Dee Clayton. Maureen Manley. My mother.
My friend, Dee-mountain biker, inspiration, philanthropist, cancer patient. I met Dee at Interbike in 2009 and raced a couple of crits with her afterwards in Nashville–and tried endlessly to recruit her for our team the following year. Funny, it took us both traveling to Vegas to meet. Instantly, I knew she was an inspiration from her having lost over 100 lbs from riding a bike–not because of doctor’s orders or anyone telling her to do so, but because she was determined enough to do it herself. Some of her other accomplishments as a rider are:
- winning the TBRA Tennessee State Mountain Bike Points Series
- she completed the Hell of the South road race last year
- her best time for a 100 mile road ride was 4 hours and 30 minutes (chew on that for a moment..that’s total time start to finish)
- She WON the TN State MTB championship not even knowing she had cancer; she was diagnosed just one month after the MTB season finished in 2010
“Yes.. I have Cancer… It was disgnosed on 12/03/2010.. I have Renal Cell Carcinoma aka Kidney Cancer.. Stage IV
Right before Thanksgiving we were mtb’n a lot… I noticed that since September I quit gaining ground.. but was racing and riding with the guys. I had a little fall that aggravated my back a tad..played it smart and didnt ride those few weeks before Thanksgiving..Then the day after I turned funny getting dressed and screamed in pain.. falling onto the bed i couldn’t move with terrible spasms.. off by ambulance to the hospitsl I went.. Hopkinsville did nothing but transfer me to Evansville, IN… Then Evansville found the mass on my kidney and suspected the spots on my back had Metastasized from the kidney.. Off to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St Louis I went,, by ambulance..
They were right.. I had two extensive surgeries in 3 days.. one to remove my left kidney.. the other to removed two vertebrae that had turned to mush.The tumors started piercing into my spinal cord causing the massive pain and leg numbness.. they said one more wrong move on my bike would’ve caused paralysis. I was on bed rest for the days before and after surgery.. My vertabrae were replaced by a titanium cage surrounding my spine.. so that is basically fused from L1 to T11.. with three anchor rods that run from my butt to my boobs. They are over a foot long held in by nine 2″ long screws.
I had to be in a back brace for three months while going through my first rounds of chemo and radiation. Been through two other rounds of different chemo and radiation since that…. Chemosucks! totally drains ya.. the radiation has been tolerable except when they done my spine through my tummy..
I still have my hair but it turned white for an inch and now back to normal.. Stamina is snapped.. I cant walk straight and tall yet and my back is constantly spasming…. I never imagined the pain associated with the back surgery and cancer.. but it doesn’t take my smile away..
I’m working with physical therapists and we are staying with my family in Illinois, near Evansville, IN. They say my pelvis and hips are turned forward which causes me to walk bent, but they
are working on that…to me it seems i would be in a perfect aero position on the bike..lol…I believe I’ll be in therapy for months to come. I enjoy it. And they let me ride the stationary recumbent bike.
It’s been a long road but they say I’m in no immediate danger.. just trying to find a chemo that shrinks the tumors in my bones. Dr Fox doesn’t want them to simply not grow, he wants them gone.The neat thing about my Dr is he worked on Lance’s cancer team from Indiana University!
SO.. That’s whats going on.. Still trying to do good with charities.. Tried to walk in a 5k for a friend of mine.. couldn’t make it 200ft without having my friends hold my arms and walk with me for about a mi.. I gave it my all and it felt great. Then I have my favorite chairity coming up in september: Komen Evansville’s Race for the Cure. I’m the captain of a team Called the Maude Squad that my cousin Maude started when she was diagnosed. Since her passing I’ve led the way to being the top individual fundraiser of the event for the last three yrs.. I cant wait to do it again this year. Even though they make have to push me in a wheelchair for the 5k! I enjoy helping others so much. For a good purpose… this year it means more to me than ever!
Thanks for asking Rachel. I dont mind talking about my cancer. Maude always kept everyone informed and naturally I do too. Makes me feel good to share and educate people… who knows.. I could be doing someone some good from it.”
