Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mike And The Bike And A Chat With Lance Armstrong

Jeff and Michael Ward this morning on Big Tujunga Road in the San Gabriel Mountains.

I woke up at 6 a.m. Pablo, Jo Ann and Grady were still asleep. Our second night in a row of good, solid sleep. What a simple gift. Seeing them asleep as I left our bedroom made me happy.

After eating a quick breakfast, I got on the bike and went out to meet Michael Ward at Travel Town in Griffith Park. Michael and I have known one another for about a year, and due to schedule conflicts, we've never ridden together. Michael is the guitarist in Ben Harper's band the Innocent Criminals, and has been in The Wallflowers and School of Fish (I was fired from my college radio show for repeatedly playing their B-side "Greatest Living Englishman," which unbeknownst to me, had a naughty word in it!) He is also the author of the great children's book "Mike and the Bike" - a fave of Pablo's. He has a new book coming out soon - "Mike and the Bike Meet Lucile The Wheel." Can't wait to snuggle up with P and read that one.

Anyway, when Michael got word of Pablo's cancer, he sent me a note saying the words we've heard from so, so many people: "Anything I can do, just ask." I had an immediate request of him: LET'S RIDE DUDE!

Getting out on a bike is like nothing else for me. It's a physically grueling cosmic cleansing–two things both Jo Ann and I need these days. For realz. I keep stressing that we've both been told by the doctors that need to be sound of mind and sound of body in order to make it through this marathon of Pablo's treatment. The bike does both for me. Jo Ann finds this with Bikram Yoga, which she is going to do in the morning. We are keeping one another going in this respect. Sometimes, we just want to lay on the couch And. Do. Nothing.


Back to mt ride with Michael: he and I immediately set it up for 7 a.m. Saturday. The destination was the San Gabriel Mountain range. We both wanted to hit it hard, and then get home to our families. I was really looking forward to this ride, and getting to know Michael better while as we pedaled our way above the clouds. We had a great time, telling stories, laughing our butts off, talking music and bikes and life.

We climbed to Red Box, the ranger station at the bottom of Mt Wilson. It's 4,666 feet above sea level. Just typing that makes me tired! Once we got there, we turned around and flew 15 miles down Angeles Crest Highway, dropping into La Canada. As we approached Foothill Boulevard, we pulled off at the Shell station - Michael wanted to pick up a drink.

As he stepped out of the gas station, he was on his mobile phone. I could hear him saying, "I'm riding with my buddy Jeff. His little boy is five and was just diagnosed with cancer."

He handed me the phone. I put it up to my ear, "Hello?" The voice on the other end: "Hey, this is Lance." It was that Lance - Lance Armstrong.

"Hey! How's it going?" I responded.

"I'm just messin' around with some bikes at my ranch in Austin," he said.

I didn't know what else to say (a rarity as you know). He is probably used to this.

"I hear your little boy has cancer. What's up? How can we help him, and and your family?"

He went through a list of detailed questions about Pablo's prognosis, what hospital he was being treated in, his treatment regimen, and who his doctors were.

"I've been to Childrens in LA a few times. That's a great hospital," he said. "You are in good hands."

He told me to seek out the head of Oncology at CHLA, Dr. Stu Siegel. "Find him and tell him you're my friend," he said. "And give your little boy a hug from me."

After we talked all about the treatment stuff, the only thing I could think to say was, well, the truth: "Hey, Lance, forget about all the bike stuff. I am such a fan of your foundation work and your dedication to helping other humans. My wife and I have decided to dedicate a part of our lives to this as well. I'm so honored to be speaking to you, and that you gave 10 minutes of your Saturday to me. Thanks."

With that, we said goodbye.

I wasn't sure what had just happened, except that I'd been hit by a jolt of inspiration and hope like I've never felt.

As Michael and I rode home, he said to me, "That's the thing about Lance Armstrong. He does that for people."

I could feel a clarity and power in my pedal strokes as we spun out the last 13 miles of our journey. I was buzzing from the current of Lance Hope I'd just been injected with. Michael, was buzzing with having put me on the phone with him. What a gift!

I couldn't wait to get home and give Pablo that hug. That hug.

I am still a bit dazed as I write this. Forgive me if I babbled.

4 comments:

LYNN said...

Hi Jeff,
Just read your post about speaking with my hero, Lance Armstrong. I met Jo Ann, and worked with her, a long time ago (O Pictures, X-Ray, Chelsea) and have been reading your blog every day to see how Pablo, and you both, are faring. Your blog is intensely personal, articulate and your and Jo Ann's strength and love comes through so strongly. But back to Lance..I totally get the feeling of "Lance Hope." I was diagnosed with breast cancer over 8 years ago. I'm here today thanks to the great doctors I had at St. John's here in Santa Monica, but also to Lance and his organization. He was an inspiration to me and helped me keep the faith. You and Jo Ann, Pablo and Grady are blessed with mountains of love and support - and each other - and now Lance!! Wow!
Best wishes and tons of light,
Lynn Rush

Polly said...

Jeff, we were hanging out all evening and you never told me you talked to Lance Armstrong this morning?!?! Pablo brings heroes to the phone!

Katy said...

Oh my f....ing God that is awsome!!!
Such an amazing experience for you and your family. You have been touched by a truly inspirational and special human being. Way to go Jeff and family. Can I borrow him??

Hope the pizza was good,

Love and Light Katy

marcbrown said...

wow, that is a great story. thanks for sharing this and all your other experiences. I need to read the rest at home so i'm not crying in my office too much!!

Marc