Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rallying the Troops: Are You With Me?

I was recently contacted by a bloggy buddy of mine who participated in World Nutella Day. Since she expressed herself so eloquently, I'd simply like to share her email with you here.

(Although she mentions Italy expats, this is open to anyone who wants to help in a creative way, whether they live in Italy or not):
...I'm also writing to you because of a more serious turn of events. For some time now, I've been a devoted reader of the Fat Cyclist blog, written by an avid mountain biker named Elden Nelson. "Fatty," as he is known to readers, started his blog a couple of years ago in an attempt to force himself to lose 30 pounds in preparation for an annual "century," or 100-mile race, through the rough wilderness terrain of Leadville, Colorado. Almost daily, Fatty would detail what he was eating and how he was training -- regularly confessing to late-night binges and embarrassing junk-food blowouts, and posting endearingly candid updates on his fluctuating weight. He's a delightful writer and a wickedly gifted satirist, so much so that the noted biking website invited him to submit a series of humor pieces during Tour de France season. He was also selected as a 2007 Bloggies finalist for the Best Kept Secret blog.

Last month, there was a period where the FatCyclist blog went quiet for a while. Mid-month, Fatty returned and told readers why: His wife Susan, known to readers for her otherworldy tolerance of Fatty's crazy biking exploits, her custom jewelry-making talents, and her super parenting of four charming children, had just been diagnosed with a recurrence of the breast cancer she had first fought back in early 2004. The cancer has spread to her lungs, her bones, and her spine. She has already begun radiation therapy, and after that's finished she will begin a course of chemotherapy.

Over the years, Fatty has used his blog to raise thousands of dollars for charitable causes, primarily in the realm of medical research. When faced with Susan's recent diagnosis, he received an outpouring of support from hundreds of readers worldwide, with many people asking what they could do to help. Twin Six, a cycling apparel company that sponsors the FatCyclist blog, approached him with an offer to create a customized pink cycling jersey in Susan's honor. (You can see the proposed design here in a post poignantly entitled "Pink Lemonade.")

In his typically selfless fashion, Fatty proposed that he would donate most of the proceeds from jersey sales to a worthy cancer research organization, with a small fraction going to purchasing jewelry-making supplies for Susan. Several of his readers lobbied for him to consider a different approach, and to dedicate more of the proceeds to something that would directly support his wife. It turns out Susan majored in Classical Civilizations in college, and had always wanted to travel to Italy, but never had the chance. She and Fatty were hoping to make the trip a number of years ago, but their travel plans were set aside as they discovered they were expecting, and they welcomed a pair of twin girls to the family.

Many FatCyclist readers have urged Fatty to fulfill Susan's long-held wish to travel to Italy, using the jersey sales as a way for all of us to help sponsor her once-in-a-lifetime dream trip. As several people have pointed out, it's important for Susan to have something to look forward to after enduring the pains and rigors of undergoing chemo. Fatty's sister has already stepped forward to take care of the kids while they're gone, and several other people are offering to make direct financial contributions in support of the trip. Besides, Fatty himself is very dedicated to two things very dear to Italians: cycling and food. Traveling to Italy feels like destiny for Susan and Elden.

Still, I'm concerned that the trip might fall through because of all the tiny details that, as you know from having just planned a wedding, really add a lot of overhead to making it through everyday life. Especially in Susan's case, when far too much of that life is now spent in hospitals. So I'm writing to you to ask whether you and some of the expat posse in Italy might be able to give Fatty some pointers with his trip planning. I'm sure a little assistance would go a long way towards making certain that the trip takes place, and ensuring that Susan finds her travels comfortable and enjoyable, even when she's not in the full bloom of health.

If you and some of the other expats would be interested in sharing some of your expertise in all things Italian, please let me know. I can put you in touch with Elden (who, I suppose in Italian might be known as something like "Il Ciccio,") and you all can take it from there together.