With that said, she has for years had a team called, “Team Maude” which raises money for Breast Cancer. Maude was her cousin who passed away from Breast Cancer at a very young age. Dee’s team has for several years now been the tops in fundraising for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure event. Dee cannot ask for donations now like she once could and it has fallen on her friends and family to help her with this as her time with us is short.
While Dee has accepted her own diagnosis, she still wants to make a difference in cancer awareness and raising money to find a cure for cancer. She is very passionate about this cause and I hope
you read this and will find a way to donate on her behalf. You can donate whatever amount you choose. The link I provided is the direct link to donate to her team and her specifically. We are hoping that Dee will be well enough to attend the event. She is planning some really cool shirts for her team. If you’d like to donate to Dee’s team, please do so here.
Maureen Maney-national champion
Maureen Manley knows that cycling esprit de corps well. She was riding high as a member of the U.S. Women’s Cycling Team–she won a National Championship, set a national record, earned a silver and 2 bronze medals at National Championships, competed in 3 World Championships and won a silver medal in the 1990 World Championships–when she experienced her first serious MS symptoms. At first she blamed her blurred vision and extreme fatigue on over-training. Then an accident at the Tour de France prompted a visit to the doctor, who diagnosed her with MS.
Within two years, she not only couldn’t ride, she walked with a cane and was nearly blind. That “excruciating” time off the bike was cause for much self reflection, she says. “Cycling isn’t who I am. It’s something I do.” Reality check. I really need to remember this.
My former boss and friend, who also happens to be the top fundraiser for the MS150 Jack and Back year after year, invited me to attend the Women Against MS Luncheon in Nashville. What a privilege to hear Maureen speak. You could see, feel and hear the passion she possessed for the sport…and what it did to her to have it stripped away. And I complain about a hamstring. Puts things into perspective.
If she couldn’t ride, she would find some other way to keep moving. “For me, exercise is medicine,” she says. “It’s vital that people with MS do what they can do.”
My Momma & Gammy
My mother didn’t ride a bike nor do I remember her ever riding one. What I remember:
- her working her ass off 12+ hours a day to make sure that we weren’t going to be evicted from our apartment
- helping scrounge change to put gas in the car to drop us off at practices for sports we couldn’t afford
- quick hand to discipline my brother and me when on the verge of beating each other with anything that could draw blood
- her never, EVER shedding a tear-never remember my mother crying no matter the circumstances
- regrettably living with my grandparents when times were tough, but still keeping head high. Us silly kids thought it was vacation.
- her ability to finish any crossword puzzle
- going back to finish school with two young children to care for
- her beauty–I’ve always wanted to look like my mother
Sacrificing her own happiness to care for two punk kids who, at the time, didn’t appreciate or understand what she gave up to raise us. Once roles reverse and you become the caretaker–having to help the parent go to the bathroom or hand feed them–it’s a bittersweet realization that people don’t live forever. I knew one day this would happen in the distant future, but never thought it would be when your 21. I’m not as angry as I was when the accident happened, or even as badly as a year ago. That 18-wheeler didn’t kill my mother, but it did. She will never be the same. I don’t know whether to hate the accident and brain injury more or the care after the fact that had her grotesquely medicated. I called on her birthday last year, and she didn’t even realize what day it was. I’ve since learned now to take it day by day. We shall see what this year’s birthday has to offer. I will always cherish the memories of her strength from my youth. I’m optimistic improvement will come.
My grandmother-my other mother and just as pretty. I lived with her periodically through my childhood due to economic circumstances-and loved every minute of it. I remember kids making fun of me because my grandmother made my clothing. I still to this day don’t understand why-those jumpers and bedazzled blue jean vests were bad ass!
She too was just as hard of a worker as my mother. I remember her working even after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She loved life and didn’t want to die. She passed away my 9th grade year. My other grandmother a year later from breast cancer.
So coming up to October and breast cancer awareness month, remember those women who motivate you, inspire you, and through their actions, demand you to be a better person. Think a little less about yourself (quite difficult for cyclists to do on occasion) and focus on what you can do to become an inspiration to others. You can start with something small…like helping the TriBella Race Team with book donations and/or be a courier for the next Ride for Reading delivery in the Denver area. We’ll keep you posted.