100MoN Race Report #10: Cancer-Surviving, Bad-Crash-Surviving, Former Teen Endurance Cyclist Edition

06.8.2011 | 11:28 am

I was diagnosed with Leukemia when I was not quite 7 years old.

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary, at 17 I decided to sign up for a cycling endurance event that raises money for cancer research (Team in Training, through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). They train you from day 1 so that when you get to the end of the season you have raised thousands of dollars and ridden countless miles in preperation, and are fully ready to ride the entire event.

Because I was a cancer survivor, I was asked to be what they called an “Honoree” or someone who is there to tell their story, to put a face to the cause. I came all the way through all the trainings with flying colors, even completing more than a metric century (roughly 69 miles) before I had a massive high speed crash on the final training ride.

I spent 9 hours in the ER before they told me I had three cracks in my shoulder blade, was lucky not to require any bolts or plates to hold it together but that I “should consider the possibility” that I would never ride again, at least not on my beautiful road, as the pain of that position would be too great, and the control I would have through that arm of the handlebars would be so limited (“non-existent” as the x-ray tech phrased it) that I would not be able to control the bike, would crash again and would inevitably end up back where I was, and then they would have no choice but to do surgery to put me back together.

I spent the rest of the year learning how to hold a pencil again, to draw, write, and type again, and strengthening my grip enough that if I picked up my laptop bag with that hand it (hopefully) didnt give out and drop the laptop on my crash-bruised feet.

After several failed attempts of riding, I gave up “until my body was strong enough to compensate.” At the time, I am ashamed to admit, I didnt think I would ever get to the point of being “strong enough.”

Fast forward 5 years, to my 15 year cancer- and chemo-free anniversary.

I was in Kauai with my parents, my husband and son, and a couple of my mom’s friends when I announced that between then and my birthday three days later, I didn’t care what it took, I was going to rent one of the beach cruisers available from almost every street corner store and I was going to ride until I couldn’t take anymore.

My 4 year old son piped up that he was going to ride with me and pretty soon my mom and her friends joined in as well.

I made it very clear from the start that between being so out of shape and pulling the extra weight of my son in a trailer there was no way I would keep up with them. I jumped on my rental and started pedalling; without a computer or GPS to track mileage. I was alone in my category but was both pain free on the more upright bike and giggling with my son as I did some of the stupid stunts from way-back-when to entertain him (like riding with no hands, as in the picture).

Hawaii 076.jpg

I will always consider this ride to be my victory lap.

– Kari A


  1. Comment by BZ | 06.8.2011 | 11:40 am

    Awesome picture and a great story.

  2. Comment by MattC | 06.8.2011 | 12:02 pm

    Kari, Congrats on your 15 yr anniv! Our stepdad has Luekemia so we are getting a first hand account of the fight (his is controlled w/ medication for now…apparently there are several diff kinds with differing severity’s).

    Hawaii is a good place to be for a celebration (lived there for over 10 years…LOVED it!). Great story and thanks for sharing!

  3. Comment by Liz | 06.8.2011 | 12:06 pm

    Way to go Kari! Keep pedaling!

  4. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.8.2011 | 12:15 pm

    Definition of a victory lap if you ask me!

  5. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 06.8.2011 | 12:34 pm

    Great job, Kari! I used to love pulling my kids in those trailers.

  6. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.8.2011 | 12:46 pm

    Can you say “recumbent”? Rode Cycle Oregon last year and was quite envious of their downhill speed. Should work well for the shoulder and the kidlet would enjoy your fairing options:

    Ride On!

  7. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.8.2011 | 12:47 pm

    Fairing option:

  8. Comment by Haven-KT | 06.8.2011 | 1:11 pm

    Awesome come-back story, Kari! Congrats on 15 years, I hope you have a LOT more good years to come! :)

  9. Comment by Maggi | 06.8.2011 | 1:18 pm

    Kari, that is indeed one heck of a victory lap. Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. Comment by Dave T | 06.8.2011 | 1:25 pm

    Great story and congratulations on the ride.

  11. Comment by Edie | 06.8.2011 | 2:38 pm

    I love a great come-back story and yours is right up there with the best of them.
    Congrats on your Victory Lap!
    I agree with @davidh-marin,ca on the recumbent bike idea… but it’s a good thing banana suits are optional.

  12. Comment by lynn e | 06.8.2011 | 4:13 pm

    “look Ma, no hands!” May you continue to soar with the wind beneath your wings.

  13. Comment by Kevin | 06.8.2011 | 5:44 pm

    Congrats on the ride. Amazing story! Never give up and keep fighting!

  14. Comment by Carl | 06.8.2011 | 6:55 pm


  15. Comment by Bridget in Minnesota | 06.8.2011 | 8:47 pm


  16. Comment by BamaJim | 06.9.2011 | 6:37 am

    Great effort! Looks like you may have a good training partner there.

  17. Comment by Debi | 06.9.2011 | 7:13 am

    Congratulations on your cycling accomplishment and more congratulations for beating that ugly cancer. That is the ultimate victory lap! Do consider another bike to accommodate your injury. I would be remiss in my duties as a helmet evangelist if I didn’t say: Please wear a helmet.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  18. Comment by Roses | 06.9.2011 | 7:58 am

    Epic story, this is one for the movies. Great job.

  19. Comment by Kari Albano | 06.10.2011 | 2:50 pm

    For the record, as there is no helmet law in Hawaii, rental bikes rarely come with helmets. I am from California, where it is required and this is tue only ride I have ever gone helmet free.


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