On Saturday March 2nd, I will be participating in Cycle for Survival to raise money for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Why am I riding? I’m glad you asked! And I will answer that question, I promise. But I’m a writer and we writer’s love a good backstory. 

I’m part team Cool and the Gang, which really has nothing to do with the R&B group you may be thinking of. My brother Greg called me at the end of December in 2022 and asked if I would join his team. While I hadn’t been on a spin bike in well over a decade (okay, likely more than that), I didn’t hesitate to offer a yes to his request. You see, his nickname was Cool because, well, he was the coolest person any of those who knew him well had the pleasure of knowing, and the team was named after him as he was fighting lung cancer at the time and being treated at MSK. Greg wound up not participating in the ride last year because he was too sick to do so. This year, sadly, we will be riding in his memory. 

It begs the question, why ride at all? I mean, Greg can only be with us in spirit this year and none of the money we raise can possibly help him. It’s a valid point, so maybe I should answer the question introduced in the first paragraph, why do I ride? I’m sorry, I can’t do that just yet. There’s another important story I have to share.

Greg spent the final few days of his life at Memorial Sloan Kettering and I was honored (well that sounds like it’s not quite the right word but I can’t think of an alternative) to spend each of those days with him. While he had lung cancer, he had been in a knock down drag out fight with pneumonia for a solid month which had him bouncing between Greenwich Hospital, MSK, his home, and back to MSK where his fight came to an untimely end on a Wednesday I’ll never forget, which also happened to be the longest day of the year—and boy did it ever feel like it!

That Tuesday, all vital signs were taking a turn for the worse and his wife, Carolyn, and I had a conversation with the doctor in charge of his care who basically told us the news we didn’t want to hear—that she didn’t think it was pneumonia that was making his decline exponentially worse since his arrival a few days earlier. And then the bomb came, “We are going to make him as comfortable as possible.” This conversation happened outside the door to his room and, truth be told, he couldn’t hear it but I’m sure he knew what was said. I know that he knew what was coming.

Carolyn and I looked at each other and had no words, only tears, but we had to stay strong for Greg. If he saw that we were upset, it would only upset him, and that was the last thing we wanted to do. I wanted Carolyn to have some time with him and told her I would handle calling my family and she was going to call her parents after spending some time with Greg.

I then went to a waiting room and made three calls that I never, ever want to have to make again.

The first call was to my wife to tell her that Greg’s fight was likely going to come to an end soon. Honestly, I was so emotionally exhausted I don’t even remember crying. It was almost as if I was holding a business meeting, laying out facts as one does when presenting a budget request.

After hanging up with her, I called my twin brother, Jimmy, and our sister, Mia, and broke the news to them in the same businesslike manner I had spoken to my wife in. I wasn’t prepared for the whaling from both of them, who felt guilty that they could not be with him on that Tuesday. 

The last call I had to make was the hardest call I’ve ever made in my life—to my father and mother. How does one tell someone that their oldest son—the one who made them parents—is going to die? I honestly don’t know where I found the strength to tell them, but I did and, as with my brother and sister, was unprepared for the crying I heard on the other end of the phone.

Three calls I never wanted to make, but had to. At long last we are getting to the answer to the question asked above, why do I ride?

  • I ride so, one day, someone won’t have to make those calls.
  • I ride so, one day, someone won’t have to answer that ringing phone with bad news on the other end.
  • I ride so, one day, rare cancers are a distant memory.
  • I ride so, one day, a man doesn’t have to make a promise to his older brother as he lay dying.

And now I have a question for you—will you help me chisel away at these goals? The link below will take you to my fundraising page for this event. I appreciate any amount you can donate and will be grateful for your support when I take to the saddle on March 2nd and ride to fund research to beat rare cancers.

Cancer is a stupid jerk!

Click to Donate

With love,

Mike Carlon