I’m sitting outside the chemo ward of North Florida Cancer Center. It’s oddly difficult to write so many ugly words in one sentence: “chemo”, “cancer”, “sitting”… that last one’s a joke.

Thankfully, there’s wifi and with it, the ability to throw myself into something that preoccupies me enough to anesthetize any emotion involved in this – and that is work.

My mom has cancer.

She had breast cancer. Naively, a couple months ago when I first found out, I thought they’d just take it out and that’d be it.

Apparently, that’s not how cancer works.

‘Cause now she just has cancer. She waited too long and cancer isn’t the kinda thing that likes to wait. This type she has, particularly, likes to move fast. What was breast cancer is now everywhere cancer.

Now they begin the process of nuclear warfare. If you’re George Doubleya, that’s nook-yoo-lur warfare. But it’s actually the same thing.

So smack in the middle of race season, everything immediately changes. Things I thought were facts are thrown out the window, things like:

Nothing is more important than racing bikes.

For three years, I’ve had tunnelvision. I wanted to learn how to be good at mountain biking. I wanted to successfully race mountain bikes. That’s pretty much all I’ve wanted.­ I sacrificed a lot to work toward these goals: relationships, romance, career, the awesome materialism and fatty food consumption that drives the American masses forward… all these things were put on a back burner and I devoted myself, almost completely, to my cause. Because nothing was more important than racing bikes. Not even deep-fried oreos, hot dudes, or BMWs. None of that. Only bikes. And I’m disgusting, I’d house deep-fried oreos with the most southern of carnival-going southerners. But I don’t. Because bike racing. The other stuff too, I refrain, ’cause bikes.

I’ve raced straight through everything the world threw at me the last few years. I’ve raced sick – a lot. Most recently, for the past two months (LOL, it’s not funny but it might as well be at this point) with the asthmatic pneumonia debacle. My own health didn’t stop me or force me to take a break, I just kept going, battling it, banging my head against the wall and hoping I could simultaneously get better while I kept going. I’ve raced injured. I’ve trained and raced through sprains and bone bruises and road rash and broken fingers and black eyes.  I’ve maxed out my credit cards for bikes and races and traveling with bikes to races. Because nothing, not one of those things, those options that I had (to max or not to max out one’s credit cards to go get crushed in California…) was more important or better than bike racing.

And then out of nowhere. Cancer. Such an ugly word. It makes you cringe. I’ve heard it too many times in the last few years — friends, parents of friends, I even had my own minor scare with it last winter (which I trained through bahahah)… It seems like everyone has someone, or is someone who has had to experience this ugly reality…. And it sucks. There’s really nothing else to say about it… it sucks.

And it’s made me realize that every now and then, a rarity for sure, but sometimes there are things more important than racing bikes.

Like going to Florida to sit around just in case your momz needs some stuff from the store. Or sitting around with her while the medicine patch thingie blinks ’cause it makes her nervous. Or making her tacos (my mom loves tacos). Or having someone to drive her to 5 different places for a newspaper. This was very frustrating for some of us. This woman lives and dies by the newspaper. I know the weather for yesterday everyday. 

I am not a good caretaker. I am almost completely lacking any maternal nature or instinct… this is why I’m the only one at Thanksgiving with no kids and why I’m always shot either looks of sympathy or jealousy, depending on the personal situation of whoever’s looking at me. Compounding this problem, I don’t really enjoy sentimental silliness, at least not often. I don’t like trying to force myself to emotionally “bond”. If bonding happens, it happens. That’s chemistry, kids. Some things just don’t bond. You cannot force them. I try hard not to be driven by emotion, and instead defer to logic as much as possible, so when put in emotionally intense situations I get very awkward. I deflect all attempts at seriousness with dark or dumb humor. Most of the time, I don’t believe in God. Most of the time, I find it easier to not really believe ferociously in much of anything… I do ferociously believe in riding bikes.

And I believe that I’m the last person who should be here right now… LOL…

But I’m the only one who could come.

So here I am.

And even though I suck at this, probably worse than I’ve ever sucked at anything else (and I’ve been very bad at many things in my life), I’m hoping being here does something at all, anything at all, to further the cause.

Because we are very different chemicals and we might not bond (the electrons, kids), but I do love my mom. Luckily, she only has to deal with me for the first two rounds of the most severe chemo treatment, and then she’ll get the maternally awesome sister who will be a much better companion to her through the very shitty and real situation of fighting cancer.

And in the meantime, it’s 95 degrees and 100% humidity every single day, so I’ll probably take something out of that trainingwise. I’ll probably become some kind of Floridian heat monster, come back to NJ with NFG about that weather. Soooo efficiently acclimatized, racing in long sleeves and leg warmers. No water needed, I’ll have a Corona. It’s the Florida way.

I think it all ties very nicely into that old cycling proverb, that attitude that makes cycling the best sport on the entire planet ever… “HTFU.”

On another note: you can learn a lot from cows. They’re everywhere down here, and cows literally don’t give a shit about anything. If you ride by them in the rain, in the heat and in the sweltering, blistering sun… they don’t care. They just put their cow heads down and get through it. See what I’m getting at here?

Calm as Hindu cows. HTFU.

In summation: only a very few things in this world are more important than bike racing, when you come across them, you’ll know immediately. I hope you never come across this particular one.

And now that we’re all properly depressed, here are some soothing and life affirming pictures of various Floridian sunsets:

The sunsets here are faaabulous.

Laura Slavin's 3rd Degree Berms | Sunday, June 12th, 2016