A Useful Reminder

10.12.2012 | 7:38 am

A Note from Fatty: Free Verse Friday is taking a break today, because I want to write this instead.

From time to time, I get an email that hits home. Here’s one I got yesterday:

I wanted to ask if it would be okay to use “Crying is for Climbing” as one of my class materials for a didactic I’ll be teaching to new chaplains on Spiritual Care of the Caregivers that I’ll be teaching next week.

I’m a board certified chaplain, and while my specialty is trauma and disaster response, Crying is for Climbing is really quite universal. I will be spending some time talking about the role of physical activity in self-care of the caregivers, and understanding how certain people (many people?) process emotion through physical activity.

I’ve found “Crying is for Climbing” to be a great short piece that describes this effect in the most clear and concise way I know. I also like that it’s not overtly spiritual, so it’s highly applicable in the multi-faith chaplain world that I need to teach in.

In other news, I’ve also often found “Like Dandelion Seeds” to be incredibly useful in my line of work.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been with families the day they get the “yeah, you’re not going to beat this” talk- they know it’s going to be a sh*tstorm, and I can’t tell you how many people feel better being able to read Dandelion Seeds and know that someone else has put words to the storm.

They appreciate that you did not sugarcoat it, and that you know it gets bad. It’s been a great piece to have in my toolbox when people ask me the “what do I do next” question. I hope you get to realize at some point that, even though you wrote that at some of the worst moments of your own life, it’s been incredibly helpful to plenty of other folks, and continues to be helpful.

Please do let me know if it would be okay to use “Crying is for Climbing” in a class for new chaplains. Good luck on the next race!

Thanks much-

Betsy Tesi
Assistant Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Eugene, OR

First, this email made me grateful: grateful that someone is finding Susan’s battle helpful to others. That’s her legacy. Or at least one of them.

Second, this email reminded me that it’s been months since I’ve written anything for the Fight Like Susan book. I’ve had a fun summer racing, but I need to get back to work.

Thanks for that reminder, Betsy.


  1. Comment by Kim | 10.12.2012 | 8:24 am

    And thank you, Fatty. I’ll be riding in the Livestrong Challenge in Austin next week for the second time since losing my brother and my dog to cancer. Your words on a daily basis help so many relate – through humor and sadness – that this battle is universal. Cancer sucks, and it must be beat.

  2. Comment by Mary from NC | 10.12.2012 | 8:29 am

    Like Dandelion Seeds has got to be one of Elden’s best posts. I wish we could nominate it for a prize. It hits to the core no matter how many times I read it.

    I feel compelled to add that amongst the “lighter” notes- DZNuts review was the best.

  3. Comment by MattC | 10.12.2012 | 9:21 am

    Just went back and re-read those posts…and again got all teary-eyed just like I did when you first posted them during those dark times. Powerful stuff my friend…powerful stuff.

  4. Comment by AKChick55 | 10.12.2012 | 9:25 am

    No fair making me cry at work. Thankfully, it’s early and no one is here yet. Thank you for taking a break and sharing the email. I love your heart. It’s true gold. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to read Susan’s book. Take care Fatman and have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 10.12.2012 | 9:27 am

    Elden, those posts are tough to read. I cannot imagine how they are for you to read now. I am looking forward to being able to read more about Susan. Write it when you get to the proper space. The story should be shared.

  6. Comment by Kathy McElhaney | 10.12.2012 | 9:30 am

    I’ve lost count of the times I’ve cried while running. It’s a lot more peaceful than crying after hearing we were out of options for my Mom.

    I’ll probably do some crying next Saturday at the Race for the Cure, too. (http://centralvalley.info-komen.org/site/TR?px=12839055&pg=personal&fr_id=2681&et=9WcbVcOqto6wh743jOGkHw&s_tafId=93937)

  7. Comment by The Flyin' Ute | 10.12.2012 | 9:33 am


    You are a great writer. I look forward to reading your blog posts. You have a gift.

    It is fun to see other people find and value the same thing that all of us have found and value.

    We all value the right WORDS to describe what we feel.

    Carry on!

  8. Comment by Christina | 10.12.2012 | 9:55 am

    Thank you, Betsy. I’ve been missing those posts, because they written so honestly and so from the heart. Thanks, Fatty, for writing them. I’ll never know what it’s like to stand on the podium at a race, but I know how to stand next to someone as they die from cancer. Thank you for sharing your unique journey to help others with their journeys.

