In Memory of My Friend Anita Wright
I remember the phone call like it was yesterday – November 2006. My friend Anita called me to pass on the bad news that her cancer was back. We talked for 45 minutes, we cried, we dropped a few swear words, we laughed. As soon as I got off the phone, I looked at my husband and said, “I’m doing the Cancervive ride and Anita is going to be my warrior.”
Cancervive is a fundraiser that supports Wellspring Calgary. It’s a cycling event that has morphed over the years, but back in 2007, the year I participated, we rode from Calgary to Austin, Texas. There were five groups of six riders, with each group on the road for 6 hours at a time, and one group on the road 24/7. Each group rode for 6 hours, and then ‘passed the baton’ to the next group. We left Calgary on a Wednesday in September and arrived in Austin the following Thursday. The ride down was amazing! The group I rode with are now friends for life. However, the best part of this experience was when the warriors joined us in Austin. As part of my fundraising commitment, I had the choice to bring a warrior (a person with a cancer diagnosis) for a weekend getaway to Austin and to participate in the Livestrong event. I remember seeing Anita come down the escalator at the airport with a big grin on her face. Our weekend together was about to begin, and what a weekend it was! Anita’s husband Jason and my husband Jim flew down to join us – it was epic!
At the Livestrong event, Anita and I rode a tandem bike, which was so much fun! There are different distances 160 km, 100 km, 75 km, 30 km. The cyclists were supposed to start in waves with the longest distance heading out first, then -the others to follow. However, Brian (Cancervive Co-founder) wanted our group to all start at the same time so there would be a sea of the Cancervive jerseys. Anita and I chose to do the 30 km ride, as she was weak from treatment. It was very quiet out there on our particular route as the other 30km riders hadn’t even left the gates yet. Then we got an official escort to the finish line – we were the very first riders to cross the finish line – out of all distances. After Anita got her yellow rose she yelled out, “We won, we won the whole damn thing!”
Anita passed away a year later. Her funeral was the day before the 2008 Cancervive ride. I miss her, but I will cherish that weekend for the rest of my life. It brings a smile to my face every time I hear her voice in my head … “We won, we won the whole damn thing!”
My introduction to Wellspring was due to Cancervive, as all money raised from the ride goes to Wellspring Calgary. I was so impressed and in awe of the wonderful services they provide to people living with cancer and their caregivers. I thought to myself ’someday I’d like to work at Wellspring Calgary.’
Well on October 5, 2016, the moon and the stars aligned as I started my first day as Program Coordinator at Wellspring’s Carma House. Five years later when people ask me how work is going, my response is always the same, “I love my job.” I truly do, and I am honoured to be part of such a wonderful organization. The connections I have made with our members over the past five years is such a gift that warms my heart, each and every day.
To our members – thank you. I am blessed to work with such an amazing team who are all gifted, talented people with such big hearts. To the staff at Wellspring – thank you. And last, but certainly not least, the volunteers at Wellspring Calgary are such loving, giving, kind, gentle souls. To our volunteers – thank you. All of you have made such a difference in my life, thank you for letting me in.