In spring 2008, Carol Kossman, a Madison physician, had her annual screening mammogram and was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. She had surgery shortly thereafter and underwent radiation therapy at Baptist Cancer Services.
“For the first time in my life, I thought of my own mortality and I learned to appreciate each day that God gave me,” said Kossman. During her treatment at Baptist, she saw signs promoting the Cyclists Curing Cancer Century Ride, a cycling event that raises money to help maintain The Serenity Garden at Baptist’s Hederman Cancer Center, and vowed to participate in the event as soon as she was able.
On Saturday, September 20, 2014, six years after Kossman beat cancer, she arrived in Clinton to participate in the 13th annual Cyclists Curing Cancer Century Ride. She had decided beforehand that she would ride 62 miles that day, although her goal was to one day complete the full 100 miles. With the sound of an air horn, her ride along the scenic Natchez Trace began.
Kossman rode her trike, a three-wheeled adult recumbent cycle, with ease that morning. The weather was beautiful, the course was relatively flat, and around mile 20, she thought to herself, “Is today the day? Can I ride the full 100 miles?” She reached the 31-mile mark, what would have been her turn-around point, and on an “endorphin high,” she decided to keep riding.
The additional miles she rode led her through the quaint Mississippi towns of Rocky Springs and Port Gibson, where she found Baptist’s radiation oncology staff manning two of the rest stops. “That was very inspiring and encouraging to see them there,” said Kossman. She recalls her experience of the Radiation Oncology Department as “the most efficient medical facility she’d ever been involved with.”
Kossman, a self-proclaimed slow rider, was alone by mile 30, with the exception of the Salvation Army Truck that provided water and protection from traffic for her and the other riders throughout the day.
By 3:30 p.m., seven hours after the ride began, all of the other riders had crossed the finish line. Knowing she was the final rider on the course, Kossman was determined to finish. “I felt guilty and grateful that the volunteers were keeping the rest stops open just for me,” she recalled.
After eight hours of cycling, she finally came to her last hill on Clinton Parkway one block from the finish line. What she found just over the hill was the highlight of her entire day. “About ten people in bright purple shirts were screaming and cheering for me,” she said. Even the Salvation Army truck cheered her on and shielded her from traffic as she pedaled those last few seconds into the Baptist Healthplex parking lot.
Although she has participated in other rides across the Southeast, Cyclists Curing Cancer has come to mean more to Kossman than most others. Not only has she survived breast cancer, but in December 2007, she lost her brother, Chester, to cancer at the age of 60.
Kossman finally reached her goal of cycling 100 miles, and the fact that she did it in a ride that supports cancer patients made it that much sweeter. At the end of the day, Carol acknowledges that without a routine, annual mammogram in 2008, she might not have been riding at all on that beautiful Saturday six years later.
With the support of 225 cyclists, 42 event sponsors and 70 volunteers, this year’s Ride raised almost $40,000 that will have a meaningful impact on cancer patients and their families.
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