  9. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 10.12.2012 | 9:59 am

    Cancer sucks. Period. Like a thief in the night, it invades our very souls, insidiously stealing our health, our lives, or those of ones dear to us. So many times it thwarts our best efforts to fight back.

    Fatty, you have put a name to what people experience when they or a loved one fight this battle, and that in itself is a great help and comfort.

    I arrived at this blog somewhat late, and have now read these two posts for the first time today – your open sharing and honest appraisal of what you and Susan experienced during that dreadful time helps put a clear name to the foe, and helps those who have gone through similar experiences to know that they are not alone.

    Like your post yesterday, the key is to do good, and your sharing is good for all of us.


  10. Comment by Scotty B | 10.12.2012 | 10:08 am

    I just read Crying is for Climbing and after going through a few kleenex, (or is it kleenexes? kleenexi? Oh screw it- facial tissues), I noticed the very next post published was a photo of Lance holding up a hand made “Fight Susan” message. I thought this was very ironic considering yesterday’s post Reasoning on the Reasoned Decision”.
    That irony aside, thank you for sharing extremely personal glimpses of your life.
    Keep up the Good work Fatty!

    I don’t think there’s any irony. From yesterday:

    “And he’s gone out of his way to help me in my efforts to support LiveStrong. He’s been a friend to me and my family in hard times, and I value that friendship.”

    Everyone is in such a rush to paint Lance in strictly black and white. I hope nobody ever judges me so starkly. Except of course, some people already do.


  11. Comment by Roger Whitney | 10.12.2012 | 10:16 am

    Those are hard to read, even now. Be well Fatty Thank you for your continued work and inspiration.

  12. Comment by TK | 10.12.2012 | 10:40 am

    Thank you for your writing your blog. We are all very lucky to have it. By the way…I also clicked through some of your older posts and saw Lance’s “Win Susan” picture. He may not have raced clean (hardly anyone seems to have then or in the history of pro cycling). He may not have been very nice to everyone he dealt with (who has?). But he seems to genuinely care about giving people fighting cancer some hope. We are all flawed, but not all of us do great things to help others. LiveSTRONG.

  13. Comment by Scott | 10.12.2012 | 11:03 am

    I’ve followed you through this whole thing, cried many times with you. We went through breast cancer, but we were blessed and she survived. But life still happens and she divorced me last year. Trauma comes in many forms.
    Why I am commenting is, you give hope that life continues and we can move beyond those traumas. I know you will never forget Susan, but you have built a new life, a full rich life. Not inspite of her, but because of her. She gave you the foundation for the life you live now. I’m sure she would be honored that you are living well.
    And I hope I can do the same. I’m back in control of my life, I’m engaged to an amazing lady. But the loss is still there, for me and for my children. It will take time and effort to move beyond it. The life you are leading gives us all hope that there is joy after trial.

  14. Comment by BigJohn | 10.12.2012 | 11:42 am

    I’m sitting at my desk hoping a co-worker won’t pop in. I just read the two referenced posts and am all teary eyed and choked up. I always appreciate the laughs I get for your blog, but Fatty you write some powerful stuff. Thanks

  15. Comment by Liz | 10.12.2012 | 11:47 am

    Thank you for writing this. My son is ill (neurological syndrome) and some days it is so overwhelming. I cry on my bike quite often. Nice to know I am not alone.

  16. Comment by Scotty B | 10.12.2012 | 11:58 am

    I just read Crying is for Climbing and after going through a few kleenex, (or is it kleenexes? kleenexi? Oh screw it- facial tissues), I noticed the very next post published was a photo of Lance holding up a hand made “Fight Susan” message. I thought this was very ironic considering yesterday’s post Reasoning on the Reasoned Decision”.
    That irony aside, thank you for sharing extremely personal glimpses of your life.
    Keep up the Good work Fatty!

    I don’t think there’s any irony. From yesterday:

    “And he’s gone out of his way to help me in my efforts to support LiveStrong. He’s been a friend to me and my family in hard times, and I value that friendship.”

    Everyone is in such a rush to paint Lance in strictly black and white. I hope nobody ever judges me so starkly. Except of course, some people already do.