I've always loved how the blogosphere makes the world both a smaller place (by bringing us together) and a larger place (by opening new doors), all at the same time. Thanks for everything you've already done to be a part of that, and for whatever you might feel able to do in this special case.
Now. I've lived through a close family member's battle with cancer, so this is an issue very close to my heart. Once you look cancer in the face, you'll never take your health (and the freedom it brings) for granted again.

Since I received this email, I've been in touch with Elden and I've told him I'd be honored to try to coordinate anyone willing to give him a hand with his Italy vacation. He and his wife were touched and grateful for this offer of support and friendship, but my asking for your help is really just the first step...from there it's up to you. Are you with me?

Here's how YOU can help:

1) Spread the word about this through emails and links back to this post or to Elden's posts.

2) Do you live in Italy? Have you traveled to Italy before? Even if not, can you think of a creative way you could contribute to making their trip a reality? Expats and non-expats alike are all welcome to pitch in!

If you would be willing to share your knowledge, expertise or resources regarding Italy and a trip to Italy, please let me know via email (ahirswap AT gmail DOT com), mentioning what specifically you would be able to contribute.

Creativity is best. For example...
  • If you're a tour guide in Italy, could you offer a free tour?
  • Know a creative way to help them save money on their trip?
  • Do you have anything useful you could donate to them that would be helpful during their trip? (A few leftover euros or bus tickets from a prior vacation, maps, guide books, a care package of things you think they could use on their vacation, etc. etc. etc.?)
  • Have a list of things they should see, with personal tips from your own experience? Personal restaurant recommendations?
Let your imagination run wild!

3) You can purchase one of Elden and Twin Six's special-edition pink lemonade jerseys, available in men's and women's sizes. The profits from the jerseys will actually go three ways (as copied below from Elden's blog):
  • Treatment: Copays, deductibles, and possibly expenses for traveling for clinical trials. It all adds up.
  • LiveStrong: As I’ve recently mentioned, I’m now a big fan of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. They’ve helped us, and now I want to give back. When you buy a pink Fat Cyclist jersey, a third of the net goes to the LiveStrong foundation.
  • A Trip to Italy: When Susan’s ready to go, I’m taking her on a vacation to Italy. And if you buy a jersey, in a sense you’re taking her, too. Which is not to say that you’re invited to come along.
At this point the dates for Susan and Elden's trip are not firm, but the plan is to squeeze it in during the 2-3 month breaks between Susan's chemo treatments. Susan started chemo last week. Elden will keep us posted on when we need to "mobilize" our forces. ;-) Elden's own blog readers have already filled their home with can take a look in a post from his wife Susan here. You can see Elden himself posing in the original jersey that just arrived here.

I hope you'll join me in this show of blogger support for an illness that far too many people have to battle.


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

This is a really nice thing to do. I will check out their website/blog.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

I'm excited because in the short time the post has been up, I've already gotten a couple of emails with concrete offers of help and fun donations. You guys are so generous!!!

FinnyKnits said...

I'm not sure how I can help, exactly, but I will noodle on it and try to come up with some useful way to help with their Italy trip. As far as I'm concerned, all people should travel to Italy at some point. And for people like these who obviously have it in their souls, it is a must.

I love that a blogger reached out to you in honor of another blogger. You were meant to have a world stage.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Finny: I have no doubt that you will come up with something creative and great! You have enough experience in traveling around Italy now ;-), Rome is almost your second home, after all! Anything, like a book of personal Italy travel tips, things not to miss, or helpful Italian phrases, or ... I'll leave it up to your wonderful imagination!!

fatcyclist said...

shelley and readers: thanks so much for your help. i'm learning a lot about how generous people really can be.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I absolutely will be happy to support this on my blog page, and as a lover of lemonade, buying the sweatshirt is a requisite action; one for me, one for my sis... one for...

Shelley, thank you for taking this and running with it.


jessica said... are a voice for many who needs. thank you.
i checked fatcyclist site. great shirts they came up with. i would rather donate money to them directly. i could not find his email. do you have it? please email me directly with it. thanks.