly


P.S. That Rideau fleece saved me… lol. As I said it kept me warm, it gave me comfort, staring at it on my bike going up hills, gave me strength and courage as I saw the faces of all my colleagues that supported me, but it saved my butt too :) since my seat was not the best, it became a cushion many of times. Hurray for the Rideau Fleece.

P.P.S. A special thanks to Trinh, she helped me with text messages throughout the week-end. Next we are doing the 5 km walk on the 4th of October as a department.