Last year, as part of my ongoing goals towards good health and fitness, I took up cycling to work in the summer – and I grew to love it (although I still don’t love the massive hill on Mt. Pleasant that I have to take on my route home! It is literally an uphill battle every day).
My bike out of storage and has been getting some light workouts in, as weather complies, and I plan on continuing what I started last year. In addition to my own personal health goals, this June I have decided to ride to help conquer kids’ cancer.
Why kids cancer? Well…
I grew up on a court in Vaughan, Ontario, and at a young age befriended the neighbours’ kids, Jessica, Mark, and Adrian. Whether that was by choice or simply circumstance, we got along great. I’m fortunate to still consider myself a friend of Jessica’s, and I have nothing but good things to say about Adrian although we’ve lost touch over the years. They were all a year older than me but that never mattered – and you’d think Mark was actually my age or younger given his small stature. We’d hang out at each others houses after school and on weekends as you’d expect, but I seem to predominantly remember hanging out at Mark’s house. He had the coolest games; Connect 4, Clue, Guess Who (the classics!) – and a turtle sand box in the backyard. He also had these massive plush toys, a Clifford plush that was bigger than I was tall. I loved going to his house, even though looking back it seemed I liked going there for rather selfish reasons. But hey, I was a kid, I just wanted to play!
I remember one day I was hanging out with just Mark in the front of his house, picking at blades of grass and throwing it up in the air like confetti. He asked me if I wanted to play The Lion King game. “Absolutely!”. I don’t know why I liked that game so much, I think I just really loved The Lion King (I still do, and I still cry when…. well, you know). It was a simple dominoes style game where the end goal was to match the tiles to create ‘the circle of life’ using character from the original movie. So we played it, completed it pretty quickly cause it wasn’t exactly difficult.
“Do you want to keep it?” he asked me.
“The game. I know you really like it”
“Yeah I don’t really play it much anyways”.
I don’t remember if I said thanks, I hope I did, but I do know I enthusiastically did carry the box home that day and kept it up in my room. Eventually I would bring it down to our basement with all the other board games we had and one day it would get lost in the collection.
I don’t know if he knew when he gave me that game that he was dying, but part of me believes he did. Not long after this, I was walking home from school with Jessica and a kid came running up behind us. He was huffing and puffing trying to catch his breath when he caught up to us. It was Sean, a relatively new neighbour that had moved in a few months before – he was the same age as Jess, Adrian and Mark but we didn’t really hang out with him. He was kind of spoiled and annoying to be honest, always bragging about stuff his parents bought him that he never used. But I digress.
“Guys! Guys! Did you hear?!” he was nearly out of breath and almost seemed excited about what he had to share. He went to the catholic school up the street, the same as Adrian and Mark. Jess and I went to a public school a further drive away in another subdivision.
“Hear what?” we asked, continuing to stroll towards the end of the court.
“There were people at the school talking to us today! Mark died!”.
To this day I’m still annoyed by the way I found out. Sean continued to babble on about his day, something about the news and reporters, how Mark hadn’t been at school in a few days and as it turns out, he had leukemia, and it won. I don’t remember much else from the conversation. Mark was only 7 years old.
I didn’t see Adrian until the funeral. He was heartbroken. We were all great friends but Mark was his best friend, so understandably he didn’t want to see anybody for a while. I still recall walking up to his front door a few times, asking if Adrian is feeling any better and if he wanted to come outside yet. It was a long time before he did.
I remember the funeral, vividly. I can still see the pictures they hung up on the lid of the casket – Mark happily playing with friends, always smiling. It was an open casket. I don’t think I truly understood what happened to Mark until I saw him lying there, pale, still …. and so small. He was always small, but in that casket he just looked – tiny. It didn’t look right. It felt wrong. He didn’t deserve to be there.
I think about Mark a lot. Probably because it was the first death I ever had to deal with, or maybe just because I miss playing that ridiculous Lion King dominoes game with him.
When I found out about the Great Cycle Challenge, I thought it was a great way to keep me motivated to ride, and try to do some good for the Mark’s out there that are battling diseases when they really should just be playing Connect 4.
I plan to ride 200km through June, if not more, and raise $1 per km with my starting goal at $200. So if you’d like to sponsor me, I would really appreciate the help.
If you can’t, get out there and ride anyways, it’s great for your heart and lungs and if you’re anything like me, it’s a great stress reliever, too!
Feel free to check out my page to donate or just to check my progress through June. You can view that right here www.greatcyclechallenge.ca/Riders/JaimeeJakobczak
For more information ont he challenge visit Great Cycle Challenge.ca
Thanks for reading,