Kerry Phillips | Team Slow Spokes
When my friends hear that I am participating in an event such as the Lone Star AIDS Ride Fighting AIDS, they think I am totally insane. I would have thought the same thing — until I took part in my first ride.
Cycling became a passion of mine in the 1990s after I was able to surpass a few medical obstacles. Most people don’t know this, but growing up I had a seizure disorder. For the first 17 years of my life, my experiences were quite normal, except for regular visits to doctor’s offices. During college, the seizures became increasingly worse, occurring more frequently until they ultimately became uncontrollable.
Starting in 1994, I underwent two major operations: one to remove an enlarged, possibly cancerous tumor, the other to resolve this complicated seizure disorder I had grown up with.
The best-case scenario for the first operation was extending my life by only three years. But thanks to much prayer and good luck, the tumor was not cancerous.
Curing my life-long struggle with seizures with a cutting-edge brain surgery had even greater risks. Medications were no longer adequate, and at the time, the operation was my only alternative if I wanted to have a chance at the normal life I had always desired. Death and disability were risks I was willing to take for freedom from this disorder.
My life motto from that point forward became: “We take risk not to escape life, but to keep life from escaping us.” I made a deal with myself then that if I beat the odds again by surviving the brain surgery, I would always push myself beyond normal limits so that I could meet the goals and challenges that cross my path.
The surgery was a complete success and once again, I beat the enormous odds that I was up against.
From that point forward, I began looking for ways to pay forward the opportunities that I had been given. As AIDS became more prevalent, I began to become more aware of the issues that HIV/AIDS causes, and I wanted to do something to help.
I started by volunteering at Bryan’s House, a special care facility here in Dallas that assists children with HIV/AIDS. I then learned about the 1998 Texas AIDS Ride. Without any hesitation I signed up for this seven-day, 575-mile bike ride.
I didn’t own a bicycle. I hadn’t even ridden a bicycle since elementary school. But this didn’t matter to me, and I immediately began training with only about six months to prepare. Yes — only 6 months.
The Texas AIDS Ride was a life-changing event. Aside from the overall experience of the ride, the support that I received from my friends, coworkers and even strangers that I met along the way amazed me.
Now if you know me, you know I very rarely cry. But I will never forget riding into downtown Dallas on Day Seven to finish the ride. As I approached the finish line, I could hear the music and see the crowd full of excitement. It was so overwhelming that I began to bawl.
At that moment I was reminded that if you push yourself and believe in what you are doing, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Since then I have participated in a number of rides benefiting AIDS foundations including my most recent accomplishments, the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS 9 and 2010 California AIDS LifeCycle Ride. The gratitude you receive from people who your fundraising goes to help is overwhelming.
Just a few weeks ago while riding in the AIDS Lifecycle ride a woman asked me to stop so she could thank me. She explained that because of cyclists like me, she is able to receive services and medications that she otherwise could not afford.
It is moments like that, along with the friends, memories and the community feeling you gain, that make these rides unforgettable.
Whether you choose to ride, crew or just support us through donations of time or money, every little bit makes a difference. Sydney Smith once said, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.” •
Kerry Phillips is a member of Team Slow Spokes. You can contribute to him or to any other Lone Star Ride participant online at LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.