    Perhaps Irony wasn’t the correct word. Coincidental? Serendipitous? I was not judging Lance. The photo was an example illustrating the point your made yesterday of how Livestrong has affected you. No malice was intended.

    And none taken! And I agree the photo there was unusual or a coincidence or something. -FATCYCLIST.COM

  17. Comment by centurion | 10.12.2012 | 12:15 pm

    A few weeks ago, while on a ride, I learned that a friend had lost his battle with lukemia. I cried on a long flat strech of road, and found my solace and acceptance a bit later on during the ride. Let us know we are not alone.

  18. Comment by Chris | 10.12.2012 | 12:54 pm

    Fatty, I am continually amazed at how this blog….which I found more than a few years ago through google….could continue to touch so many people. I just hope that you continue to be engaged it for many more year to come.

  19. Comment by melicious | 10.12.2012 | 12:56 pm

    Thanks for the timely post, Fatty. Today I took my dad for his doctor appointment and it sounds like his lung cancer is no longer being controlled as well as it previously was. Today I fully realized that I wear the caregiver nametag. Thanks for the wonderful posts and links. Cancer sucks.

  20. Comment by Mark | 10.12.2012 | 1:09 pm

    Winter is coming, riding will decline and you’ll have time to work on the book. Don’t rush it. Those two past posts are, like everyone says, powerful. The book, I’m sure, will be likewise.

  21. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.12.2012 | 2:31 pm

    Friends, I’m asking for a little guidance here.

    I found Fatty’s blog because I’m fat and i like to ride my bike – Google put us together – and I love all of Fatty’s posts. I found him right around the time that Crying is for Climbing was written, and I’ve often tried to search for that entry again because it was so powerful. My challenge is this: I’ve never had anyone truly close to me die of cancer (or die at all, I guess…I am truly fortunate). I don’t like cancer, and I have even donated to many of Fatty’s charities. I’m not asking to experience personal loss, but I feel like sometimes I’m just an outside observer, not truly part of the cause – because I haven’t experienced this personally. I guesss I feel like my contributions lack the emotional power, and therefore don’t mean as much.

    Is this in my head? I WANT to have sympathy, but it’s hard to relate. I wonder if there are three Fatty groups of readers: the bikers, the cancer haters, and the bikers who also are cancer haters.

    Any advice on how to develop the anti-cancer passion that so many of you have (without experiencing the loss of those close to me, preferrably)?

    If this isn’t the right forum, then feel free to say so, but perhaps others might be feeling the same way.



    Volunteer at a hospital, or YSC / LiveStrong event. That’ll be a good start. – FC

  22. Comment by leroy | 10.12.2012 | 2:40 pm

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I follow this blog because it is thoughtful, well written and most of all heartfelt.

    I remember crying when reading those posts.

    And I remember recieving some comfort from Crying is for Climbing.

    There is something I haven’t said before, but should say now: “Thank you.”

  23. Comment by Betsy | 10.12.2012 | 3:19 pm


    People are awesome. Like your commentors. You’ve collected some great folks through this blog. And yes, Crying is for Climbing did make a few of the students cry or sniffle. Thanks for letting me use it. And thanks for giving words to what I have done on the bike myself, more than one. (And I’m always glad to be alone when that happens because it’s usually the ugly snorting snot-filled type of crying, and making believe that I’m crying because I’m climbing a big hill makes it all work for me.)

    I think Scott made an awesome point about loss- people heal, but it never really goes away, we just learn to make a new normal.

    And yes, yes, Rob- volunteer at an event. This fight takes all of us, but more than anything else, being human takes friends and allies. I also think volunteering balances out one’s riding karma… if you think about all the awesome race volunteers who make racing so fun!

    Fatty, again, thanks for giving me permission to share the essays! Have fun in the rain and mud with Edgar and his new toy. I would be jealous, except I’m madly in love with my BMC and I actually find my bike soul content, for once. Shocking, I know.

  24. Comment by GreatAunt | 10.12.2012 | 3:21 pm

    I’m waiting for your Fight Like Susan book, Fatty… especially now that my husband and I are in the fight for his life. Get busy, man! Perhaps in the meantime I’ll dig through some of your archives.

