Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 7-31-05
Jeff Gill

Lance Armstrong and I have this much in common: we were both on bicycles last Sunday. Beyond that, not much.
Well, we do both go out with gorgeous babes who are talented musicians (OK, hon?).
Seven Tours of France won by a single human being, and all those both in a row, but also after a diagnosis and chemotherapy for testicular cancer. Who would trade places with Lance for that package?
His achievement is not just one of athletic accomplishment, but of the human spirit. Cancer still carries all too much a sense of endings and retreat, even if not death. Things stop and cease when cancer is diagnosed, even as treatment begins.
But not only cancer, chemo too isn’t what it used to be, in a very, very good way. No walk in the park in the best circumstances, chemo is both myriad forms of delivery – IV, pills, in varying dosages and durations – and with assorted impacts, many of which are greatly lessened by other drugs which reduce the ill effects.
One of the messages of the original and ubiquitous yellow wristbands bearing the word "Livestrong" is that cancer can be for many a stutter step, a momentary diversion along the path to your goals. The fundraising task of fighting the still deadly aspects of cancer remains, and the race Lance Armstrong says he’s still in is to find the causes and cures needed to make cancer just another illness. We’re not there yet, but the progress over recent decades is dramatic, and that yellow jersey in Paris last weekend is one more indication of just how far we’ve come.
Bike riding in Licking County is a popular hobby, helped by the wonderful network of "rails to trails" crisscrossing not just this area, but the whole country.
There’s serendipity for you. Engineers a century and more ago carefully planned so that stream engines could avoid steep grades, laying out routes through even hilly terrain with a gentle ebb and flow in their rising and falling. Which is ideal for cyclists, especially families with children out for a good, long, healthful ride. They also tend to skirt heavily trafficked arteries, not crossing main roads often but always near for access.
No one planned the New York Central or Pennsylvania Railroad routes for re-use as bike trails, but we have much to be thankful for in their availability today.
Along right-of-ways and at the edges of open fields, the blackberry blossoms have turned to ripe fruit, a refreshing pause for mid-summer hikes and rides. Near the vines and shoots and patches of poison ivy so verdant this year, the yellow drooping flower of jewel weed, or some say touch-me-not, is in evidence, with the rosy joints of the stems holding an excellent anti-itch fluid.
Near houses, hibiscus and hollyhock is blossoming in profusion, and the stalks of ironweed are already shooting up above the general height of most open field growth, ready to erupt in purple in weeks if not days.
Drink plenty of water and wear your sunscreen, but get out of the house and enjoy a stroll, a saunter, a walk or ride. Exercise is said by doctors to be a preventative medicine par excellence for everything from cancer to depression.
Plus we gotta get in shape for the Hartford Fair, State Fair, and Sweet Corn Festival! That’s a lotta elephant ear eating (plus standing in the sun), so we need to start our training program yesterday. I haven’t even tried the deep fried pickle yet.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he is obviously not a gourmet. Try to inspire him with healthy ideas through disciple@voyager.net.