10/11/1962 – 07/14/2019
Did Not Finish (DNF) is a term used in racing for a competitor who drops out of the contest, for whatever reason – injury, fatigue, dehydration. What happens when that competitor is taken hostage by Stage Four Colon Cancer?
I haven’t publicly shared what has been happening in my life over the last sixteen months. Some of you may know about my ex-business partner and friend Robin. Most of you won’t. She ghosted a year ago….devastatingly diagnosed with a terminal disease.
At first, she exhibited the indomitable spirit that was quintessentially her. The woman who swam from Alcatraz, not once, but three times. The woman who regularly smoked triathlons. The woman who ran circles around her fellow ‘Wall Streeters’; enjoyed performing stand-up in NYC; founded two start-ups; and gave generously of her time and spirit to everyone in her path is DNF.
Her lifetime as a hardcore endurance athlete has me stuck in a simile. It’s like her bicycle chain broke mid-race and there is NO repair shop anywhere to be found. She was pissed. I know she was pissed because she shared her frustration with me often. Not angry; not resentful at her loved ones who are healthy. She was ticked-off that she didn’t get to finish THIS race.
When we started Kuel Life we talked endlessly, via phone and during our face to face week long working sessions, about how we intended to ‘change the paradigm for women in our second act’. Personally, we were peeved at the Casper-like (think friendly ghost) phenomenon happening to us upon entering 50-something land. Rather than accept the fading out process, we initiated a new course. She and I brainstormed, took endless notes (she, not me…. in her sparkly unicorn spiral notebook), and dreamed out loud together.
Robin’s outlook and energy was very different than mine. She believed in Mercury Retrograde. She ONLY ate organic. She visited and spent time with spiritual healers. This was way before the diagnosis, by the way. She always seemed to have the time to notice the butterfly, the changing colors in the sky at sunrise and dusk, the way her kitty enjoyed blueberries. My life has been enriched by such seemingly insignificant moments. Moments that, left to my own devices, would be missed.
May 7, 2018, upon my return from New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, I couldn’t ‘find’ her. She lives in Sausalito, CA; I live in Chapel Hill, NC. The bi-coastal nature of our circumstances didn’t stop us, but occasionally presented challenges of schedules. I called, texted, called, texted for a couple of days without response. Even though Robin regularly would forget to charge her phone or mis place her power cords, this time was different.
She had ended up in the ER dealing with an acute ‘tummy’ issue… will leave it at that. It was within the span of a day or two that she learned of the cancer. From the get go Robin’s attitude was exactly the same as it was for everything in her life… the ultra-marathons, finagling huge success in a male-dominated industry. ‘F-U Cancer’ is all she had to say. She was going to beat cancer and win THIS race too. Why not?
The starting gate of cancer treatment proved rockier than we hoped. She was handling chemo like a champ; but grave, life-threatening, ‘side effects’ kept waylaying the actual treatment of the disease. For every step forward towards the “I Beat Cancer’ t-shirt, there seemed to be a complication that side-lined her. Colon blockages and pulmonary edema took her off the endurance course and onto some other shorter, acute mini-races. She handled each intrusion to her battle with her typical smile and sheer determination to muscle through. The sudden issues, the distractions keeping her from tackling the beast she inadvertently signed-up for, grew in numbers, frequency, and significance. They finally took over; leaving my dear friend with little left in her energy and spiritual tank and zero options. No bike store, anywhere in sight, to repair that freaking chain. Robin’s last race has been called. And, while she DNF’d this time, she will be leaving behind a legacy of resilience, laughter, love, and respect for almost everyone she encountered.
My promise to her; I cannot tell her, so I am telling all of you: I will continue the race for both of us. I know I am not alone. I feel the energy from each woman with whom I share Kuel Life. I see the light flash in her eyes. I am invigorated by the individual, beautiful souls who gift me time, out of their already over-booked schedules, to run a leg or two with me; hand me a much needed bottle of water; wipe the sweat from my brow.
There’s a pack of us and we’re growing in numbers, strength, and determination. I know Robin can sense that we’re unstoppable… the feel of the ribbon breaking away is imminent. Let’s cross that finish line together… in bright colors visible to all.