May 23, 2010 1:26:00 AM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2007, when Shan Higdon and Bobby Mosley first hatched the idea of getting motorcyclists together to raise money to fight cancer, they couldn''t know the bitter, ironic twists fate had in store. Both Shan''s mother and father, as well as his father-in-law, would go up against the disease. All three are doing well.
But as the fourth annual Ride for Life team members finalized plans for this year''s May 29 event, Bobby''s wife, Rhonda, a recreational rider herself, was diagnosed with breast cancer April 2.
In the seven whirlwind weeks since, the Pickens County woman has had two surgeries and struggles to process the life-altering bombshell that has turned the world upside down for her, her three sons -- 10, 17 and 19 -- and husband.
"Bobby is one of the people who helped start the ride, and at that time, we had no idea the American Cancer Society would become so important to us," said the Reform, Ala, resident.
The pain of telling her children and other loved ones is still sharp. The emotional roller coaster has been exhausting. Especially when hopes were high the first surgery had eradicated the tumor. Unfortunately, that wasn''t the case. Rhonda endured a mastectomy and has very recently been told the cancer has spread to two vertebrae and the sacrum.
She went through the second surgery, like the first, with few answers to a barrage of difficult questions. That''s when a kind woman walked into her hospital room "with this wonderful book" that helped the 40-year-old begin to take ownership of her situation.
"Until then, I really had no information. Every-thing happened so fast," she said. Through that knowledgeable contact, she found a wealth of resources available through the ACS.
"I could read about the cancer, understand the terms the doctor was using I didn''t understand. And they''ve been great providing information about support groups. My 10-year-old went to one last week, and he loved it," she said gratefully.
That support is especially meaningful because Bobby is only able to be home one day each week. He works in South Carolina, at a nuclear power plant.
"He works Sunday night and gets off, and drives back to spend the day with me Monday, and leaves again about midnight that night," Rhonda said. It''s about a five and a half hour drive.
Shan and his wife, Debi, of Ethelsville, are family friends as well as fellow bikers. Bobby used to work with Shan at Eka Chemicals in Columbus.
"She''s a tough lady," Shan praised Rhonda. "And when you start looking, we have a lot more riders who''ve been affected by cancer."
Riders with a cause
The annual ride that started out as a group of friends getting together to "raise a little money" for the ACS has grown from about 60 bikes to last year''s record number of 117. Organizing team members -- Shan and Debi; Shan''s sister, Gwen Earwood; Stanley Busbin; Bobby McCool; David Montgomery; and Lance Shelnut -- are hoping even more enthusiasts come out this year for the cause, the camaraderie, the food, door prizes and live music by Dawn Barham and the Juke Joint Gypsies.
Shan stressed, "We are completely non-profit, and we try to do a little bit better every year on what we raise. ... You don''t have to be a member of any group, and it doesn''t matter what kind of bike you ride. We''ve had scooters, homemade bikes, choppers, everything. Just come out and support finding a cure."
Registration is $25 per bike and includes a T-shirt and a lunch generously prepared by Kenneth Montgomery of Columbus. There is no entry fee for passengers (who can purchase T-shirts for $12 and lunch for $5). Registration begins at 9 a.m. at the Columbus Fairgrounds on Highway 69 South. The ride departs at 10:30 a.m. and returns about 12:30 p.m. for food, a raffle, prizes and entertainment.
A police escort will accompany riders through Columbus. The route goes toward Aberdeen and then to West Point, for a pit stop at the Mossy Oak Outlet for refreshments -- and to pick up a few special passengers ... cancer patients who will ride tandem with motorcyclists back to the fairgrounds.
Download an entry form at www.teamrideforlife.com. The ride''s rain date is June 12.
Rhonda doesn''t anticipate piloting her Honda 250 Rebel May 29, but she hopes to feel up to riding at least part of the way with her husband, who will come home for "burnin'' up the road to burn out cancer."
"Everyone is welcome," urged Shan. "You just meet a lot of good people on bikes. And you''d be surprised at the people that ride bikes that have been touched by cancer ... there are a lot of stories."
The ride''s purpose is closer to Bobby''s and Rhonda''s hearts than ever. This and similar events "provide funding to help people like me," Rhonda said. "The ride is what provides the book that I''ve read cover to cover to try to understand things. It provides the counselor for the support group my child goes to ... and provides research so that maybe I won''t be gone in 10 years."
Editor''s note: To learn more about the non-profit Ride for Life, or to make a donation, contact Shan or Debi Higdon at 662-574-1122 or 662-574-4222.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.