  25. Comment by Jeremy | 10.12.2012 | 8:05 pm

    Those posts were the dark and the light, dismal reality and eminence of hope. They made me a committed member of Team Fatty and strengthened my own resolve to help where I can. What I do as a fundraiser is easy compared to living through someone you love suffering at the hands of that wretched thing called cancer. Since then, I have lost one aunt another with a terminal diagnosis. LiveStrong has helped my cousin as she continues to be the caregiver, given information to both aunts and my grandfather after their diagnoses, and given me the opportunity to meet and ride with the fantastic people who prowl this site. I am forever grateful for it all, and especially grateful to you, Elden, for taking the bold step to write publicly.

  26. Comment by Rumpled/Jim | 10.13.2012 | 12:05 am

    Until Betsy’s comment, I hadn’t seen that permission was given. I assume that of course it was. I was kinda waiting for Fatty’s generous reply.
    Well, I’m off to read those entries, not sure if I have yet.

  27. Comment by jacked | 10.13.2012 | 5:53 am

    As always Fatty, thanks for what you do. It is good.

    Also is there a Fatty gathering in Austin next week?


  28. Comment by Trey | 10.13.2012 | 7:24 am

    I was at work too when the tears started dropping. My work and cycling buddy asked if I read the post? No, I told him, I simply jabbed both eyes with my mechanical pencil.
    So did I he said.

  29. Comment by FujiPixie13 | 10.14.2012 | 12:51 pm

    Fatty, I thought of you, Susan, and your family yesterday as I rode in an organized ride raising funds for cancer. This year’s ride was over 400 riders and the amount of money that we raised was the most this ride has ever raised previously. I am truly proud to have raised funds and ridden for such a great cause. Yes, Cancer Sucks. Thank you, Fatty, for all of your words and your stories, both the funny ones and the important life lesson ones. We all love you & your family. Chapeau, my friend.

  30. Comment by Barton | 10.15.2012 | 12:56 pm

    Having cheered this morning because one friend is getting her final dose of chemo, and cried this morning because another friend has decided she is going to enjoy her final months w/o the sickness/tiredness/etc brought on by treatment (she & her husband are now planning a ’round the world trip for her final months, not knowing how far they’ll get – if they get anywhere at all), the links to your previous posts made me a complete wreck. A snot monster. My eyes do look incredibly blue since they are so red now, tho.

    I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through Fight Like Susan when it finally comes out. You may have to print a waterproof copy.

  31. Comment by Jill | 10.18.2012 | 8:30 am

    I came across your blog while doing research on cycling for a piece I was writing on types of exercise for senior citizens. I have been a loyal fan and daily reader since. In sharing your highest highs and your lowest lows, you have given me hope, inspiration and motivation to continue to get on my bike every day and encourage my senior or not so healthy friends the power of cycling. I smile every time I take my bike out of the garage, and when I tire, I just say “what would Fatty do?” He would push on, as he does in every aspect of his life… that’s what!

    Thanks for all you do.

  32. Comment by Kari | 10.19.2012 | 12:27 am

    Fatty, after reading this I went back and read both articles mentioned in the letter you posted. I have had many rides like that as well and even after unfortunately more than a dozen of them still could not put it into anywhere near as well as you have. You did not seem to hold anything back or to sugar coat it amd yet it is somehow also strangely comforting, if only because someone else out there can empathize with that feeling. I commend you (again) on your work and your ability to write.

  33. Comment by SYJ | 10.29.2012 | 12:42 am


    I’ve been reading (and now and again, commenting upon) your blog for almost as long as you’ve been writing it. Like many others, I re-read these posts in response to Ms. Tesi’s email – they impacted me almost as viscerally as they did the day(s) that you first posted them.

    This gut-wrenching feeling was compounded when, about a week later, I learned that my mother had been diagnosed with a brain tumor (likely metastatic; originating from her mouth) . Thus far, it’s just a single tumor; she’s in a tremendous facility, and will be undergoing surgery in a few days time. While I read (and re-read) your words, both their savagery and their beauty, I try to focus on the differences, instead of the similarities, and hope for the best, while simultaneously hoping to follow your (graceful, compassionate) example should that not be the case.

    Thank you once again for sharing your journey – the highs and the lows. While I may be useless in the short term, I want you to know that I look forward to doing anything in my meager powers to help you bring your ‘Susan’ book into being.



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