Obliteride Speech

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Good morning Obliteride! I’m Justin Calvo.

I’m humbled and honored to ride with you today.

Like so many of you, my wife Abby and I love to ride bicycles.

Abby and I began racing for the local Seattle Cancer Care Alliance / Starbucks cycling team when we lost Abby’s mom to an 18-year battle with breast and ovarian cancer.

So we started spinning our pedals to create a world where children wouldn’t have to worry about cancer taking their parents too.

Second only to spending time with our 6 year old son, Jaren, and 3 year old daughter, Miri, Abby’s favorite thing in the world has been to ride and race her bike.

Abby was a young, athletic, 37-year-old mom when she found herself at the starting line of a very different endurance event.

Instead of wearing her Seattle Cancer Care Alliance racing kit, Abby found herself in a Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patient room listening to a team of doctors explain the treatment plan for her Ewing Sarcoma diagnosis.

Immediately, taking a note from her cycling days, Abby’s doctors and nurses became her coaches. Her treatment plan was her training plan. And her family and friends became her army of teammates and fan club.

We were swept away in an entirely new peloton, and our vocabulary changed overnight…

…From ‘how’s your day’ to ‘how’s your white blood cell counts?’

From ‘just a minute dear’ to ‘every minute dear.’

From ‘I want or I need’ to ‘I’m thankful for.’

As I stand here today, like so many types of cancer, there is no cure for Ewing Sarcoma. In spite of this, thanks to Fred Hutch and the many breakthroughs pioneered right here, our vocabulary also changed…

…From ‘I don’t know’ to ‘I believe’.

The work happening at Fred Hutch gave us such hope, optimism and focus. It gave Abby the focus she needed for a very challenging nine-month treatment plan.

Sometimes I’d walk into a chemo treatment and Abby would smile as if on her bike trainer at home saying “I’m doing the work.” Other days weren’t so easy and I’d find Abby focused deeply on her breathing, eyes closed – “I’m on a hillclimb” she’d exhale.

Eight months ago, after spending 50 days and nights at UWMC and countless more with her SCCA team, Abby tightly clamped her eyes shut and blew out birthday candles celebrating her new post-cancer life.

Today fifty of Abby’s domestiques and all three of her bicycles will cross this starting line.

Abby won’t.

Cancer takes and takes and takes.

A few months after that birthday celebration, Abby’s Ewing Sarcoma returned. Since Abby died in April, I’ve lost a beloved uncle, a business mentor, a community leader.  Last week the aunt of a close friend.

Linda, Abby, Harry, Alan, Pauline, Marylin and so many more beautiful names.

Too many. Too soon.

When I look into the eyes of my children, those who have lost so much, those who survive, those who fight on, and those who do the heartening work here at Fred Hutch, I know we’re all in this together. And it’s our turn to be the change the world, to build a new vocabulary.

From ‘chaos’ to ‘cure.’

From ‘fear’ to ‘love’

From ‘someday’ to ‘today.’

So as you turn your pedals, as you zero-in on your breathing, as the wind glides through your helmet and you feel completely alive, find your word for change, hold on to it, and ride onwards!

View Abby’s Army Team Video

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