Web Site: Beverly Kirkhart
Story of finding the "hero" within.
The Choice is Yours
I was living the American dream. I had it all! Happily married to my college sweetheart, I owned and operated a beautiful 18-room Inn just 84 steps from the beach in Santa Barbara, California. My husband of 17 years and I had designed and build our dream house in the foothills of Santa Barbara. I was healthy, happy and active. I loved my life!
In 1991 my dream life began to shatter. My marriage ended in divorce, I was forced to file bankruptcy, losing my business and the dream home I thought I would have for the rest of my life. It was all gone! And if that was not enough hardship, I had to listen to the horrible words of my doctor, “Beverly, you have breast cancer.” I was stunned, shocked and frozen in fear. A destitute and alone facing a totally uncertain future, I became so depressed and discouraged, I did not care if I lived one more day.
I struggled through each crisis that best way I know – taking one day at a time. These situations were out of my control. I was beginning to feel and act like a victim of my circumstances.
As I began my cancer treatments I met a friend who was going through similar chemotherapy procedures. We began to talk about what brought us joy, happiness and satisfaction in our lives. One thing that we had in common was our love for bike riding.
One day, after sharing more cycling stories, we realized that we should bike not just for enjoyment but to reclaim our lives. We both had been poked, jabbed and prodded – examined like objects. We’d had enough! We were going to take back control of our lives. That’s when I signed up for the 100-mile Century Ride.
The training began just six months after my last chemo treatments. The physical side of the training progressed well, but I had difficulty with the emotional aspect. I could not get past my own self-doubt. I had never done any thing physically challenging, even when I was healthy, and my doctors questioned my ability to do it as well.
To overcome my negative self-talk, I wrote out positive statements and read them each day:
“I can cross the finish line.”
“I can ride 100 miles.”
I also asked my family, friends, and medical team to support me with words of encouragement or acts of kindness. No problem. When my bike broke, someone loaned me hers. When I was loading up on carbs, my friends brought me buckets of pasta.
When ride day came, it was a cold, windy September morning. The route began in California’s Central Coast at San Luis Obipso, then headed north on Highway 1 to San Simeon. By the time I got to Highway 1 I felt like I was riding a stationary bike. Hit by powerful head winds, I was peddling and peddling, but getting nowhere. Every inch was a struggle – and I’d only just begun!
At the half way point I was thrilled that I’d managed to stay the course that far, but I was already exhausted. After a short lunch break to regain some strength, I was back in the saddle for the return trip. But as the miles clicked away – 60, 65, 70 – my back began to scream. I felt as though a Sumo wrestler was dancing on top of it. Every part of my body hurt, including a few muscles I didn’t know I owned, but I painfully made it to the 90-mile mark. I’d been in the saddle for 7 ½ hours, and I was almost home.
Then I looked up and was filled with dismay. Directly ahead of me loomed a mountain – a big mountain - and the mountain stood between me and the finish line. It could have been Mt. Everest as far as I was concerned. How was I going to conquer it? I was near collapse. I just wanted to get off the bike and hitchhike home.
It was at that moment of desperation that all the months of preparation, and all the support of my friends, flashed before my eyes. “I can cross the finish line,” I told myself. “I love this challenge.” With the voices of my friends, family and medical team cheering me on from within, I put my bike in its lowest gear, and standing on my pedals I stubbornly inched my way up the mountain.
Up, up, up.
Little by little, refusing to give up, I was climbing.
Up, up, up.
Now the top of the mountain didn’t look as far away as it had at first. Still standing on the pedals and straining every muscle, I was nearing the crest. Then all of a sudden the fabulous view opened up beneath me. I had crested the top of the mountain! And now my bike was beginning to pick up speed again, faster and faster, needing little effort from me. How wonderful it felt as the breeze rushed through me, filling me with life!
Flying down the mountain, I was heading for the finish line, and nothing on earth could stop me now. Al I raced across the finish line, I knew I was “my own hero.” I felt a rush of power and elation. I was a survivor. I had summoned the courage to reclaim my life. There was nothing I couldn’t handle now. I might have lost my marriage, my money, and temporarily, my health, but I hadn’t lost myself.
Now I know that I always have a choice. When faced with my next challenge in life, I can either pull off the road and quite or stand up on my pedals and ride.
I know which I shall choose.
Beverly Katherine Kirkhart
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|Reviewed by Joyce Bowling
|Fantastic write my friend, you are truly a survivor! Your story is very inspiring and uplifting, you've sent positive messages of hope for those whom may be suffering from the disease that has no respect for whom it invades, as well as their family. You go girl, you've penned a wonderful story here, enjoyed it much! Glad I stopped by!